Words of a Feather – Fafnir: We know our traitors

Nimue, also known as Brigid Wayland, president of Gram, walked past Jacobson’s secretary and opened the doors to his office. There her three main subordinates were already waiting for her. Alicia Corson, head clerk, frowning at her entrance with her right leg in a cast. Curator Samuel Jenkins nervously standing next to Corson’s chair, nervously clenching the seat tightly. And Corey Jacobson, her vice-president, working on paperwork without even noticing he wasn’t the only person in the world, never mind the room. Nimue smiled at the comforting sight then cleared her throat. “Corey dear, could you pay attention for a while please? It’s time to discuss the events from yesterday.”

“Hm?” Jacobson blinked before looking and having a moment of realization. “Ah, miss Wayland. As you wish. Uhm, yesterday… Oh right, we were attacked by Fafnir. Would you like to go first or should I?”

“How about I go first and start with what I know, that should be better as treatment for the impatience of these two. So, what I gathered from the reports is that some of our people noticed they had picked up tails and called them in, allowing us to find out the expected attack had finally arrived. They also quickly took care of losing said tails, allowing us to enter a lockdown without getting our assets trapped as well. Alicia dear, go ahead and interrupt, I can tell you’re dying to,” Nimue said with a simple smile on her face displaying no clear emotion.

After a stunned two seconds, Alicia went off at her boss. “Expected?! You knew this was coming?! Why did you not inform us? We could have pulled people back and prepared better!”

Nimue tipped her head and gave a bright smile to Alicia. “But then they would have expected us to and would have come with far less care. We wanted to lure them out properly, so we could take care of them in one big swoop. That required luring them into our domain without scaring them off. Besides, we had plenty of preparations did we not? The lockdown to prevent our employees from getting harmed, having access to all cameras in Kansas City whenever we desired which allowed us to locate both the tailing detectives and the hidden mercenaries, even a secret entrance for me to enter the Library. What else would we need?”

Alicia glared but remained silent in response, allowing Nimue to continue. “Oh Jenkins, a question. Blumberg is not a magician, correct? But when he was chased he drove his scooter up and down several buildings to make his getaway. How did he do that exactly?” Jenkins blinked for a bit before gathering his words. “Uhm, ah, the scooter has gecko-tips. Allows it to stick to solid surfaces.” “Ooooh, interesting. Did we do that?” “Ah, no, he installed them himself.” “I see, I see.”

As Nimue pondered the opportunities for a second, Alicia quickly spoke up. “What happened in the Vault, miss President? All I know is that Jenkins and I held off our enemies to delay them as long as we could, then chased after them when we had recovered. But what happened in that vault? And what IS that thing anyway?”

Oh, Camelot? Camelot is an alchera that cannot decide whether it’s real or a mirage. As a result its shape changes as needed and its guardians resurrect from time to time. Quite useful actually.”

Alicia was stunned to silence while Jenkins barely managed to croak a response. “An alchera? A magical disruption crossing over into this world? And you can summon that?”

Nimue looked him straight in the eyes with a faint smile on her face. “Of course. Where else could I keep magical artefacts too dangerous for this world?” Without giving either a chance to response she continued. “Corey, could you do the honours and tell them about our plan?”

Hm? Plan? Oh, you mean to lure in Fafnir? Ah, yes.” Jacobson straightened himself and put on a regal expression before continuing. “As you know, it is our goal to protect mankind from magical threats by keeping magical artefacts out of the hands of those against its best interests. This means we have competition as well as enemies. Several years back, we caught word of an entity naming itself Fafnir digging around for our namesake. Since anyone knowing of its existence could not be up to any good, we designed a plan to lure them in and eliminate the threat. All we needed for that is for the items of the seal to start rearing their heads.”

Nimue stepped in and cut off the questions the others were about to ask. “The armour and shield are meant for the owner to Gram, designed to only function when the owner is considered worthy and unsealing Gram as well. The scrolls contain the formula to unseal the blade’s full potential and require a constantly-changing sequence to use. This sequence is hidden in several paintings, some of which we had relocated to the local museum.”

Ah! That is why you sent them to the museum! But couldn’t you have done so yourself?” Alicia nodded along with Jenkins’s question.

Alas, the sequence is guarded so that I myself cannot read it. As such I had to depend on our people instead. But thanks to that, and them gathering the items despite Camelot’s resistance, I managed to perform the ritual in time. And that helped us lure Fafnir into the trap. See, you may recall that a spirit proved itself worthy of the Armour when we first retrieved it. This was Fafnir’s goal as well, and the reason they brought so many men with them: To draw out the Armour and prove themselves worthy of wearing it.”

Jacobson grinned. “What a fool he was. We never meant for ourselves to prove worthy. All we meant to do was combine the items to a functioning set. The blade itself is worthy of wielding itself, so by performing the ritual with the right tweaks the items will join into a Golem which can fight on its own. All Fafnir did was sacrifice themselves, which your efforts combined bought us enough time to arrange. And of course Camelot’s support to my abilities, allowing me to hold Fafnir off long enough for Gram to take their life.

After a stunned silence in which Nimue flashed a grin as cruel and vicious as Jacobson’s, it was Alicia who first found her words. “What does Gram do exactly? What makes it this special?”

Nimue had an evil glance in her eyes as she spoke: “It absorbs. By feeding on the magic of those it slays, it grows stronger and stronger so that one day there will be nothing capable of withstanding it… So that when the day comes, it can defeat all that would dare to stand against this world.”


After the others left, Nimue stayed, seating herself on Jacobson’s desk while he continued his paperwork. After a lengthy silence Jacobson spoke up. “You made them believe the Alchera supplied you with countermeasures. But sooner or later some will realize that was all you and there may be consequences.”

Ah who cares. If some of my secrets get exposed I’ll still have plenty left. Just like you, Corey. We’re quite alike after all, secrets peeled like onions. Same cruel nature too. Even our fathers both died for the sake of this world. The difference is that yours sacrified himself, while mine needed some, ahem, ‘convincing’…”

Jacobson shook his head while the Lady of the Lake, slayer of her progenitor Fafnir, looked at him with sparkling eyes.

Words of a Feather – Balmung: Chasing of the wind

In his office, Corey Jacobson muttered to himself while going through actual paperwork. The vice-president of the bookshop Library of Progress and the secret organization Gram always did prefer the old ways, trusting pen and paper far more than unreliable hardware. In front of his desk his head clerk, Alicia Corson, cleared her throat. As he looked up he noticed her and curator Samuel Jenkins, who shyly had seated himself in one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Oh, can I help you two?”

Alicia rolled her eyes. “Not again! Sir, we can only enter your office when you explicitly gave us one-time access. Thus our presence here means you called for us. So what did you want to discuss with us, and does it have to do with our goons going on a covert operation for you?”

Jacobson blinked slowly then smiled. “Ah yes, you’re completely right! Thank you Alicia, you know how I can get lost in my head sometimes. So, yes, the job. I sent our people to investigate rumors of a hidden library said to have belonged to a departed dragon. Figured it was a good place to search for the third item, since the rumors rather smelled.”

Jenkins grew pale as Jacobson chattered on with a big smile on his face. “So I sent them to Helena, with one of our recent gains as gift to the local museum as an in. You know how the Siouans are with Anglos, so this was the best way to get past their prejudice. Now I hear our people had some trouble with a gang trying to rob them, but they managed to survive long enough for the army to rescue them and blow things to smithereens. That is the term kids use these days, right?”

“Breadcrumbs, sir?” Jenkins uttered in a quiet voice, earning him a probing glare from Alicia. Jacobson shook his head in response. “No, blow things to breadcrumbs sounds wrong Jenkins. What in heavens makes you think that’s the term they’d use? If so I wouldn’t want to live on this planet anymore.”

Jenkins coughed before daring to respond again. “Smelling rumors sir? I was contacted by Blumberg during this job, sir. He was wondering who was laying the breadcrumbs. And they already voiced their concerns before. It appears they have realized we’re being led around just like our competitors.”

“Ah, interesting. I guess they’ll get a good performance review in the future. But we’re not being led around like our competitors, because we’re the ones leading them around. After all, wouldn’t want to be too far ahead of them, that’d make them unpredictable! Speaking of which, let’s continue my recap shall we? By digging for information at the museum our men scored information suggesting where they wanted to go, so they got in touch with a team of guides I had arranged for them. Which of course they figured was already infiltrated by our enemies.”

The cheerful smile on Jacobson’s face compared rather poorly to the ghastly look on Jenkins’ and the frown on Alicia’s. “And that is a good thing why, sir? That means our competition knew we were coming so they wanted to follow us to the destination.”

