You are Clayton, heading to the address given to you where Rose's mother is being held.
"This can't be right," you say to Scindo, your hacking agent, as you drive down a lonely desert road. "How can it be in the middle of nowhere like this?"
"I admit to being unsure," says the car speakers, muting the radio. You're currently plugged into the car, giving Scindo a little room to breathe, not that he does, being software and all. Still, he's someone to bounce ideas off of, even if his experience is limited mostly to hacking stuff. You could talk to him just in your head, but that seems a little too much like talking to yourself, not that anyone is here to hear or not hear his replies. Still, you have the tech, you're going to use it, darn it!
"Of course, from another point of view it's perfect, because you can probably see people coming for miles, so if I wanted to hide someone, buried in the middle of an open field would be a place I would consider."
"That must be it," Scindo replies. He pauses. "I am compelled to call your attention to the car's GPS system, which I notice has just gone down."
You glance over, and sure enough, you're getting no bars of signal and the color scheme on the display has changed, meaning it can't find satellites anymore. You glance in the rear view mirror, making sure no one is behind you (there isn't) and pull the car off to the side of the road. You query your own personal GPS system that was implanted in your head, and it too is getting a big, fuzzy nothingness.
"Well that's just great!" you exclaim.
"I am unsure how losing the GPS signal can be interpreted as a positive development."
"That was sarcasm, you... stupid..." You are not going to get angry with your hacking program.
"Ah yes, I must remember to keep my sarcasm detector subroutine going."
"Was that- never mind." You unplug, step out of the car and climb on top of it, scanning the horizon around your position.
There is something there, all right, you note to yourself. That's got to be the place. You don't dare approach any closer with the car, but there's also no cover to speak of between here and there, but hey, no problem, right? You can take anybody who's there, because you're the best at what you do! At least that's what your Overconfident weakness is telling you. You have prepared well in any case, and jump off the car, walking around to the trunk while checking your inventory. You have both your guns and they are both loaded with rubber rounds at the moment, which Rose insisted on before you left. You have a clip loaded with real ammo of course, and whatever clip you have in will get reloaded with the spell on the gun, so that's no problem. You have a small barrel of each kind sitting in your room, no worries about counting shots on this little adventure! Of course, shooting even once is only a last resort thing, that would draw attention to your position, silencer on the gun or not. Even worse would be using the stun grenades, but the handcuffs will probably come in handy.
You click open the trunk, then look up at the bright sunlight beaming down, then back at the black pieces of plastic you are about to strap onto yourself. You grab the water jug and take a nice long pull of ice water, splashing a little on your face. It'll be the last for awhile, you're afraid to say. That done, you start pulling out pieces of armor out from a box labeled "Active Camo", joining them together clumsily, as you've only practiced this a couple of times. You start snapping it around yourself, making sure the fit is good, and soon you are totally enclosed in a sort of shell, then you pull a mirror out and prop it up so you can see yourself. You activate the electronics inside, and seem to vanish, light bending around your body or at least seeming to. It uses power like crazy, but you'll only need it for the final approach, you hope. You check to make sure it's all working and power it down, then unplug the recharge socket from the battery. Ugh, you're going to die in this thing, it's getting hot already, hopefully you won't have to wear it long. With what this thing costs (you had to sign double the usual amount of paperwork to take it out to the field) you would think they could put in a small cooling unit, but you suppose every iota of power must go to the camo part of the Active Camo system, so you reluctantly resolve to get used to it. Strapping on a sweatbox to rescue a fairy on ice, that seems about right for this little adventure.
You lock up the car and fix the magnetic directional onto the building you saw. They may be able to block GPS but they can't block the Earth's magnetic field! The gloves on the armor are too fat to use your guns with, so totally unarmed, you head in the direction the compass points. As you get close you activate the system and vanish again, creeping up to what looks like a fence with wire on the top, and you notice guards patrolling the area inside. You go still, and the energy drain stabilizes at about 40%, giving you twenty minutes or so of motionless hiding in plain sight.
"The heck?" you say, moving your eyes back and forth.
