Never Fade Away (A Cyberpunk Red Tabletop Game) Wiki
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I will defend the faith
Going down swinging
I will save the songs
That we can't stop singing

- Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy (feat. Elton John)

Dossier

K2, pronounced either “Kay-Two” or “Cato”, is a Rockerboy daylighting as a merc to pay the bills. She is outspoken and tends to wear clothes as loud as her opinion. Filling in for area groups in need of an extra body, he preferred to play the alt cafés rather than the clubs (even though the clubs give better ED) and could often be found busking select street corners with his original music. All that changed with a spontaneous debut set at Hammer, and K2 now finds themselves navigating rising fame and stardom.

Above all else, K2 appears to value honor, respect, and honesty.

Physical Appearance

K2 stands 5’7” and is distinctly androgynous in their overall features. Their chemskin is the color of aquamarine-colored water – such as one might only read about now - and their tech hair is short, spiked, and colored: mainly dark blue, but with steaks of red, yellow-orange, and neon blue at the front. Their affectation are contacts that make their eyes look like those of cats, and one eye in particular tends to change with K2’s mood – thanks to a cyber eye with color-shifting capabilities.

Close observers may notice K2 sports a Cyberaudio Suite with level dampeners and a radio scanner/music player, while those few allowed more intimate knowledge of their affairs will have more detailed information regarding K2’s qualities.

History (Contains Spoilers)

Family Backstory

Born October 20, 2024, Parker Huntsman, known by the handle K2, is the middle child of reclaimer parents (handles: Kilo and Tera) who saw the devastation of the Corporate Wars as an opportunity to return to so-called “simpler times” of small, self-sufficient communities in the style of 19th C “utopias” (minus the religious trappings) – with immediate and extended family forming the core of the group.

However, like the settlements of days gone by, they soon found themselves struggling to survive. Taking over what had once been a suburban development, they found themselves on constant lookout for boosters, raiders, and other assorted gangs and “distasteful groups”. They worked out a security system of sorts, and often took turns watching through the night.

One night the community was hit with surgical precision, the attackers interested more in certain supplies the group had than in directly confronting anyone. It so happened that K2 and Syn (aunt on mother’s side) were on guard duty, and while no-one accused either of them of conspiring with the bandits, Syn cast enough doubt on K2’s ability/word of honor that a rift opened between the two. While Syn likely shrugged off her actions, K2 has internalized their anger. While they will not actively seek out their aunt, should the two ever cross paths, K2 is likely to act first and ask questions never.

With their supplies now seriously depleted, the small community disbanded, scattering each of them to larger towns or cities, with K2 finding their way to Night City thanks to a Nomad named Nova. Nova has periodically checked in on what remains of the community for K2.

Relationships

K2 is both nonbinary and demi-pansexual. They have no strong feelings about what pronouns people use for them so long as they are treated with respect. They have had two serious relationships:

  • Dyne was with K2 in the commune and was killed in a building collapse during a storm.
  • Ink was one of the first people K2 met in Night City. Ink chased the leading edge of technology without regard to their own humanity and went into cyberpsychosis. Ink blames K2, as Ink – in their thoughts - only wanted to impress K2 the only way Ink knew how. Ink is now gunning for K2 and – just maybe - anyone else with them, too.


Motivations

As a rockerboy, K2 shares their parent’s dream of a better society. However, they think the best way to do it is to expose the corruption of the current powers and bring them to an accounting of the people they pretend to protect.

K2’s homeschooling taught them enough that they know such firebrands rarely last long, but they are willing to make that sacrifice, confident that when (not if) they go out, it will be with a recognition and reputation unparalleled by anyone else in their family.

Becoming Rockerboy

K2 developed their musical talent early to help pass the time in the commune/community. They really started putting their soul and emotions into their art when Dyne was killed, but there’s only so much that one can rage against life when life’s nearly equally shitty to everyone else, too.

It was also during this time she began dressing in the fashion of a Rockerboy. Although the clothes they wore were nothing like those worn by those in the wider world, they certainly stood out in the community, and her parents expressed their disdain whenever she’d trade her hard-earned/won materials for something flashy, and held an especially strong animosity for her guitar and amp.

What little she was able to ferry away from the commune she sold upon arrival in Night City and immediately upped her Rockerboy game, spending nearly every ED she had on clothes and accessories.


Music is K2’s passion, but it doesn’t pay all the bills . . . yet. To make ends meet she daylights as a merc. Looks like some of those skills gained in the community weren’t all useless after all . . .

In the Game

Welcome to Night City

  • K2 received a message from Fagin to meet at the Tipsy Monk at 10:00 AM; K2 made sure to arrive just before, entering at the same time as Smoke. K2 and Smoke exchanged words about their axe and fist-bumped in their shared nonbinary-ness.
  • Flat broke, K2 was the second to agree to find and return a heifer (not a cow) for a client prepared to pay 8,000 ED for the job. Smoke was the first to agree, and Bit Chaos, Nova, and Fridge followed them.
  • Fridge bought aged tequila for the traditional shots. Everyone seemed fine except for Bit, whose drunken demeanor seriously annoyed K2 - though they also tried to help Bit out (without much success).
  • K2 thought about calling in a favor from a fan to borrow a car to get the party to Rancho Conrad, but Nova told them to save the favor as she’d already called her brother Sonny to get a car from their motor pool.
  • As they drove, K2 tried to keep Bit upright and not let her vomit. This was successful. At the checkpoint, K2’s bright clothing drew the attention of the guard, but they were able to persuade the guard they’d all been called in at the last minute - it being New Years’ Day - and weren’t exactly in delivery service uniform.
  • Finding the truck seemingly abandoned, K2 and Smoke went to investigate while the others stayed by the car in case a hasty exit was needed. Walking around the back, K2 noticed the seal appeared intact the the door apparently locked.
  • It was then K2 noticed a boot sticking out of a nearby gas station bathroom. It was the driver, named Lowell, braindancing with a wreath. K2 tried to remove the wreath, but as she did so was attacked by Lowell - something she knew shouldn’t happen.
  • K2 got in the first punch, but Lowell allrared familiar with a variety of martial arts disciplines. Thankfully, the rest of the party soon caught wind of the fight and joined in. Thanks to Bit grappling Lowell, Smoke shooting him with a nonlethal, and Fridge choking him, Lowell was rendered unconscious.
  • Using his skills, Smoke informed the party the heifer had been hijacked by some red-white-and-blue 6ers and taken to a rather obvious house nearby - though for what purpose was anyone’s guess at that point.

National Myth

The party was able to sneak up on two guards outside the gate to the house where the heifer was being kept. K2 took down one of them with a single swing of his lead pipe, and Smoke took out the other one with a blade.

The group entered the yard with K2 bringing up the rear and Fridge taking advantage of a nearby cherry picker to keep an eye on things from above. K2 was spotted (perhaps due to his clothes) and an alarm began sounding, which Smoke quickly disabled. He exchanged gunshots with the 6er who spotted him, with K2 taking the most damage of the two. Fridge began trying to take guards out inside the house by firing into the windows; one shot went wild and hit K2 in the left shoulder. Smoke sent K2’s attacker into unconsciousness, and K2 finished him off with his lead pipe before entering the house.

Bit had caused quite the pandemonium inside as she found herself surrounded by four 6ers, yet dodged each of their bullets before attempting to slice one of them with her blade. K2 tried to even the odds with his lead pipe, but found himself shot quite severely in the stomach and was forced to retreat outside. Feeling his life ebbing, he began to apply pressure. Smoke hacked K2’s biomonitorand helped get his adrenaline rushing, which helped stabilize him.

The rest of the group finished off the gang (with Smoke literally blinding most of them) and secured the heifer, and they made their way back to the truck and car. K2 rode in the truck to the drop off point at the address MrWilson had provided. On the way, Smoke got the address of a good rippredocfor K2 and Bit, who had taken massive damage to her arm.

Smoke and K2 delivered the heifer to what appeared to be a backyard barbecue for a seven-year-old’s birthday party. K2 had no feelings about this one way or the other, so long as she got paid.

Gifting the truck to the Nomads for their assistance, they made their way to Doc Hazzard, who told K2 there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed. He suggested a new liver, which K2 considered before finally saying “yes” when Doc Hazzard told her Fagin would be taking care of her medical bills in addition to her promised payment. K2 was unsuccessful in convincing Bit to take advantage of the situation and get a cyberarm. After surgery, K2 and the others received payment of 1500 ED each, as well as a message from Fagin that they’d all gained entrance into The Afterlife club – and that with their newfound experience Fagin would no longer be their intermediary for jobs.

They each went their separate ways to clean up before meeting at The Afterlife. K2 changed into muted neon colors. But before they could go in, someone detonated an EMP within a block of the club, causing K2 to go temporarily blind in one eye as well as experience minor organ failure. Fifteen seconds later the electronics started coming back online, including the large outdoor screens. They showed an image of the (in)famous – and decidedly deceased - Johnny Silverhand delivering a message of chaos to the those below.

Runaways

Taken to safety in The Afterlife by Rogue, they tried to collect their thoughts – which, at the time, centered on Smoke’s unconsciousness. K2 couldn’t tell much, but used some bar napkins to clean up the blood that poured from her nose and the blood mixed with clear fluid that came from her ears. When Smoke regained consciousness, the group tried – with limited success – to fill her in on what happened.

Someone threatened to break down the door, and Smoke asked Fridge to please take care of it before their headache got worse. After several false starts and attempts, Fridge opened the door and let someone into the bar that Smoke knew personally and the others knew by reputation: Kerry Eurodyne.

Kerry shook K2’s hand, admired the guitar, and invited them to play sometime. K2’s ears turned warm, though they weren’t sure why.

Kerry and Smoke talked briefly about what was going on; Smoke indicated they were running a program of some kind to prove Johnny Silverhand’sinnocence in the attack, but would need a few minutes to finish coding. While she did so, Kerry poured the others drinks from the bar: an Mk1 Grenade Launcher (a boozy wassail concoction based on Jägermeister and fireball) for Nova and K2, and a lemonade/grenadine mix for Bit Chaos. Nova named the drink “Bloody Punch” and Kerry agreed it was a good name.

Smoke came back with her program finished and decided it was time to tell more of the story. She told the others they had one more chance to bail; K2 said “no way” and listened intently as Smoke filled them in on certain facts of her past and who exactly was behind the attack: a woman (?) Smoke called The Patron Saint of Vicious Cunts. K2 asked for a name to add to their personal shit list and got it: one Alt Cunningham.

It was at this point Rouge came back with her bodyguard/assistant Dodger. Rogue and Smoke discussed the particulars of the gig Kerry was paying for. Some of it went over K2’s head, but the gist of it was that the group of them were being hired to clear Johnny Silverhand’sname and track down whoever had been causing mayhem in Night City. Rogue also told the group they would need a name for their crew.

Smoke suggested taking their findings to local news personality Potion, but in the meantime they would need to kill time. K2 and Nova suggested getting Smoke to a ripperdoc, and Smoke agreed. They made their way back to Doc Hazzard, and while he fixed up Smoke and did some alterations to Nova, K2 and Bit Chaos and Fridge played cards.

Well, they tried to play cards. Fridge tried to teach the other two poker, but was unsure how the game was played. Eventually they settled on Go Fish, with the losers sharing something about themselves. K2 lost twice, and shared they had two siblings and an aunt they hated. He was somewhat surprised that the others so easily agreed that, should the aunt ever show up, they would help K2 beat the shit out of her.

