Slider wanting to improve the bottom line buys Stick’n’shock ammo for Mona Lizza and Stainless Steel Rat. After all death is bad for business. Seeming to have an issue with SSR and continues to bug him for over a week about killing people. Maybe he is just a little stir-crazy for the lack of work and how much of his own money he has been spending over the last few weeks.
Perhaps it is all this talk of murdering and death, combined with the horrible weather, but Stainless Steel Rat has had a horrible time sleeping. A military figure floats before him in his dreams. The figure sits in a lotus pose, but SSR can never get a very good look at him. The figures features seem to change from elf, to human, orc, troll, and several other metatypes he doesn’t recall ever seeing. The figures clothing also changes, but always seems to resemble that of a military style from ancient times to the more modern styles he is accustomed to.
Every night the dream is the same. To either side of the floating man are scenes from Stainless Steel Rat’s life and the times he has had to take a life. The dreams always end the same. A vision of SSR driving a young girl named Catherine Westmore. In the dream she is very much alive and animatedly constantly yelling, screaming, and crying, That is until she turns her head to look out the window and shows a hole where her head should be. “You let them kill me.” She says turning back to face him with glowing red eyes. SSR once again wakes up in a cold sweat. Taking hours to go to sleep once again.
Several hours later rain continues to caresses the windows of his doss, baptizing away the dirt and grime of the city. It’s a feeling his soul may never know. Will he ever forget the girl’s name, or her face? He didn’t know Catherine. His only real interaction was to snatch her from her protectors, and drag her to her fate. His solace has been that he didn’t know her life would be snuffed out before she ever had a chance to live. Struggling and wondering how close he actually is to crossing the line between mercenary and assassin. Acknowledging how even his choices in the biz effect others. Saving him from this epiphany, is his commlink buzzing to life. Reaching for it he take a moment to compose himself and put on his business face. The commlink rings three times before he pulls it together completely.
Lady Jade stares back at you in your image link, a bad memory brought back to life in high definition digital clarity. “Hey, chum,” she says. Her voice sounds about as numb as your head feels right now. “We need to talk. Meet me at Five by Five. Tonight, six o’clock. It’s important. I heard you have put yourself together a new team. If they are any good bring them.”
A quick call out and everyone agrees to make their way together to the Five by Five.
At Five by Five:
Located in Denver’s abandoned subway projects, you simply don’t know the tunnels well enough to travel all the way to Five by Five by vehicle. Walking there, you recall previous trips, but somehow, the twists and turns just don’t match up with your memories. Just as you’re nearly convinced you’ve gotten yourself lost, your commlink blinks back to life. You make out the sounds of carousal ahead. Rounding a final corner, you are greeted by a doorway built into a subway portal. Layers of graffiti covering its surface form a makeshift sign: Five by Five.
You push your way through the entrance. Inside, another sign proclaims, “Drop it or be dropped,” with an arrow pointing down. Beneath, a crate of small arms beckons. Apparently, you’ve found the weapon check.
Five by Five is a haven for the villainous, where every scheming smuggler, jaded jammer, and conniving coyote can gather to share a pint and a war story. A tall human male with reddish brown hair energetically tends a bar that really does take all kinds – every metatype is present. They sit at the bar, and at tables, and at crates made into tables, cutting up and killing time. A few of these characters even offer you nods and waves as you enter, welcoming you to the party. You get the feeling everybody knows your name.
Slider in his usual fashion walks up to the bar orders around for everyone and tells Matty the barkeep that as usual he is there for business. SSR does the same. Grey Knight arrives shortly after and introduces himself the the barkeep Matty with a friendly, "I’m here to see Ms. Johnson. At which point Matty finishes the small talk and leads the group back behind the bar past the kitchen and to a small alcove in the kitchen, separated by a thick burlap sheet hanging from the ceiling.
Ms. Johnson, aka Lady Jade, sits in the back corner of the alcove and looks a bit frazzled. As SSR points out when he tells her she looks like Frag. Ms. Johnson salutes him and downs a shot before speaking. “I’ll keep this brief. A child is dead. The killer is still on the loose. No one knows who that killer was, or what his motive may be. The authorities are useless. I want you to hit the streets and use any means necessary to determine the killer’s identity. Locate him, apprehend him, and deliver him to me alive. He’s no good to me dead. I’ll pay each of you 6,000¥, with ten percent up front. Is this agreeable?”
Slider as has become standard operating procedure open the negotiations with a several look from SSR and some brief subvocal chatter. Slider and Lady Jade go back and forth for a bit, but as the haggling comes to an end the team is offered 6,300¥ and 600¥ up front which she hands over in the form of certified credsticks. She says she would like them to start immediately, but will remain to answer any questions they may have.
Lady Jade tells the tale of the girls death. Catherine was kidnapped by a group of thugs and held for ransom in the Aurora Warrens. She shudders for a second as she looks at SSR with an almost apologetic look. When Lone Star got wind of what was going down, they surrounded the place. After a lengthy standoff, the kidnappers agreed to release the girl. While being passed into Lone Star custody, a sniper executed her from a nearby rooftop.
Lady Jade, admits that she hiring both the runner team who kidnapped Catherine as well as the team who held her for ransom in the warrens. She is plagued with guilt at the results of the run—she never intended for Catherine to die.
Pressured to share all she knows she painfully admits there is only one person who she can think of who would have a motive to kill Catherine. All they get from her is a name. Takeshi Modori. Even uttering his name is difficult for her and she starts to break down. She promptly conclude the meeting and exit. Her faint final words are a wish of good luck and a request to contact her once their investigation is complete.
The group reaches out to their contacts and discovered a lot of interesting and troubling information and make their way to Mystic Curiosities where they hear Takeshi is on the mend.
Having visited Mystic Curiosities before, you easily navigate the back roads and alleyways of Chinatown all the way to the storefront. Crossing the threshold, you find the familiar face of Zhang Wong turning to smile at you as he gently cradles an ornate vase in his hands, carrying it from one corner of the room to another shelf where he puts it down. “Hello there,” he says. “It’s good to see you again. How can I help you today?”
Slider steps forward after flatteries and sharing niceties (along with a boost to Zhang’s digital tip jar) gets down to business demanding (in a friendly way) to see Takeshi. At first Zhang denies knowing him or that anyone is in the shop besides him, but after Slider and SSR insist that all they want to do is talk to Takeshi he agrees. Meanwhile Mona Lizza steps outside and looks around for any sign of trouble and to make sure Takeshi doesn’t try to leave. A problem they all quickly learn is not really a concern.
In the back room, the runners find a wounded Takeshi lying on a cot in the corner. He is weakened by blood loss. At Zhang’s urging the runners agree to listen to his tale which he describes in great detail in between fits of bloody coughing. After discussing with themselves they come to agree that they believe his story and the wounds are from a skilled shooter and Takeshi probably only lived through his ordeal because of Zhang’s trained hand and magic. Even with all that the ex-yakuza has been here for nearly a month. Takeshi has put some feelers out and the word on the street is that the Dragon is hiding out at Club Karma out in Chinatown. As they leave Zhang shows them to the door and tells them what he knows about Club Karma.
The rain continues to poor down as the group steps outside returning to their car to begin planning their next move.