Cyberpunk 2036

Episode 6 Children of the Dawn

The team only gets two weeks of rest after their trip to El Paso when a new opportunity comes their way.

February 7, 2037

Not having been involved in the last mission, Torrent has had plenty of time to develop his new anti-trace program that he calls “Wild Goose Chase.” After finishing the code, he runs it through some basic trials, and it promptly crashes. He begins the long debugging process, and begins to wonder if he was a bit too ambitious with this project.

Meanwhile, Riptide is manning his booth at the Golden Saloon when he is approached by a fixer known as Hand. Hand indicates that he is working for some beavers, (local slang for corporate wage slaves), and is looking to hire an edge runner team to rescue some children from a cult. He asks the group to meet him in a restaurant at the New Harbor Mallplex on Monday at noon. He also indicates that his clients are not going to want to hire a bunch of scrubs, so they may want to show up looking like they are reasonable successful at their jobs.

February 8, 2037

Several of the team members go shopping to pick up some “interview clothes” to wear to the meeting, rather than their usual thrift and discount duds. While Zen hates the idea of turning down a paying gig, she has not had nearly enough time to recover from her wound sustained on the last mission and reluctantly opts to sit this one out.

February 9, 2037

The team goes to the mallplex, which is their first visit. They are amazed by the massive complex that not only contains three sprawling floors of stores and restaurants, but also has multiple residential towers, a medical facility and a school. A person could literally live at this mall without ever having to leave.

They meet Hand at McDonalds where he introduces them to Dillon and Mary Frost, and Max and Alice Rebo. Both couples spent some time as members of the Cult of the New Dawn. They had decided to leave the cult a few months ago and made arrangements to relocate from the cult camp in Colorado to Night City. But when they returned to pick up their children, they were told by the cult that their children did not wish to leave and were not allowed to see them.

The team is being hired to retrieve four children: Maryl and Darla Frost, aged 13 and 15 respectively, and the Rebo’s twin sons Donny and Alto, age 11. The families will pay the group $2,000 per child returned, for a potential total payout of $8,000. Just as the individual team members begin having thoughts of getting paid to blow away a bunch of crazy cultists, Hand drops a proverbial bomb. While the two couples are having this dispute with their former fellow cult members, they still empathize with the cult and wish not to see anyone harmed. To that end, they are willing to double the payout if no cult members are killed or seriously injured during the operation. The team agrees. Each team member receives $1,000 in advance payment to help cover any expenses.

While a non-lethal approach was not what they had in mind, not to mention well outside of their usual modus operandi, a potential payout of $16,000 is enough to convince the team to try a non-lethal approach. However, they are not equipped to perform this type of operation. Luckily, they’re at the mall. A trip to The Ammo Dump results in the purchase of a couple of shotguns, beanbag shells, sleep-gas shells, and some flash-bang grenades. While most of the team shops for guns, Torrent finds a computer shop and purchases a cellular-link module for his cyberdeck.

February 10th 2037

This day is spent making arrangements for the trip. Helios and Saito install folding stocks on the shotguns they purchased, and Torrent wires up the Cellular-link to his cybermodem, and activates a data-plan for it. Each team member seeks permission to get out of work for the rest of the week. Everyone is successful at this endeavor except Saito. Despite his boss’ refusal to give him time off, Saito leaves anyways.

Torrent also does some online research on the Cult of the New Dawn. They are a modern Taoist offshoot that believes that in order for humanity to reach its potential as a harmonic society, all governments and corporations must be eliminated. They are generally considered non-aggressive, but have been known to associate with other groups that have similar goals but engage in more violent tactics.

A brief discussion takes place on how to get to Colorado. Ultimately, it is decided that a road trip is in order using Helios’ pickup truck. Although it is the slowest route, it allows them the greatest freedom of movement.

February 11th, 2037

Wednesday morning, the team piles into the truck and hits the road. It’s an eighteen and a half hour trip to Radium, Colorado where the cult camp is located. While on the road, Torrent tries out his cellular modem and is able to jack into the Net. He is unable to find any Net presence of the cult in Colorado but is able to find a For Sale listing on the property. A check of utility records indicates a major drop in energy usage a few weeks ago. All signs point to the cult having packed up and moved away.

When they reach Radium, Helios and Saito decide to recon the camp on foot. Moving through the Colorado Mountains in February proves to be a chilling experience. They reach the camp to find it occupied by a group of nomads. Helios recognizes the group as members of the Mountaineer Nomads, a clan he has some history with. The nomads indicate they only know that the camp was abandoned a few weeks ago, and the former occupants traveled in a northerly direction. They invite the team to join them for the evening. One of the nomads suggests checking with the realtor who is listing the property to find out where the cult went.