Smoke and Nova returned and they played a few more rounds of Go Fish. K2 lost once and told the others their favorite pizza topping was cheese. Smoke shared even more of her backstory and her old crew (The Runaways) and suggested the five continue using the name. Smoke also wondered if Rogue would give them their old table back (which wasn’t to be: another crew had taken it over; they’d have to fight for it).

With a few more hours to kill before Smoke’s program finished running, they made their way to Kerry’s mansion (where they’d earlier been invited). Smoke got them through the gate and into the house, where it became clear Kerry was Smoke’s mysterious roommate. They crashed for several hours, and when they woke up Kerry was walking about in an animal print robe.

After some brief banter, during which K2 promised to take Kerry up on his offer of playing sometime, they left to meet Potion. The meeting had been moved several times and would now be held at Lizzy’s Bar. K2 started feeling a bit more confident being on familiar ground, and also uneasy given her history there. To her surprise, it was Nova that took the lead, flirting with bouncer Foxy who agreed to let them in for “favors”.

Bit Chaos surprised K2 by whispering something to Foxy, and Foxy agreeing that she didn’t owe a favor. K2’s brain finally kicked into gear; they knew him here, after all. “You know what favors I’ll do and which favors I won’t” she said, and got in with a promise to perform some live music at some point in the near future.

As the group entered, K2 asked “Is she here?”, to which Foxy answered “No. Did you need her?”

“Hells, no!” K2 replied, and Foxy smiled. “Good,” the bouncer nodded.

While the others sorted themselves out, K2 tried to lend a reassuring voice to Smoke, who seemed overwhelmed with . . . joy? . . . at the club. They entered and found Potion, who led them to a back room. K2 walked as though they belonged there.

Smoke did most of the talking and K2 listened. Potion went off to investigate, but hours later had still not been heard from. Smoke then got a call on their phone from the NCPD claiming that Potion hadn’t been seen for the past *26 hours* and they were treating this as a missing person. Smoke bullshitted their way out of the conversation and hung up when another call came in on an encrypted line.

It was Potion, who thought he’d been tagged and possibly kidnapped. Smoke’s attempts to locate him via the net were met with a firewall. A firewall set up by Ajax – Alt Cunningham – The Patron Saint of Vicious Cunts.

Operation Rescue

They passed some time in Lizzy’s, with K2 performing a short set that put listeners in mind of lyrics by Johnny Cash with tunes composed by The Birthday Massacre. The set went well, and K2 even made a couple of new fans, who went away excitedly with signed demos.

“Tell your friends and family and your roommates!” K2 called after them.

“if you like it the name’s K2, if you don’t like it the names B52?” Nova asked.

“if you like it the name’s K2, and if they don’t like it the name’s still K2,” she replied kindly yet confidently. “I stand by my music.”

“I respect that.”

Somehow, in ways they weren’t quite sure of, K2’s walking back and forth and banter with Nova have Smoke some kind of inspiration.

“K2, you’re brilliant,” she said, and then Smoke proceeded to tell the group a more detailed account of their past history and current theories as to what was happening with Potion and the seeming reappearance of Johnny Silverhand.

Following up on the ideas would require some programs to be reloaded; while Smoke did that K2 played a bit more and Nova and Bit Chaos worked on updating the tech on Nova’s rifle - revealing that Bot Chaos was quite capable in her chosen field as she upped Nova’s rate of fire from one to two.

Smoke’s programs finished installing and she called Foxy over to reiterate her joy at finding the club and to warn her trouble might follow them - not least because infamous killer Marcus Collins (the “Watson Widowmaker”) had escaped death row just prior to his execution. Foxy replies that NCPD had been tight lipped on The Mox’s involvement in apprehending him in the first place.

It was decided to track Potion form where he was supposed to have been: Eden Club. They drove there in Bit Chaos’ van/home with K2 holding on to a bench in the back.

They arrived to find a police presence already in the area - with two black vans surveilling the area from an alley - and chose to act as if nothing was wrong. They were too early for the club to be open, and Smoke was unable to appeal to the bouncer (named Michaels) to let them in and he wasn’t a fan of K2’s (yet, though he also missed an opportunity to give out another demo).

Amazingly it was Bit Chaos that wore him down with her talk of a relatively obscure mixed drink or cocktail she called “Wolf Crazy Tornado Drink” - the syllables of which cussed K2’s head to hurt. She rambled on and on and on and Michaels must have felt sorry for her because they left of good terms.

Smoke received a communication from one Trace Aldecado, a “free pressman” and contact for their . . . interests. The two vans started to tail Bit, and they as they tried to lose their tail the group realized they were hungry. Smoke told Bit to drive to “Caliente Capitan” - a place she knew from eating with Kerry.

Most of them ordered the nachos, but hardly had their food arrived than the police showed up. They tried to leave and the cop - maybe Kenneth Royale? - followed them out. Smoke made a scene and accused the man of harassment (true) and essentially told him to pound pavement.

leaving, they carefully made their way to Trace Aldecaldo who waited for them at a safe house. Knowing the police were not far behind, he and Smoke (with help from BIt’s workshop) rigged up a trap at nearby intersection. The group would follow a lead on Potion into the badlands; when the cops showed up Trace used a non-leathal IED to disable the police van while simultaneously escaping on his own motorcycle.

They hid Bit’s van and waited for Nova’s truck. They piled in, with K2 in the back between Fridge and Bit. Their plan worked and they drove unimpeded into the badlands following a tip that Potion was being held at a remote wind/sun farm.

they found the place at dusk and a shootout ensued, with K2 being largely ineffectual in the actual fight but able to literally hold Fridge’s arm together when he was shot and offering his lap as a table for Bit to unjam Fridge’s gun. Nova literally drive the truck into the men shooting at them and - with difficulty - she and Smoke took care of the rest.

Bit and K2 and Fridge went into the house and came up against a door with a magnetic lock. Bit couldn’t force it but K2 used her bat to persuade it to open. In the room beyond they found Potion tied to a chair and a laptop on a nearby table.

K2 untied Potion, and he confirmed he’d been drugged after Eden but before Lizzy’s. He also said the ones who’d taken him planned to use a Rogue Soulkiller program on him before he could be rescued.

Getting Potion back to the truck, he continued to give Smoke the details he could remember as The Runaways made their way back to Night City.

Baby You’re a Haunted House

The Runaways made their way back to Night City with Nova driving, Potion and Bit Chaos in the back, along with Fridge. K2 and Smoke switched places so Smoke could work on keeping Fridge alive.

———

As Nova navigated everyone back to Night City she turned the radio up for some quality music to drive too. “I do not need to remind you that the screamsheets had given Collins the nickname of "The Watson Widowmaker" for a reason: the man is dangerous and unpredict…” she promptly click the dial low. They had all heard about the sycophant that was now roaming the streets. The thought of that guy being loose in the city made her sick. Foxy’s concern was understandable, but Nova had no intention of being flatlined and leaving her input alone in the world.  

She glanced at the back seat in the rear view “How you doing back there Fridge?” She asked  glancing back over her should at the solo. Before turning back in time to course correct around a cactus.

Smoke had insisted on staying in the back with Fridge, making sure that their own neural link was focused on their clotting factor and adrenaline while their hands were preoccupied with pressure on Fridge's arm. The reminder that Collins was still on the loose added to the copper at the back of their throat, though the bullet wound they were trying to ignore also had a hand in said bitter aftertaste.

"He's clotting well and the adrenaline's gotta be a nice high to float on. Now if he'd promise to not punch anymore flora before we make it to Doc's I think everything'll be preem."

K2 had taken over Smoke’s position riding shotgun. “Good to hear. I tried to hold him together best I could - can’t have a choom bleed out on me, you know?”

In his head, K2 went over his shit list. Looked like Collins was on it now, and that cop was jockeying for a spot, too.

"Thankfully you're able to do your digital magic, otherwise that could have gotten more dicey." Nova said to Smoke looking back at them in the rear view. "If you still have any of that anger left in the tank after we hit up Doc Hazard's, maybe you can help pound out the dent from the scav I used as a breaker."

She glanced to K2 and held her fist up for a bump. "You did great."

K2 returned the fist bump and nodded in appreciation.

“Thanks. Your driving was something else.” And she chuckled as she recalled the sound of the van hitting the shooter.

“I’m glad that my Angel was able to make me into a ‘runner. If I was still like how I was back in the day, you’d just have another Solo back here bleeding out on your interior.” Smoke yet again was thanking whatever higher power that was smiling down on them for the crew they managed to stumble into, echoing Nova’s statement about K2 with an enthusiastic nod.

“We did good, All of Us.”

"That we did, your full of surprises." Nova said with a smile, "hold tight." She added as she swerved to miss an outcropping of stone. "At a girl Gamera." She said softly as she patted the dashboard. "Wouldn't be the first time, she cleans up nice though."

Bit had been quietly listening to everyone. She was using her time to think about how she could enhance the others weaponry as they would definitely be needing the best.

————

They dropped Potion off at his house to a number of . . . fans? friends? romantic interests? – the situation seemed somewhat nebulous – and headed to Doc Hazzard’s. It was late, and the good doctor was clearly nearly asleep when the Runaways came knocking.

“Any more of this, and I may just have to set up a repeat customer discount.”

“Do we get a punchcard?” asked K2

“So like, every ten surgeries we get an ice cream?” asked Bit.

Doc Hazzard just shook his head. “Okay, what do we have this time?”

“Well, his arm is the most serious thing I think. Between all of us we managed to keep it together, but it’s only holding on by a tendon.” Smoke looked gratefully over at K2 as she continued, “As for me, I’ve got a bullet rattling around in here,” and Smoke lifted her corset to show where one round had made it through her armor and corset and entered her gut.

“And what would you like done with your arm?”

Fridge spoke slowly. “I thought about harpoon arms, seeing as that’s what did most of the damage anyway.”

“A good choice,” the rest agreed.

Doc Hazzard quickly did his work on Smoke and then went to being on Fridge, but was soon back.

“What’s wrong?” they all asked, concerned.

“He’s asked me to try to save the hand rather than simply amputate,”

“Makes sense for a Solo; he needs his hands,” Smoke explained.

“I can do the work, but it will take time.”

“But he’ll be okay?” Bit wanted to clarify.

“Yes. Things would go smoother with an assistant, but he will be fine. Come to think of it, if you keep brining me business like this, I may be able to afford one . . .”

They laughed, knowing he was trying to lighten then mood.

“Okay then, it’s off to the shops. We need supplies and cigars and rum if we can find it,” Smoke began

Doc Hazard turned around. “If you’re needing to resupply, you may want to see what they have next door. New shop just opened; they may have what you’re looking for.”

“Thanks for the tip!” Nova and Smoke said together.

The Runaways went next door and entered what looked like a fancy bodega. It was bright and clean and somewhat industrial, with metal shelves behind glass holding an array of items that increased in price the further back one went. Despite a soft dingwhen they entered, no clerk appeared. It put K2 in mind of a vending machine.

K2 and Bit browsed a bit while Nova and Smoke seemed to find what they wanted right away and approached the register. A hologram appeared and, in a very pleasant voice, welcomed Nova to “Chapel” and asked if he would like to make a purchase or require a service. He listed what he needed and then asked for the total. The AI indicated that Chapel was a Barter House, and that prices would be arrived at based on what might be agreeable to both Chapel and the customer. A unique system, which Nova found easy to navigate. She made her purchases and then Chapel said “a fortune: a hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”

Smoke was next, and while most of the transaction was done in Japanese, she did tell the rest that Chapel was all-inclusive and to open a Chapel account. Fortune: a new perspective will come with the new year.

