Deus ex Machina
GOD IN THE MACHINE
“Evolution brings human beings. Human beings, through a long and painful process, bring humanity.”
- Dan Simmons, Hyperion
The Throng is a newly established group of Users who work missions within the Shadow War in Seattle. They have just gained the services of a regular Host who contacts them through IM only. Whilst the Throng members still have their own personal agendas, they work together taking jobs for the Megacorps, trying to attain their humanity in a world where the very definition of what is human is blurred.
It all begins with a message…“Want a Job?” Agape and DK travel to the Palace of China, a red and gold lacquered wood oriental nightclub set again the inky darkness of Puget Sound. Meeting in a back room away from the writhing bodies and thump-thump of whatever latest music entertains the children, they meet Mr Morris, a corporate from the Shiawase organisation.
The job is simple, infiltrate a Gaeatronics electrical substation and upload a program onto the computer inside. The catch – leave no trace of your presence at the facility.
Travelling to the outskirts of Eastern Tacoma they met up with the final member of their Throng, Lou Hart. Agape quickly cracked the Maglock on the gate as the three of them rushed the small complex, the hum of the electric power lines causing their Azoth to stir. As they inspected the fire door entrance to the bunker, a baseball thumped into the side of the building. Shortly after a small boys face pressed up against the fence, “Please sirs, can I have the ball please?” DK seeing the image of his maker wanted to play and threw the ball to the child and ran down to the edge of the field to watch the game.
Meanwhile the other two entered the building with Lou taking watch whilst Agape uploaded the file. It did not take too long and he was also able to removed evidence of their actions from the video cameras that monitored the premises.
“The package has been delivered,” intoned DK to Mr Morris.
“Excellent! Do you want another job tonight…someone has fucked up,” Mr Morris replied.
Within a couple of hours the throng found themselves driving a stealth boat across Lake Washington towards a party island. The job once again was to load a file onto a computer and leave no trace.
Landing their boat away from the party they quickly made their way to the bungalow. Inside they found a problem, a moron named Ace who had fucked up the previous mission. Lou and DK sprang upon him whilst Agape whispered a command in his mind, forcing Ace to drop his gun. Lou choked him out and the Throng got to work uploading the file.
Lou and DK carried Ace back to their boat through party guests whilst Agape searched for a Hotel terminal to hack their system and remove video footage of the guys breaking into the bungalow.
Without to many problems, the Throng found themselves in front of a grateful Mr Morris who paid them all without any fuss and drove off without further word. Do runs ever go so smoothly? The Throng drove off home to spend some credit.
That’s when the lights went out…
A yellow Mitsubishi Runabout entered the intersection in front of their convoy just as its headlights flickered and shorted out. The car coasted slowly to a stop in the middle of the intersection and car horns begin blaring behind the stalled vehicle and beyond. The city seemed to jump to life with a chorus of irate drivers.
Passing through downtown during the blackout, Lou stumbled across a stalled monorail. A few anxious commuters managed to pry open the doors however the sudden release resulted in a free fall of a few passengers. One of the luckier ones snagged themselves on a protruding stop-and-go signal. Using some quick thinking and a bit of Promethean muscle, Lou managed to push a large garbage bin underneath the youth which saved his life. Returning to his car, Lou managed to take several back streets, avoiding the worst the deteriorating conditions and arrived home without further incident.
Agape and DK thought it would be good to go and have a hit of baseball, when their night on the town was interrupted by a rubbish bin similar to the one Lou used to save a teenagers life. This one was on fire though and blocking the street. Before they could move it, a german shepard hurled itself out of a fifth building window nearby to get away from the extremely noisy alarm that was activated by the cut in power. DK bundle the wounded dog into the back of their car whilst Agape convinced some of the other drivers to move the bin.