Helios and Saito return to the truck and share the information, including the idea to check with the realtor selling the property. This results in a frustrated sigh from Riptide who had been suggesting that coarse of action all evening, but nobody listened. The team as a whole returned to the camp where Riptide realized he also knew some of the Mountaineers, whom he had run into during his days in Las Vegas. Most of the team beds down in one the cold bunkhouses. Saito hangs out with the nomads, getting hammered on homemade liquor in front of the fire. Torrent manages to eek out a cellular signal this far from civilization and runs the Net. He is able to find the realtor’s data fortress and cracks it with ease. He finds an address for Hank Johnson, the man who apparently owns the camp property. He is currently listed at an address in Warren, Idaho.

February 12th, 2037

In the morning, everyone piles into the truck to head to Idaho. They expect Saito to be pretty hung over, but he is up before the rest of the group, showing no signs of the previous evening’s drinking.

Another long day rolls by as the team spends seventeen hours on the road. They reach Boise, Idaho around 11:30 PM. A brief discussion is made about possibly spending the night in Boise, but they quickly decide to push through to Warren.

February 13th, 2037

At 2:30 AM, the team rolls into Warren, Idaho. They learn that the address they have is a couple of miles outside of town. They get a couple of rooms at a local motel, and set up their base of operations there.

Most of this day is spent doing recon on the facility and research. They discover the new cult site to be a former concentration camp from the 2010’s when Idaho was run by a bunch of Neo-Nazis for a few years. Saito observes the comings and goings of individuals for several hours and determines that the men and women of the cult bunk in opposite ends of the camp. Since they are extracting two boys and two girls, this fact complicates matters slightly. Saito also observes guard towers every 1,000 feet along the perimeter with armed guards carrying sub-machine guns.

Riptide interacts with the locals and learns that the cult sends a contingent into town every Tuesday for supplies. He also learns that the local sentiment towards the cult if fairly indifferent. They are a little wary of the cult, but the fact is the cult hasn’t caused any trouble, and they buy supplies from the local merchants, which helps the local economy.

Torrent hacks the cult’s computer system, and downloads some files but is unable to find information on their targets. The cult’s computer contains no black ICE, but a lot of tracer programs and an LDL (long distance link) hidden behind multiple code gates. All he can figure out is that the LDL leads to a computer system located somewhere in Alberta, Canada.

February 14th, 2037

The team decides to strike this evening around midnight. Riptide suggests that if this was a concentration camp at one time, maybe there is some record of escapees. If so, whatever method they used to get out may possibly also be used out get in. Torrent does a media search and finds an extensive article written on that very subject. He also tracks down the author’s home phone in Boise. Saito places the call and speaks with the author who shares that some people escaped the camp by cutting the fence wire directly beneath one of the guard towers, where it is difficult to observe the fence.

Torrent decides to crack the cult computer again. He is concerned about the high level of tracer programs, and since his Wild Goose Chase is not operational yet, he is fairy vulnerable to a trace. He decides to use an old hacker trick of running his signal through a very convoluted route. He runs the Net, jumping LDLs through Salt Lake City, Mexico City, Paris, Minsk, Tokyo, Melbourne, Delhi, and back to Salt Lake City. Tracer programs would have a hell of a time following that. He easily cracks the cult’s data fortress. Letting curiosity get the best of him, he enters the doubled gated section of the fortress and jumps the LDL hidden inside. He suddenly finds himself in a virtual reality construct of a marble pillared temple. Sitting on one end of the hall is a man with an enlarged head with multiple cables descending from the ceiling and plugging into his head. The man introduces himself as Dr. Kilacho, the founder of the Cult of the New Dawn. Torrent discusses the nature of the cult with the Doctor, who seems remarkably patient with a Netrunner who has just hacked his system. Dr. Kilacho sticks by his claim that his followers are a peaceful group, but indicates that he has no intention of helping anyone steal away members of his cult.

Torrent jumps back through the LDL and exits the system. Jacking out, he ponders what it was that he just encountered. Was Dr. Kilacho simply part of the VR construct, a systems operator tied directly into the host computer, or perhaps some form of AI? Although curious, Torrent decides it is best to leave it alone for now.

The team decides to enter the compound under the guard tower closest to the women’s section of the camp. There they will get the girls first, move to the men’s section on the other side of the camp and procure the twin boys. They will then make for the perimeter where Torrent will be waiting with the truck. However, they realize that without knowing which bunkhouses their targets sleep in, the mission would be extremely difficult.

