Their Own Devices

Mission 16 - The Forgotten Bankrobber
Yet another bank robbery case, this time with no reliable witnesses

The cleanup

After returning from their time in France, the most wounded of their companions are rushed into medical care. Major Lowe has come directly from Belgium to assist with the more serious cases. Major Pringle has come along with him, to look at the devices that were retrieved from the site. Unfortunately as these were already claimed by shadowy Archival agents, he instead hangs around the labs being a pest and contributing to the design of new devices.

While he’s there, Lowe offers Aaron a job as field tester of some new devices he has coming out shortly, which Aaron accepts willingly, in the expectation that they may be healing devices.

Pringle offers the entire RSE the use of his life-force transferrance machine, to create attuned devices of their own.

After the chaos eventually subsides, the team eases into a quiet period over christmas and the new year, which they spend training and pursuing their own personal hobbies. Unfortunately because they all died last year, they can’t see family, so they stay on base for the holidays.

Major Bell comes by in January to review the impact of the kinetic weapons test in Normandy from the teams perspective, and to give Freddie a christmas present – a new set of drones. These drones are based on a reduced-capability version of the distributed AI used in the Alpha Arena bots, although hopefully less prone to homicidal breakdowns. If Freddie can ensure he brings back at least one of the six drones in the swarm, they will learn from their prior experiences and get smarter over time. Freddie names them the hounds.

The lull in activity continues through January and most of February, but can’t go on forever. Freddie passes the time watching their public sources (the red top and yellow paged tabloids for the most part) for anything worth looking into.

News snippets

  • A Mrs Tibbetts of Nottinghamshire reports being rescued from a mugger by a man in a policemans hat and cloak, who then flew away. Mrs Tibbetts reports “I’d not have been out there if my Bill were still alive, but I’ve been alone these last 12 years now, and that nice young man gave those hooligans a right good thrashing and then he was off into the sky. So nice to see that not all the youth are as bad as those ones off the telly”. The metropolitan police have noted that Mrs Tibbetts will get the help she clearly needs from social services, and further that impersonating a member of the police force is an offence under the Police Act 1996 liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding 5,000 pounds, or both. The met further noted that any person not a constable wearing an article of police uniform in circumstances calculated to deceive is liable to a further fine not exceeding 1,000 pounds, and that possession of an article of police uniform is an offence liable for a further 200 pounds. In short, Superintendent Barry noted, “don’t toss about with police uniform”.
  • A meteor strike in northern france has caused a flurry of debate amongst the amateur astronomy community, as arguments flare up over the origin of the object that crashed into Normandy destroying several acres of historic regional parkland. Astrologers, meanwhile, have said that the arrival of the object clearly means prosperous times ahead for Aries, and that Scorpios should be wary of large financial transactions in the near future.
  • Hacker group Anonymous have claimed responsibility for a power outage in Kent that largely affected the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and Royal Air Force operations, as well as the nearby town of Sevenoaks. The activist group’s statement claimed that DSTL and RAF were testing experimental advanced weaponry at the base. A spokesman for the RAF stated “After parliament gave AgustaWestland almost two billion pounds for the Wildcat helicopter programme, you’d be daft to think we were trying to hide them. Quite the opposite.”

Something to do

Wills goes to talk to Mrs Tibbets in Nottinghamshire, just to be sure that the flying squad is not now a real thing. Unfortunately he then has to talk to Mrs Tibbets, in all her racist old bat glory. It’s hard to say whether she’s just loopy, or there really was a flying gentleman impersonating a policeman.

Wills focuses on trying to get a better description of what the man was wearing, as policeman don’t generally go around in cloaks. He does succeed in narrowing down Mrs Tibbets impressions of the policeman’s hat and cloak (with the help of a quick google search) to a more modern bobbies helmet from the early 2000’s, and a cloak that hasn’t been worn since victorian times but is common in costumers.

An unusual robbery

Freddie and Hal come across a bank robbery in Elephant & Castle that seems a tad unusual – the robbery itself seems ordinary, it took place in a tiny off-brand bank in a crappier part of london – but the circumstances are somewhat strange. None of the witnesses interviewed by police can recall anything about the robbery, and none of the descriptions given for the robber line up. Even more unsual, all the security cameras and CCTV in the immediate area were disabled just prior to the robbery.

On investigating further, Hal finds that another robbery happened seven days earlier in another bank in Elephant & Castle, which fits the same profile of unusual memory loss. The team surmises some sort of memory wiping device, and some sort of EMP or accelerated hacking device for the cameras.

Another robbery, another robber?

While Wills is up in Nottinghamshire, Aaron and KD deploy to Elephant & Castle under the guise of couriers. When another robbery occurs two days later at Lambeth North Post Office, KD is able to get to the scene in time to see a young dark skinned man running from the scene. Aaron has been holding a central position and hurries to the location of the robbery. While on the way to the scene, KD rigorously checks for the presence of magical devices, and does not discern any in his immediate area. Aaron is using the long range detector, and he only sees the signature of KDs own device in the region.
KD chases the runner down an alley, and briefly loses him in the nest of ancient and decrepit yards and run down buildings.

After some quick hunting down of information on the surrounding buildings, Freddie identifies that two are owned by Saudi investment companies, one by a French real estate investment vehicle, one by an English real estate company, and the last has been held since before records began by a Whitlaw family.
Given the curious coincidence, the team confers briefly and decides to question their CO about his real estate holdings. Major Whitlaw denies all knowledge of the Whitlaws in question, saying simply that his family is from Cornwall since centuries back and the only property they own is the house he bought his mother after he started working for DMG.

Putting aside for now the suspicious ownership issue, KD is joined by Aaron and they look further into the alley. At this point they start to hear swearing from across one of the fences. Aaron being Aaron, he glances over the top of the fence from the other side of the alley, and see’s KD’s erstwhile running man clinging desperately to the brickwork on the side of the building while attempting to open what is clearly a locked window on the first floor.
After thoroughly scanning for any devices, and checking with Pembroke that the devices couldn’t in some way be disabled and not show up on the scan, Major Whitlaw orders the team to disperse and disappear into the general population before the local plod turn up, as this young scofflaw is clearly in their purview alone.

