Campaign of the Month: November 2014

Shadowrun - The Rat's Nest

The Smell of Hot Chocolate
Fog's Audios

The Smell of Hot Chocolate

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Yes. Fuck yes.
We did it.
And I personally witnessed atiny dragon going nuclear, or probably optical with a laser on a friggin’ safe.
Got a recording of that, for ‘Tube and matrix millions, in case everything else fails.
Of course there were some minor complications but we got out alive of this spectacular mess.
Everyone pulled their weight and did so fucking well.
The Humvee’s gone, sadly. I like simple yet durable tech. It’s nothing for the Barrens; makes you a target, but it was good having that thing around.
Engine burned out after the arm of a Halloweener got caught in the gears. Satellite Day riots provide a good head start ‘cause it keeps the cops busy, but the streets crawled with gangs and looters.
Static ate a lot of shrapnel and we barely managed to stabilize him, but he’ll pull through.
His stunt of nuking first the facility server and then the generator will cost him some serious money off our deal, but otherwise…a fine job.
Of course, as always, there was some barbed hook. Something was off about those seeds and after some research they proved to be a big fucking fraud. I mean, they got the job done, it was real chocolate, indistinguishable from the original, yet still, it wasn’t genuine. Lindt, or rather Shiawase was ripping off everyone.
Good thing is, their insurance will drown them in money, now that their whole factory blew up, so they have little incentive to go after us with full force.
At least if we learn from past mistakes and stop doing something stupid, like trying to do anything with those seeds or blackmail Shiawase…also means we’re back at whatever the chocolate gets us in a good deal, but that’s more than enough, I’d say.
We’re back at the chemical plant right now, about to store our millions in a safe place until we figured out how to sell all that shit…before Nebraska gorges away on our money.

[End Audio]

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Date Crash
Fog's Audios

Date Crash

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Legwork.
I’ve heard there are people who can get it done without minor catastrophes, but I guess those are just urban legends.
Thanks toEla and Zach we’ve had a really good layout of the chocolate factory, intel regarding their security and even names, shifts and all that.
That included the knowledge of fucking lasers on the roof.
My first thought was to just let the chocolate fudge itself and snatch the lasers, as, you know, on the black market, a good old military grade laser goes for 6 sweet digits. Sadly, the generator and all the good stuff was located deep in the guts of that facility, so, no dice.
The fun part, though, was to shadow the security rigger.
We did, we did pretty good. And that’s where professionalism punched out and blind improvisation took the wheel.
That guy, callsign Static, was out on a date with his medic to get some sexual healing, I guess.
With the help of Kiki and Zach, though Zach did his best to make things more complicated, as usual, we took out their driver. Kiki cast an Illusion, I waited in the back of the limousine, concealed.
Spirits, this guy was even more helpless in terms of dating than I could ever be. And that’s saying something.
I think I did him a favor by interrupting this trainwreck with a gun.
We talked business, had a little brawl in between which showed them my fine no-bullshit agenda and talked again.
Both wanted a horrendous sum for their inside work…yeah, that was our plan, get the two security mercenaries who aren’t psychos on our side for money.
Worked, kinda, but 1 million wouldn’t cut it. Static pointed out that there was far more valuable stuff in that building than the chocolate and that were the seeds it was made from.
Makes sense? Yes!
And suddenly, we were scoring 10 instead of one million.
The deal was cut and we could plan accordingly.
We’d hit the place from the roof, get the goods onto the Humvee in that hangar while static and Spider, the medic, would keep the other fellows busy.
Problem was the high security safe in the basement where the seeds were stored.
Solid as fuck and wired to the chin. Jet put it in other words, but that’s the gist of it.
But…and now comes the most awesome thing ever:
There was a military grade laser on the roof.
Combine a fire resistant drake, a guy in a fireproof suit, a steel door and a laser…
Zach subdues the alarm and we all get out of there alive and rich.
Can’t wait to try that…

[End Audio]

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Firefox
Neil's Journal

Zach has been busy building a server and he has invited Ruby, Fynn and me to be his first guests there. I wasn’t too eager to try it out, the Matrix and I just don’t get along as a rule and the most I have to come to expect from VR is a migraine. I asked Zach to let my try it on my own, no sense in spoiling the experience for Ruby and Fynn. To my surprise, I had no problems whatsoever and I enjoyed myself very much. Whatever’s different about a server made by a technomancer. The whole server is spectacular, even Ruby and Fynn were impressed and they are much more VR-savy than me.