The lack of power to the baseball ground resulted in less fun than DK anticipated. On top of this, DK’s lack of veterinary skills led to the dog dying and voiding it’s life juices in the back of Agape’s car. Agape was dropped off at a hotel whilst DK, distraught, drove the dog home, dragging it through the house and burying it in the back yard in a slightly too small box…
The next day, Agape got the assistance of a man getting supplies for his family. She managed to convince him to driver her home, however his constant leering at her caused Agape to try and shame him. He told her to get out which she did stealing a large bottle of water. He then reversed over her as she tried to run away and broke her leg. As he tried to take back the water, she Mesmerised him and charmed him into continuing to drive her home.
When they arrived back at Agape’s house she punched him in the face to end the charming effect. She then exited the car forgetting about her broken leg…screaming that she had been attacked. DK, inside the house and still in mourning came out to see what the commotion was and caught a glimpse of a car speeding off and three “gang bangers” approaching determined to help a distressed woman. Mistakenly thinking that DK was the source of Agape’s cries they attempted to bash him. Hijinks ensued but eventually after taking quite a beating, DK and Agape made it into their house and contacted Lou who was still safe and sound in his lair.
Indeed the only time Lou left his lair was when he noticed a car stall in front of his house full up with a mother and her five children. Six hoodlums approached the stalled vehicle tried to tip it off the road to clear a path. Our knight in shining armour, Lou, stepped outside and warned them to leave the car alone. The response was less than welcoming so Lou shot one of the youths in the shoulder. They quickly scampered and Lou led the family to an abandoned house nearby to wait out the black out.
When DK and Agape finally made it to Lou’s lair they discussed what they should do about the black out and their apparent cause of the problem. Whilst it was decided that they could do something, what that would be could not be settle upon and the Throng went to bed early that night. Just before morning a light in the lounge awoke them…the power was back on.
Or so they thought. The TV hummed in the lounge room and the clock slowly ticked backwards. All the doors to the lair were sealed by some mystical force. A cold purple and orange fire roared to life before them, it’s divinity without question as it spoke words of prophecy. Baffled by its gibberish, they decided to forget the whole surreal (and slightly dumb) experience; with the power restored now in earnest to the city…all the really wanted was an new job.
That’s when they got a call from Monty, a Freelance Host who works with the corps as a middleman so that the big guys don’t get their hands dirty with the likes of Mercs. A simple recovery mission was up for grabs, one person, one piece of equipment and minimal security however time was of the essence.
With nothing better to do they travelled to the Drowning Man (a mix between large bar and small nightclub). Whilst Agape worked the room, Lou and DK met with Monty in the back room. They were to meet with a guy called Wally who was to show them to a building caught in the crossfire of a gang war. Inside was the device that was wanted. The prototype and the data files were to returned to Monty…Wally?…who cares what happened to him.
A 45 min drive through some of the more colourful regions of Seattle’s streets brought them to a quivering shell of a man dressed in a soiled lab coat, a cigarette butt stuck in the corner of his mouth. Wally led them around the corner and down a block indicating a garage, a gang of street toughs waiting outside setting up heavy weapons. Their leader, a thug named Grinder, chortling wildly shooting full auto and the concrete structure whilst one of his companions, a dwarf, chugged back a bottle scotch before hefting it into the air and shooting it down with a rocket launcher.
Deciding to try and sneak a way inside, the Throng scout out the building, noting gang member set up at various points. As they attempted to make their way inside, Agape knocked over a bunch bins, deciding to roll with it she made her way over to Grinder and attempted to seduce him and his dwarf.
The diversion set, the others made their way into the building, narrowly avoiding the trip mines and scooting past they sorry looking opposing gang members that lay waiting for death on the first floor.
On the third floor, Wally rushed ahead, past a corpse dressed a lot like Wally and started throwing refuse around in search of the stashed item. But the item was gone. At that stage the corpse sat up…“I’m back” it proclaimed. This was too much for the fragged up Wally who quickly drew a gun and shot himself in the head. The corpse only laughed more and then the spirit that was inhabiting it left the body and told them that his master, Brisbie, held the device they were after and would exchange it to them. With no other choice they decided to make a deal.
