The morning air, shaken and roused to unnatural action by the battle, shivers as the sound of approaching engines hums between the skyscrapers and builds to a slow crescendo. All eyes leave the limousine and are cast upward, seeking the new enemy. The four strike teams described by the dwarves arrive simultaneously, surrounding the runners completely on both sides of the bridge, and the top and bottom of the E. Randolph ramp.
The three teams to the North, West and South— those not arriving via the subterranean tunnel— are each comprised of two slick, black corporate cars and what looks like a modified LS Black Mariah, the favored riot-control vehicles of Lone Star. The usual Sheriff’s Star logo has been removed, and the vehicles look shorter overall from back to front, but still boast the impressive armor and sensors packages common to their loadout. Conspicuously absent are Lone Star’s signature less-than-lethal weapons: the volt-hoses, sonic cannons and tear gas launchers of police brutality newsfeeds. In their place are firing slots leading into the interior of the vehicle, running the entire length of the chassis. If the interior of these beasts has been converted to a dedicated troop-transport role, each must be capable of holding nearly a dozen men.
The team at the bottom of the ramp is composed of four of the smaller corporate cars, and Ling Fei suspects that the armored vans were not able to negotiate certain parts of the tunnel with the active-radar ‘rabbit ears’ assemblies mounted on the roof.
The panel-doors of the Black Mariahs slide open and the gull-wing doors of the cars star to raise themselves slowly. Men in black, unmarked jackets and sunglasses pile out, Ares Predators in hand. Only two or three from each group can make it into a position in time to draw lines of fire, but there are a lot of them left, and they continuously pour forth from the black interiors like ants.
The smoke clears from the street completely, and Bakcha is the first to rally. He turns to Charlie, “Get Blitz out of there! This run is fucked!” and his UZI-III blazes up at the men at the top of the ramp, hitting one but not dropping him. He moves as quickly as he is able— blood still drips from his face —towards Jets’ truck, and Charlie nods to him, starting towards the limo and firing her own weapon down the ramp at the corp cars. She crouches low and moves quickly, and small-arms fire starts to drizzle down around her, promising a deluge. Passing the driver’s door, she notices a large-bore bullethole through the side window, and the driver himself slumped over the steering column, rigger jack still protruding from his temple. One of the goon’s own bullets strikes the glass and bores deep, but does not penetrate fully. Spidery cracks race outwards and hug the rubber rain guards. Moving on, she steps quickly past the gundrone and the door-less opening in the vehicle, eventually reaching Blitz, still winded from the assassin’s phantom kick. She hoists her brother ork across her metal shoulders, careful to avoid the knife in his shoulder, but he shrugs her off, preferring to walk himself. They start out at a patient jog towards the truck, working up to a run as the mayhem around them continues to escalate.
The truck itself is now a scene of chaos, as the remaining Sundowners realize that, with Boxcar full of Ling Fei’s team, their vehicle is the orks’ only method of egress. The corp seem to notice this, too, and they begin to concentrate their fire on Hulder and his teammates. Jets cowers behind her armored glass as the lead rain falls around her, but Molly is out in full force, her Ceska Black Scorpion sweeping AP rounds across the Northern bridge top opposite her. Hulder lets out a roar and trains his .50 cal on this group as well, and the concentrated fire tears one man in half and downs another. The rest of this group takes cover behind the concrete barricade as they exit their vehicles, heads down and pistols raised over the railing, blindfiring. Hulder’s back is exposed, though, and the wounded troll takes a few hits from the Ares Predators, but shrugs them off and continues firing.
The battle is deafening now, and the runners are having trouble making themselves heard over the concussive blasts of a dozen gun barrels discharging at once. Shells rain down from the bridges and roll like cigarette butts from the top of the ramp. Over this cacophony, a voice can be heard, a furious shout slowly building in power until it drowns out all but Hulder’s heavy-caliber reports. The back passenger door of the limousine flies off its hinges, and the Prime Minister is tossed across the street like a ragdoll; he slams into the opposite ramp wall, a bloody mess where his face must have been not a few moments before. The assassin steps into the light and makes himself heard, roaring at the top of his lungs, a cry of absolute rage, stopping all combatants in their tracks, balking at the volume of it. Then, he speaks, and the runners hear his voice for the first time. It is a voice of barely-restrained anger, calm and matter-of-fact, but wavering on the precipice of homicidal madness. “WHERE…IS…HE?!” Three words, spoken plainly, addressed to no-one. A grenade falls from his hand, and he looks up at the ambushers accusingly, almost as if expecting an answer from them.
[The assassin has exposed himself. It is Ling Fei and Crusher’s delayed combat turn. It is Moonclaw’s regular combat turn.]
Ling Fei’s voice rings out within Boxcar’s interior. “Drek, we’re in it now!”
Moonclaw depresses her earbud with a gloved finger in an effort to hear her radio above the storm of fire. She turns urgently to her teammate. “Time to escape, elf!”
“Not yet, Goddamn it!” Crusher is yelling from the back seat, training his rifle on the assassin. He bares down, his face a mask of concentration. “This time I’m gonna get this fucker.”