We all met Firefox, a sprite Zach constructed or conjured or whatever the right word maybe. She, or maybe rather ze (since ze doesn’t have a preference for being male or female), is amazing. From the way ze behaves there’s no way I could tell ze wasn’t human. Ze is a bit naive sometimes, as is to be expected from a being that’s only a couple of weeks old and has all its (vast) knowledge from books. Firefox learns fast, though, and is intensely curious about everything. We spent quite some time together, Ruby, Firefox and me, and it’s been an experience. To put it mildly. I have no idea what’s going to happen between us – the situation is more than a bit unusual. We’ll see.

For now, Ruby is grounded in real life. She suffered some VR damage and I don’t want that to get any worse, so she cannot use anything else than AR for the next month or so. Firefox comes and visits – I have to admit I’d miss hir if that wasn’t possible. It’s not really the same as being on the server with hir, but it’s something. Ze met the others at the house and I think Ela will take hir to meet Wily and that will be an awkward conversation. Firefox wanted to try sex after Zach had created hir and he agreed, cheating on Wily. Not to mention taking advantage of his creation – he may have given Firefox as much freedom as possible, but still, there is an imbalance of power there that makes the whole thing icky to me. Even if Firefox was the one to suggest it and even if ze says that ze doesn’t regret it. I don’t know. It’s none of my business, really, and I won’t get involved.

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Broken
Rusty's Vlog

Camera activates. Rusty’s sitting on his bed and he looks like someone worked him over good. From the way he moves it’s clear that the shiner and the fat lip are not the only injuries he has.
I broke up with Liana. I always thought that if you loved someone, it would make up for anything. Solve all problems, kinda. Yeah. Go ahead, laugh.
We don’t have all that much in common after all. It’s nobody’s fault, we just don’t really fit. When we did stuff together, way too much was only to please each other. She can’t tell me that she didn’t know that. I was feeling more and more like a liar when we were together and I figured it’s better to end it quickly than to draw it out. Still hurt like hell, both of us. She didn’t see it coming.

I don’t know if she put them up to it and I doubt it, but Sam and Kay had…words with me about all that. Not exactly a surprise. I gave Kay at least something to remember me, but in the end they had me. And don’t give me that ‘you lost against two girls’-crap. Sam is a fucking tank and Kay’s not much smaller. Anyway. Ling was ready to haul off and kick them out of their beds that very moment. But I can’t let her clean up my mess all alone, so we paid them a visit together with Eric and made it clear that they don’t mess with the Scrappers. This is something between me and Liana and they have no say in it.

Nebraska will be glad to hear I finally figured it out. She says I’m the most fucked up freak she knows. From Nebraska, that’s something. But all she knows are the real freaks, so I guess I’m just way too normal for her.
He laughs and it turns into a coughing fit that’s clearly painful. Camera deactivates

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Sink the Gustloff
Neil's Journal

I don’t know why Zach (or Fog, but that’s another matter) bothers to pay rent for a container. He has spent the last two month more unconscious than awake. At least this time, he woke up a lot sooner, but for a moment I thought we’d lose him.
Toy brought him in, she had wanted to apologize for kidnapping him the other day and found him unconscious. We couldn’t wake him or find anything wrong, but we quickly figured out that he had somehow logged on to the UV host. At least, this time we were better prepared for what would happen, but in the end all we could do was wait, he had to make his own way out.

From what he has told me, the UV host is still in chaos or maybe even worse that before. It plays out the fall of the Third Reich and Zach found himself stuck on the Wilhelm Gustloff – with the memories of an SS man and no clue that this was not his actual identity. Some of EVO’s pixies were also on board and had personalities that fit into the setting, like a Russian deserter or a Polish resistance fighter. They quickly attracted attention from the Matrix surgeon who probably spotted them for what they were. Zach says he had flashbacks to his real self and to hidden memories of the SS man, without any way of telling what was real. In the end, he refused to do what the surgeon said and fought him, together with the pixies. That was his way out of the host, otherwise he would probably have been stuck there. And wouldn’t MCT like that. A technomancer to play with.

