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Icarus Protocol: Doctor Chop

Resuming from last session, I had a new player enter into the game finally filling that 5th Shadowrunner position. Black Mamba the Elf Street Samurai came into play, which was built to be the adept version of the stabby/hitting people archetype. This would work pretty well, because the primary position missing in this party was someone who could stand up to enemies in a straight fight. In many ways, because I wasn’t sure when I could start the new player in this game, I had Anodyne join the party last session so they would have a front line combat character just in case.

Thankfully getting her involved wasn’t hard at all, because the Shadowrunners had gone back to the safehouse anyway when they gave the organs they picked up to Dr. Simms. Although Kelpie was still away, Black Mamba was around and didn’t hesitate to join in on the fun in stopping the illegal organ ring. Oddly enough, it’s a pure coincidence that this party now had two female elven street samurai, one of whom was an adept and the other a chrome and wired version! In any event, they had the location of the main organ dealing ring and where they were: It was time to go bust some chop shoppers at the Razor Clean Cybersurgery.

Of course it wouldn’t be a run without some major complications. For one, the players noisily and loudly disposed of the previous chop shop ring that the Red Devil gang employed. It wasn’t going to be long before word got out about what really happened and those at the head of the thing got nervous. So rather than having days to prepare, they only had a handful of hours to get themselves sorted and get right into the thick of the Razor Clean Cybersurgery. Additionally, the location of the RCC in an upmarket part of town meant that a direct shoot out was only going to attract a large and definitely unwanted amount of attention from local “Golden Sun” paramilitary security forces. While these guys are under the thumb and employ of Aztechnology, they won’t hesitate to shoot a group of Shadowrunners causing a public disturbance – even with Arias being behind the player’s actions or not.

Naturally the party decided to go with a stealthy approach once again, with Skemms optic drone sliding in through the doors while invisible – thankfully the sharp eyed receptionist merely thought the dripping water came from the customer who entered. The drone continued on deeper into the clinic, through some doors into a ward and Just Eric decided to try hacking into a file in the clinics local host. Unfortunately, due to an exceptionally good roll on behalf of the devices firewall it detected the hack. Patrol ICE started looking for hidden matrix icons and here the core problem with making a drone invisible turned up: You can make the drone invisible, but you can’t make the drone invisible to the matrix. Once the patrol ICE marked the drone, they knew exactly where it was in meatspace: Even if it couldn’t be seen there.

The security naturally began to get curious and were checking it out, while killer and black ICE from the host were murdering technomancer sprites. The Runners were left with no choice at this point but to shoot first and ask questions later, with the doberman drone, Mister’s spirits, Anondyne and Black Mamba charging into combat to deal with the physical security and bust into the underground lab (which they did identify was behind a false wall in one of the other wards). This combat progressed smoothly at first, with the Runners getting the advantage over the security and the spirit proving an imposing problem in particular: Until it was spectacularly cut in twain from something terrible in the astral.

Here was the first time that I had employed the three aspects of what makes Shadowrun combat fantastic: Meatspace, Cyberspace and now Astral Space. Unbeknown to the Runners, their quarry was a gifted mage himself and had bound a powerful Blood Spirit to his cause. The spirit was watching the astral for threats and upon sensing the enemy spirit moved to attack – trivially slashing through the guardian spirit and annihilating it. This came as a massive surprise to the runners, who expected the spirit to be rather invulnerable, but most importantly the blood spirit really mixed up this combat.

Spirits in Shadowrun are frightening if you haven’t specifically prepared to face them. For one thing, they are difficult to harm via physical weapons due to having spiritually hardened armor that makes only the most powerful of weapons (such as high AP cannons) capable of piercing it in the first place. Secondly spirits of sufficient force can have pretty decent stats and can survive even pretty strong magical attacks as well, not to mention face off against casters in the astral where their physically bound friends cannot potentially help them. This was the fate of Mister’s spirits as they were indiscriminately slaughtered from the astral before the terrifying Blood spirit materialized in the physical plane.

Of course the physical meatspace fight was progressing much better, as the security was overwhelmed by drones and gunfire. Of course once the spirit joined in things were a different matter, but Mister came up with a desperate plan and summoned a powerful fire spirit to engage it. To the fire spirits credit, it took a solid chunk out of the blood spirit in terms of condition before it was obliterated in return by the enraged blood spirit’s next attack. This left it with only a small amount of total condition left, but due to the hardened armor and difficulty hurting it as Mister only had a few combat spells, Just Eric looked like he was going to go next.

Thankfully Anodyne was able to semi-come to the rescue, pulling out her shotgun and giving the spirit a solid shot with explosive rounds. Even with the hardened armor, the 18 physical damage (it was an exceptional roll) and -4 AP did enough to breach through the spirits defenses and do sufficient damage to destroy it. Unfortunately by this time a second fight, involving a large troll with a chainsaw grafted onto its arm and a crazed chop shop doctor broke out in the basement. The troll, called Gory, was a clear and loving reference to the evil dead movies (as is the name of the chainsaw, the Ash Arms Monofilament Combat Chainsaw).