Just before he seems ready to fire, the van lurches backwards, jogging the ork’s aim. He cries out indignantly. “The hell, Ling?”
The rigger’s voice is even and apologetic. “Something tells me he’s not the enemy anymore, Crusher. Besides,” her head ducks instinctively as a round rings off the pavement nearby. “we could use the friends.”
Moonclaw turns to face the cabin, her voice uncharacteristically loud. “Hey! We must escape soon!” She points out of the windshield, directing her allies’ attention to the tunnel in front of them. “The underpass! It will be easier to lose them there.”
Crusher glares at the two women, his face a deep-set frown. “Fine! Let’s move already!”
Aleister Crowley places a hand on Ling Fei’s shoulder. “Ms. Chi. . .”
“Yeah Al, I’m gettin’ him.” The rigger continues to wheel the van backwards, expertly whipping to a halt at Grendel’s side, the vehicle’s nose pointing East toward the darkness beneath the bridge. She brings her VCR to the foreground and indicates the suits deployed in the underpass entrance. “Sparrow one, Scarab one, advance and attack these targets.”
Opposite the mage and troll, Crusher leans from the right hand side of the van, taking advantage of the transport’s temporary stillness to fire off a round. He barks into his mike as he lines up the shot, rifle angled steeply to give the grenade proper trajectory. “All units, new escape vector is East! I repeat, retreat to the East! Get the orks in that truck and let’s get the fuck into the tunnel!” With this last breath, he releases the grenade, sending it sailing toward the closest car blocking the tunnel entrance.
Moonclaw glances sideways, just catching a glimpse of something entirely other within the shimmering surface of the Aon center. She calls out to its astral signature, her fingers curling about the air as if clutching some unseen organ. “Garou-kin! Step now to me, on the plane of things, to spill the blood of men!” She reaches out towards the figures beneath the underpass, her outstretched fingers brushing the pane of Boxcar’s windshield. “Beginning with them!”
[Ling’s Guardian and Roto-drone test to comprehend their orders. The Guardian rolls 5 dice (pilot:3 +2), the Roto-drone 2 dice (pilot:1 +1). Both drones are at +2 to comprehend because Ling is currently rigging a vehicle. Comprehension will cause the drones to make sensor tests to lock on. The Guardian has sensor: 4, the Roto-drone sensor: 1.]
[Crusher takes aim for one action then fires. Modifiers are smartlink -1, take aim -1, moderate wound +2. Manual gunnery modifiers (pg 153) may apply. Cybernetic optical mag may reduce range modifier.]
As one, most of the corp guards shift their focus of fire from the runners to the assassin. The armored shell of the limousine rings like a klaxon as bullets skim and dent its surface, and the black-clad warrior jerks back and forth as some of the rounds find their mark. His armor holds, and the smoke grenade at his feet goes off with a whoosh, filling the combat arena with smoke again, this time forming around the rear of the limousine. In a few moments, he will be gone, free to do his disappearing act and move undetected within his smokescreen.
The hit squads surrounding them become yet more numerous, as the Black Mariahs continue to spew forth men. From within one emerges a man with an electrostatic bola gun, essentially two dud grenades joined together by a six-foot taser wire. He shoulders the awkward Y-shaped launcher and fires at the limousine; the round is ducked and skims off the roof where it kicks up sparks, then lands in the street, crackling. A second man begins to reload the weapon immediately.
In the pit below, Crusher’s huge twin barreled Combat Gun raises its mouthes to the sky and coughs forth a mini grenade. It arcs up and over beautifully, following the calculated curve on Crusher’s retina with perfection. The detonation echoes and reverberates down the tunnel as the grenade lands amidst the corp cars parked at the bottom of the ramp, impacting left of center. Five men with guns drawn are scrambling through the cars here, and the bright flash and noise scorch two of them, knocking them backwards onto the pavement, concussed. Another, rushing forward to return fire, is peppered by gravel and shrapnel but manages to make it to cover behind the hood of his car.
Ling Fei’s drones take this moment to follow their leader perfectly, and they take flanking positions on Boxcar before moving forward, machine-like, laser sights playing over the black jackets at the bottom of the ramp. The miniturret hanging from the underbelly of Sparrow-1 whirrs to life, aiming the FN-HAR carefully, auto-correcting slightly. The ghost in the machine decides to make the best of the heavy assault rifle, and the entire body of the drone shakes as the gun goes off in fully-automatic fire, a long burst that cuts through the staccato beat of the combat. Bullets ring off of the armored cars downrange, and men flinch as they raise their pistols to return fire, but nobody is hit. The roto-drone, taking its time, rotates its fixed firmpoint by fine-tuning the torque of its vertical rotor; it picks out a man who emerges to move forward and tracks him slowly. Mounted upside down beneath the dwarf-like chassis, the UZI-III barks once, a three-round burst that sounds like an angry doberman, and the man goes down as he runs, bouncing on the pavement hard.