Meanwhile, outside the route of seduction was failing on an obviously previously burned dwarf who turned his rocket launcher on Agape. She charged him and the resulting explosion left Agape on the group missing an arm, her ears ringing. The dwarf was fubar. Agape stood up clutching her arm and threated the gang. Fearful and angry they raised there assault rifles and took aim at the monstrous woman. Agape fled but not before taking another couple of bullets and dropping her arm in the street.
With Agape causing a masterful diversion, the remainder of the throng slipped out of the garage and travelled a couple of blocks away to meet Brisbie. It was Mustard, Brisbie’s sunglasses be speckled dog spirit who made the deal, handing over the item and the data (eventually) for a relatively cheap payment and some dog biscuits. Successful in acquiring the item they returned it to Monty for the rest of their payment whilst Agape began looking for a new arm.
A couple of weeks passed whilst Agape sought out some the of best medical people. She had a new arm grown for her and attached, learning something about what it meant to be human in the hi tech streets of Seattle.
Meanwhile DK couldn’t pass up the chance to eat a crap load of buttery popcorn whilst watching the classic “An American Werewolf in London.” There was no crappy Silver Nitrate or silver particulates in that movie…but I digress. Inside DK met with a stranger dressed like a hippy. He introduced himself as Brisbie, a shaman and the owner of the “puppy” they had previously met. He told DK that he still possessed a working prototype of the device that they retrieved for Monty a few weeks back. All he wanted in return was to exchange phone numbers since he found the Throng interesting in a world full of boring things.
DK took the device home and determined that it was some sort of scanner. Agape and DK sat across from each other in the lounge room, the device on the table between them. It was time to test it. DK pointed it at Agape’s head and pulled the trigger. The device fizzled. They decided to call Brisbie to find out what was going on but he had no idea, his realm of specialty straying from hi tech devices. However, they did decide to all go out and have a hit of baseball. After a few equipment problems they made it to the baseball diamond, DK batting as Agape pitched with her new arm. Brisbie was catcher as his summoned hounds roamed the outfield for the high ball. DK had a ball playing with the spirit dogs, realizing that spirits can be good and bad. He asked Brisbie to help him track down the Boogey Man, the spirit who had killed his creator and then they all went home for a well deserved nap after a busy day.
A few days later there was a call…“Come to the airport ready to rock and roll,” well something like that anyway. With a boot full of guns, the throng were ushered past security and directed to a private jet. Once on board the lavish affair, the plane took off, steadily revealing the sprawl of Seattle below them. Small sections of the city still fluctuated with power problems, a hangover from a previous job.
A man named Toshi Akimuri introduced himself to the group. A business man for a faceless company he had a proposition for them – a straightforward extraction run…200,000 nuyen…transportation of the subject to a delivery point of the client’s choosing. And of course a tight deadline. The throng were in.
Their target is a short creole woman with dark hair and skin the colour of coffee. Dr Olivia Marchand is the head of Project Legion, working for Cross Applied Technologies. Project Legion is a prototype for what they’re calling ‘distributed decking,’ a means of allowing multiple deckers to act together as a single parallel system. Dr Marchand is taking a brief sabbatical on a private Cross Tech yacht however the good Doctor actually wants to leave Cross Tech due to some conflicts regarding her continued management of the Legion project. Her holiday in New Orleans provides the throng with an opportunity to grab her away from Cross’ usual security measures. No Problemo.
After some chitchat and fine food, the plane lands at the New Orleans airport. Once again taken to a private hanger, the gang retrieve their guns. However upon landing, Akimura learns of a slight problem. His agent, a decker called Poison Lily, had been killed and the information she had regarding the operation on the yacht probably in possession of her boyfriend. It’s off to find Remy.
After purchasing a couple of inconspicuous vans and checking out their safe house, the throng travelled to Remy’s house to find him. Not surprisingly, he wasn’t home. The small apartment on the third floor of the house was thoroughly ransacked. Despite the mess, it’s clear that neither Lily or Remy were fastidious housekeepers. The sink was piled with dirty dishes and discarded food containers covered with several days of growth and mold.
