A Light at the End of the Tunnel
Two days later, things began to change for the better. I was in my cell, having just finished a “game” with my cellmate. I was asked by a guard to follow him, and he escorted me into a conference room. There were several official looking individuals there, and some of them had dour appearances on their faces. The warden introduced them to me, and I was impressed by the caliber of people sent to meet me. I would have extended my hand to greet them, but the handcuffs prevented that. The warden said that he would release my writing hand if I was good, and I agreed.
We discussed the recent news article about a crime spree occurring in Las Vegas. Hearing this made me fear for Dot’s safety. They asked me that they heard I was part of an organization that may be able to help with this. I first said maybe and then yes, as they continued to stare at me. I tried to read the documents they were shoving at me, but they kept talking. I would apparently be given release and if we were to end this spree, I would be a free man. The crime I had a hand in committing would be attributed to someone else. One condition I did catch was that I would have a surgical implant placed at the base of my skull. Was I to try to flee, they would detonate it. Goodbye Charlie. I agreed to their terms and was given two phone calls.
Firstly, I called Pariah and told him the news. When he asked me how I was and told me that they had seen me on the tele-vid at my arraignment, I told him I didn’t want to talk about it. I relayed the news and said that should everything go as planned, I would meet them in two days. I also asked him to try and convince Dot to come home.
I next called Dot and told her that there was a chance I would be coming home soon. I wasn’t sure how close the call was being monitored, so I didn’t want to tell her more now. I told her to leave Las Vegas though for her safety. She was crying, but agreed.
If I could have clicked my heels as I walked back to my cell, I would have. When I saw Hawk next in the library, I told him that I may be out soon. I also promised him that if I did get out, I would hire a decent legal team for him so he could get out of here too.
Two days later, I was loaded up in a secure van and brought to a nearly empty parking lot. Looking out through the secure windows, I saw several shapes that were very familiar. As I got out, I stumbled a bit. They asked me how I was, and I said I would tell them later. I gave everyone a hug, including a new guy, I kind of recognized. I asked Pariah where Byk was, and he said that it looks like his loyalties lay elsewhere and that we and he were through.
I asked the new guy, what he was doing here, and he said that he was a friend of Rajiv’s and that he wanted to help. We talked a little about Rajiv on the way to our " otel" off off strip. I told everyone again how grateful I was to them and apologized that I was not quite ready to start our mission. They told me to relax while they started the investigation.
Thankfully, Red had brought my gear and a fresh change of clothes. After a long bath, with my leg cast propped up on the edge of the tub, which was an athletic maneuver to accomplish, I felt better. I opened my spell books and began preparation for what lies ahead. All along, I have this copper taste in my mouth, probably a result of the chunk of metal in my neck. Once my spells have been prepared, I should be able to heal myself better.
Pariah asked me what we should do about Byk. I said that I hoped whatever the reason was for his departure that it was worth it. If he came back without a valid excuse after the ordeal I had just gone through, much of it because of him, then he is no friend of mine, much to my dismay.
Once I had relaxed some and had a chance to review some of my spells, I healed myself. Thankfully my eye and arm healed fully. My leg is not quite perfect. Perhaps after some more rest that will get better too. At least I can remove the cast that was put on it and put some weight on it too.
Before turning in for the night, I decided to call my dad. When he answered after several rings, and I heard his voice on the phone, it didn’t matter whether he was drunk or not: he was alive. We talked for a brief time, and I let him know that I was hoping to be home soon, but refused to fill him in on the details of what was happening. Before we disconnected, he asked how the wedding was. I told him it was absolutely the best day of my life and that I wished he could have been there, and that I wished mom was still alive. He was choked up a bit and said “I love you son” before hanging up. Have I ever heard him say that before?
When I woke up in the morning, my leg was still a bit sore, but I felt so much better. That was the best night of sleep I had in weeks. I noticed that I had a new message on my pocket secretary. It was addressed to me and was from Gray Owl. I opened it up and it said “Sorry I just couldn’t go through with it. I fulfilled my agreement with Rajiv and came down here to spring you from prison. Now that you are out, I don’t think this is the line of work for me. Good luck and I am sure I will see you at The Mogul or the Mayadeva Center sometime; hopefully sooner than later. Gray Owl.” Well, I guess we are down to four now.
We met for breakfast, and we decided that maybe we would go to the Golden Nugget first, which was one of the places these mobsters had hit. We walked in, and Red asked one of the attendants if we could speak with the manager. I couldn’t quite hear the entire conversation, but whatever she said it must have been “magical”. The guy about fell over backwards to accommodate us, and we were ushered in to the manager’s office.
