The Tana Case Part 9.1

GM: Yin
Synopsis: This plot is a reaction to Lotus' abduction in "The Tana Case Part 8" and a direct sequel to the events in this plot. Walker, Dorian, and Yin are reacting quickly and track down Lotus' possible wherabouts. The pieces come together quite efficiently. The trail leads to Denver Tech South, where the kidnappers are holding Lotus captive in the basement of a former synthwood production facility. Dorian and Walker cut their way through and free Lotus and Nadine Wuang, the woman that got abducted together with Lotus.
Date: 2082-11-19

Rumors about Lotus' Abduction

About two hours earlier. Pema's disappearance did not go unnoticed. The happenings at Golden Orchard food court quickly hit the news:

Abduction in Bright Midday!
Around 13 pm local time, wittnesses called the local Shining Mountain security sevice in Korean-Town, reporting an assumed kidnapping right at the south entrance of the Golden Orchid food court mall.
Reports from the local population indicate two man, overwhelming an Asian woman in business dress. No shots were fired, Shining Mountain says, but anonymous wittnesses recall CSI personel gathering something that appeared to be a bullet or dart.
Kidnappers and victim were seen leaving the scene at high speed, disappearing into the K-Town mace in a grey Ford Americar sedan with mirrored windows, way before Shining Mountain's arrival.
Independent investigations revealed the victim to be from the local Tibetan diaspora. This further fuels the ongoing debates about security in minority-dominated parts of Asiantown. Shining Mountain has released no comments so far.

"Pema? Pema, you there?"

It doesn't take Walker too long to realize that Pema is not answering to Walker's calls. They usually communicate quite frequently, since they've worked together many times and are part of the same magical group. If she stopped replying to calls and messages, it's probably a source of concern.

After an hour of inquiry, Walker learns that the kidnapping took place right in front of a food court he knows quite well. The Golden Orchid court houses, among many others, Tenzin's Restaurant; Pema would be called a frquenter there.

A quick call confirms: Pema was there and left shortly before the kidnapping took place. Tenzin is worried.

If Walker decides to check the situation by himself he runs into a lucky encounter. Ling Xia, a security officer of the Shining Mountain is on duty at this hour. Sadly, she quickly confirms Walker's suspicion. Pema has been dragged into a car by two unknown suspects of Chinese ethnicity. Ling Xia explains that Pema is currently working as a partner investigator with Yin Li on a Shining Mountain case and they are currently trying to get in touch with him. Ling Xia alo shares the information that the Shining Mountain is assuming this abduction was targeting her specificly.

She suggests to Walker that he should get in touch with Yin Li directly.

Getting a Rescue Team Going

The information that comes back from Walker's enquiries is not encouraging, with Tenzin confirming that Pema was in the area at the time and then Ling Xia confirming the elf's worst suspicions: that she was the abductee. His schedule is abandoned, half a lunch left forlorn as his pocsec is fished out and Yin's contact information called up with frenzied speed. The shaman thumbs the call button and waits, eyes flickering as he stalks through the streets back to his apartment.

A tightlipped Yin answers the call, he seems to be on the move as well: "Yin here? Who's there?"

"Yin, Walker. Ling Xia said to get in touch," Walker's voice is a soft monotone that is almost robotic, "What case were you working with Pema?" As he talks, the elf swipes the maglock key to his apartment and heads for the hidden stash in the wardrobe.

Yin replies with a frustrated sigh: "Curse it all. The Tana case, about the missing boy from the Tibetan diaspora. Why are you calling me? Is it because of this news anchor that went missing yesterday? Did you talk to Pema today?" It seems he stops somewhere on the street, stepping into some quieter environment, obviously concerned about some things as well. "I can't reach her," he adds.

"No." There's just a hint of irritation in Walker's voice, as if the elf is having to deal with a slow child. "Yin, Pema's been kidnapped: I just spoke to Ling Xia and she confirmed it." The detective might hear the sounds of heavy bags being tossed out of storage onto a bed.

Yin is quiet for three seconds, then continues, trying to focus as well: "They have both of her, I believe, Pema and the Channel 9 news anchor from Asiantown, the host that runs the evening show where Pema made a public appearance two days ago. This host, Nadine Wuang, didn't came in the next day, reported herself sick. This morning, the Shining Mountain District Supervisor to K-Town called me, telling me that Miss Wuang is assumedly victim of a crime. Current location unknown. And now I can't reach Pema-san. But she told me she had an appointment with Miss Wuang… - I'm just about to enter the building here, on my way to the Supervisor's office, since he made some weird remarks about Pema-san and asked me to show up. I have a very bad feeling. What do you advise we should do?"

"Send me a location," the stone-faced shaman replies, "I'll be there in 10 minutes." A door can be heard slamming. "Don't go in there until I arrive: I don't need another hostage to worry about. Clear?"

Yin clarifies: "No, no, I'm at the Shining Mountain office building right now. I'll get more information soon, I hope. If you can act right now, move yourself towards the CAS - Warrens border, that's where my bets lie for now. I call you back as soon as I have more intel from the Supervisor. And… maybe you can call someone else as backup? What about Dorian? I think he would like to know."

"Quit reading my mind Detective," Walker grates out, a grim smile cracking on his face, "Literally my next call. I'll see you soon."

"I call you back as soon as I'm out of his office." Yin cuts the call.

Heading up to the roof, Walker vanishes shortly after the door closes before his feet detach from the ground, a spirit descending from the clouds above to speed his travel. Thumbing Dorian's commcode from the list, Walker grimaces as he contemplates how to convey the bad news.

A transduced robotic voice replies to the call, "Walker, what's up?" Though the elf is already prepping himself for a visit to the Asiatown district. The business suit scattered aside as he dresses up into his Samurai Steve persona, the infamous Asian peddler from the Warrens. His rucksack which is guise for his peddled goods is stuffed with the usual tools and knicknacks necessary for some B&&E, and more.

"Got some bad news D," Walker replies without much preamble, voice still a flat monotone, "Where are you right now?" The other elf's cybernetically enhanced hearing will almost certainly pick up the roar of wind around the shaman.

"Just confirms my suspicions. There's only like a handful of them in town, and she's been sticking her nose in some nasty biz." The scarred Elf steps infront of a gun locker, punching in a combination and opening up the Runner's Wetdream. He begins selecting some weapons, some spare ammo, and racking up some weapons of choice. "Where am I? Getting ready to go turn that whole fucking neighborhood upsidedown."

A tight smile spreads on the shaman's face, glad he doesn't have to bother explaining things. "Glad we're on the same page, but seriously: give me a location. I fly faster than you'll get through traffic and time is a factor."

"Home. I'll meet you in the backalley where the garage door is." The synth straw rice paddy hat is affixed to his head, and clasped at the chin, from which dangles a few random baubles to sell the peddler look that range from random bullets, protective charms, and knickknacks. He stops infront of a very intricate katana, looking at it for a short moment before deciding to grasp it in hand and fix it to his back. He grabs a long ruth coated cloak, wraps it around his figure and makes his way out.

The invisible shaman only takes a few minutes to arrive, greeting the samurai without ever dropping the invisibility spell, floating in the alley. "You can see me, right?" he asks curiously, guessing the other elf has ultrasound senses. "Ready to go?"

The ultrasound shows the general figure of Walker as he floats down from the sky, and in reply Samurai Steve gives a nod in response. "Hai hai." He replies in affirmative. The figure's face is covered with a respirator and the ultrasound goggles which have emoji-esque eyes in LED on the front. Currently in the happy-go-go ^.^ to throw people off.

After trawling a hand through the mild astral hazing to get at cleaner mana, Walker extends an invisible hand towards the waiting elf, who is quickly freed from gravity's clutches as he fades from sight. Two unseen figures hurtle through the dark sky towards the Warrens border.

While both are in mid-air, Yin calls Walker back, after about ten to fifteen minutes since their last call: "Alright, I just came out of the briefing. Do you have time for details now, or is it not the moment?"

"One sec," Walker responds, fishing out his pocsec to add Dorian to the call. "Go ahead Yin. Dorian's on the line. We're en route to the border now."