K2 ended up buying a set of brass knuckles, some armor-piercing rounds, and a basic metal bat for Bit to upgrade at some point. She found out why Smoke had told them to get the Chapel account when Chapel gave them a 100 ed credit just for opening an account. The price was just a little higher than what she had anticipated, and she paid 425 ed plus trading her iron rod for her purchases. But, saying “it’s only money,” she agreed to the exchange. Fortune: one bad chapter doesn’t mean your story is over.

Bit followed suit, making purchases and opening an account. Fortune:

Seeing K2 ask for something that wasn’t on display but was in back gave Smoke an idea, and she asked if the shop had any rum or cigars. Chapel thought a moment and then a section of wall lifted up to show very fine rum and cigars indeed. Smoke burned through their savings but got what they needed.

Before they left, Chapel left them all with one final fortune: “courtesy is contagious”

Now able to proceed directly to Pacifica, they made their way there as Smoke explained what it was like – to the best of her memory. The area was run by the Voodoo Boys and was dominated by two main buildings: a crumbling amusement park and nearby hotel known as Playland by the Sea. This territory was home to scavengers and the roads were used for housing. In fact, barricades would have made it impossible to drive a vehicle into Pacifica even if they had driven one.

“Above all, be respectful,” Smoke warned them as they crossed into Pacifica. K2 obliged “keep your head, legs, and arms inside the ride at all times,” he said to himself. The Runaways sat at a bus stop, just chilling while also not paying any attention to what was going on around them. After a bus or two passed them by, they started to draw attention, and soon enough a boy of about thirteen – wearing braids and a hoody about two sizes too large for his body – approached. He pulled out a cigarette and Smoke offered a light. The two struck up a conversation.

K2 only half listened to what was going on, waiting for a direct comment.

“Do your friends talk?” the boy asked eventually.

“When the situation calls for it,” K2 replied.

Smoke explained why they were there, with the kid disbelieving parts of their story, particularly about being gone for thirty years. But eventually they must have come to an agreement, because the boy led them to a church – flanked on either side by ten-story buildings yet obviously cared for by those who attended.

They were left outside for some minutes before the boy returned and motioned them inside, where Smoke was dismayed to learn that her former contacts in Pacifica had passed on. The new priest (?), Gaspard, also listened to Smoke explain why The Runaways were in Pacifica, his face first showing he thought them all foolish, then growing serious as the tale went on, and ending with slight suspicion as Smoke asked for a “dragon”. His attitude was changed somewhat when Smoke revealed the rum and cigar. A small measure was poured for them all and the bottle placed on a nearby altar. Then Gaspard lit the cigar and passed it to K2.

“Oh, I’m supposed to smoke it?” he said to himself before seeing Smoke giving him an encouraging look. If a puff could be called respectful, K2 gave it and then passed it on to Bit. In this way, the cigar made it around before ending back at Gaspard, who – after his own puff – placed it leaning against the rum bottle on the altar.

“I will see what can be done,” he said. K2 did not understand Creole, and so could not know what ritual Gaspard performed. But he came back looking . . . not exactly friendly, but definitely friendlier than before.

“A service must be done. This is the way of things.”

“Of course,” Smoke replied.

“Do you believe in ghosts?”

The question caught them a little off guard, but they each agreed that they believed in ghosts to varying degrees.

“We have a safehouse that has become haunted and is in need of exorcising. Our men made it out before the house went on lockdown, but . . . If you could take care of this matter for us, we can give you what you need,” Gaspard said, looking directly as Smoke with his last statement.

The four nodded and, getting the address, made their way towards the safehouse. On the way, their talk turned to how to deal with a ghost – and if it was even real or not. It turned out that while all of them held some superstitions, it was Smoke who was most superstitious of all. They talked of iron and salt and charms as they approached the house. Smoke tried to look for tech but it was dead like the house in the desert. Any tech contained inside was not hooked up to the net.

As they considered their options, a figure in a white dress standing in a second-story window caught their attention. They all spoke at once, each one uttering some version of “You all see that too, right?” when the figure disappeared in a blink. The house was supposed to be on lockdown, but as Bit examined the door, she put away her lockpicking kit and tried the knob. The door swung open with a creak, revealing a dusty foyer and an iron spiral staircase leading to the second floor.

”Well, gang - it looks like we have a mystery on our hands!” K2 exclaimed.

“I love that show,” Smoke said.

“it’s the best,” Bit agreed.

“Timeless,” Nova nodded.

“Let’s go!” said Bit, taking the lead. K2 looked behind them, eyeing the door. It stayed open . . . for now.

“Remember: avoid mirrors and bathrooms,” Smoke reminded everyone as they ascended the stairs: Bit leading the way with a flashlight, Smoke holding on to Bit with their metal arm and clutching a box of salt in the other, K2 following them, and Nova bringing up the rear with another flashlight.

The rooms were staggered catawampus from each other, two on each side. They carefully opened to the door and Bit poked her head around the corner. She immediately backed out. “Nope, that’s a bathroom,” she said.

Crossing over, they noticed the floor here was also covered with a thick layer of in disturbed dust.

The next room over was a bedroom. No mirrors, the bed neat and made and un-slept in, and a closet door. K2 opened the doors while Bit shone the light inside and Smoke made ready with the salt - - but aside from a closet full of stiff white dresses, it was empty.

Nova a Smoke began checking under the bed while K2 and Bit examined the closet. There was nothing under the bed but more dust. Bit, though, found a loose board that, when pushed, swung open to reveal narrow, tunnel-like tracks between the walls.

“Hey! Look at this!” She exclaimed as she claimed up. “Are we sure this is a good idea?” K2 asked, but no one heard them as the others followed Bit into the walls. With a sigh, K2 followed.

The tracks split and Bit chose to go to the right and stay on the upper floor rather than going left and down. A short while later and they came to another panel, but this one was locked. It took both Bit and Smoke working together and shifting positions several times to force the lock and swing the panel open. It looked to be the next room over, but as Bit stepped out she tripped a wire and the door slammed shut and would not reopen.

With no other choice but to go back the way they came, K2 (now in the lead position) began heading toward the room thy’d come from. Bit wanted to take the hallway back, but K2 and Smoke convinced her to stay put. Reinterring the bedroom, they were about to make their way back to Bit when they heard her scream.

Racing into the adjacent room they saw a floating figure reaching out to attack Bit. “You’re not a ghost; you’re just a person!” Smoke called out. The thing seemed uninterested.

“Not enough,” it said as it lashed out with a monowire and struck Bit on the arm.

In response, Nova raised her rifle and fired. The bullets struck and the things fell to the ground with a cry and did not move again. Looking up, Smoke noticed an arial track similar to that used in dry cleaners. Nova and Bit began to examine the “ghost” and were horrified to find that is was a person - apparently acting as their own ripperdoc with badly done cyber surgeries. Nova stayed with Bit as Smoke and K2 went back through into the walls, this time going down and down again to what appeared to be the thing’s lair in the basement.

The found bones, and equipment, and a box of MREs. Smoke also found a hermetically-sealed cooler with more human remains inside and K2’s attention was drawn to a small collection of books on Richard Ramirez - better known as The Night Stalker. Or rather, it was three copies of the same book. Smoke also found an ID for the ghost - a former Night Watch agent named (???)

Going back upstairs, Smoke called Gaspard to fill him in, sending him a picture of their quarry. It was an interesting picture, with Smoke and Nova and Bit looking perplexed, confused, and/or shocked, but K2 was posing as if they’d been on a big game hunt and bagged a trophy.

satisfied that the house was no longer haunted - and convinced they’d taken a serial killer off the streets - Gaspard agreed that the terms had been met, and The Runaways left the building. (Thank you very much.)

Alors on Danse

With time on their hands while Fridge recovered, K2 went back to Lizzie’s. Playing a set that sounded like The Oh Hellos collaborated with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, K2 managed to pick up 8 more fans, brining her total fanbase to 23. They had just finished their set when their agent went off; Smoke sent a message about food at Kerry’s.

Will play for food, babieee they replied.

Back at Villa Eurodyne, K2 discovered the food was pizza delivery, and somehow Bit was still going on about the Wolfcrazy Tornado Drink. This time she was able tio give more details, and it became apparent to Kerry that she had misheard someone telling her in Japanese about a Japanese drink. K2 hoped that solving the mystery of the drink would reduce sonde of the randomness in Bit’s conversations, While Kerry tried to recreate the drink from his well-supplied stores, The Runaways began to debate whether or not food should have priority in consuming fresh water. K2 did his best to participate in the conversation, which seemed to come back to the idea that the corpos would be corrupt no matter what.

Bit said something brilliant about everything turning to fungi in the end, and K2 was about to make a comment on it when Kerry interrupted that he’d made the drink. It was good, or so K2 thought, though Nova seemed to react rather differently. It would be a wonder if Nova remembered anything over the next few hours.

Kerry then offered up a variety of mood-altering substances. Bit went for a joint but needed Kerry’s help figuring it out. Smoke and Nova declined; or at the very least, nobody let Nova take anything since she could not give consent .”When it comes to sex, drugs, and rock & roll I might as well go for two out of three,” K2 said as Kerry handed him a paper filled with polka dots. The green tasted like an artificial green apple and causing a burning euphoria. A little later on, the yellow had hints of lemon and resulted in a giddy mania. K2 ended the evening trying to stick a guitar pick to vertical surfaces before passing out, awaking some hour later with a piece of pizza stuck to her face.

Peeling it off, Bit came inside from spending the night in her van. She carried a box with a large red button, but didn’t seem to know what it was, and despite everyone else trying to figure out what it did, they all came up empty. K2 tried suggesting looking at Bit’s inventory list, while also knowing Bit was unlikely to have such a thing. This suspicion proved accurate. Nova awoke having no memory of what happened after downing Kerry’s concoction, and soon The Runaways became convinced Bit’s box held her memories - a theory not even Smoke’s realization the mystery box was radioactive dispelled.

Smoke focused on making breakfast while Bit went out and talked to Kerry, who was in a melancholic mood on his balcony. With breakfast consumed, they decided to follow Bit’s lead and go “dumpster diving” by raiding the junkyard, passing several Night Corps construction sites on the way. The place was filled with bad smells and little surveillance; between Bit and Smoke everyone was able to at least filter out the smell.

Poking around, K2 found what had once been a 1970s Fender Stratocaster among the rubble. The body was still there, but it would clearly take a great deal of time, money, and luck to restore the instrument to it’s former glory. A few yards away, Fridge and Smoke appeared to have a conversation while Bit and Nova wandered just a little bit off in the other direction. Soon, Smoke called them all over, asking if they could “hear the music”.

strangely, there seemed to by music rising from the piles of junk, and if pressed, K2 would say it reminded her of Tchaikovsky. Bit went and put her foot in it, literally, and fell into a cavity about five foot deep. Stranger than the sinkhole was the hatch she was now standing on, through which a dim light shown and the music came a little louder.

Smoke checked for traps while she picked the lock and they all discussed if they would open the hatch or not. K2 offered the opinion it would be a waste of the day if they did nothing, and they all seemed to agree. Smoke popped the hatch open and they all entered what looked to be a 1950s style fallout shelter. It was not well maintained, and was filled with crates of Russian MREs and the sound and smell of a petrol/gas generator. There also appeared to be a garden of sorts and a still in rooms off either side of the hallway. At the end of the hallway was a door with a reinforced window set in. Smoke and Bit got the door open, and stepping inside, they noticed a trail of blood on the floor.

The blood was not fresh, but neither was it set, and following the trail they found a body on the floor of what was the kitchen area - a pot of potatoes boiling into burnt nothingness on the stove. K2 checked for a pulse, and while he wasn’t well-versed in medical things, the sound and feeling reminded him of what Smoke’s pulse had felt like after the EMP attack. K2 then did what he had done for Smoke, trying to clean up the person - who was indeed leaking blood and CSF, but to a greater degree. He kept at it while Smoke began to plug themself into the fallen victim as Nova came to offer first aid as well. Fridge and Bit tried looking a round for clues as to what had happened.

