Synopsis: When Gretchen is called to a meeting with one of the Sinners, it seems like a simple missing persons case. Instead, the investigation takes a turn for the worse and Gretchen finds herself stumbling into something much bigger, something that could endanger the entire Warrens, and potentially the World at large. Her investigation sends her near the Dungeon, where she finds a strange half man/half spirit and gets suitably freaked out. Leaving that well enough alone, she checks out a private investigators office who was working the case, only to find that it isn't just the Sinners that have started going missing, and not for simple reasons either. These strange half-spirits are growing and spreading and the investigator has left to try and stop it. While there, two mutated humans enter the building, but Gretchen manages to avoid capture. The mutated humans set an explosive that destroys the office building and Gretchen escapes to the nearby Souk to study the information she gathered. Asking for help on Shadowland, Kraft comes to her aid and uncovers some information that lets him in on the story. He joins Gretchen as they head for the 'hive' and finish by saving the still human captives and putting an end to the threat.
Date: 20th January 2078


It's one terrible night in Denver; rain slashes down across the streets, the occasional rumble of thunder fights against the noise of the huge neon screens advertising their wares, a flash and a crackle of lightning dances across the sky. You've had a call from one of the Sinners, a girl in her late teens who works the streets, asking to meet her outside the Crank, she needs help urgently. Avoiding the downpour, the girl is standing in the doorway of the apartment building, a longcoat keeping her mostly dry, though her strawberry red hair is soaked through and clings to her pale white face, while her arms are wrapped tight around her tiny form, shivering in the cold. You know the girl as Candy.

Lately, Gretchen has been spending a few nights a week squatting in a subway transfer station below the Souk for nefarious reasons. When she does so, she rents a streetside coffin at a rack in the Souk where pay-to-stay cubbies can be rented by the hour. They aren't housed inside of a structure, they're simply modular pieces that are stacked alongside an old tenement building, and those on the bottom level, the troll-accommodating ones, are the perfect place to stow a motorcycle overnight.

At the call from Candy, Gretchen halts her subterranean patrols of the abandoned tunnels lit by burn barrels she's placed throughout the massive complex by hand, grabs her street bag and slips its single strap over her head. The hood of her parka comes up, breather mask, goggles, gloves, all set. She navigates the tunnel system back to the hidden entrance, ninja turtles her way out of a manhole and slips into the Souk to retrieve her bike.

The journey northwest to Mission Hills is done as quick as possible, and near the Crank the German drops the kickstand of the Triumph RK30 and sends the Sinner a text after dismounting. « I'm here. »

Under the cover of the Crank entrance, the pavement ahead reflecting its neon bright sign, Candy pulls a phone from her pocket and looks it over, having to briefly wash away some of the rainwater to see the screen. The girl reads the message and looks around through the darkness until she spots a familiar shape. Risking it, she steps away from the cover of the building straight into the downpour, her sparsely dressed figure appearing thinner as the rain drenches her to the bone. She gets closer and calls out in a squeak of a voice, ".. Gretchen?".

The area appears quiet tonight, the rain keeping all but the most determined off the streets, and those that are braving it are either running or wearing comfortable weather appropriate clothing. Even the usual gathering of Sinners, keeping an eye on things, have thinned out, only a few groups gathered around to watch their turf.

Speedwalking across the street, Gretchen hops into a little gallop at the curb before closing the distance to Candy. Her olive, military surplus parka is darkened by the rain but well proofed against it. With a gloved hands she un-adheres the citybreather mask from its place over her nose and mouth and pushes her goggles up to her forehead, revealing black-ringed eyes. "What's so urgent? What's going on?" The girl turns and scans the block before Candy has a chance to reply, but she's listening.

With a small, quivering hand - whether from the cold or fear - Candy runs the fingers back through her red hair, quite literally having to peel the strands from her rain soaked cheeks. Nervously, she glances over at one of the small groups of Sinners who, thankfully, aren't looking in her direction. "Just.. um..", a quick glance one way, then the next, before making a decision, ".. over here.". The girl turns and dashes a few feet away, splashing through an unseen puddle on the way to a nearby alleyway. She stops just at the entrance, so she's out of line of sight of most on the sidewalk. Leaning against a wall, she goes back to scraping hair from her cheek, tucking it back behind an ear, cold, pale features waiting for Gretchen to follow.

Following Candy's lead, Gretchen obliges the girl and accompanies her into the alley, hands rooting through her bag along the way.

"It's a long story, I guess..", Candy starts, ".. it's like this; we're losing people, like, literally losing them, we don't know where they've gone. Mercy wants them back, she's going crazy like, thinking they might have shifted allegiance or something. So Mercy is like cursing and threatening to kill them and I just up and say, 'I can find them for you.'. Like..", a hand goes to her face, a literal facepalm moment, ".. I don't know what I'm thinking, I guess I was hoping to leave the streets and be taken serious-like. I'm tough!", the waif-like figure says, "Serious.". Falling silent as a few people cross the front of the alleyway, she waits for them to be gone before continuing, "I don't know people, like, you're the only runner I know, so I went to this Bambrage, he's like an investigator that works up near the Souk, so I was getting him to find out for me, but now he's gone missing too! And if I don't get somethin' done before the night is over, I dunno what Mercy is going to do to me. Like, I am /so/ fragged."

"Okay, look, calm down. Calm down." Gretchen's hand wraps around what she had been seeking in her messenger bag. Turning slightly so that the view would be blocked by her body from the entrance of the alley she slips out a new-model Predator and familiarly double checks the safety and pops the magazine out for an ammo count.



She slides the mag back in and pulls the slide, then turns it handle-first toward the Sinner. "Take this." She offers up the Pred III, holding it now by the barrel.

"What else can you tell me?" Gretchen seems puzzled, but the girl is obviously fearful of something, so arming her was the first thought that came to mind. "Where did Bambrage work out of? Who was he tight with?" The German seems to be implicitly agreeing to help out without bothering to negotiate terms.

With a nervous expression, Candy reaches out and takes the offered firearm, holding onto it as if it were a child rather than a weapon. She holds it close against her stomach, "What am I supposed to do with this?", she asks, "I'm not gonna shoot Mercy! I'd be dead in like two seconds!".

Leaving that to focus on the questions, she slides the rather large weapon into her small handbag. It barely fits, but it's out of the way for now. "I don't know, he works near the Souk. Like, if you leave the Souk and turn left, there's a building, then another building on the right side of the street. He's in there. He's got this nameplate outside that reads, 'Pat Bambrage - Private Investigator', on it..", her hand moves as if to follow the words in the air. "I told him like, the girls are going missing, I told him about Leisha - she was the last one, like, super sweet she was, she wouldn't have left for no reason - he said he'd look into it and to come back today. So I went there today but he's gone, I couldn't get an answer, I couldn't get him on his cell or anything, he's vanished too."

"Well, it's probably a safe bet that your PI made some progress…" Gretchen takes a dissatisfied deep breath and digs fingertips into the layers of fabric at the back of her skull to try to scratch an itch through a hat, a pulled up scarf, and dual hoods from a zip-up and then the parka. Cold winter… Warm layers…

That sigh turns into a few moments of serious consideration as Gretchen turns in place, looking mainly at the ground.

"Alright, and Leisha?" The German girl waves a pointed finger vaguely near her head to indicate the general vicinity. "Where did she crash? Did she have any shady regular customers or anything? Any /new/ Johns with some nasty habits?"

It's a voice first. One that Gretchen was probably familiar with by now. Considering how much of a pain in the ass he's been with her. It's raised from the shadows but pitched low to reach the two women. "I'll assist in their recovery. I believe this may also help with aleviating the irritation and hostility they have against me if I show that I am not a bad person. Just bad to cross."

Zen, after speaking, melts out of the shadows, literally having them ripple about him as that ruthe cloak shifts to that neutral grey. He kept the hood up against the rain, but he did try to make sure they wouldn't shoot first.

Here's hoping. At least.

There's a few moments of silence from Candy, the teenage redhead staring at the floor as she thinks over a few things, even lifting a hand to chew on the tip of a cherry red fingernail. "I..", she starts, more thoughts in her head, ".. don't think so. There was this guy, like, Leisha was talking about him from time to time. She really liked him, like /really/ liked him, he wasn't a normal john to her, not anymore. She wouldn't have left with him though, she was more a Sinner than I've ever been, like, this is her life.".

The girl gives a shrug of her shoulders, then returns to the first question, a motion of her hand toward an upper floor of the Crank. "Third floor. Room three one four. I checked in there earlier but it don't look like she's been home a while.". There's a squeak of surprise as Zen appears from nowhere, her hand going to her new gun, but fumbling, dropping the handbag onto the wet floor, the gun clacking onto the stone ground. She crouches down, focuses first on gathering up her miscellaneous items that have scattered about too, "Ooh, frag it.", she mutters to herself.

Gretchen draws the instant she hears the first syllable, whipping the barrel of her handgun at the source of the voice. She only lowers the weapon slightly at the realization of who it is, but would have a pretty decent shot to the knee lined up without moving if it came to that. She does take a moment to look down to Candy's spill, just a quick glance, but returns her eyes to the cloaked man.

"Jesus fucking christ," is all that Gretchen states at first, stage-whispering to be heard over the constant white noise of the rain. "I'll kill you myself if you ever pull that shit again. And you're certainly not helping /yourself/ by creeping around Mercy's goddamn front doorstep, basically." She growls, "Every goddamned time…"

Zen.. doesn't move. Sure.. he could of out drew Gretchen, but there was a certain level of trust there it seems. He'd watch, arms folded under that cloak as Candy recovered and Gretchen chewed him out. "It's hard to do what I do if I'm not here, afterall. I would of sent a text first, but as you mentioned, there's a lot of survailance around here and I didn't wish to give you away." Zen studies Gretchen, then looks to Candy. "I know the Sinners are hostile to me. I'm seeking to end that. Maybe helping this can help that. Please allow me to provide assistance?"


Climbing the steps to the third floor of the Crank there's a certain thanks for being out of the rain, but then there's also the barely conscious chiphead on the stairs you have to make your way past, not to mention the smell in here is stale and unclean. But eventually you find yourself in front of Leisha's apartment door, which is currently closed and locked.

Gretchen pockets her weapon but keeps it at the ready, held inside a generous pocket of her parka. She stares down the chiphead who seems barely able to keep his eyes open as she climbs to Leisha's room and peers both ways down the hall before trying a passkey on the maglock…

The maglock to Leisha's apartment looks like it's been beaten on a few times, perhaps unhappy customers taking out their frustration when their access cards refuse to work. You even need to straighten the casing so you can slot in the passkey, but once in there it gives a garbled bleep and a thunk sounds as the lock slides back.

Pushing open the door, the room is vacant but previously lived in. It's not the worst room you've ever seen, some clean up attempt has been made, rugs and slices of carpet placed over the worst parts of the floor, a few pictures on the walls to hide the torn wallpaper. There's a double bed, a full length mirror, a dresser with another large mirror and a seat in front, and a kitchen area with some passable foodstuffs.

Zen heads in as a ghost behind Gretchen, not even a breath of sound. If she knew he was that closer to her..? She probably would of shot him. Either way, once inside, he'd send a simple text to the phone number he knows is her cell. «I'm appearing now.» It's only after she reads it, that he'd cycle off the ruthe cloak and while standing in the kitchen, takes out a small wicke towel to start drying off the cloak. "So.. what should I look for here?"

Gretchen doesn't care about maintaining the state of the room once she's in, though she does try not to make too much noise. Volume levels aside though, she dumps out drawers of clothes, tosses the bed coverings aside, leaves the mattress askew. To Zen, Gretchen hisses, "If I /knew/, I wouldn't be /looking/!"

There's no apparant signs of a fight in here, it's all very neat, until Gretchen starts dumping things all over the room. Come to think of it, it's /really/ neat, she's the only one to really notice but it's the kind of neat that is trying to hide a previous mess. Perhaps it's a mess made by Leisha, though that's not the feeling she's getting.

On the dresser sits a notebook attached to a charger in the wall.

Gretchen gingerly powers up the notebook with reluctant, gloved hands, half-expecting an explosion when the screen illuminates…

Zen is careful to not leave a real mark. Gretchen tosses the room, Zen still tries to hide that he is. He'd look around, then watch Gretchen as she'd check the notebook. "Hmm.."

The notebook flickers to life, there's no passcode to enter, it jumps straight to a menu system. Contacts, Calendar, Notes, History. The Contacts, when opened, show a list of names and telephone numbers, most are various John's, while the rest are friends, family and members of the gang. The Calendar shows upcoming 'arrangements'. Notes contain random thoughts and scribblings. While History shows previous meetings.

There are various upcoming events in the calendar, nothing that really stands out, names linked to contacts so she can pull up a number straight away. The history, however, shows quite a lot of visits by someone under the name 'Walter'. Not the most inspiring of names, but it takes all sorts. His name also links to a contact number in the list. In the notes there is more about 'Walter', musing over spending time with him, some rather graphic descriptions of what she enjoyed the last time he came to visit. Then a couple of days ago there's a note about that 'weird guy' across the street that followed her. She notes that this isn't unusual in her line of work, but this one really creeped her out. A day later there's another mention, 'He was there again, fraggin' weirdo'.

Zen didn't find anything of interest, so would shadow behidn Gretchen's shoulder as she'd flip. Shadowing means he just subconciously matches breathing pattern as he'd fade into her shadow.. if he had the cloak active. Otherwise, he'd watch and read, blinking in surprise at some of the more.. graphic.. material. "People will write about that? How.. odd." Shaking his head a little, he'd frown and step away. "Let's see.. that day and time, I wonder if I heard anything then?"

"Are you pulling some 'return to the scene of the crime' shit?" Gretchen grips her pistol again, drawing it from her jacket pocket as she addresses Zen. "Because this girl claims to have spotted a stalker in the neighborhood. Sound like someone you know..?"

Zen stares at Gretchen. "I'm an assassin. Not a stalker. Nor do I work with others. I protect people. I feel rather insulted you would even ask me that." He'd frown and cross his arms under his cloak, sighing. "I wasn't in this area then. I don't remember hearing about someone here. If I had seen a person like that? I would of stopped them. Quietly. That's part of what I do."

"You know what else you do? Stop breathing down my fucking neck." Gretchen demands her personal space and maneuvers with the notebook to get some distance from the second shadow she seems to have acquired in the alley below. She does a bit more crossreferencing but doesn't seem to have much more to work with. Lowering her eyes to the floor, she paces a few steps this way, then back, before spinning the notebook with a flick of her wrist to fall onto the mattress. "Well, something happened in here at some point. It was way too clean when we entered. Too neat. I don't trust it."

With the apartment left behind, the pair continue on down the stairs, to find Candy standing in the cover of the doorway again. The young redhead is still completely soaked, leaving a puddle of drips all around her, and she's taken to clasping the gun in hand, though keeps it mostly out of sight beneath her longcoat. "Good luck.", she says, seeing Gretchen leaving, "I hope you find something.".

The notebook, being only a selection of random musings and comments, didn't give any definite locations for where she might have been when the 'weirdo' was spotted, but most stay at least on Sinners turf so that narrows it down somewhat, but is still a lot of ground to consider.