"Greetings, Dorian," Yin says with some sincere sympathy, but doesn't waste any more words on that matter. Instead, after some seconds he relates: "So, this is the situation: The Supervisor shared the information they have; plenty of wittnesses described the getaway car and the attackers. They switched cars in a parking lot at the fringe of K-Town, and most likely they left the parking lot from ground level with another car or by foot a few minutes later, avoiding the toll station. A worn down second hand docwagon sedan without logo and emergency lights got registered on the neighboring property shortly after. It headed east, towards DTC South. That's where the public gridlink registration and camera surveillance lost contact. It seems, as if the kidnappers headed into the blackout maze of DTC South and did not pursue a course farther east, towards the Warrens."

Yin then takes a moment, filtering information for the most important essentials: "There have been no reports from the Warrens border so far; metahuman patrols and surveillance systems are noticed to keep an eye out for the decommissioned docwagon. So, I think it's DTC South, where they brought Pema-san. That would also fit in with the information we have from the Tana case. We expected a criminal Simsense group to operate there, they're some sick folks. Time is really and issue. I have some more information on the background, but I think that's of minor importance now. Catching the trail before it fades is number one priority. We have to pick up the trail at DTC South."

Finally, he adds: "The Supervisor is holding his men back from DTC for now, waiting for a report from me. He has some serious pressure because of this Nadine Wuang. She's a precious one for some of the uppers in Chinatown. I believe we are on the safe side with the Supervisor and can rely on his support in this … situation." Yin then fals quiet, standing by.

«Then lets scout the air for this van. Any shoddy building with a generator might be worth scoping out as well, they'd need some steady power and a discrete location. Likely keeping off the power grid to avoid raising suspicions and not have to deal with regular interruptions.» Dorian zoomies along in the air as he gets a nice Air Taxi ride through Denver. «One of us could hit the streets and ask around too.»

"Sounds like a plan," Walker agrees, "You're probably better off on the ground though: I'm not really in a people frame of mind at the moment." To Yin, he responds, "For now just make sure he stays out of our fucking way." His indistinct silhouette glances to Dorian, "Unless you can think of a use for a bunch of grunts?"

Dorian says outloud, off the commlink, "I don't plan on playing nice. Best the police stay out and just clean up the mess so they can take credit." He then adds to the call «Tell them to be on stand-by, we'll let them save face with the clean up and credit.» To Walker's comment on being on foot, the scarred Elf nods. «I'm a fine actor, I can pretend to be in a good mood.»

Yin 'hmms' in agreement: "I don't think the Shining Mountain will risk a parade anyway, as long as we have no more details. There is no sense in rushing this D or E zone, or whatever it is. - I am in a car soon enough, and I will drive to the white sedan's last known position, Northrop Avenue, around 133rd. This will take me 20 minutes, I guess. I can see if I pick up a word on the street then."

Yin further adds with some serious tone that suggests that they should pay attention to detail now: "Look, we expect at least five kidnappers, all Chinese male, or so it was reported. At least two wore dark, casual suits. And then we have Pema-san, of course. And Nadine Wuang. She's a Hong Kong Chinese, quiet a beauty. We don't know what she wore when she went missing, but she's a media face. You should recognize her by the skin treatments."

Yin says "I report back in when I arrive or receive any news. I wish you all the best."

"Understood. Any reports of mages in the group?" Walker sends as a closing shot as the pair of airborne elves curve south along the Warrens border towards the dark, squat shapes of the DTC skyline.

Yin replies: "No magic reported. The forensic says they used gamma-scopolamine to bring Pema-san down, and a taser. But we don't have any further information on equipment or competencies."

Legwork and Scouting in DTC South

Denver Tech Center - South: A jungle of concrete and steel, the South Denver Tech Center is home to many a chop shop, go-gang, gambling house, and squatter. Buildings of different eras stand in varying degrees of disrepair, a collage of "Modern Industrial Architecture" with an ever moving definition of modern, cast throughout almost a century of development. The fortunes of hundreds, maybe thousands of investors lay wasted in the doors of many a failed business venture.

Gunshots can be heard in the distance, met with faint sounds of laughs and screams of terror drowned out by the rev of motorcycles echoing down the concrete canyons that make up the South DTC. The go-gangs of the area pay their respects and loyalty to the Yakuza of Little Chiba. Those gangs not successful enough to fund their rides quickly find some place else to claim as home, or fall prey to those that can.

And here, somehwere in this lawless dark maze, Pema is supposed to hang in there, hopefully!

"You can drop me off and scout the skies, I'll scout the ground and ask around. Keeps you from sustaining these extra spells, I have Pema's cloak so I can vanish from sight if need be." Dorian shares to the Shaman, giving a brief glance around the rooftops and streetways. "Time to put those languages to use. Keep an eye out for extra generators and home-made electrical arrangements, shoddy buildings with extra bits that don't belong. I'll see if anyone has seen the vehicle drive by, and lurk in some alleys should they have gone underground or parked in doors."

"I'll get a few city spirits looking for that DocWagon sedan too," Walker chips in, "They do better with vehicles than most other spirits and if it was on the streets they'd know." Finding a deserted alleyway, Dorian becomes abruptly visible once more as the shaman deposits him safely to the ground. "Frequency 226?" he prompts as he turns his taccom on to maintain radio contact.

With a mental DNI command, the TACCOM pluged into his comm setup is tuned to the appropriate frequency. «Roger that.» The transduced voice replies before Samurai Steve walks out of the alley to hit the streets, heading for the roads that connect the previous location to this current one so he can ask around.

Dorian starts his voyage like an old pilgrim from 20th century manga, playing in feudal Japan. But instead of rice fields, he has dirty pavements, ruined streets, the almost total absence of plants and everything green. Actually, grey is the dominating color. It is early afternoon, still, and there are people around.

The Northrop Avenue is one of the larger streets into the heart of DTC South. If Yin's information was correct, the docwagon sedan came down this very street about 90 minutes ago. Dorian spots a loner with a cart full of trash - or belongings - on the other side of the street. He just stepped out of an old cinema building. "Kinopolis" is written on the sign above, in giant letters. An Asian Ork. He looks accustomed to trouble. But interestingly: why would he leave a cinema? Maybe a hideout, turf, or meeting spot?

Another option would be two guys about 200 meters down the street. They seem to work on a truck. In the distance, further noorth, there is also a group of bikers moving about.

With those working on the truck likely to be there for a bit, Dorian will approach the Ork by the cinema first before he leaves. Gang hideouts tend to mean lookouts as well, so they might have some information. The fusion of feudal merchant and cyberpunk talismonger approaches the Cinema with a disarming wave of his hand, trying to discern the Ork's ethnicity, so he'll first use an asian accent on his English. "Hello! A few nuyen for your time? Got a few questions."

"Hehehe!" It might come as a surprise, but the Ork flashes a smile and laughs light heartedly at the figure. With a stump finger he points at Dorian: "Shore. Ya know, ya lookin' like Samurai Shamploo, eh? Hehehe. Tell me wat'cha sellin? Would ya? And what ya wanna throw me some money for?" He opens his palm, ready to accept, out of habit. It seems as if this elderly Ork has absolutely no hostile intentions whatsoever. He seems to be amused, even, in his dull, sad everyday life that makes up his existence in DTC.

A gloved hand exits the cloak with a certified credstick, the reader on it is dialed up to 200 and locked in place, should be more than enough to get the man going through a week or two worth of meals and spendings. Dorian places it in his palm, continuing the conversation in the fusion of local cityspeak and english. "Ah thank you thank you! I sell various baubles and trinkets! You want magic ring yesyes? Or maybe flashlights? Or maybe GPS? All kinds!" Samurai Steve nods his large rice paddy hat which is adorned with hanging charms and bullets and various cyberpunkish memorabilia. "As for me, I am looking for bad men, they stole from me. Driving a gray doc wagon van. No logos! Might have drove down here, maybe you and yours saw something?"

He stares down at the credstick, and makes a sudden gesture of protection, like becoming aware of the fact that the devil might wear many masks. He is not outright overawed by the sum, but he is sobered and gives it a thought: "Docwaggan? Nah. No see here." He shakes his head. Sorry sorry…" He clutches the credstick, as if listening to his own words, and then, belatedly, realizing that this is not the answer Dorian wanted to hear. "Sorry, but not many drivethroughs. But me inside all morning. Snow coming soon. Have to get home. But no Docwaggan." He then swithces to Korean, which seems to be his native language: "Oh, I'm too late already…" He looks up into the sky. Then in English again: "Sorry, of no help. But please, be kind… be friendly…" Slowly, he retreats without turning, hoping to get away with the credstick.

