Fleeing the city in a vegetable truck? It’s going to be a weird night. Having two mercs shoot out the tires of the truck and drag the most obnoxious passenger into the trunk of a waiting car? Very weird night. Getting picked up by two bodybuilders in a box truck converted into a mobile clinic? Now you know you’ll be talking about this night for a good while.
As noted in our prologue, the misfit group of edgerunners known as CabbageCorp met coincidentally in the back of a truck while seeking new homes, new friends, and also maybe running for their lives. A somewhat hasty decision to accept a ride from Tyrone King and Doctor Kong would form the party in earnest; while they don’t need each other yet, they certainly can’t back out.
The April Fool’s Fiasco
Although the party didn’t know it yet, the hit on their truck that plucked a self-important middle manager from Continental Brands out into the night was part of a larger series of operations that took place all around the city limits of Hydropolis. The party would find out in the morning that the city of Hydropolis was blockaded in response to something that occurred during the night. While more about this would come to light at a later date, at around 2am on April 1st, King and Kong’s box truck would pull into a parking spot in front of the Continental Gas ‘N Go, the largest retail institution left in former Wichita. They had been rebuffed by a group of nomads at the Eisenhower airport who were warned about the Fiasco in advance, and this was the next closest place to get bearings and maybe Garden access. Of course, there was a familiar car out front, and inside are two mercenaries, not even out of their ops gear, drinking coffee, or whatever approximation of coffee Continental Brands sold. While most of the group tried to regain their bearings, Mason, feeling bold and very unemployed, approached the mercs directly. Their names? Max and Lulu. Yes, they knew who else was in the back of the truck. No, they didn’t care. No, the coffee was fine but they wouldn’t outright recommend it. Mason tried a few different angles to gain more information, but Max and Lulu, being professionals, said nothing. Lulu got annoyed and returned to her coffee. Max sighed in resignation.
“If you’re looking for work our main guy is north of the city, in Potwin. I’ll tell him you’ll call, just wait until after breakfast.” Max hands Mason a card with an Agent ID number and one word: Lynx.
There’s Mad Men and then there’s Lynx
The team slept uncomfortably in the back of King and Kong’s truck, but were ready to roll into Potwin pretty much at dawn. Jacob had been making awkward conversation with a number of the long-haulers rolling in and out of the rest stop, and was the first to start piecing together the truth about the April Fool’s Fiasco. No one really knew why or how, but Jayhawk Agritech reacted very poorly to something that occurred last night, and were manually checking every vehicle that passed through one of the city’s transit points. Given the amount of bulk traffic seen in a city built on hydroponics, this had slowed the highway to a crawl and city traffic to worse. As the team would find out, in this crisis there was an opportunity.
Lynx returned Mason’s call and gave a location for a lunch meeting. It was a fish place along the shore of El Dorado Lake called Chester’s, and Lynx was apparently very enthusiastic about it. The team had no idea what they were in for until they pulled the truck to a stop outside the shack-like structure with picnic tables, string lights, and a big sign that said “‘Carp’e Diem”. Fresh fish…fresh lake fish. This seemed like a bad idea. As everyone rolled up to a vacant picnic table, a Don Draper type in a white workshirt with rolled up sleeves sidled up to greet them. As he sat down, it became clear that Lynx was not a Don Draper ‘type’…he was almost certainly biosculpted as Jon Hamm during his stint on Mad Men. In his right hand was a six-pack of Lone Star Beer, the genuine article, from down in Texas.
“This is an interesting group you have here,” Lynx started. “But I can work with interesting. Get some work for me, we’ll get your W2s settled-” he gestures at Mason and his subordinate Brick, “-and then we’ll all have a bit of fun and make some money.”
Two Attempts on the Tunnel Problem
The job Lynx had for the team was simple and pragmatic. As Jacob had begun to hear, access to the city was heavily congested and black market transit was all but stopped. Everyone wanted free passage in and out but no one had such passage secured. So if the new guys want to make friends quickly? They volunteer to dig the next smuggling tunnel.
Hydropolis has two sets of inlets and outlets besides the roads. There is a rail line that runs under the city, and at least one branch that led to a Wichita railyard was abandoned. The other option were water inlets, which while not secured still required using city sewer infrastructure. The team decided to try the abandoned rail line first, and identified a flood control outlet that would make a good second attempt.
