Queen Euphoria Part 1

GM: TRISTA
Players: GRETCHEN, KRAFT, TWO LEFT EYES.
Synopsis: In part 1 of Queen Euphoria, Gretchen is contacted by her fixer regarding a new job, she has to gather her team and meet the Johnson at a park. The team go ahead and find the job is to kidnap a simstar and hold her for a few days, so she can't make her official engagements. The team do some investigation work on who they're annoying, Strice Foods, and some details on the Pacific Towers, which is where the simstar is spending her days. Once they gather enough data, they head into the Towers, take over the ground floor, then head up to the penthouse. Here they engage with Euphoria's security team, Kraft takes a few bullets, and Gretchen finishes up by releasing a massive amount of neurostun into the area. All that's left is to pick up the simstar and head out of there.
Date: April 15th 2078
Note: This is an incomplete adventure. Due to missing players, Parts 3 & 4 were never run.


WAKE UP CALL

Another nice day in Denver dawns, the sun starts to push a red glow above the horizon, light beams piercing through any gaps in your windows. It might be enough to stir most to life, people are starting to move out on the streets already, but it's the steady buzzing of a phone that pulls Gretchen out of her weird nightmares. The phone registers an incoming call from Tony Marchino.

Gretchen awakens to the ringing and answers, panting, forehead matted with straggly white bangs. She's in the apartment above the salon in the CAS sector, up in the workshop where she sleeps on a couch pushed up against the wall so that the back faces the room and provides a little hidden place to rest. It also serves as her laundry pile but what the outside world doesn't know won't hurt them. She flings her blanket aside and pops her head up over the back of the couch to look out across the room over the back of the couch nest. "Wuaa - - hurgh, who - -" She pulls the phone away from her ear and wipes hair from her face to blink blurry eyes at the phone's screen. "Tony, what the fu—" She shakes, still stressing over the epic nightmare still swirling through her imagination.

Breakfast time in the warrens isn't usually this good to Two Left Eyes. Getting paid recently has improved his quality of life in a few meaningful ways. Recognisable chunks of meat - not just strange organs - on skewers sit on a plate next to his bed, along with a bowl of a thick brown sauce. Unfortunately, he neglects this bounty while spending far too long in the bathroom. Two is wearing a bathrobe and sitting on his closed toilet lid. A heavy book is balanced on his left leg, which is crossed over his right, and he's writing studiously in it.

"Cleo, that you?"

".. Cleo? .. Val?"

False hands flex and shift, patting blindly over an empty bed spread, false eyelids lifting slightly as the meat behind them triggers heightened nueral activity. Fingers curl slowly, binding the thin blanket between them, fist tightening with a creak of plastic and metal. And then relax once more as the slumped figure straightens up, a puppet reattaching strings. His back scraps lightly over the bare wall, chin resting on his sternum as he runs a hand across his own pock-marked porcelain face. Just another dream. It was getting harder and harder to pull the reality apart from the fantasy, like unwinding a spider web line by line. Maybe he did need one of those.. whatcha callits. IMS? Something to help keep his head screwed on right.

"Ah, hell with it." Grousing, the old borg pushes himself to his feet. His eyes immediately avoiding the cracked mirror over the cracked sink; He'd stopped looking for his reflection these last few days. Sleep hadn't been steady as it was, without some damn girlie popping up everywhere. Instead, he flips on the radio, rolling slowly through the stations until he finds something pleasing. A pair of slacks, and a glass jar of purree. Blech…

The voice on the other end of the line sounds as if he's been awake for hours, clean and rested. "You realise it's eight a.m.?", he states more than asks, as if expecting Gretchen to have been awake for hours by now. "I have been in contact with a.. Mr. Johnson. If this is a bad time..?", he asks, not really caring about her current state, it's a veiled insult at her current demeanor.

The radio in Kraft's apartment flicks from channel to channel, random static, some electro-dance-pop tune with japanese schoolgirl singers, the roar of troll thrash metal, the sedate tune of an advertisement for the new Amber Gel, the hot new stuffer from Strice Foods, and then some old style lounge tunes. Perfect.

Gretchen's face scrunches up as she lets herself fall back into her nest. With her face half smooshed into a pillow she croaks a complaint to Tony, disdain for his early bird attitude muffled, but perhaps that actually serves to emphasize, "…fuck eight am…" She clears her throat and tries to be at least a little respectful but it takes effort. "…No, no… It's…" She checks the time again in disbelief and squints at the skylights that let in the first rays of sun. I just had a late night… What do you need?"

There's an exhale of breath from the other side of the phone, as if Tony is wondering why he wastes his time with this. Letting the feeling pass, he repeats himself. "I've been in contact with a Mr. Johnson.". Leaving that for a moment until Gretchen has steadied herself, he continues, "He would like to meet you, and your associates, tonight to discuss an opportunity. If you would kindly /wake the fuck up/..", almost shouting the words, before his natural attitude returns, ".. and give me an answer, I can feed you the details.".

Gretchen clenches her jaw and fights back the urge to snap at Tony, but swallows her pride and clears her throat again, snaking an arm into a tank top she finds strewn across the back of her couch. "Ja! Yes, yes, I'm up. You realize I work nights, right?" More rustling of fabric from her end of the phone reaches Tony as she rolls herself over the back of the couch to plant bare feet on the wooden floor of the workshop to begin stumbling her way to the stairs down to the kitchen. "I can meet your J. Just send me the info." She grumbles a little in German, but tries to be personable. Ish.

Shirt. Tie around the neck, loop proper, around the first stem, reverse the second, add a plate, up and through. Thighten until it's just about to touch where his adam's apple once was - then loosen back down again with a hooked finger. There's class, and then there's being a stick. And yes, the old borg does wear his tie in private - for now. The fedora remains where it is though, sitting atop Kraft's folded lined coat on the chair. He rubs his face again, glancing at the busted and dark screen of what once was his terminal.

Just another dot on the 'to do' list. Money, money, money. Blood, pain and bullets, money sunk into it all like water on the sidewalk. Just winding through the cracks.

Tony's only response to the comment about working nights is, "I see.". He doesn't seem to care, but at least he's stopped shouting. "Sloan Lake Park, the parking lot, he'll meet at eleven p.m. I wouldn't expect him to arrive alone, you know how the business works.". The phone is quiet for a few seconds then he speaks again, "Look after yourself.", it could be considered an apology for the raised voice. The line goes dead.

Gretchen clacks her phone down on the kitchen island after the line goes dead. "…Better than you, apparently…" This is a belated retort to Tony's comment about knowing how the biz works, largely influenced by the timing of his call. She sighs, drinks some water straight from the tap by ducking her head into the sink, then sends the word to Kraft and 2Josh that there's work to be had if they want it. At the very least, Tony provided a decent distraction from her psychological hell, and now that her day is underway, the visions slip from her memory, leaving her with a sense of dread and mild exhaustion, but anything is better than whatever the hell was going through her mind in the depths of REM sleep.

Two's phone buzzes. He doesn't hear it from the bathroom. The furious writing, pointless measurements, and mild grooming take enough time that by the time he's all done in the bathroom his breakfast is cold. It's a lot less delicious than it was hot, but it's a cut above what he had a few months back. He checks his pocsec while gnawing on a skewer and raises his eyebrows. Work, is it? This could be a real boost to future breakfasts. The young man sends back a short yes and settles in to get some rest. This is going to be a long night.

The faint chime of his pocsec in his jacket draws Kraft's bemusement. He'll let it roll to mail the first time, leaning on his knuckles, watching the grime and opaque square dubbed 'window' anywhere that wasn't poisoned with the Queen City's manufacturing piss. At last, he'll pick it up, servos on his hands whirring softly as he taps out a return.

Mostly a grouse about how he hasn't even gotten to the scotch yet.

OFF AND RUNNING

As day becomes night the good weather remains; it's cold, but the skies are clear, the sparkle of stars high above, the half moon lighting up areas that would otherwise be under complete darkness. Sloan Lake Park is a picturesque area, even at night, a place where people come to enjoy the peace and solitude during their work breaks, a run around the lake or simply a romantic picnic near the water. At this hour, however, it's mostly deserted except for a few die hards, a couple walking slowly along the distant path.

The parking lot is also almost empty, a couple of cars left behind that indicate others might still be wandering the park. The parking area is close to the lake, a stretch of path and grassland between the cars and the lake itself. The moonlight sparkles off the water, the soft whisper of the waves washing against the shore heard over the distant sounds of city life.

Having spent her day running 'normie' errands to stay busy, Gretchen finds both a growing sense of tension as well as relief when night approaches. Eagerness and caution drive her, just as autonav and gyros drive her Triumph which guides itself into the parking lot, and she sits upright, hands-free as she does a final pocket check before taking back manual control to pick a deliberate parking space which she walks her bike into in reverse in order to have the quickest exit possible should it be necessary. Under her red poncho she's bundled for riding which means layers. Layers and gloves and kevlar.

The day crawls by for Two. He does his best to get some work done, but imagined sprawling chaos keeps distracting him. Eventually the time arrives. Time to put pants on. He does so, double checks his pockets, and gets in his car to head to the meet. The westwind pulls smoothly into the parking lot. He turns the vehicle off, gets out, and leans lazily against the driver's side door.

Gretchen doesn't approach Two as he arrives, she simply continues smoking a cigarette at her perch on a bench facing the lot. She sits up on the back rest, boots planted on the intended seat.

Days are easy for Kraft; When you get older, time just tends to fly by. Making calls, hunting for more rebounds, checking old notes - avoiding mirrors. Reflective surfaces. Anything that might show up some creepy spook girl behind him. Honestly, he's not sure what the hell she wanted - or if there even was a she. After all, he had less meat than you'd find in a tuna can at his point, so it's possible he just needed a damn vacation.

That'll have to wait, as the Zephyr whines up to the park as well. Finding, much like Gretchen, that he's happier backing into a spot than parking like any old regular joe. Closing the door afterwards, tugging his fedora down tight ontop of the false face he wears for polite company.

The time ticks by until eleven o'clock. Almost on the dot, the rumble of a large urban combat bike can be heard approaching the parking area, a Harley Scorpion, the bike appearing armored and mounting an Ingram machine gun at the front. As it draws closer you can see the rider is of Latin appearance, decked out in black leather, the man checking the area as he nears before rumbling the bike to a stop close to the team.

Taking a moment to check you over, he raises his shades to reveal red cybereyes, then rolls up his jacket sleeve and punches some numbers into a wristphone. After whispering into the mic, he ends the call and leans back on his bike seat, crossing his arms to wait.

Gretchen dismounts the bench now that all the shady characters are showing, legs bicycling to first push her from the bench, then to catch her forward momentum as she hits the ground and eases into a brisk walk. Her arms are now folded under her draping poncho and although she arrived with her riding helmet on, that was left hanging on the handlebars and she now has a wide scarf pulled up over her head like a cowl. She begins to make her way toward the chromed Latino, murmuring into her comm to restate that, « The J has a good referral, but I've never worked for him before, so let's see what this is all about… »

Two Left Eyes looks for the rumbling, squinting through his glasses into the darkness. When the source eventually appears, he relaxes. Of course it's got a machine gun. This is just how every job has to go. Machine guns and attack helicopters are standard. Two tries to make eye contact with the rest of the team, then walks towards the man on the bike.

«What, you get to work with the same guy more than once? Getting a little hoity toity, are we, Twitch?»

Comes the sardonic, text-to-speech reply over the comms, a slight grin twisting up the side of Kraft's lips as he starts moving a few seconds after she does. Glancing aside to nod to 2Josh4U as well. Huh.

«Looks like the gang's all here. So who's the mook on the pedal wheel?»

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « No… » Gretchen purses her lips and snorts a breath through her nose that becomes a faint puff of steam in the cold night air. « I'm just /saying/ that I have no clue who this 'mook' is, but that he was referred by a… » She hems and haws over whether to use a certain term, but decides to do so, whether she believes it wholeheartedly or not. « …trusted source. That's all… »

After a few seconds another vehicle approaches the parking area, a night blue Toyota Elite with opaque, tinted windows. It rolls gently to a stop behind the idling Scorpion and the driver gets out, walks around to the rear door and pulls it open, allowing a sharply dressed man to emerge.