Dorian picks up on the Korean, switching to the language, "Well, I appreciate your time anyways." He gives a polite incline of his head to the Eldery ork, whos' probably like …25 or something. The older Elf keeps his respects though. "If you see this van, stay clear of it. And warn your brethren. These are some bad demons."

The Ork nods and continues his retreat.

Once the Ork is retreated far enough, Dorian will take a quick tour around the cinema, which seems like a prime location for a simsense den, adding to the Ork's defensive nature and sobering at the mention of what he was seeking. The Elf waits to be out of sight and activates the ruth on his cloak, so he can sneak about and look for any vehicle that matches the description, or possibly a garage entrance.

Dorian spots two dark entries into the building, both unhinged and ajar. On his way through rubble and grey, dead brushes, he doesn't find any vehicle, though.

The Ork is following him on his trip around the building, carefully, respectfully. He might not even see Dorian, but maybe he follows some tracks or the movement of brushes? Anyway, he approaches from a distance, slowly.

The direct surrounding offers plenty of opportunities. There is some kind of path around the cinema, roughly. And to the left and right there are trash bins, small, rusted cargo containers, an old ventilation system.

Dorian will leave a trail in the snow of him walking forward before hopping off backwards to use some of the rusted containers as cover so he can behind his own trail. The scanners in the cloak will take in his surroundings and help him blend into the background. He'll wait for the Ork to pass him and study him, see if he's holding any weapons and what his body language seems to read.

Soon, he's about two meters away. He has both hands visible, and he seems to limp significantly. He picks every step carefully, but not in order to sneak, but for the pain it causes him, if he steps on a pepple or a piece of metal scrap carelessly. He doesn't seem to be a threat. He would pass Dorian without noticing, searching his path ahead.

"Don't turn around, and answer me carefully friend." Dorian hushes out in Korean, "Why are you following me, much safer for you to be on your way and spend that money on something warm."

He almost falls over, but steadies himself clumsily against some synthwood boxes, covered with thin snow. Snow, that starts to fall again, actually. He then freezes, and stabilizes himself: "I… I, maybe I can help. Here, inside…" He points at the cinema building. "I think, maybe I can help." He adds: "There are others, who might have seen something."

"Then go ask, bring me back the information if you want more of that money. You'll have to forgive my lack of trust in following a stranger into a dark building with others inside after he told me he knew nothing." The elf keeps a hand by his holster, ready to draw a moment's notice. His trigger unleashed and in full overdrive mode that is visible with twitching fingers. Even his facial featuers beneath his goggles and respirator are twitching a bit from the Wired Reflexes.

The ork moves back, carefully: "It's not dark inside. There is light, from above." He points to towards the sky. "But if you want, I can try alone…" He nods and starts to move towards the back entrance, which is within sight of both, maybe six meters away. "But… others will ask for something…" he waves his hand, "in return…" This is a seemingly unpleasant situation for the Ork now. He waits for Dorian to act or say something.

"Bring them to the door, I'll talk with them. If they have something interesting to share, they'll be rewarded in kind. If they don't, then keep that credstick hidden, or share it. That's up to you." The Elf exits his spot and walks up next to the Ork, pointing to the wall next to the door. "I'll be right there. If you care about their safety, be warned, I am armed, and very capable, so no funny business. My ill intent is not towards you and yours, but a plague in this neighborhood. Missing people, underground simsense. Usually minorities."

As the Ork enters the cinema, it is a little bit like walking through a strange passage. Dorian can see him disappear in darkness - well, not really, because of the image magnifications he sports. But the light outside gives way to darkness, but only briefly. A narrow corridor through gutted interior and rubble. Then a black tarp, serving as the portal to what appears to be a faint and distorted idea of an ancient Asian courtyard. Very faint. Dorian can't see everything from his position, but the rooftop of the cinema has collapsed almost completely, bright light and the beginning of new snow falls through the huge opening, upon the rubbish that covers the many rows of cinema seatings. Around this bright, snow-covered court, several traders have set up shop, huddling next to small camp fires, burning barrels, or each other. Dorian can't guess the numbers, but at least four.

The Korean Ork then raises his voice a bit, speaking on Korean: "Za! Fellows, I met a traveling merchant outside, he's looking for a stolen car. A grey one, from the DocWagon corporation. A van, maybe, but with no tags or brand. Have you seen something? - He shares, if you can help!" He then turns around, pointing and looking at Dorian's position, hoping to seen any reaction that might indicate that this was what he was looking for.

The Elf stays visible enough, though beneath his cloak both guns are armed and ready. The Smartlink overlay being displayed on his image link, currently reminding him that both his guns are still at full capacity as far as ammo goes. He keeps an ear out on the conversation, with amplified hearing and the select sound fitlers to further aid that.

Several noses show up next to the Ork now, peering outside towards Dorian's direction. They're mostly Koreans, but also some American types. Some are grumpy, some are careful and anxious, others are simply curious. About six people, two females, half of them Orks. Dorian has quite a good understanding of the situation. It's probably now or never, he realizes, as he see this little community. Either he exposes himself and shows his true and friendly intentions now, or this will most likely go down the drain and bring no result. Sure, it could still be a trap. But that's how it is.

With this seemingly like a more or less harmless community using the cinema as their shelter, the Elf will step through the threshold but does keep a cautious look around his surroundings. One gun is holstered while the other remains drawn and hidden beneath the cloak and the unarmed hand exits the cloak in a greeting wave. He speaks in Korean which seems to be the common language here, "I am looking for some information on a van like your friend has mentioned. You've likely heard of the recent kidnappings of asian minorities. My ill intentions are not towards you all," He says this to the woman with the knife, "but these demons that plague your neighborhoods. If you have good information, it could lead you to some good nuyen."

The snow flurry increases, adding to the rememberable scene as the traveling talismonger enters the court market. There are maybe twenty people, with ten of them offering wares from around the area on makeshift tables, from food to electronics, shampoo and soap, clothes, simple weapons and tools. The other half are potential 'customers'. Well, they do simple subsistence economy here: trading goods for their daily life. Such an unlikely appearance is Dorian, so that this little community is somehow taken off-guard. They confront him with a genuine kindness, given the overall situation they are living in.

After a few minutes of curious questions and some bolt demands from the second and third rows, Dorian actually gets what he was looking for! A Korean woman, specializing as scrapper in the southern DTC saw a DOcWagon about two hours ago, she says. It fits the overall picture, and Dorian has a good feeling with her. She describes that the DocWagon had a small drone flying ahead, maybe 100 meters, to check corners. That's how she got curious. She describes the route and narrows the search for Pema down to a set of blocks further down north-west. This was a very helpful information so far, as a look on some mapdata would confirm.

Dorian would have to pay 120 Nuyen for this information. And, unless he wants to question the community a little bit more, he could safely retreat and report his findings to Walker and Yin.

«Auto-Judge[]» Dorian (#7753) spends 400 nuyen for "200 for the woman and her own, an extra 200 tip for the old Ork.".

"Thank you for you for time." A pair of credsticks is retrieved, one tossed to the Korean woman, and the other to the old Ork. "If you need someone to look at that leg injury, I can help you with that later. I'm in a hurry for now, but I will return with the proper equipment. No charge, for your help." A polite incline of his head to the elder Ork, and to the woman. "May the weather treat you all nicely." The scarred Elf in disguise turns around and exits the building while pulling out his Navdat GPS and keeping a scope on the neighborhood that was mentioned. He'll also send the information through the TACCOM network for Walker to access, and maybe help pinpoint his search via flying/spirits. As soon as he's out, the elf takes off in a hurried pace.

«OOC» Yin says, "Short recap from the first part of Pema's rescue mission: Both of you reacted quickly, packed your gear, and flew straight to Denver Tech South. That's where the kidnappers disappeared in the black out maze of DTC. This was intelligence you got from Yin, and the Shining Mountain Supervisor he worked with. - Walker cleansed a spot on a rooftop, and did some conjuring. While Dorian did his legwork on the ground, talking to some of the local population. Tere were three Watchers (F3), tasked to go straight for Pema. And two F7 City SPirits, which did not receive a specific task yet."

«<Managed to narrow it down, some Korean lady saw the van move to the DTC southeast. It had a drone in the lead. Greyed out van, no markings, though the drone will make it stand out amongst the others. I'll proceed on foot for now, and ask around when I'm in the area to see if I can narrow it down further.»

