Sure, there’s some sweet benefits in being a W2. Steady paycheck, funeral insurance, and a steady helping of plausible deniability. That said, when you only go into the office once a week to have a meeting with your boss in a room with a Faraday cage and get your actual marching orders from a man biosculpted like the main character of a 40 year old TV show…well, maybe corporate life wasn’t as boring as they told you.
When we last left our motley crew of inbetweeners, they had started working for Lynx, a Biotechnica-connected fixer with a taste for prestige TV and cheap beer. They had also had their first run-in of many with a party member’s past when Jacob’s ex Olga became the main subject of an intrusion op gone wrong. After delivering Lynx the good news about their smuggling tunnel, though, it was right back to work again. Biotechnica was part owner of Jayhawk Agritech through the financing deal that helped create Astropolis, and Jayhawk was trying to wriggle out from under the terms of that deal. Who was available to tighten the leash? CabbageCorp, of course.
Let’s Go To The Mall
Mason’s “official” boss is Sarah Harris, director of Tech Transfer for Biotechnica. Tech Transfer is the department most concerned with the Jayhawk relationship because the IP agreement the two firms had as part of their finance deal was the part most often being violated…or so the board thought. The team’s first jobs were looking for plain old trade secret violations, places where tech leaked out of Jayhawk through either negligence or low-level malfeasance. They were given two places to look: A posergang in downtown Hydropolis, and an abandoned shopping mall in Wichita. The mall was a twentieth century stalwart, but had been upgraded in an attempt to build a cheap ‘mallplex’ arcology and revitalize the area. The plan hadn’t worked, but the automated defenses were still installed and, as rumor had it, still active.
The team had to make their way into the mall and confirm if Jayhawk had left an “Eden” hydroponic demonstration module in the mall. While the tech was old at this point, it was still similar to the tech used in the Heartland Complex in Hydropolis and protected under the licensing agreement. Leaving it in an abandoned building violated the agreement, no matter how many autoturrets there were.
The team hit their big snag breaking into the mall’s loading dock and getting caught on camera. Bubbles decided then and there to try and get into the network and bring the defenses down instead of fighting them room by room. Just as Doctor Kong lifted her up to the camera with a set of alligator cables, the nano-swarm was released. While bullets were ineffective, both Mason’s restraint caster and Philly’s EMP rounds were at least doing something to the little drones. Bubbles was having her own difficulties, though, and it wasn’t long before her clothes around her interface plugs and other cyberware burst into flame. Bubbles jacked in backwards through the camera on Doctor Kong’s shoulders while Tyrone tried to pat out the flames and Mason and Philly tried to tank the nano-swarm was…well, it was a sight. Finally, Bubbles came back up, singed but otherwise in good spirits. The systems were down, at least for now. The team wasted no time running through the mall to the large and conspicuous column of plants, grabbing the device at the bottom, and hurrying out, letting the door lock behind them. Actually shutting down the mall’s defenses was a task for another day…or perhaps never.
Vengeance of the Kilrathi
The posergang was an interesting nut to crack. Calling themselves the Kilrathi, the dozen and a half gang members were all built up like human-cat hybrids. What the team had to figure out was if this was done with trick surgery and cyberware, or stolen gene-splicing tech. Bubbles and Relay got in close and turned on the charm and, despite the gang’s arguably hostile exterior, it worked. Relay ended up talking to the bartender, Fireclaw, and after another display of his stage magic and medium powers, charmed him into a long conversation and some revelations. Bubbles, in the meanwhile, latched on to a ganger who called himself Bloodmist, and her cooing and petting of the cat-man woke up the still-human male underneath.
Though Bubbles finished the mission, Relay’s conversation with Fireclaw proved to be much more interesting than their initial briefing let on. Relay learned about another posergang in the area, the Ringlings, a circus-themed gang who wanted to play lion tamer. He also heard about the op that was going down later that night, which involved smuggling Arasaka tech. The Kilrathi were supposed to get the tech out of the city, and cut the Ringlings out of the deal by selling directly to a mysterious new buyer. When Fireclaw asked Relay if he wanted to provide a distraction, he said yes.
He also sent all this information to Jacob, who was able to tail two Arasaka employees to a local watering hole and then back to their building. One of the Kilrathi showed up and met these office drones at a loading dock and the deal was on. They moved a large case off of the loading dock and into the back of a truck owned by one of the Kilrathi. The Kilrathi checked the shipment…inside was an Arasaka combat drone, specced for anti-vehicle work with a 25mm cannon. This was not street level weapons tech at all. Jacob had to find out who the buyer was. He snapped a few pictures, and sent word back to Tyrone and Relay that they were going to follow the truck.
Relay was in the midst of providing his distraction: a street magic show that spilled off the sidewalk and was blocking traffic no more than four blocks from the nearest city exit point. The show had attracted such a crowd and was so dazzling that no one was paying attention to the Kilrathi shooting up the Ringling’s hangout. And no one was paying attention to not one but two vehicles which blew through the exit point and out into the unincorporated district of Leon.
Jacob, Tyrone, and Doctor Kong followed the truck as long as they could, until it was too risky to follow closely. They disembarked and in the twilight hid in some tall grass on the shore of the lake near where the truck stopped. Up came a van, and two men in suits disembarked. They checked the case, gave the Kilrathi some money, and loaded up the equipment. As both vehicles left, Jacob could have sworn he saw one of the men look over in the direction of the shore. Maybe it was nothing, though…
Who doesn’t love foreshadowing? Each of these missions dropped a continuation hook. In the mall mission, the team was approached by some locals who asked them about permanently disabling the security system. One reason I didn’t include that in the write-up is that the team looked at each other, said ‘nah’, and that was that. On the other hand, when the drone was revealed during the Kilrathi mission…then people were interested. And when your players are interested in a hook, give them what they want!
To address the obvious question, yes, at least one of my players had played the old Wing Commander games and it was never even hidden that I stole the entire aesthetic of the posergang wholesale from those games. That’s OK! First of all, posergangs are a wonderful bit of lore that essentially demand as much diversity as the whole of cosplay, so you can bring in whatever inspiration you want. Second, your players aren’t expecting you’re going to be entirely original. Sure, you might need a use case like a Cyberpunk posergang to broadcast your source material as blatantly as I did, but begging, borrowing, and stealing are hallmarks of GMing any game.
This was also a game where content boundaries came up, and overall they were handled well. Bubbles’ player had the idea to seduce one of the Kilrathi, as was implied in the write-up. There was a roll, it was successful, there was some in-character bits of them flirting at the bar, and then it ended with ‘and Bubbles is going to go home with Bloodmist’. No more detail was needed, wanted, or necessary. This was not a time when a safety tool was engaged, rather it was a time that knowing my players well helped stop the scene at the point where it was still fun and go no further. There’s nothing wrong with sexual content in games (just like there’s nothing wrong with violence in games) but everyone needs to communicate and the GM may be the one responsible for enforcing boundaries. And trust me, enforcing them preemptively like we did in that session is a much better way to go than having to come back from someone feeling uncomfortable, unheard, or disrespected. Later in the campaign a similar situation will come up, and it was similarly run to stay within the group’s collective comfort zone.
The characters, though, are getting pushed a bit outside their comfort zone. With stolen military hardware and a mysterious new player buying it, the action in Hydropolis is heating up. And so far, the team hasn’t yet gotten in contact with Olga, Jacob’s cyberpsycho ex who Jayhawk is very interested in. What happens next? You’re going to have to find out in the next Adventure Log!
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