K2 plugged in his amp according to Smoke’s instructions so they could hear what was going on “inside” as Smoke went to offer technical aid. Inside, Smoke met the digital version of the individual known as "Pusik”, who further revealed that she was a spy working for Russia: collecting reconnaissance on Night City’s infrastructure as run by Night Corp. She had been attacked though her cybernetics, even though she had no remote link in any of her hardware. Smoke pointed out that it had to be another AJAX attack, given the similarity to the EMP attack and even the brain dance hijackings. Together, the Runaways helped her back to mental and physical health enough for her to regain consciousness. Specifically, K2 helped create a safe space by plugging in Smoke’s headset and singing/humming “Peter and the Wolf”. Prokofiev wasn’t Tchaikovsky, but at least it was Russian . . .

With with everyone now up and moving, they needed to get her out of the bunker. When they tried asking Pusik further questions in the meat, it was discovered that she couldn’t talk. When she tried to speak, her voice came out in rough, rasping noises in the back of her throat. Using a notepad, she said she probably would need to report to her superiors soon, and when asked where they were, she pointed up into the sky.

Smoke deduced she meant superiors were in space, and, since they were all after the same thing when it came to taking down Alt, space was clearly the next stop. With a suitcase full of cash and a suitcase full of weapons, they exited the bunker. Clicking a remote, it exploded behind them. They did not look back.

Old Friends/Bookends

They loaded back up into Bit’s van and decided to head back to Doc Hazzard’s. Leaving the junkyard, they hit something that seemed to knock the undercarriage, and while the van could still be driven safely, Bit looked concerned. When the finally arrived at Doc’s, Bit dropped off the others and excused herself to go fix her ride.

Smoke gently led Kat inside and explained her situation to Doc Hazzard.

“I can help her, but it’ll likely take a majority of my stock and a great deal of time,” he warned the group.

“Do what you can, and we’ll make sure you get paid,” Smoke assured him.

Smoke and Nova and Fridge sat in the waiting room; K2 paused a moment before sitting down.

“So, how are we going to pay for this?” Nova asked.

“Now let’s just hold on one second,” K2 interjected. “Do we want to discuss this on an empty stomach?”

“No, you’re right,” Smoke agreed.

“Okay then, I’m going next door to Chapel. Any requests?”

They all shook their heads and K2 went next door. Things had changed a little: the store was just as clean but perhaps a little better stocked at first glance. A chime went off as they entered and Chapel materialized almost instantly.

“Welcome and good afternoon.” There was a brief pause before the AI continued. “Thank you for coming back, K2. Do you require assistance with anything today?”

“I’m looking for some snacks. Something crunchy and salty and maybe some soda.”

“Might I direct your attention to the All Foods’ Cabinet?” The lights dimmed, or perhaps one certain light shone a little brighter.A cabinet stood out, well-stocked with chips and soda – exactly what K2 was looking for.

“Thanks for shining a light on the situation, Chapel!” K2 exclaimed good-naturedly.

“Was that sarcasm or irony?”

“Let’s go with irony; I wasn’t trying to be mean.”

“Does sarcasm have to be mean?”

“I guess not. I was just trying to be funny!”

“It was certainly taken that way, K2”

K2 gave Chapel a double-thumbs-up. “Heyyyyy”

“And will you be bartering today or would you prefer a more Western method?”

“You know what? Let’s haggle. I could use the experience at the very least.”

“Very well then. With your current items, we are prepared to accept 13 eddies.”

“Hmmm. If I accept your first offer, that’s not haggling, now is it?”

“I believe this is the case.”

“Okay then, what would you say to 11 eddies?”

“We would counter with 12.50 eddies.”

“That’s acceptable to me” K2 said with a grin.

“And will you be paying with your Chapel account or with what you have on hand?”

“The Chapel account will be fine today.”

“Very well. A fortune for you: ‘You must try, or hate yourself for not trying.’”

“Thanks, Chapel! I think I understand this one better than the last one.”

“Sometimes we all need some introspection.”

“True, True” K2 agreed as they went back to Doc Hazzard’s.

K2 set the food down, and found Fridge in conversation with Nova and Smoke about Chapel and the nature of AI. The conversation ended with Fridge looking down at his morphine pump and saying

“Thank you, little morphine pump”

“That’s the spirit!” K2 said encouragingly. “Now, where were we?”

“Trying to figure out how to pay for all this,” Smoke reminded her.

“Hmm. Well. I’m starting to get a few fans. Maybe I can put a gig together somewhere?” K2 suggested.

Smoke got a gleam in her eye. “You’ve got better than that, K2: you have a promise to jam from Kerry!”

“Do you think he’d go for it?”

“Text him and ask.” Smoke shrugged. “Tell him you’re trying to play Hammer.”

K2 pulled up his agent and was reminded that Kerry had sent them all his deetswhen they’d first met at his house.

You still up to jam? Trying to put a gig together at hammer

- Hell yeah! You have an in or do you need me to arrange it.

This could be important for us. If you have an in, I could use it.

- Consider it done. What the plan. What do I need to play? You know what: why don’t I call you?

The phone rang:

- So. Tell me what’s up.

Well I’ve only got my guitar . . .

- Okay, so I’m bass. Cool cool. You need a drummer? Keyboard?

Drummer: yes. Keyboard is being taken care of. Smoke says she’s getting Ghost.

- Sweet. I have a drummer but she’ll want to meet you. You okay with coming out to North Oaks?

Sure thing.

- Okay. Now, what’re we playing?

I’ll send you a demo and some lyrics I’m working on.

- Got it. See you soon. Bring your swim trunks.

K2 relayed everything to the group and then asked Smoke, “You want to be my manager?”

A small smile crossed Smoke’s face. “I’d love that. We’re roadies now.”

They went back to Kerry’s, and Smoke went digging in some boxes and pulled out their favorite blacks with sizes perfect for Fridge and Nova.

“I look good in black,” Nova observed.

“You should invite Foxy,” Smoke told Nova, and Nova sent off a text, though it wasn’t immediately responded to. Foxy may have been bouncing someone – in one way or another.

Now changed, they piled into Kerry’s car to drive the 1/16 mile to his neighbor’s house, where a large pool party was already in progress.

There were several well-known celebrities; K2 recognized Potion right off and maybe one or two others if he heard their names. There were a few glances in their direction; most seemed to want a glimpse of Kerry. “So, what do you think? Did I choose well?”

K2 nodded.

“Great. Now let’s get down to business.” Kerry said, and took them over to a woman in a two-piece bathing suit that left little to anyone’s imagination.

“Denny, this the group I’ve been telling you about. I think you already know Smoke.”

Smoke and Denny embraced. “Denny was drummer in Samurai back in the day,” Smoke explained.

Denny looked them all over. “Let’s take this inside, shall we?”

They went inside to find a more classically-decorated home than they’d seen at Kerry’s. They were led to an interior office with windows facing the pool; at the push of a button, the windows frosted and the exterior sounds muted. The sounds of a water feature now filled the space, making a not unpleasant situation. Rather than sitting at the desk, Denny leaned on it in the manner of those who want to say “I’m going to tell it to you straight and not take advantage of you.”

Denny looked over K2’s lyrics, and the two discussed the nature of fame. K2 was apprehensive about things moving so fast, but went through bravely – bolstered in part by a blue-colored signature liquor provided by Denny. The business side of things concluded, Denny looked at her watch.

“We’ve got two hours until the set. Are you leaving out the front or ourthe back?”

“Out the back,” K2 said, and they walked back through the party. Now, though, people seemed to be talking about them and not necessarily Kerry. People were starting to notice, it seemed, and were starting to talk as well.

“Who are they? Oh, they’re friends of mine,” they heard Potion saying behind them.

Kerry drove them to a nearby storage facility to get his van, which had equipment for that night. Nova and Fridge drove the van; Kerry drove his car with Smoke and K2. They arrived at Hammer just as Denny arrived on a motorcycle. Though she wore more clothes than before, they were somehow more revealing than her bathing suit had been. Not that it mattered.

K2 took a good look at Hammer. This was a place that was the stepping stone for many an artist. Big names and nobodies played its stage; the only thing that mattered was the music for the music’s sake, and many a nobody left Hammer having taken the first steps to true stardom. And the people knew it, and so they came every night in hoped of being part of music history. K2 wondered how tonight would go.

The manager came out, and Kerry handed him a box wrapped in gold paper. He smiled and then spoke to K2, “So, what do you have for us tonight?”

K2 handed them the set list. With two of the four living members of Samurai on stage, it only made sense to play something familiar. Chippin’ In and Archangel, followed by a few of the songs from K2’s demo, and ending with the new song sent to Kerry and Ghost and Denny just a few hours before.

“I’ll do what I can to get you set up but then I’ve got to see the Voodoo Boys about something,” Smoke said. “I promise to be back for the set.”

“Anyone know how to set up a holobox?” the manager asked?

“I’ve got some experience,” Nova replied, and began fiddling with the box. She knew more than she was letting on, because it didn’t just turn on – it seemed to actually be better than it had any right to look.

The stage set, they retired to the Green Room. Denny seemed to be in some sort of meditation; Kerry ate burritos and took some uppers – for medical purposes, it would seem; and K2 rocked gently back and forth to keep themselves from throwing up. And then it was time.

The manager announced them simply as “K2, backed by Kerry Eurodyne, Denny, and Ghost.” The holobox sprang to life and a keyboard and mix deck appeared, presided over by Ghost:a female-presenting person dressed in black with white makeup, wearing a crown of thorns and an inverted neon cross on their forehead.

K2 got a good look at the crowd. The people he’d seen outside were nothing compared to what was inside, which was now standing room only. There were more people here than had been at Denny’s party. K2 glanced to the side and saw Smoke had come back and was giving them a thumbs up. The energy was nearly palpable, and K2 chose to ride it:

“All right Hammer, let’s make some noise!” The crowd roared its approval and K2 counted themselves in under the cacophony.

1 2

1 2 3

And then they launched into Chippin’ In. If K2 thought it was loud before, it was nothing to this. Two members of Samurai playing their own song? The crowd loved it, and K2 noticed Kerry smile and turn up the monitors. He’d done this before.

Archangel done, they switched to K2’s demo songs, and the crowed grew quieter as these songs were unfamiliar to them. The energy, though – the energy in the club continued to hum and surge and look for an outlet. And then came the finale: K2’s new song they called Immoral/Immortal – an industrial-metal ballad of a toxic relationship. And though the song was new to them, the crowd ate it up. As the last notes died away, K2 heard them chanting her name along with Kerry and Ghost and Denny. Chanting and stomping and cheering. For them. K2 raised hands in personal victory.

Kerry came up beside them. “You did it, K2! You did it!! Can you hear them?!”

“I can herethem,” K2 replied, but their joy faltered as they saw a hooded figure holding a sign: “Never Forget Ink”

Fuck. Not Tonight.

But just as quickly, the crowd shifted and they were gone from sight.

“You know what this means?” Kerry asked excitedly. “Green room stuff! What do you want?”

“Pancakes. Lots of pancakes.”

Enjoying pancakes from all over Night City, as well as alcohol and other food Kerry ordered in, the party continued back stage. At first, Smoke was excited, talking about how they’d live streamed the set and things had blown up online. Wouldn’t be surprised if some of the radio stations picked it up for replay later that night. Bit had joined the stream, and contributed some slick dance moves. But after a while, they began to look a bit off. Not sick, but more . . . sadly nostalgic.