A more likely contender

Aaron points out that the previous two robberies that were definitely their target happened seven days apart. The team confers and decides this is likely a pattern worth pursuing, and they gear up to prepare for another robbery seven days after the last – ignoring the incident at the post office.

They deploy to a carpark near Elephant & Castle subway station, as a reasonably central starting location. In the van are Wils, Penfold, Freddie, and Aaron, with KD scouting and generally roaming around the area on a couriers motorcycle. Upton is providing logistical support and overwatch from Fort Halstead. Freddie has all but one of the hounds ready to go, launching from the sunroof of the non-descript blue Mercedes Sprinter they’re staging in.

Sure enough, later that morning a set of CCTV cameras surrounding the Link Financial in Camelford house near the river go dark. The team move to deploy there, with KD leading the way on his motorcycle.
However, there is a problem. Camelford House is a mall right next door to MI6 headquarters at SIS house!
After hurried co-ordination between Fort Halstead and Vauxhall Cross, the team is allowed to deploy in a low key manner within the mall. The bank in question has only two entrances and occupies a corner section in the mall. Aaron arrives and enters the bank, queuing up behind three others to assess the situation. It doesn’t yet appear that anything has occurred amiss in this bank.

MI6 goes onto lockdown, and otherwise leave the team to it. Aaron waits, as first one then another in the queue approach the counter and are served. The computers appear to be down, and the tellers are laboriously working through the complex paperwork required to perform even the simplest transactions. Several waiting people appear frustrated, stressed, and potentially robby.

Flash and dash

As Aaron approaches the front of the queue and wonders if there is going to be a robbery at all, KD approaches the exterior of the bank and plants a drone in a pot plant to get some eyes on the ground nearby. He doesn’t enter the bank, for fear of giving away their presence to the potential robbers.
After a few minutes, the rest of RSE realises they haven’t heard from Aaron. They call in, and get no response, so KD charges in and the rest of the team decamps from the van to prepare to storm the bank. Freddie releases the hounds to get surveillance on the entire perimeter and watch the exits, since the CCTV in the area is all down.

KD finds Aaron standing in the queue, surprised to see him, and even more surprised to see that the man who had just reached the first teller is gone. All Aaron can remember is a bright light, then KD arriving to check on him. The team figures at least three minutes have passed, but the robber is probably still in reach of the mall.
Fast work with the hounds to capture the faces of all pedestrians exiting the area and some work from Upton to cross check them in a hurry against the previously recorded faces outside the earlier robberies finds a match from the first robbery, three weeks ago now.

KD chases after the man, who cuts across a local park. The robber gets to the other side of the park just in time to get into a black bmw and get away before KD can catch him. The team pursues their quarry, now in a vehicle, across the bridge to the Pimlico subway station. Aaron cycles directly.from the mall, and makes it their just as KD gets their on his motorcycle courtesy of london traffic. Unfortunately, neither KD nor Aaron make it there in time to stop the robber getting away on the Victoria line, as the train pulls away just as they make it to the bottom of the subway station steps.

Subway paperwork

Freddie and Upton are monitoring CCTV in the area, and they see another blip as several CCTV cameras on the subway carriages flake out at once, and the train itself is briefly stopped in the tube.
Assuming their target has pulled the emergency stop and debarked between stations, KD sets up a cordon at Pimlico, while Aaron races ahead and sets up a cordon at Victoria, the next stop up the line.
Wils and Freddie head into the line office to try and get control of the subway line in the area that they believe the man to be still within.
However, the line office is extremely cautious about letting unknown persons into their secure areas, let alone access to internal surveillance and controls or secure areas of the lines, as security has been ramped up in the wake of the deadly July 7 attacks in 2005.
After eventually convincing the line superintendent of their bona fides, they are allowed to access the controls and shut down the section of line to prevent any further trains coming in, which means they can venture onto the track (provided they are accompanied by authorised transit authority personnel) to continue their pursuit.
It isn’t until this stage that the line super mentions that they have internal CCTV over all the pedestrian exits from the line, as well as alarm systems in place.
On quickly reviewing the footage and system status, Freddie figures out that no-one ever got off the stopped train – their target has escaped up the line with the train, and is now somewhere north. After all the holdups, that particular train has since reached the end and is returning, so their foe has almost certainly got clean away.

The team call a halt to the active component of the mission, to review footage and try and figure out their next steps. If nothing else, there’s always next week.

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Mission 15
A sweep of terrorists in the deep

The party go down into the deeps

freddie leads the way with drone swarms, surveying the terrain and providing overwatch

after a few short firefights in the hallway following a dramatic entrance through the semi collapsed lift shaft, the team moves out to begin a classic sweep and clear

they find two hackers early on, one of whom is being ridden by a blood demon
they kill the male, and manage to capture the female alive. She turns out to be the hacker known as “Bottles”, partly responsible for the earlier attack on Fort Halstead.

as they move further in, freddie loses a few drones to stray rounds, they engage a few armed guards, and then find their way to what appears to be the main barracks room

in the barracks, they fight the leader of the cult, saving a sacrificial victim from immanent demonic possession in the process

unfortunately the demon vessel fights back and they are forced to knock her out before they can effect a rescue. She becomes their second prisoner taken during the raid, although she is dangerously possessed which makes for an extremely comfortable flight home.

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Mission 14
Normandy under pressure, a flyover by Major Bell

The crews are under heavy assault by hard light automatons, attempting to defend towers and the power substation long enough for Freddie to prevent the release of DMG data

Bell flys by and drops kinetic weapons sufficient to annihilate the above ground troops

The crew mops up underground and secures the device

ARG comes through to retrieve devices captured that were judged a danger to DMG operations

after annihilating the last of the holograms and surviving the shockwave, the team moves up to the hole in the bottom of the crater to try and sweep the last enemies out of the base. On the orders of the ARG, who didnt allow them to simply sweep them in – they insisted on collection of all remaining devices. So the team has to go in, and KD is at the bottom of the rubble filled hole looking for who to kill.

the upstairs was nothing but wrecked forest, trees everywhere, and it took some serious navigation to figure out where to go.