From the manager and by watching the security footage, we learned that there were about twelve assailants and rather than robbing the place, they more or less pillaged it; causing wanton destruction. They acted kind of like a street gang and were not worried about the LVPD coming to stop them. They were dressed in business suits and used a variety of weapons. Unfortunately, none of the individuals were able to be recognized by facial recognition software. Before we left, I asked the manager if I could ask him what could be a difficult question. I asked if they had been extorted before. He replied that he has paid money to the Montelli’s before, though certainly less than what had been asked for. He hadn’t heard from this gang before they struck.
While Drake was arranging for some transportation, I decided to look into the cases of arson that had arisen recently by hunkering down at a matrix terminal. Meanwhile, Pariah was in contact with Chips to try to find the Montelli’s base of operations. I discovered that there was no pattern to the arsons though; they were at random locations and they had nothing to very little in common.
Chips discovered that there were several pinpoints to the area of Main and 5th for the location of the Montelli compound. We traveled there in our rented vehicle, which was a very nice ride. When we arrived there, we saw the wreck that was the family compound, with its smashed gates and statuary and the burns in the driveway where the Don had been killed. We asked some of the locals for information, however we were quite abruptly turned down many times. Finally, I decided that I might need to grease some palms in order to get somewhere. I found someone promising, and offered 500 nuyen for information. He thought about it a moment and said he had a hard time remembering things recently. I increased it to 1000 and he said, things were getting clearer. I increased again to 1500 and he suddenly remembered and offered to escort us to the location.
We were escorted to a nearby, non-descript building. The way was lined with swarthy looking bodyguards. When we entered the main chamber, there were more guards present, and sitting in a “throne” was a child who probably was just reaching puberty. Red began speaking to him, but he was very dismissive of her. She seemed agitated, but thankfully calmed down before “pulling a Byk”. Pariah was able to negotiate with him some, and he offered limited assistance. I looked around the room using my astral vision and saw several people that were awakened, though only one could sense my presence. During the conversation though, a name mentioned by the new “Don” seemed vaguely familiar, Vasilyev. When we were leaving the building, it finally hit me – that was Byk’s real surname wasn’t it? Is he or one of his family members involved in this?
Then, we finally relented to Red’s insistence that we check out the area where apparently the gang is headquartered and do some surveillance. Pariah and Red went to scope things out (literally) from a nearby rooftop, and I stayed in the vehicle with Drake, who was commanding some of his drones. I told him that I was going to project for a little bit and view the situation a little differently. I flew out of my body and felt totally free; my leg didn’t hurt at all this way. Standing at a doorway were two people who showed very little emotion other than boredom. I also noticed that there was some kind of barrier that would alert the inhabitants of any intrusion. I moved a little bit closer, and noticed that the loading doors were blocked on the inside and that the building had one large warehouse with a smaller office inside.
As I inched closer to check out who these inhabitants were, I saw many more awakened individuals than I cared for looking back at me. Suddenly there were emotions of alarm and one body dropped to the floor, as he projected to come after me. I flew as fast as I could away from there, but he quickly caught up. Thankfully, only one of them had come after me. I launched a Power Bolt at him to try and immobilize him and it struck him hard. He fell back some, but launched his own bolt in retaliation at me. It hit me hard and I nearly passed out. After he cast the spell, he was in severe pain, probably having some energy drained by the strain. He began to fade back and soon was headed back to the warehouse. I continued to move away from the warehouse and did a large circle, landing back in my body. Drake mentioned that he saw my body quaking while I was out, and soon enough the others were back. I definitely need a nap after that.
I curl up in the back of the limousine, while the others continue their surveillance of the warehouse. I am suddenly roused by Drake as he says that Red is in trouble. She had apparently been climbing up a nearby building, investigating someone she had seen up there. While she was nearing the top, the person she was investigating shot her, and she fell three stories to the pavement below.
When I arrived on the scene, I was still a bit nauseas after that previous encounter, and what I saw made me even more so. Blood was coming from multiple locations on her body, and her body was horribly contorted. She was definitely dead for all intents and purposes. I managed to stabilize her through conventional means, but her body was horribly injured. I knew that what I would do next would inevitably make me worse, but I had to do. I channeled all of my power into a Treat Spell. The last thing I remembered before I passed out was her eyes opening and then I saw darkness.