Gretchen double-takes, returning to Candy after having already wished her well. She asks a few pointed questions, shotgun still hoisted over her shoulder to keep the second shadow at bay. The shotty is on a sling which hangs around her neck, crisscrossing the strap of her bag, which is also a weapon sling, just repurposed.

Sensing she can be helpful for once, Candy perks up at the question, "Well, like, that would depend what day it is. Like, if it was Monday she'd be wiped out from the night before so just be outside here, but then Friday she's all like, let's go party, and she's outside the Dungeon, but that's tough, there's a lot of competition. When she's done, she'll go there and have a drink or three.", the girl nods.

Matching the date in the notes to the days mentioned, it's a good chance she'd be outside the Dungeon when being stalked.

She thinks having a shotgun up like that would keep him back.

How cute.

Zen is still that silent shadow, tracking Gretchen's path and moving as fast as the cloak would let him. It's not much, of course.. but do what you can, right? Either way, he'd watch and listen as she'd do her work. He's a specialist.. but at least he knows it. His time will come. It's being patient and waiting for it, rather than messing things up, or pulling in more trouble, that's key.

The German does some mental tetris and settles on the Dungeon as the likeliest location to try alleyways for a clue of the potential stalker. Before departing though, she offers Candy some food and a couple of chemical handwarmer heat-packs. "And Candy? Why don't you text me on the hour, every hour with your location, okay? Doesn't matter if you're here on this corner all night. Just let me know where you are every hour, and if anything else occurs to you, or if you spot anything strange, alright?"

The young redhead smiles quite happily at that, Candy doesn't seem to get a lot of consideration it seems. "I will. Every hour, on the hour.", she parrots chirpily, even taking her phone out to check the current time on it. "Thirty three minutes.". She takes the other offerings with the look of someone who's being given birthday presents, stuffing the items away but holding on to the handwarmers; her hands are bone white and, while her skin is naturally pale, they shouldn't be that pale. "Thanks Gretchen!".


The Dungeon is perhaps two blocks over and, even with the pouring rain and the flash of lighting, people are moving in and out of the building almost constantly, a crowd gathering under the awning to protect somewhat from the rain.

Although it's a short distance, Gretchen returns to her bike and cruises slowly toward the club just to have her wheels close at hand. Her breather mask and goggles have been placed back over her features, and thankfully her coat is able to keep out the wet and the worst of the chill.

It's a normal night at the Dungeon, it seems. The bike rumbles closer, a hiss of water as the wheels cut through puddles. A few people look over to take in the new arrival, though only a cursory glance to see what the noise is all about before they continue with their conversations. There is nothing immediately out of the ordinary, but Leisha's noted mention of 'across the street' reminds you take in that section of the area too.

With your eyes set to thermographic, it's like looking at a ghost. While blue would be cold, red would be hot, the human shape you're looking at is neither, it takes in the same heat as the surroundings; the rain isn't making him cold, his natural body heat doesn't show either. Flicking to normal vision he appears to be a normal man, but there's something about him that sends a shiver down the spine, a twitch at the back of the eye, as if you're looking at something unnatural. What's more worrying is he's staring right back at you with eyes that are empty, nothing but shadow.

The stranger stands at the mouth of an alleyway, cloaked in shadow, wearing a longcoat and casual dark clothing, hands pushed into the pockets.

Gretch allows her bike to drift away its momentum as she approaches the Dungeon, dropping into neutral before shutting the engine off, and when she is just about out of speed, travelling like molasses, she lets her boots hit the ground to walk the bike into a streetside parking spot. That's when she spies the figure…

There's a sensation as you look at him and he looks at you, as if you don't want to look at him, your mind doesn't want to know he's there. It's almost overwhelming to the point where you believe he isn't actually there at all, but then you push through it and somehow manage to focus.

Gretchen fights back the feelings of revulsion and fear of the unnatural, attempting to act as though she hadn't spotted the figure. She goes so far as to finish parking, then work her way under a corner of the awning within view of the alley where she removes her mask, pulls back her hood, hat and scarf to reveal platinum-white hair, then light up a cigarette. She keeps the thermo setting active and angles in such a way as to keep the creeper on the edge of her peripheral vision…

Perhaps the figure thinks his trick worked, as he looks casually away from the new observer. Nobody else in the area seem to have noticed him or, if they have, they have no recollection of it or intent to do so again. He stands completely motionless, not a twitch, not even the wind or rain moves him. A momentary flash of lightning illuminates the alleyway he stands in, a brief motion of rats scurrying around, trash picked up and thrown by the wind, the figures pale features and empty eyes staring out across the street.

While it doesn't take occult knowledge to know this thing isn't natural, it does appear to be human. Your best guess would be a spirit using the body as a host, but it's like nothing you've ever seen before, though judging by it's appearance and the fact it's inhabiting a human host, it would have to be toxic.

Gretchen turns to the side, back facing the mysterious figure, as fear-inducing as that is. She does this in order to address a dwarf who, because of her own short stature, is likely to be the only person near who is at all shorter than she is, and therefore less daunting to approach out of the blue.

"Hoi, uhm…" Gretchen awkwardly requests the dwarf's attention while taking a nervous drag of her cigarette. "Do you… Don't look, but do you see the guy across the street behind me..?"

The dwarf, who appears to have had a few from the Dungeon, almost stumbles when hearing the woman. "Uhh..", he says with slurred speech, ".. 'sup chica?". He peers past Gretchen in the direction of the alleyway, blinks his eyes once, then twice, leans his head forward a little further to get a better look. "Nope!", he says nervously, half sobered up almost in an instant, "Not seein' nothin'!".

Across the street, the stranger realises he's been spotted, cold empty eyes staring straight back at the dwarf; it doesn't need to do anything else to give the man chills.

"Frag that drek.", the dwarf says, brushing off the human female and turning away, heading back the way he came toward the Dungeon. "I need another drink."

Gretchen's frown deepens at the dwarf's strange reaction, but that only serves to confirm her suspicion that there's something very wrong standing just across the street, hidden somehow in plain sight. The hairs on the back of her neck rise as a chill simultaneously creeps down her spine. With a force of will, she turns, raking a hand through her platinum, storm-tousled hair and flicks her cigarette butt to the gutter while sneaking a glance.

She shudders faintly, then pushes through the bodies to the doorman, feigning interest in getting inside. Balking at the cover charge, she raises her voice at one point as she lifts up her hands.

"—not fucking paying /that/ much…"

With that, she storms through the awning crowd back toward her bike, replacing her beanie and other headgear, including hoods and breather. She pays the rain on her seat no mind as she straddles the bike and fires it up, planning to head to the detective's office in the Souk unless pursued by the figure…

The stranger remains standing at the mouth of the alleyway, unmoving, he senses the eyes on him again and stares straight back at Gretchen. Perhaps it's easier after a few attempts, but her eyes stay longer this time, focus in on what she's seeing; Rick Davitt. He's what would be described as an information gatherer, a man with so many contacts that it's a wonder how he never became a fixer. Or at least, he used to be, before he went mysteriously missing a couple of weeks ago. People figured someone had whacked him. It seems not.

With a small step backwards, the figure of Rick disappears into the shadows, though these are no ordinary shadows; tendrils wrap around him from the ether, gather him deeper into the darkness, until he's gone completely.

Gretchen white-knuckle grips her handlebars to keep her hands from twitching nervously as she pulls out and begins to make her way through Mission Hills' gauntlet of street rubble, dodging past road blocks made of burned out vehicle chassis and other improvised barriers.


The trip to the detective's office is uneventful, though certainly not pleasant with the driving rain which seems to increase in strength as the night goes on. The lightning and thunder have passed, at least, leaving just the darkness, the wind and the downpour. Pulling up at the building Candy described, it's easy to note that you have the right address. On the door itself, etched into the glass, is a sign, 'Patrick Bambrage, Private Investigator' and a little below that, 'Second Floor'. Inside, the first floor contains a row of apartments, perhaps five doorways, with a stairway leading upwards.

At Bambrage's office, she takes a paranoid look around after parking and setting her security system. Second floor, the sign reads… She backpedals and glances up toward the second story windows.

The Souk is only a few buildings along the road, so there are people wandering around, though with the heavy rain most have decided to wait it out until later. The amount of people are a lot less than they would be otherwise. The second floor window has a faint light on inside and has the same etching as the entrance doorway, 'Patrick Bambrage, Private Investigator', though a little larger to attract attention. Thankfully, there is nothing untoward in the surroundings.

In through the front door, which is unlocked as it's also an apartment building, and up the stairs to the second floor. There are also five doors here, but one of them is the most obvious as it again has the writing etched onto the front, 'Patrick Bambrage, Private Investigator'. The door has a keycard lock on the outside and is currently closed.

Gretchen tries to look casual about entering, but probably isn't. She's very spooked, but powering through. Between instinctive glances over her shoulders, she moves to inspect the door and the lock itself.

There's nobody around, but that could just mean they're very good at hiding. Or maybe they're here already and you don't remember seeing them, that they didn't want you to see them, it's like having Zen at your side all over again. Is he there or isn't he? Where did Zen go, anyway? Perhaps he was one of them too.

The lock looks standard, a little better than the one in the Crank, but that's not saying much. It's meant to keep out snoopers and is a detective's office, so it also looks nicer than the others along the corridor. The door itself might need a good kick to get through too.

The first attempt with the passkey causes the lock to buzz unhappily, a red light blinks on for a few seconds then fades out. Perhaps it thinks you put the card in wrong? Or maybe it knows it was the wrong card and right now there's a security guard in heavy armor coming to sort out the problem.

But.. nothing happens.

Suddenly there's a loud beep! Thankfully it's just the phone. Candy checking in, she's still alive.

Gretchen rolls her eyes and mouths a silent, "Please work, please work," behind her breather.


She grits her teeth— AND THEN FREAKS OUT, hand darting to the pager clipped to the strap of her bag on her chest.

«SILENT MODE» — Then she breathes a quick sigh, realizing it's only Candy.

She can't tell if it's sweat or rain on her forehead, but Gretchen feels drops beading and rolling down her temples.

"Zen?! Zen, you Steven Segall sonofa—" Gretchen swivels her head rapidly, unsure if the one stalker might still be present in case the one she's trying to track down shows up…

There is no Zen, or at least if there is he doesn't answer. Perhaps you lost him when you took the bike.

Another attempt with the keycard causes the light to turn yellow, as if it hadn't read the card correctly, another attempt makes the green and red lights flicker back and fore in confusion, then with a little wriggle the card slots and the light turns green. There's a bleep, a thunk as the lock slides back, and the door opens a touch. Faint light from inside spills out into the hallway.

Gretchen's breath catches in her throat as the lock finally responds properly to her passkey and she hustles inside as fast as humanly possible, gritting her teeth as she takes hold of the doorknob. There's a moment of hesitation as she reaches out a hand like a blind woman to check whether Zen is skulking through with her, but she doesn't hold the door open more than a second before easing it closed and locking it from the inside.

She presses her back to the wall inside the room and works a hand inside her double hoods to grip the back of her neck, touching the slender band of her choker in the process as she forces herself to take calming deep breaths. She's anxious in general, so nights like tonight tend to keep her on edge.

The inside of the private investigators room is tastefully decorated in a half modern, half 21st century style. Stuffer Shack wrappers, sheafs of paper, piles of clothing and scattered computer manuals dot the office area. To the right of the door, right beside where you're standing, is an area sectioned off by a sheet hung over a rope. You can't see what's behind there at the moment. Across the room on the left is the investigators desk, covered with various electronic items; a vidphone unit, vid-deck, a screen, table top computer, video chips, more papers and a pocket secretary.

Gretchen takes her breaths, slow and measured, though her heart threatens to burst through her chest, but in the span of a few moments she begins to calm herself. Those tai chi classes were useful for something at the very least…

Her paranoia is still at an all-time high, and a part of her mind, a mental dam of sorts, collapses under the psychological pressure of feeling hunted, allowing a wild surge of mana to course through her, unwanted, undesired, and definitely uncomfortable. Shortly after the surge, she manages to reseal the break in the wall, sealing herself off from the power once again, and she begins turning her attention to the room she now hides in, in an earnest effort to distract herself from… pretty much everything going on right now. Just focus on one little thing at a time… One thing at a time.

Blinders are in full effect as she begins creeping about the room.

Moving further into the room, you can start to see behind the sheet to what appears to be a section sealed off from the 'office' side, which includes a bed, a bureau, some jackets and shirts hanging on a hook, and something reminiscent of an archeological dig. At closer examination it turns out to be a sink. Next to the bed a single lamp is lit, no doubt the light that was coming through the window outside.

There are a few things that deserve closer inspection; a legal pad on the desk, audio chips, video chips and the pocket secretary to name a few.

The silence becomes noticable the longer you spend in here. Not a sound, not a whir of electronics, no shouting from next door, no creaky floor boards. The only sound is the steady swish of rain against the window.

The German girl takes a moment to account for the most interesting objects around the room as she snaps out her Alta from its hidden holster tucked into the sleeve of her coat to thread a silencer onto the barrel. Before she begins properly investigating though, she whispers out for Zen, ordering him to reveal himself again. With no proper reply or flourish of a cloak, she sets to work, grumbling but glad for the assumed solitude.

Chips. Many, many datachips… She rapidly sifts through them for written labels of any interest, then mental notes the legal pad and the pocsec. Who leaves home/the office without their pocsec? If anything, that seems like a solid hint at foul play.

…Gretchen pays the peace and quiet no mind. In fact, she appreciates it a great deal.

The silence seems to add to the sound you make, even though you're quiet it seems much too loud. Looking through the video chips you find most to be nothing but recordings of century old classics such as 'The Maltese Falcon', whatever that is. Inside the pocket secretary is another video chip and clicking play on the device brings it to life:

An image of Leisha, the girl you're looking for - amongst others - blinks to life on the screen. "Hi Walter!", she says. The voice on the other end sounds much more gruff and mature than you'd expect for a Walter, "Hey babe, what's up?". The girl acts playfully shy, "Not much..", she smiles, ".. just wanted to call you.".

The couple continue to make pleasantries, talk about future meetings and flirt relentlessly, and you're about to give up and turn it off when Leisha makes a comment, "There he is again! Fraggin' weirdo. Can you look at this?". She turns the camera from her to across the street. Immediately that chill hits you, the sight of something unnatural, your eyes fighting against wanting to look at it. "Look at what, babe?", comes Walters reply, "What are you looking at?". Leisha brings the camera back to her, "What d'you mean? The guy over there. He's creepy, he's been following me for like an hour, look at him!", the camera spins again to show the oh-too-familiar face of Rick, but now he's moving closer. Leisha turns to look at him, looks straight through him, and then back to the camera. "Oh, he's gone. Never mind. Love you, Walt'! Gotta go!". Behind her, the eyeless image moves closer still and then the video shuts off.

Behind her mask, Gretchen grimaces, lips pulling back in that sort of frown that accompanies a hiss of air being drawn in over clenched teeth. She focuses intently on lifting every item as gently as possible, pocketing the secretary device, putting seemingly unrelated chips back exactly as she found them, and so forth. The legal pad (is it a datapad sort of thing, or actual paper?) is the next item on her current checklist, and she begins to browse it while stepping back into the best concealment available while still having light to read by.