“Let’s move this party somewhere else,” Kerry suggested.

“So long as I don’t have to drive,” K2 said.

“Leave that to me,” Nova answered gladly, and they all made their way to Club Eden, where Smoke saw the bouncer that had tried to help them before and explained Bit’s drink. Club Eden was a bi-lighting free for all and Smoke’s mood improved immediately as they were led to Kerry’s VIP booth.

Denny had to leave soon after they arrived; someone had put soap in her pool.

They all left the club about 2 AM, and as they left, they noticed a hooded figure standing under the same streetlight the cop car had been parked previously. It was the same figure from the Hammer, and K2 swore under their breath.

Smoke, somehow, convinced Kerry to go home without arguing and then took a look at the person in the net. She initiated a silent call. “Do you know this person?”

K2 nodded, “I think so, but they’re even more different than the last time I saw them. They’re the one responsible for tonight’s song.”

“Cyberpsychosis?”

“Just a little,” and K2 held up two fingers close together.

“Lovely,” Smoke said as they also sent vidcapto the group. The person showed up as blue tinged with red fire. “They’re wielding Ajax. Not infected by it. Not riding it. Wielding it. They’re just waiting to be let off-leash, and I think both Ajax and the cops are watching us.”

“Then let’s not provoke anything,” K2 said.

“If we run, we might be able to make it to Old Chinatown.”

“You lead and I’ll follow,” K2 said.

They ran, but the figure seemed faster. They made it to a parking garage and hauled themselves up and over a guard rail; the figure did the same in one smooth motion. There was a flash, and Smoke started bleeding from her nose. At the back of the pack, Fridge struggled with his arm and started swearing, finding it jammed. Nova tried to run and gun, and managed a very glancing blow against their pursuant.

K2 tried persuasion, “Leave us alone, Ink” and though the hooded person hesitated slightly and perhaps even slowed their stride just fractionally, they did not stop nor did they give an answer.

Smoke seemed to try to take out some defenses and perhaps hack their legs, and while their initial attack went smoothly, the attacker kept coming. They all made it to a stairwell and slammed the door behind them. Their follower kept running to the edge of the parking garage and, rolling over the barrier, began climbing up the exterior of the building.

Smoke changed direction and headed down, followed by Nova and then Smoke and Fridge. They emptied out into the street and watched as the hooded figure finished climbing to the roof. Smoke’s eye twitched ever so slightly, and K2 got the impression they were recording. The person stopped at the top of the garage, the wind blowing against their hood, which remained unmoving. In the net, shared by Smoke, they screamed wrath and rage into Night City, and a small EMP went off, darkening the garage and the building next to it.

“I found who did the EMP. Send” Smoke said.

Ballroom Blitz

They retreated to an alleyway, their lungs burning as exertion caused them to catch their breath. Darkness covered them as the smell of a restaurant at closing time wafted on the air. Frustrated, Fridge tried forcing his new harpoons open, until Smoke warned him off. Smoke herself was bleeding, and K2 jokingly mentioned that this was getting to be a pretty bad habit. Nova suggested heading back to Doc Hazzard’s, and K2 told Smoke not to worry about the money it would cost.

They turned to leave the alley when bright floodlight illuminated the alleyway. An AV deposited three men at the entrance: K2 could see one held a scanner and another a gun, but could not make out what – if anything – the third individual held. Stenciling on the AV indicated Trauma Team had arrived. K2 and Nova hugged the wall, and Fridge followed their lead.

The one with the scanner honed in on Smoke, while the seemingly unarmed individual picked up Smoke’s organic wrist and asked “May I?”

Smoke nodded an assent while verbally saying “huh?”

“Ms Arasaka, can you walk to the AV?”

“Who?”

“She might be experiencing brain trauma.”

“How hard did I hit my head?”

“How hard would you have to hit it to effect all of us?” Nova asked.

“I don’t have Trauma Team . . .” Smoke protested.

The one checking Smoke’s vitals brought up a set of schematics. “Chiyo Arasaka, will you please come with us for imaging and treatment at the hospital?”

Confused, Smoke put up a brief protest before switching tactics to allow the party to come with her.

“Your friends will need to make their own way.” (and then turning to the rest) “We are traveling to the hospital in City Center, where you will find your friend in the Platinum Ward.”

With further protest futile, Smoke allowed herself to be taken into the AV. Nova, Fridge, and K2 talked briefly as they walked back to Nova’s car (called Gamera) and held on tight as she proceeded to drive with haste (while not breaking any traffic laws) to the hospital at City Center.

Smoke must have sent a message to Kerry, because K2 got a text on her agent from him:

What’s going on? Are you alive? Is everyone dead? What happened??

Trauma came for Smoke. Taking her to the platinum ward in the hospital at City Center. They keep calling her Ms Arasaka?

What the hell? I’m on my way.

Nova and K2 and Fridge arrived at the hospital, passing a small group protesting the high cost of Trauma, the only health insurance available in Night City. Night City riot police were there making sure things didn’t get out of hand outside the hospital’s 250 floors.

They entered and approached the front desk; Nova took the lead in talking to an AI attendant who, satisfied with Nova’s answers as to the reason of their visit, directed them to a private elevator that would take them to the platinum ward. The elevator itself rose like a vertical bullet train, covering most of the hospital’s height in about a minute and a half.

Finding another AI attendant, they were led into an empty room.

“Ms Arasaka is in imaging but will be done soon; she will be brought here for observation.”

The door had barely closed behind her when they opened again and Smoke was brought in. She woke up smoothly and blinked slowly, looking around the room and at her friends.

“You in there?” Nova asked.

“I think so,” Smoke replied, and then the party talked about what was happening. Theories ranged from a bad dream to laced pancakes to an elaborate setup, but nothing provided satisfactory answers.

A nurse came in. “Mr Goro Takemurais on his way up, Ms Araska. As the primary contact on your account, he was notified by Trauma of your situation.”

They all glanced at each other. Takemura was the bodyguard to Saburo Arakaka, CEO of the Arasaka Corporation. Arasaka practically owned Night City, and Takemura was known to protect its interests by killing without remorse. He had studied the art of samurai, and as such was both fiercely loyal and held honor in high esteem.

K2 asked if they should stay or go, and when Smoke protested she couldn’t make that decision, K2 responded, “Okay, I was going to stay anyway.” She looked at the window and noticed it was heavily reinforced. It wasn’t an escape plan, per se, but rather a worst-case scenario plan that would now need to be rethought.

Goro Takemura entered with a chime at the door. He was dressed in an all-white and carried a smart gun at his side. He passed K2’s initial vibe check, giving off a level of authority tempered with genuine concern and interest. K2 didn’t sense any danger yet; Takemura seemed here to assess the situation.

He looked at Smoke and his expression did not change. K2 wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or scared that it wasn’t a setup.

They held a brief discussion in Japanese before Smoke switched abruptly back to English. “And I still have to fix Fridge’s arm, and I’m starting to wonder who exactly I am, and I just don’t know what’s going on . . .” her voice trailed off.

Takemura crossed the floor and locked the door. He demeanor suggested this was for privacy and not to take care of business. He sat down by Smoke again before continuing in English,

“Do you remember sitting down in a garden, playing go with a man slowly losing a battle with age?”

Smoke’s face scrunched in confusion. “Yeah. Weirdly . . . I do. He brought me miso when I was sick.”

Takemura nodded

“I’m freaking out a bit . . .”

“I have my orders to bring you back to the tower.”

“I don’t remember my past,” Smoke protested as she briefly outlined for Takemura what she knew about herself.

“Yorinobu is concerned about you.”

“So I’m not free to go home; I have to go with you?”

“I have my instructions.”

“Was I in the tower for the thirty years I can’t remember?”

“Yes. I was sent because things would go better if it was me. It could have been Adam Smasher instead.”

“That would have been a mistake. But my question is still unanswered.”

What followed was a discussion between all of them about how Takemura could fulfill his instructions while allowing Smoke to continue working out on the streets of Night City. Smoke managed to convince him – truthfully – that we were working to protect Night City from AJAX, and therefore Arasaka investments as well.

The door chimed and a nurse announced “MrKerry Eurodyne is on his way up to see you.”

Takemura looked around in surprise.

“We played a gig together a few hours ago,” K2 said, attempting to sound as if it were no big deal.

Takemura nodded. “And will you swear to protect Chiyo as you go about your. . . business?”

“With everything I have,” K2 said seriously.

Takemura reached into his pocket and took out a slim case. Opening it, he took out old-school business cards and handed one to each of the party. “Please keep me updated.”

He left as Kerry entered, and they dance-scooted around each other.

Kerry entered with a tablet in hand. “They’ll let you check yourself out. Where we going to?”

“Afterlife,” Smoke said with clarity.

On the way down the elevator, Kerry pointed out they’d need to sleep sometime soon. K2 realized they’d been going for the past 48 hours at least . . . At Afterlife, they passed Rogue’s personal security at the door. Rogue herself was leaning on the bar, waiting for them. She motioned for them to follow, and led them past the freezers and the VIP room and into what appeared to be a private apartment.

“You can fight for the good bed, and the rest of you can get a cot - or sleep on the couch, if you like a bar up your ass. Some do, no judgment.”

“Rather than fight for it, I’ll just say Smoke can have it,” K2 said (and the rest agreed). Cots were set up and the next 7ish hours passed in dreamless sleep. K2 woke up and started going over song ideas; by the time everyone else woke up Kerry was looking through a pile of takeout menus.

“What do you all want?”

“I picked pancakes last time,” K2 said.

“A burger. With pickles. Lots of fried pickles.” Smoke said.

Fridge looked serious. “We need to talk,” he said as he turned and walked out the door.

“I guess we’re following Fridge,” Nova said.

He led them to a booth where three individuals sat; the booth was tagged with graffiti proclaiming “The Dukes”.

“Can we help you?” one asked condescendingly.

“You’re in our spot.”

Another, perhaps the leader, leaned out to see who else was with Fridge.

Danger rolled off Fridge like morning mist under a hot sun.

“I said, you’re in our spot.”

“Fuck you, we earned it,” leader spat back.

“Give it back”

“Look we suggest humbly you walk away and maybe we won’t remember what was said.”

Fridge pulled his gun. “One . . . Two . . .” he began.

Smoke got quiet-angry as she leaned in, placing a hand on a gun she knew was there simply out of habit.

“We’re The Runaways, you jackass!” she scream-whispered.

“And I’ll make sure you don’t forget today,” K2 happily added.

Fridge pistol-whipped the leader’s face and blood poured out of his broken nose, his hands flying up to cover it.

Smoke went for the man’s gun and whacking him in the occipitals with it; the gun went off, leaving a bullet hole in the crown of the graffiti behind them.

Nova drove a knife into the hand of one of the guys in the booth, pinning it to the table and preventing him from reaching his gun. K2 thought the damage looked bad enough it might need to be amputated.

K2 used his bat like a catholic nun wielding a ruler, snapping the saddle joints of the third Duke.

“Thou shalt not covet,” he said.

“How about now?” Nova asked.

“Now apologize,” Smoke sneered.

The leader stuttered an apology as they slunk away. The group was under no illusions that they would be back.

Rogue, who had been watching with interest from the bar, now came over with brandy, wine, and champagne. “The booth is yours” she said smiling as K2 reached for the brandy.

A bartender came over to clean up the mess; he seemed used to it. K2 took the opportunity to order a Blood Razor (red wine, brandy, red food coloring, cherry soda, chicken bone garnish). They may have had more than one, as drink were free for the first twenty-four hours after successfully taking a booth in Afterlife.