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Mission 13
Normandy hacking and defense of weakling hackers

The squad and friends land in normandy to prevent the upcoming release of secret documents hacked from DMG servers by the lily and the eagle crew

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Mission 12
Infops under attack, invading normandy

After dealing with the physical attackers directly, and after Freddie and Hal fight off and lock out the digital attackers, the team gathers with Major Whitlaw to consider their next moves.

During a hard fought counterhacking in the cybermantic realm, Freddie has managed to capture what appears to be a signature of the hackers responsible.

eyrie_sane_calling_card.jpg

The calling card left by the hacker is attributed to “m0ti0n and aLiCe, and love to the Eyrie Sane Crew”, including ascii art of an eagle

Freddies successful counter incursion in the matrix allows the players to figure out that it is something called the Order of the Lily and the Eagle that is behind the series of technological attacks on the DMG. They appear to be opposed to the DMG as a symbol of government oppression and prevention of the free use of magic to advance individual power.

Shortly after they begin to discuss potential responses with Major Whitlaw, Li-li and Parks back at InfOps discovers that the attack on Halsteads turrets was a distraction – they were actually planting code that allowed them to back door into the InfOps systems they’d been unable to compromise directly.

Breaking down this code with Halstead allows Freddie to locate the home base of the order of the lily and eagle as within a beech forest in the Seine-Maritime department of Upper Normandy. It is also discovered via chat room keystroke logging (which InfOps manage to insert into the assailants computers) that they’re planning an attack on InfOps archives that will give them enough information to publicise the existence of DMG and a host of mission data – this must be prevented at all costs.

It is estimated that they will be staging the attack some time in the next five hours – InfOps will work to secure their systems and prevent the compromise, but are not 100% confident they’ll be able to lock it down. A physical attack on the hackers is considered a necessary backup to remove the threat. Freddie/Upton/Halstead think getting into their physical network might let them prevent the attack via technical means – but this means getting onsite.

Epsilon Group quickly assembles RSE and supporting elements for a raid on the OLE base in Normandy. While the plan is hurried, it is roughly that Freddie and Upton will remain near the landing zone where the external internet connection for the base is, and plug in there to attempt to subvert the security of the base and prevent the InfOps hack. The rest of the response squad will take members of the away team and hold the perimeter until the hack is complete, and then the entire team will advance and secure the physical base.

Away team is made up of

Sgt Mir Williamson – m2
Sgt sterling – hk416
Cpl smith – xm2010
Cpl Benton – hk416
Cpl upton – mp7
Sgt Thornton – mp7

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Mission 11
Berry dies, infops under attack

The team gradually sweep through the remainder of the base, encountering a few modified chimpanzees that they put down easily through the assistance of their potent magical devices created by messrs Heckler and Koch.

Berry is isolated with the hostages in the device labs at the rear of the compound. After Freddie breaks the basic security that Berry had hacked into the door interface, they make a tactical entry and shoot Dr Berry until he falls down and doesn’t get up again. Perhaps a little more for good measure.

Fortunately, only one hostage has been killed at this point, and KD, Aaron, and Freddie manage to safely disable the booby traps that Berry left behind.

The base is handed over to Clarion and the containment crew to clean up, the victorious response squad rides a chopper back to home base at Fort Halstead.

A couple of days later, Freddie is chatting to Li-li while idly monitoring the security feeds through Hal, and she mentions that InfOps HQ has been under sustained DDOS and other hacking attempts for the last two weeks. Their security AI has managed to prevent compromise of anything sensitive. They suspect the culprits are mostly Anonymous opportunists, but with the help of a more secretive and dangerous new black hat group that they are struggling to identify.

Which is not too unusual in itself, but what happens next is entirely unique. Halstead itself comes under attack, both physically and digitally.

A hacker attempts to subvert Halsteads perimeter defenses, and Freddie assists in mostly fighting off the incursion. They don’t have complete control of the above ground defense though.

The exterior forces are two goons with g36 assault rifles, and a compromised Halstead turret. They have been engaging the QinetiQ security forces in a gun battle, and mostly doing OK at it. QinetiQ will open fire on the players if they engage without clarifying who they are first. Many civilian QinetiQ contractors are within the area of combat.

Freddie is assisting to fight off the incursion, and this takes the form of a cybermantic encounter in which Freddie and Upton, with Halstead, attempt to backtrack the attack to identify the attackers.

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Mission 10
Clarion calls

After completing the Alpha Training Arena on their first attempt, the squad are informed to be ready tomorrow morning at 1000 for a graduation ceremony. Not only are their mentors on base (and have been watching their performance in the ATA) but also Major Whitlaw and Sergeant Williamson of Epsilon Group.
Williamson lets them know to drop his name at the mess and they’ll be sorted out, but not to get so wasted that they cant stand up and get promoted tomorrow.
Drunkenness ensues, with the company of Lieutenant Reese and The Mean Girls, Mira drops by for a shot, and Li-li is in fine partying form (to Freddie’s pleasure). By midnight most of them are slowing down, with KD already thoroughly passed out.

The squad are promoted to field agents at a ceremony on Alpha Base, which Novakova, Reese, Eitel, and Li-li attend, along with Major Roberts of Alpha Group, Major Whitlaw and Sergeant Major Williamson of Epsilon Group.

They are then informed that they are being deployed, along with Penfold, to Epsilon Group to act as their Response Squad.
Wils makes his farewells to Corporal Stone, and they agree to keep it casual due to the violent nature of their occupations.

They fly back with Major Whitlaw and Q-Ball, who fill them in on changes to Epsilon’s staffing since they were there two years ago.

The current staff of Epsilon (after being renewed in the wake of Operation PANDA STEEL) is found here.

Penfold makes some calls to see if he can start development on a nullifier device, that magnifies his magical resonance field and enables him to interfere with the power of other technomancers devices at range.