The Samurai Steve peddler hurries along the Denver streets, both hands holding onto the straps of his backpack like a peddler in a hurry to make it to the next sale. He links his nav-dat GPS to his datajack splitter, relaying the area info to Walker on the TACCOM network and updating his current position.

Walker and Dorian take a moment and assess the newly acquired intelligence. The locals described the route the decommissioned van DocWagon from Dorian's position. This leads into a network of streets that run for a total length of about 6 miles. The checkboard-pattern makes it easy to divide the area into several clusters, some seem to be more likely for transit traffic, while others practically lead into dead-ends. It seems reasonable, that the kidnappers did try to find a hideout as fast as possible, but still, there is the chance of another car switch or sidetrack. hat it boils down to, is to move right into the designated area and look around for other clues. Manually, technically, or magically.

«<Copy that,»> Walker replies a moment later, «<I'll redeploy the watchers and get moving astrally to see what I can find.»> He settles down for a moment, his astral form flitting free from his body to dart out and redeploy the watchers to their new, narrower hunting grounds before beginning to crisscross the area himself looking for anything out of the ordinary. On the rooftop, a rather odd scene of the elf sitting cross-legged in the middle of an oddly tranquil area flanked by two humanoid concrete shapes left to guard against any physical threats.

Narrow the Search Down

Aware of the delay and that time is of importance, Walker and Dorian dive into a more seperate part of the DTC Southeast. It's one giant carpet of abandoned buildings here, scattered loosely across the neighborhood. Fences are mostly torn down, many buildings caved in, concrete and walls overgrown with almost dead plants. The Astral landscape is a watseland as well. The background count makes itself present as a sickening ground which seems to radiate with its toxic past, riddled by the little, desperate lives, that remain. It's hard for Walker to see clearly. Even in astral space, time seems to pass in slow motion. It's a numbing, sticky place.

Dorian, on the other hand, might as well be the most fast moving peddler to ever cross the streets here. Of course, he has to balance speed with caution, but he moves systematically, checking corner for corner, asking the few people that cross his path, and keeping an eye open for the darker corners and everything that lurks.

After about 20 minutes, Dorian spots something odd. It's a wide street that branches off his path, fit for three lanes of transport and logistics traffic. The street is barren and calm, a wasteland, basically. But there is a toppled truck in the middle of the street, resting on one side. Cursiously, white steam still raises from its engine. Dorian is about 300 meters away from this said truck.

Samurai Steve hurries along the streets, concealed eyes darting this way and that as he looks about the neighborhod. "What a nice place for a spa.." He comments to himself, still speaking in Japanese because he is a professional actor afterall. He's a dude playing a dude, pretending to be another dude. As he spots the shady street and the turned up van, he quirks his head to the side. The vision magnification on his eyes zooming in to take the scene from the distance at first. He notes the location on his Nav-Dat GPS currently viewed through an image link and transfer the data onto the TACCOM network for Walker to access.

«Got a shady little spot here if you wanna check it out.» Unaware the Shaman is no longer in his body, though he'll stealthily make his approach while keeping an eye out. Ground and air, looking for anything that might stand out.

Dorian doesn't find much of cover here. Best cover is his acting and disguise. Soon enough, he spots a body on the street, right next to the toppled truck. It's a truck from a local HaulEx company. It should operate a bit far more north, usually. They don't deliver here. But anyway, there is a body next to the truck and it could be clad in a HaulEx uniform.

«Plot» Yin says, "And, to be more clearly, this company would never deliver here in DTC. They operate CAS North around FTZ border up to Cherry Creek."

«Stiff in streets next to a van, looks like a recent accident. Don't recall this delivery service being in this part of town.» Dorian adds to the comm channel. The Peddler Steve continues his slow approach, just on his way to the next market to haul off some goods, or maybe purchase more to mark up in another part of town. The usual shady shit.

Approaching on the broad street, Dorian gets a more clear view of the truck and its - driver maybe? The latter has been shot. Blood is splattered across the windscreen next to the body. A bullet hole is also visible in the shattered security glass.

"Well that's a closed casket for you, chum. Next life don't accept the premium on an out of location delivery.." The peddler speaks to himself, keeping to japanese still. He'll attempt to locate some locals, the scrawny type that might be desperate enough to spill some information in exchange for some nuyen to feed themselves. Having no update from Walker yet, the Elf is versed enough in magic, and the capabilities of his co-runner to know what he might be up to. Which he hopes is what he's up to, and didn't accidently fly into a helicopter's propeller or something. Silly mages.

Actually, Dorian realizes, there is not a single living soul around, now that he has entered the street that leads to the toppled truck. Not even a bird or a dog. He's alone, basically. Or everyone else is hiding somewhere in these large industrial buildings that surround him on all sides. Dorian is about 100 meters away from the truck, when Walker checks back in with prime reality.

«<Sorry, was scouting,»> Walker belatedly sends, «<Watchers are redeployed but astral space around here is fucking awful. I'll head to your location.»> Sighing at the necessity of leaving his temporary astral haven, the shaman does his best to draw out the clean local mana before heading off, flying and unseen with two large spirits following in astral space.

Now, with this angle, Dorian has a very good view of the situation. The truck toppled on the driver's side. And as it seems, the driver did climb out on top, on the passenger's side. Then, one large caliber pierced the ork's chest and the windscreen behind him. So, there is only this one body of the supposed driver on the street, which got shot after he climbed out of the truck. The driver lies on the pavement, face down in the muddy snow, dirt, and blood.

«<No worries, mate. Looks like this van here got into an accident, and whoever it had said accident with didn't take too kindly to him. Blew his chest out with some pretty big gun. I can get closer, see if there's any gray paint that got traded in the bump. But this looks like a promising lead to check out. Could be a good nexus point for your spirits to split from.»> Peddler Steve continues his way down the street, keeping to the opposite side of the crash for now. Though he remains quite attentive to his surroundings.

«<On my way,»> Walker responds, his voice a little muffled by the winds whipping around him. Approaching Dorian's position from above, the shaman scours the area from his aerial vantage point for anything out of place.

«<On site,»> he reports from the air, «<Looks like that courier needed better danger money than he was getting…»>

Dorian advances further down the street, with a huge, gutted U-shaped building coming up on his left now. It is set back from the street for about 50 meters, so, Dorian is basically standing in the open. Only some leftover fence elements with a concrete basis would provide cover. At about 50 meters, he observes something odd. The assumed driver's head and body looks awkward. His hair is… torn or fallen-out. And there are some disfigurements on his back and hip. Then there is the skin color… This driver is a ghoul!

«<Alright, keep watch-.. Oh gross. We got ghoulies in the neighborhood. … Wait… They hire ghouls? I ain't ever getting delivery from HaulEx ever again. Fuck me.. Hope they include a free vaccine with those deliveries.»> The distant building to his side is given a quick glance as he walks across infront of it, seemingly minding his own biz. «<Shady ass place right here, this building looks like it's still decently standing.»>

From above, Walker tries to get an overview. He spots the toppled truck from a distance already. And quite quickly he realizes, that the tracks in fresh patches of snow on this street don't fit an accident, as Dorian suggested. There are the truck's tracks, then it toppled, spinned, and now rests on the driver's side. But there are no other tracks of a vehicle. Hm. Maybe the ghoul simply crashed the vehicle. But, on the other hand, who shot it then?

«<Dorian stop!»> Walker hisses through the commlink as his eyes narrow,«<This wasn't an accident! There's no set of tracks for another vehicle… hang tight a sec…»> The shaman focusses on extending his senses, trying to check the nearby buildings for hostile intent.

Walker and Dorian, both become aware and suspicious of the building just next to where the truck lies dead on the street. This large area consists of a gutted U-shaped three-story building. Some wings were used as offices, other parts probably once served as industry halls. Rusted signs on torn-down chainlink fences hint at the complex' former use as a synth-wood processing facility. The spacious place that dominates the center of the U, as well as the concrete pavement that surrounds the whole facility, is overgrown with thick brown grass, covered with sturdy patches of snow and ice. Neighboring buildings on three sides are at least 80 meters away. Towards the street, to where the U opens, it's one spacious, open area. Only small stretches of the former chain-link fence remain.

First Engagement With the Kidnappers

Just as Walker was about to cast a spell, he becomes aware of a subtle movement in the left-hand inner corner of the u-shaped building. Something moved behind a pile of rubble where once was a set of large windows.