"It seems rather like a military installation, if I may say so Sir," says Scindo in your head. And it does, as the place is surrounded by a high fence, with razor wire sticking out the top towards the outside. A couple of guards are milling about, looking bored, which will change real fast if someone spots you. This stuff isn't bulletproof, after all. Beyond all that is a nondescript building, the back of which you seem to have stumbled upon because there's only one door. Probably the main gate and larger doors are on the other side, along with the road and ten million different kinds of scanning or sensing devices.
"Is that even possible?"
"I can only offer you the reality of what you are seeing, which may not be very helpful, but which I assure you does not seem to be an illusion of any kind."
"No it isn't."
"Helpful, or an illusion?"
"Thank you for clarifying. Therefor, if it is not a military installation it is a very good facsimile of one."
"Which is disturbing either way. O.I.F either has contacts in the military, the resources to build and staff a place like this, or has somehow hidden Rose's mother inside without anyone knowing."
"If the last option, the front door might be the best approach."
"We can't risk it. Our opponent has always seemed very well prepared, I wouldn't put it past them to somehow control this place."
"Then you must find a way in without being noticed, sir."
"I regret that I am a hacking AI, not an infiltration AI. I can only break into things in the digital world."
"I do see a door right there, but like the doors to our building they probably need an eye scan, a card swipe and a passcode, so you'd have to hack all three things at once to get in."
"Depending on the amount of money thrown at securing this location, perhaps even more stringent methods of keeping people out are employed."
"Wish I had cyber legs right now that could just jump that fence."
"I would think you would rather wish to have already succeeded in your mission and be on your way back, if I understand the principal of wishing sir."
"Thank you, I have been- oh, that was more of that sarcasm, wasn't it?"
You decide not to answer.
You wait a moment until the one guard is out of sight, then shimmy up the fence as quietly as possible in your clunky optical suit, then grab the spar that holds the wire up there. You freeze and silently repeat "go away" as someone cranes their neck around the corner, looking to see if something is going on. They look around, but shake their head, and you wait a few more seconds before hoisting yourself up, cyber arms straining, then swinging yourself over the wire and onto the other side. Of course the camo suit gets a bit scratched up, but you can't worry about that now, dropping quietly to the other side and, staying low, making your way to the door.
"Well done sir."
You're now down to 25% power, and again go motionless, conserving energy. You chuckle, why don't they make these things solar powered or something?
You wait until the guard passes again and make an unarmed attack, grabbing him and slamming him up against the door, dazing him.
"Open the door," you say, sticking your finger in his back and hoping, in his panic, that he will believe it's a gun. You cover his mouth with your glove, and realize just how wrongly this situation could go. This man is just an NPC though, and not feeling particularly brave, or interested in fighting an invisible man, and nods his head.
You see he has a key card on a pull string attached to his belt, so you grab it and shove it into the slot. The light on the unit goes from red to green, so at least that much is going according to plan. You put his face up to the iris reader, which also goes green.
"Type," you say as the keyboard attacked to the card reader lights up. "And the real code, not the one that sets off the silent alarm, I already know that one."
"Oh, good bluff sir," says Scindo. "And good thinking. It does stand to reason they would employ something similar at this facility, doesn't it?"
You watch as he punches in the code, and the third light goes green, and the door unlocks. It's probably triggered a "door open" message someplace, but you hustle him inside so hopefully no one checked fast enough, and this guy goes inside to use the bathroom or whatever on occasion so it won't be remarked upon.
You're now in a back hallway, which runs only a few feet in front of you before branching off left and right, and which is clear. First order of business? Ditch this guy.
"Now listen to me," you say softly, knowing your voice will be further muffled by the armor. "I'm here to get someone out, a fairy, frozen in a block of ice. I don't care about your military secrets or why this base is in the middle of nowhere. I am going to go in, find that fairy, and leave, do you understand?"
The man nods.
"Good. I don't want to hurt you, but I will if I have to. I'm going to lock you up so you don't cause trouble, which way do I go to do that?"
He jerks his head left, so you push him forward and turn around so you can peer around the corner. Cost is clear, so you left and look in the first door. Seems to be a meeting room, there's a table and chairs in there. The next door is locked, but the next one, at the end of the hallway isn't, it's a storeroom. You push the guy in there and watch your power drain to 10%. You deactivate the camo and get some handcuffs out of your inventory with your right hand, your left still holding the guy's mouth. You snap the handcuff on his right hand and push him down, then attach it to his left ankle.
