Massacre in the West Texas Town of El Paso
|Massacre in the West Texas Town of El Paso|
|Part of Blood in the Machine|
Andres Gutierrez |
|Casualties and losses|
|One of Relay's drones!||Six leopard guard. One blood spirit.|
Charity Horace hired the runners to try to learn more about the past of a man recently captured by another team. Orsen Cordova. Charity knew that he had spent time in El Paso, and a ceremonial obsidian knife found by the other team had suggested - on psychic reading by Doris - that it had been used to kill at least one person in El Paso.
The runners accepted the job, and discovered a great deal of Cordova's history, primarily by rescuing a reporter with key research, and getting evidence from the place where Cordova had stayed in El Paso, where he committed a terrible massacre at a church. However, they were left with as many questions as answers. There is certainly more yet to explore!
Itztli had been on two related runs; see this report and this report. In summary, there were a series of kidnappings in Redmond traced back to two men. Both were infected with CFD. The first one found, Andres Gutierrez, was also a blood magician, and Stuffer Shack regional manager. The second one found, Orsen Cordova, was a decker. Andres expected Orsen to help him, when he was captured. Orsen appeared to be trying to complete the blood ritual when caught, despite being a decker. The ritual involved body parts and a cave with Aztech relics in the wall. Also a machine that seemed to be screaming, or possibly playing a recording of someone screaming.
Andres had come to Seattle from Los Angeles. This appeared to be a decision made by the AI riding him, while he was in blackout. Orsen had come to Seattle from El Paso. Again, this seemed to be a decision by the nanites over-writing his personality.
It is unusual for a mage (like Andres) to have CFD, as it is contracted from infected cyber, but he was a type 1 diabetic and had an insulin pump. This device had infected him. It was unclear what had infected Orsen.
Charity is attempting to help the two men get access to a cure, but their personalities are very far gone. All that seemed possible to learn from talking to them had likely already been learned.
Itztli and Charity helped explain the background during the meet. Charity's husband was reluctant for them to pursue this matter out-of-nation, but she could not let it go. She paid the runners upfront and offered to cover travel expenses also. She also gave them access to a room in the building where her apartment is located, for planning purposes. It was a somewhat open-ended job. What threads would they pull on? How would they know when they had learned 'enough'?
The runners planned the trip logistics, with Relay and Farsight bringing vans. Both had smuggling compartments. Everyone had SINs sufficient to crossing national borders, but they still focused on choosing a route that would minimize the border crossings.
On the way, KBC would do a series of matrix searches to try to help them narrow down their options for research.
And Farsight would study the ceremonial dagger for psychic impressions.
Relay focused on driving his vehicle, and Farsight's when he needed coverage to focus on the magical study.
KBC's initial matrix searching confirmed that Orsen had been in El Paso one year ago. He had left for Seattle sometime between six months ago, and the present. He had also grown up in El Paso prior to that, but there was a gap. He had no siblings. His parents died in the Dragon attack; he did not return for the funeral. There was no obvious sign of personality change before the gap in the timeline. Friends of the family were concerned that he didn't return for the funeral. There was on-going concern about his alcoholism. It seemed that he had been born an otaku, prior to the 2nd crash. But not made the transition to technomancer. There were occasional records of traveling, mercenary, runner style work in the gap. Of particular note, after he returned to El Paso, there was one major news story - a horrific massacre at the Two Pines church. Six people dead, including the bride, groom, maid of honor, best man, and the bride's mother. Others fled. The church seemed a key place to investigate. She obtained pictures of Orsen at various ages.
An idea for future investigation was where Gutierrez got his insulin pump. Could they confirm any commonality between the two stories? This was never determined.
Farsight's investigation of the obsidian dagger's psychic history confirmed - and permitted him to experience - several uses of the dagger. The last three were in Seattle, and the dagger wielded by Gutierrez, as Charity had thought. Then there was a flash of the dagger being used by Orsen Cordova. There were other users and victims, going back to the Spanish conquest. Of note, Farsight saw that at least one victim returned as an attacker, after having the dagger stabbed into their heart. Was there some aspect of this that allowed people to return from death? A question for blood magic experts, perhaps. That remains unsolved. Gutierrez only appeared in the role of the attacker, stabbing someone.
The team also reviewed basic information about CFD. It is transmitted via infected ware. To cure a person with it, there are four steps. First, you must convince the AI to depart them. That's hard. The most common route is to force the xenosapient AI mind to experience the worst parts of being human - starvation, exhaustion, torture, high emotion. Then, a technomancer does some techno-magic. Then, there is a medical process to scrub the nanites. Then, the person's body and personality can recover, but may not, depending on force of will.
