The van lurched up to the curb a few blocks away from the Tyrell arcology. Rusty still hadn’t gotten used to handling the thing with the weight of his new toy, the shadowmerc doberman he pirated from our last B&E. At least some good had come from that near-fiasco, besides our new friend in the AWE and getting the lead to come here. I didn’t mind the extra fire support, especially when I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, like right now. All Anita had been able to tell us about our Johnson was that it was some mysterious group of elves, which in Seattle was at least 50% of the surrounding territory. Maybe the Salish-Shidhe was picking up our tab, or maybe we were breaking into a high-security research facility for a bunch of fashion models. Either way, a Runner never breaks onto extraterritorial turf lightly.
After he parked, Rusty couldn’t jump into his VR rig fast enough. He was jacking on to try and scope the building’s security, but the whole place was a ghost town for 6 square blocks so I didn’t see any danger in doing a little physical recon. I wished I could have gotten those sound suppressors in time for this op, but that hardly seemed like it would matter now. I climbed out of the van and Rusty’s roto-drone whirred to life and flanked me in, doubtless running on a defensive autopilot protocol. Cautiously I approached the front of the Arcology. What was that noise coming from inside? Could it be…chewing?
Stepping thru the double doors, I was greeted by the sight of a Ghoul devouring what remained of the receptionist, with 2 more hungrily scanning for another meal. Didn’t take their disease-ridden minds long to pick up on my awakened scent, and they came charging at me. I managed to drop one with my Predators, and the roto-drone finished the rest. Searching around the desk I found the remains of the receptionist, much of her torso and left leg were chewed off. The Ghouls had eaten her, but something else had killed her with a powerful blow to the head. Something had gone horribly wrong here, and if I was going to find Mayhew’s hard drive I was probably going to have to walk right thru the middle of it.
As much as I hate these hunks of plasteel and glass in my head, these cybereyes of mine pay for themselves every so often. I switched on my thermographic vision and scanned the next room, realizing caution might be the better part of valor. Sure enough there were two meta-human heat signatures, one of which was an three-meter-tall furnace that could only be a troll. Oddly tho, their heads didn’t register strong heat signatures for some reason. And even stranger, they hadn’t reacted to the gunfight that just occurred in the room next to them. All the more reason to tread lightly. But I wasn’t prepared for what I’d see beyond the door.
An orc and a troll stood together in the room. They were staring off into space with blank expressions and vacant eyes. Most of their hair had been shaved, and under their scalp snaked a web of wires tying into metal contact plates and punctuated by datajacks. Surgical scars marred their foreheads, and there were deep bags under their eyes. Errant bits of spittle would escape their mouths as their faces occasionally twitched and spasmed. They hadn’t yet noticed me, if in fact they could notice anything anymore, so I moved into position in one of the corners behind the big one. I’d forgotten about the drone again tho. I had to stop doing that. With no other command to act on it just trundled into the room after me, and I found out what happened when these guys noticed something. With a sparking sound their faces twisted into masks of rage and rancor. They turned on the drone with a violence that would have chilled a hot-headed Lonestar. They began raining blows down at the guileless little bot. Even when my audio enhancer picked up the sound of their hands breaking against the chassis they were unrelenting. It held its own, its defensive software telling it how to dodge some of the blows and it’s plating absorbing much of the damage. Then it’s switch flipped over to offensive mode, unloading a hail of bullets into the orc which slumped to the ground, his face falling back into a blank stare. I stepped from the shadows and unloaded into the troll. It didn’t seem to know it was being shot until it was dead, and it died trying to crush the life from my body.
“Damn this thing!” Rusty swore over the commlink. “Getting into this system is harder than finding out a JoyGirl’s real name.”
“I wouldn’t know.” I replied wryly. I shouldn’t be surprised that Rusty forgets I’m a woman. With all the time he spends amidst servos and autosofts I should be surprised if he realized that you can’t rig people. A chill ran down my spine as I thought that, looking down at the cybered troll lying at my own metal feet. I shook it off. “So what’s the problem? Can’t you get into the system? If nothing else I want to take my smiling face off the security footage.” I said, locking mechanical eyes with one of the building’s cameras, which had caught all the action thus far.
“Well, the bad news is that I can’t hack the security node til you get to the terminal. The good news is that the terminal is only a few floors below you.” Rusty’s voice was smooth and confident, but my augs detected the basal rumblings of frustrations masked by ego.
“Oh, just a few floors? Is that all? Why don’t you check the feed on your roto drone, Rust. I’ve only been in two rooms and its already getting weird.” Silence. Rusty was undoubtedly switching over to his drone to see what we had just encountered.