Whilst Agape went to question the neighbours, DK and Lou decided to search the apartment. In a rather belligerent fashion, DK stomped around, throwing mess to and fro and generally causing more chaos then there was before. Agape returned learning that Remy was a bit of a BTL addict and found the apartment in a total shambles. Hooking up her computer she tapped into the building’s security system and discovered that someone was already hacking the system and that they were in a building across the street watching the place.
Lou covertly left the building whilst Agape attempted to hack the intruders system. However, as he was frantically counter attacking the other hacker, DK (who was searching for bugs with his baseball bat) disconnected Agape’s computer. Meanwhile Lou busted into the room across the way. It was recently abandoned….surveillance equipment and a computer still present in the room. He grabbed what he could and joined up with the others.
Agape worked on the hacker’s computer whilst the boys went to the batting nets. The hacker was working for Seraphim, the security arm of Cross Tech. A batch file activated on the hacker’s computer deleting important files but Agape was able to delete the file before it did too much damage. He/she also managed to track Remy’s credit usage to a BTL den called the Brain Disco.
DK met a fellow baseball enthusiast at the door of the Brain Disco, a bouncer by the name of Bubba. The manager, a ferret-like short ass named Stumpy sweet talked Agape to sleep with him so the remainder of the throng bribed Bubba to find out which coffin Remy was in…#310…third floor.
Disconnecting him from whatever paradise he was in, they pulled Remy into a passageway lined with doors to small padded rooms full of junkies. It was then that DK and Lou heard the silenced gunfire from downstairs. Heading to one of the staircases at the end of the hallway, Lou heard someone running up the stairs so he took a knee, shooting the Seraphim agent as he reached the top of the stairs. They began exchanging gunfire in the stairwell. Meanwhile, behind them, another agent approached from the other set of stairs. DK grew claws and charged the guy, viciously swiping at the man.
Junkies began stumbling into the hallway, roused by the sounds of gunshots. DK, leaving his opponent half dead charged down the final bit of the hall as a third agent armed with a Uzi climbed to the top of the stairs. DK ripped into him again, eventually killing him.
At the other end of the corridor, Lou was having troubles. His gun was jammed so he had charged the agent, trying to rip his arm off but failing. The first opponent DK had fought had stumbled past the crowd of junkies, finally getting to Remy. Gunfire erupted and Remy dropped to the ground clutching his belly. Lou ran towards the agent, leaving the other behind and landed a devastating punch killing him. He then turned back to the first guy in the stairwell, charging him as well and killing him.
DK ran up to Remy to see if he was still alive.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Agape was fully engrossed by Stumpy as she activated the BTL chip at the point of climax. Stumpy was happy to pass over the information regarding Remy (ignorant of the carnage occurring upstairs thanks to Agape’s loud cries). Agape went to the waiting van outside, confident that she would soon have Remy in her sweaty little hands as easy as pie. What she found has a half dead Remy being cared for by DK whilst Lou counted and cleaned a new set of guns.
They had their man and the chip that they were looking for.
With the security plans of the Queen of Babylon in hand, the throng began to plan their run. All they needed to do was get on board a heavily guarded yacht in the middle of the Mississippi River, grab one of Cross Tech’s top computer researchers, and get out of there without the Seraphim blasting the shit out of them. How hard could that be?
Numerous plans were “thought” through and then discarded or semi discarded. In the end though, remote controlled bombs were planted on the two out rigger boats that guarded the river bank. Then the throng secreted themselves amongst the supplies taken aboard during one of the yachts’ scheduled stops. Successfully lying in wait until the middle of the night, the throng crept from their hiding spots and then hacked the yachts computer. Unlike the first time when Agape tried to break into Cross Tech systems, she was successful and discovered what room the good doctor was in. Agape then sneaked into her room and planted suggestions into the Doctor’s and her grandmother’s mind.