The legal pad is actual paper, would you believe. They're not exactly cheap, but judging by the investigators decor and choice of movies he likes to do things old style. Sadly, the pad is completely empty, it's paper waiting to be written on. Judging by faint imprints in the pad, someone was sketching with some pressure last time they used it. There's a pencil thread through a small holder at the top of the pad.

There are other items to take interest in, as well; the audio chips still remain, as does his computer.

Using the pencil provided, Gretchen gently shades with the long side of the graphite with quick strokes, but she's careful not to apply much pressure at all.

The previous image written on the pad slowly unfolds. It takes up almost the entire page, includes notes and comments, but is mostly a map. It details a few blocks of the Warrens, Shenandoah is written across what seems to be one road, another toward Smoky Hills, a cross section of the area cut down to one main block in the centre. At various points around that block are numbered notes, which are detailed below the image: 1) First encounter. 2) Lost Here. 3) Headed South. 4) Possible crosspoint. Then, on the centre block at one edge is an X. Beneath the numbering he notes, 'This has to be it.'.

The map is slooooooowly torn out of the legal pad, Gretchen wincing with every miniscule rip until at the end, she tears it off like a bandaid in one final crinkleshrednoise. Fold, fold, fold, and into a pocket it goes as she leans her parka-ed self over the desk, one hand tapping the phone buttons to scroll the call history while she holds the terminal's mouse in the other. She turns side to side, looking from one to the other, eager to gather more details if possible and GTFO now that she has a destination in mind.

Because, while she may not be questioning the potentially suspicious nature of the ominous silence here, her paranoia is intense nonetheless, and the desire to get gone is paramount.

The pad had some interesting information, unless it's completely unrelated of course. The computer, however, has more to tell. It doesn't ask for a password so perhaps he's actually a legit, legal investigator. In the Warrens? Unlikely. Looking through his previous emails you find contact between him and a decker, left unnamed, talking about accessing Leisha's phone records. The decker agrees for a small fee and a file is later transferred at a private meeting point. That explains it being in his pocket secretary. More emails between the decker and the investigator are found further back in the history, searching for other peoples details, other missing individuals, including one Rick Davitt. /That/ Rick Davitt.

The phone history tells the same story that the computer does - a mention of dealing with someone, then the phone will show a call to that person, and on it goes. The investigators personal files detail the search attempts for each individual, the actions he'd taken and record numbers for audio files related to the case. These numbers no doubt relate to the numbers on the audio chips themselves. Finally, there's a locked file that requires a password, but the filename is telling enough, 'Them'.

Breaking the ominous silence of the room, there's a faint creak from somewhere, a faint but audible click and crack. These old apartment buildings make weird noises at night.

She fumbles in a pocket!

Gretchen instantly drops into a crouch by the desk, pistol coming from one pocket while a little USB-type drive comes out of another. She fights to get the device plugged into the correct slot of the terminal with the intent of capturing as much of the PI's data as she can in a quick datasteal. People should really use passwords more, you know?

There is nothing visible in the room, it's fallen completely silent again, eerily quiet, the quiet that echoes everything you do. Even pushing the pen-drive into the computer sounds too loud. The data starts transferring, a percentage bar slowly making its way across the screen when…

There's something very bad approaching, currently outside the building but approaching fast. A blink and you sense another come into your sense range, they're side by side at the moment.

Gretchen bobs up from the desk to scan the room as she senses… danger. Just… danger. And it's very near, and it's very fast. She remains crouched at the desk to be able to pull the drive out the /very instant/ it's done, then she'll try to hightail it to the hall, and through to, well, any exit that might lead away from the feeling emanating from the street.

There's a faint noise against the steady swish of the rain against the window; the rumble of a car outside. It's engine dies and there are the sounds of doors opening and closing. The feelings of danger move toward the building, approaching the front entrance, not seeming in any rush but at a fair pace all the same.

The percentage bar continues to rise, slides slowly past 60 percent, it seems to be taking far too long. Or maybe that's just heightened by the incoming threat.

Gretchen knows she's going to regret this, but then again, there's a lot to potentially regret here, so maybe this is just a drop in the bucket: she pulls the drive before the transfer completes, in the vain hope that she'll have swiped something of at least minimal use. She side steps quickly around the desk, scooping up a random handful of the optical chips she neglected before. Even if this info doesn't help her figure out this situation for Candy and Leisha, it might be worth something down the line to a databroker… At the door she pauses for the briefest moment to get an impression of where the animosity is coming from, but she flares her nostrils behind her breather and braces to make the dash to the other exit.

The computer screen flashes up a transfer error when the drive is removed, the message remaining on the screen as you rush for the door. The ever present danger opens the first floor door, the sound of the rain increasing briefly before the door closes again behind them. The pair remain still, perhaps talking to each other if the mumble of voices is anything to go by, then one of them starts to climb the stairs while the other remains below.

The German girl does her best to slip out and shut the door behind her, /then/ slip through yet a second door, while sneaking a glance at the sources of malice that she feels in her mind like the turning of screws. She eases the fire escape door closed with a held breath.

When you take the glance down the stairs, it takes a moment for your mind to process that these aren't normal people. Not at all. You're waiting for the right moment; a glance away, a split second when the person climbing the stairs isn't going to notice. And then you focus in on the people themselves..

If Rick was a successful merging of man and spirit, these are the experiments gone wrong. They appear as normal people at first glance, but the one climbing the stairs you recognize; she used to be a gang member for the Sinners. Her hair has gone except for a few wispy strands, a bulbous growth swelling from the side of her head, her eyes are black and empty of life. While her right arm is normal and carries an SMG, her left arm is twisted and deformed, ending in two claw-like fingers. Her clothing is a mess, a strange black substance splattered across them, while the smell is noticable even from twenty feet away.

The fire escape suddenly seems like a very good idea.

Immediately, Gretchen plants a hand on the railing of the little platform of the fire escape balcony and vaults herself over the edge, boots-first, arms rising up overhead before she lands in a crouch, then scrambles with feet and hands. Movement propels her upward and forward into a hunkered-over run in search of cover, turning at the first opportunity to break potential line of sight.

The creature climbs up to the top of the stairs just as the fire door hisses closed, so quietly that it doesn't even notice. You can sense it's movements still through the spell, as it moves up to the private investigators door and straight through it, the crash as the door collapses heard even through the fire door.

Below, the second person climbs the stairs to join the first, enters the room, the pair moving around. As you know the layout, one goes towards the computer, while the other moves toward the window.

That mind-churning sensation of the creatures' locations spurs Gretchen to take a big chance and turn /directly/ toward the front of the building at the nearest alley in an effort to skulk off with her bike in neutral. She pops the kickstand up with a snap and crouches behind the low body of the cruiser with hands on the grips. Leaning into the machine, she tries to wheel it away from the front of the building, bootheels scraping on the wet pavement.

There is a momentary pause from up in the room, one of the creatures catching the sounds of scraping heels and the clack of the bike stand. Not interested, it continues with whatever it seems to be doing, which doesn't seem to take it long. The two come together to talk briefly near the centre of the room, then they head back toward the stairs, not seeming in any rush; they're certainly not running out to catch you.

As you move further away from the private investigators apartment, you continue to sense the movement of the two malformed creatures. The two move out to their car, which you noticed was an old battered Americar, and drive off. After a couple of seconds they drop out of your sense range and all falls silent.

Moments later, the private invesigators building is engulfed in an explosion, lighting up the rainy night sky. The exterior wall is blown across the street, the interior turned to dust, other rooms in the building either destroyed or seriously damaged. If anyone gets out alive, it'll be a miracle.

She doesn't even look back.

Gretchen twists the accelerator grip of her bike as it roars to life, lying nearly flat against the teardrop gas tank, nose nearly to the speedometer. Following the blast, the constant flow of air into and around her hood insulates her from any sound other than the pounding of her heart in her ears and the low grumble of her engine. She tears off in a roundabout path that ultimately brings her back to the outskirts of the marketplace from a different direction and she pulls some trash from a dumpster pile to help conceal her wheels once she finds a secluded place to dismount.


Inside the Souk, you track down one of the electronic stores and are ushered inside so you can check over the stolen information. It's a nice break from the rain, if nothing else, and if you pay a little extra they might even get you a hot soykaf.

While not a computer wiz by any stretch, you're not stupid and picked out the most important files first before copying as much of the rest as you could. The file with the password is still intact as are some of the case files. The case file named 'Leisha' has a matching audio chip which one of the vendors slots into an audio player. The playback begins:

"Leisha.", the investigator sighs. "Another missing person, another potential link to the one behind all this. I knew it the moment I heard it, this isn't the first of the Sinners they've taken and likely won't be the last, whoever is doing this has either a problem with the Sinners or just likes the women there. Who knows?"

The recording ends, then starts again at another date, another time. "I managed to gain access to her phone records. Most of it was pointless rambling about men and clothes, but the last one was interesting. The man I've seen before was in the footage and she could see him. Perhaps that's why they're taken, perhaps they take the ones that can see them? No, that makes no sense, or they would have taken me by now. It's a strange thing, you either don't see them or you do, but then if you do you sometimes forget that you did, until you play it back to yourself and then you remember it clearly. But the more you see them, the more you /can/ see them. They can't hide from me now, so I'm sure I'll be next to go missing."

Another break, then the recording starts again, "I think I've tracked them to a lair. Is that what we're calling it? A lair? I've been noting down the locations where I've been seeing them and the circle has been getting smaller and smaller. I've just finished making another and it comes to one spot. I'm sure of it. I'm going to go there and try to put an end to this. It's probably crazy, but it's me or them. I've seen them outside the office too many times to be coincidence.".

The rest of the files all follow the same path, a search for a missing person, the appearance of individuals that you can hardly look at. As time goes on he sees them more and more, links case after case, he notes in one of the cases that this could soon take over the entire Warrens. The numbers of missing grow exponentially with each passing week; one, two, four, eight. Almost fifty people have gone missing throughout the Warrens since he started the first case, which was Rick Davitt. Perhaps not all are related, but it's a number that worries him.

While not exactly hot property, the investigator does engage in other cases, some of which might be interesting to the right people. There is no doubt some decent paydata to be found amongst the notes and audio files.

Candy accepts the call excitedly, wants to know how you're getting on, if you're going to bring back their girls soon. She seems so innocent, oblivious to what's really going on, but she agrees to gather up with the Sinners to ensure she's safe.

Gretchen chainsmokes, and indeed asks about the chances of a cup of kaf right about now. She's stressing, but her two polar drives, paranoia to the point of neurosis and curiosity that may very well be indicative of a form of compulsive disorder serve to keep her somewhat focused on getting to the bottom of this. She puts the chipreader at the tech tent through its paces, skimming her stolen collection to try to suss out anything of value, either to her, or to the local brokers who can turn it around for greater profit. Who knows, there might be some good, good blackmail material sitting right under her nose.

It's a rapid shuffle through the multiple chips though, and she feels a fairly significant time crunch. Things are exploding already, and that's a real telltale sign that the clock is most definitely ticking on something big.

It's been a long night. What should have been a simple investigation into some missing girls turns out to be much worse than that. There are things hiding in the shadows, on the edge of your vision, a merging of spirit and man; though these are no spirits you've ever seen. The rain continues to pour down, pattering almost soothingly upon the synthplas awnings over the Souk's many vendors. More information has come to light after some time spent in the electronics store, a location, a private investigator likely walking into certain death, stories of missing people across the Warrens, a steadily increasing number.

One of the vendors steps away from a computer screen after looking through a little more of the information, walks across to join you. "Gretchen. This passworded file? I can get in there, but it's going to take some time, if you know a decker you could get this done in minutes.". The man offers the data chip back to you. "There's another thing. That file was linked to a timer. At six a.m. something was going to happen to it, but I can't tell what as the rest of the data is missing.". He's a young guy, early twenties, cute in a geeky sort of way with his floppy blond hair and blue eyes. He looks a little sheepish, gives a shrug of 'I wish I could do more'.

Gretchen pulls her layered hoods down while she waits, raking fingers through her messy, white hair as she paces. It's nice to get all the hats and hoods off once in a while.

"How the hell am I supposed to find a decker on short notice?!" Gretchen snaps at the cute geek but tries to recover almost immediately with, "Uh, sorry, thanks for taking the time…" She draws a deep breath in and sets her jaw, lips pressed into a thin line as she considers the next steps…

The geek accepts being snapped at, takes it on the chin, he can see she's had a tough night. "Fragged if I know..", he replies and wanders back into the booth to work on something else, "You're the one in the know.", he mutters to himself, sliding himself back into his seat.

Gretchen takes a minute, still lurking in the tech tent to stay out of the rain (and to sip her insta-kaf while she smokes). In a leap of faith, she posts an assistance request to Shadowland via her pocsec…

« Posted by: GIS.reggoJthgiN|MUARTPLA#GIS.reggoJthgiN|MUARTPLA »

Need some on the spot data cracking. Forgot my password again. Oops.

There's nothing better than being indoors on a night like tonight. The thunder and crackle of lightning has faded over the past couple of hours, but now into the early hours it's dark, windy and extremely wet, the rain is coming down in cold sheets. The Souk is alive, as always, but people are spending most of their time hiding under vendor awnings to keep out of the downpour. Outside the Souk, something went boom. A few buildings down from the entrance, on the other side of the street, the rain is trying its best to put out the flames of a burning building, most of which is spread across the street.

« GIS.unoTonoM|noclaFesetlaM#GIS.unoTonoM|noclaFesetlaM »
'Depending on how nasty the work is, I know a friend. Those family photos are always getting locked behind something, aren't they?'

Comes the response a little ways later, from a particular old 'borg scuttling his latest dogear against the wall. Hell, why not? It was a long week with few crumbs to drum up. He hunches his shoulders against the cold and wet, letting his hat take the drippings while he hugs the nearest water proof overhead. Times like these are better spent up in some cheap room, smelling like cancer sticks and watching the water get dirty. Not flat-footing the pavement, drifting like one of the rotting old plastisheet spreads.

« Reply from ALPTRAUM »

I'll be in the Souk. It's now or never. The pics of my nieces and nephews aren't long for this world.

The post includes an easily-deciphered hint at a meet location which basically amounts to "near Tito's Tech Tent"

The German girl slurps her kaf and waits for a potential break in the rain while corresponding with the prospective datacracker on Shadowland, working up a little mental shopping list to gather up once she steps back out into the weather. She keeps her eyes peeled though, flashing on the thermo setting of her goggles like a nervous habit at this point.

"Ear-nay Ito-Tays Ech-Tay Ent-Tay?"

Blinks false eyes from the polymask. It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't fooling anyone paying attention, but it kept people from staring at the skin colored plastic that passed for his mug. A wry smirk tugs up the side of lips, before Kraft shrugs his shoulders. Easily deciphered wasn't kidding, but who knew? Maybe someone out there forgot there's a few fake languages in between all the goobley-gook coming out of the tuskers, the keeblers, the half-pints and the trogs.

Still, the Souk wasn't too far out of his current position. So off to Titos he wanders, hands stuffed in his pocket, fedora tugged low and head on a swivel.

