Overkill

Xiùlán's Downtime

Lu Xiùlán sat on the deck of the group’s boat and watched the Pearl River (珠江, Zhū Jiāng) as it rolled past them. Although it served a far different purpose, their eighty-year-old boat looked at home among the other aged vessels fishing and transporting goods up and down the venerable waterway. When she sat and concentrated, Xiùlán could feel the energies flowing with the water, even in spite of the immense amount of pollution that had poisoned the water for centuries.

Twenty-four hours had passed since the Urban Brawl massacre in Hong Kong. Xiùlán felt badly that she hadn’t been able to repay Punch and Judy before Kir Morgan and a team of Vory assassins murdered them. However, she had warned them of exactly what they were walking into (if they didn’t know already), and they chose their own fate. She could not force them to take the prudent course, and it would have been dangerous and irresponsible for her as team leader to involve the group further into a matter that did not concern her group or her contract. So it goes in the shadows.

One day hardly seemed enough time to let everyone’s nerves settle from the near-constant jangling of the last week, but rest was a luxury that Xiùlán could not afford. Her team and Tesa had nearly been killed due to BMW’s inability to anticipate her foes, and Xiùlán hadn’t achieved success by making the same mistakes repeatedly. As the great master Sun Tzu wrote: “Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.” She would not have the terms of engagement dictated to her or her team again.

Proper had advised the team to keep a low profile for a week or so. The Brawl Massacre confirmed their trepidations, so Xiùlán and company would have to stay out of sight, at least until things had settled down back in Hong Kong. With any luck, the death of Punch and Judy would resolve the situation with the Vory and bring things back to square one for Xiùlán and the rest of the gang.

Xiùlán made a list of things to accomplish while they regrouped and prepared for future runs:

• Enhance Magical Lodge
• Acquire New Spells and Equipment
• Form new contacts in Shadow Community
• Fill Splint’s position on squad

The list was short but daunting. Xiùlán was a skilled magician and negotiator, but she was definitely more businesswoman than mercenary, and nowhere was that more apparent than in her little black address book. She had become so focused on learning what Proper had taught her that she never spent the time to develop relationships outside of work. It had nearly cost her life on several occasions in this past week, and now was the best time to start rectifying the situation as far as she could see.

Xiùlán called Xin for advice. As her boss and mentor, Xin could always be counted on to give a good assessment of the situation and some suggestions of how to improve it. Xiùlán was delighted to hear that one line item had already been handled by Proper: Tenryu would be joining their unit as a permanent member. Xiùlán had yet to see him in action, but he certainly looked the part, and Proper had confirmed his bona-fides, so that was good enough for her. Xiùlán also had the go-ahead to extend an employment agreement to Tesa if she was interested. Xin and Xiùlán agreed that she had proved her loyalty and utility, and offering her a steady check was the honorable thing to do after nearly getting her killed (Tesa would later decline the offer, stating that she was not suicidal yet, but she promised to keep taking the group’s money as a hired consultant).

The other items on Xiùlán’s list would be tougher to address. Unfortunately, Proper made a point of not involving themselves directly with the shadows as a point of deniability, and Xin couldn’t let Xiùlán talk with one of the other ‘consulting’ teams for obvious reasons. Xiùlán thanked Xin for the advice though, and she put her mind to the task of where to turn to make these new contacts. She decided to let her fingers do the walking.

Xiùlán’s first point of inquiry was the Matrix. She combed the net for information about magic in Hong Kong for the rest of that second day on the river, and through her digging, she was able to learn that Wuxing operated a number of corporate talismonger shops (Street Magic p 76) right in the Hong Kong / Macao area. With a call to Robin Li, her Wuxing VP contact, she was able to secure preferred customer status as well as the lowdown on which locations were well stocked and which catered mostly to posers. The lodge materials she was interested in were another matter. At first, they refused her request to purchase the materials, but with a little prodding and a reminder that she had friends in high places at Wuxing, they finally assented to the request. However, as the materials were hardly available in store, they said it would take eight days (extended test Charisma + Negotiation, needed 16 hits, 1 day duration, achieved 19 hits on 8th attempt) before they would be shipped in and ready to pick up from the store. They flatly refused Xiùlán’s request to sell the power focus that she had “acquired”, though, stating that they simply did not deal in secondhand magic goods. They were able to provide her with names of a few places that other customers had mentioned and that they knew of that dealt in those kinds of items, though, so it wasn’t a total loss. Xiùlán recorded the names of the shops so that she could visit them in person when she got back in town.