They would have to continue to plan as they learned more in El Paso.
The journey to El Paso was pleasant. They stopped and stayed in hotels along with way, and made a point of seeing the Grand Coulee Dam in Las Vegas.
When they arrived in El Paso, they secured a posh penthouse hotel suite. Some of them had never been in a posh penthouse suite before! It was very nice.
In the morning, they headed to the church. Farsight disguised himself as a southerner, with a cowboy hat and a synthskin mask, with help from KBC. He introduced himself to the woman present at the church as a detective investigating the old massacre. The woman was very reluctant to speak of it, but they eventually convinced her. They learned some interesting details from her, including that the bride was pregnant. There were persistent rumors that the bride haunted the church. She also commented that others had asked lots of questions after the event. Law enforcement (then Lonestar), but also men in the livery of the leopard guard. After that, it was all hushed up very quickly. No killer had been found. The knife was lost from police custody. She confirmed to KBC that there was only one major journalism outlet in town - the El Paso Times. At least one reporter had asked questions about it. Tourists came frequently now, wanting the gory details.
Farsight positioned himself where the bride had been standing, and studied the psychic impressions. He was able to relive the murder from the bride's perspective. He confirmed that it had been Orsen Cordova who came in and stabbed her (and the others.) He was quite shaken by the experience.
Relay confirmed with his flyspy that there was nothing else to find at the church.
KBC did some matrix searching to determine if any family members were still in town. None were. But she could see that the journalist who was mentioned over and over again on the matrix in connection with news stories about the massacre was still in town. She got his contact information.
Farsight called the reporter. The man was insistent that he could not speak about the case. Unnaturally resistant. Perhaps paid off or threatened? KBC tracked his commcode to the Soybucks across from the newspaper building. Relay drove Rabbit and Itztli to convince him. By which they meant 'black bag' him. While Farsight was still on the phone with the reporter, Rabbit slid across from him at the table. She had a gun concealed inside her long coat and threatened him with it, making it clear that he needed to walk out with her right now. The reporter hung up on Farsight. He looked absolutely terrified, and allowed Rabbit to guide him out to the van, gun at his back. They were off. KBC helped them search a cheap motel to rent a room for an interrogation. It became clear the reporter had been being watched. KBC found a stealth tag on him, and Relay sensed a following vehicle. Relay was able to evade the following vehicle, but the runners decided this was an opportunity to potentially learn more about the folks who were behind the plot. Whoever was following the reporter, must know more about Orsen Cordova.
The runners intentionally left the stealth tag active, and focused on the important business of ordering tacos for the group. They arrived at the hotel and got into defensive position. The reporter, Relay, KBC, and Farsight were holed up in the bathroom, with the reporter hiding in the bathtub. Rabbit and Itztli waited in the main room, with Relay's drone and Itztli's spirit. What would arrive first? The tacos, or the opfor?
It was the opfor. Six leopard guards. Relay's flyspy in the parking lot confirmed as they got out of the vehicle that they had the tacos and the taco delivery man inside their van!
An epic battle began. The opfor were approaching from the back side of the motel, towards a wall with windows. Rabbit dove through the window and attacked the lead leopard guardsman. A punishing strike from Rabbit's whip hurt him badly. Farsight sensed a spirit approaching, and moved to intercept, waiting to attack until it manifested. He struck it a damaging blow with his osmium mace. One of the guards threw a grenade through the open window into the motel room. Itztli and her spirit were able to dodge. Relay's drone killed one. Another guard attempted to hit Rabbit with a Krime tingler, but missed. Itztli's spirit engulfed one of the attackers, finishing him. Itztli shot one who was surprised, hurting him. KBC searched on the matrix for anything of concern, and realized one of the men had a cyber deck. She hit the deck with a strong data spike, while hiding from the decker. Farsight was able to kill the blood spirit. Rabbit killed two more with her whip. Itztli's spirit engulfed another attacker, finishing him. The last one, the decker, looked at the carnage and made a run for their van. Rabbit attacked the engine block with her whip, disabling the van. She was also able to paralyze the decker, and bring him inside where KBC had a jammer.
KBC began to study the files. Several were encrypted and had data bombs. She also needed help translating the Azlatan Spanish. Their plan was to also interrogate the man, though they suspected he was only a guard.