He's not at all recognizable, you know for a fact you haven't seen this Johnson before, but his is like a hundred other faces. His smooth hair and clear complexion are implant-perfect. He looks over the top of the vehicle at the nearby lake, breaths in the air. "Ahh. It is beautiful, don't you think?". He moves away, allows the driver to close the door behind him, murmuring a, "Thank you.", in passing, before he approaches the three. "You must come under the recommendation of Mr. Marchino. A pleasure. Shall we walk?", he motions toward the path, "It's such a nice night.".

"Yeah, it's a real piece."

Grouses the old borg when the Jay starts talking about how lovely and beautiful a big puddle is. At this point, Kraft's not exactly the most romantic soul, so he doesn't clarify -what- this lake is a real piece of. A glance aside at the mook on the bike and the gooks running the car, working his jaw before he lets his hands rest in the pocket of his jacket.

"Alright, mac, we'll make trails. Your boys going to be sniffing my keister or are they staying put?" It's not the weirdest meet he's had. No, that'd be a story for another time, but it did involve a dog house and a midget. And we're not talking 'dwarf' here.

Two Left Eyes stays quiet while the Johnson speaks. It seems clear that this guy is the one with the money. Only people with too much money get creepy perfect hair like that. « Let's hear what he has to say then. » The young man offers a smile to the J after mumbling into his comm, then turns to walk along the path.

Gretchen tries to play off her beeline toward the machinegun biker as intentional, shifting her attention to the man who steps from the Elite as smoothly as she's able, accepting the suggestion to take a stroll, well, in stride. She pulls her hands slowly from beneath her poncho to reveal that she's not holding a weapon, but not in so obvious a fashion — she simply takes hold of the edge of her scarf where it drapes like a hood and repositions it ever so slightly. In fact, she doesn't move it at all.

Leaving the biker behind, the Johnson starts to walk toward the path away from the parking lot and closer to the lake. "He'll be keeping a distant watch.", he replies to Kraft. The path to the lake isn't far, perhaps fifty feet, so he starts walking in that direction. Perhaps certain that nobody else is within hearing distance, he begins to talk.

"I'm sure you're all aware of the simsense star, Euphoria?", a glance from person to person, though he doesn't need to, everyone who is anyone knows the name Euphoria. Her original fame came from being a star of low-budget sims with rather erotic themes, but she's since gone on to star in six full budget sims that have been major hits.

"In a few days she's planned to make some public appearances to promote a new Strice Foods product called Amber Gel.", the path brings him closer to the lake, the steady whisper of waves against the shoreline and the scent of the park and the water itself soothing the senses. "The interests I represent would prefer not to see such a talented and popular young lady promote that product."

Two Left Eyes walks along the path slowly. His left foot drags occasionally, making some steps uneven, but he doesn't let that distract him from listening. "Seems like a decent job. What's the catch? We aren't exactly a pr firm."

Gretchen shrugs her shoulders then nods to Josh, considering the minimal info and offering the first intuitions that come to her. "I mean… we can either try to influence her directly… or make Amber Gel a product that no one would risk ruining their rep over. If Euphoria is out of reach, we'd need to go after Strice." She's just brainstorming, and says this with little conviction.

"Spooky there's got a point, Jay."

States Kraft, patting down his pockets for another cancer stick. All this fresh air's going to give him a complexion. He takes a moment to gather his thoughts while he wraps false lips around a paper tube filled with more problems than - well - Twitch. A flick of light in the darkness, assisted lungs whirring as they draw that bit of drifting ribbon deep, letting it exhale slowly through nostrils.

"Seems easier to just pay the doll than get outsiders involved. So I'm guessing you've got more than just 'get her off the product' in mind?"

Listening to the comments, the Johnson raises a smile, stops his pacing to turn to face you all. "Interesting. But, no..", a point of the finger in Gretchen's direction, "Influencing her directly. Exactly.". He turns again and continues toward the lake, only a few more steps and he's at the end of the path, only grass between him and the water, so he comes to a stop.

"We would like you to.. escort.. Euphoria away from public view for a few days and entertain her long enough that she misses her scheduled appointments.". A look over the lake, the sparkle of moonlight dancing across the light waves, then he turns to you again. "Of course, we're all great fans, we do /not/ want to see her get hurt. Part of the deal is that no harm comes to the lady. Treat her like royalty.".

This causes Gretchen to 'tsk' and scrunch up her face, slipping a hand up under her scarf to intertwine fingers in her hair at the back of her head. "…Okay, well… If she were led to believe she were in danger, holding her captive might be a lot less troublesome…"

There's the part that requires a team of mad dogs. Or would the proper plural be 'mads dog'? Two's mental excursion into the realm of linguistics is brief. His head bobs in a slow nod. "What dates do you want her out of commision for?"

"- Paint ourselves as the good guys, if you will…" The German looks between Kraft and Two, black lips pursed and nose crinkled as she considers the first of a thousand and one things that can, and surely will go wrong…

"Sounds like a damn handful."

Grouses the old borg, already setting the stage for negotiations while his younger cohorts talk shop about how to handle the situation. He tugs the fedora down a bit lower, shifting the cigarette about. "Alright. So we gotta get Missy out of the shoot, keep her busy somewhere else, then bring her back without a tussel. Two problems being, 'course, that she's rich and famous. So we're talking safe houses, turning heads and counting toes. What you're asking for ain't cheap, Jay."

Looking to Gretchen first, the Johnson tells her, "This is a superstar we're talking about, she receives death threats just by waking up in the morning. She has a security team by her side day and night.". His attention then switches to Two, "Tomorrow is Thursday and Euphoria's appearances run Friday through Sunday, so time is short. I'm prepared to pay you 20,000 nuyen each, half when you.. detain her, half when she misses her last appearance.".

His offer made, he turns his attention to Kraft. "I've rented a flat for your use in holding Euphoria, it has a sufficient supply of clothing and meals to keep all parties happy until Monday. If you're willing..", a glance at the others, a reach into his pocket to remove a keycard, held out toward Kraft.

"Fair enough."

Grumbles the old borg, taking the keycard. And having absolutely no intentions of using it. While he's letting it disappear into his pocket, the thin line of his lips unmoving while the transducer does its work.

«Call me paranoid, but that's a pricey pair of babysitters this bub's ordering up. Smells more fishy than the Tuesday special at the Dungeon. More on that later.»

"So let's run the table here. You want us to 'escort' this missy on a tour of her own private room for a week. She's got security out the wazoo, a face no one can miss, a contract on the dock, and I get the feeling she's not the type to sit and knit. And you're offering us twenty for the effort a piece. What you've got here's a rat's nest of conflicts, Jay - but I know how to smooth that along. Whatcha know about her security detail anyways?"

Two Left Eyes looks out into the darkness, as if imagining every wave he can hear out there. He turns back as Kraft and the J talk. The friendly smile fades as the borg feeds suspicious fire over the commlink. He waits to hear more from the J, hoping there's yet more to this that makes it not as tough as it sounds.

"Room one-one-eight, Royal Meadows Apartments. Your payments will be delivered there.", the Johnson states as he hands over the keycard. Adjusting the fit of his long coat, the man starts moving again. "Is it me or has it become cold?", he asks, heading in the direction of the parking lot. "You will find Euphoria on the twenty first floor of Pacific Towers, she has a permanent bodyguard and Knight Errant are running security for her appearances in Denver and her time at the Towers.".

Hearing complaints, he turns to face Kraft with a smile of amusement, "A weekend alone with Euphoria? Come now, who wouldn't want that? You should be paying me.", he chuckles, turning away to continue his walk, "Though I'm happy to come to some agreement if you find the payment to be lacking."

"Her security are trained professionals at keeping people from spending private weekends with her. We cost money because we can actually do it." Two makes an observation while the keycard is handed over. "Can we expect any support from you? We might need a couple of toys. Something to sweep her for tracking. Jammers. So on."

Gretchen chimes in, looking to Kraft without realizing it as she points vaguely to her skull and waggles a finger. "What kind of implants does she have..? If she has any sort of line to the cell networks in her head, we won't be able to restrict her from making outgoing calls without, uh… risking breaking the terms of the deal." And this is when Gretchen's paranoia starts to creep in in full force, causing her to peek over her shoulders out into the darkness of the park as she pulls her poncho tight around herself.

The path comes to an end and the Johnson finds himself back at the parking area, walking casually across to his Toyota Elite. The driver hops out at his approach, opens the rear door for him and waits patiently. "I'm hiring you to see the work is done, I don't call a plumber and expect to pay for his tools too.", he explains to Two.

"But, for expenses..", the Johnson reaching into his pocket to pull out three credsticks, which he offers across to the nearest person. Each credstick contains 2,500Y. Looking to Gretchen at her question, he replies, "I'm told only the sense link. Outgoing calls should be no cause for concern."

Gretchen reluctantly takes the cred and mentions a fairly significant point, at least to her own way of thinking: "We'll need a means of contacting you, Mister J." She angles her head and raises an eyebrow over her circle shades that she never seems to remove any more. "As a precaution. To keep you appraised of any sudden issues that may arise…"

"Naturally.", the Johnson replies, raises his gaze to the man on the bike, "Juan?". Reaching into his pocket, the biker pulls out a small piece of card and a pen, scribbles a number on the card and offers it across to whoever is nearest. "All calls are to be routed through me.", the biker explains.

"Thank you, Juan. Now, if you'll excuse me. This has been wonderful but the less I know..", not finishing the obvious follow up to that. A polite nod to the driver and he steps into the car, seating himself comfortably.

The driver closes the door quietly behind the Johnson and returns to his own seat, then the Elite pulls out of the parking area and disappears around a distant corner. Before he leaves, the biker tells you, "Remember, no harm to the girl.", then he revs the engine with a loud rumble and roars off behind the Elite.

PREPARATIONS

Late at night, Two settles in back at home. Back in his robe, he lights some incense and stretches out on his bed. "Checking the location out now." He sends to the rest of the team via his pocsec. With one final check of the location, he closes his eyes and lifts his mind free of his body. This has been happening fairly often for work lately and he's getting more practiced at it. Two floats in the astral over his home to gather his bearings, then zooms off towards the hotel. A checklist neatly organises itself in his head: Check for wards. Find Euphoria. Find and count her security. Get a read on everybody. Report back to the team.

The city rushes past beneath Two as his astral form skims the hightest buildings, other astral entities enjoying the night sky; distant glows of curious wizkid mages testing their limits, summoned spirits guarding the entrance to corporate buildings, the unusual glow of a dual natured person walking amongst the remains of civilization still out this late.

Pacific Towers is on the edge of the CAS, before the border leads into the Downtown FTZ sector. Twenty Five stories high, each story is slightly smaller than the one below, so that the structure tapers almost to a point. Four sets of doors face the street on the ground level, a roller door at the rear for the freight entrance, allowing large vehicles in for hotel deliveries.

Inside the astral, there doesn't appear to be any immediately obvious magical defenses; no wards, no spirits, no astral mages.

Two circles the building a few times. His aura ripples in a variety of hues. Curiosity. Contemplation. More than a little stress - worry about the near and far future. Hope. This structure is larger than he anticipated, although in hindsight he shouldn't be surprised by that. In a way it makes where she'd be in it easier to figure out. You put your high maintenance superstars at the top of the building. The young man lifts higher and higher into the sky, then disappears inwards.

In through the wall of the building and into Euphoria's Penthouse, placed comfortably on the 21st floor. Coming in from the north side, Two immediately finds himself inside a large bedroom with a king sized bed, dressers, a vanity, and doorways leading away.

«OOC» Floorplan : https://www.mipui.net/app/index.html?mid=mmgb6gs0ops

Luck seems to have be on Two's side tonight, an aura of a female lies sleeping in the bed, calm and serene, her aura gives away only a hint of cyberware which must be the simlink that the Johnson was talking about. Luck, perhaps, runs out fairly quickly after that, as a large fire elemental sits at the bedside watching over the sleeping woman. It looks up at the astral arrival, rises upwards, but doesn't make any move to attack.