Boxcar pulls around to an Eastern facing, down the ramp. Grendel hauls himself over and crashes into the cab, forcing the winded magician and wounded ork to scramble out of the way of his bulk. The scarred troll breathes heavily and sloppily; he holds a metal arm to his chest, where the long gash can be seen plain, a lightning wound in a tree trunk. He’s lost an alarming amount of blood, but he doesn’t seem to be in any pain. Crusher can hear Hulder returning fire with his .50 caliber machinegun, and gets a glimpse of the three spider orks combat-running towards the truck. Rounds begin to hit the pavement outside Boxcar’s open door, and Crusher grabs the crash handle, slamming it closed as more bullets bury themselves in steel armor.
The Awakened have remained silent throughout all this, staring out their respective windows, she up, at the window panes, and he West, to their adversaries blocking the route to Upper Randolph.
Moonclaw feels the spirit materializing, gathering itself high above her. It is like spellcasting for them, she thinks—a slow build of energy and then, sudden release. Her breath catches as a spidery vein runs along one of the upper story windows, splitting it into large triangles, growing to the next pane over, where the metal frame is already twisting out of the walls. The crack picks up speed, rounds a corner where it is stopped short by a cornice, but then proceeds, looping back on itself, tracing out a large rectangular section of glass. The sunlight on the panes swims crazily as the glass shudders and undulates, building up to a mad dance even as the rectangle shatters in a hundred places, raining silica splinters down below. The safety panes miraculously hold together, and then the whole shape bunches at the middle like a cat and leaps off of the building into the bright morning air. Wage slaves in the interior scream and scramble away from the now-bare corner of their illustrious office in the sky.
The glass folds itself as it falls, making a kind of tumbling origami, and a shape begins to coalesce in the core of it. It rolls over and over in the air, twisting itself into new shapes and surfaces and now it rockets toward the earth, the shape of a stalactite cone, air resistance gone. All eyes are on the street; nobody is watching the skies. The spirit hits the packed cars at the bottom of the ramp like a bomb, taking the enemy there totally by surprise. The cone, point now embedded in the concrete, unfolds its gleaming shell as the men around it scramble to get to their feet. Like an oyster, the cone splits and reveals the form beneath: a large, yeti-like form made entirely of glass. It folds the last of its monstrous appendages from the glass cone and then stands tall, humanoid but for its size and sharp angles. The head, sitting atop a wide chest, is adorned with a massive crystal spike, and the arms are sharp-edged plate glass, elongated forearms ending in balled fists of powdered crashglass, and large triangles with razor’s edges for fingers. The twisted remnants of the steel windowframes make a rickety skeleton within, refracted a thousand times by its own glass flesh.
The men around it gather themselves, retreating to find cover and deal with the combat one threat at a time. The closest one of them scrabbles to his feet and retrieves a shotgun from the gull-door of a car, leveling it one-handed at the spirit’s form. The gun goes off loudly and the sound of dropped marbles can be heard, as the pellets bounce crazily off the glass figure, ricocheting everywhere and burying themselves in the wall opposite. The glass is unmarred, and the creature seems to shake itself before stepping forward and slamming one of its razor-hands down into the man’s chest. His head bounces off the raised door and he hits the ground, groaning.
Aleister mutters fervently to himself, beads of sweat beginning to show on his brow as he concentrates on the casting. The target is weak-willed, he assures himself; these corp goons and hired guns never are the particularly mindful type. Still, his head is close to splitting, a steady migraine which builds with the effort of the sustained spell. Blood flows from his nose; or had it already been flowing? He couldn’t tell. Gazing out the firing slot, he seems to lock eyes with one of the jacketed men at the top of the ramp. He stares hard, and feels the other man’s essence. He knows that the man has locked eyes with him too, now, even through the sunglasses, and he bares down with his will, suppressing the other ego with his own. The man’s spirit breaks almost embarrassingly quickly, and Aleister works his magic fast, thumbs and forefingers twitching in a convulsive but controlled way, like a puppetmaster.
At the top of the ramp, the man in question stops firing, and stands up slowly. He drops his gun clumsily on the pavement, then reaches into the car he was using for cover and plucks a grenade from an ammunition pocket in the back. Quivering a little, the man raises the grenade to shoulder height and rips the pin out of its mooring. He holds the grenade above him in a shaky grasp and releases the spoon, which flies off behind him. No emotion shows on his lips.
Boxcar’s engines sing in Ling Fei’s legs, and her elevated heartrate makes the engine idle high, all systems ready for her signal to move.
[It is Ling-Fei’s combat turn]
Ling Fei drops the clutch and ramps Boxcar’s RPMs, the heavy diesel engine roaring out a challenge to any would-be pursuers. “Okay people, I have spearhead—form on my six!”
The Roadmaster clanks into first, its tail swerving as the belted tires struggle to bite asphalt, and then the armored transport is in motion, its voice rising and falling as it climbs through the gears, straining to haul its capacity load.
Her sightless eyes dart back and forth as she scans the battle scene in front of her, searching the blockade for a gap wide enough for Boxcar Rebellion to penetrate.
[Ling Fei is making an acceleration test, see pg 141 SR3. She rolls 5 dice (car skill) against TN 4 (handling), adding 2 control pool dice (5 remaining). Each success increases speed by 13 (accel).]