The others spoke to the journalist. He could come with them if he wanted to live. They had killed the ones watching him. He had a chance to escape. They agreed to take him to San Francisco on the way back to Seattle.
KBC was just starting to work on the second set of files, when those who could assense realized something was coming. Something big. Farsight moved to the astral. Rabbit used masking to make herself appear to be a very powerful mage, and attempted to intimidate the approaching spirits into leaving. The spirit of blood was intimidated and hung back. But the big Force 12 Spirit of Bone was not cowed. It appeared by the paralyzed decker. It hesitated. Unwilling to manifest. Yet. The runners took the hint and left with the deck, which the spirits did not seem interested in. Rabbit set up video feed and a demolition effect. They watched from the car, pulling away, as the spirit manifested fully, killed the decker, and got hit by the explosion.
The runners fled to another motel, far away, to plan their next step. They reviewed the files on the deck, and all of the reporter's files and information. Much of the information matched what they already knew, but the reporter had a key new piece of information. The location of Orsen Cordova's apartment during the time of the massacre, up until he left for Seattle. They had no trouble sneaking in and obtaining all of the information there, which included a data chip with Cordova's diary.
With the diary, they learned that: - Cordova was very unhappy. - A person made contact with him, before he returned to El Paso, promising that they could restore his otaku connection to the matrix if he underwent a surgery (involving implantation of nanites...). This was clearly a con. - This surgery was done at a clinic in El Paso. An Azlatan subsidiary, Genetique. - This surgery was clearly how the CFD was given to him. It was intentional, after he had been targeted with the con. - He did know the bride from the massacre, from school. - He was in a black out (AI in control) during the massacre at the church. It remains unclear why the AI wanted the massacre, except perhaps to experience human emotion? - It is the AI that wanted to go to Seattle.
It is unclear whether the AI in Cordova and the AI in Gutierrez are the same AI entity. It seems like the AI was trying to do some sort of ritual in Seattle.
The runners were suspicious that the clinic might have implanted more people. Something to investigate another time, perhaps.
The runners provided all of the data to Charity. She was satisfied they had learned a great deal about the El Paso connection, and Cordova's past.
It is likely that more investigations will shed further light in the future.
Player After Action Reports (AARs)
KBC here! This was my 2nd run. This was amazing. I got to see so much of this continent. And stay in a penthouse apartment and order room service and try tacos and churros and sopaipilla and tres leches cake. Relay is really nice. Even if he is terribly fancy and smart and an engineer. I'm so sorry about his drone! Rabbit is an absolute terror on the battlefield and when kidnapping someone. Also she doesn't eat, which seems odd. But she likes demolitions as much as I do. Farsight's ability to read psychic impressions is incredibly useful. Itztli really seems committed to getting to the bottom of this mystery. Maybe we'll get to work together on it again! I hope Charity is happy with all we found.
A lot of people can probably imagine something better then going against Aztechnology on their birthday but frankly I enjoyed it even if it means going to El Paso. I mean ultimatly Aztechnology needs to be destroyed for what they did to me, do to other meta-humans, to the nature and to spirits. So I'm happy if I can even if it's just a little to spit in there soup. altough I know I still lack in strenght and could probably never have beaten that monsterous bone spirit on my own I'm glad that I had such a strong team on my side and I look forward to sabotage Aztechnology where I and furthermore the Haven can. but I need to grow in power and pick up some other "skills" before I can let Aztech really suffer.
Blood magic is new to me. I still haven't actually SEEN it, but we've danced around it the last few days. Rituals from a corrupted corp expanding upwards from west Texas to the Seattle sprawl...it's craziness. There's a lot of dark drek that goes on right underneath our noses, you know? I mean, magic in general is unsettling but you're just adding a new and creepy element to our reality. Just hearing that Farsight cat scream in the church--that was enough to drain the life out of you. And I've seen our guys and the Aztechian folks manifest spirits that are ridiculous. No thank you. I'll take small screws and oil and electrical circuits. We're here trying to make sense of a world that doesn't make sense--and we solve a murder where we've already got the murderer in custody. Neat--fine--but there's another ritual weapon somewhere out there that may lead us down a path with a dozen other murders. After one of my two offensive drones got completely obliterated by a hit squad, I'm realizing just how much I need to branch out in my knowledge and skill set and even my gear load out to be more helpful to my team. People could have died this week because I thought my tools and my skills were sufficient. Ugh. After I get this poor, mangled little dude repaired, it's time for something...bigger, just in case.