Seattle Side Mission 06: Heart of Darkness – Part 1

Written by: Marius           Played on: 02 Nov 2012
PREVIOUS: Update 01 – Nyx Genetics Records
NEXT: Side Mission 06 – Heart of Darkness – Part 2

This session was our first foray back into Shadowrun after an extended absence. While we were on break, inspiration struck and I put together this run, a side mission starring Marius with the other players filling in supporting roles. The run itself is based on the work Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It takes a sprinkling of inspiration from Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal movie, Apocalypse Now (also adapted from Heart of Darkness). It also rips off, hand over fist, from the plot of the excellent Yager Development video game, Spec Ops: The Line (in turn also adapted from Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now).

More so than the first two references, the following session contains many blatantly stolen scenes from Spec Ops: The Line and would spoil much of the game for you. I highly recommend the game and if its something you’re interested in, then I would play it before reading any further. You’ve been warned!

“So I was here, in this very booth when my comm rang,” Marius states. He is speaking to Bear With Mountain Wings, a Dwarf of unusual resiliency who has run the shadows with Marius these past 5 years, one of his only true friends; Jade a Troll of who’s single minded simpleness is only exceeded by her loyalty, which in turn is exceeded by her even greater toughness; and John Eaglefeather, a bar owner, as well as a Seattle area fixer and general go-between. The quintet was seated in a corner booth at The Critical Glitch, the bar John owns. A bar known in the Seattle shadows as a friendly place where no questions are asked and where you can have a hushed conversation without being listened to. The food was also quite exquisite for a place such as this.

John is a new contact, a fixer, Marius developed.

“It was that lady who represents, the news man.” Turning to John, Marius adds “He has had us pull two jobs before, they are always nuts and always pay well.”  The elf continues, “ I arrive at the EVO tower prior to our 9pm meeting. I am relieved of my multi-tool and enjoy a 1 minute elevator or ride with the bodyguards. Mr. Johnson is there with two 50 year old people, an Indian woman, Mrs, Rashashandani, and an Asian, Mr. Yoshida. Mr. Yoshida leaves, casting an angry look on his way out, he had just declined being a part of whatever they were discussing. It seemed he was expecting Mr. Johnson to fold on whatever was in debate, but instead he was sent away. It’s not important to this story, it was just weird.”

The Johnson he is talking about was the one who previously sent them to Florida after another Shadowrun team and then to Chicago to investigate an archology.

“Your stories always do this,” Bear says, rolling his eyes. He takes a long pull, finishing his beer. John motions to the server and points at all four glasses. Recognising that more beer was on the way, Marius finished his before continuing his tale.

“So I join Mr. Johnson on a couch. He mentions an alchera in Russia that hit almost 6 months ago. You guys know the one?” They both nod. It had been all over the news, a series of mana-storms preceded the alchera. This series of storms took place near Volograd. The city was swallowed and the alchera remained, making it the longest running alchera since the Deep Lacuna that took Los Angeles into the ocean. It is surrounded by a wall of intense mana storms that has prevented investigation.

The players previously dealt with an alchera in Denver. The information about the alchera in Volograd was new but provided as in character knowledge that he “remembered hearing about”. The actual timing of the alchera was during their planning for second break in at Mercury Express, so he was understandably distracted from current events around the world.

“Well, you may not have heard this,” Marius continues. “The UCAS military sent a team to help the Russian government evacuate the citizenry and and control the situation. They were ordered to withdraw, but were trapped with the population within the storm. All were presumed dead, until recently.”

“What has changed?” John asked.

“That’s the same thing I asked,” Marius says. He looks at the other two for a moment, then turns to the server who is placing the beers down. Marius’, a locally brewed amber, spilled just a little. He wiped the edge of the glass with his napkin. “Love, could you also bring a basket of fries when you get a chance?” She answers in the affirmative, punches in the order to the kitchen on her commlink and heads to the next table. Marius glances at the other two and begins to sip his beer.

“So…” John stares at Marius, who had been sitting there pretending he was not super excited to continue his story.

“Right, so a radio communique had made it through the storm from Colonel Kurtz, the man in charge of the mission. He played me the recording. The colonel basically said that the mission had failed, thousands were dead and it cut off.”

Marius thought back to the communication. “This is Colonel Joseph Kurtz, of the UCAS 173rd Airborne Brigade-…-Attempted evacuation of Volograd-…-A complete failure. Thousands dead. My mission here, failed-…-All that’s left of the damned 173rd-…” It had been chilling.