The van redlines and lurches forward, jarring the passengers inside. The needle slowly climbs past ten miles per hour, then twenty, then reaches thirty. Ling Fei thinks she can fit the van in around one side of the pack of four cars, which are parked perpendicular to the road, spanning all four lanes. They are spaced so as to block an exit, but Boxcar might have enough weight behind it to ram one of the cars on the ends out of the way.
Jets guns her own truck’s engine, and Hulder sways back and forth in the back as the bed rocks and the vehicle gets on its way, belching smoke from twin upright exhausts. She pulls a hard right over the median and then accelerates, following Ling Fei’s lead. The truck angles to meet the orks in the street as they run; Bakcha swings himself up first, grabbing onto the handrails and vaulting into the flatbed. Charlie springs up to the running boards and offers her hand to help up Blitz as the truck gains speed, almost but not quite matching Boxcar.
The two laden trucks start accelerating east, passing the limo on their left and gaining speed. The gun drone’s wheels slam onto the pavement from their housings in the legs, and the drone accelerates away from the limo with the runners, matching their speed. It passes through the gathering smoke cloud and the twin guns on its arms track down the ramp, the torso pivoting to stay aligned with the road. It maneuvers alongside Boxcar on the left, crouching as it does, and the Ares assault cannon lets off a round which screams downrange deafeningly.
The guards are wholly unprepared for this kind of munition, and the fat shell hisses into the engine block of the car second from the right. There is a muted explosion, then the entire chassis lurches back; the transmission grinds itself into powder as the electric engine bursts its mountings and collapses into the driveshaft. Thick, electric smoke starts to seep out from underneath the hood, and black battery acid leaks out onto the ground.
[It is Crusher’s combat turn.]
The force of Boxcar’s acceleration drives Crusher into his seat, pressing his insides up into his ribcage. He struggles to his feet and discards his Combat Gun to the floor, which toggles itself to safety as it leaves his hands. Gripping the turret’s pistol grips for balance, the mercenary settles into an awkward, hunched position straddling Grendel the troll, face pressed to the rubber of the digital scope.
He picks out two of the corp goons in the van’s forward facing and gives each a short burst, adjusting his shot with the targeting computer as he had been taught.
[Crusher fires 6 rounds, 3 per target. 10D damage, 4 points recoil reduction. gunnery skill: 4. Adding 4 Combat pool dice (3 remaining). moderate wound +2.]
The men downrange are busy scattering from the runners’ fire, but some have found cover and are counterattacking with pistols and the shotguns retrieved from their cars. The spirit, on the left of the ramp, advances inexorably and the men draw away from it, moving towards the right.
There are sixteen of them, four to a car, and Crusher can count three —no, four —down but still moving, getting to their feet. The glass spirit raises its arms over its head and slams them down on the back of the man on the ground in front of it, who is crushed into the pavement. Back to three.
The dwarves’ powerful Eurocar Westwind revs its turbochargers and pulls in between Ling Fei and Jets, following close. The shadowrunners, now armed, armored, and mobile, careen down the ramp towards the tunnel entrance with all barrels blazing.
Boxcar shakes as it accelerates, and they feel the LMG firing with its muted thud-thud-thud on the roof. Through the sights, Crusher watches the first burst catch a corp goon in the chest and shoulder; his arm flies off at the joint as the bullets mushroom inside his body, and he topples backwards. The second burst is aimed a little low, and puts three holes in the trunk of one of the cars, keeping the heads behind down and in cover.
The orks in the truck lean around Hulder and fire their UZIs en masse, joined by Molly Millions and her pistol from the cab. Their small arms fire is accurate and deadly; one man is caught in the crossfire and dances about like a puppet on cut strings before slumping over the hood of his cover, bloodied. On the left, another running man goes down, and another, and two others feel the sting of Molly’s AP rounds as her bullets find their mark.
The scene is chaos, and the corp has once again begun firing at the runners, having lost their main target. The heavy pistol rounds carom off the sides and rear of the truck, and heavy buckshot flattens itself against Boxcar Rebellion’s windshield, spiking Ling Fei’s ASIST. A corp barrel high on the right side tracks the truck carefully and fires, putting a round high in Blitz’ right shoulder. The ork takes a knee from the blow and slumps to the ground, breathing heavily from multiple open wounds, blunt trauma, and blood loss.
The bottom of the ramp is beginning to fill with the black smoke from the damaged car. Two men lie dead, with eight more wounded or down, but six remain standing.
[It is Ling Fei’s combat turn.]
The elven rigger hunches forward, her face a mask of concentration, willing her vehicle ever faster. Action reports from her combat drones pop up in the periphery of her vision, alerting her of the successful hit as their pilot systems prepare to send out another volley.
Doing her best to focus through the sting of rounds impacting off her hull and the bone-rattling concussion of the LMG firing from the roof, she scans the road in front of her, sending out microwave pings to check the remaining distance to the barricade while using visual scanners to locate a gap wide enough for the convoy to smash its way through.
The rangefinder reports the distance remaining is only 47 meters to the nearest vehicle, that being the damaged one, positioned second from the right. The four cars are parked equidistant from each other, but the cars on either end cannot quite reach the ramp wall, and there is a gap there larger than those between the cars. Regardless, it is far too small for Boxcar Rebellion to fit through unscathed.
