Joules sits with Zippy Toe-Tag and Putt-Dawg at a the Samsons noodle shop, waiting to hear the impostor’s voice. The rest of the runners have been in position for about an hour. Drivey is running hot sim in his van, which is parked in front of the HQ. Sensors from the van’s exterior and his 3 drones give him a stereoscopic view of the HQ. Eric da MAJ, Vendetta Violent, Devil Duck, and Belker along with Deadeyeare and Dirtnap are in the tunnel, ready to move. Maverick, wearing a Knight Errant uniform,stands on the corner, eyeing the roads. Echo Tree is wearing a stereotypical salaryman’s power suit. He reads thru his forged electronic documents, making sure to memorize everything. Everyone is turned up to 11, waiting for the signal to go.
“Weclome to the”
Joules grins enthusiastically as she catches Putt-Dawg’s eye. “Showtime.”
She grabs Woofle’s leash and starts skipping toward the newly activated mag-locked door, whistling the tune of that creepy nursery rhyme. Zippy and Putt-Dawg follow about three meters behind.
Joules hear’s Tomatoes’ voice over her headset. “Don’t Move, Joules. You’re halfway through the barrier. It’s buckling. When Woofles hits it, the barrier should break. Man, I wish you could see what this looks like on the astral. I’ve never seen anything like it. Fucked Up Shit doesn’t do it justice.”
“Woofles, priority wreck,” commands Joules, pointing at the barrier. The hellhound charges the strained barrier and the spell shatters on impact.
Tomatoes’ jubilant voice spreads the word “The barrier is destroyed!”
After hearing this, Zippy approaches the mag-lock and beings the process of overriding the security protocols.
Meanwhile underneath HQ, the rescue strike force pops the hatch and climbs to the basement of the building; Belker taking point while Devil Duck takes up the rear. Deadeye lays against the wall, throws his consciousness into one of the skull shaped hoverdrones and pilots it up thru the hatch. After everyone has entered the HQ, Dirtnap closes the hatch behind them. He looks down at Deadeye’s body and scrunches up his face, thinking. After a moment, he reaches into his ‘bag o’ tricks’ and pulls out a super fuzzy blanket and pillow. Dirtnap places the pillow under Deadeye’s head and covers him with a blanket. Not satisfied, he starts rooting around in his bag and pulls out a plush hamster. He tucks the hamster under Deadeye’s arm, nods in satisfaction and pulls out his AK-97. “Dirtnap protect sleepy friend” the troll declares.
With the barrier down, Eric da MAJ, Vendetta Violent, and Belker start performing any type of magical recon that they can think of, and feed what they find to the rest of the team.
“They’re really dug in up there,” Eric says with a low whistle. “7 of them.”
Belker frowns. “There’s no hearth spirits here. Makes sense, though. Ol’ Crow Boy was never one for bindings. There’s a few crow spirits, though.”
“I’ve found him! Opti’s locked up in his studio,” Vendetta Violent smiles. “There’s two of them guarding the door and the rest of them are in the adjacent living room. We have to get by all of them to get to the studio.”
“Can’t we just get Rainbowsmite’s team to distract (or destroy) them, and we slip behind them,” asks Devil Duck. “They won’t be able to find us if they’re trying to dodge a sadistic elf and ork tag team.”
“Rainbowsmite, what’s your status?” asks Eric into his headset. “There’s a lot of paid resistance outside broadcast booth. Think you can distract them?”
“Why do think I had Zippy weaponize the Siracha?” giggles Joules over the comm. “Zippy’s almost thru the Maglock. How many are there?”
“There’s seven.” Vendetta reports, concentrating her astral sight upward. “From what I get from their astral signatures, four of them use magic.”
The sound of Putt-Dawg’s laughter drowns everyone out. “Frag, those meatsacks are stupid. For someone who hates Opti so much, they did zero recon on his allies.” He lets out one last whoop as the sound maglock opening comes across the com.
“Open, says me! We’re in.” Zippy’s voice loses some of his bravado as the door opens. His eyes lock on a small electronic device installed in the doorjamb.”Shit! They trapped the door. Silent alarm. Company’s coming and we have no time to polish the silver.”
“Drivey, Echo Tree, Tomatoes, and Maverick, you’re on!” says Joules. “My team will head on up.”
Echo Tree and Maverick take their positions as the distant wail of sirens pierce the air.