“You might have a point there. I’ll send some more drones for support. Whats the deal with all these cyber-zombie-meta’s anyway?” Rusty sounded completely unshaken by the sight of the slate-faced orc and troll, or their robotic behavior. Maybe it was just a result of his spending most of his time with drones that led to his trademark social grace, but there was a covetous tone in his voice I wasn’t sure I liked.
“Looks like we’re going to find out.”
I took a better look around the room I was in while I waited for Rusty to send in the extra drones. There were the bloody remnants of what looked like a Shadowmerc on the floor and a large view screen on the far wall. Kneeling by the merc I picked up his commlink. It was on, and the last message he’d received was still open. Apparently he’d been party of the heavy team that brought Mayhew’s hard drive from their HQ to the arcology. They were warned of an assault on the base by ghouls, and of the evac of the surrounding city blocks. They’d delivered the hard drive to the science lab, but said nothing more about what was on it or why they wanted it, or even where the science lab was. Unable to glean any more info, I turned my attention to the view screen.
As the tridscreen came to life it showed a gruesome scene. It showed camera footage from somewhere else in the arcology: a weapons testing range. There were nearly a dozen firearms of various assortments of heavy, from SMGs all the way up to flamethrowers and what looked like a rocket launcher. On the far end of the room was a disturbingly large pile of orc and troll corpses serving as a buffet for a big group of ghouls. The corpses were all seemingly fitted with similar cranial implants to the ones here. A sense of unease settled into my stomach. I heard Rusty’s new doberman pad into the room.
“Looks like they’re using these guys for target practice.” Rusty said. This time his voice was coming from the drone dog’s speakers. He must have jumped in. “Those look like some neat toys! Maybe we can get one.” I decided to presume he was talking about the guns.
“Yeah, maybe you’ll find something better to put on that vehicle mount than a directional mic.”
. . . . .
Once Rusty lent a little more drone gunnery support clearing the rest of the floor hadn’t proven too challenging. There were a few ghouls munching on a SINslave in a cubical-farm, but they were more than happy to streak towards my awakened ass as soon as they caught a whiff of me. Once we put the poor wretches out of their misery I searched the arcology worker and found his room key. Apparently this arcology was locked down pretty tight, even the interns were kept on the premises. Someone had been running a tight ship, or had tried anyway.
A few rooms over we came to another reception area, this one leading down. There were a few more of the modified trolls and orcs waiting for us, one even manged to batter thru my guard and caught me in the ribs. Their strength was terrifying, but they were still had a weakness of bullets, and we put them down. I patched myself up while Rusty hacked the terminal’s node. Seemed that Tyrell had been trying to install control rigs in meta-humans after all! They had been trying to override the last of their “subjects” essence in order to maintain better control, mentioning a “Special Guest” they seemed to think would help them to this end. Apparently things didn’t go as they planned. The ghouls broke into the arcology and the scientists were actually looking forward to throwing their helpless, brain-jacked cyberslaves into the fray with them. But the sick bastards got a little of what was coming to them when the slaves stopped responding to their commands and started killing anything they saw. But the best news was that the higher-ups here seemed desperate to keep their superiors in Tyrell from knowing about the screw-up. That tasty little tidbit was bound to cost somebody a lot of Nuyen, and we stood to profit quite a bit from it if we talked to the right people!
A view screen on the wall painted an even darker picture for us. It showed an obstacle course with razor wire, pools of acid, and a huge flat platform that was roped off like a boxing ring. Along the far wall the camera showed a huge one-way window. Clearly it held some kind of observation room where the scientists could stand and judge their handiwork. I had a brief flashback to the medical technicians hawkishly monitoring my recovery after my own cybernetic modification, and especially the military overseer with unmasked disdain. My fists clenched. Keep moving.
There was a stairwell leading down, and we’d gotten the key to it from the body of the receptionist in this room, but our eyes were drawn to a large door on the opposite wall.
“Should we take a look?’
“A look couldn’t hurt.”
Our look into the next room revealed a cavernous loading dock. Yellow caution ARO’s warned people on the floor to stay away from the giant elevator platform which dominated the floor of the room. All along the floor, walls, and ceiling there were huge gouges in the permacrete, and sprawling blackened scorch marks. The lights on the elevator control panel flashed on and off.
“Let’s take the stairs!”
- – Acquired: Arcology keys (Reception, B1 stairs, Bedroom), Arcology IDs: Doorman. – -
- – “Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines in a place where we only say goodbye
it stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds.” Ben Gibbard – -