He brought back a small box filled with documents that he stole from the surgeon. This is the best proof that MCT is hiding a rogue AI we will ever get, I guess, but the question is what are we going to do with it. If they can trace it back to us, we will simply disappear. End our lives stuck on the host if they are feeling friendly or just get loaded onto a van and shot in the back of the head. I don’t particularly fancy either of those solutions.

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Lao Jia
Neil's Journal

It seems that the Nest has acquired its own rat spirit. Now that would be something for the media, especially in her, hm, solid form. I’m still not sure how I feel about it and neither is anyone else, including the spirit I think. But Lao, as she calls herself, is here to stay. We not really up to fighting her and in any case I had fought enough that day. I always prefer to arrange myself with people if it can be done at all – in the long run, it usually turns out better for everyone. And I do hope it will work out here as well because if Lao decides that she wants to mess with us, things will get ugly for us.

I don’t think she expected us to let her stay without a fight and I get the feeling that I confuse her. She probably thought that we would try to trap her or attack after all. Ruby, who showed her distrust openly, was much more what Lao expected. In any case, we talked and finally agreed that she would stay, keeping Gen Wong’s home for herself and making the area inside the leylines he manipulated her domain. She is not going to try and harm us and we return the favor. The rats in her domain are not to be harmed either or at least not treated cruelly. She says that she can probably keep them from scavenging inside the containers and in return, we are going to give them something to eat, about as much or maybe even less than the rats would eat and spoil anyway.

She also gave us everything Gen Wong owned. We destroyed most of it, none of it would be useful for us and much was actually harmful. Lao did ask a price: karma. I was prepared to give her that anyway, the tree spirit taught me how valuable it is for them, so that didn’t exactly come as a surprise. But I think it would probably freaked her out if I had offered it just like that, with hindsight I’m glad that she asked for it.

We met yesterday at the Barrel to hash out the details of the agreement. And she offered to give some help with our Tempo problem – she confirmed that a powerful spirit was piggybacking on the addicts and she might be able to tell whom that spirit will possess next. We might be able to do something about that, but that will need some more thought. If she can really do that, I’m already glad she’s around.

I’m curious how well she will deal with our world. She took to eating and drinking quickly and I have my doubts that her opinion that she doesn’t need anything but karma from us will survive introduction to more food. To be perfectly honest, I offered her something to drink on purpose because I think if she grows to be more part of our world, living together will be easier, at least a bit. And how often do I have the chance to see someone eat chocolate for the first time in their life? I couldn’t have let that opportunity pass even if I had wanted to.

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Cooldown
Fog's Audios

Cooldown

[Start Audio]
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Dodging cops becomes significantly harder if they have magic support.
Good thing for us that the only mage on their side had his heart in the right place. Chris was more of the elderly father type and knew that SSP’s story about the fugitive witch prostitute and her SINless adept pimp was bullshit.
Again, good for us. He easily found us, even though Kiki’s a pretty good summoner and concealed us as good as she could, but he wasn’t there for a fight.
Swear to all spirits, after our talk I had the urge to say something along the lines of ‘Thanks sir, I’ll escort her home right after prom at 11pm.’
He also seemed genuinely freaked out by the fact I’d intend to share my safehouse with 3 ghouls, but after he had a talk withJohn, things seemed okay.
And yet again, since I killed a cop, I can’t go back to the Nest. Seeing things positive, I can get the bus back in shape, make it more comfy as we’re here for a pretty long time.
The gang had their own troubles back home and I can’t help but feel bad for letting them down on this one. They’re all alive and well, though for Neil, it was a damn close shave.
Gen Wong proved to be a fucking serious threat. Dude’s gone toxic and threw everything he could when they cornered him and foiled his super villain scheme of taking over the Nest.
Shit really hit the fan, what he did still echoes through the whole community and if that wasn’t enough, a toxic spirit broke free and now claims China Town or something.
Still can’t believe Glitzy didn’t take that thing down…a free toxic is never good news.
But as far as I gathered, Neil welcomed that spirit and cut a deal…I just hope that won’t backfire.
Or if it does, at least this time I hope I’ll be around.

