Last time the team professed admiration for groups that bring stability, like the Street Cats, like our Airlift-Corporation, and like honest cops. But money talks louder: The lure of 2000 gold pieces made Snips and the Wasters – this time without Wispa – go to the far edge of the wastes to Disrupt a Block, to spread chaos and destruction, to destabilize, incite fights or destroy buildings.
So maybe the police officer had not been completely wrong about us after all.
The assembled team was the strongest in all the time since Snips left her parents’ farm and came to Cali: Three lead characters, eight retainers, and two bots. Snips brought PHAN-tastic, Jalecktronics, loyal Monroe and a fresh nomad called Mad Mac. In other words, she maxed out, because she could not manage more than four retainers.
Wyndham brought trusty Remus and clever Willis. Dante brought dependable Susan and the fresh addition Corbin. Dr. Klunk was aided by the flying bot Henry.
Messy was not on board – the trigger-happy daredevil was too busy simping for a mostly disinterested Kathi, both of them still giving Dante the willies with their strange behaviour.
PHAN-tastic the Vietnamese retainer shouldered Messy’s grenade launcher and the four grenades that the team owned, and Snips took the energy weapon they had discovered on an earlier delve, to be ready for bots: Rumor had it that the target zone was swarming with dangerous rogue bots. Someone had stocked up on ammo for the beam-carbine too, more than 23 energy cells were there for the taking.
Given the long distance to the target block that we wanted to push into chaos, we decided to go in a straight line, even though many of the blocks on that route were considered Threat Level 2, with a higher chance of hostile encounters. And indeed, almost immediately we met some wild dogs, which we pacified with some rations.
Right after that we ran into no fewer than four black bears rummaging around in old, derelict cafés. We backed off and went around them. Nobody wants to pick a fight with a black bear, let alone four of them. Only, as the team tried to move around the bears, they ran into a trio of mountain lions.
Trying to evade both animal groups proved to be impossible. It took a lot of time to pick a clear path around it all, but again there were the bears, who had chosen to relocate. So the team turned around and chose the mountain lions after all. Snips – freshly levelled up to 5, with a Thac0 of 17, would finally taste that sweet nectar of real sniper work: Shooting with an effective +8 modifier on a sneak attack. These pesky lions would have no chance.
The whole group hunkered down behind our trusty cart and we sent off a devastating volley.
It was an embarrassing disaster. In the worst shot of her career, Snips tanked an almost secure killshot by rolling a 3+8=11. Her quartet of
goon… retainers did likewise, and Dante’s and Wyndham’s groups fared little better. Hoping to get a better shot, Dante even left the cover and went forward, as did his man Corbin, who had only a sawed-off shotgun and needed to get a lot closer to score any points.
However, the mountain lions had similar ideas, and bounded closer in mighty leaps. Thanks to initiative, the group managed to take down 2 of the lions on the way to Dante, by blowing shot after shot towards them, until a small handful of rounds managed to hit.
The biggest and meanest lion made it, though, and grabbed poor Dante, scratching him for 4 HP, but failed to score a deadly bite. Shooting was out with Dante in the tight embrace of the enemy. Remus and Snips charged forward into melee, as did Dr. Klunk and Henry the flybot. It was a tight situation, but with lots of luck the group prevailed, and the last mountain lion was defeated.
The group had disturbed a meal of the mountain lions — they were just eating a waster, who now got looted. Then more animals showed up: monitor lizards. We threw the mountain lions to them, as food, and got lost.
Kids & Families
The group had enough for Threat Level 2 and made their way to the north .. longer, but safer. Here they met a group of adults trying to protect some kids. We signalled peaceful intentions, but they were paranoid as hell, as can be expected of parents with kids in such an environment, and we were also carrying energy weapons, grenade launchers, automatic shotguns, and two robots, and that makes it a bit hard to look like the nice neighbour.
We had to evade them.
Which was fine, as now we found a weird little weapon store: a well-maintained store of guns, ammo, and high-class melee weapons, run by a gang of Tagalog-speakers with white writing tattooed in the faces. Thanks to the bots we were able to translate, and they turned out to be really nice. Crazy, but nice. They allowed us to stay the night, charge our robots, and sample their goods, all in exchange for an aggro drug we had found on the lion-food-man.
They also spoke of the odd cult they were following: The “Radiant Family”. They wanted to enlist male wasters (only males), and talked a good game about stability, safety, and civilisation, protecting humankind. This mantra, “protecting humankind”, came up often, because they were not only focused on men, they were focused on flesh & blood men, and despised bots and snyths for some reason.