“Uhm, miss Corson,” spoke a shy Jenkins. “Perhaps it is a good thing because it means they know we outclass them and this way they would tag along and let us prepare for them, rather than following us and catching us by surprise?”

“Precisely, dear Jenkins! Precisely! It means they recognize us as their betters! Oh, wait, I’m getting lost again. Did I explain what the find was? No? Ah, apologies. Okay so the guides helped sneak our people into the forest, where they searched for the terrain they thought likely to be the site they sought. I forget the details, it’s somewhere in these papers. Something about stories involving a hidden cave and an Ecclesiastes quote in ancient languages? I have to say I’m impressed, it only took them a day to find the real thing, booby-trapped and all.”

Alicia gulped, which was rather out-of-character for her. “Booby-trapped, sir? What kind of traps were there in a dragon’s cave exactly?”

“Oh you know, tripwires connected to arrow systems, anchored spells ready to kill anyone making the wrong step and a door only a dragon could open or close. Oh, you’ll love this! Not only did they find evidence that elves had served the dragon in the Fourth World, they also discovered a massive library with protective spells that prevented decay! Now mind you there was a ward around it, which apparently lasted decades if not more, but the protective spells were immune to the ward so we got them all out intact. Such a marvelous find!”

While Jacobson started on a long story about the various scrolls in the library, and how much he was looking forward to studying them all, Alicia and Jenkins looked at each other as if to ask which of them would interrupt their boss. And more importantly, with what question. Eventually Alicia’s impatience triumphed over her reluctance. “Sir, what about the treacherous guides?”

“-magine wh-! Hm? Traitors? Ah, right. They all were actually! When our people sent a few outside to call for assistance from a smuggler the guides knew, the guides all insisted to come with in case traps would go off and lock everyone inside. Of course it was partially a ruse as one of them then commanded the others to attack. Apparently he had approached them anonymously so that they would never suspect their boss was one of them. Now mind you it was rather foolish of them to attack our people, so the guy died rather soon and the rest surrendered. It’s a real shame though, but at the very least they blew his head off later at my request. Now, back to the scrolls! Can you believe that they contain information on the Horrors? It’s a true wonder! An-“

“Sir! Please. So our people won, took prisoners and called. What happened then?”

“Oh, I asked our lady to take care of it. She sent our people away and made arrangements, bringing all of the scrolls here. Mind you I did get intel on the traps first so there was no real danger. She got out all the scrolls, and of course the third item of our precious set of fo-. I forgot to tell you that they discovered that as well. Apologies. Yes, the breadcrumbs led us to the third item and only one remains. We’ll reach our goal before long.”

While Alicia and Jenkins again looked at each other, wondering about exactly how their president had so easily brought hundreds of scrolls in metal casings to Kansas City, Jacobson continued his enthusiastic description of various subjects covered in the scrolls he had read so far. It was clear to them that they would no longer be able to interrupt him so proper answers would have to wait. And perhaps he never intended to give them those to begin with…

“I really don’t get it,” sighed a fence of stolen art at a dive bar, “this Blumberg guy pays me a grand to protect a dead drop of his, comes over to review the data he sent me, then within a few seconds he grows pale and deletes it all before taking off as if he’s seen a ghost. What’s up with that, did a dragon eat his mother or something?”

Words of a Feather – Nothung: To give and take

In the best vault of the secret organization Gram, hidden in the deep basement of the Library of Progress, three people gathered in front of a new exhibit. Curator Samuel Jenkins gleefully studied the shield as he polished it very carefully, Alicia Corson oversaw this activity with an annoyed look on her face, while Corey Jacobson altered between checking out random items and checking his notes. These actions were interrupted when a shimmering figure appeared in between them, a watcher spirit sent by the president with her eternal smile.

“Of course she had to send a watcher,” Alicia grumbled. “Still, could we not have held a meeting elsewhere? No reason why she could not study the shield after the meeting.”

“Uhm, but miss Corson,” Jenkins timidly interrupted, “that’d cost more time and she has a busy sched-” then quickly shut up as he received a death glare. Meanwhile the watcher spirit studied the shield for a few seconds, then motioned for them to start. With a grunt Alicia began the debriefing.

“I sent those unmannered thugs, who rudely insisted on a lunch break first, to New Orleans to visit a party at The Rising Sun. As I reported last week, one of our sources had informed us there was something strange going on there in the art collection. Since the president gave her okay at last, I quickly sent the group there to infiltrate the party and find out what was going on. Oh, and get this, those idiots got searched at the border to the Confederation of American States, because one of them had Psyche on them and it got picked up by the drug hounds! A good thing nobody brought anything problematic with them, otherwise this mission would have failed even before it started!”

“Hm, ah, easy Alicia,” spoke a distracted Jacobson. “We’ll discuss it in the annual performance reviews. That’s what they’re for, right?” His innocent smile managed to lessen the frown on her face. “Uhm, this was a party at the former-brothel-former-speakeasy owned by that horrible Anderson, correct?”She nodded and continued.

“I hear they broke illegally hidden cameras at their hotel rooms, which at the least helped their covers since who would stand out that much then commit theft… Anyway, we got them into the party easily since I had prepared even before the final okay, and they even wore some mediocre clothes instead of street clothes. At the party they studied the horrid art collection, if you can call that abomination such a thing. He even hung paintings in front of other paintings! Really, who does that?!”

“Ah, a barbarian I would say.” Jenkins coughed shyly. “He gathered these things and exposed them purely to shock and entertain, not to actually appreciate them. At least that is what we thought.”

“Indeed,” Alicia agreed. “So it was a bit of a shock what happened. But let me rewind a short bit for the full summary to this -” she gestured towards the president’s watcher spirit “- messenger here. So at the party Blumberg discovered a book he had stolen three years ago had been replaced with a forgery, which got him kicked out after he exposed it with quite a bit of dramatic flair. The only upside to that is that it left him free to run Matrix searches on several suspicious party guests, who turned out to be Private Eyes, most likely hired by our faceless competition. Meanwhile Henri and Ogalesha spent time seducing and ended up with peculiar information regarding Anderson’s conquests at his parties. They didn’t really remember their one-night stands but he didn’t really impress them.

“Meanwhile Grod got bored,” she snorted in disdain, “and ended up hiding in one of the secret rooms upstairs. This led to him witnessing Anderson stab a woman with an Aztec dagger, then use a strange shield to heal her. He promptly fed her some wine, causing her to go unconscious, and cast some magic on her. Combined with the information the women downstairs had told our people, they figured out this was a case of ritual sacrifice combined with a healing shield and a combination of memory-erasing drugs and implanting false memories in his victims. Those false memories disappearing after a few months resulted in the peculiar broken recollections. At least now they knew what they were after, the shield, so they made a plan to come back the next day.

“Their plan was smart, disguise as workers for the broken elevator and then sneak through the shaft into a hidden room they had discovered during the party, which they did through levitation. Unfortunately Anderson and a possible conquest of his, who the group didn’t trust because she proved immune to their charms, arrived early and they were forced to hide. When through sneaking and magic they observed the woman distract then kill Anderson, ironically using his own ritual dagger against him, they quickly attacked her. Grod burst through a wall for that, can you believe that?! How inane is that!”

“Hm, yes, rather inane,” Jacobson mumbled. “But it did get them the element of surprise, which let them take out a rather dangerous blood mage. Initiation grade eight at the least? She had quite the rap sheet. Then killed her before running away from all the king’s men responding to the fire alarm. Ah, that reminds me, I should really have a word with Grod for bashing her to death with his chains, though he did have a valid excuse so could be forgiven.”

Alicia and Jenkins blinked and looked at each other for a few seconds before Jenkins spoke up. “Ah, forgiven for uhm what, sir? Killing her so brutally?”

Now it was Jacobson’s turn to blink. “Huh? No, of course not.” A smile came upon his face as he continued: “For not slowly torturing her to death first, of course! After all, that’s what should happen to all enemies of metahumanity, make them suffer before they die a slow, antagonizing death!”

The shocked silence was interrupted when from the watcher spirit came brilliant laughter in the voice of the president. “Oh Corey, wonderful, wonderful. This, this kind of attitude is why I made you my second-in-command. You always are so eager to do what’s needed. Thank you for that. And thank you all, I have confirmed this is the item we were looking for. Shield and armor taking care of, just two more things to go…”

Words of a Feather – Gram: Worthy Of A King

In a room in the depths of the Library of Progress, three people sat down at a table. The nervous curator, Samuel Jenkins. Grumpy head clerk, Alicia Corson. Distracted vice-president, Corey Jacobson. And lastly, visible on a trid-screen on the wall was the president with her eternal smile. “Hello everyone, glad you’re all here. Now then, shall we start with the mission report? So I understand you sent a team to West-Fargo to deal with mysterious Suits of Armor that did not show up on recordings. Jenkins?”