“So he gives me one hell of a fake SIN, the best. Good enough that I am to lead a four person team of UCAS troops into the Volograd Alchera. I am now CPT Marius Willard, 5th special operations group. I meet my new team after about two weeks in Italy, No one has noticed I’m full of shit, I don’t know how.” Marius pauses to thank the waitress for the delicious french fries that have been placed in front of him. “John, I have no idea why your SoyFries are so much better than everyone else.”

“We use about 60% real potato, that’s why a basket will cost you 12¥, as apposed to the 7.5¥ at another establishment. We also use real oil for all our fried foods.” John stated. Bear got a surprised look, and reached for a handful.

The other soldiers on Marius’ new team are 1LT Nightingale, an elven Mage and sniper specialist; SGT Ryder, an ork heavy weapons specialist; and SPC Chilling, a dwarven close combat specialist. Control of them was given to three other players; Nightingale was controlled by a friend who has filled in spots on the team in the past but is not a regular, Ryder was played by Jade’s player and Chilling ended up being played by Bear’s player.

I had intended for players to play a character somewhat different than their regulars, but due to some dropping out at the last minute and other arrangements, they were more similar to their original characters, especially in Bear’s case, than I had intended.

“So, after about a month we are called in to a briefing with Lieutenant General Lucas and a man named Foreman, who must be a civilian aid. I make an audio/video recording of the briefing. Which I would show you, but this is a public place. The basics are that 1LT Nightingale, she was the sniper mage, can only protect a smaller area while penetrating the alchera wall, that is why the team is so small.

1LT Nightingale was trained in a unique spell that could protect the party from the damaging effects of the mana storms surrounding the alchera.

“Our official objectives: gather intelligence, determine the fate of the 173rd regiment and colonel Kurtz. My objectives from Mr. Johnson are to ensure that the Colonel gets out, by force if need be, and to bring him back news of what occurred.” Marius digs into the fries, dipping them in a soy/corn syrup imitation of what tomato ketchup would have tasted like a century ago. Another swallow of the local beer washes them down.

“We are dropped off about two miles from the storm wall and we hoof it the rest of the way toward the alchera wall. The winds are almost hurricane speed, dust and debris obscures our view. Lt Nightingale begins spooling up her magic. The hike through the wall takes hours. The 1LT keeps the spell up the whole time. We finally break into the alchera. The buildings are all damaged, some of them have fallen down. Abandoned vehicles litter the streets. The apocalypse, basically.”

“Did you see any people?” Bear asks.

“No living ones. The cars are full of bodies, they look as though dead for quite a while. We open up a truck and crawl in the back. After a few hours rest we move along the highway into the edges of the city. We walk through the industrial areas, there are no signs of life. The closer to the interior we get, the less dead there are.” Marius pauses for another mouthful of the wonderful fried potato concoction. “Fuckin-A these are worth the money.”

He continues, ”We move into a residential area, up ahead there is an apartment building. We clear the building, all three floors are empty until we reach one of the front rooms. It was used as a command center, or outpost. Comms equipment and monitoring stations are set up. This was probably used to keep an eye on the alchera wall. There is more evidence of small arms fire. Two soldiers are dead. These bodies are much more recent, the blood is still wet, but the bodies have gone cold. They were shot.” Marius eats more fries. “John, these are sooo good”

“Would you shut up about the fries, what happened?!” John snapped.

“Right, we are about to leave, when I whip around and see half a dozen individuals moving toward us in a stealthy manner. They dive for cover and raise weapons. SGT Ryder and I take cover behind a vehicle, I order the 1LT and the SPC to run for the appartment. I raise my weapon over the hood of one of the vehicles, the SGT over the other. Gunfire cracks. I hear Lt. Nightengale grunt and fall. ‘Light ‘em up’ I say into my comlink.

“I lay down a field of suppressive fire over the crowd. The two individuals that fired first both go down, the other four were not hit, but took cover. I sprint for the door and call for SPC Chiling to lay down suppressive fire. The LT makes the doorway right after me and SGT Ryder is right behind, she gets tagged by a few rounds blind fired over a car. We drop the rest, managing to only kill one. The 1LT, who is now on the roof, spots a truck fleeing the area, with soldiers inside under guard by more civilian insurgents.” Marius takes another drink.

PREVIOUS: Update 01 – Nyx Genetics Records
NEXT: Side Mission 06 – Heart of Darkness – Part 2

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