[End Audio]

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Now we’re a few weeks in and having a good time.
We got to know our neighbors, an urban tribe. Arrogant assholes, kinda, and when they talked about ghoul bounties I was pretty close to invite some more friends for dinner.
Some space bread deescalated the situation, though.
The others came around for some BBQ, all feels really nice and family like again, despite the looming shadow of consequences and the B&E we’re about to get in soon.
Kiki made friends with the little earth spirits living under my ward and helped me with the bus and all the stuff I patched into that old thing.
We even painted it all hippie style…
Spirits, I love that girl.
It’s strange, you know. It’s been a long time since I could just enjoy some rest. And though everything feels right with her around and I even get to the point where I’d use the word ‘peace of mind’ there’s still so much eating away at me.
Until this clarity or closure, all this is just another bubble waiting to pop.

[End Audio]

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Security Log

Accessing security log. Please enter authorization. Authorization accepted, access granted.
A Matrix conference call, three people in the room. One, a plain Japanese man, sits behind a desk while the other two are standing in front of it. They use avatars: an impossibly slender woman in flashy latex clothes and a samurai in full armor. Even hidden behind the mask, he looks nervous and fidgets. “Sir, we have the situation under control…”

“Under control? Do tell me how a rogue AI, dead scientists, severe damage to our server and illegal…guests are a situation under control?” The Japanese man speaks quietly, but he might as well have shouted and hit the samurai, who squirms while he tries desperately to regroup. “We are dealing with sabotage, sir. The AI we can handle, we’re close to getting it in line again, but we are sure that some of the men who died during the accident had brought outsiders in. In that sense, the problem dealt with itself.” “The intruders are most likely dead”, the woman chimes in. “Even with our resources, we have a hard time dealing with that kind of shock. But we’re investigating the local spots for hackers to see if anyone knows anything. At the very least, it will put the fear of God into those kids.”

The Japanese man doesn’t look all that convinced, but nods. “See to it that nothing like this happens again. And I want prompt updates on everything you do. Please refrain from trying to hide anything from me.” He winks out of existence. The woman and the samurai share a glance and she laughs. “A samurai? Seriously?” Without waiting for an answer, she leaves and the samurai is left alone. “Fuck.” He logs off.

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Cornered
Neil's Journal
We always make jokes about how the Rat’s Nest has a thousand rat shamans and it keeps people away from us. Turns out, just one of them is more than enough to fuck us up.

While Fog was talking to the witch at the Green Nymph, the bounty Glitzy had promised for catching the thief made people about as crazy as we had thought. The Vietnamese brought in Lou Wong, badly beaten – he has bought a mobile soup kitchen a while ago and he didn’t have a really good explanation where the money came from. While we were trying (and failing) to keep the peace, a couple of kids had grabbed Zach. They didn’t really think that one through, he’s just one of the new guys and that was all the reason they needed. I think Rusty almost punched the kid who tried to sell Zach out, at least I could hear him yelling at them even over the noise in the san container before he brought Zach inside, out cold from being tasered.

Fog called at around that time and said that he didn’t think Kiki was involved. We let her look at some photos of the folks at the san station to see if she maybe recognized someone. She did. Me. Apparently I had bought some stuff at the Green Nymph, which was total news to me. But when Fog watched the surveillance she had, he didn’t see me, he saw Gen Wong, Lou Wong’s uncle. Lou had told us that he had gotten the money for his soup kitchen from Gen, but Gen couldn’t remember giving it to him. As far as I could see, both were telling what they thought was true. With the news from Fog, I decided to knock Gen out with a tranq patch because he suddenly was our number one suspect. Worked beautifully, too, until we realized that I hadn’t drugged Gen but one of the Vietnamese.

