Seattle Reign

RUN 5: THE AGRIBUSINESS JOB

Bashurr, Blixt, and Cage head into Category Z, the fixer Byron’s dive of choice, to meet the dwarf about a new offer of work – but no sooner do they arrive and order their drinks than the door opens again, giving way before an enormously tall human covered in muscle grafts that give him a grotesque, almost alien silhouette. The man is wearing dark pants and a sleeveless white button-up shirt with a tie, and sports a beetling brow, enormous mutton chops, and a grease-slick pompadour. He makes a beeline for Byron. The middle-aged ork behind the bar swallows nervously. “The boss isn’t here…” he offers, but the hulk is only interested in the little fixer.

“Thought we explained it good and clear, little guy,” he rumbles. “You wanna fix here, fine, but we get a cut. We get a cut of all the action.”

“Slot off,” Byron says, emboldened by the presence of his runners. “We’re independent. You don’t know what that means, go look it up. It means we’ve never paid the mob’s vig and we’re not about to start now.”

“Big talk’s only gonna take you so far,” the hulk says.

Bashurr stands up. “There a problem here, friend?”

“Not if you and your buddies cough up the family’s percentage. Otherwise, yeah, we got a problem.”

“Name the place and time,” Bashurr says nonchalantly. “I’ll be there.” They size each other up for a long moment.

“Be sooner than you think,” the hulk says as he leaves.

A few minutes later, a woman in her early forties steps into the bar. She is human, of medium height, and thin, with sharp features. She wears denim jeans tucked into heavy duty hiking boots and a black micropore tank top under an enormously baggy blue flannel shirt. Her hair is short, dark, and practical, and she wears thick prescription sunglasses. Everything about her says “granola,” 2070s-style. She looks around nervously and Byron waves her over.

“Mrs. Johnson,” he says indulgently.

“Uh, Dr. Johnson,” she corrects him. “I’m…sorry, I’ve never had to hire….you know…before.”

“Hire what?” Blixt smirks.

She looks around. “Shadowrunners,” she whispers at last.

Around then, Cole turns up, a bit late and smelling of booze, but he takes a seat and assumes an attentive posture.

“I represent a small, er, growing operation,” she begins. “A grow-op. We grow food and…other things.” She hurries on. “Anyway, our water purifier recently broke down. It’s an old model and needs a replacement control board. And, uh, that’s where you come in, I guess. I know where one is, but I need you to get it for us.”

“Hold on,” Bashurr says. “Why not just buy a replacement?”

“Well, we don’t…we want discretion. Buying it would create a data trail. Someone would have to come do an installation. The corps would find out where we are, the mob or the Yakuza…no, we have to keep this under wraps. Stealing one is best for all concerned. And like I said, I know where one is. It should be easy.”

Everyone looks skeptical at that one. She looks confused.

“These things are rarely easy, madam,” Byron says by way of explanation.

“Oh. Well…I already did the, the background on this. What we need is a Saeder-Krupp Wasserreinigungssystem 660, or rather the control board for it. Here are the schematics,” she waves a hand and shares file to everyone’s PDAs. “And I’ve learned that Pacific Pride Family Farms up in Snohomish has one. THey’re a soy farm. Agribusiness. I’ve got some photos I took..” She shares another file. “My, uh, my organization is prepared to pay 25,000Y for an intact working control board.”

Cole coughs theatrically. “You’re new,” he says sympathetically, “so you might not know that that’s a bit on the low side…”

She looks abashed. “That’s really all the liquid cash we have at the moment,” she sighs, “but after the job is done we could offer you a quantity of our product…? The Awakened find it particularly -”

Blixt’s eyes snap open. “Done and done!”

The deal is finalized, and she gives them part of their payment upfront. “So I wasn’t expecting to meet here,” she muses, as she gets ready to leave. “The friend who told me about you, Byron, said you usually held court Downtow-”

“That was a long time ago,” Byron says peevishly. “Things are…different. Good day, madam. Please contact me with any further developments.”