When I next awoke it was just a short while later. My head was splitting, and I had fresh cuts burns on my hands and face. Red and I were in the back seat of the limousine, and she was cognizant, though barely so. Pariah said that he had taken out the perp who shot Red and he was “resting” in the trunk. Drake was piloting the vehicle back to our current domicile and I pass out again in the back seat.
I wake up next to my neck ticking. I remember getting up screaming out “Did anyone else hear that?!?” to strange looks. I look around and see I am in “Le Roache Motel”, at least that’s what I call it, though I can’t say my previous apartment was much better. Moments later, my phone rang and I answered. It was the prosecutor who I met with when I got my release. He stated “So, I understand that you have not completed your mission yet.” I replied “No, but progress is definitely being made”, well kind of at least. He said that he had some help and knew my exact location; it must have something to do with the gift in my neck. I can’t wait to have that removed. Speaking of which, I am mulling over what I am going to do after I get home. Maybe Dot and I will still go on that honeymoon after all, but now seeing Red in this condition, maybe we won’t be able to get away so easily.
Anyhow, a few minutes later Drake escorts our newest ally into our motel room. He has a very familiar looking orange outfit on. He seems like a nice enough guy, but I am not too keen on having company right now. Strangely, he is not awakened, though lacks all of the accoutrement that I see on my fellow tin friends. When I introduce myself, he tells me, hey I am supposed to tell you that you have a court appointment on Monday. I guess that is the deadline for completing the mission.
Pariah says that Tovarich has not heard anything new from Byk. He does say that Vasilyev is part of the Vladivostok mafia and not the Khabarovskaya. That is a bit confusing to us, especially after Red says that Takashe stated that Vasilyev was a lieutenant who only recently defected from the Vladivostok contingency to the Khabarovsk group.
Drake says that he has spoken with Arianna who was able to tie the dead guy in the bathtub to several assassinations and has been linked to the Khabarovskaya. He also says something about her being forced to turn me in. I don’t know if I can believe the cockamamie story right now. Maybe once I am at home with my new bride without this thing in my neck I will feel better about her.
I decide to call Rana to see if she knows anything on why these Russians would have so many mages in their arsenal. She suggests that Russians tend not to respect wielders of magic very much nor are they known for using magic. These may be experts in a particular field though they have collected. Interesting.
Drake and Pariah then say that they have extracted the data that they acquired from the rooftop sniper, that’s right the dead guy in the bathtub. He is seen assisting in several firefights with LVPD officials, army members and Mafiosi. That proves he is one of the bad guys. From the footage, we are able to discern that there are other snipers perched around the area. We decide that now is a time to strike again and take another one out.
Though Red insists otherwise, we are able to convince her that she should stay in the vehicle with Drake this time. I, Pariah and Rook will go up on a nearby rooftop and Rook is volunteered to take out the target. I tell him that I should be able to help him out by not only making him invisible, but levitate him between the buildings to his target. Hopefully, nothing interrupts my concentration. All goes well, and soon he takes out the target; quite the effective warrior. I levitate both him and his unconscious victim back over to the building I am at, and then to the ground below before I break my sustaining spells. Of course, Red has an ample number of restraints that we can place on him as we retreat to somewhere more discreet.
Pariah begins speaking in Russian to the guy after he fails to respond to English. Afterwards he recounts that the Russians are here looking for a mage named Igor. They know that Igor has a companion named Charles who was recently in prison and released after they caused much havoc. This story is beginning to sound too familiar. Igor, could it be Igor Danilovich Vasilyev? But, Byk certainly isn’t a mage? Rook asks if we know anyone named Charles, and I quickly brush it off, saying it is a common name – yeah especially to me. Drek. Continuing with the questioning, Pariah learns that the Khabarovskaya gang wants Igor delivered to them uninjured. Pariah continues to interview him, and I decide to delve a little deeper, and read some of his surface thoughts on the matter. Their group is not entirely loyal to Vasilyev, though they are loyal to his boss. Also, they will leave once Igor is in their hands. Interesting, now only if we knew where Byk was, and why he wasn’t responding to our inquiries. Pariah tries one last time, through Tovarich and gives Byk a twelve hour dedline to contact us back or we will tell Vasilyev what we know. I know Byk turned his back on us during our time of need, but I don’t think I could betray him like that.
