Campaign of the Month: November 2014

Shadowrun - The Rat's Nest

Snafu
Neil's Journal

2071-03-23, Monday

Why is it that everything bad happens all at once? I’m not all too sure what happened and honestly, I don’t really care all that much right now, but the clinic will stay shut for a bit longer than the couple of days I planned. Fog and his gang hit the Maria Magdalene Sanatorium, to get a friend of their out of there. They ran into some really sick stuff, the girls had been forced to work as slaves and as fucktoys for some very big names. They got out with fifty of the girls and a deal with the mayor to let the others go if he wanted to avoid exposure. I don’t think that really worked.

Anyway, they brought the girls to the clinic to get them on their feet again. About half the girls are at the Nest now, the rest were still at the clinic when all hell broke loose. Somehow the mayor’s people were able to pinpoint their location and they had to evacuate everyone in a hurry.

The first thing I heard about all this was a call from John Doe who told me that a busload of people had just driven into the yard of the old chemical plant where he lives. He was scared of course and thought they were hunters. I asked him to take a photo of the bus – it was the schoolbus we use in the Nest and Fog was just directing it into one of the buildings. I think he was a bit freaked when I called him to ask what the hell he was doing there. I told him about John and he was surprisingly relaxed about it, especially since I arranged for John to be fed.

There’s a good chance that the girls and Stanley will have a spirit looking for them. Fog said he could do something about that at the plant and Ruby and me raised a ward at the post office in the Nest for the rest of the girls. And now we wait. I’ll try and get some sleep, I am exhausted. Simply walking away from all this suddenly feels like an option.

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Little Devil
Rusty's Vlog

March 21 2071, Saturday

The camera activates to Rusty’s point of view this time. It’s fairly dark and he’s sitting at the kitchen counter of a very big, very modern and probably very expensive apartment. The voice recording comes from his DNI so he doesn’t have to talk out loud. In the pauses, it’s quiet, much more quiet than the Rat’s Nest ever is, pretty much the only thing to be heard is the fridge.

If Liana finds out about this, she’s going to kill me. And I’m not exactly thrilled about it, either, but it’s not like anyone held a gun to my head.
Ok, so we have come up with a sort of plan to get Fairy Fay out of the asylum. They’re bringing in a neurosurgeon and we’re going to kidnapthat guy and let Stanley go in his stead. We’ve already found out where he lives and if everything goes as planned, we’re going to make him tell us everything we need and then leave the poor bastard with Nebraska to watch over him. And kill him if he tries to bullshit us – at least that’s what we’re telling him. I’m not to keen to kill anyone here, I’m not sure Nebraska has gotten the memo that leaving bodies behind is trouble, though.

The doc’s probably not going to remember this week too fondly. He’s barely scraping by, from the looks of his place, and when we were right in front of his door, his home system shorted out, completely fried. Including the door lock. If he comes back to even a table and a chair, he’s lucky.
The first thing Zach did, by the way, was score some drugs. Sobriety’s not going too well, I guess. Wily’s going to flip when she finds out. She told me about how hard it’s for her to hold on and the last thing she needs is a boyfriend high as a kite all the time. He looked a bit pale and I think he had a bit of a nosebleed, but what do I know what kind of shit he took.

Anyway. Plan.
I read about cybering up roaches and how it’s actually dirt cheap and easy to do. Saphira got us the electronics and the Viets gave me a bucket full of roaches. This morning, we had a nice roach clinic going in our room and it really does work. The roaches will be our eyes inside, scouting the place before we go in. They’re already in and I hope that they’re not being turned into rat dinner. Or that someone steps on them.
With the roaches and Stanley on the inside and, we hope, able to find Fairy Fay, the rest of us are going in through the sewers. They have ghouls there, but apparently they are nice to chat with once they’re fed. To make our job a bit easier, we decided to get the spider out of the way.

view from Charlie's apartment

He gets up and takes a walk around the room. His footsteps are almost noiseless on the plushy carpet. He takes a look around, at the high-class trid, stylish furniture, takes a look out of the window at a nice neighborhood in the light of the street lanterns. Well-manicured lawns, big houses, the truck of a private security firm patrolling the streets. Rusty turns away from the window and a piece of knick-knack catches his eye, a swan made from crystal. He picks it up gingerly, holds it for a moment and then sets it in its place again.

