Ghost Cartels

Week commencing 20th April 2071

Leto received a private message via her blog, inviting the team to a meeting about a job at the Stouffer-Madison Hotel, Downtown. Brahms tried to track it back a bit, but discovered that it passed through at least one anonymiser. Chase, Leto, Stars and Surge attended the meet physically, whereas Brahms telecommuted in as normal. It was apparent that the majority of front-of-house staff at the hotel were human or elven and predominantly Anglo, whereas once the runners had their RFID tags and got out of the elevator on the 16th floor, they saw an ork janitor doing his best to look inconspicuous whilst actually slacking off work.

In room 1607, they were “greeted” by a burly Japanese man with prominent and visible Yakuza tattoos over his arms and chest. He introduced himself as Kosuke Tomizawa, oyabun of the Kenran-kai. He (manually!) switched on an old-style flatscreen trid with a data-cable plugged into it, and it cut to a live picture of two different people in split-screen. On one side was Mercury, still handcuffed to a hospital bed and lying unconscious; on the other was a male Native American elf who looked like he had been beaten up before being duct-taped to a chair – Stars identified him as her brother, who had been missing for a while. Tomizawa asked the runners to provide three numbers, from one to five. He repeated those numbers into a microphone attached to the flatscreen, and on each side of the picture, a hand appeared in shot and showed those numbers.

Satisfied that the runners understood the situation, Tomizawa outlined the “deal.” Since the events of Chasing The Dragon, Kazuya Hotomi had been offered a deal by the District Attorney; in exchange for giving federal evidence against the Shotozumi-gumi, he would walk free into a Witness Protection scheme. His deposition was to be held 48 hours from this meeting (i.e. 6pm on Wednesday 22nd April) and the runners were to kill him before then. If they did not do so, both Mercury and Swift River would be killed. Tomizawa made very clear that he would not offer any financial reward for the task at hand when asked by Chase – the only member of the group he was willing to interact with directly, referring to Leto as “the elf bitch.”

Brahms was able to track the Dragon down to a Lone Star police station in Renton, and got a floorplan for it. Surge discovered that, due to jurisdictional conflicts, the Dragon’s deposition would be held at the Federal Building, Downtown. Using his experience, Chase established that the most likely means of getting him there would be a Black Mariah USPTV, supported by two patrol cars (probably GMC Patrol-1s) and 4-8 motorcyclist outriders on Dodge Guardians. Stars found out from her contacts that the three locations most likely to be being used by the Yakuza to hold the captives (based on the medical-looking backdrops) were Cougar Mountain Hospital in Bellevue, Zalensky’s Electronics in Tacoma, and the Filthy Dragon in Auburn.

Surge and Leto headed to a cop bar downtown, where Surge revealed herself as Lacey Stevens, former Banger for the Horizon Chasers Urban Brawl team, based out of LA. This got her a lot of attention, which Leto used to steal a cop’s commlink (and switch it off). After that, they headed to the hospital, where Brahms had identified that Building S was currently not in use by hospital authorities. Sneaking around, Leto discovered that one ward on the third floor was the only place in the building with lights on, and she saw three Yakuza guards and what looked like Mercury’s hospital bed set-up. Surge and Leto decided to leave the hospital for now…

Meanwhile, Chase and Stars headed to Tarislar in Puyallup in search of the Laésa – Stars’ best lead for her brother’s most recent whereabouts. Posing as a Salish elf, Chase was able to learn that Swift River had fallen in with the Laésa shortly after coming to Seattle, working for them as a runner and becoming addicted to various drugs that made him feel like he was a shaman (deepweed, tempo, etc.). He disappeared towards the end of the previous week, making off with a “brick of laés” that belonged to the gang/syndicate. They then headed to Tacoma to check out Zalensky’s Electronics, where they established that Swift River was not present, and set off for Auburn.

Brahms contacted Kaz Yakamura of the Komun’go Ring for advice, who explained that it was most likely that the captives were being held in two different locations. The aim there would be that if someone attempted a rescue at one location, word would reach the other location and the other hostage could be killed and the location vacated before help arrived. Kaz wouldn’t accept payment for his help, preferring instead that the team owe him a favour in the future.