Quickly weighing her options, Ling Fei chooses the far left of the blockade for her breakout attempt. The gap is a little wider here, and with any luck the monster Moonclaw seems to have somehow called down from a nearby skyscraper will impede anyone trying to follow them out.
She drifts to the left of the ramp, hugging the concrete barrier as she calls out to the convoy. “Here we go kiddos, stay close!” She lines her nose up with the trunk of the corp cruiser, knowing that the car will be lightest on this end, and easier for her Roadmaster to shunt out of the way. With a mental push she wills the metal beast onward, dropping into 4th and pouring on the gas, her lungs burning from the prolonged sprint.
[Ling Fei makes another acceleration test, adding 5 control pool, zero remaining.]
Ling Fei jams on the accelerator, and Boxcar gives a hiccuping cough and roar; the turbochargers seem to choke, but the talented rigger works the throttle, manually controlling the carburetor and air intakes with masterful finesse. The I.C. engine relents and the monstrous vehicle accelerates even further, the needle flying past 40 and almost brushing 50 miles per hour. [Boxcar accelerates a further 24 m/ct, reaching 63 m/ct (47.25 mph)].
Jets tries to keep up with Boxcar’s reckless run, but her truck’s engine is not up to the task, and she starts to fall behind Ling Fei and her team. The dwarves’ car remains between the two larger vehicles, giving Boxcar enough room to maneuver, and keeping a safe distance in case the Roadmaster is not able to punch through completely.
The drones to either side of the van drift off-course to engage their targets, and Ling Fei realizes that she will leave them behind if she keeps up her relentless flight. The Guardian’s nose-mounted FN-HAR blazes and the roto-drone’s Uzi III barks again, but the shells wang harmlessly off the pavement and metal sides of the corp cars, missing their marks.
The autocannon on the dwarves’ anthroform droid cycles its action, and the heavy brass shell hits the street like a bell, rolling into the median. The arms track swiftly sideways and the yawning barrel blasts another round loose into the body of the car second from the left. The heavy munition blows through the front-right tire and telescopes the connecting axle like a cheap antenna, totally ruining the front quarter panels and blasting the differential gears outward, peppering the men taking cover behind it with their metal teeth.
The runners are almost on top of the barricade, the distance to the left hand side closing within ten meters. It is impossible to turn back now, and everyone in the van braces themselves for the impending impact.
[It is Crusher’s combat turn.]
The corp vehicle quickly fills the turret’s sight, approaching faster than the mercenary had expected. He pulls his eyes away, ducking under the array to get a better look through the windshield. He mutters under his breath, voice heavy with apprehension. “Ooh drek. . .”
He half sits, half falls into the bench seat behind him, his heavy frame dropping roughly upon the spartan padding. His large fingers fumble with the seatbelt, and he lets out a low groan as he reaches back to loop the chest strap over his shoulder, which stretches the delicate scar tissue spanning the jian wound etched across his front.
His seatbelt secure, he extends his legs out across Grendel’s gargantuan form, doing his best to anchor the troll’s torso. He then calls out to the magician, whose actions appear to be almost slow motion to Crusher’s wired perceptions. “C’mere, Al!” He wraps a muscular arm around the mage’s slender torso, pinning the man against his chest in a bear hug. “This is gonna suck!”
The world slows as the adrenaline rush takes hold of each passengers’ brainstem, warping the passage of time with icy fingers. Bullets seem to crawl through the air, and details leap out at them with sharp relief. The next few seconds are a whirl of activity:
The corp guards at the bottom of the hill realize the bulky armored van is too massive to stop now. They are gathering themselves, hustling for their car doors, preparing to give chase in the one remaining vehicle. Some gesture to their compatriots to pull the other armored cars around.
Soldiers at the tops of the ramp have climbed over the railings, and are dropping the short distance to the ramp pavement, guns drawn and approaching the smoke screen warily. The taser bola fires again, but the ordnance zips clear through the smoke and bounces along the pavement, striking the wall opposite.
The orks and troll in the back of Jets’ truck grab the nearest handrails, and the great engine emits a great guttural growl, pushing the laden truck’s speed up to 30 mph as she tries to keep up with the Roadmaster and Westwind in front of her.
The rear of the target car looms large in Ling Fei’s vision. Forty feet, now thirty… She can see the interior upholstery, the shining rear panels. Twenty feet… the steering wheel, the grooves on the tires’ contact pads. Ten… her vision narrows to a tunnel and her body tenses reflexively, and she focuses her mind on the point of impact. She hears Moonclaw’s sharp intake of breath as Boxcar’s front bumper comes within five feet of the other vehicle. She wills herself ever forward.
[It is Ling-Fei’s combat turn.]
Ling Fei leans into the charge, dropping her shoulder as she prepares to buck the smaller car out of her way. She has lost track of the fact that she is rigging, her consciousness entirely immersed in the phenomenal world. For a handful of moments she is at one with the world, neither elf nor machine, not one, and not two.
Boxcar’s rear suspension tightens, angling its nose downward to dig beneath the imposing vehicle, as a charging bull ducks its head to throw its target clear.