A few months pass, in which Freddie makes new contact with the base AI, Aaron works closely with sherry, mather, and douglas on pushing forward his learning of surgery and advanced medical techniques, Khady scouts around on his motorbike and generally starts to master more advanced driving, and Wils works out almost constantly (often in weight vests or full armour, joined by Khady) and reviews small unit operations and reads up on small unit tactics.

Major Whitlaw calls them into a briefing in late October of 2009, and introduces them to Ms Hardy of Clarion Corporation, a supplier and research partner of the Device Management Group.
Ms Hardy is the official Clarion DMG Liaison, and she has a problem that Clarion are requesting the assistance of RS-E with.
One of their ex-employees has gone rogue, and is holding several key research staff hostage within one of their facilities in northern England.

Major Whitlaw gives the squad clearance to use whatever equipment they feel is fit, and Staff Sergeant Stone informs them that the code-name for this operation will be GRASSHOPPER IRON THUNDER.

Ms Hardy will be happy to share whatever information she has with the members of RS-E in exchange for their assistance, and their understanding that a low profile is essential to the success of Clarions work for the DMG. They must resolve the situation quietly and efficiently, and the containment of the situation is the primary objective. Safe rescue of all hostages is a secondary priority.

The squad determines that they should take mostly suppressed weapons, leaving only a few larger calibre weapons with the containment crew should they be needed (assuming that if they are, any low profile approach is already ruined).

This message is reinforced by Ms Caldwell of Clarion Corporation, who is their Public Relations officer and is introduced to them at Clarion HQ in the City. Clarion is based in a moderately tall tower of glass and steel in the heart of the City of London, and the squad are escorted by Ms Caldwell and Security Officers of Clarion directly to level 27, the third to top floor.
While at Clarion HQ, they are granted access to their personnel files on both Professor Berry (the rogue employee) and the hostages being held by him within Clarion Research Royston.

Berry was made redundant as part of a Clarion-wide restructure taking place as a result of the financial crisis.
Co-workers have described Berry as being exceedingly paranoid, and a conspiracist. Given the top-secret nature of their work, conspiracies are something of a given, but Berry is worse than most. He believes the government, in co-operation with enforcement agencies and technomancers, is plotting against him.

It’s been reported that he has been getting progressively more and more wild in his theories over the last several years, and that the restructuring was simply the last straw.
Given the nature of his research and the fact that Clarion has asked for RS-E assistance with the situation, it’s safe to assume that there is a device related emergency at Royston.

They are also given a copy of the blue prints to the facility.

Clarion-Research-Facility-Royston.png

The hostages being held are:

Professor Felix Blumer (Device Research Lead)
Doctor Chandra Egner (Audio Engineer)
Doctor Torrie Neihoff (Device Mechanic)
Professor Greg Faulks (Mammalian Researcher)
Doctor Sheree Larimore (Tissue Technician)
Doctor Manie Spahn (Chemical Technician)
Mrs Naomi Lehto (Human Resources Manager)
Ms Danika Aguila (Administrative Assistant)

They are also told that Professor Berry was working in both device development and mammalian research for the last twenty five years. His work was into physical enhancements for soldiers and emergency personnel, but was rife with unmanageable side effects which eventually terminated the project. It only went on so long (fifteen years in development) because the upsides were so powerful, but the side effects proved insurmountable.

While at Clarion HQ, the particularly laser-focused notice that there are several slightly off-colour rectangles on the walls of the otherwise flash office, as if pictures have been removed before they arrived. When Freddie investigates Clarion, he finds no comprehensive records, and a block on requests to the governments companies register. He does establish that Clarion has been around since being founded as a maker of automated manufacturies in the mid 19th century, and has been quietly successful ever since, particularly as a contractor to the government and defence forces of the United Kingdom.

Royston is a mixed functionality laboratory, hosting both core Clarion audio research(incl a wind tunnel), a small public face, and device and mammalian research laboratories further into the facility. When questioned, Ms Hardy confirms that the known animals within the mammalian research wing currently are several chimpanzee’s, ordinary domestic house cats, and a solitary Syrian brown bear.

There is a comprehensive security team on-site. Clarion HQs live feed of cameras in the research buildings has gone down, although they still have visibility and control of the main entrance building. Per Clarion standard protocols, all non-security staff have been evacuated and the classified research areas have been put into hard lockdown.

The local police have been told that the site is in lockdown, but ordered by Clarion’s government contacts to keep their distance.

The situation began when one of the security team was taken and killed near the device engineering suite at the back of the facility. Surviving security footage only shows a glimpse of a large wild-haired man (who Clarion confirm as being likely Professor Berry) dashing superhumanly fast out of the building, grabbing the security contractor, and disappearing back into the building. The limp corpse of the contractor is tossed out of the door shortly afterwards, followed by the hard lockdown of the device engineering suite.

Since the situation began, the security team onsite has lost one additional member of their staff in the wind tunnel building (which is now considered un-secured). This brings the total buildings considered un-secured to three out of the five structures onsite.

CRR Security Team

  • Michael Simpson – head of security at Clarion Corporation’s
  • Royston laboratories
  • Liza LaRose – second in command of security
  • Jack Maddock – a security team member
  • Sam Ford – a security team member (Killed by Berry in the audio suite)
  • Brandon Young – a security team member (Killed by Berry in the device lab)
  • Julia Edwards – a security team member

While the players are investigating at Clarion HQ, Content Not Found: noah-stone-1 has arranged for a containment crew and flight path to CRR.

Epsilon Group Containment Crew

Royston

After exhausting their research opportunities at Clarion HQ, the team takes a chopper to the facility in Royston. Penfold has gone ahead to check out Professor Berry’s residence in the town, to see if there is anything suspicious or technomantic there, or evidence that he has been building additional devices to those involved in his research (there is not, he has not).

When they touch down in Royston, they are greeted at the gate by Mr Simpson, head of security at CRR, and Mr Maddock of the security team. Simpson informs them that while they were en route, they have lost control of the sonic suite directly next door to the administrative block, and that the admin block is now the last bastion of the security forces onsite.