Turns out the spider’s a woman. She hangs out at Casey’s and so we go there, find her after a while, already pretty tanked. So I buy her a drink and about five minutes later we’re on the way here. I try to draw her out a bit, what kind of job she does to afford a place like this, kind of thing. She doesn’t really want to talk about it, but says that she’s a sinner and that she has broken all of the commandments, except maybe Thou shalt not kill. Does it count if she has just watched, she asks. She goes to confession every week, but I get the impressions that it’s not really helping her bad conscience much. I doubt that the sex helped any. Not because we didn’t have fun, but because I roofied her drink earlier to get a bit of time to have a look around her place. Actually, I had hoped that the roofies would knock her out before we got around to having sex, but the stuff takes a bit longer to to work than I thought. I found her commlink and she has a deck. The commlink holds a lot of stuff, but no security codes and the deck is locked away in a safe. So I’m going to try and talk her into giving me the codes. She feels bad enough about what she does that this might actually work, especially when she’s doped.
camera deactivates

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Nightmare
Neil's Journal

2071-03-21, Saturday

If what happened to Whistler happens to everyone who’s addicted to Tempo and who dies, we’re fucked beyond believe. That thing just wouldn’t die and I’m not convinced it’s dead now, even after what must have been every cop in Snohomish taking a shot at it, not to mention driving a burning van into the Skykomish River.

I dream that I wake up and Whistler’s standing there, just looking at me. Or maybe it’s that thing that took his body, but in the dream I know it’s Whistler, at least a part of him. I wouldn’t know what to tell him. I don’t even know what to tell myself. I feel numb. If it weren’t for Ruby and the kids, I think I’d try and run away from this. Even though I know that it doesn’t work like that, but right now the thought of returning to the Nest makes me feel trapped. What I want is forget that this ever happened. Maybe forget that Whistler ever existed, but that would be too much like betraying him all over again. I keep thinking about all the things he will never do again or never got to do. It feels like cutting myself with shards of glass, over and over again because the pain is at least something. The only thing that’s left of him.

We all had a bad feeling about it, I think. Whistler tried his best to keep his usual cool demeanor, but I could see he was scared. We put him under and then we started to cool him down and stopped his heart. We hoped that this would kill the parasite and maybe, if it had been a parasite, it would have worked. As it was, all we did was make room for the spirit Whistler had been inviting in with his Tempo habit.
It took over Whistler’s body, made the body get up and walk around, the chest still cut open. It was frighteningly strong and it healed the incision while I watched. Diego almost attacked it with a scalpel and I’m sure it would have killed him. Ruby got him out, Simon had already run when I told him to and I ran as well, through the emergency exit. The thing followed me because it could see sunlight through the door. I have no idea what it actually wanted. It didn’t act aggressively, exactly, more curious, but I didn’t stay to find out. Spirits are strange and unpredictable as it is, even the ones who used to be humans. The tree spirit I met was friendly enough, but so very different.

I ran, tried to get it away from the clinic. I’m not even sure if it followed me or was just exploring the world it found itself in. In any case, it encountered a guy in a car who stopped and took a picture. The spirit went for him and the guy drove off as fast as he could, dragging Whistler’s body for a couple of hundred meters. I wish I could say that this was enough to stop the spirit, but by the time I reached the mangled thing that was once a human body, it had already started to put itself together again. I shot it, three times directly into the head and that did exactly nothing to it. I lost it then, turned and ran. We piled everyone into the cars, the squatters and the clinic people together, and we tried to get away as quickly as possible, with police sirens coming closer.
I’ve watched the footage of the police chase. The bullets did squat…but weren’t exactly well-aimed, neither. I wonder if explosive ammo would stop the spirit if it happened again. If. When. It’s only a matter of time, I think. I don’t know if we’re going to have to shoot every Tempo addict in the head when they die, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Our version of the stake, I guess.

