The Devil and the Best Friends

As was usual for a Cyberpunk campaign there was a certain level of turnover in players and characters, but two characters managed to stay alive and formed a constant core as the game continued. The first character was an Australian Nomad named Dice, who operated as a cab driver in Night City when not running jobs as an Edgerunner. The second character was a weapons specialist Techie named Woten, who liked to live the high life. Woten rented an expensive house in the Pacifica area of Night City and liked to dote on his girlfriend Muse, a Netrunner and member of the Valkyries all-women Boostergang. Woten's reckless spending meant he was always hunting for the next big score, and would usually manage to drag Dice into whatever job or scheme he was involved in. The pair were never hurting for opportunities, many of which would come from a Fixer named Faust. Faust was rarely seen outside of his secure office, assisted by a beautiful and enigmatic Netrunner named Suzie Q.

Here are two notable adventures from this period including one story that, due to real life events, wound up being the last one I ran as part of my extended Cyberpunk campaign.

Escape the Zone

One memorable escapade involving Dice and Woten saw the two working with a group of Edgerunners deep in Night City's Combat Zone hunting, and being hunted by, a Cyberpsycho in possession of a valuable piece of experimental cyberware. Things would end, as Cyberpunk adventures often do, with several dead or dying characters and the only ones to come out ahead being the Megacorps.

Once up a time there was a Corporate Cybersoldier and Space Marine named Major Steele. Being a loyal corporate soldier, Steele volunteered for experiments involving cutting edge technology, all happening in Low Earth Orbit where secrecy could be maintained and pesky things like government oversight (what little still existed) held no sway. As often happens with technology out on the bleeding edge things got a little out of hand. Everybody on the space station where the experiments were happening got themselves killed, well everybody except Major Steele (who was the one doing the killing), and the station was damaged badly enough that it fell out of orbit. Now a lot of it burned up on re-entry, but what did survive intact wound up landing in the Pacific Ocean just off the California coast, remarkably close to Night City.

Once word of the orbital debris started spreading around, there was a rush to salvage it in the hopes of finding any advanced technology or anything else of potential value. This was just the sort of score that attracted Woten's attention, and he of course roped Dice into heading to where he had heard some of the debris had washed ashore in South Night City, deep in the Combat Zone. The two wound up hooking up with a larger team of Edgerunners also hired to seek out any of the surviving debris. The team had been hired by Arasaka, with Faust as middleman assembling the team itself. The only direct involvement from Arasaka was a corporate representative named Chuck Greene, who would oversee operations, and an Arasaka-sponsored Solo named Abbot.

What most people did not know was that one portion of debris that had survived re-entry had served as a sort of escape pod, allowing Major Steele to survive the destruction of the space station and return to Earth. He too had washed ashore in Night City and was now stalking the Combat Zone, hunting for prey. You see the good Major had some very special cyberware, cyberware that was almost alive, cyberware that was hungry. Major Steele's very special cyberware was capable of absorbing and integrating other technology into itself, and its programming drove the ex-Space Marine to seek out cyberware it could absorb, cyberware that was typically attached to people.

Word was slow to spread, but soon enough there was word of a serial killer stalking the Combat Zone, one who would violently the cyberware from his victims. Dice, Woten, Abbot and the rest of their team learned of this after they had been dropped deep in the Combat Zone, though Chuck Greene assured them he would send an evac team to pull them out if there was any real danger. The team continued with what they thought was their primary mission, and even managed to retrieve some of the space station debris. What they did not realize was that such a concentration of individuals with cyberware had attracted Major Steele's attention and he had started tracking them.

As it turned out, there was another reason that Steele was hunting the group. Arasaka had pieced together enough intel to realize what Major Steele was, or at least have a good idea of what he was capable of, and they wanted a piece of it. Once they got word to their rep, good old Chuck Greene came up with a plan. Chuck started spreading rumors on the Net that one of the team, Abbot, had an advanced Neuralware processor and reflex booster cyberware. Once Steele got wind of this information he immediately went after the team, driven to add this alleged advanced cyberware to his own growing collection.