While we wait for Byk’s reply, we sit tight at our motel room. Pariah and our captive are speaking in Russian to eachother, who knows what about; Red is trying to recover from her injuries, though she certainly needs better conditions to recover in. Frankly. I worry about the increased risk of infection in this place. Drake is outside in the parking lot monkeying with one of his drones, trying to repair it.I decide to spend some time with Rook and get to know eachother better. We talk a little about our families and I let him know about my recent nuptuals, and that it was on the day I was to leave on my honeymoon that I was arrested. When I bring up the topic of our similarity in the devices implanted into our necks, he gets evasive, and returns back to the news stories we are watching; primarily business news. Some would consider these types of stories boring, but when Rook talks about the machinations of the businesses involved, it would make Shakespeare jealous.
After twelve hours of us patiently waiting for Byk’s reply, there is nothing but silence. I can just hear the clock ticking in my ear as the remaining minutes of my life tick by. We decide we have little other choice now than to release Vasilyev’s man, and try to negotiate with him. We suggest that our captive let his boss know that we will deliver Byk to them, but in order to do so, we need them to back down some and allow peace to return to the city. We leave a number with our hostage to a phone that Rook is holding.
Less than an hour after we release our hostage, a couple of Drake’s drones are alerted to the fact that two vans have left Vasilyev’s compound and are heading out. One of the drones follows the vans, and as they split up, continues to follow one of them. A few minutes later that van arrives in the back area of the Paris Hotel and Casino and ten heavily armed gang members emerge from the van and charge towards the doors. Drek! The drone is to stay there and attempt to take out the van when they flee.
We decide to make our way towards the Khabarovskya compound, where we will attempt to intercept the return of the other van with a strategically placed explosive in the roadway leading up to it. Drake alerts us to a scene where several hostages are escorted our of the Paris Hotel and Casino and are being loaded into the van. He decides not to take out the van after all.
Several moments later, an explosion sends shockwaves through the city, as the courthouse is bombed. What will happen next?
While we are waiting to do a little destruction of our own on this second van’s return, Rook receives a phone call from our “friend” Vasilyev. Rook recounts that Vasilyev said that he will not be bossed around by us, and now that they have a dozen hostages, we shouldn’t be so bold to make demands on him next time. When Pariah heard about the other hostages, he decides to disarm the explosive, before any innocent lives are taken. I am able to get a better look at the passengers in the van through astral projection, and I see there are no hostages inside. By now, it is too late to re-instate the explosives before the van passes by.
By now realize that not only is Vasilyev evil, but also tends to exaggerate. I tell everyone that I think that this has proven that Vasilyev is not someone rational enough to deal with, and that we should talk to LVPD about getting Rook and I a break in order to return to Seattle to track Byk down and return him here.
Drake calls Arianna and fills her in on our progress, and asks her if there is anything she can do to help. She apparently told him she would try. I hope she does more than that; she owes me after all. Red got a call back from Takashi and learned that Byk used to be in the Ork Underground, but has since left. Following up on this, Rook learns that Byk was there contracting anyone that could wield a gun.
I call the DA and ask for his assistance. He isn’t quite as receptive as I had hoped and blames us for not stopping the Khabarovskaya gang and thus not stopping today’s violence. I fill him in on the details of what we had learned, and he calms down slightly. A little while later I get a call back from the LVPD chief. He says that after some consideration, he will give Rook and I one week from now to complete the mission. If after that time has elapsed we have not returned to the LVPD with our mission accomplished, we can expect the devices implanted in our necks to explode. We needed to come in to have the devices tweaked so this could happen and we would be able to leave the city environs.
While we are having these minor adjustments made, Pariah contacts Dragon in order to get us a flight out of here. He tells us that all the flights are booked, but he learned that our compatriot Byk is currently using their services. He had hired a super orbital flight with 40 others, heading somwhere. Russia? Here? Monte Carlo?
Afterwards, I suggest we go to the Montelli’s again and try to convince them that now it their time to shine. After all, what will happen once this [[Vasilyev is gone; who will step in to fill the vacuum? We arrived at their new location about dinnertime, which was evidenced by the smell of garlic and pine nuts emanating from a nearby room. They were still a little cold at seeing us, but they warmed up slightly when Rook took the floor. He seemed to have just the right words and flair to convince them that this was the time to act. They said they would help, but their parting words reminded us that we would earn ourselves new enemies if we failed to assist them.