For once, this is not an especially time-sensitive job, so the team decide to put in several days’ worth of legwork. Snohomish is northwest of the Redmond Barrens and is largely wild and empty, a district of hills and fields, home to several huge agri-farms but sparsely occupied in general. The largely rural population harbors some anti-metahuman sentiment and the Humanis Policlub has a thriving chapter among the ag workers.

Pacific Pride has a smallish spread, mostly given over to engineered soy cultivars, but is surrounded by a three-meter chain-link fence and seems to have several guards. From what the team can discern from the photographs, there is a small administration building, the main processing plant, and, furthest from the road, what looks like some kind of low, long building, like a Quonset hut, but strongly reinforced.

The team get a room at a no-tell motel and get to work. The first day, Cole parks his Americar sedan (its windows finally replaced after having been shotgunned out a few days ago) on the side of the country highway near Pacific Pride’s main entrance, jacks in, and gets wi-fi access to one of their administrative servers. The nodes here are tougher than he had expected but he manages to download a personnel roster, a basic building schematic, and a delivery log before a pair of uniformed security begin walking toward his parked car to ask his business. He feigns taking a phone call and casually drives off.

It looks like, aside from administrative personnel and a couple dozen ag workers, Pacific Pride employs several parabotanists and a small army of security. And while it doesn’t say this anywhere on their signage, their internal documents make it quite clear that they’re a subsidiary of EVO.

Cole begins researching the careers of the parabotanists. That night, Bashurr, Cage, and Red (who has joined the team late) head to a nearby roadhouse to try and catch the Pacific Pride security staff on their off hours.

The mood inside is tense, and only gets tenser as Bashurr steps in. The problem is immediately evident: at one side of the honky-tonk sit a small gaggle of off-duty guards, many of whom – demographically more than you’d expect – are orks and trolls. EVO is friendlier to the “goblinized” than most corps.

And on the other side of the room sit a crowd of human bikers flying some of the regalia of the Humanis Policlub. The two groups, metas and skinheads, are glaring across the length of the bar at each other.

“Look at that fucking tusker,” one of the bikers yells as Bashurr enters.

The big ork steps up to the oldest and beardiest human biker, whom he guesses is the leader. “I’m not looking for trouble, friend,” he jerks his thumb over his shoulder, “and neither are my friends back there. So why don’t you just let us drink in peace?”

The biker leader eyes him, and then eyes Cage, standing inhumanly still at the door, and swallows. “We’re humans,” he says at last, jerking his chin upward. “We don’t start trouble.” He gives the men at his table a withering look that brooks no disagreement.

Bashurr nods and orders a drink, and a huge troll girl in a security uniform calls him over. “Wow!” she says. “I thought for sure that was gonna end badly. What’s your story?”

“It would’ve ended badly for him,” Bashurr nods. “No story. Just a thirsty biker pulling in for a drink.”

“You dealt with him the like a pro, though,” she says, not dropping the subject. “You ever worked security? Think you might want to if someone offered?”

“A SINless biker ork work corpsec? I don’t know…” he sounds intrigued.

“EVO isn’t like other corps,” she says excitedly. “We’ve got a home here. Why, you could…”

They talk a while longer before Bashurr baldly asks her if she wants to leave with him. She considers for a moment – then makes her apologies to her coworkers, takes the ork’s hand, and leads him outside.

Meanwhile, Red and Cage get a darkened corner booth in the honky-tonk and Red commands one of his spirits obscure them so Cage can pull out his cyberdeck and hack a nearby guard’s PDA. The fishing expedition is successful; Cage pulls an orientation memo with a list of Pacific Pride’s basic security protocols. It seems they have fourteen security personnel on site at all times, two of whom are mages, several of the rest of which are trolls. There are also Doberman drones in the guard shack, administration building, and the Quonset-hut-things, which are called the “high security labs.”