I’m just at a loss what to do. Wait for the flood and try to swim.

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Mutations
Neil's Journal
I spent the evening learning the clarinet, can you believe that? They have one hell of a good Klezmer band here. And here’s something weird: I’m almost certain that the dingy cellar we were playing in acquired some wallpaper over the course of the evening. Mood-sensitive, maybe?

I also found a couple of plants pushing up through the concrete inside the house. Splash took a look at them and confirmed my suspicion: EVO. I find that strangely comforting.

In exchange for some civilian clothes I agreed to treat Mordecai’s people against lice and what I found were not lice, but bugs in every sense. They do look like lice at first glance, but a closer look shows that they are more of a surveillance bug if it grew a couple of legs. They are a product of what we have come to call Evil EVO, the black mutation that grows all over Splash’s container.

Splash created Evil EVO by combining EVO with a strain that had infected her and now that something has created the bugs with Evil EVO. Together with what we found out about Ephraim, that leads us to believe that MCT has stolen Ephraim’s research and is experimenting with it to create Technomages.

Ephraim, the real, adult Ephraim, had experimented with AIPS victims and when he finally managed to kill a patient, he tried to get out. It seems he did, for a time, working for Horizon and trying to really help AIPS victims, but MCT got to him. The ghetto records show that he arrived here and was deported soon after that. We’re not sure what our Ephraim, the small boy, is, but he may be a copy of the real Ephraim’s mind, carefully hidden away. When Splash showed him a picture of the real Ephraim, he collapsed with a severe shock.

I found a woman named Lidia, dying of hunger and thirst and simple desperation. I took her to our room and got her somethng to eat, so she at least did survive the night and is not all alone any more. She’s a strange one, she speaks all languages and none, I have no idea what’s going on with her.

During the night, we all had the same dream of being all alone out on the street while a thunderstorm moved in and lightning struck right next to us. We woke up with what I believe were minor myocardial infarctions or at the very least V-fibs and we were the lucky ones. A lot of people are simply dead. Splash can tell apart the real people and the ones who are just programms and she says that the dead ones are all real. The programs haven’t felt anything at all. It seems that someone has pulled the plug on the ones that died, separating their body and mind or that the dumpshock has killed them.

We also heard explosions and I made my way up on the roof with Splash. The outer part of the ghetto is being razed to the ground with tanks, there’s heavy fighting. I decided we had seen enough when the first Stukas flew in. I doubt the historical correctness of that, but it may be a sign that MCT is starting to notice that they have a huge problem. Which probably caused them to just kill all those people as well. We need to get out of here as fast as we can, I hope that the clothes I bartered my medical services for will help with that.

I had a full-blown panic attack during the night. I saw that coming, I’ve been having problems to cope with the situation from the beginning and with the sound of explosions and gunfire from just a couple of hundred yards away, it was finally too much. Knowing what was happening in medical terms did not help one little bit. The others didn’t notice, I think, and I rolled up on my bed, flinching at every loud noise, fighting to breathe and not to throw up from sheer fright. I’m not sure how long it lasted, but a couple of hours at least. Having work to do helps, along with the knowledge that people rely on me, so I’m keeping busy and I hope I’ll be too tired to lie awake tonight.

I also miss being able to use my magic. It’s weird, a few weeks ago I would never even have thought I could do something like call a ghost and now I feel like I’ve been amputated or something.
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A Day's Work
Neil's Journal
I don’t remember much of the night. We were woken at 5am by Mordecai who had gotten us work permits for the broom factory. That way, we can move about and for now, we are safe. Well. As safe as anyone can be in this place.