What happens when you tell a wired samurai to watch out? He springs like a cat that just noticed a cucumber on the ground, like 50 feet (not really) into the air. The wired Elf begins to rapidly look around his surroundings, scrambling towards the fence so he can get a semblance of cover. The moment he's ducked down, he pulls free both silenced Colts from their holsters, twirling them into his hands. As the induction pads connect with the weapons, their Smartlink system activates and his Imagelink's overlay displays their aiming reticules and ammo count. «<What's up??»>

Walker's hissing and their shared time in similar situations immediately makes Dorian feel that something is more off than he already suggested. The hairs on the back of his neck stand up by now. First thing Dorian realizes from his cover are some small, not so rusted warning signs dotting some of the concrete rubble that surrounds the u-shaped facility. They read: 'toxic area', while others suggest to 'beware of landmines'. Really? What the dreck. From the looks and decades-old adverts on some of its walls, this factory building once produced synth-wood! Also, Dorian actually catches a glimpse of something at third floor, in the inner corner of the u-shape, left hand side. The same movement Walker became aware of a second ago. It's about 60 meters away from Dorian. But what it is? No idea. It could be an animal.

«<Building at your twelve o'clock: left side, third floor,»> the shaman raps out urgently, and perhaps a little redundantly, «Movement. Hang tight and I'll check it out.»> The shaman's initial plan shifts now he has a genuine target, using magic to send his vision to the location of the movement after repositioning above the building to move out of the way of the window.

The arcane eye immediately pulls Walker's vision to the situation up on the third floor corner. Basically, the revelation is simple as it is sobering: A human figure in full urban camouflage is operating a sniper rifle from a well hidden perch, obviously trying to aim at something higher above… at invisible Walker! From the shifting angle of the barrel Walker has a very strong feeling that this sniper is currently probing the sky for him. Does he really see Walker? Maybe not really. But he seems to be /very/ convinced that there is something on Walkers position worth scoping out.

Reflexes firing quickly as he sees the barrel searching for him rather than the figure on the street, Walker lets the vision lapse. «<Sniper. Camouflaged. Looking for me.»>

Paranoia is what keeps you alive in this line of biz, and while a landmine sign is a good deterrent to keep snoopers away, actually backing those threats up is a sure fire way to make sure people leave the area alone. «<Snow looks manipulated to conceal possible tracks.»> He coms on his first sweep, his second sweep reveals the presence of what he feared might be true, «<Blast charges on the ground, don't land on the lawn.»> And then he crouches down and takes off into a full sprint, zig-zagging the lawn and avoiding any trip wires on the way as he rushes the building to get out of the Sniper's angle of possible view, and also close the gap.

Deciding that land mines and high-calibre sniper rifles is well beyond the point of messing around, Walker turns to one of the city spirits trailing him in astral space. "Go to that room in the building," he instructs as the pair fly closer to the building, "Materialise behind the person with the rifle then confuse and subdue them." As the spirit hurtles off to obey the instruction, the shaman approaches the edge of the building, alert for any other nasty surprises.

«<Roof seems clear,»> Walker reports over the TACCOM, «<Sending one of the spirits in to surprise the locals.»>

Closing the distance on the lawn, Dorian begins to lower his approach as image scanners equiped on his cloak take in a read of his surroundings and begin to emulate it over it's surface, aiding him in blending in with his runnings. He's not quite to the wall of the building yet, but fairly confident he's out of the sniper's view. «<Roger. Almost at the front, going in silent and slow for now. Might have more shit rigged.»> He comments on his approach, seems these fellas been taking a lot of precautions, he wouldn't be surprised if anything else in terms of security were up ahead.

The ruthenium cloaked figure continues his stealthy approach, keeping an eye out for possible issues. As he slowly navigates towards the building's front, the hand beneath the cloak to rub the bicep piece on his arm and activate a spell. To him, other than a bit of strain passing through him for a short moment, nothing seems different, but on the astral his figure gets cloaked with a spell shield to deflect the blunt of magical attacks casted in his direction. «<Spotted a cam, they got power somewhere. If the Gen ain't inside, might be on the roof.» He clues it in the Shaman, in case he sees a means to knocking out power while on the roof.

Inclining its head in silent acknowledgement of the shaman's instructions, the larger and more wilful of the two spirits hurtles towards the building in astral space, barreling through the indistinct shadows of solid matter to find a nearby nook in which to assume physical form.

A light breeze arises from nowhere on the physical plane, the nameless detritus swirling into a pile that gradually begins to form a humanoid shape. A barrel chest of swirling sawdust from decades of synth-wood cast-offs unfurls long arms of cracked concrete that end in over-large fists strung around with barbed wire like the world's least pleasant knuckle-duster. The apparition rises from the floor, still gradually solidifying with a pair of red eyes like faded traffic signals floating seven feet from the ground.

As he floats over the building and out of the sniper's line of fire, Walker focusses his mind on locating others like their watchful target. He doesn't alight on the roof just yet, not trusting it from Dorian's reports of the surprises left below, but hovers a couple of metres above the roof.

The sniper, crouching in his well-designed perch, is still checking the dull sky above. Still, snow is falling, since it started about 30 minutes ago, when Dorian entered the old cinema to make contact with the locals. The swirling curtain doesn't help the sniper! Shifting his head, suddenly, he does realize something else, popping up in his senses. Something that leads to the conclusion that indeed, something is going on. Something worthwhile reporting in. This conclusion solidifies, when the spirit manifests right behind him. He rolls about, in one fluid movement, bringing up his Walther sniper rifle against the manifestation towering above! A curse in Chinese can be heard (well, by some at least), followed by a report he issues in his subvocal microphone. This sniper is a disciplined one, it seems. Even face to face of this monstrous creature, he reports in and holds his shot.

Closeby, Walker hovers above the rooftop, diving into another sixth sense again. A red haze blazes up, then calms down to sharp outlines of the sniper closeby, and another humanoid figure two stories below, on ground level. It must be right in the center of the u-shape, where the former main entrance to the office wing is located.

Grimacing as he registers more hostiles, Walker reports that flash of insight over the commlink. «Second hostile: ground floor, main entrance.»

Dorian, wanting to deal with people rather than explosives as far as priority went, peeks over the window to give a brief scan inside. Once everything seems clear for now, he hops on in, then carefully chooses his footing on his way inside. Navigating slowly with both silenced pistols held at the ready, should he run into some undesirables. His reflex trigger has long been off, and the slight twitch can be felt along his fingers and eyebrows as his nervous system runs on overdrive. «Inside, left wing. Moving in further.»

As the sniper curses at the sight of the spirit, the wide maw of the apparition opens wide to release a muffled growl, throat still only half-formed. Eager to get to work, a sawdust limb lashes out but dissipates uselessly before reaching the man.

In the air meanwhile, Walker flits along above the roof, keeping a close eye out - including his new third one - for any signs of trouble. «Copy. Shadowing you on the roof. Sensing another four hostiles in a sub-basement. They know we're here.»

Subtlety and stealth find a harsh ending with the suppressed but still very significant crack of a Walther sniper rifle round, fired at point blank. The shot penetrates the apparition, which is still struggling into reality against its will. The shot further penetrates the roof, sending a little fountain of snow dancing on the rooftop, for Walker to amuse! Walker can also observe the second signature, on ground level, starting to move into the main entrance, checking the situation outside with an assault rifle at the ready. It's a Chinese man with black armor worn over a black security outfit. He scans the left wing - and the sky above. But he doesn't seem to have a target to aim at.

Deeper underground, other things start to move and unfold as well. But unknown to those above.

Moving from pillar to pile of rubble, Dorian uses the terrain as extra cover while navigating the maze towards the central part of the building. The pistol in his left hand is holstered in the armpit and instead replaced with a katana as he slowly, and silently draws the blade out. An expert twirl of blade switches it into a reversed grip while the other keeps the silenced gun at the ready, covering his bases as best as he can in the unknown and likely scenarios that await them. «<Approaching the middle, it's a mess in here.»>

Not about to let a golden opportunity go to waste, Walker takes a deep breath. Invisible fingers trace through the air leaving odd patterns of refraction in their wake that focus and magnify the guard below for the shaman. A bolt of mana lances out like a lightning bolt, only to be intercepted by some interference.

«Mage,» he reports to Dorian, «Managed to counter my stunbolt.»