“Uhm, yes, ah… So, uhm, I gave our members their instructions, and uh… Garlic cloves…” Jenkins flushed a bit of embarassment as the president chuckled. “It’s okay Jenkins, there’s no shame in preparations against vampires and such. Just try to leave out the mythology and stick to the real thing from now on, alright? Now, who did you send?”

“Ah, yes,” Jenkins continued. “Bloomberg, our retriever. Galdof the intellectual, Henri the deceiver. Also Grod the knocker and Ogalesha the finisher.” Alicia snorted in response. “He’s a finisher all right, showed up late for that briefing. I swear, seriously.” A chuckle came from the screen. “Alright, easy Alicia, I’m sure he had a valid reason. Continue, Jenkins.”

“Ah, yes. So, they went to Fargo by car and checked into two different hotels, one coffin and one decent.” Again Alicia snorted. “Of course they went for a more expensive option. At least this time they brought receipts back. But seriously, a handwritten signature from the coffin motel?! Who does that!”

“Huh, what?” Corey shook his head and his eyes back to attention. “Handwritten receipts? Did our printer run out of ink? Should I let tech su-. Oh, right. Fargo. Coffin motel. No printer of their own. Uhm, go on Jenkins.”

“Ah, yes. Our staff members checked up on the news and message boards, finding out a woman had been attacked and was staying in the hospital, as well as video from a frat house about a ghost armor that wasn’t actually visible on the recording. In the morning they went out and ran into a group of SCAers getting out of a Greyhound bus, who were all excited about the ghost armors and shared a few incidents. The team also spotted a few suspicious individuals carrying concealed weaponry, one of which was identified as a bounty hunter.

“Next the team split up to explore three of the locations where armors had been spotted. Henri and Grod, ironic as that combo may be, went to check out a bar where an armor had stepped in during a barfight. Bloomberg stayed behind to analyze the frathouse visit and then go there for reconnaissance. And Galdof and Ogalesha went to visit the local musem, where apparently a ghost had looked at some paintings. I, uh, asked mister Jacobson to handle the debriefings so he would know better how this went.”

“Huh, wha?” “Debriefings!” barked Alicia. “Debriefings, Corey, get with it. They split up, then what?”

“Ah, right. Okay, let me check my notes…” After finding his glasses and ruffling through his notes, the vice-president continued. “So, at the museum they witnessed some of the, and I quote, ‘renaifreaks’ being kicked out. They smoothtalked some old visitors and discovered the armor had been observing a triptych. They studied the paintings, discovering Nordic runes regarding being ‘worthy of a king’ on stones on them. Then they obtained security footage through deception, which later revealed the bounty hunters had also studied the triptych. Oh, and outside they spotted a spydrone so they had a local policeman gun it down cowboy-style. Plus Grod discovered the triptych was a 360-degree panorama, which seemed to be from the top of a hill.”

Jenkins coughed. “If I may interrupt, Bloomberg called me to check, wondering if there was a Nordic equivalent of Excalibur.” A brilliant laugh ran out of the speakers. “Oh dear,” the president chuckled, “he sure failed at his history lessons there. Well to be fair, it’s not Excalibur that made Arthur king, it was Caliburn and of that we are the Nordic equivalent. Carry on, Corey.”

“Ah, yes, thank you. Bloomberg reviewed the frathouse recordings and noticed movement in the bushes. At the frathouse he talked with the ‘friendly inebriated locals’, which helped him figure out the armor had most likely blocked the path of what a search revealed to most likely be a hellhound. Meanwhile Grod picked a fight with a bartender, though ‘the bartender picked a fight with me!’ or so Grod says. And Henri found out from a drunk that when a knife was drawn in a fistfight, the armor jumped inbetween before leaving towards a hill.

“On that hill, which seemed to rather match the triptych, was a building site where construction had been halted due to a water leak which had caused a sinkhole. Our unmannered employees bullied and intimidated their way onto the grounds, except for Bloomberg who was still on his way from the frathouse. In the sinkhole, caused by an exposed well, they spotted a tunnel and roped down into it. While they explored the spiraling tunnel, Bloomberg arrived and tried to climb down, only to get jumped by a hellhound which fortunately missed him and was swallowed by the sinkhole. He then engaged in a fight with a group of hellhounds while an armor appeared and momentarily distracted them. Shortly after both the police and a few dozen hellhounds arrived, so they entered a long fight which a spirit from Galdof helped finish. Oh and by then two bountyhunters had also entered the tunnel but had been disabled by the rest.”

Alicia snarled. “Tell that part first!”

“Apologies, my notes were in disarray. Okay, so this says that at the end of the tunnel was a room with an open door, in which was the real armor and a lot more Nordic runes. The group didn’t dare touch it, but Galdof’s spirit ended up awakening the armor and ending up having to wear the armor as the group left, leaving behind a ‘hot mess’. We had to deal with some coverups, blaming the bountyhunters for the chaos while covertly obtaining footage of the burial chamber. We also bought the triptych to help with our research. So far it seems that while the Norse indeed intended it for the rightful owner of Gram, the armor itself is much older than that and may very well predate the Vikings.”

Alicia frowned at this unproven conclusion but chose to remain silent. Meanwhile the president nodded, “Thank you Corey, that will be all. Dismissed everyone.” All got up but while Alicia and Corey moved to leave, Jenkins stood at his chair with a burrowed frown. “Something wrong, Jenkins?” asked the president while the others turned around at the door.

“Ah, sorry ma’am, it’s just… I was wondering, there is something strange about the hellhounds. So far we assumed that the armor’s power had involuntarily leaked out due to the construction work exposing the tunnel, which in turn lured the hellhounds towards the town. But what if it wasn’t involuntary? What if the armor deliberately lured them in? First the hellhounds were kept at bay, only attacking a single person, but within mere minutes of our people arriving at the hilltop dozens went on the offensive. What if the armor caused the fight so someone could prove themselves worthy of wearing it?”

All three looked at the trid-screen, where the president displayed a viciously cruel smile. “Then we’re definitely dealing with the real thing.”

Big Sticks & Biggest Guns: Report of Black Hearts #5 part 5

Previously on Black Hearts:

Mr. Smith sent his Black Hearts on clandestine ops that was unsanctioned by the UCAS, with a briefing handed to them by their fellow operatives rather than the normal system. He split his agents into three teams for three simultaneous ops. One op with Decker, Assassin, Face and Rigger. The second had his Muscle, Stealth Mage and Demo Man. The third op he sent his B&E ghost, his Mind Mage and his Pickpocket Face.

The first op involved kidnapping a cartel boss’s daughter and heir, giving her a warning that her father should get better friends than terrorists. He also informed her she had better stay away from his daughter. The second involved blowing up said poor friend, as well as several dozens of soldiers as collateral damage. Just before the target’s commlink died, it flashed the filename Angela Serrano…

Mr. Smith was an excellent CIA Operative. He was meticulous. Made smart choices when recruiting assets and when hiring mercs. Knew when collateral damage was to be expected or even desired. Cleaned up trails like nobody else, discovered enemies like nobody else. His bosses were very satisfied with his work and let him create his own group of deniable assets, while most of his coworkers didn’t even know he existed. Those that did considered him nearly-flawless.

If there was one flaw that Mr. Smith had, it as his love for his daughter Angela. It was a flaw he kept well-hidden even from the UCSA Government. That his real name was Charles Serrano and that he had a daughter he saw once per year, nobody knew. Using the tools of his trade Smith had long since buried any trace that could let people connect his business with his personal life.

Arthur Nielsen was an excellent CIA Operative. He was meticulous. Knew exactly who to blackmail or bribe, and with what. Found weaknesses and dug up secrets. If there was one flaw he had, it was his selfishness. A selfishness that had driven him and seven other CIA operatives into the hands of Horizon, double-dipping with their intel. It also had driven them to help ensure their jobs by turning on the UCAS government…

Thus came into existence Quantum, a terrorist group which held the belief that peace made weak and so if the times were too peaceful, things needed to be shaken up. For that goal Quantum sparked terrorism and bloodshed, making others do their dirty work. And when it came to figuring out whether to use carrot or stick, bloodhound Arthur Nielsen was one of the best. Thus he rose to second-in-command, and so he got on the trail of Angela Serrano…

Nielsen had a black book commlink with the names of the many dozens of people he used. And the day came where he added his ‘coworker’ Smith to it. This exposed a flaw that Nielsen normally kept in check, namely his hubris. Had he been smarter he would have killed Smith within months of blackmailing him for the first time. Because Serrano loved his daughter and the best way to keep her safe was to bury his secret inside Nielsen’s grave.