So we went to work. Mordecai said that we should try and steal some food, the workers are fed fairly well – much better than I had imagined and definitely much better than the actual ghetto inhabitants were. With some help from Mordecai, I got a job in the kitchen and I did indeed manage to get my hands on some food and passed it on to Mordecai’s people.

Splash used her technomancy to take a look at the factory. She says that the broms we’re making are a representation of some dull programming tasks, something usually left to bots. We are very slowly figuring out how the whole imagery works and what we can and cannot do with it.

There is a hole in the ghetto wall, the resistance uses it to smuggle letters out. Splash has been doing some exploring with the help of a a sprite, something I would understand similar to the ghosts I can call. It found the hole as well and Splash thinks that it might be a backdoor she made during her time at MCT. It leads from Petrovski’s server to MCT and for now, we cannot use it to get out. The sprite died when it tried.

The eviction of the outer ghetto has begun and so has the fighting. Someone actually managed to sabotage the train leaving to Treblinka by blowing up the engine. Mordecai would like to start the fighting here, too, but I’m not at all sure that would be a good idea right now. We don’t stand much of a chance and while I will fight if there is no other way, I think we’re better off right now keeping our heads down.

I admit that this is in part because I’m absolutely terrified. I found it hard to even step out onto the street this morning, I felt very much exposed. If I could, I’d just stay hidden, but I can’t.
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Warsaw
Neil's Journal
December 20th 2070, Sunday (I think)

I heard Splash call for help and found her on the ground outside her container, struggling with something invisible. When I tried to pick her up and pull her away, I was attacked as well by what I’m fairly sure now were the tentacles of the mutated EVO plant. I couldn’t get free and blacked out.

We awoke in darkness, in a place that turned out to be a brick-walled cellar full of people. We’re a group of nine: Faye, Samatha, Kimba, Cerise, Snake, Han Solo, Splash and me and Ephraim, the small boy Splash saw in her, hm, dream. Which obviously wasn’t a dream.

It all looks very, very real. The amount of detail is astounding but we’re not having much time to admire the view because this is a simulation of the Warsaw Ghetto and the uprising will start tomorrow. It may all be virtual, however I am very sure that dying here will mean dying for real or at least the loss of personality or any higher brain functions, which is as good as dying.

A quick search turned up some matches and candles and I also have a small bag with some medical supplies and a revolver. Han Solo has a Schmeisser and Faye has a violin and a collection of sheet music – she was accessing her music library when she got taken, it seems. We decided to leave the cellar and Ephraim guided us across the street and through the sewers to another house where we met Marcel, the leader of a resistance group. On the way, we saw a couple of bodies, shot through the heart. Faye and the others recognized them as the customers they had been online with, although how they could know that is beyond me, maybe something subliminal the system feeds them.

The simulation is not perfect in all details. People we talk with sometime slip between 1943 and 2070, Ephraim called the troups MCT and then changed to SS when asked again. We met a woman, Judith, who told us that she was a system administrator and changed that immediately to mechanic. We can get away with mentioning minor inconsistencies, but really big ones (like Judith’s job) means that the system notices and activates its security system. For us, that means German troop coming for us.

When I asked to learn more about all this, Marcel brought us to a library to meet Emanuel Ringelblum, the librarian. The library is immense, much bigger than it should be and it contains plenty of anachronisms, modern books and all sorts of information. It turned out that Ephraim had brought us into this simulation to help, he found us during the raid on the Rat’s Nest and thought that we would be willing to fight for them, since the system is trying to destroy us as well. Neither he nor Emanuel could tell us exactly what they needed or they would have brought the Germans. I tried to use my magic, but it didn’t work, of course it didn’t. But it worked for Splash. She can use a blend of her own technomancer abilities and the magic I quickly taught her to look at the naked code of this simulation, like I would look at the Astral Space.