Despite his concerns about heightened security, Torrent decides to make a run on the cult’s computer one more time. Again, he first constructs a web of signal bounces to complicate traces; he cracks the fortress and begins sorting through files. He eventually comes across member information that, among other things, indicates which bunkhouses their targets sleep in. With that key piece of information, the team decides to move forward with the extraction that evening.

Torrent drives the truck to the north side of the compound at the rendezvous site. Saito, Helios, and Riptide move to the southeast corner of the compound and stealthily move to under one of the guard towers. Helios takes his mono-sword and begins slicing through the chain link fence. While they are hidden from sight, the noise of the popping chain links draws the attention of the guards in the tower above. As one begins to descend the tower to investigate, Saito and Helios push their way through the fence and move to ambush the guard. Riptide stays outside the fence and hides in the foliage. As the guard moves under the tower to look around, Saito sneaks up behind him and chokes him out. He then runs up the stairs and disables the guard still in the tower in a similar fashion.

After securing the guards, they move to the women’s bunkhouses and locate the one that houses the Frost sisters. Helios picks the lock and they move into the pitch-black room using their cybernetic enhanced vision to see. The find the girls and snatch them up, hands held tightly over mouths as they are pulled out of the bunkhouse and into the woods. Once in the cover of the trees, the team explains that they were sent by the girls’ parents to bring them home. Initially, the girls are reluctant and express a desire to stay with the cult. However, Riptide launches into a surprisingly impassioned speech that is so moving, even Helios and Saito begin to miss their parents.

With the girls now swayed, Riptide escorts them outside the perimeter and begins to lead them around the compound toward the rendezvous point. Saito and Helios stay inside the compound, using the large clusters of trees as cover as they make their way across the vast campground.

The girls ask Riptide how he was able to avoid the cameras in the bunk area. He promptly radios this bit of information to Helios and Saito, just as they realize that have a group of guards moving toward them in the woods. They split up and move to flank the guards. Having created enough space between them, then hunker down and allow the guards to move past them. Once the guards have most passed them, they continue on their way towards the men’s bunkhouses.

As Riptide passes the northeast tower, he notices that the guards are watching the men’s bunkhouses lying in wait. Realizing that they have been detected, Helios and Saito switch to a more aggressive approach. Saito begins to run toward the northeast guard tower as two spotlights suddenly flash onto him. Helios kicks in the door to the Rebo twin’s bunkhouse and opens fire with his shotgun. There is panic in the bunkhouse, but Helios’ shotgun is loaded with sleep gas shells. He slings the shotgun and scoops up the two boys.

The guards open fire on Saito. He is hit in the leg but continues to press forward. With all the attention on Saito, Helios is able to move toward the north fence unnoticed. Riptide is able to draw the attention of the north tower, which turns its spot light and guns on him.

As Torrent watches the situation, he sees Saito taking fire from the northeast tower, and Helios moving toward the fence, still about 100 feet from the perimeter. He then looks up to see one of the guards in the north tower roll black his sleeve revealing a bionic arm. The arm shifts slightly as a concealed grenade launcher pops up. Hitting the gas on the truck, Torrent bounces through the shrubs and tall grass, lobbing a flash-bang grenade over the fence to distract the guards.

Saito is struck a second time in the arm, but tunes out the pain as he reaches the tower steps and begins to climb up. The guards in the north tower are distracted momentarily by Torrent’s grenade. This gives Riptide enough time to draw his two Beretta 2010s, and fire them full-auto at the searchlight, causing it to shatter in a shower of sparks. He sends the girls on ahead to meet up with the truck.

Saito arms a flash-bang grenade and lobs it into the northeast guard tower. As soon as it goes off he enters the tower where the two guards are stunned. A boot to the chest sends one guard flying over the rail to the ground below. He immediately grabs hold of the other guard and incapacitates him as well.

Torrent pulls up to the fence where Helios is cutting through with his mono-sword. Riptide begins laying down suppression fire on the north tower, first with one Berretta, then the other. He burns through his ammo quickly, but it gives Torrent and Helios enough time to load the children into the truck. Saito hopes his bleeding leg still has some strength left in it and leaps out of the tower to the ground below, outside the perimeter. Both he and Riptide are able to make it to the truck and pile into the back. With Helios once more at the wheel, they drive back to the road and quickly put some distance between them and the compound.

February 15th, 2037

They drive on through the night and all of the next day, returning to Night City, California around 8:45 PM. Using a public phone, they call Hand in advance, and make arrangements to drop off the children. Once they reach downtown they head straight for the Mallplex where the exchange is made: Four children for the remainder of a $16,000 payout. Not bad for a week’s work.