Zippy, Putt-Dawg and Joules enter the building, re-engaging the mag-lock behind them. Trusting that their teammates outside can keep the proverbial (and possibly literal) wolves from the door.
In less than a minute a squad car displaying the Lone Star logo pulls up. Maverick lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Whew, that’s lucky. I’m not wearing their uniform.
Two officers exit the car and approach Maverick and Echo Tree.
“What’s all this then,” asks one of the officers.
“Standard pen test demonstration,” says Maverick. “I was hired as a consultant to observe and give feedback as a security professional.”
Echo Tree swaggers up to the officers. “Excuse me officers. What’s the problem? Whatever it is, can we take care of it quickly? I need to get back to the demo. Time is money.”
“A silent alarm was tripped. We’re responding to a B & E.”
Echo Tree rolls his eyes, playing the role of corporate stooge perfectly. “Of course there’s a B & E! This is a penetration test demonstration.” He heaves a frustrated sigh and pulls up a few AR files and sends them over to the officers. “Here’s the permits and the contracts. The alarm was supposed to be temporarily re-routed prior to the test. I apologize for the oversight. Have your company send me the bill for time and resources spent. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
“What’s that then?” The office points to Drivey’s van. “That’s not standard issue.”
“It’s an armored urban mobile HQ prototype, sir.” says Maverick. “I’m observing not only its efficacy but unobtrusiveness.”
“It’s hard to be unobtrusive with a panther cannon attached to the roof,” says one of the officers.
While the officers are talking with Echo Tree and Maverick, Tomatoes sneaks under the squad car and plants a few objects and slips back out.
“Well, everything seems to be in order. Good luck with the test.” One of the officers hands Echo Tree a business card. “Feel free to contact us for any security needs in the future.”
The officers climb into the car and drive off. Maverick and Echo Tree look at each other and simultaneously blurt “Holy shit that worked! I can’t believe they fell for it.”
Tomatoes pipes up, “Such a shame their rear axle is about to fail. As soon as they hit a pothole, its gonna go. That’s gonna cause a small electrical discharge. The damage is gonna destroy the incident record and GPS data. What a pity.” He grins wryly and flicks his com on. “Everything’s clear outside RS. Go nuts!”
Joules turns to everyone and smiles “Sorry guys, I’m out of funny quips. So, everybody up for a little payback?”
Putt-Dawg bounds up the stairs followed Joules then Zippy. Belker holds his hand, staying the rescue team. “Wait till we hear a yell of pain, then go.” Vendetta Violent uses the time to cast a powerful invisibility spell. They then hear a bloodcurdling scream from upstairs.
“I think it’s safe to go up now,” smiles Eric da MAJ.
As they head up the stairs they see Putt-Dawg shooting at at a weaselly runner hiding under a table while grinding his boot on the neck of another runner. “Try casting that again dipshit! I fucking dare ya!” he yells, voice dripping with rage. “Now stop struggling or you’re going to regret…” The mage under Putt-Dawgs foot claws at the boot heel on his neck, opening the hidden compartment. A scream of horror and agony reverberates off the walls as ultra concentrated Stuffer Shack Nova Hot Soysiracha spills over the mage’s face. Putt-Dawg looks down at the mage now incapacitated by blinding pain and shrugs. “Well, I tried to warn ya. But you do deserve it.” He grinds his heel into the runner’s neck, breaking the skin and smearing the Stuffer Shack Nova Hot Soysiracha into the wound. “And I never said I was going to move my foot.”
Zippy Toe-Tag squares off with a chromed out human wielding an electrified katana. Using wired reflexes, dodges the street samurai’s attacks with ease. He keeps firing his Ares S-III Super Squirt at the street samurai, to visibly minimal effect. Putt-Dawg looks at Zippy, slightly annoyed. “Do you need a hand, Zippy? Your shots are weak. They aren’t hurting him.”
“I’m not trying to hurt him,” responds Zippy, confusing Putt-Dawg. “I’m trying to dose him.”
“With what?!” asks Putt-Dawg.
“Oh it’s a new drug combination I came up with last month. I call it ‘W squared.’ I’ve been looking for a test subject.”
Putt-Dawg frowns. “So what does it do?”
Zippy responds gleefully. “I have no idea. Take notes!” He dodges another swing. “We should see something right about…” The street samurai starts screaming. “Now,” finishes Zippy, watching the runner intently.
The samurai drops his katana and starts running about randomly, swatting at the unseen, clawing his eyes, and screaming.