The Fire Elemental appears to be lower in power than Two, is not aggressive, but does seem to be protecting Euphoria. The girl herself is in her early twenties, her aura reveals her arrogance, though at the same time she's comfortable and feels secure; nothing to worry about, nothing to fear.

Annoying a fire elemental set to guard was not on his checklist. Luckily, the astral makes backing out of a room fairly easy. Two lingers for a few long seconds, carefully assessing the elemental and sleeping lady. Then he slowly and cautiously slides out through the wall he came in. Let's try another angle - Two floats quickly around to the south side and sticks his head in through the wall..

.. and looks straight into what must be the living area. This large open area has several couches arranged in a circle and several sculptures placed around the area. In one corner is a large entertainment center, while a workstation that could pass as an office is near one of the doorways. Three other auras are detectable here, three armed and armored individuals who don't seem too worried about being attacked. One is watching the trid, munching on snacks, while the other two stand nearby, one looking over his weapon just for something to do. Neither of the three appear to have cyberware.

Not sensing any immediate danger, the travel around the penthouse is uninterrupted, finding areas such as a balcony area that is akin to a greenhouse, with lush tropical plants and hidden speakers filling the air with sounds of a tropical jungle. There's a workout area, an area Euphoria must use for recording her sims, or testing ideas perhaps, a large kitchen; the whole area is very opulant.

Upon entering one room, however, a man sits on a bed reading a book while sipping on a large beverage. The man is very heavily cybered, almost to the point where he's barely human anymore, a large rifle sits within arms reach of his bed. Leaving him well enough alone and moving through another wall, it's panic stations! Another awakened, a mage, he's not looking into the astral and isn't immediately aware, but it can only be a matter of time.

The mage is lower in power than Two, is uninitiated and doesn't seem to be carrying any noticable foci. The man is in his late twenties, early thirties, and is slightly overweight. His aura shows a quiet, stoic demeanor, noble intentions and a sense of duty.

Two Left Eyes finishes his sweep through the penthouse. He dangles in the air over Denver, staring down into the void. It's a very different sensation to being in the matrix. The moment of distraction passes - there's one last thing on the checklist. The young man zooms back to his body to make his report. "Penthouse is expensive and awesome. I want to live there. It's also got three goons, one cybernetic monster, some kind of magic guy of low power. And a midrange fire elemental watching her."

Gretchen isn't planning on sleeping any time soon, so she's on her grind, making a steady stream of calls from public vidphone booths as she traces a convoluted route through the city on her bike. Between stops she's alternatively dialing up connections on her unlisted burner phone, making texts from the cheap disposable pager and trying to squeeze in some time for trixmails and rudimentary searches on her pocket secretary. All of this running around is being done in an effort to dig up info on Euphoria and her impending Strice contract, while attempting to secure some contraband that might come in handy. Hopefully Inix is free tonight — Gretchen attempts to reach the neon-haired elven dancer after leaving a twenty-four hour pawn shop in a seedier area of lower downtown…

Inix answers the call and is happy to talk, she's been off stage for a while now and is winding down for the night; a hot cocoa before bed. "Hi honey! Euphoria? Like, seriously, you wouldn't believe it but I actually met her, she was /so/ nice too, totally down to earth.". A pause, a whispered voice, conspiritorial, "Total bitch really.", going back on her original story, "I saw her this one time refuse to sign an autograph for a little kid who was going nuts 'cause she was within like a meter of him. Just totally blew him off! Bitch, she doesn't deserve to be a star with that attitude."

A sip of cocoa, a happy exhale and she adds a bit more information, "Did you hear she had a big falling out with her co-star? What's his name? Vanden-something? Anyway, I hear he's going to be kicked. I don't know. You must know she's in Denver then? She's appearing across the weekend. Are you going to see her? I hear she's going to be announcing her new sim, Jungle Huntress. You didn't hear that from me, though! It's all hush-hush, but you know me!"

"Down to Earth but doesn't like kids or something?" Gretchen weighs this info, shrugging to herself while leaning against the front of the pawn shop, in the glow of a neon sign that reads 'OPEN 24/7'. "Kind of shitty for someone in the public eye, but not an Earth-shattering revelation or anything…" She lights up a Course nicostick and watches traffic as she speaks with the elf.

And then some juicy gossip! "A falling out, hm? Vanden… Vanden…" She tries to recall Euphoria's co-star but carries on with the conversation, muttering quietly on the street corner, back against the wall. "Yeah, definitely going to try to see Euphoria ASAP…" She leaves that comment vague, unexplained, and moves on to chat about Jungle Huntress while still wracking her brain for the co-star's full name. "Tell you what, if I can manage a couple of autographs, I'll get you an eight by ten holo written out to you. Thanks, Inix. Talk to you soon."

Gretch wraps up the call and moves on to an all night cafe where she writes up a quick request to Cynthia Hallston seny by trixmail, intended to be spotted in the corper's own time. People get so touchy about being woken up…

The information from Cynthia doesn't arrive until the following morning. It starts with a business breakdown of Strice Foods:

President/CEO: Deloris Stanton
Principal Divisons:
Division Name: Faucet Flavors
Division Head: Zachary Fynche
Chief Products/Services: Faucet Flavors produces an extensive line of nutrisoy flavoring agents. It is the largest division of Strice Foods.
Division Name: REAL Foods
Division Head: Jack Tauber
Chief Products/Services: This division of Strice Foods produces a full line of organic foods. Their chief products are hydoponically grown vegetables.
Division Name: Modern Masterpieces
Division Head: Vincent Burroughs
Chief Products/Services: Production and distribution of mass-market food stuffs (or stuffers) such as Best O'Da Bunch, Crackle Cakes, Zap Softies, and the current runaway sensation, Amber Gel.

Business Profile:
Strice Foods is a minor player in the international food business, but if they can market Amber Gel properly, it could be their first big-ticket item.
Security/Military Forces:
Knight Errant Security has a contract with Strice for more important security assignments. The firm also has a small internal security force.

A personal section from Cynthia follows: "Strice Foods is in a tough bind. They've got this Vincent Burroughs fellow in charge of their hot new item, Amber Gel. Trouble is, Burroughs isn't doing his job so they need to move him out or demote him, but Burroughs is the only guy there who knows all the secrets of Amber Gel. Burroughs may be messing up Amber Gel, but he was smart enough to make himself invaluable to Strice by not releasing his secrets. Burroughs is telling his bosses that he has no control over increasing production. I think he's doing something illegal that he can't control."

An excerpt from the Business section of the Denver Times:

Strice Foods Inc. has chosen Denver as its test marketing area for a new stuffer named Amber Gel. The new product is hitting the glutted stuffer market with a bang and promises to become one of Strice Foods' biggest sellers. Some mystery surrounds the product, however, both in its top-secret production and in the bizarre strategies used to market it.

Strice Foods, well known for their Faucet Flavors line of soy-flavoring agents, has held only a small share of the large stuffer market. Top executives apparantly went to turn that around with the company's new product, Amber Gel. After a month of testing in the Denver area, the product has met with enormous success. It appears Strice Foods cannot keep up with demand for the product in the rapidly growing Denver market.

Vincent Burroughs, the Strice executive responsible for the success of Amber Gel, is one of the few Strice Foods personnel who is privy to the secrets of Amber Gel. It is not new for a stuffer manufacturer to conceal the ingredients and production techniques of its stuffers, but secrecy measures have never been taken to the extremes in the case of Amber Gel. It is not only the product's ingredients and production methods that are secret, but even the location of the production site is a mystery. It is rumored that even members of Strice Foods' Board of Directors remain ignorant of the product's secrets.

More alarming than it's secrecy are the strange marketing strategies employed by Burroughs and his team. They have managed to book the simsense star Euphoria for three public appearances in Denver to support Amber Gel. These appearances come on top of a demand that already exceeds the current supply of their product. As Euphoria has never before made a public appearance, these promotions must certainly have cost Strice Foods a bundle of nuyen. Nuyen better spent increasing their production in the Denver area.

It is also a mystery why Strice Foods hasn't gone ahead with regional or continental production and distribution of a product that is such an obvious success. Perhaps Strice Foods was correct in choosing Burroughs to start the product off, but now Amber Gel's success may have gone beyond Burroughs' business and managerial skills.

The confusion surrounding the product makes Strice Foods a risky investment, the potential for either profit or loss are about equal at the moment. If Strice Foods and Vincent Burroughs can get full-scale production started, they'll capture a huge market share. Too much delay, however, and rival stuffer producers will surely bring out clone products to beat Amber Gel to the market niche. You can be sure that Amber Gel's success has not gone unnoticed in the boardrooms of Strice Foods competitors.

Donny isn't the best source of information for media related security, but he listens to what's being said and, with Euphoria in town, everyone is talking about her. "I hear she's always protected by this chummer called Osprey, real name Michael Adams. He's been her 'guard since as long as she's been around, some real tough English guy. I'm told they bring in extra security when on the road, freelance mostly.."

"Yeah?"
Begins Kraft, tapping out his cigarette into some coffee mug while he considers the man who was supposed to be his confident, his support outside those padded walls and pills. He'd come a long way since then being zipped up like he was waiting for Dorothy and her oil can. "You able to pull up the registry on what he's got filed? I got a nose for trouble, mac, and this man stinks worse than trog-towns streets on a hard rain."

"You're askin' the wrong man, chum.", Donny replies, "He's off the books. Megamedia bought him up and that was that, no questions asked. He gets a free pass.". You can hear the sneer in his voice, street scum getting away with murder; probably quite literally in Osprey's case. "Try the streets, he used to 'run is what I hear.".

"A chromed out freak? What's the world coming too these days."

Grouses the old borg, with a sardonic grin. Still, it's a fair enough place to start when he finally finishes 'breaking bread' with Danny and paying out the man's cut of profits. Not only for the green checkmarks, but for the info as well.

Then its time to pass that info along to the rest of the team while he does alittle poking too.

Hearing the name surprises Nathanael, "Osprey? I haven't heard that name in almost two years. Yeah, he used to run the shadows, tough as nails he was. I remember he had some serious installs, had a thing for skillwires as well as the usual wires, eyes, smartlink, you know the deal..". He takes a moment to grab a drink of something he has nearby, then continues, "He liked to flaunt his English background, acted like he was some kind of king. He had a team, used to run with a whole bunch of guys.. all of them are dead now, I think, except a mage called Stone. Last I heard Osprey went legit, landed a job guarding some simstar.".

When placed alongside the other information, the name Stone is familiar to a few. Real name Alexander Cross, back in the days when he ran the shadows he was good at his job, a fairly powerful mage. He retired a couple of years ago and started working in a library. A strange place for a 'runner to end his career, but he seemed happy.

"Sounds about right."
Grumbles Kraft, going through his second pot of soykaf for the day. Black, thick and bitter as his soul. If it'll hold a spoon straight up without touch the rim of the cup, then it's perfect. "Also sounds like a damn limey. Stone, Stone.. not ringing a bell there." False fingers bump the burning dogear off to the side, ashing it for some poor sucker to cleanup later. He'll be sure to send all this along the usual channels as well

"Speaking of landing a job - I got one for you too.."

As info trickles in to Gretchen she sends it out to Kraft and Two over the course of the night while she runs errands, checking shady merchants, arranging shady passage to and from the more restricted parts of the metroplex. She receives plenty of incoming info from the team as well, and the big picture is starting to become just a little bit clearer, kind of like getting a glimpse at just the corner of the box image of a puzzle — everything is still a mystery, but maybe the general idea will begin to reveal itself to the runners. Regarding her errands, she zips around town like a MANIAC, and she's paying out of pocket for some pricy items, they could come in handy. One can never be too sure…

Hey Tony, before I get too deep into this job, can I trouble you..?

Laying on his bed at home, Two stares at his pocsec. Messages are rolling in from the rest of the team - now we can put names to the people he spotted upstairs. It didn't look like a fight he wanted to pick, but knowing they're ex-shadowrunners really seals it. He lifts his set of trodes and carefully positions them on his head, settling down to do some digging in the matrix.