She told me that both Emanuel and Ephraim were humans, but they are festooned by cyberware, there is not much left of them. All of us have been infected, for lack of a better word, as well, a strand of black entering our bodies and making its way to our brain. She also said that the code is alive, it writes itself and react like a living being to everything we do. I had no idea this is possible, but it certainly explains the level of realism we are seeing here.

I asked Emanuel where I could find books on Judaism, hoping to find some information on what was being done to them there, hidden by the analogy they have created. The first book I found was the story of Rabbi Löw and the golem, which is a story of artificial intelligence when you think about it. The next book we were handed was a book by Ephraim Lewis (after the name permutated a few times) on cybernetic and psychological manipulation of the human brain. A very advanced work and I think the key to what we are experiencing here.Lewis went missing after his laboratory was raided four years ago and he has been declared dead. When Splash asked, Ephraim gave her GPS coordinates for the ghetto and with some help from Snake, she figured out that the coordinates indicated the MCT lab in Seattle.

Emanuel asked us to help with taking books into the bigger part of the ghetto and we chose as many as we could carry, books on the ghetto itself (to help us navigate), books on medicine, cybernetics, history, magic, technomancy ect. They are much more than books, contain much more information than any book can. In truth, we were raiding MCT’s database. Splash used the book on weapons to help her create a hand grenade and she did manage it, although she started to bleed from her nose and I couldn’t stop the bleeding. My guess is that it’s the representation of a brain injury, but she seemed fine apart from it and we couldn’t have done anything about it in any case.

So we left and made our way into the street. There’s only one way into the other part of the ghetto and that is over a footbridge. To get there, we had to cross half the ghetto, during curfew no less. We had only gotten a few meters from the library when he heard shouting and running footsteps and saw two men getting shot by the Germans. We tried to hide again and managed to get into another house in the nick of time. Emanuel was too slow and got killed, but the Germans did not see where we hid. We waited for a moment until they had gone further down the street and went down into the cellar. From there, we could make our way into a factory where we hoped to find access to the sewers. There was a manhole, but we had to climb across a fence to get there.

Most of us made it, but Faye got her clothes caught on the spikes on top of the fence. I was cutting her loose when two huge black dogs rounded the corner and charged us. I got ready to shoot them when suddenly a wall grew between the dogs and us, like the wall of the building had been copied and pasted into the street. That gave us just enough time to get into the manhole. The wall had a door unfortunately and the Germans/MCT security kicked it open quickly enough to see us vanish there. We bolted the manhole and walked the rest of the way to the bridge in the sewers, meeting other people on the way with the same goal so that we were a group of more than fifty people when we arrived.

The bridge was plainly visible from a watchtower outside the ghetto where soldiers with machine pistols kept watch, so crossing it would have been suicide. Splash brought out her grenade and one of the men volunteered to throw it at the tower. I don’t know what made him do it, but he threw the pin instead of the grenade. I managed to grab the grenade and throw it before it detonated and I actually hit the tower. The grenade didn’t work as planned, but created a cloud of yellow (vanilla-coloured) fog around the tower. That gave us the opportunity we needed and we ran across the bridge as fast as we could. Not fast enough in the case of the last stragglers who were gunned down. We couldn’t do anything to help them, there was no cover at the other side of the bridge and we had to get inside as quickly as possible. The Germans were already preparing to open the gates to the ghetto, there were troops behind us and sirens sounding all around us.

We did get into a house and the group split up, taking cover and looking for exits where they could. It quickly turned out that there was no way to get out of the house, we were surrounded and the Germans were starting to kick the doors down. Splash saved us – there was a small rainwater sewer under the house and she created an way for us to get there and closed it behind us. We were sitting in a tunnel about a meter across and filled to a third with freezing water, but it was the safest we had been all night, no-one would come looking for us here for a while. Slowly we crawled to another house Judith knew where she said we would find a group of resistance fighters that could help us to escape the ghetto.