"Quietly now, you remember what I said, right?" you ask.
The man nods again.
You scan the room, and you see some wide tape on a shelf, which is good luck for you, so you take your hand away and grab it. You work off your one glove so you can get some tape off, and plaster his mouth closed with it. Now that you look at this guy, he seems about your age, which is weird. "What-" you start to ask, then change your mind. You handcuff his left arm to his right ankle and start taking off your camo gear. It would be nice to recharge it, and you do find a power plug in this room and hook it in, but you don't have time to wait. It'll just slow you down now that you're inside, so you take the whole thing off.
"All right," you say, grabbing a rope and tying the crossed handcuffs to the nearby shelf. "I'm leaving you here and getting the fairy, so don't make trouble."
He seems to understand the situation so you check your guns, one clip of real ammo in your left hand, one clip of replenishing rubber ammo in your right. Let's do this thing.
You grab the guy's ID, it doesn't look like you, of course, but it might cause someone to hesitate long enough for you to act if you get caught. You crack the door open and look down the hall, deciding not to lock it because you might want to avoid paying for this camo equipment if you can help it, so you plan to come back. No one is there, so you head out, shut the door softly behind you, and head to the meeting room, closing that door and locking it behind you. You look around the walls, and yes, there's a port for network access, so you slip your cable into it and tell Scindo to poke around and report back.
You wait a few minutes and it does, saying that "I nearly got caught the first check I made, a thirteen, so I backed off and let things calm down, then tried again. I got a 23 on my next attempt, so I'm in the system now. Would you believe this is a training facility?"
"Yes I would, it explains why there isn't more activity in here, and how young that guy I took out looked."
"I must tell you, there is no record of a fairy being brought here, or of anything frozen in ice, really. There is only one floor, and the scheduled drill currently being enacted won't bring the majority of soldiers back for at least an hour. That isn't to say we have the place totally to ourselves, you'll want to erase the camera footage of you sneaking around, and there are several people inside the building, but none are PCs. I must conclude the camera operator was not present or inattentive, there are cameras in all the hallways which must have recorded you."
"So no real fighters? That's one bit of good news. But if she hasn't been brought here, what's the point of staying?"
"She was not officially brought here, that does not mean she won't be found here unofficially."
"I guess you're right, we'll just have to look around. Still, this place is a hot box, they would need some serious cooling to keep that fairy on ice. Or magic, I guess."
"I have no information."
"Okay, let's go."
You unplug and creep down the hall again to the right, passing a room full of active equipment, probably some kind of communications room by the look of it. The next room interests you greatly, it seems to be the camera room, but the operator sitting in front of the monitors seems more interested in his book then in watching the cameras. You'll have to control this room if you want to purge those recordings, and figure the best way would be to shoot the guy in the head with a rubber bullet, knocking him out. Well, you suppose the "best" way would be for you to ask nicely, and for him to comply perfectly and give you Rose's mom and send you on your way with a cookie. But knocking him out is a close second. You edge your gun into the room, and take careful aim, noting that there doesn't seem to be anyone that close to you if those monitors are to be believed.
Man, this guy is clueless, you can plainly see yourself aiming at this guy in the monitor in the lower right here. Anyway, you do a called shot to the head, and to increase damage, because you want him taken out before he can raise any kind of alarm. You didn't want to shoot and attract attention to yourself in here, but charging in there would probably be noisier? Still, these bullets do use less gunpowder, and you do have a silencer attached, so let's hope...
You fire, getting a seventeen to hit, which he can't possibly negate with a CONstitution check, but it doesn't matter because you get a ten on your damage roll anyway, which knocks him out regardless.
He slumps over.
You slither your way into the room, around the door frame and check the monitors. You don't know it, but the Narrator rolls your LUCk, and you get a 12, which is enough to make sure no-one heard you for later plot reasons, so you tensely watch the monitors for signs of movement, and breathe a sigh of relief when it seems things go on as normal in the base.
You plug into the jack here and with Scindo's help hack the system to stop recording for the time being, and erase your signs of recent passage from the computer's memory. You also find and retrieve your bullet, wouldn't do to leave that laying around, now would it? Then you slump this chump over his chair onto the monitors, making it look to the casual observer like he just fell asleep. Hopefully anyone walking by will just shake their heads and think "he's gonna get in so much trouble" rather then stopping in to "wake" him. You hope.