Nielsen was a ghost. Nobody ever saw him. Nobody knew his face, his race, or what made him tick. So getting to him would be tough. But Smith knew how to play the long game, plus he knew that going for a quick resolution would tip his hand. So he bided his time and started digging. And since Nielsen was a coworker with a long dossier, it wasn’t hard for Smith to read between the lines and find an angle to use…

The weakness he identified was that Nielsen liked to get all hands-on if a pet project of his threatened to go wrong. So to lure him out, all that would be needed was to mess with the right project in the right way. The biggest problem would be taking out his dropbox with him. Because after all, there was no way Nielsen did not have a Dead Man Switch ready to burn quite a few people if he ever bit the dust…

And there Horizon came in… Because the Dawkins Group keeps tabs not just on potential enemies and assets, but on their own agents as well. There was bound to be some hints left by the double-agents, so ‘all’ Smith had to do was get into the Dawkins Group their intel stores. After that he’d have to lure out Nielsen while also figuring out where the switch was and how to kill it…

Four months after Nielsen added Smith to his black comm, Smith made his first move. His target was Jason McDonalds, a former member of the Dawkins Group that had been sidelined after complications in the Aztlan-Amazonia war. McDonalds had realized he was now expendable and was busy arranging his extraction. So Smith sent half a dozen agents to snatch McDonalds during the extraction, as to leave a trail of confusion and suspicion.

With the intel from McDonalds in hand, Smith sent agents after a former Horizon hotel. Their task was to obtain some art pieces present there that had Dawkins data stores inside them and replacing them with forgeries. The switch was to be made before anyone would realize they had slipped and was done quite excellently. Now even if the Dawkins Group or Quantum realized, they would only find the fakes and would be none the wiser.

With his intel in hand, it was time for Smith to lure out Nielsen. He decided to do so by targeting the Mirando cartel. Nielsen had allied himself with the cartel boss, convincing him that sponsoring terrorism was a good way to distract the cops from his own drug business. In return Smith allied the UCAS government with the Artosa cartel, an enemy of Mirando. He made sure to time this with an attempted coup against Artosa, as to buy a longer-lasting alliance.

Smith also had his Black Hearts hit a Mirando drughouse that was originally meant to be a honeypot. Had CAS agents hit the place and stolen the cash themselves, they would have been blackmailed as part of Nielsen’s plan. Instead the place was blown to bits and Lone Star got hotheaded-mad when one of their own cops ended up murdered. If the Mirando cartel wanted to get heat off them, they would have to try even harder now…

These setbacks would not be enough to lure out Nielsen though. The Mirando cartel would also have to be subtly exposed without Nielsen catching onto Smith. For this purpose Smith needed to frustrate them, and there was a really nice way of doing that… Nielsen knew there was a sociologist catching onto his game, so he wanted her gone. And two could play that game.

At the Joint UCAS-CAS Anti-Terrorism (JUCAT) Conference, the Black Hearts protected Agatha Lancer who aimed to convince both countries to look into cartels sponsoring terrorism… Meanwhile, they also took out her opponent Victor Mondreau, whose speeches were part of Nielsen’s divide-and-conquer strategy. Best of all, they did it sneakily and stole useful paydata on the Mirando cartel as well.

All the pieces were in play and thus began the story’s final act. In a simultaneous triple strike, the Black Hearts went after Nielsen, his Dead Man Switch and the Mirando cartel. The third wasn’t that needed but if anything separated Nielsen and Smith, it was that Smith still cared about his country. As such he refused to let terrorism happen if he could prevent it.

Daniella Mirando got kidnapped by four agents and given a stern talking to. This would guarantee that in the future the Mirando cartel would stay far away from terrorism. Three agents used the Dawkins intel to take out Nielsen’s dead man switch, making sure that no intel would leak unless Smith wanted it to leak. And three more took out Nielsen with a very big bang, making sure he’d rest in many, many pieces.

But no secret can stay buried forever. So Smith played another long game and gave away his personal motives. This way if Quantum came digging, they’d know he had acted out of personal motives. So rather than consider Smith a liability, they’d simply consider him an enemy. As a result they would argue about whether or not to take him out and if he even still was a threat to them.

Smith was good. And indeed Quantum debated internally about whether or not to take him out, deciding after two months that it seemed like he was indeed clean so no problem anymore. They let him slide.

During the third month the Black Hearts killed five Quantum members. The final two disappeared soon after…

Big Sticks & Biggest Guns: Report of Black Hearts #5 part 4

Previously on Black Hearts:

A team consisting of Scottie, Doll and Zen was tasked to go to Colombia and track down Arthur Nielsen with the help of Black Hawk, who had aided the Black Hearts before. This time she was less helpful and let the team fend for themselves when it came to obtaining intel. All she was willing to do was play Tracker for them.

In a town with a lot of soldiers in and near it, the team quickly employed their good points: Scottie showcased his ability to get the group in trouble, while Doll showcased her ability to smoothtalk things and Zen just helped hide them when consequences came a-running. With a lot of difficulty they managed to score intel on where Nielsen had gone, so now it was time to go and hunt him down…

Reaching the jungle, the team had to leave their truck behind and go on foot. Black Hawk found the trail without problems and lead the team along the path as they sneaked to the camp, a few hours travel away. They had to evade the jungle patrols, but that didn’t prove too difficult (a single close-call aside): The team all was at least somewhat trained in stealth, while Zen supplied a powerful Spirit that helped conceal them.

After this stressful trip the group reached an outcropping which helped them oversee the enemy camp. Using binoculars they could see a camp with three big tents and two Ares Roadmasters in the center. Surrounding that were several more tents, containing both semi-disciplined military troops and casual cartel heavies. There were lookout spots and two more parking spots for jeeps and other trucks. Last but not least, the camp (which was about 60 meters either side) had a wooden fence set up around it.

The group managed to spot Arthur Nielsen for a split second, before he disappeared out of sight again. Given the amount of enemies and the fact Zen was quite exhausted from summoning the Spirit earlier, the team decided to rest and go for a night raid instead. Meanwhile Black Hawk stayed a while removed and wasn’t getting involved at all here, as she had told them before already.

After dusk the group discussed tactics, and of course Scottie had a big preference to putting his explosives to work. His Coyote had charged by the kilogram for the smugglejob, rather than by punch. If he’d known in advance the kind of stuff Scottie was bringing, he might have charged more. See commercial explosives aren’t that great. You need 25 kilograms of it to rival a single kilogram of the top-of-the-line stuff.

Scottie had brought 10 kg of that.

The group considered hiding small packets of explosives around the camp, to take out their trucks and lookouts: Strike their eyes and legs. But explosives by themselves wouldn’t be lethal enough, the agents felt. So they would need additional shrapnel to increase the killing range. Since they hadn’t packed that stuff, they needed to get some first. Fortunately for them, there was an enemy camp nearby which had plenty. So Doll snuck in and came back with lots of bolts and other random junk from the motor poles.

While Doll was gone, Scottie and Zen debated exactly what targets to hit. Since their initial targets would be on the outer edges, they wouldn’t really take out too many enemies. Zen had already summoned  a new Spirit since dusk, an Air Spirit which they figured could just grab the remaining explosives and drop them on the tents in the middle of the camp.


The group hadn’t been hired to kill off the troops in the camp. Their one and only goal here was Nielsen’s head. If they were going to deliver a bomb by air, there was absolutely no need to first sneak in and set off explosives on the outer edges: Just make one huge bomb, deliver it and blow up most of the camp. Heck, with Scottie’s skills and the size of his supply, they might just blow up the entire camp and then some. After all they were using the equivalent of 250 kg Commercial Explosives…

So that’s the plan they went with. To maximize their chances, Zen turned his spirit invisible and pushed himself to make it the best Invisibility spell he’d ever cast. And up the spirit went, carrying a large packet for delivery. Not a single soul in the camp managed to notice it so the bomb got dropped at the center, the Spirit quickly jumped into the astral and just before it reached the ground the bomb was set off manually for maximum effect.

A Thor Missile would have made a bigger mess. This, however, was the next best thing. The tents were shredded, so were the cars and pretty much everyone in and near the camp. Heck even at half a click away Zen still got nicked by shrapnel. Good thing his armor managed to block most of the damage. As for the camp: Only a few were still standing: A cartel soldier and two soldiers including a Lieutenant.

Then, from the wreckage at the center suddenly appeared Nielsen, injured but still standing as if protected by the devil himself. The group immediately started sniping and even though he got lucky and managed to evade and take cover, no cover could save him from a sniper rifle and a Thunderstruck. While he died by an enemy he could not see, the soldiers at least tried to return fire. The spirit was sent to them to take them out, got taken out himself but soon after the snipers managed to take out the lieutenant. Taking no chances, the soldier quickly threw away his gun and stayed down.