Performing a search for Amber Gel reveals all the previous information, while an attempt to find Strice Foods' computer system has some unsual results. The search pings back the system's access number, but when Two tries to travel to that number it doesn't exist. Another search pings back a different number, but travelling to that number also finds a non-existent link. Tracing back to the source of the numbers finds that it's constantly updating itself with random numbers that aren't in the directory, the actual number is a complete mystery.

Two Left Eyes pulls the trodes off his head. He makes a frustrated noise as he sets them on his deck and sits up. Why is it so difficult to track down information on this Amber Gel drek? It's time to take concrete action. "Strice Foods are hiding their matrix system. Directories point to garbage." He sends a short message to the rest of the team and goes through the horrible almost-daily task of putting pants on. He heads out the front door, intent on finding somewhere that sells this junk.

The local Stuffer Shack has the Amber Gel on sale, though the shelving is looking a little bare of content, only a few jars left. The store clerk looks up at the questions about deliveries, "If you're lookin' to steal my shipment..", he starts, a threatening look in his eyes, but Two is charming enough to calm him down. "They come in the same as everythin' else.", he replies, "We place an order and they get delivered with everythin' else. If you want where they /really/ come from, well now, that's a mystery. Ain't you been keepin' up with the news?".

When Two gets the Amber Gel back to the apartment, it seems fairly inoffensive, a blue jar of a honey-gel like substance that can be eaten on its own or on other items; a spread with some bread, pouring over some waffles, and so on. It tastes fantastic, a tiny explosion of flavor that tingles down the tongue when tried. It's certainly easy to see why it's become so popular, it has more taste than most of the drek you can find in the Stuffer Shack.

With his curiosity sated, Two starts checking up on Pacific Towers matrix access and information; except, there isn't any. There is a standalone site with information on the building, but that's nothing more than an advertisement. The building has no external matrix link.

Amber Gel is suspiciously delicious. Two has some spread on a slice of toasted bread while reading the label. He types a few notes into his pocsec, then sends a message to the rest of the team. "Going to check in to the hotel. No external matrix connection, need to be inside to try and do anything." After washing his plate, Two starts putting the jar of gel up in a kitchen cabinet - then reconsiders. Is this paranoia? It IS just tasty stuff, after all. He took this job for the purpose of making his breakfasts tastier. Long moments of thought pass until he decides to stash the jar of gel in his bedroom, away from all the roommates. One meticulous hour of preparation in the bathroom later, the groomed and business-suited man heads out.

Gretchen checks the time on her pocsec, having also looked into the possibility of getting a room at the Towers.. "…Checking in? We don't have 48 hours… Need a plan B…" Being unable to secure a reservation in time to use a room at the hotel for Josh's proposed matrix infiltration is unfortunate. She frowns and decides that planning is for suckers. She throws on her nicer grey shawl over an outfit that shouldn't stand out too much and decides to hustle over to meet 2Josh at an appointed time…

Pacific Towers rises up into the gray sky like a great ebony spike. The sides of the building are covered with black polymer, except where plastic enclosed balconies extend out from the walls. The building is 25 stories high, each story slightly smaller than the one below, so that the structure tapers to a point. Four sets of doors face the street.

Through the doorways the building lobby is simply magnificent. The floor is gray marble covered with a scattering of colorful woven rugs. The walls are also gray marble and are hung with fine oil paintings. Facing the front doors is a security station. One guard sits at a circular desk of gray marble and gold trim. Noticable behind the security station are three elevators, to the left a bar and restaurant, to the right a large store filled with clothing and electronics.

«OOC» Floorplan: https://www.mipui.net/app/index.html?mid=mhtsw8nvdq8

Gretchen rumbles in on her finely tuned machine, refuses to allow a valet to lay hands on it by parking it herself, and begins to explore the lobby under the pretense of a prospective visitor, paying no mind to the security personnel as she first checks out the store, pretending to browse items in order to look for structural security like magnetic anomaly detectors and the like.

Inside the lobby, the guard immediately asks if he can help with anything as he doesn't recognise either person. His security desk has a computer system with a bank of screens showing views from across the ground level of the building, as well as views inside the elevators. He's polite enough not to complain about the snooping, but makes an attempt to distract from watching the camera feeds.

Reservations have to be made online and usually involve a corporate sponsor, unless enough nuyen is thrown around. There are three other noticable guards on the ground floor; one at the entrance to the bar, one at the entrance to the store and another near the elevators. They're not at the level of Knight Errant, little more than weekend security.

While talking with the guard, another couple pass through the entrance hall, place a thumb to a scanner to the elevator and are granted access. There doesn't seem to be any other access routes to the higher levels. Offering some information on how to acquire a room at the Towers, the guard bids both parties farewell.

Checking in appears to be a wash. After the informative conversation, Two tries to retire to the bar to think about the options. Is it too early for a gin and tonic? Is twenty thousand nuyen really enough to justify the kind of heat stealing a simstar will bring? Two stares into the astral of the lobby and bar as he considers it all.

The guard at the bar entrance stops Two as he approaches, smiles politely while at the same time motioning him toward the exit. "Residents only, sir..". Still, he gets a view into the astral and he finds it surprisingly clean. To make magical customers more comfortable they've completely cleaned the astral of any uncomfortable background count; it really is pleasant to rest in.

Gretchen tries to put on her best 'comparing the lobby to the ads' face, does a circuit of the area as though assessing the place from the point of view of a potential resident, and at Two's transmission she purses her lips, trying to get a look into the garden. She slowly nods to herself and quietly replies in with a somewhat cryptic phrase — "It's not going to be pretty…"

"No it's not. Not even a little." Two taps into his pocsec as he walks out the front doors and towards the parking garage. "I'm going to go see if she's got a limo parked."

Gretchen concedes to the fact that this is going to be a hectic extraction and sets her jaw, heading away from the garden entrance to make her way back outside. In the parking lot she straddles her bike and lights up a cigarette, eyes squinting in the daylight, even behind her dark-lensed sunglasses. « If you can handle the elevators, that may be all we need… »

« The security guy had a terminal. And there looked like thumb scanners that I'm damn sure that terminal could control. If I could get to stand at it. » Two mumbles into his comm while wandering through the garage.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « If you don't have any objections, I'm going to head to the apartment we have waiting for us, give that a quick glance. »

While the vehicles inside the parking garage are extravagant, stealing the vehicles alone could net a few million, there doesn't seem to be anything that would be used to escort a simstar around the city. With Knight Errant running security, it's highly likely they'll drive a vehicle up to the Towers when Euphoria is ready to leave; it's more secure than leaving a vehicle in the open, offering a target for explosives, theft or whatever reason a crazy fan might give.

Commlink-2> Two Left Eyes sends, « Go for it. I'll wrap up here and see if I can get more details on building security personnel. »

The engine of Gretchen's bike growls to life in the background as she comms back, « Don't start the party early… Keep a low profile. » And with that she sets off to the pre-arranged bolthole that the J designated for Euphoria's safekeeping.

Two completes a circuit of the parking garage. The Westwind is becoming a little more like a second home lately - there's been a lot of driving around the city in the last few weeks. As he sits down in the driver's seat, he glances in the back of the car and makes a mental note to vacuum it. The car's engine roars into life, echoing through the garage, and he heads back towards home. Maybe he can get files on the people who work there for a physical mask spell…

ROYAL WHAT?

Set on the CAS side of the Warrens, the Royal Meadows Apartments are lacking any meadows and the soot-covered building towering above you certainly doesn't look royal. Eighteen stories of steel framework and concrete cinderblock polished up with plastic windows, rusted iron sculptures and at least three decades of pollution and grime. Wage slaves and street people wander in and out of the main doors.

Inside isn't much better, a hallway leads to a row of elevators and along one hall a sign reads, 'Manager', over a window set into the wall. Security consists of one Ork fast asleep near the elevators.

Gretchen naturally keeps an eye out for interesting or just interestingly-placed tags in these grimier corners of the city, but she's distracted, focusing on the narrow window of time in which to accomplish the job, and the oddity of Euphoria agreeing to make public appearances. She slips her fancy grey poncho off to reveal the leather jacket underneath — much better suited to the Royal Meadows aesthetic, and it's an aesthetic that Gretchen is far more comfortable in than the Pacific Towers, by far. She tucks the grey fabric into her simple black bag, cinches it tight to her back and skulks in, conveniently bypassing the manager's office and the sleeping guard to make her way to the 'holding cell' for the team's soon-to-be-captive.

Upwards and onwards to apartment 812. The lock buzzes noisily and you hear a bolt slide; as the door opens you expect the worst and are not disappointed. Whatever corp runs this place sure knows how to cut corners. The three room flat has a living area, bedroom and bathroom. The bathroom is the size of a coffin and you doubt whether the water filters have ever been changed. The bedroom has two doubles pushed so close that they look like one big mattress. The living room boasts out of date furniture made from low-grade plastic.

Just off the living room is a closet sized kitchenette with a couple of cupboards, a microwave, a sink and a refrigerator. The air in the room is stale and thick. Inside the various drawers and closets are items of women's clothing still in plastic wrap, sealed containers of dehydrated food - no Amber Gel.

«OOC» Floorplan: https://www.mipui.net/app/index.html?mid=m4cd4lkodv1

Out of habit, Gretchen pulls a weapon as she pokes her head into the flat, peeking in past the threshold, then slipping in to shut the door behind her ever so quietly. With a flick of her wrist a small two-barrel derringer appears in her hand from its hiding place up her sleeve, and she keeps it held before her as she suspiciously checks each room and does a quick visual search for bugs and cameras, crouching down to run gloved fingertips along the bottoms of the cupboards, the furniture and in hidden corners like the top of the closet.

Nothing to see here. The apartment is simply that, there doesn't seem to be anything hidden away, no secret cameras watching your every movement; the only thing offering a threat is the skittering bugs that momentarily hold their ground, as if considering whether to fight for their turf, but they quickly scurry away and hide beneath some cover.

Finding nothing of note, Gretchen puts her weapon away, grabs a pre-packaged readymeal and slumps down onto the couch to get a feel for the place. She idly tears the plastic seal from a food package to munch on some 'chicken fajita' flavored rice mush that she doesn't even bother to heat up, digging at it lazily with a plastic spoon. « Safehouse seems legit… Extra clothes for the guest of honor are already here. And some food. » She lets the others know that her search is fruitless with a quick text as she whiles away the time it takes to eat her cold meal.

MATRIX SEARCH

In the interests of security, employees of the Pacific Towers are kept out of the media, their employment status hidden to ensure they can't be captured and held for access to the Towers prestigious residents. However, one Chinese employee under the name of Ku Yang is rather proud of his job and thinks passing his thoughts on to family and friends in Chinese will keep him safe. Not so much.

Nothing more than a bellboy, Ku Yang has limited access to the Towers unless security allow him through, but he is one name and face that appears through a matrix search as a possible candidate to use for entering the premises.

"Their security is locked down pretty hard. They don't even like people knowing who works there." Two sits on his floor, trodes sprawled out atop his deck. He types at his pocsec to send messages to the rest of the team. "One guy's a blabbermouth at least. Bellboy kind of guy. Might be an in."

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « I'm not surprised. Celebs keep better security teams than government officials… » This is all hearsay of course — Gretchen has never rubbed shoulders with the simsense elite, but everyone knows big money gets the big guns. « Nice. Nicenicenice. » The bellboy impersonation gets the wheels turning as Gretchen smokes a post-meal cigarette in the safehouse, and after sending the message, she tosses the butt in the toilet and pours an overly-generous quantity of bleach in to help destroy any DNA of hers that could potentially have been salvaged. She flushes it, then grabs her bag and gives the apartment a final glance with her hand on the door. « This place seems clean. » She eyes the grime and the insects — for her, the word 'clean' is almost entirely in the context of surveillance, just out of habit. « I'm heading out to finish up some errands, grab some final things, but it looks like all systems go. I've got plenty of knockout chems lined up in case we need them. I just hope they don't set off alarms when I try to get them into the Pacific… »

"The hotel doesn't seem very high tech. They don't have an external matrix connection, so the building's got to be ancient. Explosives sensors in the walls and other bullshit sound like what you get in newer places." Two taps at his pocsec and lifts another slice of Amber Gel-smeared toast from his plate. "If you guys can get me to the terminal the guard has, I can probably disable any alarms you make upstairs."