The streets are mostly empty with the downpour, all the sensible people have gone indoors, or at least under some tarp in an alleyway somewhere; nobody wants to be out in this weather. Even the Souk is looking sparse compared to normal. That still equates to a lot of people walking around in there, but at least you don't have to fight through crowds right now. As Kraft closes in on the entrance to the Souk, he can't shake a feeling of being watched, the kind of being watched that sends a shiver down the spine of even the hardiest cyber-samurai. Looking around there's nothing to be seen, but there's something out there…

Of all the places in all the world, Kraft had to wind up in the Queen city. The older borg hunching his shoulders as that age-old tic runs down his spine, like knowing somewhere out in the wilds there's a trog who's about to punish the world with his poetry about how hard it is to steal candy from babies. Or whatever the hell it is the pigskins gripe about in between stinking up the place. Still, it's enough to keep him off the main and center pathways of the Souk, making a side-winding route towards Titos in fits and bursts of striding. Either trying to avoid the rain, or taking the time to watch his back - keep out of direct lines of fire, see if anyone's flitting along after him.

It's entirely possible the whole thing's some sort of kooky setup, of course. But that's a lot of trouble to put a hit on some stranger over the Shadowland.

This is the Souk, most things are right there on the tables waiting to be purchased. Flash-Paks? Who doesn't have those available? Flash grenades? The arms vendor has a few. The White Phosphorous is a little trickier to come by, but greasing a few palms gets you through to a chat with the owner of one of the ammunition vendors. It's his special equipment, for special customers, but as Gretchen actually managed to get to speak to him he regards her as special; especially as she has the cash readily available and is purchasing ammunition as well. It's his lucky day! And who said the rain drove the best customers away?

Locked and loaded, Gretchen might actually return from her shopping spree in higher spirits.

For Gretchen's part, she checks the time to gauge how long until Candy checks in again, then sets out with a few stops in mind. A keeb named Archie who slings explosive ordnance from an armored boxtruck, then the gauntlet of weapon-dealer kiosks, each one more heavily guarded than the last, and finally, off to Tito's, to lurk near the grub vendors that circle the wagons as it were, making a small food court with makeshift tables in the center.

The German posts up outside the circled wagons within sight of the Latino electronics tent, a staple of the marketplace and waits. But she doesn't just stand idly by. Unconcerned about prying eyes, she preps all of her new puchases, reorganizing the contents of her messenger bag in the process. She does ammo checks on her weapons — a Steyr machine pistol with a folding stock and a great huge gas vent; a tiny street-fighting pump action shotgun «Ch-CHK»; her sleeve-concealed Alta; knives; explosives; armor…

Tito's; Honestly, it might be a chance to pick up a few things of his own while he's about. The old cyborg browses, letting gloved hands drift along the bits and pieces laid out.
A few moments to watch the locals in the heavy downpour, and not a soul currently wandering Titos tent with him beyond the usual Souk merchants. He frowns, before jawing up the man at the table about a minikit or two..

Afterwards, its time to check the pocsec. Where the hell was his meetup?

The merchant is there to do business, if someone has the cash and he has the gear, it's a simple transaction. He briefly considers trying to negotiate with the cybered up man-mountain, but decides against it and sells at standard cost. "Nice doin' business.", the vendor adds.

The diminutive but heavily armed Gretchen of the North Sea prowls up to the tech tent, parka-hooded, goggled and breather-masked, bag cinched around her back, with a pistol-gripped Ithaca 37 hanging from a sling at her side.

"Pleasure's all mine, mac."

States the Borg, tucking that kit into his plethora of pockets in that old coat before some broad in a breather and parka comes wandering in. Being the chatty sort, the old borg pulls a banged up box of cancer sticks out of his jacket and starts tapping it on his gloved wrist.

"Not a fan of semi-fresh, only partially rotten and toxic air, sister?" He asks as an opener, those false eyes moving across the woman before he dips his head down to pay extra special close attention to plucking out another bent up dogear. How the hell do they keep getting crushed and bent out of shape? Mystery of the universe.

Gretchen sidles up to the practical cyborg, not finding any others in the immediate area who might suit the exchange done via the SL bulletin boards…

She ignores the comment on her mask, they're a staple of polluted cities worldwide, not to mention higher altitudes. "You here about the family photo album?" She drawls in her German accent, shrugging with the bulk of her equipment as it all settles into place. She regularly peers over her shoulders to a neurotic extent, gloved right hand constantly flexing to reaffirm her grip on the slung shotgun.

"Mm hm. That's me, lady. I'm all about family."

States the 'borg quite casually, tucking that dog-eared cig in the corner of his lips. An old, worn out electric lighter is flipped open, the man giving the coils a moment to start heating up while his false eyes run across the rest of the Souk. He's acting casual, but that -gut feeling- just ain't being shaken. After a moment to touch the glowing coils to the cig and puff it to life, he'll flip said thing closed and offer out a glove.

"Got any pictures of bath time in there, sister? Depending on how close to the vest you want this played, I can send it to a specialist in picture recovery or run a few crunches up close."

The German pulls a USB-type chip with the encrypted data from a pocket and presents it by holding it up beside her obscured face. The vents in her mask lend her voice a Darth Vader aspect as she speaks quietly, intending to keep her words from casually being overheard: "The file needs to be cracked by four in the morning, and if you're available for some location scouting, we may need to travel a little before all is said and done."

"So what you're telling me is you've got less time than a trog at the ball. Specialist it is."

Grunts the old borg, plucking the chip if Gretchen's so inclined. Frankly, the whole thing stank higher than Denver on a summer day, but what was life if not a series of unfortunate events punctuated by moments of gunfire? Gloved fingers rotate the chip slowly, false eyes blinking down at it and back up at the woman.

"We?" He asks, amused. Then rolls his shoulders. "Alright, sister. Got a way to get back ahold of you when I'm done, or are you hovering at my shoulder?"

"I don't hover…" Gretchen practically growls this, turning to look over both shoulders.

Bald eyebrows go up. "Alright, you don't hover. Reign in the teeth, bub." Bouncing the datachip in his gloved hands a few more times, Kraft's other hand dips down to grip the pocsec in a pocket. Induction jacks do their job, and the transducer keeps things nice and quiet as he looks to get ahold of his 'specialist'..

Gretchen offers her digits, scrawling them out on a piece of cardstock with a Sharpie marker, the top of one of her boxes of shotgun shells recently acquired. She doesn't hand the torn box top over, but holds it out visibly for the mechanoid to input into his pocsec. Following this, she sets the contact info on fire with a lighter of her own and drops it, grinding the remnants into the pavement at her feet with the toe of one boot.

The heavy rain will turn the cardstock into pulp before the night is through.

It doesn't take more than a glance to send those digits scrambling through the transducer. If you're going tinman, might as well go all the way. Although Kraft's thin, fake lips remain clamped about the cig, eyes drifting as he moves back to his silent communique. It cut the emotive to go pure text, but it meant he didn't have to do more than let the gears and cogs they stuffed in him get to work. All the while, that cigarette smoke drifts in long, leisurely ribbons around the brim of his fedora.

The 'specialist' has the call answered in the speed of a thought; he has the phone linked up to his deck, linked into his datajack. "'sup omae?", the ork asks, his voice quick and straight to the point. "You need somethin'? I ain't heard from ya in a while. You wiz?".

'Cheddars rolling in fine, Crakk, and so far I'm still breathing. Figured I'd be the last voice -' A pause '-line you want to hear from. Still, got some solid work if you want to make a quick pile; Got an encrypted 'family album', and a bad need to know which photo stock to send out in the next christmas card. Catch my drift?'

In the meantime, Gretchen slips over to the food court, investing in a heat 'n eat spicy noodle cup and a burrito-esque wrap of some indefinable color, flavor and texture.

"Null persp chummer, no hard feelin's, you got my number I got yours, it's all good.". If anything, the specialist might be a bit too excitable, perhaps coming down off something, or still high on it. "Yeah yeah, send it through, lemme take'a look at that drek. Family album, huh? If it's /the/ family, I ain't touchin' it.. not official-like.".

Gretchen's perpetual hunger does indeed mean that she lowers her mask, detaching its pseudo-polymimetic seal over her nose and mouth.

Kraft never could understand a word that rolled out of the damn pigskin's mouth except 'good'. All good. Stuffing down his perpetual annoyance with the tusked-life in general, and glancing over his shoulder to watch with fascination how someone eats around a mask. Seemed like a lot of trouble to nab a few more years of life at the tail end. Eyes drift away again as he finishes.

'You got it, bub. Just mind your fingers.' And then it's time to send the file itself to get looked over, prodded, and poked. Along with the usual payday; 300 Nuyen, half up front for taking the 'call'. Half on delivery.

What once would have taken a couple of minutes, technical advances has the file sitting in Crakk's inbox within a second. He can't be seen, but he can be heard, a soft tap of fingers against a deckers keyboard, it's ten seconds perhaps before he's chuckling down the line. "You fraggin' serious? This is kids encryption, the drek you get at high school.. jus' gimme a couple'a minutes here, I'll pop this open.". With the open mic, he starts to hum a tune to himself, the hum turning to an orkish grunt in some musical fashion, likely a tune from one of the new ork bands that are popping up everywhere.

Kraft keeps the line open and his hand on the pocsec, but the other's busy pinching the bridge of his nose and rolling it slowly. The effect's a bit strange since it tugs at the polymimetic mask he wears for 'polite' company - in addition to doing absolutely nothing, since most of his skull is fake now. But sometimes you just gotta try to massage that migraine out.

'Good to know it's an easy payday, then. Guess dinner's on me.'

Oh god, what the hell was that kid grunting? Was that supposed to be music?

It's a little over two minutes, the grunting becomes what can only be described as metal guitar done ork style. It reaches the crescendo and.. "Done. You gonna freak if I take a.. woah, what da frag ya gettin' into here, chum?". He's gone ahead and read it, it only takes a thought to transfer the information to his brain, but he's still at reading speed. "Fraggers hidin' in plain sight, what the frag is this..?". There's a hiss of a breath, you swear you can hear it whistling past his tusks, and he falls silent for a moment. "I'm transferrin' it back.", he says, his voice a little more sober.

The unencrypted data flows down the line back to the pocket secretary, sliding into place inside the chip, alongside the original locked file.

Gretchen eats while standing, laying the burrito across the rim of her styro noodle cup for as long as it can span the distance. However, she eats like a woman starved, and in a very short span of time she chows the final bite and tilts back the last of her soup, swallowing the final ounce of broth with a full body lean and a craned neck. The breather is restored to its rightful place, and she turns, crushing the cup and tossing it haphazardly toward a preexisting trash pile.

'Guess that means it's going to be another 'interesting day'.'

Comes the soured response to something that'd startle his specialist. Still, the last half of the 300 nuyen is transfered with a terse 'Thanks for the datadump, bub. Don't blow it all on one nose, yeah?' before the line is cut. And not a moment too soon.

Kraft is still rubbing a temple by the time he upnods to the hawk-eyed Gretchen, and tilts his head in a universal 'get your rumpus over here' sort of gesture. The pocsec plucked from his pocket so he can review the data with his own two eyes. Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.

With the encryption gone, the file opens easily into the standard word processor found on all pocket secretaries. This is no doubt a message meant to be sent out should things go wrong, a datadump of all that Patrick Bambrage had found out during his investigations, all the threads neatly tied together and explained with images to match. The document details what the investigator simply calls 'them', not having any other appropriate name to use. He explains how it started, a missing persons case, Rick Davitt - a well known information broker - missing and presumed 'whacked' for whatever reason. Pat was asked to investigate by a concerned individual, name redacted, and things went downhill rapidly from there. He talks of 'them' as people who are there but your mind recoils against their presence. Most people reject the notion that they're in the presence of these things, most, if they do witness them, forget them the moment they look away. The first was Rick, but he found others, missing persons from across the Warrens that vanished and later he witnessed as these.. things. He explains that even in still images, the mind still recoils, so he details some ways of trying to push past it to witness what you're really seeing. And then the first image is presented.

Looking at the image, Kraft sees nothing but an empty street, an alleway across the road that seems to be central to the image. His eyes fall on 'something' in the picture, but his mind recoils, doesn't want to look there, wants to look everywhere but there, until he pushes through and stares straight at something that he swears wasn't there a moment before. A male figure stands at the mouth of the alleyway, a black longcoat, casual but equally dark clothing, it appears normal except for the eyes which are nothing but shadow. It makes the mind hurt to stare at it too long, like a migraine twisting into life.

The document continues on, detailing various incidents where he spotted 'them' and how he started to see a pattern forming, linked it in with the missing persons, pulled information off the streets for locations and possible last sightings. The final section of the document explains that he may have pinpointed their location, the 'hive' for lack of a better word, including an overhead map of the area with a section circled in red.

«Plot» Gretchen says, "I will share with Kraft: I was hired by a party who shall remain anonymous to find two missing persons, a girl named Leisha and the private eye, Mr. Bambrage. I'll explain that I pulled this data from the PI's own terminal before being chased off by two… grotesque… and ill-intentioned… THINGS… Things That Should Not Be(TM) who then proceeded to demolish the building, through what that means I'm not sure. I was well on my way out of there at very high speed. I will mention Rick, and the fact that I've seen him, even though he is… unseeable through some means I have no idea about. And lastly, I'll inquire about the timer on the datafile — what was it scripted to do? Destroy? Broadcast? Something else entirely?"

False eyes flicker, the natural light dying as the brain and the body desperately want two seperate things. It's like one of those old trick pictures; Nothing but squiggles atop an empty alleyway, but something scratching at the chrome top like an angry squirrel wanting a new nesting ground. When at last it snaps into focus - finding that picture of a metaphorical cartoon octopus smiling its tombstone smile - Kraft jerks his head back and away. Gripping his forehead with his palm and squeezing with a soft whine of servos, his fedora askew as he tries to get those damn construction workers to quit trying to build an overpass thorugh his frontal cortex.

And then that lady's stepping into his personal space like something between a storm trooper and a femme fatal. Jabbering about flatfoots and missing broads. Kraft's surprisingly silent through most of the explanation, before at last tucking the cig between forefinger and middle finger to gesture. "… Seems to me what you've got is a gumshoe and his squeeze walking head first into bad mojo. Normally this is where I'd bid adieu, bub, and show you the backside of my heels. But I've got a soft spot for a PI, and a nasty habit of sticking my nose where it doesn't belong."

A pause, and a draw on the cigarette again, cherry flaring. Smoke curls out from fake lips, ribboning along the fedora - which he takes a moment to straighten.
"You want me to walk this with you in good faith, sister, you're going to have to play ball. Run me by the office you yanked this from, and let's see what got left behind by these…" A pause, and a squint. ".. Men in black."

Gretchen is a conflicting mess of focused intent and panic as she details her meager information to the mechanical man, alternating a white-knuckle grip on her shotgun as she peers over her shoulders, an animated gesticulation, mimicking the events she describes with 'figures' held in hand, or sweeping gestures to set a scene.

At the end of her spiel, she eyes Kraft suspiciously, notable through her body language and the tilt of her hooded head, but she nods. "It's not far…" She then raises a hand up toward the sky, extending it out past the threshold of the weather-battered tarp they convene under. "…the fire shouldn't be too terrible thanks to the weather…"

She offers the address and grips her weapon, turning as she gestures with the barrel in a pulling motion to indicate, 'this way.'