We returned to our no frills motel; yeah there were sheets on the beds, but is that really a frill? We began discussions of how we could trick Vasilyev’s gang and hopefully take a few of them out without getting further hurt ourselves, when Pariah and Rook both took note of a small light that had just turned on on a set of goggles recently “liberated” by us. Rook mentions something about how the equipment could have been monitoring our discussion and location, but then realizes that it is not exporting the data. For the next couple of hours Rook and Red start to work on the unit and see if we can use it to our advantage. Drake, who one would think would be an expert at this kind of thing was to busy futzing with his drones.
Whilst this is being done, Drake suddenly pipes up and says “Something big is going on at the warehouse”. We rush out of the motel, and head towards the compound. En route, we discover that it is not the Montelli’s engaged in a firefight with Vasilyev’s crew as originally thought, but it is rather Byk and his crew that has arrived. On the monitors, we can see a series of firefights going on, and the rooftop snipers and mages are wracking havoc upon Byk’s crew. We agree that we should get involved, but should not be on the front lines of the combat. We decide that we would be best suited to trying to eliminate some of the snipers. Through Drake’s uber competent driving, we arrive at the eastern side in no time. My mind flashes back to the memory of Red getting shot as she came over the rooftop edge of a similar building. and I tell Rook and Pariah to stand near each other, that I would transport them to the rooftop, like I had done in a similar maneuver a couple days before. My attempt fails me at first, it must be my nerves getting the best of me, but I eventually levitate them off the ground and up on to the rooftop. When they get to the top, Pariah radios that there is nothing left of the sniper up there, and part of the rooftop is missing. They ask me to levitate them down, and I say sorry, since I can’t see them anymore that is not possible. A few minutes later, they emerge from the interior stairway.
Red suggests that she is going to try and take an advantageous position so she can do some of her sniping, besides which this keeps her out of any more direct harm. Drake sticks with the limo, as I, Pariah and Rook head towards the warehouse. By now, it looks like the pandemonium out front has subsided by now, but from the sound of it, the battle is still raging inside. Pariah suggests that we try to prevent any escape by Vasilyev’s men, so he rigs the escape vehicles to explode on command.
After nearly a month of non-communication, Pariah finally reaches Byk who confirms they are in a fight for their lives just on the other side of the wall. Pariah tells him that we are nearly there and to order his men not to fire on us. As we approach the first open bay, I nearly slip on the blood, as it flows out of the building, down into the parking lot level. This can’t be good. The sounds of gunfire are deafening, and we can hear some men scream as they burst into flames. At least some of the magicians are still alive. We sneak our way along that side of the building, to be opposite of where the door is to the office. This is, where I assume, Vasilyev and his hostages are. I tell the others that I will try and get a better lay of the land on this side, and sit and rest my back against the wall. My spirit passes through the wall and as I scan the area, I am able to discern that the men closest to this area are mages, and they have taken cover behind a large object. Not 30 seconds later I am relaying this to my friends as I stand up.
Pariah says he has an idea, and yanks a grenade out of one of his pouches. He must have some sort of Mojo himself to carry so much gear. Anyway, he tosses the grenade in and a few seconds later, shrill screams are heard as certainly that has killed several of them. We enter the room, and see more bodies. This side of the room has largely been cleared. As we make our way to the office door, I see out of the corner of my eye, that some of the men raise their hands in surrender and a few seconds later are mowed down where they stand. Byk can also be seen running our way. I look to Pariah and he says “We’ve got to get to the hostages before he does.” A fraction of a second later, Vasilyev is dead as Pariah shoots him squarely. As I enter the room, I can see one dead woman in the corner, shot between the eyes. Several more are bent over crying and screaming. I try to calm them the best I can. None of them has been hurt, and the dead woman has been dead quite some time. Byk is there now too, mutilating his father’s corpse. Where have I read that before?
A minute or two later Red alerts us to the arrival of LVPD. I get on my phone and call the Chief. When he answers I say “The issue has been taken care of. The target is dead and we have rescued the hostages.” He says “Hang tight and don’t create a reason for us to harm you.” I tell this to Pariah and Rook, but notice that Rook has flown the coop. LVPD pours into the warehouse and handcuffs Pariah and myself and escort us out of the building along with the hostages. As I look around at all of the firepower outside I wonder why they had not used that in the first place against Vasilyev’s men.
After we are looked over, Pariah and I are released and Rook and I have appointments tomorrow to remove these god forsaken devices from our head. Just think, tomorrow at this time I should be home.
We all rendezvous back at Le Roach Motel, and Pariah is able to make plans for us to get out of Dodge after our surgery tomorrow. By mid-afternoon that next day, the devices have been removed and we are on our way back to the Emerald City.
Next: Home Sweet Home