Snips went to ground after the Cop Incident to let the track cool off. Whispa had less qualms about going back onto the streets, and assembled Dante (with his retainer Susan) and the freshly stitched-together Messy for another mission. Messy was still in no shape to ride any skateboards, but he had invested into a cyber-hand to replace the one mangled by the explosions. A cyber hand with integrated high-tech lockpicks.
He spoke a lot about finding nice, strong, healthy girls, to a point where he was starting to stand out even among the weirdos who called themselves Wasters – the cyberpunks of Nocte Urbi. One thing that distracted him from his strange ways was the lucky find of five launcher grenades, finally! Ammunition for the grenade launcher they had lugged around for weeks now without ever finding fodder for it.
Speaking of fodder: Whispa still insisted on leaving the pack dog Betty in the safety of her home.
A clear case of failed investment. But also a beautiful example for true empathy in a harsh world.
The Charisma of Failure
Messy, with his half-torn face, rasping voice, missing bits of the torso and staggering gait had a hard time attracting retainers: A very cool level 2 infiltrator just snorted even on a full share of the loot and said, “If it means ending up like you? No.” He tried a tough nomad type next but was blown off just as quickly.
Then Whispa went to the same guy and recruited him without trouble. “That’s how it’s done,” she told Messy. The new guy’s name was “Johnny Big Nuts”. Whispa also recruited “Ace”, a high potential with great stats.
The team decided to pick a job that was already long on offer: to place four sensors in four different buildings in one block, secretly of course.
They made their way east, on a sunny morning, beautiful in a certain brutalist way. Susan got to steer the new work robot Dr. Klunk, whose batteries would hold out for 24 hours – three whole days, provided the team would switch Dr. Klunk off during rests and nights. Banking on potentially finding power outlets and on their hand cart if all else failed, the group used him as point man.
They were able to dodge a nosy Waster by telling him they were just heading out and had nothing worth robbing yet. Having nothing worth robbing was a good shield, even though Whisp had some words for the man that could be counted as less than respectful.
They moved on with Whispa and Messy guarding the flanks, Dante and Susan hiding behind heavy metal. A gaggle of hungry street rabble got pacified with four rations.
However, they noticed a lone gang member watching them slowly come closer, and a lone robot coming on after them. Connected? They let the robot come up and waited what it might do. The crazy thing attacked! So they destroyed it, then saw the gang member leave. Connection not proven. But already Dr. Klunk proved useful as cover, as tank, and as a melee damage dealer against mindless machines.
The block proved to be relatively peaceful, although not thriving: Several local shops were all closed and boarded up, but a wandering trader, a woman with mules, was there. She had a gun to come with the mules, and she turned out to be streetwise and careful, and not open to intimate contact. The group let her be.
The topic of actually robbing her came up, but Ace voiced strong dissent against such a code of conduct. Messy agreed. Uncharacteristically, he even argued for a cautious, quiet approach. He was all for entering buildings with minimum force, hide the sensors, and go.
He tried his new lockpick-hand on a back door, but it proved to be low-tech. So he waved to Whispa and let her pick the lock with real skill. Then she entered and climbed up hide the first sensor up above the ceiling tiles.
Being busy protected her from a heart attack at this point, because a cop showed up. He blustered around and demanded of Dante, Susan, and Johnny Big Nuts that they remove that walking pile of trash (Dr. Klunk) from the street immediately! But otherwise he left them in peace, and disappeared right in the same building where Whispa and Messy were speluncking around.
After this big success and lucky break, they quickly deposited the rest of the sensors in various closed-up broken-down businesses; under floorboards, or fixed to the underside of a low shelf, etc. Whispa could hardly believe her luck to be on a mission that looked like it could go down as a great, unbloody success.
But then – boom. Whispa ran into a self-firing system and got blasted with shotgun pellets. So she felt lingering to hope for some extra loot was not worth dying for, especially with a well-earned paycheck already in grasp. That was when Messy acted out again and wanted to know what the cops were doing here in the first place. Despite Whispa’s shocked warning cries he — who had not witnessed the destructive power of the pow-liece — went closer for a look.
It turned out there were four of the coppers, and they were guarding a big pile of treasure. It looked a whole lot like a stash of stolen goods waiting for a fence.
Messy and Dante started discussing how to split the cops up, distract or stun them, and grab the stash. But Whispa was, as usual, right. Any attempt to mess with them was doomed to fail. So they went home.
How to find a girl in the Wastes
On the way home they made good headway without trouble, but then passed a gang of hoodlums in a dark alley. Gangers. Those started ruffling feathers and hinted that they deserved a toll for letting the group pass unmolested. Still, the group was able to walk past them with heads turned down and unoffensive body language — until Messy turned around and levelled the grenade launcher at them.
The gangers pulled their sawed-offs, and Messy missed by a wide margin. Having only one eye left really kicks depth perception in the shins. Only one person was taken out by stray shrapnel. “Take one alive!!” shouted Messy to everyone’s astonishment.
A short battle broke out, where Messy dropped the grenade launcher and shot at one girl-ganger with a stun shot — missing again — then dropped the shotgun and stormed at the girl with bare hands, shielding her from party fire.
He ducked a barrage of shot, but Dante, Ace, Whispa and Johnny Big Nut took the girl’s friends down with a series of very accurate shots, while Susan steered Dr. Klunk into melee with a tough-looking gang-boy.
Messy jumped the girl, dragged her down and held her head like a lovesick teenager holds a photo of his girl. Then Dante was pretty sure he saw something weird going on, something passing on between Messy and the girl. She struggled for a while, then stopped — and Messy rolled off her to let her go free.
Simping for Kathi
Dante had none of that: Despite Messy’s protests, he insisted on disarming and interrogating the girl, Kathi. She was clearly non-aggressive, though, and Messy argued for letting her come with the group, which she affirmed as her wish. Messy also insisted she got her weapons back – after all, these were the wastes, and you could not let a poor girl go unarmed.
Keeping a watchful eye turned on her, Dante tried to make sense of the situation, but Kathi proved to be a good, helpful member of the group on the whole way home.
Dante wanted to hand her over to the company to let her get analyzed, but Messy said she was a guest, not a prisoner, and it was her decision. She decided on no – she did not want to go back to Xixi. “Not to Xixi – to the company.” “No, not to the company.”
Then they split the loot, and Messy went forward and offered Kathi to shack up with him until she’d find her own place… and to Dante’s horror he also offered her a place in the party. The freshly converted gang-member not only agreed to both of these offers, but she also also snuggled up to Messy like a little bunny seeking protection from the “big dangerous” Dante!
Tête á tête
Romance in the Air? As Messy hugged Kathi to himself protectively, Susan used the opportunity to remind Dante that he had offered to buy her a drink; so he had another, a legal problem to puzzle out, for as a minor he may have had killed people, but he had certainly never drunk alcohol before. Snips rescued him from this conundrum by providing the alc for Susan and a healthy glass of orange juice for the smart little waster — while Messy and Kathi wandered off, arm in arm, into the sunset.
Messy, who should have long embraced death in a fair world, now embraced a mysterious woman instead, and even reached Level 3. Would he find a cybernetic eye as well? Only time will tell.