Kraft tilts his head to let the hat take the first splash of rain, although the skittery shotgun wielding lunatic is making him more and more nervous. Normally he'd simply call it another day in Denver and walk; A twitchy detective got blasted by some suits, and this hiked up broad got it under her skin it's a conspiracy.

Everything but that -picture- of the alley. That eye twister. That gut clencher. If there's one thing Kraft knows, you oughta trust your gut, since it's the one to pay the high price when you screw up. Still, he's not walking straight lines. That cold chill up his spine is keeping him edged up and watching his shoulders as he moves.


The walk through the sparse crowd is simple enough, out of the Souk exit and into the street. The rain continues to hammer down, washing over you in sheets that twist and turn with the undeciding wind. There doesn't seem to be anything watching or following, but if you can't look at them to find out, how do you know? It's immediately obvious once you start walking toward the private investigators previous office building that it's going to be next to impossible to pull anything out of there. Most of it is rubble, half of one wall is scattered across the road, and scavengers are already crawling over the rubble, trying to find something that's still functional to sell on for a few yen.

Gretchen darts from obstacle to obstacle en route, never allowing herself to remain out of cover for more than a few scampering steps, then immediately mistrusting her current location and abandoning it for the next. She keeps up a leapfrog routine alongside Kraft until they draw near enough to spot the rubble and the Warrens prospectors hoping to strike it rich in the still-steaming ruins.

Kraft, while not leaping and rolling about like the mask-wearing broad he's tailing, does take his time getting there. Shifting from one corner to the other, never leaving himself on an open line for a sniper shot. He's soaked through and through, his old coat getting heavier and his fedora starting to droop; Someone's getting on the hook for dry cleaning. Taking a moment to tug out his loose tie and squeeze-roll it, watching the scavvies crawl over the rubble. Finally he runs a thumb under his false nose, glances aside to Gretchen, and moves to come at the site from the side. False eyes whirring as he tries to get a good idea of.. well.. what the hell happened here. It might've been a life time ago, but he's got a few ghosts of his own he can call on.

The scavengers glare at you as you approach, it's /their/ haul and they're not giving it up for anyone. Well, until they see the heavy cyber. They're still not moving without being asked though, and go back to digging through the rubble, one of them pulling out a smashed up vidscreen. It might be worth something for parts.

Taking a look at the destruction, this was either a message, a very loud message, or the people who set the charges had no idea what they were doing and overused the C4 to ensure they destroyed everything. It's not a massive leap of faith to consider the latter as the most probable reason. This was amateur hour, without a doubt, but the destruction /is/ impressive. It got the job done.

Gretchen speaks into her transceiver while maintaining some distance from the scene, «Bambrage's office was second story, so anything useful is probably near the top of the ruin or buried into the walls of the building next door…»

Speaking? Nah. Transducing! It gives his voice that mechanical text-to-speech toneless nature that the ladies just love.

«'Doubt even that much, sister. Still, looks more like explosions than - say - some spook swinging his fist through walls. The latter's a lot more worrying. If these men in black have to use the same tools we do, that's a plus.'»

As for the scav? That fake face will twist in annoyance, but Kraft'll leave them to their scavenging with a sardonic: "Who rules junk town?" He got what he wanted; Unless he was willing to fire his gun in the air and chase off a few desperados, there wasn't much else here to take. His dog-ear having gotten put out by the soak, spat out to the side and ground by his heel as he considers their next move.

«'There's always the big red circle your man wrote down. This 'hive'?'»

Gretchen checks the time on her pager out of habit, clipped to the strap of her bag.

The time now reads 2:08am. Candy is late.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Damn. » She sighs, Vaderishly before continuing. « If that's all we've got, that's all we've got… »

Following her hushed transmission to the mech-tective, she urgently taps out a message to Candy. « I told you to check in »

There's no immediate response to the message and she's usually so quick to respond. The rain swishes across the road, making patterns in the wet, as you stare at that screen expectantly. Then suddenly it begins to ring, a call from the woman in question.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Unless you feel up to chasing off a few desperates for a few minutes alone, then that's all we got, Sister. Unless you've got some more info on the broad what's gone missing as well? Still, if these spooks are snatching Rens-trash and they've got a hive, two on one it's not a tea party. »

Highly suspicious, Gretchen clips her pager back to her bag strap and pocket-hunts for the phone. She hits <Connect> but refrains from speaking, merely putting the receiver up to her ear, slipping it up under her layered hoods ever so slowly…

Her voice is a whisper, Candy at the other end of the phone, "Like, /so/ sorry Gretchen, things are crazy here.", she explains. Hearing nothing but silence she asks, "You there? Gretchen?"

"Yeah, yeah I'm here..!" Gretchen's Vader whisper is a jumble of panic and relief. "What's happening?"

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Hold up… » Gretchen palms the phone waiting on Candy's reply, and comms another whisper out to Kraft. « I hope you brought wheels, we may have to head to Mission Hills. »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « That's not a problem, but I'm no gentlemen. I don't do door to door service, sister. »

"It's Mercy..", Candy explains, her voice still a whisper, ".. she's going crazy, we lost another one. Luna's gone, we can't find her and she ain't answering her calls or anythin'. I said, like, it could be nothin', maybe she's busy or somethin', but Mercy is /so/ mad right now she's talkin' about rolling out the entire gang to smash things until she gets answers. I /swear/ I ain't seen her this mad. I'm hidin' in Leisha's room, Gretch'.", she says, "After what I said, I'm scared to put my head up, she might shoot it off. What am I s'posed to do, Gretchen? I thought you'd be done by now!"

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Yeah, well if you hope to get real paid, we may have to see to our benfactor's well-being… »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « … Guess you can call me 'Mister Taxi', then. »

"Honestly, rolling out the Sinners in force might be the best option," the German muses quickly, turning this way and that to keep an eye on the destroyed building while watching her back. "Look, keep that — just a second… » She palms the phone again to reply to Kraft, pressing fingers against her hood over one ear,

« I meant for yourself, unless you want to hike through the streets when time is of the essence… »

She swaps back to the phone, slipping it up to the other ear now, "—keep that weapon handy, and don't hesitate to use it. Turn the lights out, stay out of sight, I'm working on getting this wrapped up, but there's… There's some crazy shit going on, alright??? I need to head to Shenandoah. If you don't hear from me by daylight…" She leaves the statement unfinished and concludes with, "Just keep. checking. in. You got it?"

"I got it.", Candy says, sounding unhappy with that idea. "If I don't hear from you by daylight, you're not gonna hear from me neither.". There's the click of a light switch down the phone line, a creak of a bed as the girl sits down. "Speak later then.", she says, as if she's already given up hope, and the line cuts out.

Gretchen swears under her breath at the phone, at Candy, or… Well, more at the situation than anything. But having committed to the task at hand, she feels obliged to follow it through, even though every fiber of her being is screaming for her to turn tail and run the opposite direction as fast as her legs can carry her.

Finally turning his back on the demolition scene in general, Kraft shoves his hands into his pockets and starts drifting away. False eyes moving aside for the crazy masked lady as he goes.

«What's your stake in this anyways, sister? These spooks piss in your cereal, or are you just -real- thirsty for that payday?»

The phone goes into a pocket, muted, because reasons, but the vibrate setting is left active to get those hourly messages from Candy to affirm her continued existence. Following the forensics, she leapfrogs with Kraft back toward the marketplace where her bike is stashed, discussing the target neighborhood and Bambrage's personal notes on the big, fat X that she… really doesn't /want/ to venture near, but forces herself to commit to anyway.

« My stake? Fuck if I know… Agreed to a job, favor for a friend, before I knew all the details. You're not considering flaking out are you? »

« If I was ducking out, sister, I would've done so after you got your paydata and before I got my migraine. »

Comes the response. Despite the lack of emotive content due to the transducer, all one has to see is that smarmy smirk to know the old 'borgs being sarcastic. As if the message weren't indicator enough. Although while Gretch's moving forward on their way off. He'll have to split with her to go fetch his own vehicle; The cheap little Zephyr's too tempting a target to leave laying near Souk.

And then it's apparently time to move in on the X. Once more parking that little cheap Zephyr off a few blocks, comming in as he steps back out into the rain.


The map points to an area east of Shenandoah, a block that used to have factories and businesses, but now has closed up shutters and squatters homes. There's something in the air as you get closer to the marked location, a feeling of something 'wrong' in the area. Perhaps it's the lack of movement, the empty streets, the relative silence beneath the sound of the rain. The building in question is a two story factory, one above ground, the other below. There's a parking area off to the side with a ramp that goes down into the underground area, though a corrigated steel door has been pulled closed, barring access.

Above ground, every single window is smashed, graffitti cover the walls, the double doors at the front is now a single door that's hanging by one hinge.

«You manage to make it yet? Think I'll take a walk around the block, see what I can spot.»

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « I'm here… » Gretchen trash-piles her poor vintage bike once more and sets the security measures before setting out on a recon circuit of her own. She does what she can to assess any electronic security measures from a distance, zooming in on potential cameras, likely laser tripwire locations, and especially keeping an eye out for figures who have a nasty habit of hiding in plain sight. »

There seems to be little life surrounding the factory, barely the squeak of a rat, if people used to squat here or near here, they've all moved on for the time being, leaving the factory cold and isolated. It seems as if there's nobody to be found, until you both spot a figure settled in opposite the factory entrance, resting its back against the ruins of an old Americar. It's human shaped and draped in squatters clothing, a blanket to keep out the chill, a beanie hat to keep the hair relatively dry. Looking at it in thermographic, however, shows no usual life signs, the body should show it's natural heat or the cold of the dead, but it falls somewhere inbetween.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Nice place. Quiet neighborhood, good real estate. Only one squatter I can see. Know a good realtor? »

The graffiti is what you'd expect to see. One gang tag over the top of another over the top of the first, as turf shifts back and fore. There are a few names sprayed around, some artistic attempts that someone else has sprayed over and ruined. Nothing unusual there. No visible security can be seen outside, there's a clasp for holding a security camera, but the camera is long gone.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « I see the squatter, check. »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Well. No use standing around getting wetter. Keep your eyeballs peeled on it? »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Alright. The way I see it, sister, we've got two options. Forward or back. You got anything on the spooks? I can make a call before we go rolling in and getting our guts splayed. »

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « I know about as much as was on the chips. Some sort of… hybrid of the victim and… something else. » She whispers quietly, with a touch of genuine fear in her raspy, masked voice. « The ones that blew up Bambrage's building were… deformed… Mostly meta, but with mutated extra limbs, like failed prototypes or something… »

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « This is a production facility, I'm sure of it. »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Guess the next question; This still worth the payday to you? I've got a friend I can call; Good with spooks, might point us at a few things. »

Against her every last bit of sense, the German girl retorts to Kraft while navigating a route that brings her closer to the warehouse, « Yes, it's worth the goddamned payday. » She obliges to the introduction of a spookhunter with little comment on the matter other than to say, « More bodies on our side wouldn't hurt. »

Kraft doesn't use the transducer this time; Not for Mama Hood. She'd just assume he was a robo-caller (Not too far from the truth) and slip him the one handed Queen City how-do-ya-do? Rather, he'll back off the factory for a ways, get around the other side of a building before he starts talking.

The phone rings multiple times before there's an answer, the person on the other end sounds old and tired. "Do you know what the bloody time is?", she curses down the line, "Who is this?".

"Tooth fairy. Who else calls you this time of night?" He begins, before toning it down a touch. "I got some nasty spook business, Mama, and I could use someone who knows their mojo. I got a few numbers here too might help ease you right back down to a good night's rest."

"Oh, it's you.", Mama replies. A moment of shuffling about, a huff of a tired breath. "I would never refuse my tooth fairy. What can I help you with?", the woman asks.

Gretchen's midnight creep goes unabated, soft footfall settling gently into puddles to prevent splashing, as she crouch-walks or darts from one obstacle to another. Closing the distance to the building seems relatively simple considering what may be hiding within. In fact, it's simple enough to skulk around that it inspires even more fear than the sight of a fully armed and armored goon squad would. She maintains some distance, but is slowly spiralling in, and breaching the complex is fairly imminent.

"Got another kid in trouble, Mama." He begins, tucking that fedora a bit lower over his eyes. "And it's something serious. Spooks that get in bodies and twist them all up, looks like. Mutated. Worse thing? They're -hard- to look at. It's not invisible, it's like.." He pauses, working his jaw for a moment. ".. Like it hurts to look at 'em. So it's easier not too. You ever get an ear on something like that? I've got just the thing to refill that sweets jar if you can help me out here."

"There's only one thing that can get inside people like that, honey, and that's the insect spirits.", Mama replies. "You remember the news about Chicago? Those damn spirits can bring down entire cities if left to grow.". The woman stifles a yawn, it seems she was awoken from a nice sleep. "There's nothing I know of that can do that, nothing on this side of the veil. There are things on the metaplanes that can twist your mind like that, but how could they come through to this world? Have you been drinking?"

"No more than my usual liver killers. Alright, Mama, good night."

Click. Kraft frowns down at the pocsec for a moment, debating, but sends over the usual fee. She didn't have what he wanted, but he did wake her the hell up; Three hundred nuyen down the drain. And then it's time to pull that big ol' calibre revolver, check the Ex-Ex and snap it closed.

«No dice. We're flying blind.»

Reality sets in at that comment from Kraft, and the German leans her back against the tire of a large, abandoned industrial truck, making it a point to clip a number of grenades onto her bag strap which is a repurposed assault rifle sling, likely purchased along with her parka at a military surplus outlet. Below her pager clip, she arrays a line of explosives and distractors. White phos, white phos, flashbang, flashbang, then four smoke bombs, two of which are infrared-diffusing. Lastly, she clips a flashpak onto the breast pocket of her coat and clicks a flashlight/laser sight module onto the rail of her Ithaca loaded with shock lock.

« I'm on the south side. I'm gonna get to the roof and try to make my way in from up top. »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « You want company? Otherwise, guess I'll try the garage. »

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Yeah, let's head in together, » she murmurs through her vents. « I think I've got a decent way up if there's nothing where you are. » She tugs her gloves tight with rapid tugs at the wrists and runs her eyes up a column of electrical conduit that looks sturdy enough, being bolted to the exterior with metal clamps.

Using the conduit, Gretchen hoists herself up onto the roof with little trouble. The roof is the standard flat gravel flooring with a concrete surround. Several rooftop windows allow light into the working area below, but the glass has all been shattered long ago. Below, everything is dark, though with enhanced vision you can see work tables that have long since given up their purpose, rows of them spreading across the length of the building. Other long discarded items are inside; pallet loaders, empty crates and scattered trash. At the far end a stairwell leads down, a faint red light glowing from below, while near the stairwell is freight elevator for moving heavy goods up and down the floors.

Rather than climb like a peasant, Inspector Kraft-it leaps! .. A quick running start and the hydraulic jacks in his legs toss him up and over the edge of the roof. He rolls to break momentum, one hand atop his fedora as he takes a moment to regain his balance. And then - keeping himself low - he'll make his way around to Gretchen. Who does some actual athletics work. Peon!