We got there after what felt like hours, cold, shivering and exhausted, and were met by a couple of men. One of them introduced himself as Mordecai, the leader of the group and he did say that he might be able to help us in the morning. But for now, we have a chance to rest. Splash is already sleeping, she has badly strained herself by all the manipulations she has done. Without her, we surely would be dead already.

So we have been shanghaied into this fight and for now, all we can do is try to survive and to get back to reality again. What we can do after than remains to be seen. I don’t think I have ever been this scared my whole life, the thought of leaving the relative security of this room in a few hours is terrifying. I’m not at all sure we will make it. I’m also not sure anyone will ever read this, but I hope. Nothing else for me to do.
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Fleurs du Mal
Neil's Journal
December 18th 2070, Friday

I almost forgot. Whistler has been keeping it a secret, but he’s got himself a girlfriend. Not that I’ve seen her, but he was less discreet than he obviously thought. It was probably not very mature of me, but when he asked me if it was okay for him to leave for the night, I told him yes, of course, she probably already misses you. The look of total amazement on his face lasted only a second, but from Whistler that’s more than enough.

Is anyone surprised that I didn’t get a full night’s sleep? No, I didn’t think so. Sometime in the early hours I was woken by Splash who was screaming her head off in the street and when I ran outside, I found Claire unconscious next to her. Splash didn’t make much sense, but she seemed to think that she was responsible. Did I mention she was completely naked? So I gave her my coat and brought Claire into the pub. Liz brought Splash inside.

Claire came around fairly quickly, screaming about getting shot at. Liz calmed her down while I talked to Splash. She was holding onto something and I finally got the idea of taking a look at her with AR: she was holding an old rifle and she wore threadbare clothes. Both rifle and clothes looked amazingly real, more real than pretty much anything I’ve seen in AR before. She told me that she had had trouble sleeping and when she went online, she had a feeling of being watched. When it didn’t stop, she went to Liz to get something to sleep. Liz gave her a Prozac and I have no idea what Liz was thinking. Not much apparently. I’m almost sure she didn’t ask one single question before handing out that pill. I’ll talk to her tomorrow, we’re both not at our best right now and it would only end in a shouting match. It still may.

Anyway, Splash took the Prozac and went on a really bad trip. Glitzy has given her an EVO seed a while ago. EVO is a program bordering on AI that evolves into a sort of miniature jungle with all kinds of animals and plants. Pretty impressive and pretty invasive. Splash imagined some ants from EVO talking to her and followed them only to be swallowed by one of the black flowers her EVO produced.

She ended up in a tunnel with a little boy who gave her the rifle and told her that they had to fight for their lives. People were kicking down the door behind them, so they ran and came to an abandoned house. A glance outside showed tanks and soldier, all wearing the MCT logo. Splash was hit in the head by something, lost consciousness and woke up again, only to discover that she was still wearing the clothes and holding the rifle. The clothes had a Star of David sewn to them, by the way.

I called Glitzy because I thought that she might know a bit more about this, especially about the EVO part. Splash stalled for a while, but she finally admitted to us that she is a Technomancer. She also told us that she had lost her, hm, spirit guide for want of a better word. She called him to take a look at the rifle and when he touched it, he simply vanished. I can only imagine how that feels – I’ve only encountered Mr Snautz a couple of times, but he certainly is a part of me and losing him would be a catastrophe. The spirit guide at least could tell her that the rifle is a sort of combat program.

Splash said that she has made some changes to her EVO that resulted in weird black flowers and climbing plants that have already migrated outside of her container. We went to take a look at the plants and discovered Snake, Splash’s boyfriend, unconscious and entangled in the plants. I tried to pull him away and the plants let go, but left bleeding wounds. I’d rather not risk hurting him, so I left him where he was, who knows what the plants and the wounds symbolize. The really weird thing is that Snake is hooked up to the Matrix without a comlink or any other device that would allow him to access it, not even cyberware of any kind. We suspect that the Matrix Surgeon may have something to do with all this, but we’re not sure at all.