The “Radiant Family” also expected their members to wear Tagalog-tattoos in the face, and everyone had to learn the language. That kind of turned off the otherwise interested PHAN-tastic and other prospectve initiates in the group.
Snips got no offer, being a woman and all, but she watched Phan closely. The episode drove home that she would lose him soon. He had really come into his own, from the scrawny little soft-faced Vietnamese she had first met, to a second-level-Ronin with an automatic shotgun, who carried Messy’s grenade launcher with practiced ease. He might say no the Radiant Family, but he would soon leave to start his own gang, Snips realized.
But he deserved it. He was a good and dependable retainer, who had risen to 12 HP under her tutelage, and would make an excellent Waster. In her mind, she already wished him luck and hoped for his success, glad that he had not ended like Pretty Boy, her first follower.
The next day brought smoother sailing: No animals, no nervous parents, no hungry kid gangs: The team made good way and only had to dodge one huge procession of bikers, who rode by shooting. The team kept out of sight and would never know what exactly these guys were doing. But they got to their target zone.
The block they were to disrupt was already looking quite shitty. Most buildings were just ruins, burnt-out half-buildings and fields of rubble, with the occasional bot stalking through. They started to scout the block, looking for viable targets to rig up and destroy.
Suddenly they were attacked! An energy beam hit Dr. Klunk. It came out of nowhere, and brought him down a hefty 9 HP. Everyone was trying to get a look into the dark, broken back alley that the shot had come from, but nothing was to be seen. Wyndham pulled Dr. Klunk back out of the danger zone, and the shooter came out of his, or its, hiding: It was some blot with an intelligent reflective camo field, making it almost invisible.
Hard to shoot at something that is only barely visible even in daylight, the group spread out in a half-circle to light it up from different angles without downing each other, while Susan sought hard cover behind Dr. Klunk’s smoking hulk. Never a fighter, she was. And that was alright: She was here to steer bots, not to trade shots with an invisible killer.
Once again, most shots grazed on missed, and even Snips, who employed the energy weapon, did little damage, at a high price in energy cells.
PHAN-tastic hit, though: His auto-shotgun blasted the sneaky robot hard enough to cause sparks and smoke. The bot nimbly turned around and showed that he had more than mere energy-blasters: He could really bring pain, and he shot down PHAN-tastic with a 9 HP hit: enough to kill any other retainer. Only Phan was strong enough to take it, bite it down, and keep going.
Now their coordinated focused fire from 180 degrees of hurt took a toll, and then Snips was able to execute the smoking wreck with one well-placed energy beam. Wyndham healed up the bloodied PHAN-tastic, while the group looted the fallen chameleo-bot. The retrieved scraps were worth more than 4000 gp, more even than the payout for this whole job! This fight had been very dangerous, but they had lucked out twice, by killing it without casualties, and by looting it.
The fallen machine turned out it was a very advanced sneak- or scout-bot, sleek and elegant, with state-of-the-art coverings and good weapons.
Phaser to Stun
Snips would never become a fan of that energy weapon. One burst of energy beams took out 6 energy cells, enough for two days of continual lamplight. “These energy weapons are just a phase”, she surmised. “They will never gain traction.”
But of course she kept it, as, uneconomical as it might be, it worked better against bots than bullets did.
The group continued to scout, and identified only one single building in the whole block that was worth the trouble — a four-floor-high single-floor warehouse. 1 door in front, two in the back, one of them a fire door. No windows.
So with only one target building, the whole job took on some decidedly mysterious tone. The employer would surely know that there was only the one windowless warehouse here.
Was the whole “disrupt the block” mission merely a cover story for a precise hit, with the warehouse as the central key to the riddle?
The party scanned the warehouse and found no meaningful technical activity or even hardware in here. No bots, not electric power, no grid uplink, no vehicles. This place was basically a black hole. What would this building house? What was important enough to send bloodhounds out to destroy it? Who wanted an empty block disrupted and was willing to pay for it? Was it the warehouse, or was it what was inside? And what WAS inside, but a no-show on the tech-scan?
All these questions,
and many more,
will be answered next time.
Snips 1 – Fighting Dogs
Snips 2 – Fighting Robots
Snips 3 – Fighting Swordsmen
Snips 4 – Fighting Kids
Snips 5 – Fighting Dreadnoughts
Snips 6 –
Fighting Running from the Boss
Snips 7 – Fighting Cops
Snips 8 – Fighting in the Pharmacy
Snips 9 – Fighting Cats
Snips 10 – Fighting Lions
Snips 11 – Fighting Code
Snips Special: Messy Mission
Snips Special: Gentlemessy
Image: Darcy Lawrey / Pexels