Normally one would take the chance to loot the enemies and get precious paydata. However the team was half a kilometer removed and they already were starting to hear cars racing recklessly through the jungle back to the camp, while rotors were approaching from afar. Now was not the time to fight a war.

The job was done and there was no purpose in risking one’s life and not get to spend their pay…. So together with a rather spooked Black Hawk the group quickly went back into the shadows and, with yet another fresh summon’s aid, snuck away to get to an extraction point. What they left behind was damage great enough that most likely the astral space would be damaged for decades to come. What they left behind was a very big warning sign.

What they left behind was Nielsen’s body. On him two commlinks sparked and smoked from the shrapnel and blast damage they had received. One of them started cycling through recently-edited files. First came Victor Mondreau, next Daniella Mirando. The final name that showed up, just a split second before the commlink permanently fried, was Angela Serrano.

To be continued…

Big Sticks & Biggest Guns: Report of Black Hearts #5 part 3

Previously on Black Hearts: 

Two months ago two Black Hearts teams went after the Mirando organisation: One group hit a drughouse in the CAS on a Raid Party, which they discovered had quite some cameras inside. The other group had travelled to the Colombian jungle to engage in Soft Talks with the Artosa cartel, to obtain their aid in the fight against the Mirando cartel. Both teams left behind destroyed houses and a damaged Mirando cartel.

Now, while one team went after the daughter of the Mirando cartel’s boss, and another was up to no good somewhere out of sight, a third team was sent to engage the Mirando cartel again. But this time the Mirando cartel would not be the main target to hit…

The Run: Biggest Guns

The Agents:
  • Zen, a human magician with the most destructive spirits around
  • Scottie, human scottish demolitions expert extraordinaire
  • Doll, dwarven infiltrator and the best stealer of junk in the jungle

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To take out Arthur Nielsen, second-in-command of the Quantum group

After going shopping for various things in their respective home towns, our agents noticed something peculiar once they got back home: someone had sneaked a small device into their pockets, which they were unable to open. Zen tossed it in a corner of his house, where Doll just let it lay around. However Scottie pulled out some more paranoid means: He put the device in his explosion-proof safe and proceeded to blow it up.

The next day, Scottie found yet another device in his pocket, of the same kind. This time there was a note attached reading “Don’t blow this up you moron”. Still distrusting the thing, he stuck this one into the bomb-proof safe as well but decided not to blow it up for now.

A few days later, these mysterious devices started playing the ancient song “Thunderstruck”. When the agents rushed to observe their devices, they discovered that now they could be opened. Inside was a button and once they had pressed those, a message from their handler Mr. Smith began playing.

The mission they received from him was to go to Colombia to eliminate Arthur Nielsen, second-in-command of the Quantum terrorist group. Quantum had struck several UCAS targets in the past years so needed clearing. While Nielsen was normally well-hidden, he was set to visit the Mirando cartel, one of their sponsors, shortly. This was the opening the team needed to take him out.

The commlink also contained the standard 2000 nuyen advance, as well as the tickets to Colombia. However, as Zen quickly noticed, the message did not, as standard, self destruct, setting the team on edge a bit. They tried to contact their handler, but Mr. Smith was not reachable for comment. They requested Bluepin to hack Mr. Smith’s commlink for more information, who promptly declined (“You’re joking right? No way I’m even going near that”). Not knowing what else to do, the team decided to then simply cautiously proceed with the mission.

Scottie made some arrangements with his Coyote, paying quite a large sum for his services, while the other two simply didn’t take any illegal goods with them. The subsequent plane ride to Colombia proceeded without much difficulty.

The second leg was a tad less comfortable, being in a small postal plane with a pilot that wasn’t too enthusiastic about his job, but that too passed without incident. However from the air they could see that around the town they were going to, was quite a large number of military patrols. It appeared their destination would be far less peaceful than their ride there…

Once in town, Scottie noticed a familiar face – Black Hawk, a guide he had met last time he went into the jungle, to negotiate with an enemy of the Mirando cartel. Black Hawk did not have her bodyguards with her this time and she acted rather sour and unhelpful. She informed the agents that Nielsen already was in the area and that he had met with the local army commander. After that he had made for a camp in the jungle.

Black Hawk made it clear to the team that once they found her a trail, she would lead them along it, and that was all she would be doing for them. Without digging into her sour behaviour, the team went to the local watering hole to grill the locals present. Shortly after they entered, Scottie made a rather unfriendly remark to the locals and was shown the door, though Zen and Doll were allowed to stay around. An annoyed Scottie decided to retaliate by placing sticky grenades on the outside walls – something easily noticed by a few nearby soldiers. They didn’t stop to check it out yet at this point though.

When Zen and Doll did not get anywhere with simple questions – the locals being quite afraid of the whole cartel business – Zen decided to shift into a more aggressive gear and started threatening the locals instead. This quickly backfired as they realized that none of them were actually trained in interrogation or intimidation, and the locals weren’t too impressed. Our agents still had the upper hand, were open fighting to break out – but this time a fight had not been what they were looking for.

Fortunately, while lacking intimidation skills the group did have a Doll quite capable of lying through her teeth. Which came in handy when during their standoff the scene was joined by a group of soldiers. Thinking on her feet, Doll managed to sell the soldiers the story that the pub owner and his guests were plotting against the soldiers. Needless to say the troops became rather aggressive to the locals after they found out. The team quickly take off, as it wouldn’t take too long for the soldiers to beat the truth out of the locals.

With the agressive approach not working, the agents decided to go to the local general store and try a more bribery approach. While the shopkeeper was still not very willing to offer too much detail, after some pressing – and some generous “purchases” – he informed the agents that they should probably really stay away from a certain nearby path, because that would surely lead to trouble. After a wink and a nod, the team went back on their way.

Meanwhile, the local soldiers had discovered they had been played and gotten wind of what the team was actually doing, so they went on a manhunt. Rather than entering a shootout with the troops, Zen decided to solve their problems by making their entire truck invisible and silent. Scottie proceeded to drive the truck around stealthily enough so they also managed not to leave tracks the soldiers were able of following. With an exasperated Black Hawk in tow the group quickly left town and patrols behind, travelling to the path that the shopkeeper indicated.

To be continued…

Big Sticks & Biggest Guns: Report of Black Hearts #5 part 1

Given my busy schedule, desire for quality and simply the sheer length of it, the Black Hearts finale recap will be split into five posts: Two for each run and a fifth part revealing what was going on behind the curtains. The second post of each run’s recap will of course include a link back and a short summary of what has happened.

These five posts will be written and published over the coming week, so I’ll see ya when I see ya. 🙂

The Run: Big Sticks

The Agents:

  • Templar, a human sneak with slick hands and a vicious mind
  • Visage, a charming socialite doing what, why. when and who
  • Bubbles, a pseudo-elven girl who makes resort staff cry

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To infiltrate a Wellness Resort and extract Daniella Mirando against her will

While in town for some shopping, Templar noticed he was being reverse-pickpocketed. Looking around he spotted a fellow Black Heart, the B&E Expert Ghost, giving him a knowing glance before disappearing into the crowd. In a more secluded area Templar observed the device, but soon discovered he could not open it, nor was it wirelessly active, so he stored it at home for now.

A few days later both Visage and Bubbles had suffered the same without realizing, causing them to be far more surprised than Templar when the device suddenly started playing the song “Thunderstruck”. From behind a couch Bubbles sent her actionman drone to check out the device for her and push its button, while Visage and Templar were less careful with the device. Once the button had been pressed, a message from their handler Mr. Smith began playing.

The mission they received from him was to infiltrate a Wellness Clinic and kidnap Daniella Mirando, daughter of the boss of the Mirando cartel. They would receive support from Bluepin, another member of their team. He’d need their help setting up ways to circumvent security, which they had two days for. On the second night of their stay, they had to extract Mirando no matter what.

As the commlink sparked and popped out a credstick, the teammembers quickly realized Mr. Smith had misspoken at the end of the speech, mentioning neither the self-destruct nor the disavowing of their actions. Bubbles even realized that he had not stated the run was from the UCAS Government… In a mild panic she had her actionman doll use a payphone to contact Mr. Smith and figure out if he was under duress. The sole response was his assurances that if they did their job, he would be alright…

During their planeride the teammembers debated their cover-story with each other and their Decker support. The anonymous clinic they were going to was one with two purposes: Actual rehab treatment for celebrities, and being a place where celebrities could just hang out and enjoy a vacation without paparazzi. Of course they went for the second purpose, because why go to a luxurious place if it wasn’t going to be a blast? And as a few months back, Templar would shapeshift and travel in a dress.