At that moment, we all got a message from Zach: someone was trying to slip out of the door, not that we could see anyone. Rusty had been put under a spell to step aside, but he was still close enough to try and hit Gen with pepper spray. I called Meredith to help me find Gen – he clearly had learned to evade cameras and without a spirit to help us, we didn’t stand a chance of finding him. Jet and Rusty had both been hit by some kind of acid, the container wall started to melt and a fucking rat spirit popped up in the middle of the san container. It was complete chaos in a matter of seconds.

I was already at the door and got out before people started to panic. Meredith had found Gen and had grabbed him, so I followed as quickly as I could, wading through the mud and the knee high water. Gen had already made his way to the back of the san container. I aimed a bit below Meredith and fired, hoping like hell I’d actually hit something.

I didn’t even see the rat spirit on top of the container before I was splattered with acid. Eating its way quickly through my coat and then through my skin. Didn’t feel much pain, though, not at the time. I was too focused on killing Gen because if he got away, he’d play hell with the Nest. I don’t even know how many shots I fired, but just when he had called two more spirits, I finally killed him. The two spirits disappeared again, but the rat spirit freed itself. I felt Gen leave his body – he was fucking determined, I give him that. Meredith followed him, but the rat spirit was quicker and killed what was left of Gen, doing us all a favor.

I put a last bullet into Gen, just to make sure. Murder, maybe, but to protect the Nest I’d do it again. And now I really felt the pain from the burns, like someone had doused me in gasoline and lit it with a match. The rat spirit had almost finished me – I hadn’t even realized how badly I was hurt until now. I didn’t have any strength left and I fought to stay conscious. I’m not too clear on what happened next, but I think Growler carried me into the Barrel. I know I screamed.
The san station is pretty wrecked after the rat spirit dissolved the ceiling (and Stanley’s containers on top…it seems that we really shouldn’t live above the clinic). Stanley, Liz and Glitzy had their hands full treating the people hurt by the spirit and during the panic. Glitzy patched me up and I think she did a fine job, although my back still feels like someone has skinned me alive. Oh, wait. Someone did.

Ningbo has been put under a permanent spell by Gen, one that stays in effect even after Gen’s dead. Zach noticed him hacking into the san container door to let Gen out and told the Scrappers (through my commlink) to arrest him. They did, but he put up a fight, screaming that the Nest belongs to the rats, not the dogs and that he was done with having me in charge. We’re keeping him unconscious for now, Glitzy says she can do something about the spell. But first we had to take care of the rat spirit and wherever Gen has been holed up. I’m also fairly sure that Ningbo’s not the only sleeper agent Gen has created.
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To Protect and Serve
Fog's Audios

To Protect and Serve

[Start Audio]
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As a bonus to a good thing that happens once in a while, Kiki also could help me out with finding our suspect…weird enough, when I showed her the people of our place she recognized Neil.
When I called, he was just as stumped as I was, but being the trainee of an illusionist, I asked her to show me her cam material. Electronics are a lot harder to fool than vision 1.0…
And there we had our winner.
A guy called Gen Wong. Old dude from China Town.
Neil and the others said they would check that. I trusted them to handle this, I mean, one guy versus Neil, Glitzy and our merry bunch of misfits?
No way this could go south, right?
Right?
I packed my stuff and asked Kiki if she wanted to see my place. She was happy to get out for a bit and so we hit the road with my Growler.
Another thing about her is that she has a tendency to attract bad luck. Like, not on a scale we do, but more like stuff that shows that karma has some hours for personal crotch-kicking reserved for you.
We got into a standard police control.
To be honest, I never had that problem. Police around my turf is more like everyone else, small time thugs among small time thugs, if you want.
But how bad could it be? They’d check my nonexistent plate and ID, ask for some bribe and be on their way, or something…
Fuck, was I wrong…

[End Audio]