Time to press on.
Directly across from that is the medical room, there's a bed, racks of medical looking stuff, and a curtain. You head in, but there's no one here, so that's one less room to worry about.
You head down the hallway further left and to your left is a small martial arts room across from an office, which are both empty. The next door to the right is another office, and across the hall is a much larger room with weights and other work out equipment for those that want to pay the outrageous XP cost of raising stats. You think for a minute, looking at the equipment. You have a natural STRength of four, which is one higher because of your cyber arms, bringing it up to a five. To bring your natural STRength up to a five would cost you twenty XP, more then half of what you've earned since you entered NPC-PS and gone on all those adventures. You shake your head, only someone with a very low physical stat would even bother, right? You start to move past but hear a noise like someone setting a weight down, and freeze. Is someone actually in there?
You sneak around the corner, watching for mirrors so you aren't spotted and yes, someone is in here working out, the fool. You can't get a good angle on him, the machine he's working on is in the way, plus there's a mirror right there so you can't sneak up him either.
You think for a moment and just decide to leave him be, he's probably not going anywhere for awhile so you'll just have to hope he doesn't walk past the monitor room in the next few minutes. You ease your way back out and flatten yourself against the corner. Looks like this is the main hallway, there's the guard station beyond those doors, which thankfully is staffed by someone looking out, not in. There's a door to your left, which, keeping low you open and peer inside. Looks like another storeroom, great. You continue on and the next door is that flappy kind, and you see through the plastic portal it's the mess hall, and someone's having a snack in there. You grimace, this person is going to me more of a problem, they'll be up and about much sooner then muscle-head back there. It seems to be a woman, but that doesn't bother you, it's not like you have a soft spot Weakness or anything. You open the door a crack and slip your gun through, taking the time to aim and taking the same penalty as last time for greater damage. Your check compared to hers is phenomenal, and again you are pleased when this person slumps over into their food, knocked out. You slip into the room, again holding your breath and hoping no one heard that, but there's no patter of running feet, so you make the woman a little more comfortable on the bench, whisper a hasty apology (you aren't stupid, you know she can't hear it) and look around. There seems to be a kitchen through the back, and a pantry to the right, so no help here.
Heading back to the main hallway you again keep low, and pass by a locked door with the same three factor security as the main door you came through, so it's probably where they keep the guns. You head further right to where you hear singing, of all things, and peak into the next door. Looks like a lounge, there's some couches, a big TV, and there's another woman standing in front of it, playing a video game by the looks of it. The words she's singing are appearing on the screen, and she's doing some dance moves that are mirroring the figures on the screen. Figures she would do this while most everyone was away, but you wonder why she's not out with the others doing whatever drill is going on now. But then, someone has to stay and guard the base, right?
Now you're torn again, if the singing abruptly cuts off, the guard in the vestibule area there, which is not that far away, might wonder what happened and come investigate. Still, their holding cells can't be off the lounge, right? You'll have to check back the other way and what the heck is that lady doing? Her singing isn't that bad, but she must have just rolled minimum on her dancing check, she's flopping around like a fish out of water. Like a dog on an ice rink. Like a teen wearing high heels the very first time.
You've got to get out of here.
You head back the other way, down the entrance hallway and past the training room. Yup, muscle man is still grunting away, more power to you and all that. Monitor room guy is snoozing, just keep it up why don't you, and you move past the hallway with the door you came in and continue down the other way.
You head all the way down and peek in on your buddy, he's still taped, hand cuffed and roped up, so no trouble there.
Heading right down the only hallway you have left you find the bathrooms with showers and the living quarters.
You check in each one, carefully in case someone is napping somewhere, and looks like four beds to a room, a bunk on either side, with bits of paraphernalia scattered about to personalize things a little. No people. You become more and more worried as you move down the hall, checking seven different rooms, and finding... nothing.
Somehow you've missed a stairs or something, because that's the whole building. You stand there, dumbfounded, looking in the final room and wondering how you missed it, you've been very methodical, haven't you? Now you'll have to go all the way back, and the minutes are ticking away and-
You turn and see a very large cyborg standing there, a very large gun in his hands, about three doors down. Great, it can get worse, you were either so lost in thought you didn't hear him or he's got stealth modifications so as to be nearly silent as he walks. He's obviously a full body replacement model, and big, meaning he's a walking tank, and your plastic bullets aren't going to do much against him, while his gun looks very deadly to you, should he choose to use it. You regard each other seriously a moment.