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « I think the lack of tech is more intentional. If everything was wired, celebs trying to lay low would still be worried about paparazzi spying on them through the sensors in the microwave. I think that could work in our favor though. It's a fucking shame to have to run a job against a place like that though — that's like the only luxury place I'd ever consider blowing yen on. You just can't buy privacy like that these days. »

PACIFIC TOWERS:

As the clock ticks down toward crunch time, Gretchen meticulously packs a rolling suitcase with tools, weapons and various-sized canisters of chemicals — hyper, neurostun, narcoject — a veritable cocktail of debilitating gases and injectables for all occasions…

Getting ready for Two is a long affair. Not even for a good reason. He spends far too long in the bathroom, preening and getting his suit neat and tidy. Is that even worth the effort if he's going to pose as a security guard? He hefts his deck thoughtfully, then slings it over his back and heads for the car. Time to meet up with the others.

As the hours tick by, night swallows up the day, throwing Denver into darkness. The streets steadily wind down as people return home, the roads become less busy, the Denver City Radio switches from frenetic dance tunes to chilled out ambience.

Taking the route back to the Pacific Towers, the 25 storey tower block looms above you, a shadow in the darkness with its black polymer covering. Lights spill out from the four sets of doors facing the street, a security guard sits at his station, a chinese bellboy alongside talking to him. Other guards stand nearby, one far back at the elevator, all in simple armored vests and carrying light machine pistols.

«OOC» Floorplan: https://www.mipui.net/app/index.html?mid=mhtsw8nvdq8

Prep for the old borg was pretty straight forward; He carried most of what he was going to need in that tin man can he called 'a body'. The five boxes of rebounds came in just in time as well; Kraft using a few moments to unload the death-by-holes and load up instant-migraine. A few more put in a special pocket on his lined coat, leaving him with at least three reloads. And then?

Well, then it was time to pick up Gretchen. Kraft opening up the door from his place in the center of the strange Zephyr, with a smirk. "Hey, lady. Going my way?"

Gretchen leaves her bike parked near the safehouse, hidden as she tends to do, to ride in with Kraft, partly due to her roller-case — a little piece of luggage that would qualify as carry on for a flight, but just large enough to transport some supplies. Trying to ride her bike with it would be fairly awkward to say the least. She loads it into Kraft's funny little vehicle, decked out in her dark crimson street poncho, shades and city breather, and her reply is tense but committed: "Ready as I'll ever be…" She hisses a deep breath, bracing herself, and shuts the door as she shuffles her feet around the case below her on the floorboard. "Let's grab a simstar…"

Two's westwind cruises the streets smoothly, the engine a deep purring thrum as it works its way towards the hotel. He pulls in to the parking garage they explored earlier and checks the time. Seems good. « Let's do it. » He mutters over the comm while pulling his deck from the passenger seat of the car. The young man walks down to the entrance, ready to dash in when given the all clear.

The trip to the hotel is taken in companionable silence; Or, at least, as companionable as the old borg can get with his Twitchy other half. He never did ask her whats wrong with her, and - frankly - at this point he didn't really care. She was solid, whatever screws she had loose. Others would come and go, but somewhere along the line Twitchy had become something as dependable as the Deputy on his hip.

And that was damn frightening, because she was a bloody looney as far as he could tell.

Still, as he reverses into allotted parking spot, he simply steps out - tugs his fedora low - and waits to fall in on her six.

«Well, this is one way to blow out a good night. Let's see who's talking..»
And then his other hand goes into his pocket, gripping the scanner - letting his induction pads and cyber-ware do the work of listening in.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « If they have security measures in the doorways that I missed the first time around, I'm going to get pulled aside for questioning. Let it happen, and use those few seconds before they ask for my bag to take positions. If alarms don't go off, I'm going to try to reach the elevators before we open up. »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Fair enough, sister. And remember, both of you; These mooks didn't do anything wrong but get in the way. Still, don't let them plug you; You got pieces that aren't as easy to replace as mine. »

Commlink-2> Two Left Eyes sends, « I'll hang out until you say it's safe. »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Yeah? You mean I can't strap you up front for ablative armor, mac? »

Commlink-2> Two Left Eyes sends, « Not unless you want to glow like a christmas tree. »

Nothing but static returns from the scan of the local channels; if the security have an active signal it's not one that's currently available. Or perhaps there is no security channel.

Gretchen licks her teeth, considering Kraft's words darkly, but declines to respond to the prospect of collateral damage. She simply hisses out a deep breath through the vents in her street-standard breather. When the Zephyr comes to a stop, she delays for a brief moment, but steps out, extending the handle of her little luggage case and begins to make her way to the doors briskly, with the case trundling along behind her on its small wheels.

Not expecting to see anyone at this hour of the night, the guard looks up with some surprise at Gretchen approaching. He sits upright, taps a few keys on the keyboard, then glances at the bellboy, "You should get to work.". With a shrug, a nod, the bellboy starts heading off toward the elevators.

Lips twitch faintly at the 'glow' remark, but otherwise the old borg hasn't said a word - outloud. Rather he gives Gretchen a few steps to get some distance on him before he'll start following along as well. Tugging a carton of FRESH cigs out. Having not had time to sit and squat on them for a few days to get the flavor all loosened out and dog-eared. If Gretchen makes it past the door, he'll pause just inside - tapping the carton on his wrist for a moment, the very image of a man occupied with his addiction. Hopefully they've got a no-smoking policy on the building. That'll buy even more time for Gretch the Wretch to get into position.

Gretchen forces herself to focus on the matter at hand, and as anyone who belongs somewhere, or is pretending to as the case may be, she simply passes by the front desk and the attendant security without a glance. She skirts past the desk following the bellboy's route intent on reaching the short corridor where the elevators are located. The little wheels of her case clatter quietly, and her red poncho flows with her movement.

Inside the lobby, the bar and store are both closed, steel grating covering the entrances rather than actual doorways. A few security cameras watch the new arrivals from various locations around the area, while the three guards stand around looking bored, though cradle their machine pistols to give that 'look at me, I'm dangerous' appearance.

The inside of the lobby is beautiful to behold, with gray marble floors and walls, a scattering of colorful rugs, oil paintings, and looking upwards a holographic ceiling gives the feeling that the room reaches upwards through the building to the very tip. A guard, standing behind a desk of gray marble and gold trim, offers a greeting to Gretchen as she approaches, "Can I help you, miss?"

"No, I'm just glad to be back out of the smog…" Gretchen tries to play off the brisk walk and the breather mask in one quick phrase, working the 'I belong here' angle. She doesn't stop for the reply, just angles her head to the man for a quick false-accented comment while continuing on her course toward the elevators.

The guard behind the desk gives the nearest guard a 'look', and that has him moving. The guard nearest to Gretchen takes a step forward, reaches out a hand as if to stop her, "Miss? You need to leave..", his other hand holds onto his Ceska machine pistol, but it seems he's trained to use it as a last resort. Ask first, shoot later.

The guard on the other side of the lobby also takes a step forward, assisting the guard should things turn sour.
Two Left Eyes stands near the door. He shifts somewhat nervously from left to right foot and adjusts how his deck hangs against his back. A glance is shared with Kraft, indicating readiness to get behind him as soon as the action starts.

"No, no, I have my reservation right here," Gretchen begins, her free hand shifting beneath the fabric of her poncho…

It's enough to have the guard stop and consider the situation, Gretchen does seem convincing. The guard looks at the guard behind the counter, who shakes his head in response. It seems they know their residents. "Please miss..", says the guard nearest, ".. let's not make a scene. I can escort you to the door.", he says politely, even offering a hand to the woman to help with her case.

Ah, there it is. Fedora lifts slightly, false eyes squinting across the brim of his fedora. When he hears the faint -click- from Twitch, the metal man's already opened fingers to let the fresh box drop, his wrist falling faster than gravity can tug.

Gretchen allows the guard to occupy himself with her case, filled with contraband though it may be, while beneath her poncho, a derringer slips from the sleeve of her leather jacket to land smoothly and quietly in her gloved palm. In response to the guard's offer to escort her from the premises she mutters grimly, « You can certainly try… »

Metal hands go down. Metal hands go up. The line coat is still busy fluttering in the breeze of the old borg's passing when that heavy deputy gleams dully in the hotel's lights. The usual explosive BOOM is muted, this time -
Vrrp-THUD-THUD

And two bodies hit the floor. Still breathing, at least.

The main lobby guard is so focused on Gretchen and he troublesome demeanor he doesn't even notice Kraft's deputy being pulled; the rebound round smacks into the side of his head and knocks him flying off his chair, so far that he skids across the shiny marble floor until his head almost bumps into Gretchen's foot. The guard in front of her looks down at the body, looks back up at Gretchen, panic in his eyes as behind the woman he's staring at another rebound round hits; another guard hits the floor. His Black Scorpion slowly starts to rise, his mouth shaping into the form of, "Oooh shiiiiitt.."

Air's still shifting like molasses, the cigarette pack hadn't even had time to hit the ground yet. Fales eyes squeezing into a squint, the sleeve of his nice shirt shifting back and forth as the wrist moves minutely. Laser dot dancing across the room, slipping along some poor slob's knob - POW! Right in the kisser - before it moves across the room again like the red fairy of unconsciousness. Slipping along Gretch's own temple, dancing alone the eyelashes, moving to the last guard.
Vrrp-THUD!
And Kraft pauses, finally exhaling with a long, slow breath. The cigarette pack bumping against the floor and denting a corner.

The guard at the elevator begins to turn, noticing the chaos in the lobby beginning to take form, and is instantly stopped in his tracks by a rebound round to the forehead. The impact knocks him clean off his feet, the man flips with the power of the Deputy, lands face down unconscious on the ground.

The laser sight shifts targets, the Ceska Black Scorpion has almost targeted Gretchen when a rebound round smacks into his temple, throws him away from the woman into the nearby wall; he slides down and comes to a sleepy ending on the ground.

The lobby of Pacific Towers falls silent again.

Two Left Eyes leaps into action. Or he tries to. The initial leap lands on his left foot and he stumbles in through the door, lifting his hands to experience combat magic… and he meets unconscious men surrounded by gunsmoke. « Fucking hell. » He says over the comm, unslinging his deck from his back and scrambling behind the security counter. « I'm on it. » He unwinds a cable from his deck and surveys the counter.

Meanwhile, Gretchen moves as though in slow motion, still pulling her derringer from beneath the draping fabric of her poncho, turning left to right as the full complement of guards topple around her like so many dominos… She comms out double-barreled pistol now held at her side as she turns on her heel to break for the elevator corridor. « It's all you, Two! » Her case bounces as she tows it along in a quick jog, heels clicking on the floor tiles. Once near the elevator doors, she kneels down to unzip the main compartment of her bag. Her motorcycle helmet is pulled out and promptly placed on her head. She clicks the chin clasp and smacks the butt of her little weapon against the hardened plastic outer surface, now awaiting the matrix mojo that will provide access to the secure upper floors.

The front desk has a typical security computer setup, with a bank of security monitors are laid out on either side of the computer showing views from various areas of the lobby. Smile, you're on trideo! The computer has a keyboard, along with the usual ports for datajacks/trode nets.

The elevators stare back at Gretchen, touchpads alongside that await a fingerprint scan. Nothing else offers a way of entering the elevators.

Kraft grumbles to himself as his arm bends, the smoking gun held at a ninety degree angle. Nothing but breathers and his own crew. The heavy Deputy drops back down when Two runs past, Kraft flicking open the heavy Deputy. His other hand fumbling for a moment in his coat as he grabs four shells to load in. Chatting to Two as he passes;
"Think you can scrub the eyes in the sky, Spooky? Otherwise, we're not gonna be able to run fast enough to get away from the coppers."