Smoke and K2 searched their bags and, finding some basic art supplies used in their various professions and hobbies, began painting over The Duke’s graffiti and replacing it with The Runaways. They purposefully left the bully hole; Smoke filled it with sealant to prevent the bullet being removed.

“We need to talk,” Fridge said again. “Some of us aren’t okay. I think I might be a werewolf.”

No one laughed. Fridge seriously thought something was wrong, and they would listen.

“It’s like I’m not myself. Like there’s a monster inside that I won’t be able to control. Like a kind of cyberpsychosis.”

They all, but Smoke in particular, assured Fridge that his empathy was a sure sign he wasn’t suffering from that particular malady.

“I want to apologize in advance just in case I hurt someone . . .” he said.

“Pre-apology accepted,” K2 said, “but only because I know you won’t accept ‘no apology needed’. If anything, I should be apologizing to you all for not warning you about my ex. Emphasis on ex.”

This started a conversation about K2’s past, and he was as open as he could be. He described meting Ink on a shopping expedition after Nova brought him to night city. How Ink had introduced him to The Mox, but then started treating him as a thing rather than a person. When Ink started showing signs of cyberpsychosis, K2 tried to end things, but Ink had a rather possessive-obsessive personality and was generally unwilling to let anything go. K2 speculated Ink would keep coming for him - and by extension, The Runaways as a whole, wether or not AJAX was involved.

K2’s story filled in some observations others had: Nova wondered who K2 had referred to when the went to Lizzie’s, Fridge had noticed Ink in the crowd at Hammer, and all of them had heard K2 call Ink by name in the parking garage. Smoke was worried K2 was acting too much like Johnny Silverhand when Alt got her claws in him, but was somewhat reassured with K2 genuine hatred of Ink and what they had done.

“Any other skeletons in you closet?” Fringe asked.

“Well, I have one other ex, but he’s dead, so . . .” K2 responded with a mix of both sadness and humor at how Fridge had set up that response. “And of course, there’s my aunt. I’m trying to see if there’s anything I’m missing . . .”

“At least we know you’re not deliberately hiding important information from us, that’s the thing,” Smoke replied reassuringly.

Fridge was concerned about everyone else too. Smoke tried to piece more parts of her missing past back together with her new information. Nova tried her best to encourage Smoke to work through the pain, and Smoke herself encouraged K2 in the process.

The Dukes had helped take the edge off, but only a little, and Smoke mentioned going after the Watson Widowmaker. But before they could go have more “stabby time” as Smoke called it, Fridge pointed out that Nova hadn’t said anything.

Nova talked a little about her past; K2’s chief takeaway was that Nova’s family had been framed for dealing with human trafficking unwilling sex workers and was trying to restore her family’s reputation.

Now they set to the task of hunting down Marcus Collins. They pooled their collective knowledge: he had been a Night Corps supervisor before going on a killing spree that saw twenty-five killed in a matter of months. The police had released few details about how they tracked him down, and many thought the NCPD only got involved after an officer’s wife was killed. Collings killed with extreme precision, often in a police his victim would assume was safe and private.

The drinks must have gotten to K2 because they began to zone out. While they heard everything that was being said, it didn’t quite register until someone said

”You know what this sounds like, right? It sounds like Pusik’s could be in danger.”

As they left Afterlife to go check on Pusik and Doc Hazzard, they passed a billboard that Smoke shot with an armor-piercing round. “You know who they modeled the iron ads after? Fucking Alt Cunningham.”

Nova got them to Doc’s in minutes. Smoke and K2 rolled out before Nova even came to a full stop; Nova herself drift-parked Gamers with practiced skill. They immediately know something was wrong; his lights were off and his always-open door was locked.

“We’ll take front,” Fridge called out. Nodding, Smoke and K2 ran to the back, passing by Chapel’s delivery door to find a large shutter-style delivery door with a physical lock. When Smoke failed to pick it, K2 smashed it open with her bat.

They entered a loading/receiving area covered in spilled saline. They entered a hallway with operating and recovery rooms; the screens that would display calming scenes or bring up medical charts were nothing but static.

Smoke took a look at the net and sent a message to Nova and Fridge. then she smashed the hallway window and K2 followed her in, finding Pusik in a corner with a scalpel: alive, but bleeding and fighting.

Seeing a slim, non-Doc Hazzard-shaped figure in the room, K2 let out an “incomprehensible rocker yell” and attempted to hit them, but they dodged out of the way. In the hallway, Nova and Fridge arrived.

Collins looked at the group and smiled. “In my mind’s eye, my thoughts light fires in your cities,” he said as he pulled a ball from his pocket and rolled it out into the room.

Smoke tried to dodge out of the way while K2 rushed Collins, grappling him and turning him around.

When the homemade explosive went off, Collins took the full brunt of it. How he was still standing was anyone’s guess, but a quick shot from Nova put a hole in his chest and he went to the floor.

Smoke started grabbing his tech and kicking his body.

”Do we need him alive?”

”I don’t know. If we put styptic powder in his wound, will it burn as he goes?” K2 asked.

Smoke sent what she saw to the rest of the group: Collins had been touched, but not controlled by AJ4X. He had been a bad man in control of his own actions.

Then there was a message in his code, written in Latin and translated by Smoke: “Love conquers all; let us yield to love”

“Fuck. I’m messaging Trace. Did you find Doc Hazard?”

”We was on the floor, alive but barely. His cyberware had been shut down: eyes, brain, lungs, kidney, heart. I was able to restart his heart but that’s all.”

Smoke ran to help Doc, while K2 sent Kerry a message with the deets of what went down.

Radar Gun

As they worked to reboot all Doc’s systems, Bit Chaos rolled up in her van. Profusely apologizing for her lateness, she explained that she’d been collecting bits and bobs around town and was clear on the other side of Night City when Smoke had alerted her to what was going down. She’d also tried looking her box over more carefully, and determined that it was lead-lined; which caused a further concern: how was it giving off radiation? Nova suggested it was leaking around the button.

With Doc Hazard back to his mostly-fully-sunciotning self, Smoke turned his attention to Pusik while he explained his thoughts about what to do with the widowmaker’s body. The NCPD bounty was 150k eddies, which would go a long way to getting Pusik and The Runaways into space.

Pusik asked if the Museum of the Damned would offer more. When fridge expressed slight confusion, it was explained that the Museum was filled with the taxidermied bodies of infamous people. Smoke suggested turning the body in for the bounty first, then stealing it back a few days later and reselling it to the Museum. K2 wondered if that might cause more legal problems than it was worth, but Smoke assured her that the Museum didn’t give two shits about the NCPD.

Kerry returned K2’s message, asking her what he should do.

“We’re getting cold hard corpse cash and then to Afterlife to finish drinking. It’s bounty and booze, baby! See you at the bar.”

Bit was excited to go back to Afterlife, having missed the beat-down for the booth, and really wanted a Wolf Crazy Tornado Drink. However, Nova pointed out that it was now the signature drink at Eden, which Bit found incredulous. Smoke and K2 explained that the bouncer really remembered Bit, and when they visited Eden after K2’s performance at Hammer, Smoke told the bartender how to make it and it was a huge hit. Smoke and K2 heavily implied that if Bit were to go back, the bouncer would likely remember her, but Bit wasn’t too sure.

Turning their attention back to Doc, they tried to figure out the best way to make things right, but Doc insisted that in this case they were all even, chalking the day’s events up to the balance of life. The Runaways accepted this reluctantly, and determined to find a way to help Doc in a way it would be difficult for him to refuse.

They invited Pusik to meet them at Afterlife, and assured her there was plenty to drink other than vodka, and that Kerry was a master of ordering food that wasn’t potatoes. It did not take much to convince Pusik, and she agreed enthusiastically.

K2 found they still had some quality snacks from their last excursion to Chapel, and passed them out to everyone; they all greedily munched the chips and guzzled the soda.

Leaving Doc’s, The Runaways found that it was midday in Night City, and nearing the end of the city’s lunch hour. Using a tarp and duct tape from Bit’s van, they tossed the corpse into the back and made their way to One Police Precinct, the central precinct in Night City, and the main station in Watson where the widowmaker had been most active. One the way, Nova texted Foxy to let her know it was now safe (or at least safer) for the sex workers to go out at night, and by the look on Nova’s face she received a rather exciting thank you message in reply. Nova looked up just in time to see her brother Sonny worker at a construction site across the street from the station, and called out to him:

“Quit farting around and get back to work!”

Smoke had also spent time on their agent, arranging a meeting with the head of Homicide and Kit Samson’s immediate supervisor.

They pulled up to find Trace sitting on a motorcycle with cops watching him carefully. He must have been waiting for The Runaways, because when they pulled up he parked in a general parking spot and activated his video orb and HUD.

“Do you really have him?” Trace asked as they piled out of Bit’s van.

“See for yourself,” Smoke replied, and then went on to hint that they would be attempting to sell a tip to the NCPD for more money than the bounty, but would give him for free: the AJ4X connection.

Trace smiled. “They’ll be begging for more,” he opined.

Fridge looked at the body. “I suppose I can carry him. How do we want to do this?”

”In the most disrespectful way possible,” K2 offered.

“Yes!” Smoke agreed. “You know the old story of Krampus? Carry him like your carrying a naughty kid in a sack back to hell for a beating.”

Seeing the group - and in particular the body - the police that had been watching Trace from behind a blue glass door immediately went on lockdown. K2 couldn’t blame them: the ineptitude of the NCPD likely caused a variety of disgruntled complainants.

“ID?” one asked.

Smoke turned and smiled at the party before turning back to the officers. “We have an appointment in two minutes.”

“Yeah, and we did your job for you, too.” Bit called out.

“Indeed. You’re welcome for that by the way. You don’t want us to be late now, do you?”

”We still need to scan your ID,” another protested with resignation in his voice.

Nova shrugged and stuck out her hand; “Lillix Quallister” flashed across the display.

K2 had no qualms about using his real name; if anything she wanted them to know it; being associated with brining in the Watson widowmaker might make them think twice about messing with them, and might increase their popularity. “Parker Huntsman” showed across the screen.

Smoke’s name flashed something in Cyrillic; K2 was pretty sure it’d be a fake name anyway, and Bit’s name came up as Audrey Hepburn, which K2 recognized as the name of an actress from a hundred years or so ago. The police didn’t seem to notice, though, which probably explained a lot about the organization.

Fridge went last: his name displayed as “Rush Stark”. And then Fridge slammed the dead man’s hand down and the scanner displayed “Marcus Collins”. That got the officer’s attention, and immediately one of them got on the phone. K2 caught a small part of the conversation:

“yes sir . . . The scanner confirmed it, too.”

“So, what about our appointment?” Smoke asked.

“Go to the second floor immediately. Do not talk to anyone on the way and make no other stops.”

“Y’all ever hear of Weekend at Bernie’s?” Fridge asked as they made their way inside. They laughed in recognition. “It’s gonna be a party.”

They had arrived just as the lunch crowd came back to the office. Everyone was watching them, and the crowd parted to let them through to an elevator. A desk sergeant, likely on the job for twenty years or more, watched them even more intently.

“I hope he doesn’t leak on your floor,” K2 remarked.

The elevator took them away from the gawkers and opened into offices connected by a large hallway. Big metals doors to one of them slid open, revealing Chief of Precinct Parris Voight. His clothes spoke to a working man who’d been placed in a position of authority, and the look on his face indicated we wan’t quite sure what to make of the crew in front of him.

“Chief Voight?” Smoke asked, and the question seemed to help Voight. He stood, buttoned his vest, and introduced himself.