The players move into the admin block to consider the situation, and Freddie, with the assistance of Corporal Upton, attempts to penetrate the blocks on the security system that Berry has put in place. Freddie and Upton easily break through the security on the CRR systems, and re-establish control of the exterior surveillance cameras.
They also establish that the locks on the compromised buildings have some sort of mechanical over-ride on them, which is reassuring in as much as it fits with Berry’s known skills profile.

Given the close proximity of the sonic suite to the administration block, the squad decides to proceed to clear that structure first, especially as they can do so while remaining out of line of sight of the Device and Mammallian research blocks to the rear of the facility (where Berry is assumed to be hiding with his hostages).

Freddie assists Penfold in removing the mechanical bypass that has been installed on the security door, granting the team access to the suite. Penfold pockets the bypass for potential use on one of the other compromised buildings.

Khady and Wils proceed with a sweep and clear of the building, but establish that the only inhabitants are a dismembered Mr Ford of CRR Security, and an angry, pooh-flinging, but otherwise unmodified chimpanzee. They leave the chimp locked in a lab and move on out into the wider facility (after reporting Ford’s death to Mr Simpson).

It is decided that the best approach will be to sneak up the side of the mammalian research block, and attempt reconnaissance via the animal holding cells at the rear. Khady and Wils advance down that side of the facility while Penfold, Freddie, and Aaron hold the ground they have established since clearing the sonic suite (and watch for any hostiles exiting the device or mammalian blocks through the main entrances).

Khady gets up to have a look through the high windows of Animal Testing Room 3 with his endoscope. He see’s a dismembered chimpanzee on a rudimentary bench slash operating table, and another chimp locked in a cage. He can faintly hear what sounds like a woman screaming, somewhere deeper into this complex.

While Khady is investigating the first lab, Wils advances to provide cover at the corner into the large animal holding area. He isn’t perhaps as sneaky as he needed to be, as when he glances around the corner to ensure their security, he see’s a large brown bear charging angrily towards him from within the standing-open doors into the main Mammalian Research building. Khady quickly moves to assist, as the bear crashes noisily through the first layer of chain link fence between it and the intruders.

The angry bear doesn’t quite get through the second layer of fence on its initial charge, despite charging hard enough to embed pieces of wire throughout its fur and flesh, clearly doing significant damage to itself on the way. As it thrashes at him from mere feet away, Wils can see a possible cause of its rage in the crudely attached biomechanical plating affixed to its chest and back, and roped roughly around the sides to join what was obviously meant to be a heavy vest for a human.
Wils and Khady both let rip with a spray of fire from their MP7’s, and the bear collapses bloodily to the ground in a tangle of fence, fur, and mechanics. While Wils ensures it stays down by planting a few more carefully targeted rounds in its head, Khady gets a closer look at the device attached to the poor beast.
The device appears to be attached internally to the bears spine on the rear, and through sockets in its torso tubes clearly go directly into internal organs from the frontpiece. What initially appears to be an R.R. marking on the plate turns out to be an R.B. that Khady has put a round through.

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Mission 09
The heart of the Arena, and a gift from Major Bell

Having worked their way to the inner sanctum of the Alpha Training Arena, the prospective field agents (and their minder Penfold) are faced with a few remaining bots and turrets, a scattering of mines, and an otherwise fairly straightforward room.

The squad clears out the last turrets and bots, then KD works his way around the room throwing himself on tether mines to disable them in exchange for additions to his by now terrifyingly large set of bruises on his torso.

After clearing the room, they find that they have not uncovered any way into the very centre box. Penfold uses his Minor Detect Technomancy device to determine that inside that box is a lot of technomantic activity, and that it appears to be moving about.

Aaron is set to blow through the walls – as the closed room appears to be made of the same 2-3" concrete wall and large pillar construction. Penfold engineers a simple wire detector and determines that the walls are only sparsely reinforced, and that demolitions in the appropriate place should cut through it simply.

The squad agrees on a plan – they’ll blow a small hole high up in one wall (too high for the three foot bots they’ve encountered so far to shoot out of) and lob a bunch of grenades through.
Simultaneously, they’ll blow a man-sized hole on the opposite side of the box, and push through there to try and locate the flag that they figure must surely be inside.
They also use two of the bot cupboards outside the room to jury rig EMP explosions, to be triggered if needed to wipe out any automatons they might encounter. Lastly, Freddie has dragged through several of the disabled shield bots that he and Penfold have rigged to provide the squad with their shields for a short time, hopefully helping ameliorate damage they might take.

Aaron easily sets up the necessary charges from the ridiculously excessive supply he carted into the arena with him. While setting the larger charge, he hears a whining noise like a motor starting up. When the squad waits, it disappears after a while.
However, they decide to give Penfold a chance to try detecting where the technomantic devices inside are, and spend ten minutes circling the chamber attempting to get a read from several different locations.
He concludes that there are at least two, but probably many devices inside, and that they are moving around the edges of the box. The last place he checks from is where KD waits to throw grenades in the smaller breach, and Penfold determines that at that point no bots are nearby inside. They decide to seize the moment.

Aaron triggers the smaller explosion, and KD leaps up to throw a grenade inside. Unfortunately, it appears that there is yet another room inside, and the grenade bounces away down the hallway. KD ducks back into cover.

When they blew the hole, smoke billowed out of the room – much more than the explosion would create, as if the room had been utterly filled before they breached it. The squad ensures their masks are tightly affixed to their faces, fearing a faceful of tear gas. The lights in the arena also go out, leaving them in the pitch black darkness that only deep underground can really achieve. Fortunately they all have IR and UV goggles, so they’re not particularly inconvenienced at this point.