A glance to Gretch; Standing by the elevators. And - with a grumble - the old borg begins hauling unconscious guards. Off to the lecture room with you! "Twitchy, what's the story with the lifts?"

Two Left Eyes quickly plugs the cable from his deck into the security console, then leans it on the counter. « Here we go. Can you zip tie these guys and put them somewhere? I'll have this open in a minute. » The keyboard is like going back to his childhood. He starts tapping at it rapidly.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « I'm already on it, Spooky. You just handle the finangling. »

Gretchen heaves at the fallen body nearest to the elevators, digging the fingers of one hand under the armor vest while guiding the unconscious man's hand toward the touchpad. She comms to Kraft, groaning slightly with effort. « Hrrngh, biometrics… Let me see if this will work… » She heaves, lifting the man slightly, just a few inches to try to land his fingers on the reader.

The guards are moved easily enough by Kraft the wonder-borg, the lecture room doors are unlocked, nothing but darkness inside. It seems to have been the site of a movie recently, a large screen still set up along with a row of chairs for people to watch from.

The guard near the elevator is pulled across to the elevators, unconscious but still alive enough to grumble about the treatment. A finger to the touchpad and a light scans down over the thumb, reads the print, opens up a new section; 'Enter Floor'. And a row of numbers, like the layout of a calculator.

The computer system in the lobby opens up for Two, allowing him access to the main processing unit. Using matrix iconography, a control unit allows access to heating, lighting and the elevators, while another control unit offers access to the security cameras. A lone tower stands in the middle, a data store no doubt holding all the necessary information about the Towers and residents.

« That was way easier than I expected. » Two says over the comm as his fingers fly across the keyboard, flipping the images on the screen with the kind of skill only someone unused to being jacked in can have. He starts by unlocking the elevator - even though Gretchen already seems to have that handled. « I've got access to everything. Wiping the cameras, blocking off emergency calls. I'll keep my eyes on you from here. »

Crouched down in order to puppet the guard's uncooperative weight, Gretchen's eyes light up behind her circle shades as the press of fingertips prompts a response from the elevator controls. « Sleeping beauty was kind enough to lend me a hand… » She takes a moment to rip off a length of duct tape from a roll pulled from her bag of tricks and uses it to bind the guard's ankles together, then another length is bound around the man's head to cover his mouth. His hair is inconsiderately taped over as she wraps it around the man's head, but she leaves the hands free for now, to be able to use one for the lift controls. « I'm heading to the twenty-first floor. Where are you headed, Kraft? »

«I don't think they're waking up anytime soon, mac.»
Comes Kraft's response to 'tie them up'. Each guard isn't exactly treated gently, but the old borg's not being too rough on them where he can help it. Laid out on the floor in the back, head to foot - it's uncomfortable, and they're gonna wake up with migraines and busted snozes in some places, but it's better than not waking up. Finally moving back out as Gretch seems to have the elevator handled.
"Where you want the mook stashed?"
A pause, and a frown. "Guess the twenty first, sister. We're on a hotfoot here, you know? No time to go running in all directions."

Once the floor number is entered into the lobby keypad, the elevator door slides open with a soft hiss, pleasant lighting and a clean soft scent greeting those waiting to be whisked away through the building. Floor twenty one it is, the access light blinks, waiting to be pressed so the doors can close and the elevator can carry those upwards to their final destination.

Two Left Eyes rapidly taps command after command into the keyboard. This is what it's about! It's been ages since he's used a keyboard. Trodes and hoping for the day to afford a jack can't really compare to the physicality of a keyboard. As the cameras start looping regular footage, he starts a big data transfer - everything the hotel's computer knows about its occupants. Names and the fingerprints for the elevator. The background searches. That's got to be worth money. He turns around quickly to check on the others. « Good luck. » He turns back to the front door and begins focusing his will. Copying someone you just saw shouldn't be hard, right? Focus. Breathe. Wow, magic flows so easily here. He releases the spell in a single short breath and his whole body ripples. It shimmers, rapidly turning into the security guard who originally stood at the counter. It's as if the runners were never there.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « They got anything like an eyeball on the twenty fifth or twenty first, spooky? »

Gretch holds the door by jamming one boot against the edge, and tapes her guard's hands together for good measure. Once the final stretch of tape is pressed into place, she lets Kraft haul the body into hiding with the rest. « Okay, once this one's hidden, we're set to move on up. »

Into the elevator with Gretchen! She keeps a boot held against the door edge until Kraft joins her, just peeking her head out. Her small roller case is now tucked into the corner below the interior control panel, extended handle leaned up against the wall, and once Kraft is in… Up, up and away… « Let's hope there isn't much in the way of hotel security once we get to our floor. And Two, can you pop the diva's door at our signal? »

Commlink-2> Two Left Eyes sends, « My power upstairs is limited. I've got elevators and the employee spaces. These private suites are about as private as it gets. »

Gretchen swears to herself in German, and her response to Two makes her distaste for this damned hotel's security known. It isn't aimed at him, however, just her way of acknowledging the next hurdle. « Shit. Alright, we'll handle it. » She bites her lip behind her little breather and considers last-minute options.

«Well, that's cute. Guess that means we're doing this by the hard.. harder.. way.»

Grumbles the old borg after he joins Gretchen, the deputy once out and in his hand. No need to play coy now, after all, although he does turn so that its held behind his back. His fedora tilted down, using the edge to hide false eyes as he turns his gaze on Twitch.
«Lady's first?» He asks silently, with a sardonic smirk.

TO CATCH A STAR

Gretchen's own weapon is back in hand as well, a small Wildcard derringer which she repeatedly grips and re-grips as the elevator closes the distance to the twenty-first floor.

The elevator rises upwards through the building, a small readout showing the current floor number; 15, 16, 18, 20.. twenty one. The elevator comes to a gentle stop, a ping and the doors slide open with a soft hiss.

Directly in front of the pair is an entrance hall; cream carpet, soft white walls, decorative paintings, a small table with decorative plant - a Knight Errant guard looking into the elevator with some surprise, there was no advance warning that anyone was coming to his floor!

Behind the guard, a pair of double doors are closed, barring access to the rest of the penthouse. An access pad sits next to the doors.

«OOC» Floorplan: https://www.mipui.net/app/index.html?mid=mmgb6gs0ops

Kraft doesn't hesitate when the doors pop open - and a KE officer of the law is standing -right there-. Well, Kraft just happened to have worked for the other side of things at one point in his life, so his first instinct is to rush right down the hall. The Deputy is still held behind him, that first hand swinging hard to bounce off the officer's head. The desperate return hit bouncing the old borg's metal skull off the drywall while he rotates. A little fancy foot work while his free hand hammers in and under, opening that boy up for Twitch to get in.

Not expecting the elevator to open, the guards are supposed to call ahead first, the Knight Errant security guard is taken completely by surprise. Before he knows it he's barrelled against the wall, the wind knocked out of him. He pushes back, gets Kraft away from him, only to receive another swift punch to the jaw, making him see stars..

Gretchen opts not to go in blasting, but with a wicked elbow right to the guard's solar plexus. And a wide swing that connects to his jaw, sending spittle flying in an arc. « We're up! » She urgently whispers to Two, now gripping her bag to dig out the duct tape once again. Her eyes are wide behind her glasses and her adrenaline is running at peak levels now. No turning back.

Back downstairs, Two watches the monitors. He double checks the status of the data transfer, then the location of the elevator. Wasn't there a bellboy? He quietly revokes everyone's access to the elevator and locks it to the floor Gretchen and Kraft are on. « All quiet down here. »

Metal hands catch the Knight Errant before he can hit the floor too hard, grimacing as he lowers the boy down. While Twitch starts getting fancy with the craft works, Kraft works (HA!) on patting him down. There's an access panel - is there an access card, or is it one of those fancy smancy biometrics again?

«Well, no news is good news, I guess. Twitch, how's your hand at wiring?»

The final strike to the jaw has the guard spinning on the spot as he drops to the ground, ending up in an uncomfortable heap of flesh and armor. No sound, no warning passed over the radios, everything is silent. At the end of the entrance hall stand a set of double doors, locked and impassable except for a credstick reader alongside.

On the ground floor, Two watches a Lone Star cruiser lazily drift past the front of the Towers entrance, pausing as it gets caught in traffic. The officer in the passenger seat looks in, spots a familiar face, raises a hand in greeting, but before any response can come the traffic moves on, as does the officer.

The German pulls out the roll of tape, then decides against it, opting instead for a small clump of zip ties. She snaps one around each of the guard's ankles and wrists, looping them together to serve as cuffs. She does a hasty search of the man's gear, pawing rapidly over his body armor as she offers a shrug to Kraft. « I can manage if I have to… » She doesn't have the greatest confidence in her ability to tamper with electronics, but she has moxie, and that's what counts.

The guard was carrying a H&K MP-5 submachine gun and an Ares Predator II, both with laser sights. A radio is attached to his helmet for a quick warning should trouble enter the premises. Not quick enough for Kraft's speedy reactions.

«Great.»

Grumbles the old borg again, finally straightening up while Twitchy goes over the unconscious man. And.. starts unstrapping his helmet? «You want to check his shoes too while you're at it, sister? See if they fit?» That wry grin is on his features, but he can't blame her; She's a native crawler of the 'Rens, so far as he can tell. This is pretty much how those mooks say 'hello'. And then he's squatting down in front of the pass, grimacing as he draws a minikit from his pocket. Flipping the case open -
«Got a better idea? I'm all ears.»

As odd as it might be, considering the circumstances, Gretchen actually fights with the chin strap of the guard's helmet and removes it, then replaces her motorcycle helmet with it. She situates it, making sure the earpiece is in place to listen in on the local channels and stows her riding helmet into her mall luggage case with a quiet and quick zip… « Give me a second… » She searches a smaller pocket of the bag she brought along with rapid hands.

Kraft's shoulders hunch, the pistol holstered while both his clever fake fingers are busy. A knuckle knocking the fedora back just a bit on his bald head, gettting a good look at the bit of plastic keeping him out of the room. He clicks the panel open, gripping that tool between fake teeth while he works.

"Mm hrm.. mm hrm.. armmst…"
Chime. Green light.

As Kraft sets to work on the electronics, Gretchen busies herself with arranging a collection of chemical dispersal devices, as well as connecting a rifle strap to her luggage case now, snapping it to small plastic grommets in order to now sling it over her back. The items she withdrew are a small tranquilizer pistol, a handful of grenades with different colored liquid cartridges visible within them that will spew aerosolized chems on impact, and a liter-sized industrial canister with a flexible spray hose clipped to its side.

The seconds tick by; if the guard had echoed a warning into his radio, this would be a whole lot more stressful, but the seconds tick by uninterrupted, almost a whole minute while Kraft adjusts wiring, shorts a connection, then there's a click and the doors slide open a fraction allowing access to the foyer of the penthouse.

The foyer is decorated with some framed Monet prints, organic flowering plants, soft carpeting and clean, relaxing surroundings. Next to the door is a speaker and monitor, used to allow access from the entrance hall, now bypassed. Doors lie in every direction, left, right and forward.
Images flick across the monitors downstairs. Two glances between them, then up at the road just in time to see the Lone Star cruiser roll past. Too late to wave, but it's nice to know the ruse is working so far. He glances about the lobby. It really is a shame to be assaulting this place. It is really nice. Maybe on the way out he'll steal something from the bar.

Opened up like a cheap trog date. And all it took was a minute of fiddling.

Kraft folds the minikit closed, tucking it back away before straightening up. False eyes swing back to Gretchen, searching for a moment as he draws that heavy deputy again. Then puts his head near the door, listening -real- carefully. There's a spook on the premisis, and a ghost running about, if one were to believe 2Josh4U.

He might not be able to hear a ghost, but maybe he can hear people wandering around.

«Door's open. Keep your britches tight.»