“Yes, I am Parris Voight,” he said, extending his hand to anyone who would take it. They all did, except for Trace, who silently indicated he was on the job as Media. “I had heard you wanted to meet with me, but did not expect . . .”

“And we did not expect to be sent to a second floor office with our delivery,” Smoke agreed. “Is there somewhere we can get him flat, and then talk about things in a more appropriate setting?”

”Well, there’s the morgue. The Medical Examiner is expecting you by now, I am sure, but we’ll have to talke the back elevator.”

“Perfect. Let’s walk and talk.”

Smoke must have gotten the idea that Voight was someone who could at least be trusted with the bare minimum of details. They filled him in on how they came to apprehend Collins (with Pusik left out) and the difficulty they had with Samson. Voight seemed concerned, particularly when Smoke revealed she’d received threatening messages after a restraining order had been granted, and promised an internal investigation.

They arrived at the morgue, where the ME affirmed what the officers at the front already knew: they had indeed brought in the body of Marcus Collins, the Watson Widowmaker.

”So, who do we cash the bounty to?” Voight asked.

“Well, let’s not be too hasty,” Smoke began before dropping the same hints she had given to Trace: the connection between Collins and AJ4X and AJ4X with Sampson.

“And this information isn’t free!” Bit exclaimed.

Voight scanned NCPD databases. “I’m not coming up with anything,” he said finally.

”Try the local screamsheets,” Smoke suggested with just a tinge of sarcasm. “And then ask yourself why you didn’t come up with anything in your own systems.”

It was a few moments before Voight spoke again. “this is indeed troubling and worth an investigation. But the NCPD won’t pay for the information,”

Smoke frowned.

“But there are some reclamation funds I can perhaps dip into and reallocate.”

Smoke smiled. “I’ll send you the name of our fixer,” she replied before turning and gesturing to Trace.

“I give info for info,” was Trace’s simple reply.

“I get off at seven. Coffee?

”A date,” Bit sighed, “but not for me,” she finished sadly.

Smoke then launched into the politics game with Voight, pointing out the NCPD needed some positive press, and that perhaps helping rebuild or fund Doc Hazard’s clinic would go a long way to changing minds in Watson. Voight was concerned about the Police Commissioner, how very little would make him happy, and hinted vaguely that he might have had something to do not only with his own father’s death when he showed ambition, but his own current position. That particular conversation ended with The Runaways satisfied they had a sort of working relationship with Voight, with Bit offering her building services and K2 giving out his demo and a promise of a complimentary copy of the studio version if he liked it.

The Runaways went back to the ground floor, which had largely returned to normal, and left by the front door. They waited until Trace had left safely, and then headed to Afterlife to meet Pusik and Kerry.

There were still twenty-some-odd hours left to their free drinks, and K2 ordered Rippers and brandy and said to keep it coming. Rogue herself came over about an hour later, verifying the receipt of the bounty and suggesting she had a lead on their space problem. They turned the information down for the time being, deciding to enjoy their party time. Bit initially said she didn’t deserve a cut of the bounty, but K2 reminded her of all the things she had done to help collect the bounty, and Smoke said simply: “You’re a Runaway, right? That means you get cut in.” Smoke passed around paint pens, and they all added their names to the wall -even Pusik, who Smoke claimed was now Runaway-adjacent. Nova called Foxy, and the two disappeared into one of the private rooms for the remainder of the evening and into the night.

By six o’clock at night Afterlife had already taken on a nightclub vibe, and The Runaways partied hard until they each stumbled into a private room to pass out; Kerry apparently partied harder than anyone else - he was still passed out the next morning and could not be awakened.

They stumbled to find Pusik already sitting at the bar with Rogue.

“Hair of the dog?” Rogue asked. they all agreed, with Smoke calling next door to order a burger. When they had all drunk and eaten something, Rogue said

”So, when you’re ready for the space job, here’s where you’ll want to go. It’s part contact and part job.”

Nova wanted to drive Foxy home first, which they did (but not before Bit left some lizards on Kerry ‘for protection’ and Nova herself mixed up some pharmaceuticals), and then followed Rogue’s directions into Santo Domingo and Megabuilding Number 7.

The apartment number was on the last floor before the penthouses; the name they were given was Luna. The hallway appeared to be well-lived-in, almost akin to a public street, and a group of kids were kicking a vending machine for stealing their money. Approaching the door, they could hear loud Japanese techno-rock coming from inside as Smoke raised a hand and knocked on the door.

It slid open to reveal a figure all of four-foot-ten looking up at all of them. “Oh hi! Rogue told me to expect you. Come on in.”

They entered a top-of-the-line room filled with all kinds of technology. Looking closer, K2 realized the apartment had been converted into a large supercomputer; even the shower had been repurposed to cool the tech.

Luna moved some piles of tech, revealing a couch onto which The Runways sat, She then rummaged in a cabinet and pulled out some sticky rice and a small amount of what appeared to be papaya juice.

“Why don’t you cook the rice in the juice?” Smoke asked when Luna offered them something to eat.

When Luna went to hand K2 their bowl, they stopped short.

“You’re K2!” Luna practically shouted.

“Um. Yes? That’s me . . .” K2 replied.

“No, I mean, I’ve seen you online. You played that set at Hammer!” And Luna pulled up the recording of the livestream that Potion had linked to on his show.

“Hey, that’s me!” K2 said excitedly, having not yet seen what had been done that night from a spectator’s perspective.

“I’m a huge fan!” Luna said with a huge grin. “But now, to business.”

Luna activated a series of projectors, and a hologram of a soviet-era Sputnik rocket sitting in the desert appeared in the middle of the room. Luna launched into an explanation:

The short version was that Luna had been working on retrofitting the rocket for the last four years, using its poor exterior as a perfect camouflage for the technological marvel hidden inside. However, with all her work, there remained one part out of reach: a booster rocket. Luckily, Militech Corporation was bringing a prototype booster to an industry expo and the convoy would be close by in just twelve hours. If they could get the device, Luna would have three days to integrate it into her system and launch them all into space. If they missed that three-day window, it would be another 180 days to the next opportune time - and in that time Militech would most certainly track their property down and kill whoever they found with it. Luna herself wanted to go into space to gain access to the servers on a specific satellite, which she thought held information on a shadowy operation called “Save Your Soul” - which was supposedly based on Soulkiller. That bit of information launched her into a foray into all the problems facing the Arasaka corporation, and K2’s dislike for corpos steadily increased.

They needed a plan and a distraction; Smoke was surprised when K2 offered to look at the convoy schematics Luna had obtained, but used the opportunity to examine what they knew of AJ4X. Finding a flaw in the code, Smoke created her own version of a Silverhand PSA to air when they would attack the convoy.

For his part, K2 looked over the schematics: a flatbed truck protected by crew and couriers would arrive in the wee hours of the morning.

The Great Train Robbery

The Runways brainstormed their plans to steal the Militech booster rocket:

  • Smoke and K2 would alter their looks, including K2’s skin, and the would all use ID blockers and maskers. They wouldn’t get any reputation from the heist, at least not immediately, but it might just be enough to keep them safe in the short-term.
  • Nova could use Nomads top forge paperwork for the booster and its transport as well as providing a hangar large enough to house the 12-foot-diameter, 149-foot-tall booster.
  • K2 found a few details in the schematics that led Smoke to one Kyoto Mosfet, a contact in Militech that would provide a manifest and crew list in exchange for a favor. [24 soldiers/mercs and four named crew: Thomas Bohr, executive, with bodyguards Lela Bretmer (nertruner), Una Twelve (borg), and Biffo Woolorn the Fourth (solo?).]
  • The transport convoy would come from the southeast though Santo Domingo via the main highway. Weighing the pros and cons of making their attack in the badlands or in the city, it was decided to boost the booster in the badlands.


They each had their own individual actions to take: K2 changed their chemskin and hair, Smoke updated their shards, Bit worked on what she called “bombs and busters”, and Nova worked on pharmaceuticals.

Regrouping, Smoke had the idea to issue a fake sandstorm warning to slow the convoy down. They went shopping for supplies (which included a rocket launcher and a grenade launcher), and as they finished K2 took a moment to examine their own plan and suggested calling in some support if they could, to which Nova was able to call a contact named Aries in the Folk Nation.

Then it was time to wait while eating Japanese takeout ordered by Luna.

At 3AM they headed out, meeting Aries along the way. They liberated a few ATVs, with Bit driving one with K2 as the passenger and Nova the other with Smoke on the back. Aries drove himself.

At 5AM the first rays of the sun still under the horizon backlit the coming convoy, and Smoke issued the “sandstorm” alert. The convoy slowed down almost to a halt and the bodyguards exited their vehicle while The Runaways tried to take cover behind nearby dunes.

Somehow, despite there being 4 other targets and being a passenger on one of the ATVs, Lela focused in on K2 with a sniper scope and fired. Smoke must have sensed something was up, because they sent out an alarm just fast enough that Bit was able to swerve and K2 duck and lean just enough that the bullet missed.

However, there was nothing K2 or anyone else could do to prevent Lela from hacking into K2’s cybereye, causing it to overheat and causing them intense pain.

Nova now burst over the dune and tried slamming into the group standing outside like she’d done when rescuing Potion.

Bit drove herself and K2 up beside Lela and Una and tossed out a spike strip o prevent them driving off easily. K2 made incompressible noises behind her as she realized they were now in melee range of the bodyguards.

Smoke attacked Lela on the net, weakening her cyber-attack abilities, and then used the rocket to attack the rear complement of 12 mercenaries that had emerged from the front transport vehicle. The rocket caught one full in the chest and blew him to bits, causing chaos among the soldiers.

Aries drove up to the drivers’ side door of the booster transport and held a gun to teh drivers’ head. “You know what to do,” he deadpanned.

K2 focused on cutting off the eye, which severed the link, but she knew there was nothing to stop Lela from coming at him again.

K2 and Bit were still in melee range of the bodyguards, and Una (a big, beefy man standing 9’6”) now revealed his gorilla arms as he closed what little distance remained between them and punched their dune buggy, decimating it in a fiery explosion that sent Bit and K2 flying.

K2 was able to duck and roll, taking no damage, but Bit was hurt bad by the hot metal and hit the ground very, very hard.

The rear guard now exited their vehicle and started making their way toward the group. Thankfully for The Runaways, they were almost 150 feet away and out of range of most attacks.

The front soldiers now opened fire, and Bit, already hurting from Una’s attack, took damage to her armor that collapsed her left lung. “My favorite lung!“ K2 heard her exclaim and she now struggled to breathe.

Biffo, assigned to protect Thomas Bohr, took no action against The Runaways.

Still on the ATV, Nova tried slamming Una but succeeded only in launching Smoke as a human projectile at him, which Smoke used to their advantage to shut down Una’s gorilla arms, further weaken Lela, and then shut off Una’s heart, essentially sending him into a heart attack.

Aries held his position and lobbed a frag at the rear-approaching enemies while K2 now stood over Bit and fired shots at Lela. The frag Granada did its job in slowing the back 12, and K2 managed to hit Lela in the shoulder.

The front 12 soldiers sprayed bullets at The Runaways, but the chaos around them from the rocket must have really thrown their aim off as no one was hit.

Una seemed to ignore the fact he was dying and reengaged his arms, throwing part of Bit and K2’s buggy at Smoke, clipping them in the arm quite forcefully.

Biffo took the opportunity to get back in the car and begin to drive away, careful to avoid Bit’s strips.

Lela now attacked Bit, and K2 heard a screech from Bit’s music players and a groan from Bit. “She deleted my favorite song!” (It turned out that Bit had relatively little cuberware for Lela to attack).