At the same time that the charge blows near KD, a second explosion occurs – but it’s not the man-sized hole that they planned to blow.
A six foot tall matte black automaton barrels through the wall near where Wils and Aaron are standing, emerging at the tip of a massive billow of smoke. This is no three-foot bot with a tiny gun, this is a monster of a machine with an enormous steel riot shield and what looks like a pneumatic ram built into its the mighty fist of its free hand. Across the front of the shield is written in blocky white stencil “Bell-X3”. They can see just from looking that this thing is made of much tougher stuff than its diminutive brethren. It didn’t seem to be particularly put out by throwing itself through a concrete wall, for starters.

Aaron proceeds to unload his minimi into the X3, seeming to do some damage. Wils fires with his MP7 but misses wildly. The bot responds by picking Aaron up and throwing him into the corner of the room nearer to Wils, where fortunately for him KD had disabled the mine he would have otherwise landed beside.

From his perspective at the next corner along, Freddie can see that when the bot emerged a second pillar of smoke billowed out and upwards towards the roof, and from looking closer he can see that there is an unusual blur attached to the ceiling of the chamber some six metres above and just in front of him. He guesses this is some sort of cloaked bot, and opens up with his shotgun just as the bot drops in front of him, flipping nimbly while falling and landing with a crunch that leaves footprints in the concrete floor. Freddie hits it in the chest with a taser round, but this seems to embed in his armour and start discharging without otherwise discomforting the bot. The new bot is emblazoned across its chest with Bell-X2 (where Freddie can still barely read it, as the matte black surface of its chest armour is disintegrating and dropping off where the taser hit). Freddie determines that the bot probably has some sort of ablative armour, and the key will be to hit it more than once in the same location.
The X2 swings at Freddie with a plasma blade, but doesn’t do significant damage. It does go straight through the force field that they’re getting from a cannibalised shield bot though, implying that they’ve only got protection from physical damage.

Meanwhile, a third enormous bot has approached the breach where the X3 barreled through – this one has Bell-X1 across its chest, and is carrying what looks like a multi-barrelled rotating version of the plasma beam weapons the smaller bots has. This bot proceeds to lay down a withering spray of fire across where Wils and Aaron are. Wils orders KD to get the flag and run while the rest of the team hold the bots up, then attempts to escape the wave of energy beams, but is knocked out just as he gets to the edge of the spray, passing out on the floor just beyond it. Aaron decides to stay put and avoid taking more damage than he already has, and fires at the newly arrived X1 with his minimi, doing some damage but not taking it out.
The X2 swings at Freddie again and misses, and Pembroke unloads his MP7 into the shiny ablated area on it’s chest, but does little damage. Freddie hits the X2 with his MP7 but in a different area of its body, and doesnt seem to do much damage.

KD sneaks through the small hole where he threw a grenade earlier. Inside, he finds that the smoke has cleared somewhat, and there is a smaller room inside with doors on each side. He also sees a fourth bot heading towards the breached wall, but it appears not to be interested in KD for the time being as it moves out to support the X1 and X3.

The X3 fires jump jets from its back and leaps some 25 metres across the room from a standing start, shoving its riot shield up in Penfold’s face but doing token damage through the force field. The X1 moves further out into the arena, and fires again at Aaron, almost knocking him out.
The X2 in front of Freddie decides that he and Penfold are too much to handle in a straight fight, and disappears in front of Freddies eyes. He does however see the blurred shape rocket upwards from the very-visible bursts of its jump jets.
Finally, the last bot emerges from the breach and looks towards Aaron, who can see that it has Bell-X4 emblazoned across its chest. The X4 reaches a hand towards Aaron, and he finds himself yanked up from the ground and encircled by a bubble of forcefield.

Aaron responds by triggering the second breaching explosion, which blasts out into the X3 bot and clears an exit from the central room for KD, then firing wildly with his minimi, but doesn’t succeed in breaking the force-bubble. Freddie fires his shotgun into the back of the X3 that is threatening Penfold, ablating its leg armour with a taser round. KD grabs the tip of the flag and bolts for the newly breached hole in the wall, finding himself standing right behind the X3 and somewhere near the X2 with only a flag to defend himself, which is not entirely comfortable.

At that point, Penfold triggers the EMP on the nearest jury-rigged bot cupboard. The two bots who had taken electrical damage are disabled by the blast, which is a relief to Penfold, Freddie, and KD, who were otherwise in a difficult position. The X3 simply slumps to a standstill in front of Penfold, while the X2 drops from the ceiling and lands with an almighty crash next to KD – who is very happy not to have been standing just slightly out of the way, as a quarter tonne of falling bot probably would have ruined his day.

Unfortunately, the EMP also disables all but Freddies commlink, and ruins Penfold’s nightvision goggles. Most of their laser sights also stop functioning, making it harder for them to line up a shot in a hurry. They decide at this point that KD should definitely just run for the door, while Penfold, Aaron, and Freddie try to hold the bots up long enough for him to make it to the exit.

Aaron fires his minimi into the bubble again, and succeeds in breaking it, although his continued burst of fire does only minor damage to the bots. The X4 lifts its hand towards him again, and he is picked up and thrown by an unseen force into the wall behind him, crumpling him to the ground. The X1 points its gatling laser at him as he is struggling to get to his feet, and that is the last that Aaron sees before consciousness escapes him.

Freddie and Penfold attempt to haul ass back to the entrance to the room, but Freddie doesnt quite make it before the X4 drops some sort of wide field on the floor around him that cuts through the smoke and makes it seems to swirl more slowly. It’s only about two foot tall, but it’s 12m across and hard to move in. Freddie decides that rather than try to escape, he should try and disable the gatling bot, and throws a thermite grenade at it. After the pounding it has taken from Wils and Aarons withering fire, the bot can’t take the extra hit and finally powers down.

The X4 doesn’t take kindly to this and hurls Freddie across the room with its repulsor field. Penfold retreats to the doorway to provide a last ditch holdup if the bot should get that far.

KD is almost to the entrance, and running for his life.

Freddie throws one more thermite grenade at the X4 sticking it to its chest and getting a nice wee fire going, but is thrown into another wall and knocked unconscious for his efforts. The X4 starts to close on Penfold.