The guard, oblivious of how close he just came to a trip to the land of Nod, continues searching in vain for their intruders.

«Roger that. Should reach the middle hall in a moment.» The readied samurai continues stalking the left wing, fluttering around the difficult terrain, and mindful where his feet land as to not kick over any debris or run into things that could alert his presence.

The spirit looms above the still prone sniper, then seems to crash down on him, burying him in a flurry and haze of sawdust, snow, debris - and some very strange sensations indeed. Walker can hear the man shouting in his subvocal microphone: "The sawmill opens a jar! It's in the scope! In the scope! The place comes down! Evacuate!" While his mind spins about, he still has a clear idea of what to do! Firing away a second shot from the Walther sniper rifle at the spirit, he actually hits it square! Finally, he drops the bulky rifle, reaching for his heavy pistol.

The spirit, on the other hand, is puzzled for a moment, as another shot is fired right through it, leaving a hole that is closed again by swirling anger and rage.

Letting his sixth sense lapse for the time being, Walker turns to the second astral spirit. "Help your sibling, then protect us as you can. Thank you." The last intonation is heartfelt, and the spirit nods graciously before it departs to further menace the sniper.

With the spirits dispatched, the elf follows the spirits astral trail, finding a fallen bit of wall by which to enter near the sniper's nest.

«I'll make sure the sniper's down.»

Still lying on his back, the Sniper suddenly makes up his mind, shooting two blind shots without even aiming while he turns around, pushes himself up and leaps for the open breach, trying an all-in dive for the ground below, away from the spirit that - contrary to what he thought - is still dancing on domain's edge. The sniper flies in a wide arc, with his camouflage utility fluttering wildly on his way down. - His landing is hard and sobering. He holds on to his heavy pistol, but groans in pain: "Evacuate ! Haha! Evacuate! It's trapped!" Clearly with his mind elsewhere, he seems to be trapped in his spirit-inspired fantasies, believing in what he just did was the best of all options. Injured, he tries to pull himself up again.

This all happened just below Walker, actually. He could see the confused sniper dive onto a pile of snow covered crates. Also, that's when he realizes that the Chinese man with his assault rifle is gone. When did that happen??

Inside on ground floor, Dorian makes good pace, leaving the small shops wing behind now, entering the office section. A central hallway leads straight to the reception hall. There, he spots a decommissioned DocWagon Sedan, now about 15 meters away. The ground is less difficult here.

While Dorian makes his approach, there is this stinging sense of urgency, and it rivals with what has become an integral part of Dorian: professionalism. Even without magic, he seems to alsmost feel it physically: it's about Pema here. But keeping eyes and ears open is crucial. Come on, don't overshoot now… wait… what's that? Dorian enters the reception hall.

The huge double door made from colorized glass is long gone. Only shards and pieces remain. The sedan has been parked right in the middle of the hall. How it covered the stairwell outside is a mystery. What else is here to be seen? There is a huge reception desk, buried beneath dust and debris from the damaged and eroded suspended ceiling. But there, only a few meters ahead, there is something else. Stain on the floor. No, wait. Dorian switches his optical filters two times and identifies traces of footsteps on the thermal spectrum. Also, is sound filter confirm a very faint rustling from someone behind the sedan. Dorian is pretty sure, someone sneaks around here, probably using the DocWagon sedan as cover.

The Peddler finally arrrives to the main hall, having crossed the maze of debris that once was a factory. He peeks his head from around the corner, slowly taking in the room as he keeps a vigilant eye out for traps and the one goon he knows is in the area somewhere. The moment the car is spotted, there is both a sense of urgency and relief that they are spending all this time here in the right area. «Car spotted. Crank it up to eleven. They don't leave alive.» If a transducer could convey anger, it would certainly be present. The image scanners on his cloak continue to read their surroundings in live feed, aiding his stealth as he begins his approach to the desk as cover, the rustling of shuffling steps and the foot prints give him the clues he needs and the gun lifts up as he gets ready to intercept the circling goon.

«Already past thirteen omae,» Walker sends in response to Dorian as another lance of mana lashes out. Unprotected by cover and with the shaman not distracted by maintaining another spell, the former sniper drops like a marionette with its strings cut. «We can kill them when we're done,» he adds in a toneless murmur, «Also be careful: either they've got ultrasonics or that sniper can see magic.»

Without a target, the two spirits tumble after the sniper, their swirling forms flowing down the buildings exterior to prowl the front yard until their duties are complete.

Right in the middle of this all, a text message is received by Walker's cellphone. The phone makes itself heard by whatever means allowed right now. Which could include none.

Having an ear to the goons movements, Dorian instead chooses to stop his circling and lift his silenced gun up. He minimizes his own breathing in that short moment, waiting for the goon to continue his voyage around his cover until he's in line of sight.

«Plot-Page» (To: Walker) Yin says, "The text message says «< Yin here. Sorry for my delay. EMR team is on the ready in K-Town. I'm with them. They have order to evacuate any high value target from DTC with helicopter. Which means Pema or Nadine Wuang - or both. Shining Mountain also at the scene here, waiting for updates. What's the situation? »>"

Floating out into the cool air and along the wall, the invisible shaman takes a moment to check the vibrating pocsec. «Yin's got a medivac team en route, he's linked up with Shining Mountain. You got the guy down there?»

Dorian is sitting behind a solid cover, well concealed, ready to await the creature or person behind the sedan to fullfill the circle. But that doesn't happen, actually. Dorian's heightened senses alarm him just in time to react, since he also did delay his own action: the arming of a grenade can be heard, and soon after, it is thrown from full cover behind the sedan, right at Dorian's position. This guy behind the sedan, he must've known /exactly/ where Dorian was!

The moment an arming mechanism goes off, Dorian narrows his eyes. Seems these guys aren't playing around either. He draws in a slow breath, holding his aim steady and waits patiently to react. The moment the grenade leaves the hand and goes airborn, the elf's heightened senses kick in and a round is immediately fired into the grenade to detonate it where it stands rather than finish it's current path. With some quick reaction, he ducks below the cover as the concussive explosion detonates, rattling through his bones but nothing he can't shrug off himself.

A muffled groan can be heard from behind the sedan, and a curse, even while the concussion grenade's big bang still rings in the lobby. This certainly did not went as intended, but the situation still unfolds…

Darting from his spot, Dorian crosses the distance in but a second thanks to a body enhanced with cybernetics and biotechnology. He hits his bum on the car's hood, sliding across it to reach the other side of the vehicle and surprise the goon before he has a chance to throw another grenade, "Ohayo!" The ^.^ LED face on the goggles greets the man behind the car as a diamonded coated blade immediately follows up. The first blow striking with the improvised longarm used as a melee weapon, but striking it asidde just enough to render the man open for the next swipe of the blade which cuts at the neck to commence the bleeding, and finished with a twirl of the body to bring the blade in a stabbing motion to impale him into the car.

The Chinese with assault rifle and basic armor protection was the same Walker spotted in the entry a few moments earlier. He had sneaked back inside, somehow aware of Dorian approaching. The ambush found a cruel end though, behind the decomissioned DocWagon sedan. Spilling blood in abundance, he still locks eyes with Dorian, and a grim expression on his face. He dies quietly as he slowly slumps down to the ground, leaving a stain of blood on the white sedan.

«Got 'em.» He comms back to the Shaman, after some silenced gun fire and explosions.

Descend Into the Kidnappers' Hideout

Walker floats down unseen through the main doors, booted feet never touching the floor. «Guessing that grenade wasn't yours?» he inquires with just a hint of amusement as he taps out a reply to Yin on his pocsec now that things seem to have calmed down. «I'll rustle up some new spirits in a sec: just making sure the cavalry isn't gonna fuck everything up.»

«Plot-Page» (To: Yin) Walker says, "«Null sheen. We've found the location. Sentries neutralised but there are some nasty surprises hereabouts. Suggest forming a perimeter until you get an all-clear. Opposition is well-equipped and has a magician.»"
«Plot-Page» (To: Walker) Yin says, "« Need your position! Will keep a distance »"
«Plot-Page» (To: Yin) Walker says, "«See attached coordinates. Old industrial unit: u-shaped, three storeys.»"