With the door open to the foyer, more sound rolls in to Kraft's enhanced hearing from around the apartment. A male voice, humming to himself between munching snacks, walking from east to west, north of his position. Footsteps north east, a cough to the west, an intake of breath to the east.. his hearing is on overload.
Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Remind me to get my hearing checked, damn things giving me a migraine. Three bodies in front of this door, one off to the north. Sounds like a damn gravel crusher, this mook chewing down his soy. »

For her part, Gretchen tries to slow her breathing as she deploys her improvised neurostun bomb, setting the canister in the corner where, should it be triggered with her remote control, the contents will fill the entrance hall in the hopes of catching any potential escapees… « Sleeping gas, » Gretchen mouths, barely letting any breath pass her lips to reach the vents of her mask, but Kraft's overly sensitive hearing catches the words loud and clear. She gestures to the canister with a remote trigger in her left hand, basically a pistol grip with a bold red trigger. Her right hand is occupied by a grenade with a window in it that reveals a blue liquid sloshing around that almost seems to glow with its own inherent light.

Kraft eases the locked door open, moving aside to let Gretchen pass with her magic in a can as well. He pauses, drawing in a deep breath, false eyes half lidding for just a moment; Always felt strange, when the paid editor kicked in. Like someone had dragged a wet blanket down his skin without leaving anything behind. Maybe one dipped in rubbing alchohol or ethanol or some such. Blowing out his breath again, he glances aside to Twitch and nods, shifting his grip on the pistol.

«You're up.»

Gretchen shivers once, a spastic twitch of her head and shoulders that she tries to play off with a nod to Kraft, swallows, then releases a deep breath she hadn't realized she had been holding… She creeps to the south-facing door off of the small foyer and tries to ease it open just a hair…

The doorway opens into the main living room, a large room with several plush cream couches arranged in a circle, sculptures- holographic and real - a large entertainment center. Through the small gap in the doorway, a Knight Errant guard can be spotted near the east wall, his hands cradling an MP-5 submachine gun. Another guard to the south is starting to move, pacing through the area.

Gretchen quickly points out the two guards she's aware of to Kraft, then swaps her grenade with the blue liquid out for a different one, this a more utilitarian metal cylinder with a ring pull and FLASH printed on it in a faded army font. < Tink > The ring is pulled. She opens the door just enough to toss it out, and tries to ensure it collides with something to draw attention. How about the trid screen. She tosses it, hopes for the best and shuts the door after it leaves her hand…

Hearing the soft tink-tink as the grenade bounces across the floor, one of the guards looks over and gets a faceful of flash grenade, instantly blinded, the living room lighting up like a flare had exploded.

As fast as lightning, Osprey, Euphoria's bodyguard, announces over the radio, "Shit, we got trouble!", his voice having a noticably English accent. Out of sight of the attackers, he moves to a secure location, while the Knight Errant guards struggle to even see.

Following the audible burst of the flash grenade illuminating the living area, Gretchen whips the door open once more and pops a quick shot with her miniature pistol. There's no questioning whether it packs a wallop, regardless of its size as a guard topples to the floor. She grits her teeth and begins searching for a second target as first blood is finally drawn — she didn't bother to pack nonlethal rounds, she went with maximum stopping power.

The Pain Editor was distracting; That cold wash of feeling. So much so that when the flash goes off with a BANG, Kraft is startled enough that Gretchen gets the drop on him. Not wanting to get left behind, the old borg swings through the doors on the east, the Deputy firing once with its own loud discharge. Vrrp-THUD -

«Down on this side, sister.»

The old borg then pulls back, keeping the walls between him and the unknown.

Two guards down, the other stumbling confused through the blindness; he thinks he's going the right way but he's leading himself into more trouble. "Attackers at the entrance!", is likely the last thing he'll get to report across the radio.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Thinning out the guards — no sign of the runners yet though! »

Downstairs in the lobby, the silence is tense. Two keeps his eyes on the monitors for the most part, but occasionally glances at the bar and then the door. They'll be rushing on the way out. There probably won't be enough time to steal anything.

Another call across the radio as gunfire starts to echo around the penthouse, "Stone! Move your fuckin' arse man, these guys are good! Securin' the girl.". Kraft picks up the sound of footsteps to the north west, Osprey heading quickly for Euphoria's master bedroom.

«Hell in a basket; Spooky, they got any sort of emergency slide? They're moving -away- from the exit. Twitchy, last one's yours.»

Grumbles the old borg as he peels out of the east door, keeping his side against the wall as he moves north. Peeking around the corner of the wall that keep the nasty elevator hidden, trying to see where the -other- Runner is, that heavy gun up and ready to snap out..

"Wait! Shit!" After Kraft charges out into the hall, Gretchen follows suit, shouldering the kitchen door open to burst in with her pistol up, aiming from one side to the other, ready to fire. Room clear, she slides into the corner where she can keep eyes on Kraft, knowing full well there's another guard likely to come around the foyer, though hopefully blinded from the flash bomb… « See anything? » She calls out to the cyborg down the hall, peering out in search of targets, but holds her fire as she tries to look in all directions at once.

Over the radio, noise to Gretchen's ears, another man responds, "I'm on it.", he sounds educated while still holding a street twang. A faint grunt as something seems to go wrong, then the door near Kraft opens up, a head looking out to see who might be out there. The man appears a little overweight, tall, but more noticably shines like a glow globe, rays of white light spraying in all directions around him.

Stumbling toward the noise of activity, the half-blind Knight Errant guard moves in the direction of the kitchen, his MP-5 raised with laser sight covering the doorway, expecting anyone and anything to pop their head out at any moment. If only he could see them.

Hearing the door open behind him - and for some strange reason trusty Twitchy to handle the guard and mind his back - the cyborg immediatly turns. There was a rule on the Run, that's practically written into handbooks passed from one illegal scum to the next; Always geek the mage.

The bright and shiney glow just makes it easier to figure out where to shoot. Vrrp-THUD!
«Drek! Got a glow stick up here. Spooky, how the hell do I handle this one?»

The shot from the Deputy impacts into Stone; he might be tough, but a good shot is enough to stop anyone. The impact knocks the wind out of the mage, sends him stumbling back into the room, still on his feet but only barely.

Before Gretchen can cry out, "Shoot it," with pained urgency in response to Kraft, he's already loosed another round from his hand cannon to the northeast. Gretchen herself sights in on the sudden arrival of the guard staggering through the living room and lets off a shot of her own, eyes wide behind her glasses and breath rushing through her mask vents and over comms like a Darth Vader audio clip in fast forward. < Crack! > The second round of her derringer echoes through the luxury suite just a hair after Kraft's shot at the mage.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Got another one! »

A shot rings out from the kitchen area, the guard stumbling across the living room half-blind takes a shot to the chest and is thrown back with the impact, thumping heavily onto the ground.

Over the radio, Gretchen hears from Osprey again, the mic still open as he speaks to Euphoria. "Remember what I told you, girl. Just do what they ask. If they don't kill you now, they don't intend to. Just.. ah, fuck.". And then there's the sound of automatic fire as his weapon kicks in his hands, crouched near the door to Euphoria's bedroom, Osprey opens up on Kraft as he reveals himself.

Kraft's grim thin line of lips as he focuses on Stone is his down fall; he suddenly jerks forward away from the wall, amber fluid staining the door to where Stone is hiding. Giving a mild cuss, Kraft presses back against the wall again, scooting away from the edge. He doesn't even seem to notice the sudden slick of amber and red creeping down the wallpaper behind him..

The old borg then lowers that arm once more, focusing down on the mage - and seeming not to notice the leaking hole in his gut. The laser dot wobbles back and forth, Kraft frowning in concentration.
Vrrp-THUD THUD, magic armor flashes.

"Harder to put down than a g'damn trog on jazz." He grouses to himself.

Stone, the mage just inside the doorway, rocks back from impact after impact, now barely able to stand from the constant battering he's sustained. Rebound rounds bounce off the shimmering armor that surrounds him, but little by little it chips away.

« Pull back! » Gretchen cringes as Kraft takes fire, crying out advice that any fool in their right mind would already have thought to themselves ten times over. In an effort to put her gas bomb to better use than it currently is, just sitting in the entrance hall, she darts across to the eastern door to the foyer once again, cracking the hinge of her pistol to shove two more rounds into it with shaky hands. She keeps eyes on Kraft, peeking out toward him as she does so, and makes ready to snatch up the gas tank and hurl it once the detective is out of the line of fire.

With his first priority being the protection and security of Euphoria, Osprey waves the woman out of the closet where she's currently cowering, "Come on love..", his British accent very noticable, ".. I'm getting you out of here. Move through..", he motions off to somewhere, but even then it's only Gretchen that's hearing him speak through the Errant's radio.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « They're moving! An escape route or something! » Gretchen seals her derringer closed, now containing two fresh rounds, then hefts the liter-sized tank of neurostun with its improvised remote release valve under the crook of her left arm. « I'm moving! »

Vrr-THUD!

That one did it, as the old borg grouses and steps back against the wall again, getting the hell out of sight of that kill corridor. Always some mook who's got a bigger gun. A glance down to his side shows amber staining his jacket and spackles of red;

Damn. There goes another shirt.

«Mind your head, Twitch!»

The awesome that is magical armor is finally broken down by the constant shots from Kraft; the glow fades from around Stone as the final shot impacts, sending him stumbling backwards before falling to the ground. "Stone? Fuck.", Osprey noticing the light fade.

Gretchen slaps her hand, still holding her Wildcard to the top of the scavenged KE helmet with its chin straps dangling and with the chem tank in the crook of her elbow she charges out of the foyer as Kraft drops the glowing mage, sprinting in a low dash toward the point where the wall juts out south of the grand doors where Osprey makes a stand in defense of Euphoria. She slams herself into the wall, keeping as small and hidden as possible, shoving the helmet back up as it slips down from the top of her head, white hair spilling out from beneath it. « In three! Two..! »

Inside the master bedroom, Euphoria listens to her bodyguard; he's kept her safe this far. Running from her spot inside the closet, she crosses the room and heads quickly into the master bathroom. Once she's through the door, Osprey pulls back to follow up behind, covering doorways as he goes.
Two Left Eyes stares at the console in front of him. Images flash on the monitors, each camera in sequence as the young man searches for anything out of place. If he were being more introspective, he might be amused by how he's doing the same job as the man he's pretending to be. The chatter over the comm puts an edge on his focus and prevents that sort of thinking.

"I'm moving to the door opposite, let me make sure it's clear then follow..", Osprey tells Euphoria, her voice heard for the first time as she's so close to his mic. "I will.", she sounds nervous, scared, her voice is shaking.

The old borg tilts his head, letting the ol' metal tubes do their work. A grim line stretches across his features as he begins moving south along the wall, comming as he goes.
«Hold it, Twitch - they're moving past you. Looks like they're aiming to slip around to the elevator.»

Gretchen yells into the mic attached to the newly-adopted helmet, her nerves keeping her from sounding very reassuring as she and the borg summariy drop every man standing… Every man but one… And he's got a nasty, nasty assault rifle. « We're not here to hurt her! » She wants to drive the point home, but as Kraft's message reaches her, she turns from where she's taking cover and moves back toward the foyer. Literally running in circles here. « Son of a /bitch/! » Her voice carries over both channels and she tries to get the southern area covered, now anticipating Osprey to come at her from the greenhouse.

"Take cover in here..", Osprey now lowering his voice as he gets closer to the living room doorway. Leaning left, he takes aim with his rifle back toward Euphoria, checking she hasn't been approached through her bedroom, before he turns and pushes open the door to the balcony. He moves through quickly, ducking large plants to avoid making noise, footsteps taking him up to the exit into the living room.

Gretchen hurls the brushed steel canister midstride, sending it spinning end over end to clatter against the doors to the greenhouse balcony to end up just this side of the door as she lurches back into the elevator foyer once again.

