Adventure Log: Cyberpunk Red: CabbageCorp Part 10

An apocalyptic threat to Kansas? I’m sure someone in the local office can check it out. It’s affecting our share prices? That’s different, the CEO wants to meet with you! After delivering a cryptic speech at the Future of the Midwest conference, Dr. William Squires has disappeared. His former head of security, Simon France, thinks he’s going to destroy the world, but only the CabbageCorp team is really listening to him. However, when it’s clear Squires’ behavior is spooking investors and threatening Biotechnica’s bottom line, suddenly the company cares a lot. Mason’s still on thin ice with his boss after the whole ‘insider trading’ thing, but when he points out that his team also has inside information about Squires, suddenly the whole team is being flown first class to Spokane, Washington.

Spokane seems like an odd destination, even coming from Hydropolis, Kansas. For Biotechnica employees, though, it holds special meaning: Spokane is the urban hub of the Biotechnica Nature Preserve, the largest wildlife preserve/genetic testing ground in North America. After chasing down stolen corporate tech, fishy real estate documents, and even a materially sensitive panty thief, the team was finally going to get a straight answer about what tech Biotechnica licensed to Jayhawk as part of their funding deal, what Jayhawk did with it, and what that meant for Squires and his speech. The first stop, though, was to hobnob a bit with the CEO.

After being debriefed by park personnel about where in the preserve they’d be going and what they were going to see, there was a meet-and-greet planned with Niccolo Loggagia, CEO of Biotechnica. Niccolo’s favorite place in North America was the nature preserve, and the team had the good fortune of catching him while he was there. Relay wasn’t one to let good fortune by, though, and read into Niccolo’s spirit to see if he could tell his future (and make him a fan of Relay’s unique act). He succeeded, which would have a few long-running consequences. Meanwhile, Philly had received a mildly threatening email. These happened from time to time, due to his parents’ falling out with Militech earlier in his life. This time, though, he sent off a snappy retort, routed through the Biotechnica server which provided Garden access to all of their facilities in Spokane. While it didn’t give away his exact location, it gave enough to be a serious mistake.

The next day, the team boarded a Biotechnica aerodyne to fly to the northern part of the preserve, an area where experimental tech had been quarantined after the project was shut down. The project was related to the tech that Jayhawk had licensed, and could possibly provide a lead for the team. That is, of course, if they got there. About two thirds of the way through the flight, a massive bump racked the aerodyne, which then began to plummet to Earth. The crash landing resulted in only minor injuries, but the aerodyne was well and truly destroyed. And, just to make it interesting, teammates who popped their heads out from the wreckage were immediately fired upon. After conferring with the pilot, a plan was hatched: book it for the treeline and make their way north to the site where they were supposed to visit. The pilot sent out a distress call, and CabbageCorp headed north.

Once they reached the facility it was clear that they had been beaten. A group of mercs was surveying the area, and from a distance the team was able to read some insignia: Militech IOD. While Militech had been commandeered by the US government in the Fourth Corporate War, the IOD, or Independent Operations Division, still carried out reconnaissance missions against other corporate entities who were considered a material threat to the US. Biotechnica, between the genetic projects and the foreign ownership, fell under this category fairly readily, though Philly’s family’s history made it even more enticing to send a team into the Biotechnica preserve.

The team made the choice to engage the mercs, though at a distance. Everything was essentially a stalemate, but as the team got closer they saw that one of the Militech mercs who fell back to an abandoned building in the old facility was attacked…by what appeared to be a sentient plant. Chaos fell over the facility, and the Biotechnica rescue craft broke through the noise and allowed the CabbageCorp team to withdraw. The mercs recovered their teammate from the plant and withdrew back across the preserve’s boundary along the US/Canadian border.

When the team returned to the conference center they met with an apologetic Niccolo, who promised one more small part of the tour after delivering some bad news. It turned out that Squires’ dalliances with Arasaka in and around Hydropolis had been the primary reason that their interest had been piqued, with Jayhawk proper (and Philly) a secondary target. Things were about to get weird in Kansas, and for that reason the team would be sent home instead of having another chance to see the facility they briefly had a firefight outside. Before sending them back to the airport, though, Niccolo took the team to a small garden not far from the conference center. Non-descript plants were arranged in concentric circles, and the whole area was quiet. Niccolo instructed the team to take out their Agents and search for network activity; at that point it became clear that the plants themselves were generating wireless signals. Apparently this, in addition to the sinister-looking plant at the abandoned facility, were related to technology that Jayhawk had licensed.

The flight home was mostly uneventful, other than a call that Mason had received from his boss. She had good news, about a promotion! It wasn’t for Mason though; she was promoting his subordinate, Brick, out from under him. Brick was to lead Fireteam, the scrappy outfit making cable disconnect calls that the team had met earlier, who took Mason’s business card fairly seriously. Their first mission was going to be an investigation of a facility that Jayhawk was using to work with licensed Biotechnica intellectual property. An image of the sentient plant flashed in Mason’s mind. He had a really bad feeling about this.

Field trips are fun. Whether it’s the Feywild, an alternate dimension, or yes, a Cyberpunk nature preserve, changing the scenery dramatically can help break up a game nicely and add some variety. The problem, of course, is that with variety comes a lot more prep, lest you lose the novelty you were trying to add in the first place. In the past, this has meant that my most memorable field trips have almost always involved system jumps. When the team in an Eclipse Phase game had to go reason with a juvenile god-AI, they did it in the mouldering remains of an old Earth MMORPG, which I decided to run in Troika. In this case, though, the field trip happened in system, and as I got the session ready I had to concede that even with the nature preserve and some of its weird genetically modified creatures described in the Cyberpunk Red rulebook, I didn’t have much of a session hook beyond a series of cutscenes foreshadowing Dr. Squires’ plan. Then the luck cards came out.

Relay’s player had somewhat stolen the show early in the session, pushing to meet the Biotechnica CEO and backing it up with some good social rolls. I was also stalling a little, because as I said I didn’t really have a good hook when we started that day. As Relay’s player leaned into his successful roll to make Niccolo Loggagia a fan and started trying to indoctrinate him into Relay’s cult, Philly’s player threw down a Subplot luck card to try and shift the narrative direction (and get Philly a bit of spotlight time). The Subplot die came up on ‘Enemy’. Now, Philly’s family having made an enemy of Militech was in the character’s backstory, but hadn’t come up. Now seemed like a perfect time, and all of a sudden I had a plot hook, conveniently shaped like a surface-to-air missile.

This is why I love randomizers like this: they force the whole group, GM included, to make a story out of whatever they throw your way. Powered by the Apocalypse is great like this, because you never know which roll is going to come up a miss, but you always have the list of moves you can make when it does. The luck deck is not original to Cyberpunk, but it works well because it gives players a chance to throw a wrench in the gears, as well as makes the luck mechanic a bit more interesting (if also slightly more beneficial). That said, every game has plenty of opportunities for the dice to introduce the next major plot element. As a great game designer once said, you should be aiming for a third of your story to come from the players, a third from the GM, and a third from the dice.

So what’s next for CabbageCorp. Mason needs a new underling, and his old underling seems to be knocking on trouble’s door. What else are they going to find when they return home? And how are they finally going to get at Squires? The CabbageCorp team has even more trouble to get into when we come back for the next Adventure Log!

CabbageCorp is played with Cyberpunk Red. Check out the last installment here, or the next one here.

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