[Ling Fei performs a ramming maneuver, PG 143 SR3. Rolling 5 car skill dice and 2 control pool to ram. Rolling damage resistance with 5 body dice, 4 control pool dice. Rolling 5 car skill dice and 1 control pool for the crash test. Zero control pool dice remaining.]
There is a moment of silence just before the hit. Like a coming storm or the sweep of an executioner’s blade, all anyone can do at this point is watch events unfold, and hold on.
Boxcar’s heavy, armored fender meets the Americar’s chassis with animal energy. There is a jarring scream of metal scraping against metal, and the heavy van jumps back on its suspension. Everything in the cab lifts up for a moment; Crusher and Aleister hover over their seat, the drones attain flight in their cages, and Moonclaw feels a roller coaster weightlessness before everything crashes back down to Earth.
Outside, the rear of the rammed car bends inward like a tin can, giving way before the massive, juggernaut force of the Rebellion. The car spins clockwise on its front tires as the rear bucks like a horse, and the nose slams into Boxcar’s sliding door as the van passes. It teeters on its side wheels for a second, looking as if it means to roll over, but then comes crashing back to the pavement on all four tires. Ling Fei’s Roadmaster sustains only cosmetic damage, but the corp’s car is undriveable, the rear half having been shattered beyond repair. None of the men on the ground were close enough to be struck by it, and they are now left with only one functioning vehicle with which to give chase.
Ling Fei’s speed drops to 23.25 mph, her drones almost catch up to her as she and the rest of the convoy break through the line. The guardian and roto-drone fire their weapons again at the corp, and one of the men on the ground jumps like a marionette, never to move again. Molly and Charlie vent their frustration with metal barrels as the truck enters the hole in the line, and draws level with the cars. Deprived of cover, the men are easy targets, and one more goes down, clutching his chest from Charlie’s SMG burst. The women don’t even bother shooting around the glass spirit, knowing that few weapons of this world are able to harm it.
Aleister loosens Crusher’s grip on him, his head still swimming dizzily. He bends down to attend to Grendel, patting the great troll down, checking for additional damage.
[It is Crusher’s combat turn.]
Crusher lets out a whoop of jubilation as he unbuckles himself and rises unsteadily to his feet. “Yeah baby, nice hit!”
Ling Fei turns in her seat, her otherwise serious expression betrayed by the slightest smile emerging from the corner of her mouth. “We’re not out of it yet, big guy! One of their cars is still mobile, looks like they’re getting ready to give chase!”
Crusher steps over Grendel’s massive bulk and wedges himself between the front seats, facing backwards. He wheels the turret controls about, panning over the blockade until he spots the remaining car the corp goons are hustling into. He thumbs the cannon’s firing mode to burst fire and trains the cross-hairs over the Americar’s rear tire, taking care to make his shot count.
[Crusher toggles to burst fire and calls a shot on the rear tire.]
Crusher holds the green reticle steady with the turret on a low inclination, letting the forward movement of the vehicle carry his gunsights to their target. He squeezes the trigger when the crosshairs are just about to cross over the rear left wheel well, raking the back of the car with the Valiant’s heavy rounds. The rubber tire is shredded immediately, and the whole car shudders and starts with the impacts, finally settling back down unevenly on its discs.
The ragtag convoy clears the gap in the corporate line and opens up their formation, the dwarves entering the traffic flow and accelerating to clear a path. Jets and the anthroform drone stick close to each other, staying on the left behind Boxcar, but moving slowly. The orks in the back fire some leading shots at the corporate goons scrambling around the damaged cars, but ricochets and metallic clangs announce misses. Hulder turns his attention forward, and fires two rounds into the ceiling above the intersection, to warn oncoming traffic to make way. The intersection is still about 100 meters ahead, and the railings to their right prevent crossing over into the correct lanes. If there is heavy cross traffic, this escape could be halted before it even begins. As if in confirmation of this, the corp car behind them roars to life and spins away unevenly, rear wheel kicking up sparks. It is damaged, but traveling in the correct lanes of traffic, and the Ford motor is still capable of outrunning even the most powerful armored truck.
Blitz sheaths his katana single-handedly, one fluid motion. He crouches on one knee in the truckbed, clutching his right shoulder and chest, where the gunshot wound and knife handle still remain. He grips the knife and rips it out, throwing it into the back of the truck. It rattles around before coming to rest amidst the split bodies of Hackworth and the magician. The red and black ork ganger takes to his feet, UZI III ready for the next opposition.
From behind them, they hear the abrupt thump of a hand grenade going off at the top of the ramp. Aleister’s mind control victim has been vaporized from the chest up, and shrapnel from the explosive he was holding above his head peppers his teammates, scarring exposed flesh and shattering car windows. The Glasswalker at the bottom of the ramp continues to give its own targets hell, picking up one injured man in a razor-edged plate glass grip. The otherworldly hand tightens until body armor gives way and the glass fingers lacerate flesh and sever limbs, splashing the spirit’s shining torso with blood. It discards the body and lumbers forward to chase down the remaining wounded men.
[It is Moonclaw’s combat turn.]