The old borg presses himself tight against the wall, metal fingers gripping the heavy deputy, servoes whining softly as he tenses. His ear pressed to the wall as well as he waits for the faint creak - grimacing at the sudden clatter of Gretchen's toss. He's got a hole in his guts he can put a silver dollar through, and he's damn tired of playing 'whack a mole' here.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Move! » Once the tank of neurostun is in place, tumbled to the floor by the door there, she turns to the eastern door of the foyer where Kraft is hunkered and with her appropriated helmet sitting askew on her head, she rasps frantically through her breather vents to get him pushing back toward the kitchen. She pushes forward with her hands and lunges in that direction, pistol in one hand, improvised gas bomb trigger in the other, and as she begins to run, her poncho flows out behind her in a wide swath of crimson. « Go! »

The German frantically bursts through the kitchen doors a second time, wraps around by turning on a dime to take cover, then holds up the pistol-grip with the big red trigger and squeezes, clenching her eyes and grimacing behind her glasses and mask, head down, awaiting the burst of neurotoxin…

Nervous, terrified even, Euphoria does exactly as she's told, though she moves a lot slower than her cybered up bodyguard. She moves quickly through the workout room and into the greenhouse balcony, throwing herself into the nearest cover she can find, behind a dense potted plant.

A sudden but minor explosion, more a pressure release than a detonation, neurostun gas suddenly fills the southern edge of the apartment. The pressure pushes the balcony door open, smothers Osprey in a surprise amount of gas that drops him in the blink of an eye. The smoke pours outwards at a fast pace, Euphoria has enough time to open her mouth to scream but the scream doesn't escape, as the gas takes over her, the simstar falling to the ground to come to a gentle and perfectly placed rest against the cover she was using.

«The hell did you do, Twitchy-?»

Begins Kraft as Gretchen runs past him, trying to tug him after her. And then there's the whump. Kraft initially puts his hand over his mouth, squinting into the gloom; But outside of getting a little tipsy, it doesn't seem to do much more. Grousing, he straightens up, tapping the side of his temple.
Flick. Click click.. click-brrrr..
Eyes light up like old flourescents as he strides forward, taking it slow because.. well, damn if he didn't feel a little punch drunk. Must be the blood loss. A glance down to the bird-man as he passes, a thin line of annoyance. Then off to pick up the woman, striding through the clouds like a noir terminator, eyes glowing. And back out again.

«See if you got any bleach, sister. I think I left some fluids back there.»

Like walking into another part of the world, the balcony area is almost a jungle with large tropical plants overflowing the area, hidden speakers whispering soft animal noises and a gentle rainfall. The plastic surrounding the balcony even has an image over the top; the view of Denver replaced with the view from the top of a waterfall. But right now, the jungle is clouded with fog.

From the safety of the kitchen doorway, pistol held out, Gretchen double checks the hermetic seal of her self-adhering smog mask by pressing it tightly over nose and mouth though it's already seated properly, held in place with proprietary polymimetic tech instead of cumbersome head straps. She watches in awe as the cyborg strolls through the noxious vapor cloud without a care in the world, leaking pneumatic fluid mixed with blood down the fabric of his trenchcoat, to emerge with the glamorous Euphoria held in his cybernetic arms. How he managed that, she doesn't know, and isn't about to ask any questions, but what she does do is whip out another canister, a much smaller one, the size of a purse canister of mace. « I… yeah, I'll do a quick clean up, but let's get the hell out, ASAP. Two! How are things down stairs? » Gretchen surges out of the kitchen, past the edge of the gas cloud to to the corner where Kraft was struck by Osprey's fire and begins to spritz down the traces of blood and cyborg juice left in Kraft's wake.

With the elevators locked down and the late hour, the Towers lobby remains quiet and undisturbed. In his perfect disguise, Two watches the sleepless few still travelling past the building, by car and on foot, but it's so very quiet outside.

Euphoria's penthouse, still flooded with neurostun, senses the smoke and triggers the fire extinguishers, water spraying down over Kraft as he carries the simstar out of the balcony area and into the main living room.

The old borg - now soaked, with a hole poked into his guts, stinking like nuerostun and -once more having to go and purchase another shirt-, takes a moment to consider his life choices carefully.

"… I need a damn drink."

He grumbles, waiting for Twitch to get back to the elevator. "Got us all set, sister?"

«How's the downstairs lookin', Spooky?»

After spraying down the trails of blood and hydraulic fluid, Gretchen peeks longingly toward the greenhouse, eager to rifle through the unconscious shadowrunner's belongings, but she's unwilling to brave the neurostun. She darts back through the foyer to retrieve her small luggage case from where she left it in sight of the elevator and slings it over her head, still wearing the KE helmet.

And that's when the sprinklers kick in.

« Two..? Tell me that's not triggering some kind of widespread alert… »

Down in the lobby, Two has his eyes peeled. « It's trying, but this thing is from the stone age. How's it going up there? Almost ready? » He touches his comm to murmur his response, then taps a few rapid commands into the console.

Gretchen nods seriously to Kraft. "Ready. I could use a damn drink, myself…" Her eyes drift to the celebrity they've apprehended, and while her expression is that of apology and sympathy, it's hidden behind glasses and mask, and from a pocket under her poncho she draws out a little cybernetic plug. Once the trio are in the elevator heading down, she turns up Euphoria's head and brushes her hair aside to insert the jackstopper with a gentle, inaudible click as it locks into place.

"Yeah? I know a place."

Grins Kraft, taking a moment to lean against the wall while he's hefting the actress. Honestly, he hasn't even had time to look at her between the false eyes burning and the itch up his nose. Not to mention being punch drunk. He does glance down, blinking as Twitch sticks something in the back of Euphoria's head, but remains silent on the point.

"Think we ought to have gotten birdman's gun?"

Before hitting the button for the lobby, Gretchen perks up at Kraft's question, nodding urgently. "…Ahh, probably… He /will/ wake up… And he /will/ be pissed… If you can make it back through the neurostun…" She has no clue how he managed it once, and if it's even possible to brave the gas cloud a second time, even for, what she can only assume is, a full-conversion cyborg. "I'd grab anything remotely dangerous off of him…"

Gretch holds the door, offering to help lower Euphoria to the floor of the elevator to hasten Kraft's scavenging run.

« The hotel has a fully stocked bar in the lobby, if you'd care to make your way down. » Two smiles to himself as he really gets into the spirit of posing as the hotel. When the elevator lights up, he taps a few rapid commands to re-enable it and direct it to the lobby. « I'm going to make a phone call and make sure they don't follow up if the alarm goes off. »

"Neurostun? Huh."

Muses the old borg for a moment, frowning as he lets Twitch help him lower the simstar down. ".. Yeah, sister, I haven't got a whole lotta meat left for it to stun. Rather not have more holes poked in me later, anyways. Figure we can take it and toss it out the window on the way."

Damn, when did the floor get so uneven. Kraft pauses to put a false hand on the side of the wall, steadying his steps, before moving through the soaking rain to pick up a killer's weapon. And then to -not- kill the killer. Because he'll damned if he was a blood thirsty prick, even for some jackass that tagged him good. Letting droplets of sprinkler water beat down atop his fedora and otherwise weigh him down on the way back..

Across the living room, the sprinklers do their work trying to combat the fog, soaking the entire room in water. Alongside the unconscious Osprey lies his FN HAR assault rifle; smartlinked, gas vent, shock pads, explosive ammunition. Except for a Colt Manhunter he doesn't have a lot more on him.

Inside the elevator, the simstar is lowered to the ground, the beauty of the woman through clear air is enough to make most people look twice, not to mention it's a genuine A-list unbelievably rich simstar that you're looking at.

Two Left Eyes reaches for the phone and dials. "Hi, Pacific Towers security. We've got a malfunction with our security panel. Maintenance is on the way, but you'll probably get an alarm. Of course, our password is…" The young man lies smoothly into the phone as the elevator approaches the lobby.

".. J87.". The voice on the other end of the phone replies, "Roger that, sir. We'll be monitoring the situation from here. Have a good evening.". The line cuts out, leaving it open for important calls to get through.

With the block raised on the alarm, a red light momentarily flicks on in the elevator and behind the security desk, but just as quickly blinks out again as the alarm is cut from the control station. The sprinklers spit their last few drops then fall silent.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Two… If all's well on the ground… » Gretchen gingerly pores over Euphoria in search of valuables. Jewels… Shinies… But against her own best wishes (to have those shinies for her very own) she refrains from robbing the woman. « …I'll run out to grab one of the cars, then Kraft can bring the diva, and we'll jump ship. »

Back into the elevator goes the old borg, leaving the other runner with his manhunter. Mostly out of mutual respect. He could give a nod to a fellow who'd decided to press his luck rather than fold. Stupid as it was, some folks still had this thing called 'honor'. You know what you call that where Kraft lives? 'Death wish'.

"Eh. Don't much care for it, personally. All lever, no class." Still, he offers to pass the HAR off to Gretchen so he can take up the simstar again. Waiting until they get to the lobby to speak. Although he does glance down to Euphoria, rubbing his hand on the back of his neck. "Why's it always got to be the dames, Twitch? Damn poor luck."

«Anyone order a simstar special? Fresh and ready.»

Commlink-2> Two Left Eyes sends, « All quiet down here. Even if things go bad, we'll have a few minutes before they get here. »

Gretchen moves to Kraft's side where his coat is torn to shreds, revealing the cybernetic pseudo-musculature of his arm and does what she can to stem the flow of whatever passes for blood in his body, using a field medkit pulled from a smaller front pouch of her luggage case. "Hold still," she growls, tearing off a final strip of gauze as she fights back the urge to vomit. A sensation of physical and mental revulsion strikes her as she tries to treat his wounds, and as he stands there holding the unconscious star, she has to steady herself against the wall and swallow back the taste of bile behind her mask. Nonetheless, she dresses the injuries to the best of her ability, then kneels down to spritz out a bit more of the DNA-shredding chemical in her small handsprayer.

When Twitchy starts reaching for his side, the soggy bottom cyber flat foot shifts back. ".. Hey hey, now's not the time. Listen, I get that I cut a dashing figure and all-" He begins, with that sarcastic, bitter smirk on his false lips. Craning his neck to peer curiously downwards, as he's got an armful of lady at the moment.
"How's it look?" He asks. Pain is someone else's problem, that whole bundle of nerves locked away at the top of his spine.

At Two's request the elevator swiftly descends back to the ground floor, a soft ping followed by a hiss as the doors open. The foyer is as it was left, clean marble, paintings and expensive artwork, the groan of unconscious guards trying to wake up but failing badly.

Gretchen sets the weapon down to lean against the corner of the elevator as she hurriedly removes the luggage case strapped to her back then shrugs out of her poncho to reveal the leather riding jacket beneath. The red poncho is wrapped around Osprey's weapon, and she collects the luggage case just as the doors hiss open. She peers out cautiously, stolen helmet still sitting crooked on her head, then she urges Kraft to hold for a second with a whisper rasped through her breather vents. "I'll bring one of the cars around. Yours or Two's?"

Two Left Eyes watches the elevator descend on the monitors. At the friendly 'ding' of arrival, he has one last flurry of action. Fingers dance across the keyboard, relocking the elevator to the lobby, unlocking the bar, making sure the cameras are turned off, and deleting all footage. He unplugs his deck and hefts it over his shoulder, looking relieved. "We're all good to go. Take my car." He tosses his keys to Gretchen on his way to the bar. "I'll pick something up from the bar."

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Pleeeease..! » Gretchen gladly encourages Two to relieve the hotel bar of some liquor for the safehouse as she scampers out to his sportscar and fires it up to bring it around to the front entrance as quickly as possible. As an afterthought she provides a personal suggestion. « …grab some good whiskey if you see any… »

« We're on the same wavelength. » Two browses behind the bar, eyeballing labels. « Literally. » He picks up two bottles - one brown liquor, one clear - and heads out with both hands full of victory. As soon as the Westwind pulls up front, he passes them off to Gretchen and slides comfortably into the drivers seat. There's a moment where impulse strikes him but it's quickly overruled by reason. The sports car pulls away from the hotel smoothly and merges into traffic.

And then? Then comes the time to just hang about until Two and Gretch roll up with a four seater. His Zephyr only holds three, after all. After parking the unconscious dame in the back .. and taking the time to make sure that slip's not riding too high .. he'll close the door, give the two a wave and weave back towards his own vehicle. There to take a long, deep breath before he even thinks about driving off.

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