Fuck. I just realized that no-one has seen our cyberwhores for a while. They were working to earn money to rebuild the Nest and one of them came to get food and stuff a few times, but not recently. I should check on them, they had been a target for the Surgeon last time.
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Aftermath
Neil's Journal
December 18th 2070, Friday
The first night back at the Nest passed quietly until one of the Squatters had an accident with a mine left behind by the Picas, but he’ll live.
In the morning repairs were at full swing, people were doing their best to rebuild their homes. The clinic is mostly burned out and I’ve lost much of my equipment, but I got a tip that there was an abandoned street clinic where we just had to walk in and take what was left. I should have known that this was too good to be true.

Gilettes, Slicer and Eric left to get the stuff and returned a short while later. They did have all the equipment we needed, but they also had a run-in with a ghoul. Slicer and Gilettes are pretty much unhurt, but Eric has deep clawmarks. At least there are no bites. All three are now in quarantine and I’m doing my best to prevent the virus from infecting them. I do think that they have a chance, but apart from Growler and Liz, no-one knows what exactly happened to them or we might well have a mob on our hands.

Speaking of ghouls, John has recovered from the pneumonia, but when I drove out to check on him, I ran into ghoul hunters. I managed to get away after a short shootout and drove back to the Nest. There was no way I was going to search for John in that situation.
I reached him on his comlink and he told me that he had killed the two hunters I had injured. Glitzy and I decided to move him to another location, it was much too dangerous for him to stay there, one of the hunters had escaped and they would be back.

We loaded his belongings into the van and John got in at the back, closing the doors behind him, allowing us to keep our distance. Glitzy drove us to another abandoned factory where the smell of chemicals will mask John’s own smell. He also has access to the sewers there. On our way back to the Nest we passed John’s old hiding place and a group of hunters had gathered there, at least thirty people, surely enough to kill any ghoul they might have found.

Most of the Picas, former Picas I should probably say, have now left the Nest. Maggie threw most of them out in the afternoon, as a demonstration that she now belongs to the Scrappers and that the Picas no longer exist. That went pretty well, all things considered. We’ll see how she fits in with us. There are now only six Picas left who are injured too badly to walk, the rest only had minor injuries.

I’m going to spend the night at the Cow to keep an eye on Eric. It will be at least two days until the infection sets in, if it does, but I still feel better not leaving him alone.

Oh, and Liz actually assumed that I would leave the Nest and my patients for a roll in the hay with Glitzy when I told her that I had to leave for an hour. I couldn’t tell her that I would be relocating this ghoul I know, but even so I’d thought she’d know me better than that. Yes, okay, it can’t be easy for her seeing me with Glitzy, but damn it, she didn’t manage to tell me how she felt for three years. I hope she gets a grip on herself and soon.
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Home Again
Neil's Journal
December 17th 2070, Thursday

We have recaptured the Rat’s Nest. I’m too tired to sleep, so I can just as well write it all down.

During the Radio shack run, we got our hands on toy drones. Those things are pretty agile and big enough to carry a payload. After some trial and error, people got quite good at piloting the drones, so we loaded them up with flashbangs and rigged them to explode.

With rush hour traffic in the Barrens at full swing, we managed to get close to the Nest undetected and hid in the hills of garbage. The Picas had turned a fifty yard stretch around the Nest into a death zone with no cover at all, so an open attack would have been suicide. The drones could get into the Nest unseen we hoped and so an army of Hello Kittys, garden gnomes, bunnies, little doggies and teddy bears made its way over the open ground and reached the containers, coming from several different directions.

My drone was attacked by a dog and I had to explode it. At the time, the group that entered the Nest via the main street was already hidden under the wooden sidewalk and took that as a cue to explode as well. Others made their way further into the Nest. All in all, we created chaos and confusion among the Picas and like we had hoped, many of them took a dose of Kamikaze to get ready for our attack.