"Can I help you with something?" he asks finally.
"Actually you can," you answer, figuring you have nothing to lose at this point, right? There is the slim hope this person is exactly what they seem to be, a military officer, and not someone working for O.I.F. They've used unknowing people in the past, after all.
"I'm from NPC-PS, here on a case. I've been led to believe someone, a fairy to be exact, is being held here. I'm looking for her."
He's taking you seriously? This might work out after all! At the very least he's not sending hot lead your way, so go with it.
"Yes, really. I can show you my badge if you want, and talk with my CO, he's aware of my mission."
"Drop the guns and kick them over here, then get out your badge and we'll see if your story checks out."
You put the safeties on your guns and slowly set them down, then give them a shove down the hallway, and he takes a couple of steps forward and picks up one, ejecting the clip, and then does the same with the other.
"Plastic bullets, huh?"
"I didn't want to seriously hurt anyone, but I couldn't be sure this place was legitimate. It relates to my mission."
"I noticed some people knocked out on my way in here. Thank you for not killing them, as I take it you easily could have. That's the only reason we're talking now, by the way."
"I figured that."
"Now the badge."
You ease it out of your inventory, if such a thing is even possible, and put that on the floor and kick it over to him, and he picks it up as well, without taking his eyes off you. He takes a couple of steps back and hands it to someone around the corner. "Check this out."
"Right away sir," says a voice.
He comes back to give you the close up view of the wrong end of his weapon, and you both stare at each other.
"It's a nice facility," you offer, to fill the silence.
"Thank you. It's not much, but someone has to train the recruits. We can't all be PCs, after all."
"Yes, I suppose not. Are you back early then? I was under the impression your training exercise wouldn't be over for some time."
"No. When the door was opened, the camera automatically transmitted an image to me out in the field, safety precaution and all that. When I saw one of my soldiers being manhandled by an invisible person I figured something was up and came to investigate."
"Otherwise, well done getting in. We'll have to install some infrared sensors or something on the back door."
"Well, that's what training facilities are all about, right?"
"Yes, I guess you're right." He looks thoughtful. "That actually gives me an idea for a training exercise or two."
"Oh, that guy I was, uh, manhandling? He's tied up in the closet over there."
"Check it out," he calls over his shoulder.
"On it sir."
"So you said a fairy?"
"That's correct. Four people were abducted by a wizard that's been giving us some problems lately, and we were given their locations. One of them was here, at this base, so I came to check it out."
"Interesting. Very interesting," he says, interested.
"Do you know anything about it?"
"No, but a wizard was recently posted here, and the paperwork was a little odd. I've been keeping an eye on him, but he hasn't done anything suspicious. Until just a little while ago, anyway. Right after I got the notification that someone had come in here I asked him if he could get me some more information about the intruder. He said he would and started casting magic spells. Then he said, "oh crap, he showed up instead of Rose? I'm dead!" Then he cast another spell and teleported away."
"Rose? You're sure he said Rose?"
"That's the daughter of the person I'm trying to find. Rose Petal, she's a fellow NPC-PS agent!"
The man's lip curls a little bit, and his eyes narrow. "I knew something was fishy with him. Stupid wizards, and their stupid magic."
"I'll take all I can get, pointed away from me."
"I guess you're right, it is useful stuff."
Another man comes around the corner holding your badge. "He's legit," he says to the cyborg, handing the badge over. "He's supposed to be here, and his story checks out."
"I figured as much. Put a notice out I want that wizard detained if he shows up around here again, and start looking around for a fairy, this guy says there's one around here someplace."
He hands your badge back. "Clayton, is it?"
"That's me, thank you sir."
"The name's Mathew Kinghorn," he says, putting his gun over his shoulder, where it sticks like magic. Probably magnets in the gun attaching it to his metal frame. He holds his hand out. "Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too. Thanks for not shooting first and asking questions later."
"Well like I said, you injured rather then killing, so I figured something odd was happening. Nice arms, by the way. Had them long?"