Something like a dark smile flits over the street shaman’s face as she watches the city spirit tear apart the body of yet another man in the shaky frame of the van’s rear-view mirror. She shifts her gaze away from the gory scene long enough to crane her neck around, calling into the bowels of the Roadmaster, yelling to be heard over her partner’s vulgar cheers of self-congratulation. “Hermetic! Do you need help healing your troll?”
Aleister shakes his head no; shouting over the engines and gunfire, “he’s seen worse wounds than these! I believe he’ll make it!”
“Good,” Moonclaw snarls, baring her canines. “I despise healing the cybered.”
Ling Fei’s voice fills the cabin once again. “Nice shooting Crusher, but they’re coming after us anyway!”
The shaman twists in her seat, shouldering the stock of her Smartgun and pulling down her goggles. “Open the window so I can take a shot.”
She braces the weapon tightly against her body and plays the reticle out in front of the driver’s seat, letting off a burst as soon as the muzzle clears the window, filling the van with the staccato crack of small arms discharge.
[Moonclaw calls a shot on the driver of the pursuing Americar, firing a 3-round burst. Smartgun skill: 4, adding 4 combat pool dice (4 remaining). vent 2 and folding stock negate recoil, 7M base damage. Smartlink -1, Called shot +4, moderate stun +2, unmounted weapon +2. Manual gunnery modifiers PG 153 SR3. All remaining combat pool to damage resistance.]
Placing her elbows on the doorframe, the shaman leans forward to get a better angle on the corp windshield. She counts the concrete support columns as they whiz by, timing her shot to travel between them. One… two… thr…
Her lead is too much, and her burst flies wide as the SMG’s report rattles around inside the cramped interior. The shot is echoed a second later by Charlie’s own gun, which plows three pockmarks into the driver’s side window but fails to penetrate: the corp is packing armored glass.
The enemy car makes a play, taking this opportunity to accelerate, the shredded tire flopping awkwardly against the pavement. Henry Ford’s legacy fires up its electric engine and the Americar pulls forward, easily equaling Boxcar’s speed, even on its shredded tire. It is still 20 meters behind, but gaining.
The dwarves’ anthroform pivots at the waist, dropping back slightly to draw level with the pursuers. Its gyroscopes stabilize the torso against the yaw and bend of the chase, and the autocannon sends its fourth round of the day. A manhole-sized blast knocks reinforced concrete out of the tunnel wall, showering the corp car, but it keeps coming, accelerating inexorably.
[It is Ling-Fei’s combat turn.]
Ling Fei ducks into the sports car’s wake, following the dwarf as he cuts a path through the oncoming traffic. She shifts focus to her drone network, bringing their interfaces up in her peripheral vision as she drives, issuing them a mental command. “Sparrow one, scarab one, shift attack priority to any enemy units attempting to enter the underpass.”
As she waits for the drones to process her input, she patches into the Guardian’s crude speaker system and projects her voice across the street at maximum volume. “Attention assassin! It’s clear that we’ve both been set up by these people, our common enemy! If you fall back beneath the pass our remote units will cover your retreat!”
The drones acknowledge their order and hang back as the convoy roars away through the tunnel. Hovering just behind the hulking glass walker, the mechanical minions lend support and open fire on the right and left. The Guardian’s micro-turret swivels on the end of the nosecone, and the FN HAR mows down a corp goon running away from the spirit’s reach. The roto-drone’s UZI III fares less well, missing its mark by a wide margin.
In the truck cab, Molly Millions holsters her Black Scorpion in her shoulder holster with a practiced hand. The extended clip butts against her breast uncomfortably, but she ignores it and goes rummaging through Jets’ dash compartments again. She finds something interesting—a fake SIN registry—before coming up with the flare pistol that she was looking for. Snapping open the action, she is pleased to see it is already loaded, and flicks her wrist, cocking the pin back as the breech snaps shut.
She leans out the window again, flare gun at the ready, as a warning to approaching motorists in the intersection.
[It is Crusher’s combat turn.]
Crusher lets out a roar of frustration as the Americar continues to shrug off the convoy’s combined fire. He drops to one knee and raises his Ares Alpha, tracking the hobbled vehicle as it comes up alongside Boxcar, bellowing as he pours more lead at the driver’s window. “Raaagh, eat shit you corp motherfuckers!”
[Crusher fires a 3-round burst, calling a shot on the driver. Gunnery 4, adding 4 combat pool (3 remaining). External vent II and internal vent II negate recoil, called shot +4.]
Crusher aims carefully, gripping the rifle hard to ensure as small an impact area as possible. He knows the grouping will matter; if he can land two successive hits in the same place, the glass stands a good chance of shattering.
His cyberarm and rifle fit together like two cogs in the same machine, and the old soldier fires. The cutting-edge tech in the rifle balances his aim, steadies the tremble of imperfect human hands, and delivers on its promise to shoot straight and true.
The first round disintegrates into molten fragments on the armored glass, carving out an impact crater the size of a quarter. The next rounds hit within this small area, the glass gives way and the third bullet punches through, striking the driver in the upper chest and penetrating the armor there.