[Start Audio]
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You probably know that shit gets real if I need a break between these.
Two cops, a rookie and his veteran partner. They went pretty much by the book for the first minute or so. Kiki looked seriously troubled but I didn’t quite get why.
To double check our story of…quietly riding along the road…they put me into their car, with cuffs and all that shit.
Being a free man, as free as it gets, I might add, this almost made me punch my way out of this, but for the sake of my witch and my conveniently bullet-free guts I kept my cool.
That asshole probably thought I wouldn’t hear him, but they failed to frisk for my audio enhancer and so I’ve heard every word and implication he made.
“Come on, you know how this works. Or do you want to go back to jail?”
Even without that, the groping was a language of its own.
And when he dragged her into the near woods, Crow and I agreed that this would end in blood, screaming and broken bones.
Had to do something about my restrained status first, though.
Steckler’s partner, Engelmann stayed at the car to watch me. Reinforced glass between him and me, doors were, of course, locked. What his partner did, didn’t seem to bother him, so talking some conscience into him was no viable option either.
My mind frantically picked up and threw away ideas until finally, after painful seconds I came up with something solid.
Smoked up and freaked out the cop who thought the back of the car was on fire.
He was no idiot, so he carefully opened the door, weapon drawn.
I kicked the door open and jumped outta there like a bastard offspring of a lightning and quicksilver.
He fired, missed, another bullet got caught by my suit.
Spirits, I love that thing. Lost count how many times it saved my live and I had the feeling today my armor was in for some overtime.
With my hands bound and balance fucked up this had to be quick work. That rookie cop was not a bad fighter, but when I finally managed to make two swift kicks connect, he was down.
What came now, and is sadly also available on ‘Tube, is what my fans call the cuff dance…roughly ten seconds of me struggling to get rid of those stupid piece of shit metal rings around my wrists. Even magically boosted to the level of an angry ork on ’roids it took me forever…not my greatest moment, admittedly.
Steckler came back, tripping on Jazz, weapon in hand and firing.
I had to hunker down, he was calling reinforcements.
Alright, no time for the fancy stuff, no running, no hiding.
I focused, made the world go a lot slower for me and dashed right towards him.
Dodged one or two bullets, another one cracked a rip and I’m sure the sheer force of the hits I took gave me some internal trauma.
But right now, all that mattered was that I got closer with every split second and he couldn’t stop me.
When I closed in, time oozed away in lazy drips, mana gathered along with my rage and urge pound this fucker six feet deep.
Let’s pause here for a minute, ‘cause I feel like you should know one or two important things.
I killed a couple o’ times in self defense. Once for greed’s sake.
The world is a sick, sad place most of the time. I get why people are the way they are. I get why they exploit, cheat, lie and seize opportunities. Some want power, some are ambitious or deluded or just try to get by their way. I take no offense in that.
Sonny andRico, good example. They use their influence as cops to milk some cash out of desperate people. But at the end of the day? They provided folks who have nowhere else to go with a roof above their heads. There is no real harm in what they do while they cheat the system.
The very low amount of true hatred I got is reserved for guys like Steckler.
Men who think they can fuck the system instead of cheating it. The difference between a rich or confident gambler and a rabid dog, to simplify things a bit.
You know, I don’t kill often because it doesn’t solve problems. If I had snapped Fedderson’s neck back then it would’ve created far more misery than, for the lack of a better word, justice.
But sometimes an asshole just needs to be taken down and that is that.
Walter Steckler crossed a line when he thought he could get away with trying to rape my girl.
Wrong day, wrong guy.
The first blow evened out the cracked rip-score.
Second went straight for his head. Can’t really tell what happened, but what I saw later in the news was pretty fucking scary and impressive.
Never seen my smoke so dense and deadly, shedding feather shaped shadows along my trail and crashing into that cop’s face like a tidal wave.
He was down, a puppet with its strings cut and a blink later I’d dragged him up again. That drekhead was still breathing and I gave him one last chance, one last shot at saving his worthless hide.
He botched it, as you might’ve guessed.
Killed that man in cold blood and I’d do it again.
Now’s usually the time for reflection and such things…wondering if what I did was right yadda yadda.
But there’s nothing to question here. I beat Steckler to death with my bare hands and my world is a better place now. Sure, there will be consequences, but ain’t there always?
Kiki’s safe, we’re on the run.
Familiar ground, I’d say.

[End Audio]

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