The moment she heaves up over the edge of the low rooftop wall, Gretchen scuttles toward the broken window for tiny peeks as she encircles it to get a comprehensive view of the whole factory floor. « Looks clear inside, » she comms, tying off an inelegant but sufficient knot with black cabling drawn from her bag of goodies. She eyeballs out enough length to make the drop to the floor, then trims the line off of a larger spool with a wickedly sharp little jackknife.

«You know it's a trap. I know it's a trap. … so at least we'll go knowing.»

The cyborg's emotive removal thanks to the transducer keeps his intent from being clear, but that smirk is on his false lips as he watches Gretchen tie off a line. For himself? He quietly feels about his wrist - and then decides to pull that large calibre revolver so he can keep cover.
«Ladies first?» He suggests.

Gretchen decides her makeshift bandolier isn't quite full enough and tacks on two chemical grenades filled with hyper on there for good measure. Furthermore, she pulls out a simple harness that consists of little more than a clamp and two loops of fabric which she slides her arms into. The clamp is attached to the top of the line as she gives Kraft a stern look that doesn't carry because of her headgear. She speaks up though, offering drily through air vents, "I don't think that kind of chivalry really applies in situations like this…" With that though, she tightens her bag with that array of explosives along it and maneuvers to get her legs over the edge, then twists and drops to hang by her hands. One hand is freed, which checks the suspended line and the harness clamped on, then she lets go…

The harness goes taut as it takes her full weight, and she works a mechanism on the clamp to zip down at an easy pace, boots settling to the floor gently, at which point she detaches and immediately takes cover.

Waiting until the crazy kook's gone down to the home of spooks and taken cover, Kraft - doesn't use her line. Rather, he'll simply reel out the hook from under his sleeve, make sure it's nice and secure before lowering his heavy frame over the edge. One arm straight up, the other holding his pistol as the little gizmo whirrrs him down to the ground. A snip and he's ducking aside, taking a moment to check cover before he'll load another hook. For getting back -up- afterwards.


The main factory floor is almost pitch black, patches of wet from the rain falling through the smashed overhead windows dot the floors from wall to wall, causing a faint sparkle when light catches on them. The area is silent except for the faint hum of a generator coming from the floor below. Three exits are available; the main foyer doors, the freight elevator and stairs leading downwards. From the stairs a faint red light emanates, coming from the area below. At a guess, it's likely emergency lighting considering the coloring.

With a little shuffle shrug move, the minimal harness is shaken from Gretchen's arms and stowed in a pocket. A quick look from her hiding spot, and she starts making her way, hunkered down, to the elevator doors. Every few seconds she glances to Inspector Kraft-it just to make sure they're matching each other's pace and progress at the two potential entries.

The elevator is closed and looks fairly solid. The door is able to be opened once the elevator reaches the floor, and isn't automatic but a pull open affair, a solid handle waiting to be grabbed and pulled. There's also a grating in the metal so you can see into the elevator, which is currently on this floor and whose interior is covered with junk; old crates, metal pipes, broken wooden beams. Next to the elevator the stairwell leads down. Kraft takes a peep and can see it reaches a corner and turns in on itself, so it ends up coming out again next to the elevator on the floor below. The enhanced hearing picks up a variety of sounds; drips of rainwater, faint distant footsteps, the humming of the generator and muffled voices, the muffling you get when someone has their mouth covered.

The running spell blips an enemy below, backwards from your current position and to the right.

«Well, someone's alive and someone else doesn't want them to talk. I can hear muffled jawing. What've you got on your side, sister?»

Comes the transduced and silent communique, as Kraft works his hand on the handle of the cavalier. Glancing over his shoulder here and there to watch his six.

« …Um, nothing, too much noise to use the lift. »

Gretchen does the imaginary pathing and determines that if they descend the stairs, the malevolent force would be emanating from the left side and tries to indicate as much with a hand motion to her ear, then a mimicry of leaning her left shoulder against a wall, then an example lean out to her left as if targeting. At that point, seeing as the figure she has on her radar is probably only one among many, she begins to consider a slightly less blatant alternative. Yamaha Pulsar! (How many weapons is she carrying? SRSLY?!)

The Ithaca is left to hang on its sling, replaced, as the German extracts a little disposal 'lectro-dart cartridge launcher. Very nice batteries. No connecting cables. 10/10, would zap again.

Kraft watches the lady mimic leaning against a wall. Then leaning left. Then .. doing something else to the left. False eyes turn that way, note absolutely nothing, before he holds up his pocsec to make sure she's seeing it.

« .. I don't understand 'kooky', mac. What're you trying to say?»

Finally, he looks back over the staircase again, tucking the pocsec back in. «You ready?»

Gretchen growls under her breath and concedes to speaking out her 'observation': "Rrgh, nevermind— I heard something too. When we get downstairs it'll be on the left hand side." She mock-raises her little zapper once more and turning slightly to her left, making little fabric rasps as her sleeves shwip up into firing position.

Kraft doesn't respond, keeping his trap shut for once as he shifts in behind the lady with more guns in her pocket than he's got teeth in his head. Well, sort of. The heavy revolver kept low and ready, his finger on the outside of the ring; Trigger discipline. False eyes shifting this way and that as he covers corners on her flank. It's a nice flank, he's certain, and best to keep it from being chewed on by the Invisible Eye Monsters.

The stairs downwards have their own gathering of trash, a few careful steps avoid the worst of it, and the darkness of the factory above is replaced by a similar darkness that's only barely lit by faint red lights in the walls.

«OOC» Map: https://www.mipui.net/app/index.html?mid=meb2ywg5l4q

At the bottom of the stairs to the right, the elevator door is half opened; it looks broken, so someone has taken to filling it with the trash from elsewhere down here, as what you can see appears relatively tidy, compared to what you've seen before. A corridor leads onwards into the dim red light, while a doorway with a sign that reads 'Maintenance' is closed to the left, not far from the foot of the stairs.

It's quiet down here, strangely so, though with Kraft's impressive hearing he picks up movement from the doorway to the left, hears that same muffled voice that sounds angry.

Scoot, scoot, Gretchen sidesteps up to wall beside the door and leans an ear close. In the meantime, her Pulsar is held low and her eyes dart out, searching the distant stretches of the red-lit basement hall.

The corridor continues on for a few meters, then comes to a solid wall, while the corridor branches off to both the left and right. It's hard to see down there with normal vision, but under low-light or thermographic, you can see more clearly.

There is a quiet hum from the old borgs eyes, but one would be hard pressed to know what changed due to the directional nature of those fancy eyeballs. Locking gaze with him would be a bit like staring into a flashlight, but otherwise there's almost zero spill over into the dark. New tech is honestly a bit creepy like that.

He'll reach over, tap Gretchen on the shoulder, and gesture to the left. Then press that same finger to his lips.

She nods, mentally notes the position of the figure heard by Kraft and sensed in some otherworldly fashion herself, and swivels her head as though trying to stare straight through the walls into further areas of the subterranean level. She ultimately decides to press forward into the corridor rather than burst into Maintenance. Slow, quiet steps lead her a few meters out past Kraft, closer to the T junction down the way.

At the T junction, the corridor to the right only advances a few metres before coming to a solid wall. Before that wall, a doorway opens back toward the corridor, suggesting a room the length of the corridor that you just walked along. To the left, a wide open area breaks into two directions, one continuing forward which you quickly lose view of, the other continuing to the left, a pair of double doors in a wall near the end.

Keeping on Gretchen's flank again, Kraft creeps behind her - but his own eyes are off to cover the rear and keeping an eye on the ceiling. He might be sarcastic and casual, but the Invisible Eye things have him spooked. It was mojo. No one understood mojo, not even the mojo makers. The best thing one could do with mojo is grab what you needed and get the hell out of dodge. His hand occasionally brushing the wall to make sure he doesn't wander too far off track. A glance over his shoulder at Gretch, before he taps her shoulder again and points towards the double door. Where he'd heard the shuffling and muffling.

Gretchen shakes her head and points to the door to the right.

Gretchen is a creature of impulse and anxious energy, and that's on a good day, which this certainly hasn't turned out to be. Like tearing a bandaid from an unhealed wound, Gretchen whips open the door on the right. Or tries to. Locks happen sometimes, unfortunately.

There's no lock on this door, thankfully. The door swings open into a dimly lit room, which appears to have been a storage room. It's still being used as a storage room today, but not quite what you'd expect to find. The shelves are filled with various items; knives, guns, personal items such as jewellery, shoes, jackets, you notice some of the jackets have the Sinners design. These obviously belonged to those who have since gone missing.

Kraft, for his own part, is sticking to the money; And right now, that money is Gretchen. Mostly because he doesn't know who the benefactories are once they find whatever's left of the girl. Woman. Old maid? Hard to tell from a name alone. Although when Gretch goes to whip open the door, he's moved to the side of it. Eyes briefly focus on the Sinner equipment, before he'll move in. If Gretchen doesn't first. Always hugging that wall, are we!

Gretchen Pulsars her way into the treasure trove /slash/ incredibly convenient evidence locker, should it come to that, and hastily leans her head out to Kraft, beckoning him to follow with a scooping hand. She retreats fully within, and begins sifting through the belongings like a girl on Chrstmas morning looking at brilliantly wrapped boxes.

With Kraft's enhanced hearing, from down the hallway in the maintenance area he suddenly hears a loud slap, then a female voice, "You mother fraggin'.. I'm gonna..", she tries another sentence, but whatever is muffling her mouth is set back into place and she goes back to some angry mumbling.

Kraft moves in with the crazy lady, taking a look at some Sinner loot. He picks up an SMG, makes an 'huh' face, and puts it back down again before tilting his head. Then it's time to tap Gretchen on the shoulder again and point back out. Keeping his voice cast low, low, low, just a sigh above a whisper.

"Someone's still alive and getting smacked, bub. You here for shinies or sinners?"

Gretchen hurriedly snaps out her knife and trims away a patch from one of the Sinners' jackets and pockets it. She passes a longing glance across all the loot but hustles out with Kraft. "Yeah, no, let's go. I just wanted some proof that I found something in case… Just in case…" She eases the door of the storage room closed and moves along toward the source of the noise.

There's some muffled grunts behind the maintenance door, then the woman speaks again, "Where the frag did he take her? What are you doing..". Another thump, more solid this time, "You hit like a fraggin' keebler, you always did. What the frag happened to you..", another thump, the woman falling silent this time.

"Grab the stash later, sister. Our payroll's getting her teeth loosened."
Whisper-sighs the old cyborg, before HE leads the way this time! Yes! He! For what it's worth. Coming up to the maintenance doors, he'll take one side, gripping that cavalier deputy and finally putting his finger near the edge of the trigger guard. He'll hold up one finger, waiting for Gretchen to look - then begins the count up. One, Two..

She nods, grim and oh so very aware of the droplet of sweat rolling down her left temple…


On the third count, the door bursts open. Inside, the room appears to be a utility room, housing all the necessaries needed to keep the factory running; water pipes, electrical fuse box, generator, spare parts for electronic tools, a workbench and a small desk/computer set up for handling matrix traffic. The room is quite large and currently, against the far and left walls, people are gathered, six in all. They're all bound with plastic ties at the hands and feet and have gags covering their mouths to keep them silent. All, that is, except Luna, the new missing Sinner who has been so vocal. She's laying on her side with blood dripping from her mouth, barely concious, a thing standing over her.

The 'thing' is a human, or used to be; Gretchen has seen them before, back at the investigators office. The one over Luna used to be a Sinner, once upon a time, now she's a mutated mess. The right side of her remains the same, she's somewhat pretty, but the left side is mutated. Her hair has gone except for a few wispy strands, a growth swelling from her head, lumps all down her body, her arm swollen and malformed ending in two claw-like fingers.

The second, which Gretchen immediately picks up with her running spell upon entering the room, is a man neither of you have seen before, also mutated. His face is a mess of sores and boils, the same extending down his body, his clothing soaked through with a black mucus that he seems to be oozing.

The first heavy bullet off that Deputy goes rippling through some pretty screwed up organics - and then it explodes. Before the mutated chunks have time to truly seperate, a second bullet rips down low. And then it also explodes, as the Deputy BOOMS in the confines, lighting up the Terminator -err, Kraft-inator with the glowing eyes. Well, glowing if you lock gazes with him. By the time it's finished, the upper half of that former mutant is now oozing down a few prisoners.

The mutated female barely has time to register what's happening. The first bullet impacts and knocks her off her feet, but not before the second bullet has time to rip another hole into her. She's dead before she hits the floor, landing with a squishy thud alongside the barely conscious Luna.

The man with the boils turns toward the newcomers, hand going to an SMG that hangs at his side, trying to whip it up so he can spray some bullets in their direction.

The gun barrel swings, smoke pouring out of it as the cylinders quickly rotate. The Deputy - only revolver fast as a semi-auto pistol. Kraft, his features calm (probably because the servos don't have time to adjust his facial expression) points and pulls again, leaning to try and get a better angle at the man with the SMG.

BOOM! BOOM! The Deputy speaks up again, flashing in the darkness on Kraft's false features and giving him a rather ghoulish appearance for a moment. When the cylinder finishes rotating twice more, that's another splatter on the walls.
"… Hey there."

The mutated man makes a futile attempt to make a dive for cover, but it only ends up putting more on show for Kraft to aim at. The first bullet hits, explodes, turns multiple internal organs into mush, the second follows up to finish what the first started. The dive continues, but the body is dead when it hits the floor.

Some of the people in the room try to wriggle away from the bodies, keeping the blood and other unpleasant fluids away from them.

Gretchen flinches reflexively, tucked up against the opposite side of the door, ready to take quick action! So quick! She's almost ready to turn, promise!

Kraft takes point for the moment, swinging into the door and checking his left and right; Denver's own guardian angel is an aging cyborg with a face like a mannequin. Blowing air out of his lips, he flicks open the Deputy to begin plucking out the dead shells. And loading a few more in.

"So.." He begins, conversationally. ".. Which one of you broads was paying me again?" Click, closed.

Gretchen charges in like a maniac with a hard-cased plastic zapper in hand to close the distance to the captives.

This zapper is promptly hidden away and replaced by her blade to cut bonds. The only words out of her mask are, "Come with us if you want to live," drawled out in her accent.

Luna groans and starts sitting upright, though it's not easy as her arms and legs are still bound, not to mention the mild concussion. Noting Gretchen approaching, some awareness returns to her eyes, "I know you, don't I?", she asks, "What the frag is going on?".

Kraft, for his part, moves back to the door and leans up against it. Keeping an eye on their way out while he spins the cylinder on that heavy gun. Before glancing back at Luna's question. "Tea party. You're all invited, over at the Rens, sister. Bring bibs." And then it's back to watching the way OUT.

With the gags removed it's easier to see the faces. Not counting Luna, there are three other Sinners, the other three are unknowns, people from the streets of the Warrens who somehow got pulled into this situation. If it wasn't for knowing the Sinners, you wouldn't be able to tell, as they're all in nothing but underwear, except for Luna who is a recent arrival. At least you know where their gear is.