With the package following them in a semi-zombie state, the throng started up the stairs to the upper deck. The set off the explosives but unfortunately only one of the bombs went off…the other boat was still active. However there was enough of a distraction though for Lou to combat roll onto the deck and behind one of the guards, shooting him in the head and causing him to fall over the side.
Just at that moment, inexplicably the yacht’s hydrofoil activated, hurtling it down the river at great speed. Everyone managed to keep their feet on deck, including the guards who lifted up their AK97s to fire upon the throng.
DK charged forward, flailing ineffectively at one of the mercs. Agape showed a bit of leg however, and commanded the guard to head downstairs to kill his own boss. Anger flooded into his features and he dashed off downstairs. Lou fired upon the last guard but he only grazed him and the two began wrestling together, guns firing as they wrestled to and fro. DK charged in once again and landed a heavy punch into his side.
Agape climbed up into the flying bridge to try and do something about the hydrofoil. She discovered that someone had hacked the computer system and set a course for a nearby cove. She managed to change a small part of the program so that destination was a little closer and hopefully less dangerous.
The last guard on the deck succumbed at last as Lou picked up his AK97 and started firing down the stairwell to stop anyway coming up. DK climbed up into the bridge as well and discovered the mounted machine gun, a toy he had to have. He managed to rip it free and then started to unload it’s magazine into the deck below. However the kick of the gun forced him to drop it onto the deck.
The yacht slowed down and pulled up against the bank and Agape and DK disembarked as Lou acquired the machine gun and emptied a few rounds into one of the guards who had managed to get to the top of the stairs. Once again he began to cover the Throng’s escape as he fired round after round down the stairs.
After a brief phone call to a cab company, Lou and Agape found themselves running aimlessly along the bank of the Mississippi. They both had differing opinions about which way to run and eventually split up.
Lou was comfortably putting holes in the yacht when the outrigger protection boat began to catch up. Moving to the back of the boat, Lou fired a concentrated burst causing the boat to explode. The yacht suddenly lurched forward in hydrofoil mode, spearing itself onto the bank. Lou managed to keep his feet and gunned down another unfortunate guard who had breached the top of the stairs. With his companions safe he dived over the side of the boat to meet up with them.
Agape found a small riverside shack and waited for DK and Lou to find him. Lou was first to arrive and they agreed that Agape should head back to New Orleans and contact Mr Akimura whilst Lou would wait for an obviously lost DK. Early morning brought the sounds of searching choppers.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Agape arrived at their safehouse where Dr Marchand and her mother snapped out of the trance they were in. Apparently the good Doctor had just been kidnapped by the throng and not liberated as they had thought.
DK wandered the swamp lands, confused as to what direction the sun rose and set. Meeting up again with the mighty Mississippi, he spied a group of armed men about to board some boats across the river. He waved them down and they managed to convince him to come aboard using guns and candy.
Back at the safehouse, Agape was introduced to the multiple personalities at home in the good doctors head. By far and away the friendliest was Charlie, but a child, frightened by the bad people in the world. It seemed that some of the personalities wanted different things. The doctor’s mother suggested that bad spirits had taken over her daughter to which Agape responded with a tazer to the face. During that incident, the Doctor escaped and made it to a phone. Once again a tazer to the face and Agape had to retreat back to the second safe house as Seraphim swooped into their first hideout.
With cash to burn, Agape hired a private plane and flew back to Seattle to make the exchange. Apparently DK arrived around the same time, being dropped off by a group called Overwatch. They went to make the exchange of the Doctor but Charlie’s personality took over and in fear she summoned a spirit from across the veil. It ripper a part the interested buying party before turning it’s attention on DK. Agape managed to calm Charlie to such a point that the spirit released the girl who fell into a coma. Together, Agape and DK fought off the spirit made of wires and twisted metal and it escaped back into Shadow.
With the Doctor now in a coma, they returned back to their home to establish a new trade.
Meanwhile, Lou started the long drive from New Orleans to Seattle.