The next day, the troll woman, still eager to make a convert, brings Bashurr to the Metahuman Resources office at Pacific Pride, where he does well enough at the aptitude tests to intrigue the guard commander and be given a security orientation. It is during the course of this that he learns that the water purifier is located adjacent to the high-security labs; a pipeline brings up water from the nearby polluted Snohomish River and the dirty water is sent to the labs while the clean water is piped to the main processing plant and the auto-irrigators.

Red, waiting in the car, also notices an aerial drone keeping an eye on the entire Farms from a hundred feet up.

Cole finishes his research and shows the group what he has learned. The lead parabotanist employed at Pacific Pride has written papers about the possibility of “tailored organisms to replace security infrastructure.”
The group hatches a plan. Blixt gets a hold of one of his contacts, a talismonger named ZenZen, and pays through the nose to learn the Oxygenate spell. Red and Cole shake the tree and get ahold of tox-resistant wetsuits and waterproof gear bags.

The next night, Blixt casts Oxygenate on the wetsuited team and they dive into the Snohomish River. Guided by Red’s “Squirtle” water spirit, they find the intake pipe and begin swimming up it, although the general nastiness of the toxic river water causes Cole and Blixt some distress. Soon Red and Squirtle, in the lead, hear the thrumming of the giant pump that draws the river water uphill, and see whirling turbines ahead. Red produces a small ball of plastic explosive and lets the current carry the ball right up to the turbine before he remotely detonates it.

The explosion is deafening and the shockwave rattles the taem’s teeth, but the pump shatters and the water in the pipe immediately begins draining back downhill. Part of the wall of the huge water storage tank has smashed through the wall of the secure labs, and Bashurr grunts and widens the hole as the sound of alarms fills the air.

The water spirit and Cage are the first out of the water tank and into the secure labs, and as they enter, big gobs of caustic acid slop narrowly past them, leaving a sizzling mess on the wall behind them.

The secure lab is a long greenhouse, and from the planters on the floor tower five enormous plants, vines as thick as trees but topped with black blooms that belch acid – specifically the concentrated acidic river sludge fed to them as byproduct from the water purifier. And somehow they can see the water spirit in the Astral.

From the other side of the greenhouse come the shouts of security. The team works quickly. Cole orders Cage and Red to cover Bashurr as the ork (the most mechanically-gifted of the team, with his motorcycle repair skill) unscrews the purifier housing and retrieves the control board. Red chucks a flashbang grenade, blinding the Astral Fly Traps, while Blixt casts a Force 6 cold spell to turn most of the floor slick with ice. As the first security team bursts in, they slip and slide on the ice, landing prone and in disarray, and Cage fires his rifle at a conveniently-placed set of hazardous waste barrels, coating the lead guard in caustic spray.

Bashurr deftly unscrews the control board and gets it out at the top of the second round, clearing the way for the team to begin withdrawing back down the intake pipe at a run. The last bit has to be swum, this time without the benefit of Blixt’s Oxygenate spell, but fate is with Cole tonight and the old private eye is able to keep pace with his younger, stronger companions. The team clamber out of the pipe, across the river, and up the opposite embankment to the waiting Americar, as shouts and searchlights fill the farm’s side of the river. They dive inside.

And not a second too soon, as the Americar’s windows explode in a hail of gunfire! A spotlight from above pinions the car. It’s a drone, probably piloted by the rigger in the main building.

“God damn it,” Cole moans, surveying the wreckage of his brand new windows.

“Let me drive,” Red says calmly, grabbing the wheel as Cole scoots over. The car leaps forward, rumbles over some rough terrain, and then the wheels greedily seize on the asphalt of the country road. Behind them, the drone spins to pursue – then continues spinning, its pilot evidently having oversteered in his zeal to pursue. The searchlight bobs and spins and sinks below the level of the riverbank.

They’re home free.

A couple of hours later, the runners are Downtown, putting the Saeder-Krupp 660 control board into a certain locker at the train station near the University of Washington campus. A few hours later, fresh credit slides into their accounts.

And Cole surveys the reeking, stained upholstery of his prized Americar, wondering if he will ever get the stink of the Snohomish out of his seats.

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jacobkosh

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