One unfortunate downside of the clinic’s dual purpose was its strict security. There were chemsniffers built into every room, disallowing the use of any drugs, toxins or explosives and even guns. Even worse, security was at such a level that a straight hack was impossible for more than a few seconds. The only way to hack in would be to directly plug into any devices on the scene. For this purpose the team was supplied with a massive supply of datatap dongles: Just get them into devices their Universal Data Port and Bluepin would be able to hack them whenever desired.

Bubbles decided to put her disguise skill to good use, turning her Steel Lynx into a dog. While everyone could see it was truly a drone, noticing the owner wasn’t mad as a hatter would be harder. She then decided to traumatize their rented limo-driver by demanding she’d be allowed to drive, while Templar complained the car was dull. Putting the pressure on the driver and offering a bribe as well, the poor man was about to cave and asked if Bubbles could show her driving license. Which she did. Her stuntdriver license. The driver fainted right away.

On their way to the resort, Bubbles went completely nuts with the driving, even drifting underneath a trailer and driving on two wheels as to not let speeding cams get footage of their license plate. Visage managed to keep his food inside, while Templar’s thrillseeking involved much rejoicing and a single finger out the windows, aimed at the speeding cams. Of course Bubbles didn’t forget to pop the trunk and release her Roto-Drones when they got close to the resort, after which she drifted through the security roadblocks and entered the resort, followed by a lot of pissed security.

While security surrounded them and the team got busy misleading and manipulating them, the team was quick to notice metahumans weren’t the only security patrolling the resort grounds. A bit removed from the buildings they could see quite a few guard dogs wandering around in groups. So while Visage and Templar kept smoothtalking Security, Bubbles decided to make things worse by sending Mango to ‘play with the cute other dogs’. Much to the chagrin of their handler, a bulky Cascade Ork.

Said handler quickly voiced his severe objections to this ‘provocation’, his language laced with profanities. He easily recognized Visage as a Cascade Crow and immediately labelled him the likely culprit, while also making very clear to the receptionist that he would not tolerate this kind of behaviour from the guests: Either she’d keep the guests in line, or he’d keep his dogs in line while walking out with all hundred-some of them. With a sigh Bubbles called Mango back to her.

While Templar and Bubbles went to check out the building and scan for security loopholes, Visage went to talk with the dog trainer. Given the bad blood between the Cascade Crows and the Cascade Orks, what with the latter separating from the former because of being fed up with racism, he had some hostility to overcome.

His sincere curiosity regarding the animal training, combined with his animal handling and excellent social skills, managed to win over both the dogs and their owner. Visage even managed to land an invite to check out the attack training in half an hour. The handler, blinded by his like for the man who was even eager to use live pigs, never realized his new friend was simply looking for info on the dogs and how to call them off, should a nightly escape involve getting past the dogs.

Visage joined the others at the bar, where soon they were confronted by an angry businessman. The man took offense to Bubbles her fake elven ears, which made her team members realize Bubbles was in fact not a real elf but an Elf Poser. Templar’s response was to covertly shape his ears like elven ones , then show them to the nuisance. Said nuisance sputtered and got mad, resulting in security escorting them away from the team.

A while later Visage left for the attack training, while the others ordered some good whisky. When they got their drinks another guest pushed them aside, scoffing at the poor quality the resort dared pour. He instructed the bartender to give the lovely ladies some from his own private stash, with whisky 1000 nuyen the glass rather than the bottle. He then introduced himself as Richard William Dickens IV. During the resulting conversation Rich made it quite clear by innuendo what his goal was at the resort: Hunting. And not for wildlife.

Spotting a likely easy mark, Bubbles tried distracting Dickens with idle conversation while Templar secretly swiped the man’s keycard to copy and return. Unfortunately, as both noticed, during this a faint smile endorned the man’s face. Hinting that he knew what they did, Dickens left soon after but not before Bubbles invited him over to their quarters in the evening, so she could offer him a drink herself.

Covertly armed with their Fly-Spies and dongles, the girls decided to check out the inside of the resort as well. Their first destination? The reception. Here Bubbles distracted the receptionist by enthousiastically asking about the dogs and deciding to go outside to pet the lovely beasts. While the receptionist and security frantically chased her, to make sure their precious insane guest didn’t get herself mauled to death, the dongle was easily planted. Bluepin gave some bad news though, the guestlist was in code so he’d need some guest’s information to crack it. Fortunately the group knew exactly what room to start with: The one belonging to Dickens.

The girls then went for a tour of the facilities, allowing Templar to intensely memorize another possible escape route, using the landry system. Eventually the girls, employing a lot of pressure, badgered their guide into letting them see the private garage. Here they got to see the cars stored by a lot of guests, allowing Bubbles the car fanatic to identify two cars as popular with Mexicans. She then caused another distraction by going fangirl over some other cars, allowing her drones to sneak under the Mexican cars and bug them as well. Afterwards the team was ‘tricked’ into attending the restaurant for an exclusive dish by now-relieved security.

While the girls were on their tour, Visage participated in some pig shredding and picked up how he could easily call off the dogs. Afterwards he returned to the bar. Here he ended up chatting with a male guest who boasted about his profound love for the resort, especially the presence of ‘exotic cuisine’. What the man meant was quite clear, as was the fact he was a greasy slimebag.

Still he was a possible information source so Visage tapped him for all he was worth. This paid off when the man mentioned a meal he’d have ‘loved to enjoy’, namely a gorgeous Mexican lady who unfortunately travelled with bodyguards. Through the conversation Visage found out that Daniella Mirando had the habit to stay at a pool during dinner times until shortly before Resort Curfew hours, before going for a massage.

As one of the few guests who was allowed to ignore curfew, she would then only return to her room after a very lengthy massage. Apparently Daniella and her bodyguards had separate connected quarters, though the slimebag noted he suspected her of having a ‘healthy appetite’ and sharing her bed with at least one of her bodyguards.

To be continued…

To Protect And To Serve: Report of Black Hearts #4

The agents (team Protect):

  • Doll, a dwarven lady with a love for French bread
  • Visage, a human smoothtalker with a love for French profanities
  • Zen, a human summoner with a love for teeth

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To go to an anti-terrorism conference and protect Agatha Lancer against assassins.

The agents (team Serve):

  • Templar, a human sneaky shifter with slick fingers
  • Bluepin, a human decker who handles his metadata well but has the worst luck
  • Bubbles, an elven spying recon eye there to watch everyone’s back, literally

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To go to an anti-terrorism conference, steal paydata from Victor Mondreau and then assassinate him.

Both teams, minus Bubbles, received invitations from the Argos company for jobs of various professions, each person being offered something fitting their fake licenses. Most realized the sender was this month’s codephrase, except Doll who needed a ‘friendly’ mailed reminder. Each agent went to their local Argos office to pick up their briefing with, as always, their advance and their datachip with instructions.

Team Protect received a curious briefing, with an exasperated Mr. Smith vocally telling his technical staff that no, the datachips should NOT be rigged to self-destruct rather than self-erase. Inbetween his complaints he delivered his instructions. The team was to attend the Joint UCAS-CAS Anti-Terrorism (JUCAT) Conference in Norfolk, there they were to protect sociology professor Agatha Lancer against likely assassination attempts, caused by her vocal opposition against terrorist groups.

Team Serve lucked out that their briefing was made second, so no self-destruct suggestions were debated in their briefing. They were informed that they were asked to attend the JUCAT Conference in Norfolk, where they had to obtain paydata owned by Victor Mondreau. Once the paydata was confirmed, they were to assassinate Mondreau. Since this time there was no contact on site, team Serve also received a decent bit of intel on their target.

Each team member took the plane to Norfolk, while also wondering about what all to bring. Licenses checked out fine, though Doll sent her explosives on another plane instead. As for Visage, the proud creature of comfort upgrades his plane ticket because if one is to travel around the country stuck in a big metal tube, one might as well do so in style!

The JUCAT Conference schedule, spanning 3 days from wednesday to friday, was quite simple. On thursday and friday there would be readings during the day, interrupted for a lunch in the afternoon. On these days there also would be a dinner available. On wednesday and thursday there would also be cocktail parties. Important for the teams was that on friday the last two readings would be from Lancer and Mondreau.

Lancer’s lecture would be about that the UCAS and the CAS should be wary of cartels sponsoring terroristic organisations to waste government resources, all so their drugtrades could do better. To counter this, she believed the countries should share more intelligence.

Mondreau, on the other hand, wanted to argue that the Intelligence Agencies should decentralize, split up more in a cell-structure. This because otherwise turncoats could do massive damage by leaking intel, not to mention that politics could result in one party leaking intel on another party’s agents. In effect he was arguing the opposite of Lancer, and his panel would be the closing one of the conference before the last supper.