There was a great deal of discussion about whether to kill or spare the Dragon – after all, he was a child-murderer and former assassin who was going to effectively go free. But equally, there was little enthusiasm to do the Yakuza’s dirty work for them, especially where wetwork was involved. Chase refused to involve any of his contacts in the matter, whereas Brahms suggested ways to use a Lone Star Dispatcher and/or a Federal Agent of his acquaintance to facilitate matters. It was commonly agreed that the authorities were vanishingly unlikely to help Mercury (an escaped felon) or Swift River (an illegal immigrant) out of the mess they were in.

After an extended conflab, the group came to a few conclusions and made a few decisions (albeit not unanimously):

  • Kosuke Tomizawa was unlikely to keep his word and return the hostages intact, regardless of what the runners did;
  • Starting a war with the Yakuza was unlikely to go well for the team;
  • The Dragon surviving to testify might be the best chance the group would have to damage the Yakuza;
  • Thus rescuing the hostages, rather than killing the Dragon, was preferable;
  • Chase revealed that Mercury had “minimal brain activity”;
  • This meant that she would need a lot of medical attention, which would mean either returning her to Lone Star custody or finding and funding a potentially very extended hospital stay for her;
  • Thus, assuming that Swift River could be found, the objective would be simply to rescue him, leaving both Mercury and the Dragon to their respective fates.

Nevertheless, Surge and Leto went to the Lone Star station where the Dragon was being held and did some recon, identifying the external camera points and possible ways to gain entry. Surge spotted a drone rack on the roof, and Leto noted a helipad and rooftop access door up there too. They decided that trying to open the garage door directly would be doomed to failure, but getting hold of an appropriate RFID transponder might do the trick – as would breaking in through one of the person-sized doors. Surge also suggested that she could leverage her fame and popularity in Urban Brawl circles to get an invite to the shooting range inside the station, but that would come with the risk of having exposed her identity if things went south.

Chase and Stars went to the Filthy Dragon in Auburn, a real dive bar with few redeeming features. Disguised as a street tough, Chase made quite an impression with the patrons, and discovered that that place had Yakuza backing and operated a chop-shop behind the scenes. Stars’ Fly-Spy drone was able to get into the store room in the back, but was stymied by a closed door marked “management.” Eventually, Chase disguised himself as a member of staff, leading to some confusion as he bumped into the person he was impersonating, but after some chicanery and judicious running away, he opened the “management” door, beyond which was a Japanese man in a business suit doing some work in AR behind a desk, with an elevator door immediately behind him. One of Chase’s spirits confirmed that Swift River was below ground here, and that there were six other heavily-cybered people with him.

Meanwhile, Brahms hacked the commlink that Leto had stolen from a Lone Star cop whilst Surge used her fame to distract them. Unfortunately, it had received a remote deactivation code (presumably as a result of having been reported stolen), and the primary user’s data had been deleted. At Surge’s request, he contacted an arms dealer contact, and got hold of some APDS ammo for Surge’s heavy pistol, SMG and assault rifle.

Leto and Surge came to the Filthy Dragon so that Leto could investigate the rooftop whilst Surge made herself at home in the bar. Leto found a really dangerous-looking fire escape, and the maintenance access to the elevator mechanism, which had quite a high-end maglock as well as an old-style mechanical lock. With all of this established, the team repaired to a nearby coffin motel, where they slept until about 1pm, reconvening in a coffee shop nearby to discuss their plan. Chase received a death-threat email during this time, apparently sent from his own commlink.

After gathering some gear and making the final insertion plan, the team arrived back at the Filthy Dragon about 1930hrs (half an hour before sunset). Leto climbed up to the roof and started opening the mechanism for the lift, while Surge climbed up after her. Stars and Chase moved into position, with Chase disguised as a Yak opening the door and hoping to distract the Yakuza hacker fiddling with his AR in there. The hacker spotted Leto and Surge drop into the lift and managed to hit an alarm before Stars’s Doberman opened fire, wounding him. The hacker returned fire with an SMG and destroyed the Doberman, so Chase painted his insides across the lift door and gave his spirits the command to attack.