Bit launched a smoke grenade at the front soldiers, and K2 took advantage of the slight distraction to Lela to shoot her Moe-Green-style, finally eliminating one of their threats from the convoy.

Nova ran toward Smoke and gave them some kind of injectable pharmaceutical to keep them going.

Aries lobbed another grenade a the rear 12 soldiers.

Smoke refocused on Una, taking his arms down again then sending something called “hellbolt” through his borg circuitry and he went down permanently. She then fired another rocket at the front group and 1/2 of them went down, whether killed or incapacitated K2 couldn’t tell.

Bit fired a smoke bomb out into the desert (she’d been trying to hit the rear 12) and K2 focused on provided some first aid to her.

Smoke ran to Aries and intimidated the driver into f getting out of the cab while the front soldiers continued to spray and pray - their prayers ineffective as they still hit no one - and Biffo made his fair escape with Thomas Bohr (who would be certain to face repercussions for failing to prevent the attack).

Dragging herself toward the cab, Bit lobbed another grenade at the front group of soldiers, and when the smoke cleared none remained standing.

As The Runaways took possession of the truck and booster, Bit laid down spike strips to prevent the rear 12 soldiers from following them easily.

By 6AM they were back in Nighty City. They pulled into the arranged hangar, killed the lights, and locked things down. From the shadows stepped another Nomad, introduced by Aries as Haven, a ripper of his own who came to assist the Runaways, but Bit in particular. Smoke negotiated the trading of annunciation for his services, and the whole party gratefully received what medical attention they needed.

[Interlude: Laying Low]

The Runways spent the next three days laying low, resting up and communicating via group text for about a day and a half or so before meeting up at Luna’s. In that time, K2 focused on:

  • finding a way to safely search what it’s like to travel in space without the searches coming back to him
  • changing his skin back to blue; Smoke and Nova encouraged him to change it back as she didn’t seem herself during the heist while also pointing out that in this case, they wanted the reputation
  • wondering if they’re going to steal a body before going into space (they did not)
  • slightly freaking out about things in general.
  • using that anxious energy to spend some time working on private recordings of the vocals and guitar tracks for the album in progress
  • Storing said tracks on shard and engaging a service to release them in the event of his certified and verified death, as well as sharing them with Kerry and Denny via the net.
  • Touching base with The Mox to see if anyones seen Ink, just to keep tabs, warning them that she was extremely armed and ultimately dangerous and to assume everyone near her was under some kind of surveillance and to report only, not engage.
  • Keeping an eye on the news and screamsheets for anything related to the heist that would give an indication someone was looking for any of the runaways. They were not.

They met back up at Luna’s, where somehow the subject of Bit’s box came up. Luna excitedly shared that she also had a mysterious box that she didn’t know it’s purpose. Unlike Bit’s, Luna’s was made in her sleep, had a switch instead of a button, and gave off an electromagnetic reading instead of nuclear energy. Nicknamed “Terror Boxes” they all decided to keep them with them as they went into space.

Kerry’s kids arrived in town, and they decided to go meet them and at least introduce Fridge, who would be staying behind to offer some protection as Adam Smasher would be in town. They were typical teenagers and didn’t express much interest in their dad’s friends, though they did perk up when Smoke promised to take them to Afterlife when The Runaways “got back from their trip”

The conversation descended into innuendo-laden dad jokes with Kerry as they all began their all-water pre-space prep. With Fridge staying behind, Luna said she’d even out the weight with rocks. She then gave them static-free coveralls with a pink cat emblazoned on them, and K2 mentioned that Bit should bring her “luckiest lizard” along - which turned out to be the smallest of her mechanical pets and named “destruction” (which had to be said in a low, almost rough growling voice).

4AM came all too soon, and K2 bemoaned the lack of caffeine. They boosted rides to take to the rocket, and after discussion with Pusic and Bit and Smoke about what had happened last time she rode with Bit, K2 decided to ride with Bit once again, certain this time would be different. She was pleased to see their assumptions were correct.

They made their way to the coordinates provided by Luna, finding that she’d chosen the perfect location for her rocket: it was deep in the shadows in the pre-dawn light, and glancing at the landscape it was clear that from even a short distance it would seemingly blend in with its rocky surroundings. Luna herself was some 18 stories in the air, putting the finishing touches on a large pink spray-painted cat head that matched the symbol on each of their cover-alls. Looking at the rocket it appeared that Luna had constructed a capsule on a bottle rocket, but there was no going back now.

They climbed the exterior ladder and found the interior to be rather more up-to-date than the exterior. Where Fridge would have sat was a pile of rocks with a picture of Fridge’s face taped to the topmost one.

Luna put on some mood music and offered for someone to do the countdown. K2 took her up on the offer and ten seconds later the rockets fired. It took several seconds for them to realize they were actually moving as the landscape slowly dropped away from the windows.

Forty-five seconds later, Luna’s autodeck started playing Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” as they entered low gravity atmosphere and they caught their first glimpse of the stars unimpeded by the general pollution below. K2 was literally starstruck as the others took pictures and Smoke sent messages on her agent to Kerry and Rogue.

After an indeterminate period of time an intercom came to life

”Unidentified space traffic, what is your destination?”

“Oh shit,” Luna half-whispered, “I forgot to name her.

”Fluffernutter” Bit suggested, while K2 offered “Luna One”

More confidently now, Luna replied “This is the Luna Two requesting emergency landing” and then turning to Bit and K2 said “there’s more than one Luna, right?

The voice over the intercom came back “ID all passengers inn board or submit to DSI scanning.”

They opted for the scans and, after a short pause that seemed much longer than it was, the voice said “Luna 2, please use docking bay number 3. Welcome aboard the O’Neill Space Colony.”

They all masked up using portable oxygen tanks provided by Luna, unbuckled from their seats, and floated through the door and into the airlock. A red light flashed and an alarm buzzed as artificial gravity was introduced to the room.

The door opened into a utilitarian-grey room with two figures standing in front of the group.

The first was a tall man in his 50s with salt-and-pepper dark hair. His eyes seemed to be looking for Pusic, who now gave off an attitude of overt-discipline as she spoke clearly: “Agent Clara Bella Pavlova reporting for extraction and debriefing.” K2 thought he noticed something of a familial resemblance between them.

They spoke briefly in Russian before the man introduced himself as General Alev Kondrasha

The other person was a Japanese woman who bowed to Smoke and said “ Arasaka-san, I didn’t expect you to return so soon. Will you want tea, or perhaps you are here for a treatment?”

”No . . .” Smoke said shakily “I won’t need a treatment, but tea would be perfect about now.”

Kondrasha said he would need to to meet with Pusic for about an hour, after which he would make himself available to meet with the rest of them.

Smoke uneasily agreed to this, and they were led through the colony to the other side (passing signs for cryogenics departments along the way) and into a corporate meeting room, the decor of which indicated it was for the rich. The faint sounds of a kabuki opera and the low sound of running water filled the air. Low chairs sat at a short table; Smoke sat down at one and pulled a blanket over their legs. She made small talk with the woman, who raised the shade on the window to show a view of Earth before leaving to get the requested tea.

This time K2 took pictures of the Earth while Smoke and Luna developed a plan to get information from the computer system. Smoke was still rattled by the personal information revealed at their welcome, and helped Luna into a net chair and then made her look like she was sleeping as she attempted to access the colony’s on-board records.

A chime sounded and tea arrived, Smoke accepted gratefully and managed to get the woman’s name (Suki Sato), though she seemed surprised Smoke didn’t remember it.

No sooner had she left than Luna bolted from the chair and rushed to the bathroom in a fit of sickness. Nova aided her with some well-made pharmaceuticals and then Luna was able to reveal she hadn’t made it very far before she’d been attacked by a contagion virus. Together, Nova and Smoke made sure Luna was okay both in body and in cyberspace and then Luna shared an image she’d found relating to what was called “Project Kamishibai” - an image that seemed to indicate several people were being cloned in some kind of experiment. They were all disturbed to see Pusic’s name on the list, but Smoke almost had a breakdown at subject 003: “Linder, Robert John”

“It Johnny.” She managed to get out. “We need answers. Now.”

The hour was up, so they made their way to the conference room by following the signs.

Kondrasha and Pusic were there, and as they entered without knocking Pusic nearly attacked them but stood down immediately. As they seated themselves she remained standing behind Kondrasha like a dutiful bodyguard. It was like a switch had been flipped: Pusic was physically there but her humor and personality had been turned off. Small comments from Nova and Bit regarding potatoes and chooms elicited no response, where there should have been a visceral reaction (at least to the potatoes).

Seething with fury, Smoke tenaciously demanded answers from Kondrasha and made allusions to what they’d found in the hopes that Pusic would pick up on them.

Kondrasha wasn’t having it and sent Pusic out of the room before his own attitude changed and he revealed what he knew about what he called “the emperors’ pet project” - of which Pusic was an unwitting participant/victim (as well as remaining unaware that Kondrahsa was her father.) Kondrasha made it clear his own participation was to protect those he loved - perhaps two or more of his family were part of the project.

While he could not let Pusic leave with The Runaways, he did secure their promise to help Pusic when (not if) they saw her again. In exchange, he told them that Johnny Silverhand was indeed being held in cryostasis on the colony, and that while moving him was possible, it would be dangerous. With one last glance of understanding between Smoke and Kondrahsa, The Runaways ran toward the cryostasis room.

One med tech was on duty; Smoke took him down as he rose to his feet. Nova was able to start the countdown to release Johnny; as she watched the three-minute timer, she gave the rest of them instructions about what to grab in terms of medical supplies. Smoke was determined to make him look like Pusic wrapped in medical blankets and the like, and when the timer reached zero Bit was able to guide him into a wheelchair as Smoke applied the disguise while simultaneously dehydrating her own eyes with alcohol wipes to simulate a medical emergency of some kind.

As they were about to leave a shard popped up and out of a storage unit. Smoke grabbed it and plugged it into her deck, but the shard had too much ram for them to open it. Angrily they tore it out and slammed it into the port on the back of Johnny’s neck (which apparently hadn’t been there before when Smoke knew him) and then it was time to high-tail it out the door and to the spacecraft.

Someone sent Luna a message to start the engines, and as they entered the airlock the gravity was turned off. The rocks now floated out into the bay and Johnny floated up into the air, guided by Smoke and Bit.

“It’s a rocking chair” K2 observed as the rocks crashed into the now-empty chair, and both he and Smoke reached for Fridge’s picture.

inside, they buckled johnny into the seat and Luna and Smoke requested emergency departure due to medical emergency, which was denied due to an oncoming solar flare. They would be given permission in three hours, when the flare passed. They were warned leaving without clearance would result in a revoking of their ability to return in future, to which Luna said

“Screw it” and blew the connection.

Smoke sent a message to Kerry regarding their projected landing. As they entered earth’s atmosphere, Johnny woke up, perhaps due to the intense shaking.

He ripped off his seatbelt and, crying “you son of a bitch” attempted to strangle Smoke, who was closest to him. Nova and Bit tried to calm him down, to no avail. Smoke managed to say “Fuck you too, baby” which seemed to have some sort of effect on him just as they hit water and Johnny was pushed back into his chair and then forward into the side of the ship, causing him to lose consciousness again.

The capsule floated to the surface, and opening the hatch they found Kerry and his yacht (the Sea-murai) waiting for them.

Episode 012

Music

Styles

K2 often describes their music in terms of other groups and artists. They have described some of their sounds as:

  • Taylor Swift x The Birthday Massacre
  • The Oh Hellos x The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
  • Disturbed x The Chicks


Songs

Immoral/Immortal


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