Coughing blood, he slumps sideways, pulling the wheel sharply to the right. The car swerves across two lanes of traffic and caroms off the far guardrail, coming to a juddering, violent halt. Though it was only moving about 30 mph, the impact jars the passengers, stunning them as they bounce around inside the unsecured interior. Boxcar and the rest of the runners pull away from it, now 30 meters ahead of the car and getting further with each second.
The orks watch the receding wrecks, and the glass walker, which continues to thrash its mortal adversaries, flanked by its immortal allies. Hulder lets the machine gun rest, and knocks on the rear glass, sliding it back to ask Molly for something to dress their wounds.
[It is Moonclaw’s combat turn.]
Moonclaw watches the wreck unfold over the sights of her Ingram, then turns her attention back to the traffic ahead, a frustrated growl rising in her throat. The brief lull in the action gives the shaman a chance to feel the fatigue of her earlier conjuring, but she shakes off the closing weariness, checking the HUD of her smartgoggles and staying alert for fresh danger.
[Moonclaw delays her action until a new threat appears.]
Blood continues to pool on the textured metal surface of Boxcar’s interior, outlining the battered body of Grendel. Aleister asks Crusher if there are bandages in the compartments surrounding them.
It does not appear that the corporation is attempting to pursue them at this point, as the tunnel entrance is still mostly blocked off. The runner convoy bumps along, the dwarves leading the way. They’ve pulled ahead a considerable distance already, and the team holds its breath as they pass through the four-way intersection.
No cross traffic impedes their path, and they zoom through with no trouble. Next in line is Ling-Fei, the intersection is only 30 meters ahead and there is no impeding traffic between her and it. She will cross the threshold in only a matter of seconds.
[It is Ling-Fei’s combat turn.]
Although it seems against her better judgment to leave two combat drones to hold off an entire platoon of men, she can’t stand the thought of losing a potentially friendly relationship with such a devastating fighter. Trusting that Boxcar can provide the juice to amplify her rig’s flux high enough to keep her fliers in range, she decides to leave them there and keep an eye on the fate of the assassin.
The rigger turns her attention back to the road as the intersection looms ahead of her. She drifts to the far-right lane of the road, hugging the central guard wall. She figures that by entering the intersection farther to the right, it will give her another car-length of space to react to oncoming traffic from the left.
[Ling Fei makes a maneuver test to safely pilot Boxcar Rebellion through. Car skill:5 against handling:4. Putting all 9 control pool towards dodge tests.]
The van screams forward and everyone engaged holds their breath again, bracing for a second impact. Crusher’s eyes flit to the left-hand firing slots, the direction of oncoming traffic. They pass the threshold of the intersection, with Jets close behind… and then, in a moment, they are free of the danger. The convoy passes through with nary a scratch, a lull in cross traffic admitting them without so much as a honked horn.
The corp pursuers become a blur in the distance as the three vehicles pull away from the scene of the battle. The combatants breathe a collective sigh of relief, and slump against their weapons, sure that the worst is behind them.
A raspy cough comes over the intercom. It is Hulder. “Everyone accounted for? Let’s pick up the pace and get the fuck out of here. Should we split up now and try to lose them, or regroup somewhere else? If somebody’s got a secure location it would be good to get some medical treatment and ditch these bodies. An’ I’m sure someone here knows something they’re not saying. It might be good to compare notes.”
The throbbing pain in Crusher’s chest begins to rise as the last traces of adrenaline clear from his bloodstream, opening his nervous system to the presence of his agonizing sword wound. With a mental tic the old mercenary toggles his wires off, taking what feels like his first deep breath in hours as the world slows to some semblance of a normal pace. He throws the safety on his rifle and pulls his palm from the connecting stud, propping the cannon up on the seat beside him as the smartlink HUD fades from his view.
Crusher fingers the comm stud in his ear and gives a tired response. “I’ve got an old safehouse in Crestwood, out by Orland Park. Considering the state we’re in, s’probably safest to head out there together. I can call my doc to come tend the wounded, and there’s a shitty old forest across the way for the dead. You dwarves had better keep an eye out for tails or any fliers snooping on us. If we can all agree onnit, that is.”
The ork leaned back in his seat as he waited for the others to consider his proposition, not wanting to give direct orders to men like Hulder or the Spiders, so clearly his martial equals. The short term considerations were easy enough—find cover, tend to the wounded. It was the long term which bothered him. The run had gone sour, that much was clear, and it was more than just a simple botch. They had been hired as bait, or a distraction, or worse, and at the moment he couldn’t be sure which. It was the not knowing which really got to him. He had been in the game long enough to understand that it was what you didn’t know that got you killed.
Such considerations were far from the forefront of Ling Fei’s considerations, her mind too preoccupied with the state of her wounded friends, and more pressingly, the fate of the man she still believed could be their ally. She ordered her Guardian and the long-forgotten Condor blimp to meet her on the other side of the underpass, leaving the cheaper roto-drone to stay and observe the outcome of the battle. Trusting Boxcar’s auto-nav to follow safely behind the dwarves’ Americar, she threw her senses back into the miniature helicopter, taking a more detailed look at the scene surrounding the cloying smokescreen.