Steele caught up with the team, and having already absorbed the cyberware from his victims on the space station as well as several Boostergang members and Edgerunners down here in the Combat Zone, he was a giant mass of metal and circuitry with barely anything human left inside. He attacked the group, killing a couple and injuring others as he fought his way towards Abbot. Try as they could the others could do little to stop the rampaging cyber-monster and Steele got his hands on Abbot. Immediately metallic tendrils emerged and latched onto Abbot's neck, tearing the alleged advanced cyberware from his spine. This done, Steele dropped the now paralyzed and dying Abbot and was ready to take out the rest of the team, but then something strange happened; the Cyberpsycho simply turned around and left.

You see, Abbot's Neuralware and reflex booster were pretty much normal corporate issue. Normal for Arasaka anyway, which meant it included a sophisticated override system, one that would let a corporate operative take remote control of the Solo in the field, just in case the soldier decided to be a little less than loyal or reluctant to follow orders. So Abbot's cyberware, including this override and remote control component, had just been absorbed and integrated into Major Steele's cyberware, exactly as Chuck had hoped it would. From his comfortable corporate vehicle Chuck activated the override and had Major Steele come right to him and into Arasaka's waiting arms.

His primary mission over Chuck went back to Arasaka headquarters, and left the rest of the team abandoned in the heart of the Combat Zone with no support or transportation. It was touch and go, but Dice and Woten managed to get clear, and even managed to get the dying Abbot out and to a Ripperdoc in time to save his life. Even better, Woten had kept hold of the salvage they'd managed to recover before Steele's attack, and it wound up being worth a pretty penny even after Faust took his cut from fencing everything. Well, everything but some of more interesting bits of technology that Woten decided to keep for himself to play with.

Black Box

While Dice and Woten had done well enough from the windfall off of the space station debris operation, by the end of the summer of 2020 they were in need of money again, especially the free-spending Woten. Trouble soon found both men, as it frequently did. What he thought was a simple pickpocketing of someone's pocket comp at the Hacienda casino found Woten in possession of a piece of advanced computer circuitry. A private investigator named Stonewall had been following the man Woten had pickpocketed, who turned out to be a courier. Stonewall had spotted the pickpocket attempt, and made Woten return the pocket comp, though Woten had managed to remove the circuit board beforehand.

Things immediately start escalating. Later that night the courier is killed, presumably by his employers, for having lost the circuit board; and the next morning the man who had hired Stonewall to follow the courier was also killed. Those assassins also kidnap Stonewall to interrogate him, but the PI manages to escape with the surprising assistance of Woten and tries to make himself scarce. Woten in turn consults with his mentor, Nikita, who had once been the lead techie for Rocker Jet Black, and learns that someone is trying to track him down by going after his close contacts, though they seem to be seeking him under one of his aliases, Tracer, and not as Woten. Deciding the circuit board is a hot potato Woten starts looking for a way to safely rid himself of it.

Dice meanwhile, has managed to get himself implicated, along with another Edgerunner named Vulcan, in the assassination of one of the leading candidates in Night City's upcoming mayoral election. Dice is forced to go underground to avoid the manhunt after the police issue a warrant for his arrest. The events at the casino and the deaths of the courier and Stonewall's employer attract the attention of Arasaka and begin trying to track Woten. A pair of Netrunner acquaintances of Woten named Flag and Heretic are able to throw off the Arasaka runners trying to follow Woten in the Net, and also remote disable a stealth AV that had been following him. Elsewhere Stonewall is killed in an unrelated incident while trying to steal some transportation, but Arasaka believes his death to be related to the courier and the circuit board and so offer a reward for more information. They also offer a reward on information on the assassination of the mayoral candidate, as he had been at least partially bankrolled by the megacorp.

Someone claims the reward for information linked to Stonewall by ratting out the PI's ally, a Solo named Seeker, who has to go into hiding and establish a new identity to escape from the unwanted attention from Arasaka. That takes the heat off of Woten for a little while, as Arasaka's attention is diverted, though the courier's mysterious employers are still hunting for the circuit board. Elsewhere, after a few days of effort Dice and Vulcan have identified to real gunman in the murder of the mayoral candidate, an ex-soldier named Nathaniel Ulysses Kevin Edwards, aka N.U.K.E., and work to get that information to the authorities.