On the plane Bluepin browsed the Matrix for intel on Mondreau and shared the intel with his teammates. As it turned out, their target was a sociologist who had a long history of arguing against the centralisation of intelligence services. Also a blogger who loved sharing his talks, meals and more. To the trained eye it appeared a sham, where even Mondreau’s well-covered peanut allergy seemed phony.

Team Serve arrived in the afternoon and first went to deposit their luggage at the hotel. In their rooms they found some extra tools of the trade, namely several toxins to pick from to either inconvene Mondreau, slowly kill him or take him out real fast. The killers were injection poisons, while inconvening here meant a contact-poison that would cause a severe pseudo-allergic reaction. A perfect counter to someone pseudo-allergic. The final tool they received was a maglock passkey copier, quite useful in a modern hotel.

A bit after five team Serve left for the conference building, checking out its security and quickly reaching the conclusion that unfortunately sneaking in covertly was not an option. Meanwhile team Protect arrived, dropped their stuff in the car and went back into the airport to pick up Lancer.

When the team walked up to Lancer they could tell she knew who they were. Another thing they noticed was two likely-assassins observing them from a distance. The team immediately jumped into action with Visage leading Lancer out, Zen quickly making Lancer invisible and Doll moving to head off the assassins.

Needless to say, casting magic in a crowded Airport is not the best way to not draw attention. As people voiced their shock, security immediately moved to surround Zen while everyone else scrammed. During this Doll managed to catch up to an assassin, whose response was a rather Cold-War-like cyanide pill in their teeth. As the assassin started foaming Doll quickly slipped into the crowd and got out of dodge fast.

Eventually Zen managed to convince security he didn’t cast anything harmful and was let off with a severe warning. Visage and Lancer made it to the car just fine, but Doll had to run back to actually pick up the lady’s luggage. Then they headed for the hotel and, to avoid any room-rigging by would-be assassins, immediately fiercely complained their way into better rooms.

When they hit their new room, the first thing Zen did was cast Extended Detect Enemies on Lancer so she’d be able to notice enemies coming. The second thing he did was summon an Air Spirit to stand guard, after which he went to check out the convention hall for anything and anyone suspicious, only noticing Private Eyes in disguise that were pickpocketing people. Meanwhile, the first thing Lancer did was raid the minibar since Uncle Sam was now paying the bill.

In the evening both teams visited the cocktail party, sitting out a dull introduction speech and then jumping into drinks. Team Serve kept an eye on Mondreau, who was accompanied by ‘friends’ , and played the waiting game while team Protect played the ‘listening to Lancer complain about Mondreau’ game. Things came to a head when Mondreau approached Lancer and started hassling her, which received both verbal and physical violence, in the form of Visage namecalling him in French and Doll grabbing a baguette to hit him with.

At this time Bluepin had started hacking Mondreau’s commlink and was failing miserably. Fortunately for him Mondreau was too busy being smacked around to notice his commlink alerting him to the attack, so Bluepin quickly pressed on and stole all the encrypted data from there. Unfortunately the data was a bust paydata-wise. Meanwhile Security decided to hold off on interfering so the fight could resolve itself, which it quickly did with Mondreau less bruised than his ego.

Afterwards a waiter walked up to Lancer and offered her a complimentary drink. The group realized he was an assassin and stealthily gestured for security to come. As the security guards took the assassin by the shoulders, Lancer finally paid enough attention to detect he was an enemy… Just in time for this one too to off himself by cyanide. As he lay writhing on the floor, rather upsetting the party and the carpet, Templar took the opportunity to swipe Mondreau’s keycard, copy it and put it back without anyone but Doll noticing.

Back at the hotel Bubbles joined team Serve, sent to give them aid by watching their backs and enemies with her drones. Everyone went to sleep while drones and a spirit stood guard inside the hotel rooms and, in one drone’s case, inside a vending machine. Thus ended an eventful first day.

Thursday morning Mondreau went for breakfast with his bodyguards, so Templar left the hotel, changed his looks by magic and returned a different person. He then snuck into Mondreau’s room with the copied keycard, after checking for traps of course and knowing exactly how to fake nobody had entered the room. Inside he noticed no suspicious electronics. One thing he did notice was a painting hanging slightly crooked. Giving it a push, and comparing it to one in their own hotel room, revealed that the painting likely had a small weight upsetting its balance.

A cautious inspection revealed a datachip hidden inside the painting. As he plugged it into his commlink, for Bluepin to hack, Bubbles warned them one of the bodyguards was returning. Bluepin checked the chip for traps, finding several protected files with Databombs on them. He tried to disarm the weakest but almost failed, scraping by with his teeth.

After this Bluepin did not dare try to disarm the others, so instead he corrupted another datachip and left it in the vending machines at the end of the corridor. Templar then left the room, switched the datachips and received a free Twix from a Fly-Spy, then planted the corrupted chip back in the painting. He left the room and set up the trapcard at the door to conceal his visit, getting into the elevator just as the bodyguard stepped out of it.

Team Serve then had the tough choice on what to do with the datachip. Bluepin did not dare risk it, so they called Mr. Smith and made arrangements to send it back home. Unfortunately all they had now was a file showing a bodyguard’s schedule, with the only thing of use being that a month from now he’d be protecting Daniella Mirando in the UCAS. Also Mondreau’s convention itinerary, including what questions he’d ask Lancer and what insults he’d throw her way to interrupt her speech. Not enough to be the paydata Team Serve needed and as such, until the datachip was succesfully decrypted they were not allowed to move on Mondreau…

At lunch security was in charge of the waitering due to people being afraid of poisoning attempts. And not normal security, no the elite security that normally was on standby… Needless to say this did not put them in a good mood. In the afternoon the only action was when a lecturer got confronted by his angry wife, who emptied his water pitcher in his face and stormed off. Team Serve did their best scouting for all their possible assassination chances, but unfortunately they were still on a red light.

During dinner Team Protect confronted the PIs they had noticed before, who revealed they were working independently. One had come to find proof the lecturer from before was cheating on his wife, which had been succesful. The other revealed she was there because the resort manager responsible for the convention grounds was suspected of embezzling. Unfortunately this interrogating left the atmosphere tense, which meant Visage had a hard time convincing staff to take his order.

At the cocktail party, Lancer got into a conversation about cartel politics with another guest, when the party was over they continued the conversation in her sitting room, while Doll stood guard outside. Just as Lancer’s guest was leaving, Doll spotted two men approaching that she realized were even more assassins. The assassins knew that she knew so they ran, chased by a combat monster unwilling to relent.

Bullets started firing and it was the gel ones managing to take out a combatant. The second assassin went out a window and started climbing down, which turned out to be a very bad call. Doll had no interest in letting him go so kept pulling the trigger until the guy got knocked off, falling to his death. A mere second later security arrived and put a gun to her head. Hours later she was finally released from questioning.

On friday Zen brought his Air Spirit with him to the convention. Given the repeated assassination attempts on Lancer, Security was ill-equipped to refuse. They did force the spirit to wear a coat and guest badge though.

Half an hour after lunch Team Serve finally received their green light. The paydata had checked out and Mondreau was now officially a dead man walking. Or rather, a dead man lounging at the lobby, ignoring the afternoon lectures and preparing for his coming confrontation with Lancer. Templar took his poisons and sat down at the bar nearby, waiting for a chance.

That chance arrived when Mondreau requested another bottle of water from the convention staff, who all were wearing gloves. Templar prepared his allergy-poison, putting some on his own glove. When the bartender readied the bottle, Templar took it and passed it on to the waitress with a charming smile, who then delivered the bottle to Mondreau.

Several minutes later the poison caused Mondreau to spasm heavily and, after a careful wait, Templar offered his medical assistance with an epi-pen. That the pen was loaded with poison and killed Mondreau in seconds, well how was he to know… With confusion and security approaching, he played his part then bowed out, leaving the aftermath to those poor sods.

Inside the presentation hall rumors started up about the incident, which came to a head once the presentation was over. Massive gossiping caused a bit of chaos, leaving an opening for the final assassin to exploit. With all his comrades dead or captured, he pulled out his metal-detection-proof HK Urban Combat and went for Lancer. Zen spotted him and managed to warn the rest, but it was the Air Spirit who got off the first shot. His attack came as a real shocker to the assassin, slowing him down enough for Doll to take him out before Lancer could even get shot at.

At this point the final bang, figuratively, came when a courier arrived with Doll’s explosives. As the chemsniffer alarms went blazing the security guards dogpiled the poor man.

When the talks continued, things were shaken and stirred but still standing. Lancer did great on her speech, and Mondreau’s speech was replaced by one coming from the convention organizer, holding a passionate speech about the dangers terrorists formed for this society, including the new organizations such as the Hand of Five and even the intra-corp Omega Dawn! Ignoring all that boring intel, Teams Protect and Serve just served their time in lecture hell, then went for dinner and their planerides home, another ten grand richer than before.