Once Luna's bounds are gone, she stumbles up to her feet, rocks unsteadily. "The fragger took Leisha..", she tells Gretchen, ".. give me a gun or somethin', I need to finish that fragger.".

"Candy asked me to help her find you," Gretchen continues, looking to each of the captives, Sinner or not. "Which of you can still fight," she says glancing from the freakish abominations to the cyborg with eyes wide behind her goggs. "Your weapons are nearby," she nods to Luna while she pulls a final gag from one captive's mouth and backpedals, rising, turning to check that she doesn't step in any puddles of gore.

"Clothes too."

Mentions the old borg, glancing back once and then keeping his eyes firmly out the door while he's holding cover behind the frame. "Don't get me wrong, sisters, I'm sure there's a time and place to be piled in half naked like a trog at a frat party hot house. Probably not now, though."

The three Sinners step forward, they're not ashamed of a little nudity, shyness got burnt out of them at an early age. "Get us those weapons and we'll be right at your side..", one of them says. Hearing Kraft, the same one gives a crooked grin, "Yeah, clothes would help, chummer.". One of the other girls moves across to ensure Luna is alright, while one of the unknowns approach Kraft, a man, short red hair, well toned. "You look like a kindred spirit..", he says, a voice Gretchen recognizes immediately from the audio chips; Bambrage. "Any chance you have another one of those tucked away?", a nod to the hand cannon that Kraft has been wielding.

Gretchen quickly moves away from the group and resettles her bag with its many grenades bandoliered across her chest, opting then for her shotgun. Stealth is a non-option at this point, and that suits her well enough. To Luna she offers a hand. "We need to get you all down the hall, clothes and weapons." Then she turns to Kraft as she makes her way back to the door they entered through, stating, "The spotter outside could be coming down here any second…" She takes a position near the Maintenance room door, ready to now defend the room that Kraft single-handedly breached like a boss.

It sure is nice to have a little chat in enemy territory, but sometimes chats get interrupted. From above, from the empty factory floor, comes a chilling half-roar half-scream, the sound echoing around the empty room upstairs, as well as bouncing its way down the stairs, growing louder before fading. Whatever it is, it doesn't sound good.

«OOC» The sound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3dfqTSQePQ

"'Fraid not, mac. I don't usually carry spares; If I needed one, it's way past time to run."
States one noir looking old 'borg to a true P.I., before that scream rolls down the stairs. It's not loud, but it's.. inhuman. Low and slow and primal. He shudders, closing his eyes briefly before he draws a hand down his face and glances at Gretchen. "Think we can make the elevator, sister? Or have you got a way to poke holes in roofs? I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve."

With a casual wave of her hand, Luna brushes away the concerned Sinner, "I'm fine..", she declares, straightening up but still wobbling. She draws a hand across her mouth, wiping the blood away, spits another glob on the floor, then motions to Gretchen, "Lead the way, chica. Whatever that fragger is doin', he ain't turnin' Leisha into..", she stares at the mess that Kraft made of the female mutant, ".. whatever the frag that is.". Hearing the noise from above, however, sends a shiver down the spine, the woman looking from Gretchen to Kraft and back again.

"Figures.". Is Bambrages only comment, but there's always the storage where the Sinner's gear is kept. If he can just hold out that long. He turns to the other captives, moves over and starts chatting with them, showing concern and ensuring that all is well with them.

Gretchen does what she can to arm the crew, first snapping out her pretend handcannon, an actually-very-manageable Alta from her sleeve, then turning it to pass it off to Bambrage with a silent nod. For Luna, she slings her bag around to her front and plunges a forearm past its large upper flap to withdraw a machine pistol with a bulky barrel, a folding stock, and a dangling sling. She regrips her shotty and shoulders up beside the door as people take places because it seems like the director just called ACTION.

"Think we oughta hoof it?" Comes the grimace from the old borg, as he adjusts his grip on the oversized hand cannon. "Least that way we're not pinned in here like rats when they start pouring in. Don't know how well I can shoot something I can't see, sister."

Another chilling cry pierces the air, closer this time, close to the stairs. A second later and a humanoid figure comes bounding down the steps. He seems to ignore the laws of gravity as it leaps onto the wall and propels itself off, back to the floor, so it doesn't slow down. As the thing moves, so your mind rejects its existence, but you keep pushing through to look at it again and again. The effect gives it the appearance of teleportation; coming around the stairs it blinks out, reappears against the edge of the wall, blinks out again, appears at the bottom of the stairs, blinks away again, is almost to the door. It seems to be the man from outside, judging by the way it's dressed, with his beanie hat and dirty long coat. The creature blinks out again, is at the doorway, it's shadow eyes staring into the room with hatred.

Just follow the migraine; Before the old 'borg can even start his usual sardonic take on things, something's popping in and out of reality like a stuttering trideo. Kraft's big ol' hand cannon BOOMS twice, lighting up the dark with explosive rounds; It takes a bloody chunk, but that beast is more wriggly than a trog prostitute in a mud bath.

"Ah, hells bells.." grumbles the borg as he grimaces. He'll need three aspirin and a shot of DAMN! from Joe's after this.

The shot from the hand cannon impacts into the creatures shoulder, causing it to twist with the impact, but then it blinks away again, the second shot skimming the air where it once stood. It reappears in mid leap, about to pounce straight onto Kraft, but with some incredible reaction speed he spins a fist into the creatures jaw, twists his body aside and the thing misses completely and lands on all fours a few feet away. It rises up again, turns around, to face it's target, when.. BOOM!

A blast from a newly acquired Alta, a smoking gun barrel, Bambrage twists the weapon to look at with an appraising eye, a nod of 'I like this!'. The humanoid figure drops to the ground, a strange greyish mist rising from its still form before that too drifts away.

Kraft's panting hard, his old coat still swinging from where he and the beastie had a two step, five fingered tango. He shakes his hand a few times, getting the feeling back in; That ol' pain editor makes it real easy to get pins and needles. A tug back on his sleeve and a glance at the skin colored plastic of his arm; After a moment, diagnostics swoop across it. Confirming he hasn't broken his hand, he glances back down to the fogging ruins of his former dance partner.

"And next time, keep your hands off the women. God damn galoot." A glance around and a jerk of his head. "Any of you mugs want to show me heels, now's the time before another one of those zipping freaks waltzes in."

Gretchen lurches back from one boot to the other to distance herself from the doorway as the mutated halfman seems to phase into the room. Her eyes are wide behind her goggles and she simply exhales deep breaths through the vents of her mask. Adrenaline-fueled, she blurts out, "Cover us," to the assembly and waves on those who are willing to charge ahead with a pulling motion behind her as she darts out into the hall, tugging one of her smokebombs from its place on her bandolier.

There's no pause from Luna, she's more than happy to accompany Gretchen out into the hallway, though she keeps her eyes on the motionless form of the teleporting hobo as she goes. "What the frag /was/ that thing?", she asks, the woman obviously having witnessed it. The other three girls, however, are less than eager, wandering around a dark, creepy place with howling voices in just their underwear isn't their idea of fun. They didn't even see the 'thing', as they also pass and notice the body, "Where did that come from?", one of them asks, in a genuinely blond moment.

Bambrage is right there too. He has an Alta, he's taken down a 'grey', it might be his new description for them, and he's hyped and ready to go; despite being only in his boxers. Judging by the speed he moved at, he has more than just grit and determination inside him.

With a sharp «TINK» and an underhanded lob, Gretchen releases a cylindrical smoke canister that begins spraying out a jet of blackness into the red-lit corridor. The spiralling trajecectory traces its course before the larger blast, and the German skitters in and around the door to shove her back against the wall, dipping her head out to catch sight of the things in thermographic. "Grab as much as you can and still fire, then trade me spots."

The smokebomb explodes in the hallway, hissing smoke in all directions, the cross section quickly filling with smoke and blocking vision. The door to the storage remains open, just the way you left it, and Luna heads that way, figuring Gretchen isn't going to smokebomb the way they want to go; and this is the only other direction.

There's another unfortunate side effect to the smoke; It scatters the tight cone of light out of Kraft's peepers. So now the old borg's got glowing eyes for real, a practical beam coming out of his sockets. Yeah, things just keep getting worse for naked coed- uh, Sinners in the dungeo- uh, basement, don't they?

"Had a dream like this a few days back. Don't remember there being this many monsters, but the braziers look about right." He mutters mostly to himself, as the eyelights die off with a faint humming click. And then he's moving out of the maintenance and riiight next to the staircase, taking a moment to reload his hand cannon. Click, pluck, *ting*… whirr, click.
"What's the plan, sister??"

Looking out for her sisters first, Luna waves in the other three Sinners before following along, all four disappearing inside to gather up their things, find their clothing and load up on weaponry. Bambrage follows along, but like a true gentleman PI, waits for the women to be finished in the changing room before he goes in to get his own things. The four women leave the storage room with secure jackets worn, suitable gang clothing, a couple have SMG's, another with a heavy pistol, while Luna picks out an actual Assault Rifle. It's unsure how good a shot she'll be in her current state, but she has enough determination to keep going.

"He took Leisha in this direction..", Luna tells Gretchen, motioning into the smoke, "I'm gonna waste that fragger so bad.", she says, pulling out the clip from her rifle, checking it over before slamming it back into place.

Gretchen has the ears this time; In the distance, outside the building, another of those chilling screams can be heard echoing around the empty streets, another greeting it as if they're calling to each other. Whatever is happening, they seem to be heading back to base in force as quick as they can.

"Girls! Hold the stairvell!" Gretchen responds instantly to the beast-screams topside by calling out into the spreading cloud of smoke, heavy enough that the red emergency lighting shoots through the coiling tendrils in stabs straight to the eye or surrounding the heavier masses in demonic backlighting. She grips her weapon tighter than ever and looks to the glowing thermo-auras of those gathered. "Bambrage! I'm going ahead to find Leisha!" She turns to Luna and Kraft. "Ready?"

The old 'borg gives a grimace, unseen in the heavy smoke, but pulls off the wall to move back towards Gretchen. His gloved finger resting on the outside of the trigger guard again as he grouses. "All I wanted out of today was enough to cover dinner and maybe tomorrow's breakfast." A glance behind him again, before the grim faced flatfoot gives the cylinders of his Deputy a little spin with his thumb. Clika-clika-clika-clunk.
"Ready as I'll ever be, sister."

Gretchen takes back her weapons once the others rearm themselves, so turns out to be the actual last person ready…

Luna is about to protest; she wants blood, she wants to bring down the leader of this conspiracy, wants to rescue her friend Leisha - when she too hears the screams from above. Instead, she moves into the role of 'General'. "You. Move back to Maintenance, if they charge us you're attacking from the rear.". "You, next to the elevator, we're going to pincer move these things.". "You. There.", she points to the corner of the corridor, while she takes up the other side of the corridor, aiming her rifle toward the stairs, covering her sisters as they run to their forward positions.

A glance back to Gretchen, "Go. Get her back alive, chica.", then she's staring down the barrel of her rifle, waiting for the onslaught to begin.

Bambrage also finishes dressing and preparing. He walks out looking for all the world like a human replica of Kraft, complete with the fedora, long coat and cigarette. He blows out the smoke, breathes a contented sigh, "I needed that.". In his free hand the Alta has been replaced with the hand cannon of choice for one-shot kills. The Ruger Super Warhawk. Though this has a few tweaks, giving it a smartlink and barrel mounted sight. "Where do you want me?", he asks.

Anxiously nodding, Gretchen touches a hand to her throat before stating, "Sprung des Glaubens!" and making a dash through the densest portion of the hellish smoke toward the next turn in the hall while the Sinners take positions.

False lips screw up in annoyance when Bambrage steps out with everything Kraft ever wanted. Right down to real hair. Someone wants to be a real boy. Blowing out a bit of air through his nostrils, the old 'borg rolls his shoulders to sort out annoyance down to his usual sardonic self.
"Nice hat." He comments, seeing as his own fedora is precisely the same off shade between grey and brown. And then he glances aside as Gretchen goes charging. "Feisty one, isn't she?" He mentions, before he moves to follow. Keeping the eyelights off for now, so he doesn't show up like a lighthouse in a foggy night. And hugging that wall.

Leaving the Sinners to their own devices, Bambrage follows behind Kraft and Gretchen. There's no hurried pace with him, he's casual, half way through his cigarette as he disappears into the smoke, only the glowing end showing the way before that too is tossed to the floor and crushed underfoot. "I'll say the same.", he replies to Kraft, comparing hats.

The corridor splits off in two directions after a short shuffle south, one to the west, one further south. Taking the nearest option to the west, you find double doors with push handles. No locks here, no barriers, just a feeling of forboding and some unusual sounds coming from inside. The sounds are similar to what came from the last attacker, but this one sounds distant, coming from so far away that it shouldn't be possible to hear it at all. And yet it's perfectly audible, though muffled through the doorway. Another voice accompanies the first, a chanting of a human, though what language he's speaking is completely alien.

Gretchen crosses to the far side of the doorway before opening it up, just leaning in enough to see. A guttural cry wells up from within her, "Rrrrrgh!" and she strains to keep another surge of power at bay. She fails to do so, and her will is on the verge of becoming manifest…

The door opens enough to see what's inside.

The room is decorated completely differently to the rest of the factory, this seems to be some sort of shamanic summoning chamber, but of no totem you've ever heard of, seen, or even heard rumors about. It merges hermetic and shamanistic into one; candles, books, feathers and animal skulls, mathematical hermetic patterns on the walls, shamanistic paintwork across the ceiling and floors. In the centre of the room a white sheet covers a solid table, though if it's a table at all is hard to tell as the sheet falls straight to the floor. Upon the sheet lays a naked Leisha, unbound but seemingly unconscious, her pale skin has hermetic and shamanistic patterns drawn across it in red ink; or is it blood?

At the end nearest her feet, a man is kneeling, his arms raised, his voice speaking a tongue that is not of this world, a language that a human shouldn't be able to reproduce. His appearance is dirty, rugged, hair long and knotted, unshaven stubble across his face, a jacket declaring him a member of the Saints. This is all glanced over quickly, as your eyes are drawn to what hovers above Leisha. It's as if there's a tear in our reality, a slice through the very air into darkness beyond, and out of that darkness, shadowy tendrils reach out, coiling downwards toward the unconscious woman below.

Opening the door also causes a blip, Gretchen picking up another presence through her still active spell; another of 'them', standing off to one side of the naked woman, though your eyes don't allow you to see it.

Bambrage is taking his time as usual, he walks enigmatically out of the smoke the grenade has thrown everywhere, just in time to catch what might be about to happen. Back with the Sinners, that oh too familiar howl echoes around the basement, then gunfire bounces heavily off the walls, the thump of heavy pistols being unloaded, the steady clack of an assault rifle being fired, the short spurts of SMG fire.

Inside the chamber, the eyeless face of the creature inside turns toward the door, catches movement, and is moving before you even realise you can see it. It disappears from it's spot next to the unconscious woman, reappears next to the shaman, blinks out, is almost at the door…

At this point, pulling that heavy hand cannon up and sighting down at some reality skipping monstrosity's starting to get old hat. Yeah, they were spooky as all crap, but they tended to bleed. That put the old cyborg a lot more at ease when his arm snaps up, false eyes sighting right down the nose of ol' Deputy and watching that laser dot bounce.
BOOM! Ping.
BOOM! Ping.