«Guy knew exactly where I was. Might be right on those ultrasonics, or a drone is clocking us.» The blade is given a swift strike which comes to a sudden halt causing the blood to splatter to the floor as it's flung off the frictionless coating on the katana. «Tell them to cord off the area, but keep a decent distance. Front field is lined with mines. We should find the way down and get moving.» The scarred Elf in disguise begins to carefully look around, perhaps for cameras, drones, more traps and of course.. A way down.

After a weird approach and first contact, the entry hall is captured. The sedan seems alright. No mines or hints or anything. Just an old decommissioned car that once was used by DocWagon emergency teams. Dorian and Walker further inspect the lobby and the body of the deceased Chinese hostile. Footprints are everywhere here. It has seen some traffic over the last days or even weeks. There is a clear path visible, leading behind the reception counter around a corner, towards elevator shafts and stairwells. Obviously a way down! The Chinese man had an earpiece, TACCOM receiver, and also something odd. It almost looks like something Dorian might have seen with Pema sometime. It's a sheet of rolled up parchment, tied to his armored vest. Looks like it has writing on it. Otherwise, the whole building is suspiciously quiet for now.

«Already done,» Walker replies, quickly adding the specifics about the minefield with another quick text. Falling quiet for a moment, the shaman presses his hands together before his fingers flicker through a rapid repeating sequence that beckons to something unseen. Like a moth to a flame, the presence approaches. Suddenly, light blazes from the shaman's open mouth to fill an unseen form. An elderly janitor is briefly visible before the light envelops them. When it fades, the astral spirit is very much visible: it's youth restored and its broken mop reshaped into a gleaming staff.

«Got their comm frequency here, I'll be listening in.» The scarred Elf comms in through the transducer as he plugs in the earpiece into his ear. The scroll is stuffed into the rucksack to be looked at it at a later time and instead he sheathes his weapons away and picks up the G36, giving it a look over. He racks the bolt to make sure it's ready to go, and as his induction pad makes contact with the gun, the Smartlink System comes to life into his image link. «Nice piece.» He slings it on his shoulder and instead retrieves the shotgun he had packed earlier, now having a short moment to get it out of his rucksack. The SPAS is racked and ready to go. «Stairs over there, and an elevator shaft.» He begins a slow crawl towards said area.

The area where the elevator shaft and stairwells are located is pretty dim-lit. Not a problem for people with low-light vision or better, though. But the descend will lead into complete darkness soon enough, so much is clear. Elevator doors have been breached open long ago, and the doors that once lead to the flight of stairs are also long gone.

«Copy that, checking to see if I can still pick them up in the basement,» Walker replies as he trails forwards a little behind Dorian, eyes glowing as that odd sensation of out-of-body awareness unfolds once more.

Walker succeeds in picking up signatures from possible hostiles below. Generally, it appears like it did above ground, when he had cast the spell for the first time. About four people are moving about, more seperated now, glowing in a deep sensation of red, ready to retaliate and aggress.

Dorian stops at the top of the stairs, shotgun leading where his sight goes. «Roger. Ambush paradise down there. Pitch black, no idea what's ahead.» The ultrasound emiter pulses at his neck, feeding the sensory input back into his goggles as they display a grid-like pattern over every solid object the sound bounced off on. He'll wait for Walker to finish his sense spell before proceeding down below. He also keeps a good ear on their comms.

«Still four of 'em down there… looks like they're setting up,» Walker reports after a moment spent in contemplation. «How you wanna play this? I could try and take a peek using some other detections or get in astrally… or we could just try kicking the door in.»

«And presumably still a mage lurking around.» Dorian adds to the list of things to consider, «If you're still flying, you can peek the elevator shaft, I'll take the stairs so we can split their attention. If you wanna check it out astrally first, I'll keep back and watch your meatbag. Nothing on their comms yet. Either they switched channels, or lying in wait for us in silence.»

«Sure, I can take a look,» the shaman responds, floating up to come level with Dorian, «You got a light I can borrow? Was in such a rush that I didn't pick mine up.» As he waits to see what toys the samurai might be carrying, he begins to fashion a watcher from the ether, invisible hands tracing faint traceries through the air.

«Didn't know you smoked.» The Samurai does indeed keep a few tools on hand, namely a hand built flashlight with a multitude of spectrums available. He fishes it out of his belongings and holds it up towards the Shaman. «S tandard, low-light, infrared and UV. Just click multiple times to cycle.»

After a quick set of rapid-fire instructions to the astral watcher in Ute, Walker takes the offered flashlight which promptly vanishes in the unseen shaman's grasp. The light flicks on and swaps through to low-light mod before shifting cautiously towards the shaft, allowing the shaman to peer down.

The doors are broken up and a quick glance reveals the shaft's bottom or - more likely - the elevator cabin about 10 meters below. It's a narrow shaft, without any maintenance access, ladders or other shafts visible.

«Alright, I'll start down the stairs.» With the shotgun ready and it's smartlink system online, Samurai Steve aka Dorian leads his vision with the aiming reticle dispalyed on his image link. The Ultrasound emitter sending out pulses, relaying the feedback to his goggles as he slowly begins his descent. Slow, steady and of course careful. «Keep an eye out for wires and traps, they had a few minutes to prepare.»

Frowning to himself, Walker descends to examine the 'blockage'. «Looks like the cabin's blocking the shaft,» he reports to Dorian, «I'll check it out but might have to double back and shadow you instead.»

Walker descends into the shaft, using the flashlight from Dorian to brighten up the descend for his low-light senses. It's not good enough to read down here, but it's certainly enough to slowly descend to the shaft's bottom, which is, indeed, the top of the elevator cabin. STeel cables are still connected but suffered badly from a long downtime. It appears to Walker that the cabin must be parked at sublevel 1. Access to the cabin seems possible, there is an emergency evacuation hatch outlined on the passenger cabin.

In the meanwhile, Dorian sneaks down the stairwell, circling several times until he reaches the staiwell's end after about ten meters of descent; a relief on the wall indicates that he has reached subleel 1. The elevator stops here as well. The passenger cabin is open. The stairwell does not descend further from here, but a large doorway opens into what could be the hallway of an office section. - Suddenly, Dorian becomes aware of something that he had seen on his descent already, but somehow he did not spared a thought on it. There is a cable running down the stairs, connecting small lights every few meters, which are, of course, inactive right now. But this series of lights seem to be much more recently installed than anything else. The cable leads further into sublevel 1, into the former office section ahead.

«At the bottom of the stairs, doorway leads further out. Power cable is here too, but the lights are off. I could give it a blast and shut their whole feed down if they got cameras and such planted, but even a silenced shotgun is likely to be heard. Though they're already expecting us.» Dorian stops at the end of the stairs, keeping his back to the wall near the door way. «The hallway got eyes on the elevator, let me take a quick peek around the corner before you pop in.»

«Copy that,» Walker replies, hovering a few feet above the cabin, «Looks like there's a hatch to get through the roof. Still getting movement, but only in the lower levels. Nothing from the spirit yet.»

«So it goes down deeper, good to know.» The Elf peeks his eyes out from around the corner, glancing down the hallway to see if anything pops up on the ultrasounds. After that, he'll check if the elevator has a Down button, to see if it was meant to go further below.

Dorian takes a careful look further into what lies beyond the elevator and stairwells on sublevel 1. After a short stretch of damp and gutted office hallways, this level soon opens into a large, wide cavern or hall which housed fluid and solid body chemical tanks and the processing arrays for the production of synthetic construction timber. Several large windows from the office hallways and rooms allow for some good view at the machine halls and tanks. The ultrasound vision paints a pattern of chaos. The technology has long been outdated and everything worth a cent has been removed a decade ago. It's a dense maze now, of abandoned machines, metal walkways, and the remnants of smaller workshops, leaving one wondering how to find their right way through. Funnily, the cable that connects the little, matchbox-sized LED lights on the floor, runs ahead into the office section and probably further beyond. - The elevator once traveled a sublevel 2 as well, based on the panel right next to the shaft. If there's another stairwell down to the second sublevel, it must be in another section of this level.

«All clear here, for now. Elevator used to go down further below. No stairs in this place, perhaps further in.» Dorian gives a quick comm to the Shaman.

After taking a moment to check over the elevator hatch, Walker opens the small door and slides through, drifting past Dorian as an indistinct haze in ultrasonic vision. «Shall I take a quick peek along that string of lights, see what's through there?» he suggests, thinking of a little more clairvoyant scouting, «At a certain point though, getting a spirit to find Pema might be the easiest approach.»