The rail line job started well enough. The railyard was bisected by the large concrete superstructure that formed the base of Hydropolis, so right near the entrance to the access tunnel was an unintentional awning, still mostly occupied by abandoned train cars. Also occupying this awning were a group of nomads, not affiliated with any of the larger packs in and around the city. For this, Relay turned on the charm. His illusionist act was impressive, and before long he was welcomed at the nomads’ campfire, surrounded by younger nomads who thought he had actually talked to their dead ancestors, and older ones who, while not convinced, were duly impressed. The nomads did tip him off to some of the automated defenses further down the tunnel, which explained why the pack had parked their bikes under the awning rather than in the tunnel itself.
It was mostly bolt cutters and lockpicks down the first stretch of the tunnel until the team hit a small flood control outlet and Bubbles found an access point. Heeding the warning of the nomads about automated defenses, the team checked out a side tunnel. This would be their undoing. The side tunnel led to a breakroom…a very active, recently used breakroom. There was a ladder up to another level and many signs of recent activity. Of course, when there’s a ladder, someone’s going to climb it, and that’s when they discovered that this abandoned rail line was seen as a perfect place to build a maintenance station for Jayhawk Water and Light. Try as they might, the team could not avoid being stopped by guards with assault rifles. Then the unthinkable happened.
“Wait. You’re Jacob Capone?”
“Come with me.” Jacob was peeled off from the group and sent to cool his heels in a conference room. Before long a corporate-looking type entered. The corpo’s name was Simon, and he worked for Hydropolis Police Department, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jayhawk Agritech just like Jayhawk Water and Light. And, it turned out, Simon had an APB out on one Olga Andrews. Jacob’s jaw dropped. Olga was Jacob’s ex, who he left because of her predilection for high-powered cybernetic implants. When Simon described the two traffic altercations, one of which ended with a commuter’s bicycle wielded as a melee weapon, Jacob knew they had the right Olga. Simon’s offer was simple: the team gets free passage in and out of the city, and in exchange Simon gets Olga. With that offer accepted, the team was released after they told the guards which way they came in, so that the passage could be sealed up. Damn.
The second attempt was a bit less eventful; the flood control channel was poorly guarded and the guard on duty was poorly paid, so a bit of bribery ended up doing the trick. Simon’s passports also allowed the team to start from inside the city and work their way out, which was simpler overall. The team would return to Lynx, who had both their cash and keys to Biotechnica-owned apartments that he had scored them leases to. So, at the end of a day’s work, the team was housed, Mason was employed again, and Jacob had caught sight of his ex, who clearly wasn’t out of his life quite yet.
If there’s one piece of advice I have for GMs, especially GMs who are interested in sandbox play, it’s to let things get complicated. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a ton of potential bad consequences just waiting to be sprung. The only thing there is that you must try your hardest to play fair. The team in this session stopped traversing the abandoned train tunnel because of a fear of automated weapons systems. There were in fact automated weapons systems, and my prep included net architectures which ensured Bubbles, the netrunner, could turn them off. The side tunnel, though, was a dangerous temptation. And just like anything else, it was possible that the team could have snuck through the facility! They just didn’t succeed this time. Needless to say, it’s easier and more fun to spring problems on your players if they don’t lead to instant death, instead just creating more complications.
The scene when the team was caught was tense. I had pulled up the stat blocks of the guards and one of the players was ready to start shooting; needless to say if they did, this whole session could have ended very differently. However, Seamus, who is playing Jacob, played one of his luck cards: Subplot. I roll the d10, and it turns up Romance. All of us in the session did a double take at that…if I recall, it was Seamus who pointed out that he had a cyberpsycho ex on his character sheet, though I don’t remember if that was table talk or directed at me. Either way, it created the link I needed to make this scene make a slight iota of sense.
It’s fun to look back at this early mission because some of the things that came up here are still giving the players headaches now, more than ten sessions later. Olga, Simon, and even the events of the April Fools Fiasco will all come back to haunt our characters, even if their first appearances were partly or entirely happenstance.
Having random details and one-off characters become key plot threads is one of my favorite bits of emergence when I’m GMing. Do you have any tales of throwaway beats and one-off characters becoming keystones? Sound off in the comments, or hit us up on Twitter. Either way, we’ll see you next time for the continuing adventures of CabbageCorp!
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