“What the hell was in that drug combo you used?” asks Putt-Dog, finally nailing the decker under the table with a perfectly aimed round to the head, dropping him instantly.
Zippy reloads his Ares S-III Super Squirt. “Woad and Warp.”
Belker, Vendetta Violent, Devil Duck and Eric da MAJ take advantage of the chaos and Vendetta’s invisibility spell and start maneuvering toward the door to the broadcasting room. The last runner guarding the door runs forward to assist his teammates, giving the extraction team unobstructed access. Unfortunately the door is magically sealed twice over and the door has been hastily welded to its frame. Eric swears under his breath “Those seals are nasty work. It’ll take time to break it.”
Devil Duck pulls out small vial of the weaponized soysiracha and activates his laser axe. “I got the welding, you guys get the seals.”
Belker nods determinedly then turns to Eric and Vendetta. “I think I know how we can free Opti. Eric, you handle the wards and Vendetta, you keep everyone away from Eric da MAJ and Devil Duck. I’m going to call for some corvid backup.”
Vendetta Violent nods, turns around, and drops the invisibility spell. She concentrates, calling on her own inner power and the power of her mentor spirit. “In the Dragonslayers name, fall!” she cries, unleashing her spell, targeting the two runners who haven’t quite yet entered the fracas.
The runners gasp and drop to the floor, their fingers bleeding as they dig them into the floorboards in abject terror. Vendetta nods satisfied. “Most runners say they’re afraid of nothing. How very true that is.”
Deadeye’s skull aerial drone flies into the room and locks onto an unseen figure hiding in the corner. In an electronic voice akin to Nathan Explosion’s, it broadcasts “Weak invisibility spells don’t work on thermographic cameras, chombatta.” The drone’s jaws open, the smell of ghost chili peppers and accelerant assault the hiding runner.
The figure in the corner yelps and drops the spell and surrenders. “You guys are insane! The job does NOT pay me enough to fight against this.”
Deadeye’s drone continues to hover at face height. “Don’t try anything stupid. Or else I will melt your face, literally.”
Joules is fighting another runner, who seems to have a confused expression frozen on his face as his magically empowered strikes do next to nothing upon contact. The adept, getting frustrated pulls out a flash-pak and sets it off in Joules’ face, causing her to stumble and fall. Woofles, acting on instinct to defend his master, bounds in from the stairwell and sinks his teeth into the runner’s leg. The adept’s face contorts with rage as he kicks at the hellhound. His boot connects with Woofles’ body with a sickening wet crack. Woofles lets out a heartwrenching whine of pain as he falls. Joules eyes widen in shock as all colour drains from her hair. The doomed runner starts laughing and bragging as a malevolent hiss escapes from Joules’ lips. “Why is it talking? Corpses don’t talk,” asks Joules flatly, her Irish brogue fully manifesting.
“Oh shit, she’s lost it.” yells Zippy. “If you like your body parts still attached, KEEP THE FRAG AWAY!”
As predicted, Joules grabs the runner’s face and squeezes, bones cracking under her fingers. He collapses to his knees in pain, whimpering. Joules leans in close and whispers “Scream for me” in his ear as she slowly extends her cyberspur into his skull. Pulling her spur from the runner’s corpse, she wheels around and grabs the head of another runner who had snuck up behind her, discharging all charges from her electro-orthoskin. The runner falls to the ground, twitching erratically. Her eyes focus on the two runners gripping the floor and she slowly advances on them, blades dripping.
“Oh this is bad.” says Zippy. “Does anyone have a dose of slab or any other knockout drug?”
Woofles, regaining consciousness, starts limping after Joules, whimpering and keening. The hellhound’s cries cause Joules to freeze and her arms dropping to her sides. He fearlessly approaches his master and starts licking her hand, pushing his head under her hand. Coming back to her senses, Joules’ hair takes on a rich purple hue. Retracting her cyberspurs she falls to her knees, embracing Woofles.
At that moment, there’s a bright flash at the door to the studio. “Wards are down!” exclaims Eric da MAJ. “And no magical backlash either!”
Belker turns to the two raven spirits he brought in from outside and points to the door. “Free Opti.”
“I’m still working here, guys,” says Devil Duck, hacking thru the solder, as the raven spirits fly into the studio.
Then, over the airwaves, a rich and familiar voice is head, drowning out the lies of Opti’s impostor, Doctor Fail.
“Welcome little crows, to the NEO ANARCHIST PODCAST and I AM OPTI!”