«Agreed. Can you point to me where they all are? Any down right below us? I assume they're guarding the stairs down to their level.» Dorian looks back to the elevator and then down at the cable musing a few things. «Might keep some lights to themselves as well.. Could blow the cable, leave them as blind as us.. Also might have an idea to gather their attention away from their defenses.»

«Plot» Yin says, "Basically, imagine the sublevels have at least the size as the layout of the U-shaped building above. You are on one side of the sublevel right now. In front of you is a small office section, and beyond there is the huge hall which holds machinery and facilities and workshops. The enemy signatures from your spell appear to be right under the center of the machine hall, so, about 30 meters into the sublevel and then straight downwards. I hope that helps :D"

First it is the most curious feeling: Walker's perception is drawn into an invisible eye, seemingly floating outside of his body now, and then he has to use his low-light flashlight to brighten up the way ahead a little bit. Following the cable is straightforward first. But soon it's getting really dark. His sense leaves the office section quickly and continues out into the main machine hall. A wide catwalk runs next to one wall, with huge tanks towering high above on the right hand side. The cable then suddenly runs through a doorway; the heavy industrial door is just ajar. More cables run through the crack. Letters painted on the door stand out with high contrast: "Battery Cell Units 1A-1F".

«Auto-Judge[]» Walker (#12094) rolls Electronics for "Cell as in part of a circuit or as in where you keep prisoners?":
1 5 5

«Cable leads to the places power cells,» Walker reports over the commlink as his vision reaches the end of its little trail, «We might be able to reactivate the lighting from there…» Taking a deep breath, he casts the sensor into the void where his former sense found their foe, «Checking downstairs, one sec…»

With a blink of an eye, Walker now redirects his additional sense through the darkness, shifting through the sublevel and the toxic ground. Sweat probably appears on his forehead, as the whole facility, the whole situation and environment seems to protest and work against his prying. But he succeeds. Suddenly, the darkness cracks open and then … orange light. Someone took care to set up camp down there. An illuminated, sphere-shaped tent glows golden in the darkness, like a leftover refuge from some forgotten miners in their tunnels, or astronauts on the dark side of the moon. The tent is large enough to house maybe ten people or more. Its central height is about 4 meters. There are no windows, but one entry is closed with a tarp. While the tent radiates golden light like a lantern, everything else beyond eight meters is pitch black. Wait, no, people are moving about. Some have headlights or flashlights. They can be seen, dancing through the dark. Stern faces, moving in haste. And… are these some headlights from a vehicle maybe?

While the Shaman checks out the place with some juju, Dorian reaches into his stuff for his electronic tool kit, the multimeter taken out and he clamps it around the thread of wires to see if there's any live current in the bundle, trying to determine if they shut the lights via switch, or if there's just no juice left.

A quick check reveals that there is no power on the line, but this is ambiguous. There is no way to determine from here, if the cable section has been switched off voluntarily or ran out of power. What is for sure is that there are no manual switches on every LED light. If there is a switch, it must be further down the cable.

«They aren't powering anything else with these wires, otherwise I could just loop some wires and light it up for us.» The tension meter is placed back into the small toolpouch and pockets again, the elf then ponders a second option for a moment. «You have a Hearth Spirit up, right? You think it could cause an accident and send that elevator crashing down? We could set up on the descent, cause the crash, and while they're busy investigating, we move in.»

«Got something!» Walker's voice has taken on that quiet intensity the shaman sometimes exhibits on the job, «Little base of operations downstairs… might be more than I tagged before and there's-» the shaman cuts himself off, sweat beading on his brow as he focusses on trying to get a count of the scurrying figures and examine the possible vehicle.

«What? Yeah, probably, or I could cut the cable…» His response to the samurai is a little distracted as he peers into the sub-basement.

«Cutting the cable means you'd have to zip back around to the stairs, if the spirit does it for us, we can be in position.» The scarred Elf gives another peek down the hall, just incase some developpment occurs, but for now remains near the Shaman to watch his Six while he's remotely viewing the area.

What Walker can identify so far, is a heavily armored van, with all windows replaced by metal sheets. It's painted in black and hard to investigate any further. Secondly, the tent must be warded against prying. Any attempt to peek inside fail. He does spot two humans, probably Chinese, moving about. They're preparing their departure, it seems. Equipment is moved between tent and van. This whole camp must be placed on an empty spot on sublevel 2, surrounded by the remains of machinery.

«They're loading up a van - armoured - preparing to move out I think,» Walker hisses through the commlink, «Think we might have to go with the elevator drop option. I'll get a couple more spirits to flank them.»

«Alright, let's make some noise then. I'll move ahead to get into position. If they're prepped to leave, might have to skip additional help unless you can call 'em quick.» Dorian is already moving as he comms, keeping low to the ground and walking with a silent haste. His shotgun still aimed and ready, as one can never be too careful. He'll follow the cable through the maze and make his way for the stairs that lead down below.

«Sounds like a plan to me,» Walker replies with an unseen smirk before he allows the spell to cease. As he follows Dorian through the maze like a ghost, the shaman settles into his rhythm of choreographed gestures to beckon some more aid their way. «I should be able to improvise,» he murmurs in response.

Dorian moves ahead and quickly reaches the open machinery hall, and the catwalk that runs past the battery cell room. Reaching that point, he's able to see by himself now that several cables enter the room. Some used for power supply, usually, some look more like control wires, used to operate electronical devices. He could move on here, and follow two cables further into the hall, or he could follow the cables inside the battery room.

«You remember the path you took to go down?» Dorian asks the Shaman as he follows the cable to the battery cell room, and then looks at the split.

«Just moved the sensor straight there: it doesn't care about things like matter,» Walker explains with a hint of sardonic humour, «Reckon our best bet is down the stairs like you suggested, unless those wires lead somewhere.» Answering the shaman's call, two more powerful spirits waver nearby in the air, quickly swelling to immense size as the shaman breathes more power into them.

«More like I have no idea where the stairs are. Could follow the LED cable, have a feeling it was their guide in this dark place.» With no clear path, the scarred Elf follows the LED cable along it's path.

Walker and Dorian move past the battery cell room, following another stretch of cables down through the hall. The trail actuylly leads to another elevator and flight of stairs, located within the machinery section of sublevel 1. This elevator is for medium-sized vehicles, and the stairs are also much wider than the ones that ran down from ground level. Anyway, the elevator is out of order as well, and the LED lights dot the way down the stairs towards sublevel 2.

Dorian, who leads the way, is scouting and sneaking up ahead, until he suddenly stops. The final turn on the stairs to sublevel two are bathed in bright light. Wait, not 'light' in the usual sense. Something is emitting infrared light; in the visible spectrum, it's still completely dark down here.

Walker trails behind the samurai, taking the opportunity to scope out astral space while maintaining his masking to appear astrally inactive. «I can ask these to lead the way if that'd be easier?» he offers, oblivious to the 'bright' infrared lighting.

«They're probably using thermals down here, place is flooded with infrared.» The scarred elf stops near the illuminated area, switching to his own thermal sense to see if his vision is any better with it than his ultrasounds. «Last bend before we're in the belly of the beast, so to speak. Crash the previous elevator with a spirit, and we move in with the others to start shit?»

«Also we haven't clocked the drone that was leading the car, assume there's some mechanical help down here that your spell didn't pick up, perhaps.» Dorian adds in as a quick additional thought surfaces.

«Add it to the list,» Walker growls as he turns to the spirits. "Return to our elevator where we came from, go to the elevator at the other end of the floor and mess with it until it crashes to this level," he instructs the more cooperative of the pair. "Once it hits bottom, both of you move down to the far end of this level and take physical form, confusing and dispathcing anything attacking you, me or the other elf." Turning to the smaller spirit he summoned previously, the elf's invisible face cracks a grin, "Get ready to dance."

«Plot» Yin says, "A quick recap, to get some things aligned between us. The first elevator was located at the center of the base section of the U-shaped building above. You now moved towards a corner of the whole layout, about 30 meters away from first elevator. There, you took the wider flight of stairs down to sublevel 2. So far, Walker did not hear anything from up ahead. So, there seems to be another distance between you and this illuminated camp Walker saw with Claivoyance. Dorian, however, with his Sound Filter, hears the faint shuffling of feet and equipment in the distance, but no details. So far, noe of you has peeked into the layout of sublevel 2. You are still on the lower end of the stairs."

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