".. Sister, this one's -different-..!" Panic? Panic.

Two shots ring out into the room, the 'thing' seeming to blink in and out of existence as he closes on the doorway. The shots impact but don't even slow it down, the second shot it even raises a hand to, so fast that it bats the incoming round aside. It blinks out again, is almost to the door.

Through the smoke, the sounds of cheers are heard as the Sinners drop another of the incoming critters. The cheers quickly fade out, however, as more unnerving screams come from outside the factory, this time sounding a lot more than just two…

Welp, that didn't work. Not bothering with a third and fourth shot as the monster starts .. hurting Kraft's head, sweet jimminy christmas.. the old 'borg -charges- forward. Getting his arm up and grimacing as he looks to rush right into that room, right over the alter and yank the naked broad away from tentacles. This is going to hurt worse than the last time he ate food out of a tusker joint, and brother, that BURNED.
Why is it always tentacles when a bunch of naked dames are in a basement together?

The old 'borg's arm up was a good idea; He can't see the hit coming, but those old instincts take over as he shifts to knuckle it aside in a classic counter. 'Course, he ain't counter punching, so it just ends up giving him a spin as he crashes across the altar. And nabs some naked lady with him, dragged off to the other side.
"Mind the hands, mind the hands..!" Last time he had this many naked dames, he was in lala land after a particularly grimey trid and a particularly hefty drink. And it was chocolate, not blood.

The spirit blinks across, is in one place then the next, appearing in front of Kraft and reaching out both arms to grab him. The old 'borg does his best 'stick n move' and avoids the grab, going instead for the woman who is easily pulled from the altar; she's as light as a feather compared to his enhanced strength. The smokey tendrils reaching out from.. somewhere.. a tear in the air.. coil and withdraw, disappearing back into the blackness.

"Noooo!", comes the shout from the shaman, the man breaking his chant, opening his eyes, eyes as black as pitch, to see who dares interrupt his ritual. Then there's a sudden BOOM; Bambrage speaks again. His Ruger Super Warhawk kicks in his hand, a bullet rushing through the room with a weird glow to it, impacting with the spirit creature and passing straight through, leaving a glowing white light where the bullet passed. The white light expands, slowly engulfs the spirit, curls it inwards to a tiny dot that pops out of existence. The investigator nods to himself, cocks the hand cannon ready for the next shot.

As the mutated guardfiend winks out of existence, Gretchen leans in through the door to crunch off a single shot, shaky hands gripping too tightly to line up on the wily cultist. A sole shock lock slug strikes the far wall and shreds into a thousand shards, gouging the wall and shrapneling nearby occult paraphernalia.

It's almost as if the shaman knew it was coming, his body twists to the side to let the single shotgun blast shoot past him and into the the wall, then continues with the twist and rolls across, rising to one knee behind cover of the 'altar'. The unnatural tear in the air slowly seals over and closes, a faint but chilling scream heard from within before it's completely gone.

The gunfire out in the corridors becomes more steady, you hear Luna's voice over the sound, "Pull back! PULL BACK!", the sounds of gunfire drawing closer as the Sinners move into new covering angles closer to where you're fighting. The unholy howls from the creatures have grown steadily in number, it sounds like they're surrounding the entire factory.

"I can call them off at any time..", the shaman tells you, a wicked grin upon his features.

Gretchen remains silent, turning back out of the doorway and pumping her shotgun held diagonally across her chest.

Crazy lady tries to shoot crazy man in the back of the head with a shotgun. Kraft? He's looking forward to that while some naked damsel gets all fluttery in his arms, now that she's off the tentacle express.
And then the crazy man shifts out of the way like it was nothing. Bad mojo. Without commenting or otherwise acknowledging the crazy shoggo-shaman's words, the old borg hustles the hell out of dodge. Right back out of that door, and clicking it closed behind him, to leave him and company out in the hall with smoke and beasties.

"Nope." Is all he says, false eyes wide. "Time to scram?"

Gretchen sidesteps away from the door in a sort of a gallop, gaining momentum with the few steps it takes to head toward the intersection. There's still an unexplored room, and she worries about that quite a bit, turning to aim her weapon back at Spooky's bedroom before turning to fire a shock lock slug right into the meeting point of the double doors' handles when she clears the corner.

While you're both considering options, Bambrage flicks open his Ruger and empties the shells into his hand, pocketing them away. One by one, he pulls out some new rounds, slotting them into the weapon as he leans back against the wall, as if he has all the time in the world. Judging by his last recorded message, he knew this was a suicide run going in, but he's here to finish what he started.

Luna rounds the corner, takes cover and aims back the way she just came from, assault rifle raised and ready to rain hell down on whatever comes around that corner. "How are we doin'?", she asks whoever might be listening, then glances over to notice Leisha. The woman puffs out a relieved breath, then goes back to covering the corner. Two more Sinners also move back, finding whatever cover they can find, while the third.. she didn't make it.

The double doors of the last unexplored room burst open from the shotgun blast, a metallic creak as they swing on their rusting hinges. Inside is a living area; a camp bed, small stove, there's a sink against one wall for 'fresh' water, a metal cupboard that was likely used for staff storage now repurposed for the storage of personal clothing and items. At the far end of the room are metallic doors, no doubt the doors leading down from the parking lot above. This used to be where vehicles would drop off their deliveries, now repurposed for squatting.

Gretchen posts up outside the door here and calls out, "We got a door this way and futilely tries to wave to everyone in the smoke, but the source of the shotgun blast ought to be clue enough to the direction she means. She watches heat sigs through her goggles, peeking toward the lodge door, then the corridor east to the original set of stairs. "Get the girls through!

Keeping sideways so he can half-heartedly keep his gun hand towards the doors that Crazy Eyes is stuck behind, Kraft grimaces before calling out at Luna: "Much as I appreciate a naked broad, I'm not ready to settle down yet, sister. Shift it!" Juggling the juggles does not for a good aim make, and those false eyes are watching Crazy's door while he's moving towards their egress. But carrying the bared broad seems to be his lot in life until someone else gets their hands free. Through the door! Go go!

Another of 'them' rounds the corner, blinking briefly in and out, though as Bambrage mentioned in one of his audio files, the more you see them, the more you /can/ see them. Luna lets loose on fully automatic, ripping into the incoming creature and tearing it to shreds, "Move it!", she tells the other Sinners, who start falling back under her command, running for the room that Gretchen is in.

More howls surround the entire facility, seeming to come from everywhere now, the number outside must be in the dozens. Even the steel door doesn't sound safe, as a loud bang impacts against it, then another, lumps starting to appear on this side as something on the other side begins to try and hammer its way through.

Back at the room with the shaman, Bambrage remains outside, sliding the last shell into his Ruger before flicking it closed and adjusting his fedora, getting just the right tilt.

"Bambrage!" Gretchen calls out, urging the man to hurry along with the rest.

With a tip of his hat to the German woman, Bambrage gives a polite smile, "I'm here to finish this, ma'am. I have my job to do, you have yours. Get them out alive.", he says. Then he's turning, pushing open the door to the shamans room and heading inside.

BOOM! That familiar shot rings out from inside the shamans room. With the distance, it's almost hard to notice as the boom also rings out again and again from the steel door. More dents appear on this side from multiple locations; there's more than one out there now and they're eager to get in.

Gretchen begins to storm after Bambrage with a look to Kraft. It's not a great distance to cover, but she has enough time to pump her weapon, ejecting a shell casing down to the concrete. "Fuck! Bambraaaaage!" She calls out at the now-closed door from which the booming shots reverberate. Leaving the Sinners behind to make a potential last stand, she accompanies Kraft back to the shaman's lair through the lingering, red-lit haze.

There's a stirring in Kraft's arms, the naked woman blinks open her eyes, though still looks very much on the edge of consciousness.

That's got to be a sight; Waking up to the fake face of Denver's own dirty angel, with false eyes and nicotine stained lips. "Welcome back to the world of the living. Don't take this the wrong way, sister, but you're not my type." And down he'll put her, making sure to catch Luna's attention first while he can.

And then? Then it's time to spin the Deputy and stride after Gretchen. "Damn it all, Mac, why you gotta play the hero when there's getting away to be got?" Grumbles the old borg. And he didn't get to -be- old by marching -towards- crazy eyed shoggo-shamans! Damn mojo.

The naked woman, Leisha, looks at Kraft a little confused in her barely conscious state, but when she's put down and sees Luna her memories seem to come flooding back. Another of them comes around the corner close to storage, blinking in and out for Leisha, now completely solid for everyone else. The girl lets loose with the most classic horror movie scream.

Luna glances across hearing something giving way, a tear broken through the steel door, hands reaching in, starting to rip a hole. "Frag. Move up.", she tells the remaining Sinners, advancing closer to the shamans room and now having to cover both angles.

As Gretchen closes in on the shamans room, she can hear him inside, just about see through the door. Bambrage is raised five feet off the ground, hovering there against the laws of gravity, while the shaman paces back and fore in front of him with that wicked grin on his face, ".. can't believe you came here to kill me. It's almost funny..", you can just about hear him saying, taunting his captured victim.

Gretchen scuttles up to the door and whips a small canister from her chest with an aerosol canister contained within a liquid chemical reservoir. She hurls this through the doors and turns to take cover behind them before the liquid agent is aerosolized within the lodge.

The shaman has time to look down to see what's actually rolling toward his feet. As it explodes he turns his face away, tries to get out of the direct path, and while he takes less of the impact it's still bad for him. Bambrage drops straight out of the air, but he took it face first too, the investigator trying to work out what's going on but dazed and confused. Considering he's been tracking the armies of darkness for the past few weeks, his hallucinations don't seem pretty, the man scurrying backwards toward the wall.

The shaman turns back toward the door, stares across, tries to focus..

Outside, the steel door gives way and the first of them charge through, entering the hallway to rounds of fire from the Sinners. A dual pronged attack bring more from the other direction, the Sinners having to pull back further toward the door. One of the creatures manages to break through the spray of weapons fire, falling on one of the Sinners who fights back hard, the two struggling on the ground.

The 'borg doesn't piss around this time with dodging or running. Beasts from behind, beasts from the right, the ladies are dying and its on his dime. The Deputy comes up, BOOM-

A messy hole is opened up in Crazy Eyes-
And Kraft frowns hard. ".. And keep the change, ya lousy rat-fuck."

Gretchen whips her weapon from the shaman's door to the hall, somehow intuitively knowing she can't enter the dead man's sanctum, whether due to physical or imaginary reasons, she may never truly understand. "Bam! Come on!" She moves over toward the intersection, shoulder against the wall to communicate with Luna and Leisha. "Hold!" She urges the women to keep up the fight, it's almost over. It's almost over…

The horde comes charging through, sensing a breach, pouring through the hole in the steel door and the corridor outside. The Sinners, totally overwhelmed, try to keep them back but it's an impossible task, one of them already on her back with one of these things pinning her down. Something very strange happens at that moment, smokey tendrils reach up from the ground, wrap around her, and the two of them suddenly disappear - fade into nothing.

The bullet from Kraft finds its target, impacts with the shamans chest, his hands quickly going to grab the hole. The ExEx round explodes, destroys several internal organs, and he drops to his knees, topples forward onto his face. At that exact moment, the incoming mass of creatures all do the same - in mid run some of them topple forward, slam against walls, others simply trip and lie still. The woman who vanished also suddenly reappears in the same place, gasping for breath.

".. I'm getting too old for this sort of junk."
Grouses the flatfoot, as the Deputy's cylinder rolls over one last time. He glances behind him at the women - crazy, Sinner, or otherwise. Best not to mention he's the same jackass who landed on their van and interrupted their slaver trade. Because that sort of robin hood crap will get you ganked in a hurry. Rolling his shoulders and reaching up to pinch his nose, Kraft goes walking -into- the dead man's realm. Looking to nab up Bambi and drag the man back out of the gas…
Although he'll have to holster that heavy duty pistol first.

"Luna, Leisha," Gretchen just wades through the women, checking for blood, eyeing the corners and the shredded industrial door with suspicion while trying to assess 'amount of death' in the immediate vicinity. "Where did the other girl fall? By the other stairs? Let's go get her body. We can't leave her here."

The Sinners rise back to their feet after the onslaught, check their weapons, reload while they have a chance, then look around at the wasteland of bodies. At least twenty to thirty broke through here and those that weren't killed by gunfire are lying still on the ground; a simple check will also find them dead. "She fell in the corridor near the elevator.", Luna replies to Gretchen's question, taking a moment to look around again before waving Leisha over, guiding her off to the storage so the poor girl can get dressed and reclaim her things. The girl tiptoes carefully over the bodies as she follows Luna, making quiet, "Eww.", "Gross.", comments as she goes.

"Someone want to help bub here walk straight? I'll.. get the girl."
Comes Kraft's words for Gretchen. After all, between the two of them, he's the one zipped up in a tincan. Although he does take a moment to pop that beaten carton of cigs out of a pocket, and tap it on his wrist. Dog ear out. Electric coils lit. Breath in that cancer, man.

Gretchen gives the borg a solemn nod and moves to assist Bambrage, perhaps even helping him maintain if he's having a crazy trip…

The German slips one arm around Bambrage's waist, laying his over her shoulders in the event that he's unstable on his feet thanks to the collateral hyper she blasted the shaman's accursed workshop in.

Bambrage is completely out of it, he's still seeing nightmares everywhere he looks, curls up to avoid imaginary attacks, waves his gun toward unseen assailants.

It was a lousy day, mused the old borg as he squatted down and looked to carefully tuck some young dame in his arms like he was her mammy. Sure, he was in a basement with a bunch of broads and enough party gas to light up the swinging clubs of Queen City - and he'd gotten more than his fair share of eyeballing up the goods. But that's taken it out of context; There's a lot of murderin', a lot of bloodin', and there's some girl that could be his daughter finishing her bleedout over his stained coat. If he ever bothered to take a swim in the gene pool before his bait and tackle got switched for iron bells.

"My coat can take the stain; My rep can't." He mutters, working that cig over false lips.


The party over, everyone gathered and safe, you make your way back up and out into the street. The rain has finally stopped, leaving wet puddles across the sidewalk, a hint of morning sunshine pushing through the clouds to twinkle off the water. Outside, Gretchens pager bleeps; Candy checking in.

Once everyone is topside, Gretchen pulls Luna aside for a few quiet words. "I'm torching the building. Do you want to come in with me? See that son of a bitch yourself for proof first?" She looks to Leisha then, stepping over to her. "Here," she hands over her phone to the battered girl. "Call Candy. Have Candy call Mercy." Then a gesture to Luna, indicating, 'are you coming?'


Across the metaplanes in a distant dimension, massive beings of immense power hover in a dark void, their amorphous mass twisting and reshaping. A tiny pinprick in comparison to the size of these beings allows a sliver of light to shine through into the void, piercing their dimension. One of these massive beings withdraws a tendril away from that sliver, curls it back into its body as the scene widens to encompass the entirety of its mass, shrinks backwards to the thousands upon thousands filling the void. In the distance, rocks that were once worlds lie destroyed, floating in space, dead and desolate.

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