"About three years. My real ones got pretty messed up when I tried to save my mother from a gang. You?"
"I'm a lifer. Figured I'd go the distance, get my body replaced as it was starting to break down on me. I love being in the thick of things, so this body made sense for me. Can't say I regret it either."
"If you don't mind my asking, what are you doing out here then?"
"Training my team! These aren't just some random soldiers, you know? They may not be PCs, but they've got the drive to learn a lot of skills, and I'll only go on missions with people I've trained myself. Less people get killed that way. Another year or so and we'll be ready for real missions, the important ones, that everyone else says is impossible. My team gets them done and gets back alive."
You nod, understanding.
"You were just drafted yourself, right?" Naturally your badge shows the date of your joining NPC-PS, so the question is largely rhetorical.
"Well, when your five years is up, if you're still interested in the service come look me up. We could use a man with your skills, one who's not afraid to enter what could be hostile territory, alone, and rescue a hostage if need be. Especially one that knows how much force to use, not too little, and not too much. That kind of thing is hard to teach, if you know what I mean."
"Thanks for the offer, I'll definitely keep it in mind."
"Good man. Now let's go find your fairy!"
You walk with him back to the main entrance, and see the people you knocked out being treated in the hospital room.
"Sorry about that," you shout in, a bit sheepishly.
"They had it coming!" says Mathew, laughing. "Reading on duty, he could have been shot for real, and by someone who wouldn't be all "sorry" at the end either.
"Nothing ever happens here!" the camera watcher whines.
"Shut it!" shouts Mathew. "This guy just proved you wrong, grunt. Something happened, and bang, you're dead. You should be thanking this guy your brains aren't currently splattered all over that room, not whining to me. You can send him some flowers later. Now get back to work!"
"Yes sir!" He salutes and runs off.
Several people are crowding the hall now, and all of them report they haven't seen a fairy.
"Did you check the wizard's stuff?" Mathew asks.
"I did sir," one says.
"I don't know what else to tell you," he says, turning to you. "This place isn't that big, as you probably already saw, and if they say there's no fairy, then there's no fairy."
You think a moment. "She's probably frozen, how big a freezer do you have?"
"Well, I don't know. Who's on KP duty right now?"
"I am sir!" says a voice, and the woman you saw dancing and singing comes up.
"Well, how big a freezer do we have?"
"You think the fairy is in the freezer sir?"
"No, he does. Go check it out!"
She walks off, and various people come and go, reporting the places they've checked.
"Thanks for helping with this, I appreciate it."
"Not at all. Gives the grunts something new to talk about instead of just complaining all the time. Shakes up their perceptions a bit, never a bad thing."
A few minutes later the woman returns with a small block of ice she's holding in a pot holder. "I found her sir, she's probably dead, I mean, look at her, she's completely frozen."
Now it's your turn to laugh. "You really found her! That's great. I should have thought about finding the freezer right off!"
"How can you laugh when this poor fairy is dead?" the woman asks, shocked.
"She's not dead. It's a magic spell, I've seen it a couple of times. It's a favorite of this wizard we're trying to track down. Thaw her out and she'll be fine. Just stick her outside for a few minutes, it's hot enough out there to do the job."
"I hope you're right," she says, and everyone troops out into the sun, where the block of ice is set on the ground and everyone gathers around to watch.
"You might want to put a few more points into your dancing skill," you whisper to her. "But your singing is pretty good."
She immediately colors. "You saw that?" she hisses at you. "I only do that when no one else is around. If you tell anyone..."
You chuckle. "Don't worry, your secret is safe with me." You tap the side of your head, by your cyber eyes. "Of course, one day I might need cash so what do you think the video I took of you would be worth?"
"You didn't!" she says, shocked.
"No, I didn't. I had more important things to do at the time so I didn't even think about it."
"You better not have."
You all wait while the ice melts, which like you figured doesn't take long is this heat, and with a little gentle pulling the ice is broken off Rose's mother and she starts breathing again, shivering and looking around dazed.
A cheer goes up when it seems like she's safe and going to be okay.
"What is going on here?" demands the little fairy, and you can see the resemblance to Rose. "And why do I have this tiny scrap of paper in my inventory?"
Looks like you have some explaining to do, but it seems like everything is going to be all right.