Unfortunately, beyond that, there was little that Xiùlán found of interest. There were several magical groups that were openly active in the HK/M region, but they all seemed a little dogmatic for Xiùlán’s tastes, and she doubted that she would have the time to commit to these Orders without pulling her away from her responsibilities to Proper and her team. Perhaps she could uncover a smaller group that was more to her liking when she returned to Macao.

The next day (day 3), Xiùlán pondered the situation for an hour or so before conceding that there was little she could do onboard the boat but continue to comb the matrix for information that might be useful to her in her search for contacts in the magic and shadow communities. She spent the larger part of that day reading through whatever blogs and message boards she could find on the topics. She was able to find some coded posts about shadowrunners and places to find contacts (1 success, Shadow Community roll), but mostly, she pored through blogs about the arcane. After reading tens of dozens of blogs and hundreds of posts over the course of the day, she thought that she finally found one that appeared to focus on Hong Kong and Macao as well as the South China area (2 successes, Arcana check; 1 success, Hong Kong Area Knowledge check). She spent the rest of the day learning what she could about the blogger him/herself (???, the blogger’s gender was unclear; they went by the handle Ghostradamus). When Xiùlán felt certain that the blogger was operating in the Hong Kong area from landmarks and phenomena mentioned in their posts (2 more successes, Hong Kong Area Knowledge check), she sent a message to the blogger to see about meeting when she returned to town.

Day four was boring. Xiùlán tried to keep searching the Matrix for information, but too much time in the hold was starting to get to her. Plus, Chuckles was trying to distill something below decks, and the stench was overpowering. Xiùlán spent most of the day on deck talking with Tesa and playing Go with Tenryu. Tesa took a look into the blogger, but the blogger was good at covering their tracks, or perhaps they had friends that covered their tracks for them, so little progress was made on that front. She did not receive a reply message from the blogger.

Finally, on day five, Proper called Xiùlán to let her know that it would be safe to return to Macao. The group returned in the afternoon, and Xiùlán went straight to the Wuxing shop where she had arranged for the lodge materials to ship. They confirmed her order and told her to expect that she could pick the items up in another five days.

In the meantime, Xiùlán decided to check on some of the shops that she had heard about from the Wuxing shopkeepers and through her near constant trolling of the Matrix for the last three days. The first five shops she visited were all in the Kowloon area, and none of them gave Xiùlán a good vibe. They weren’t really bad, per se, they just didn’t call to her and so she opted to keep looking (Edge failure). Her instincts eventually led her to Kai Tak and one of the smaller shops on her list, the Green Dragon. The proprietor’s name was Chen Hui Zhong, a small Chinese woman. The place instantly gave her a sense of familiarity. Xiùlán poked around the shop for about twenty minutes before it struck her why: this had to be the shop of Ghostradamus, the blogger she’d been reading for the last few days. All of the signs were subtle but compelling when presented together. Xiùlán was sure of it (Edge success, Area Knowledge 2 successes, Arcane Knowledge one success). She decided to go for it: “Ghostradamus?” she asked.

The woman nodded. “I wondered when more people would come through my door in real life to speak with me. What can I do for you?”

The two had tea and spoke for hours (Charisma + Negotiation 3 successes). It turned out the pair had a lot in common regarding their upbringing and attitudes towards magic, not to mention that Xiùlán was in dire need of a woman to talk to that wasn’t her boss or a contractor, and by the end of the afternoon, Xiùlán had traded her ‘recently acquired’ power focus for 20,000 nuyen in store credit and secured an invitation to stop in any time for business or pleasure. Xiùlán was able to purchase formulae for the spells she sought, as they were all common enough and not restricted. She decided that she would stop in later in the week to take a look around Hui Zhong’s inventory to find the right focus for her needs, though.