Just before it can get to him, however, KD makes it to the entrance elevator with the flag. As soon as the flag enters the elevator, the lights go on again throughout the arena, and the X4 powers down just in front of a relieved Penfold, who had not been looking forward to a short trip into a solid wall.

While KD tries to recover his breath, the lift brings down a swarm of mechanics and medics, who go to work cleaning up the mess that the squad has left in the arena. The rest of the squad are brought round, and they’re all congratulated by Major Roberts on successfully negotiating the arena, although perhaps less thermite on the expensive experimental bots would have been nice.

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Mission 08
DIabolical traps, fiendish minions, and the A.T.A.

After stomping their way up the first stretch of corridor, the prospective field agents find themselves waiting for a cloud of tear gas to clear before they continue around the corner.

They proceed carefully, first peering around the corner to ascertain that they are approaching a further set of two turrets, and what looks like two more pop up mines directly between them and the first turret.
By the turrets the corridor appears to become wider, recessing away from the inner wall of the arena.

They decide that the first step is to remove the turret, and gamely step out to engage it in a fire fight. The turret is destroyed by several bursts of sub machinegun fire.

KD moves up to dive onto the first popup mine, hoping that by stopping them reaching their full extension they can be prevented from exploding. The rocket burst that sends the mine out gives him a nice solid thwack in the gut for his efforts, but he’s successful in preventing the mine exploding.

Unfortunately he’s accidentally thrown himself into range of the far turret, and it proceeds to fire a bean bag round at him from its integral shotgun, which glances off the wall as he dives for cover. The rest of the team move up to fire at the turret, but don’t successfully destroy it until after it has fired again, giving KD a second horrendous bruise across his stomach, but no lasting damage.

After dispatching the turret, the squad moves up to investigate the widening of the corridor. It appears to lead into a broad passageway that is completely floored by what appears to be a very large version of the electrified flooring that they had encountered earlier in the arena. Investigating closely shows that the trip wire for this grate is not conveniently at the front, but placed 3 metres in from the nearest edge, out of reach of easy access.

The wire is, however, still at 4 feet from the floor. KD crawls across the grate quietly to see what can be seen on the far side. As he does, some combination of pressure and previously invisible lasers trigger the floor, causing it to electrify just as KD reaches the far side. To add to the pleasure of the experience, he hears the tell tale kerchunking sound of more bot cupboards opening within the chamber he’s just reached.

The swarm of bots that moves towards them is efficiently dispatched by the squad working in concert, mp7s happily tearing through the thing force field that the bots are using. Freddie has concluded from his examination of the remains that the bots use radio to communicate – and possibly to receive orders. He decides to attempt jamming their comms, using the radio equipment from the remains of the bots and the power sources within the charging cupboards. He succeeds in jamming one frequency that they are using, but detects another active. Jamming one causes half the attacking bots to stop reacting to changes in their environment – they don’t seem to be receiving new orders while the jamming is active.
Several bots walk onto the still active electric grates and die pathetically.

After the room is cleared, Freddie and Penfold decide to use their new haul of bot corpses to set up more relays to jam more frequencies simultaneously, hopefully shutting down the bots entirely.

Wils, Aaron, and KD move up the hall, and accidentally trigger another, even larger swarm of bots while disarming a tether mine. Aaron lays down suppressing fire, eliminating more than half the bots in his first burst. However, a lucky shot from a bot who narrowly missed being cut down by the wall of 7.62mm hits Aaron in the face, and he’s knocked out cold before he can continue mowing down the bots.

KD and Wils comfortably handle the remainder of the swarm, and Freddie and Penfold‘s jamming assists in causing some of the bots to kill themselves, while others don’t move beyond just outside their storage cupboards and can be dispatched without threat.

After Freddie comes up and revives Aaron, who doesn’t seem to have taken any long term injuries other than a mild burn across his face, the team moves on to sweep and clear the next corridor.

Using Freddie’s active jamming to disable more and more bots, Pembroke isolates and records the activation signal that is received when the squad first moves into their watch area. By playing back this snippet, Pembroke succeeds in causing some of the bots to withdraw from combat and lock themselves back in their cupboard, which combined with continued jamming neutralizes them neatly.

Finally, at the end of the fourth corridor, there is a door turning inwards, to the inner area of the arena. The squad starts to explore around the edges, while Penfold hangs back in the last explored bot room to provide bot-jamming. The room appears to be symmetrical, with metal walls around the outside to provide a clear run outside of the field of fire, and thin concrete walls and large pillars studded throughout the main area of the room.

The very centre appears to be a closed box surrounded by turrets and more bot cupboards. They guess that the pattern is symmetrical from what they can see at the starting corner, and can deduce the layout of the remainder of the room from there.
The squad proceeds to engage the bots and turrets, and don’t take any significant damage. A water cannon turret lays a broad puddle on the floor that turns into an electrical field when a taser bot is shot down on the edges of it, and the growth of the puddle takes out a few more bots that had been nearby.

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Mission 07
Alpha Training Arena

A fresh start on life

All four players decide to take up the DMG on its offer of new identities, free from their criminal past. The DMG arranges for the public record to show that they died in a helicopter crash while in training with the British military.

  • Wils decides to take William Fletcher as his nom de guerre.
  • Khady keeps his first name as his new middle name, changing his name to Khareem Khady El-Hashem.
  • Aaron anglocizes his name, becoming Aaron Oak.
  • Freddie starts his new life as Alfred Dales.

The matter of their death is handled with the usual DMG flair for detail, going so far as to ensure their families received life insurance checks for eighty thousand pounds each from the British military.
Additionally, Freddie ensures that Aaron’s recently widowed grandmother coincidentally wins the second division of the local lottery.

Fast times in deutschland

After training with Gamma Group, the squad is given a months leave to do as they please in Berlin. They proceed to a live it up, taking advantage of the fact that they are now earning real money for the first time in their lives, and they haven’t spent a dime in eighteen months.
There is shopping, trips to various sights and sites, and of course, drunken debauchery.
The four of them buy matching very expensive watches, purely mechanical on the urging of Al who knows that EMPs are far too common in their line of work. Much curry wurst is eaten.