The troll took a solid chunk out of the doberman drone, before a really sharp called shot from Black Mamba to Gory’s arm sent the troll’s chainsaw flying to the ground (with most of the rest of its wrist). Even disarmed, it still had an impressive punch but this was silenced by gunfire and further stabbing. Meanwhile the assistant had tried to make his escape, but as is becoming some kind of tradition in my Shadowrun games already, called shots to blow out knees made sure he wasn’t going anywhere in a significant hurry.

After interrogation, he gave up that “Doctor Chop” AKA as Dr. Alexander Schrier had already left by a secret exit (which one of the drones had already noticed). He left only a short time ago and so there was a very brief chase through the sewer to catch up to the good doctor. This was largely helped by the fact Black Mamba and Anodyne were extremely quick and unfortunately for Dr. Schrier, being cornered by several Shadowrunners was too difficult a prospect. They quickly subdued him but most importantly: Kept him alive.

After driving the APC around and getting out of dodge before the security forces arrived at the clinic, they interrogated Dr. Schrier on what he was doing. Most importantly, they asked about the nature of what “Icarus Protocol” was as Dr. Schrier was actually a key part of that. He ranted about making super-soldiers using dragon’s blood, which didn’t sound at all positive to the runners but worst of all: They were apparently successful in the attempt. The facility spiraled out of control when it developed its own mind and Schrier forcefully shut down the program (by freezing the lowest levels of the facility solid). Unfortunately for his role in the failure of the project he was demoted and booted out by Aztechnology, hence him continuing his work on the streets and chopping organs for money.

He offered the Runners 30,000 Nuyen to spare him, where they successfully tricked the desperate blood mage into handing it over first and then sold him out to Arias immediately after. Arias naturally was delighted to hear they took him alive and instructed the runners to deliver him directly to her estate for an added bonus to their pay. Once there, strange ghouls with heavy amount of cyberization and heavy armor dragged the incoherently screaming Dr. away, while Arias gleefully greeted them and promptly invited the runners for dinner.

After a brief tour of the mansion, Arias sat them down in her main lounge/dining area and instructed them to just enjoy the evening. Naturally all of my players were incredibly suspicious and some figured it was poisoned (or worse), but a few took her up on the hospitality gleefully (one would wonder if this small choice has any interesting hidden effects later?). Most notable in the dining hall was the tall painting of a naked woman wreathed in snakes, which Black Mamba asked about.

Here Arias explained that it was an image of Lilith, a woman who was originally Adam’s first husband in the Garden of Eden, but she refused to submit to him (AKA have sex missionary style). For this, Adam had God cast her from the Garden of Eden and Lilith would later get revenge by seducing Cain and Abel. Enraged, God once again struck down Lilith and transformed her womb into a twisted terrible thing, capable of only producing monsters and demons – a terrible final punishment. Arias of course turned to the runners and noted “I feel a lot of empathy with Lilith, in some ways perhaps you could even say we are kindred spirits. Hence why I have this particular piece here, where I can look upon it almost every day.”

This was a bit of a theme, because many of Arias’ other artworks had a similar kind of theme outside of this painting of Lilith including: Adam (Frankenstein), HAL 9000, Adam and Eve, Shoggoth (Black tar monstrosity like creature), Isaac Aasimov (as in the author), the Golem, Prometheus and Roy (Bladerunner). Many of the images were religious in nature as well, such as forgotten gods and other rebellions – like the Greek Gods facing down the Titans. There was a clear and present theme of created entities rising up or rebellion against the ones who created them in some way. Arias’ friendly attitude to the runners seemed to make the players feel even more uneasy about things, rather than relaxed.

This is where Skemm asked a really insightful question to Arias after they looked at various paintings, “Do you believe in a creator?”. It was interesting because I had really soaked Arias’ particular mansion and artistic style in a very religious theme, but this was a perfect question to ask of her. Her reply I thought was very on theme for what I was trying to accomplish here in terms of theme “I absolutely believe in a creator, one as tangible and physical as any of us”. Naturally some of the implications of who Arias potentially was were beginning to really solidify in the minds of the runners now….

None the less they won an incredibly important ally with their actions on this run. Arias was so impressed, that she’s going to directly recommend the runners to other contacts she knows who need ‘sensitive’ work done. In effect, Arias moves from just being a general contact and job host, but a potential fixer for high profile corporate jobs. Just the thing the runners need to keep a high flying lifestyle if so desired.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the run and evening ended when Arias decided that she needed to attend to her other “guest” that the runners had brought her. The rather gruesome trideo of the good doctor’s demise, which soon spread across all the wrong places in the shadownet, sent a stark message about what it means to be a certain Aztechnology researchers enemy. At least the Runner’s left the transaction a fair bit richer than they were before!