As Surge and Leto travelled downstairs in the lift, one of Chase’s spirits (Bjarni) was successful in downing the Yakuza guard in the room with Swift River, but the other guard was able to discorporate the spirit which attacked him with a well-placed burst of autofire. Bjarni moved onto this guard and dropped him before he could do any more damage, though.

Surge’s exit from the lift saw her open with a hail of APDS which shredded one of the Yak guards in the waiting room, who had taken cover. Leto sprinted around the corner, aiming to get to Swift River, but was intercepted by an angry-looking man with a katana which she barely managed to avoid. In the ensuing melee, Leto was able to land a few blows but did little damage, whilst the Yakuza leader was badly slowed up by a hail of bullets from Surge after she’d finished the other waiting-room guard off. Still, sounds from the next room indicated that someone was in with Swift River, and Swift River was doing badly out of the whole thing.

Brahms, communicating via a jury-rigged set-up between a repeater drone on the roof and a micro-tapper drone connected by fibre-optic cable through the lift shaft, kept trying to hack the various commlinks he found in the basement – with nothing to distinguish them, however, he was picking them at random. Each of the three he hacked into revealed itself to belong to yet another recently-killed Yakuza member.

Leto kept the Yakuza leader busy whilst Surge stormed into the room where Swift River was being held captive. She put herself between the murderous Yakuza kumi-in (whose katana was still dripping blood from the mortal wound he’d dealt Stars’ brother) and his intended victim, slapping a trauma patch onto Swift River. She dropped him to the ground with some more autofire, not pausing even after he got back up and switched to an assault rifle of his own. Once she’d finished the kumi-in off, she came outside and killed the leader as well, leaving Leto covered in gore as she collected up some of the Yakuza warriors’ assault rifles.

Upstairs, Chase tried and failed to summon another spirit, whilst Stars used her Steel Lynx to block a door as another Doberman came up behind. She launched a rotodrone and detected the sound of inbound Lone Star vehicles, and thus used her rotodrone to cause a car to swerve into the way of oncoming traffic to block the road. Not satisfied with her results, as the car started to drive out of the way, she launched a spray of suppressive fire into the path of the Lone Star vehicle, causing it to crash into a fire hydrant, effectively stopping its progress from there on out.

The bar patrons, having heard the autofire from the manager’s office, tried to break down the door to get involved, eventually shoving Stars’ Steel Lynx out of the way. She retorted with suppressive fire, causing the interlopers first to cower and then to flee. She brought the van up as Surge, Leto and Swift River came up in the lift – Leto freaking out even more as the hacker’s dead body slumped through the doors as they opened. Surge carried Swift River into the van and the med-chair there, and came back for the ruined Doberman. Chase picked up the hacker’s SMG, emptying the clip after the fleeing patrons and shouting in Japanese about a Yakuza vendetta against the Kenran-kai. Stars started first aid on Swift River, whilst Leto climbed up to the roof and recovered the fibre-optic cabling before jumping gracefully down to her exit vehicle, Stars’ Mercury Comet. Chase joined her, whilst Stars and Surge left in the van with Swift River. They agreed to meet at Lazy G’s place, due to their various injuries.

Lazy G wanted to keep Swift River overnight, reporting that his left arm was completely useless and had to be amputated. After some discussion about whether to go cyber, off-the-rack Type O, or clonal, Stars decided to pay for a Type O replacement, which she had rush-delivered. In the meantime, Chase and Leto went back to Tarislar and bought some Laés to ease Swift River’s withdrawal symptoms while Surge did overwatch. Once everyone was rested and had been attended to by either the med-chair or Lazy G, and after Lazy had attached Swift River’s new arm, the team discussed what to do next. The consensus was not to try to kill the Dragon, and to accept the fact that the Kenran-kai were likely not to take it well.

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