Raid Party: Report of Black Hearts #3.B

The agents:

  • Doll, a dwarven Street Samurai with a peculiar fashion sense
  • Templar, a human assassin who easily resorts to violence
  • Zen, a human magician who’s very happy with his temporary friends

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To raid a drug cartel’s safehouse, destroying all narcotics inside.

While walking through the streets of their home town, each agent received a specially crafted AR-commercial titled “You were/will be from Gandahar” that told them to buy the book Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar. Recognizing that as their code for this month, they headed to the bookstore noted in the message to pick up the book. The establishment owner was so happy to sell his favorite book, he promptly offered it to them for free, as well as inviting them in back for a chat about the book.

In the back, the agents received the first part of their mission briefing, as well as the ¥2000 standard advance. Their UCAS handler asked them to head to Paris (the one in Texas) to raid a Mirando-cartel safehouse, without being identified by either the cartel or Lone Star – and, of course, staying out of the latter’s hands. They would need to go to the gothic-themed Darling Violetta bar in Paris for further instructions. With their plane tickets in hand, booked on their CAS identities, the runners had half an hour to prepare before heading to the airport.

All three chose to travel relatively light – with Doll deciding, after a short consideration, that it might be a bad idea to bring her explosives in her carry-on bag. The SIN-checker had some problems; Templar got lucky, as he got flagged as a VIP and got to spend time in the VIP lounge. Doll and Zen were decidedly less so, with the systems showing some inconsistencies, resulting in a… detailed checkup. Rubber gloves were involved. In the end, however, everything got cleared up, and they all boarded the plane. Unfortunately for Templar, all in coach.

When they arrived in Paris, the agents decided to spruce up their costume a bit with local clothing, including a rather overpriced and over-everything cowboy hat for Doll. They headed over to the Darling Violetta and sat in a booth with Desert Wars playing, as the briefing said, and waited for their contact, the waitress Clara. When she dropped by their booth she gave them menus that covertly contained the rest of their briefing.

Like the initial briefing said, their target was a Mirando-cartel safehouse. The cartel managed to get a foothold in Texas, primarily through the sale of Tempo and Novacoke. Lone Star took notice, forcing the cartel to switch locations regularly. The current safehouse, however, had been in the same location for two months. Present there was a fairly large stash with plenty of security. A stash the UCAS wanted gone, with its guards all taken outh (dead or alive, at the team’s discretion). Specifically, the UCAS wanted it gone quick; Lone Star was planning a raid on the place in three days so it needed to be dealt with before then.

With Lone Star keeping their distance, as to not alert the cartel, there’d be an opening for the team to use but Lone Star would be on the scene in a heartbeat if an alarm went out. Again, not being identified was to be of the utmost importance. To that effect, the agents received odor-suppressing and DNA-destroying rollers and sprays at their hotel rooms. Their payment would consist of the credsticks and other loot found at the scene – with added payment if that turned out not to be enough.

After the briefing, Doll headed over to a nearby sports store – having an evening sale – to pick up some ski goggles and a rather oversized respirator, while Zen picked up some clothes in the Darling Violetta’s in-house store, already having a gas mask ready to hide his face. Meanwhile, Templar planned on using his own disguise skill and face-sculpting power to hide himself.

First, however, it was time to get some transportation and do some surveillance. Getting a car rental in Texas isn’t exactly hard, so they headed over to the nearest rental place. Templar used his CAS identity to rent a pickup and once off the lot Zen used an illusion to change the car’s color.

When they arrived at the address, they found an old 3-story house, with a single guard on the balcony, lazily looking out. The house had an alarm system, but it appeared to have been neglected and likely had been nonfunctional for a while, while Zen couldn’t detect any astral protection either.

The team decided not to stick around for too long, so after a quick discussion on possible avenues of attack, they decided to head over to the hotel and discuss a plan in a more discrete location.

On the ride back, however, a small insignificant hurdle quickly turned into a bigger one. A lonely Lone Star patrolman, down on his ticket quota for the week, noticed a blue pickup coming by with green listed on its registration – none of the agents had thought to alter the signal the rental is transmitting. Not a big deal – people forget to update their registration all the time – but hey, with a quiet night and it upping the quota, the cop went for a ticket.

The cop expected a routine stop and at first all goes well. Templar, behind the wheel, stopped the car once he sees the lights, and the cop, after a quick chat, mentioned the incorrect registration. Templar managed to get the cop in a friendly mood, and since it was a rental, the cop decided to just file the ticket with them, so the agents wouldn’t be bothered by it.

And then it all went to hell. Templar decided that a ticket for an incorrect car color would raise alarms with the rental company, so he figured the cop had to go. And so Templar stepped out of the car, then used his garrote on the poor innocent cop, to lethal effect.

In full view of the camera in the cop car.

That was broadcasting the signal to the station.

The party quickly realized what trouble they got themselves into, and acted with haste. As the sirens started to flare up in the distance, they put the unfortunate officer in his car, and send it careening down the road.

Where it promptly ran into a car with a family inside.

Luckily for our murderous agents, they were in a quiet part of town in an off-road vehicle, and they managed to escape the cops long enough for Zen to remember he had just the spell for this: he switched the car’s signal with a random parked car, throwing the cops off their scent just long enough for them to dump the car and get out of dodge.

After regrouping in the middle of the night back at the hotel, they decided to call it a night – they still had a day to finish the mission.

They woke up to the sound of the news, with a big story about a heroic cop brutally murdered last night, and the family of four at the scene, the parents in critical condition and the young boy killed as the murderers turned the car into innocent bystanders.

Turning off the depressing news, they decided to skip the whole car-hiring scheme and go to the location by bus. Their plan was to do a quick sweep under the cover of invisibility provided by Zen, who would send a high-force spirit along while staying on the lookout outside.

Templar, Doll and the spirit entered through a window on the second floor, thanks to Templar’s Wall Walking. Unfortunately, Doll managed to make a little more noise than she had planned, causing one of the thugs inside to check out the noise. The poor thug, alone and facing two hardened and invisible killers, didn’t stand a chance – except for being able to make enough noise to alert his comrades. The big puddle of blood in the hall didn’t help either.

Three more guards came looking and a gunfight broke out. The first few guards were still unready, however, with them just coming from their GTA18 game. As a result the three invisible assailants – especially the spirit – easily ripped through the thugs. Quickly securing the second floor, taking all narcotics and credsticks they could find, the team headed back to the stairs to take the other floors, with Templar on point.

Then a complication reared its ugly head, in the form of a grenade bouncing down the stairs. Templar quickly dove behind a wall, cushioning most of the blast – though he still managed to get a decent ding from all the shrapnel flying around. On top of that, if no one was alerted yet, the whole neighborhood now knew what was going on, so it wouldn’t take long for the first officers to arrive.

Our agents were on the ball, however, and after a short but intense firefight – where they got away with only Doll taking a glancing blow – they split up, with Templar going downstairs and Doll taking the spirit upstairs. Templar issued an intimidating threat to the remaining thugs, enough to make one of them attempt to leave – although he was quickly shot by one of his companions.

Still invisible, and still trained killers, the two agents quickly took out the remaining, demoralized guards. Each went through their floor fast, taking any drugs and money – thankfully hidden in plain sight. Doll did find a small problem on the top floor, in one of the bedrooms – the thugs had a lady friend over for a visit, and she was in the bed, high and out of her mind from fear. Luckily for Doll, her invisibility held up, and she quickly went to the other rooms, leaving the civilian behind.

Another thing Doll noticed was hidden cameras, but since they were disguised and unrecognizable there was nothing to worry about. So the team gathered up all the narcotics scattered throughout the building and brought them to the basement, where they found the main stash. The team prepared to set fire to it all, with just enough time to spare to get out before the cops would arrive.

Which is when the spirit asked them, if they were going to destroy this all, why didn’t they pick up the stuff in the room with the nice lady. Oops, turned out Doll missed that part after being distracted by all the screaming.

So the team went for plan B and decided to blow it all up. With Doll being an expert in architecture, and Templar knowing enough about it to be able to give a hand, they easily found a weak spot for the whole building to blow the whole thing up. Being a demolition expert has their use occasionally. Setting the timer and running for it, while Zen started erasing his signature, they managed to get away from the exploding building just in time to avoid the eyes of the arriving police.

Once back safe and sound, Templar got a good chewing out for blowing his CAS SIN – the police easily tracking down the car rental – but he (barely) managed to talk himself out of taking a pay cut for the mess that their handler had to clean up now.

The narcotics destroyed and the guards all resting in pieces, and with innocents as collateral damage in the single digits, the mission was declared a success and our agents went home content.