Now we sat back and waited for an hour, I estimated that the drug would by then have worn off with almost all the Picas and then they would crash, become incapacitated or at least seriously handicapped. Splash came up with the idea to play a high frequency tone over the loudspeakers of the Nest and even at a distance of a hundred yards, it grated on the nerves. It must have had quite an effect on the Picas, high on drugs and awaiting an attack at every moment.

I took the time to conjure up a couple of Watchers and a ghost and asked them to find and confuse the Picas during our attack. I chose the ghost of one of the Picas I killed, with the hope that the sight alone of someone they know to be dead would at least startle them.

Under cover of darkness and with a couple of our people laying down suppressive fire to keep the Picas from shooting at us, we crossed the death zone and attacked, again in several small groups and from different directions. The Picas had gone into hiding, the Nest was silent and empty, even the squatters had disappeared.

I went with Blaster and Cameron, who went up on the containers as our spotter. Blaster ran into a trap and almost got shot by a Pica who had hidden in some trash. After a short fire fight, the kid went down and we continued, further into the Nest. The containers are only a couple of yards apart and we already knew that there would be traps, so turning a corner and even walking down the small alleys was nerve-wracking. We discovered a wire across our way just in time and Cameron spotted some movement in a second storey container. He shot an explosives dart through the window and the Pica who had been hiding there caught fire, crashed through the window in panic and landed right in front of us. We took the time to roll him over to extinguish the flames, but not more. It’s probably going to haunt me, but this was not the time for compassion.

The other groups reported that the Picas were using Molotov cocktails and jury-rigged flamethrowers, we could easily hear the screams, the gunfire and the occasional explosion. Five Picas ran through the alley across from us and before the could react, both Cameron and I had shot one of them. The others hid behind the corner, just like we did. One of them spotted Cameron and fired at him, but missed. Blaster cut the fight short with a hand grenade, none of them survived that. By the time we reached the main street, the fight was pretty much over.

Most of the Picas died, they fought hard to keep the Nest and very few of them surrendered or ran. Only about twenty are still alive and most of them are badly hurt. We lost none of our people, mainly thanks to the armor we were wearing. But we have people who are badly hurt, with gunshot wounds or severe burns. I set up a makeshift field hospital in Growler’s pub and got to work, luckily I got help from Cameron, Liz and Glitzy. Still, it took hours to treat everybody, especially since the Picas had abused the squatters who stayed behind when we left the Nest in every way imaginable.

Whistler had a shrapnel wound in his leg and lost a lot of blood, but he’ll be fine. I’m worried about Gargle who took a bullet to the foot and I’m not sure I can keep the wound from becoming infected. Rusty has been hit by both a shotgun and a Molotov cocktail, he has third degree burns and, at least for now, he’s blind. When they brought him in, he was in shock, but by the time I got to him, he had started to freak. I had to drug him to keep him from going into a total panic and right now, I’m waiting for him to wake up again so I can tell him that the blindness will not be permanent, as far as I can see. I’ll try to get some sleep while I wait, it’s already three in the morning.
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Close Call
Neil's Journal
December 14th 2070, Monday

I forgot: after John had been in such bad shape last time, I went back to see him and to give him some stuff that would make surviving the winter easier for him.

He looked even worse this time, but from a distance, I couldn’t really tell what exactly was wrong. I had to get close to be even reasonably sure what to treat him for. None of us were very happy with that idea and I’m not in a hurry to do that again. It was a close call, John almost lost it and only just kept himself from attacking me. I prefer not to think about my chances against him.

He suffers from pneumonia. I gave him antibiotics, but to be honest I have no idea if they will actually work for him. We’ll know more in a few days. If they don’t work, I’m afraid I will need to come up with something and that won’t be possible without examining him again. It might be possible to put him under with a couple of tranq patches, but who knows if he’ll agree to that. It’s a lot to ask from him and I hope I won’t have to.
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