Woten manages to piece together that the circuit board originated from a company called Revolution Genetics, who are looking for it as well as another piece of hardware as well as software that was stolen. Woten works through Faust to get rid of the circuit board, and Faust in turn hires several other Edgerunners (including Seeker under his new identity of Gilgamesh) to track down the other missing items. Gilgamesh and another Solo named Solace head to San Francisco where they come into conflict with operatives of the New Edison corporation. They manage to track down the hardware piece of the stolen Revolution Genetics tech and arrange for it to be returned to Night City before heading back there themselves. The two are attacked on the highway driving back and badly injured. Solace recovers first and to cover his tracks he kills Gilgamesh by concealing an explosive in the latter's room. The explosive detonates when an Arasaka team arrive to question Gilgamesh, killing everyone in the room.

Solace and another team eventually track down the software component stolen from Revolution, and a short time later the black box with the hardware component arrives, picked up at the airport by a bike courier named Sparrow. Solace leaves but two other members of his team, the a Solo named Sabre and Techie named Riggs, meet with Sparrow at a rented office in Night City's Little Italy where technicians from Revolution confirm that the hardware and software are legitimate. Before they can take it a group of Solos barges in and kills the technicians. Riggs escapes by using explosives she had planted earlier as a distraction and Sabre and Sparrow also flee, taking the black box and software with them. Riggs has taken the car, forcing Sabre to ride with Sparrow on her bike. With a helicopter in pursuit, Sparrow heads to the Combat Zone. She manages to reach the territory of the Valkyries booster gang, who she has connections with, and the warrior women of the gang take out the helicopter.

Sabre and Sparrow hire a Netrunner named Legion to examine the black box, meeting him at a bar called the Kat's Kradle. Elsewhere a team of genetically engineered soldiers from Revolution Genetics have tracked down Solace at a concert at another bar called Rainbow Nights where they try and get him to tell them where Sabre is. At Kat's Kradle, Legion examines the black box, not realizing that it has a virus of some kind which compromises his computer and Netrunning deck.

Having been contacted by Solace, Sabre arrives at Rainbow Nights accompanied by Sparrow and Legion. As soon as Legion logs into the systems at the Rainbow Nights the virus compromises that as well, something that is oticed by the Netrunner Flag as well as others. Soon Flag's computer is compromised and the virus risks spreading further into the Net. The Revolution Genetics "Genemen" explain that the virus contained in the black box hardware and software had been developed at a Revolution lab in Antarctica and stolen by an unknown group and that it poses a great danger to the Net and the world at large. To try and prevent the virus from spreading furher, Revolution Genetics uses high-powered railguns to "nuke" the affected sites of Kat's Kradle, Rainbow Nights and Faust's warehouse (where the circuit board, another part of the stolen system, was being kept).

Solace, Sabre, Legion, Sparrow and several others were able to escape the Rainbow Nights before the strike, though Sabre is later arrested by the NCPD. Flag, who was only there virtually, manages to disconnect before the destruction of the site can feed back into his gear. The attacks appear to momentarily stop the spread of the virus, but there is an indication that some of it escaped out into the Net. Based on what the Revolution soldiers said and what Flag and Legion observed the virus appears to co-opt memory in compromised systems and make the system a node in a neural net without appearing to impact the functions of the infected systems, making it difficult to detect. The problem is that if the virus can compromise enough systems across the Net then the neural net will grow large enough to achieve sentience, which would present a grave threat to everything.

Flag, Legion and another Netrunner named Deimos begin working on something to counter the virus, while Solace and others work with Faust and Revolution to try and discover who stole the black box from the Antarctic lab in the first place...

To be continued?

Unfortunately the Cyberpunk campaign ended before this particular storyline and others, like the corporate manipulations of the Night City mayoral election, could be resolved.