An example evening

The lads head out on the town. Wils is looking to pick up, and finds an okay looking german who is keen to help him pass the time. Khady has some interesting conversations with people, but doesn’t pursue anything romantic. Aaron fends of the advances of several ladies, but enjoys a night of dancing (sober!). Freddie can’t really be bothered with the social needs of the public scene after his time in hacker heaven, but makes sure the friend of Wils’ companion gets home safely.

After the month is up, the players are summoned back to Gamma base to catch a flight to Alpha Base in Nevada. They’re joined there by now-sergeant Penfold, of Response Squad Epsilon. He’s to train with them for the next three months.

Not another training montage

Wils renews his contacts with the mean girls, including spending some down time with Corporal Stone.
Freddie meets and befriends the Infops agent who assisted him in pranking Wils earlier in training.
They train in vehicle and infantry small squad tactics, including using quadcopter surveillance assets in the field.

After three months of intense training, Major Roberts tells them to prep for running the training arena gauntlet at 0800 three days hence.

The players are briefed two days later – they’ll be going into a bunker. Somewhere in that bunker is a flag. At least one of them must make it back to the entrance with the flag. If all of them are knocked out simultaneously, the attempt ends and they must try again the next day.

Penfold implies heavily that they’ll be fighting bots at close range, and gas masks are advisable.

They kit up – all get issued and fitted with Minor Speed boots, standard armour, shotguns, MP7s, and in Aaron’s case a heavy support weapon with underslung shotgun.

The infamous A.T.A. gauntlet

The morning arrives and they are escorted to what appears to be a small shed on the side of one of the major runways at alpha base. they’re greeted by Major Roberts and a bevy of training sergeants, who open the door and pass them through.
After taking a lift down what seems to be something over 50m underground, the doors open again on a bare concrete bunker, with a room directly in front of them that appears empty.

They duck forward to look out into the hall that adjoins the room, and duck quickly back when they see two turrets swivel towards them. A blast of plasma lances from one and narrowly misses Khady, splashing against the wall and leaving a scorch mark but not much more damage. The turret that just fired has a brightly painted red base, and Wils noticed the other was painted yellow before he ducked back around the doorway.

They’ve also noticed that there’s an unmarked metal plate inset into the concrete between the two turrets. They’re not really sure what it’s about, but decide its best to keep their distance for now. Wils tosses his maglight out into the corridor to see what the turrets and plate do, but doesn’t seem to get a reaction.

Khadyand Wils proceed to duck out from cover and take snapshots at the turret that opened fire, and disable it with a combination of taser rounds from Khady‘s shotgun and a burst from Wils’ mp7.

Khady moves to take out the other turret, and it shoots taser darts at him, but misses completely, leaving the cables trailing into a pool on the floor.
Freddie concludes that the taser turret probably has a very limited range, so Aaron moves up to the opposite wall and nails it with a burst from his minimi.

Penfold implies strongly that the metal plate isnt something they should investigate too closely, but it might be worth someone running past. He reiterates that he’s not allowed to tell them what it is (having previously run the gauntlet to qualify as a response agent himself). Wils is keen to just throw a charge and demolish it, but Freddie argues for the sake of intellectual curiosity that they should see what it does before they destroy it.

Khady is sent on a mad dash, and retrieves the maglight Wils had thrown out earlier, then ducks back into the room that provides cover. As he dashes past, the plate flips up and a device rockets up on a wire. The device detaches at around chest height and releases a circular burst of plasma that washes out a good 6m from the plate in every direction.

Curiosity satisfied, they move on down the hall. Khady has noticed what looks like a cattle grate in the floor, and the squad cautiously attempt to discern its function from range. Beyond the grate, they can see a large metal box sitting across the hallway, although it is difficult to tell what it could be for.

Eventually Aaron goes in for a close look at the grate to see if its rigged to blow, and discovers a barely visible cord across the corridor at chest height. The cord is attached to a hook on one side, and disappears through a metal pipe in the wall on the other. He guesses its probably a tension triggered trip wire, and Freddie guesses that the grate is probably electrified.

Aaron attempts to cut the trip wire but fumbles his pliers, and triggers the trap. A faint hum is heard, and they toss a bit of a disabled turret onto the grate to see what happens. It sparks away happily, proving Freddie’s guess right.

After a while, Freddie hears three clunks in the distance. Shortly afterwards, two automatons amble around the sides of the metal box past the grate.

The two bots appear identical, both are no more than 3 ft tall, blocky, and appear to be carrying backpacks that glow faintly red. They’re armed with guns that look very similar to the energy projector they encountered on the turret back at the entrance. They’ve also got a faint blue shimmer in the air around them.

The squad engages, and shoot down both automatons before they get a chance to shoot back. While the shimmering appears to be some sort of force field, it’s not sufficient to repel concentrated fire from taser rounds and the armour piercing MP7.

When Khady and Wils jump over the grate to make sure of the kills, a third automaton appears and projects a shimmering wall of force across the hall in front of them, blocking their approach to the disabled bots. This new bot has a blue glow from its backpack, and no gun, but otherwise looks the same as the earlier two.

Aaron and Freddie open up, and break down the force wall with a few bursts of fire. Aaron empties the rest of a burst from his minimi into the shield bot, knocking it unconscious. However, while the wall was up, one of the energy bots recovered from the earlier damage they’d done to it, and moved around the corner from the players.
Khady and Wils advance in tandem and get the jump on this bot, utterly destroying it with combined fire.

The squad moves up past the grate to the room where the bot box is, and start to make sure the other two bots don’t get up. Aaron goes forward to get the shield bot so Freddie can have a look at it, and accidentally walks a little too close to yet another grate in the floor.

This one doesn’t spark though, and instead after a click there’s a hissing sound and tear gas begins to pour out into the corridor. Fortunately all but Freddie are still wearing their masks, and Freddie quickly dons his before the cloud spreads to his position. Penfold was conveniently just outside of the range of the cloud when it was triggered.

A.T.A Progress so far

ATA-Progress-_Mission-07_.png

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