Day six brought another trip to the Green Dragon where Xiùlán picked out a sustaining focus that would make up the difference in credit owed to her. After the selection, the pair sat down to play some mahjong, and they passed a large part of the afternoon chatting about magic and gaming. Afterwards, Xiùlán went home and began the process of learning her new spells.

The next few days were just more reading, learning, and chatting at the Green Dragon and with her colleagues for Xiùlán. She had nothing to do but kill time while she waited for the lodge materials to arrive, so she continued to do the aforementioned activities while checking out some of the shadow community locations she’d uncovered online. Unfortunately, none of them really lived up to the online billing; they seemed to be filled with amateurs and a lot of people that were just starting out, which Xiùlán was, to be sure, but these people didn’t have the kind of ability that Xiùlán had, and they certainly didn’t have the corporate backing that Xiùlán possessed, and so she decided to keep looking.

On day ten, Xiùlán finally asked Hui Zhong if she knew anyone in the shadow community that she would be willing to introduce to Xiùlán. Hui Zhong’s mood changed briefly, almost imperceptibly, before switching back to normal. She said that she tried to stay out of that kind of thing; that involving herself as a part of the community was bad for business as it could attract unwanted attention. However, she might know about a place where someone with talents like Xiùlán’s could find work. She gave Xiùlán directions to a place called Antigo in the Nam and Sai Van Lakes region of Macao.

Antigo was a complete dump. The place was loosely named after a massive storm that tore through Macao near the end of the 19th century. It looked the part; most of the interior was dank, and there were old pictures of Macao lining the walls. However, it did get a nice sea breeze, although Xiùlán wondered how the place would fare in a storm like its namesake. She sat at the bar and looked around at the booths and tables lining the place. Try as she might, she couldn’t quite hear what was happening at any of the other tables through the low drone of music, and the place was far too dark for her to make out more than the vaguest of features on anyone in the place. She decided to just wait it out at the bar and see if anyone would approach her. After all, being a woman, she figured that perhaps things might come to her. Alas, it didn’t really work out that way. She did spend some time talking to the bartender, though. He was a half-Chinese, half-Portuguese Elf named Felipe Pérola de Rosário. No one else seemed to pay her any mind, so she made small talk with him for an hour or so before paying her tab and heading out.

Later that afternoon, she finally received word that her lodge materials had arrived, and so she went to pick them up from the Wuxing shop. She sent off a quick message to Hui Zhong to thank her for the help although she didn’t turn up any leads. She mentioned that she might be busy for the next few days improving her lodge, but she might stop by the shop if she got a few free moments. A short time later, Xiùlán received a reply that she should keep visiting Antigo and make herself more of a regular there before she wrote the place off; after all, caution keeps people alive in the shadows. Xiùlán supposed she was right, and so she went back that evening for a couple of hours, although the results were almost exactly the same.

On day eleven, Xiùlán continued improving her lodge. She was able to finish learning her new spells that evening (15 hits, extended test, Spellcasting + Intuition, threshold of 5 per spell), and it was about time because she was completely exhausted.She stopped in at Antigo to keep up appearances for an hour, but she was still drained from the long hours the last few days, and so she fell asleep reading Ghostradamus’ blog.

Day twelve was shaping up to be very similar to the day before had been. Xiùlán continued to improve her lodge, and then she stopped in for some tea at the Green Dragon before talking Hui Zhong into coming to Antigo with her to see if she recognized anyone that she might be able to make an introduction to. She reluctantly agreed, and the pair continued their conversation at the bar there. Unfortunately, nothing happened so far as Xiùlán could tell. However, at the end of the night, when Xiùlán paid her tab (and Hui Zhong’s) there was a note at the end. It read: “Don’t be a stranger. A friend of H is someone with talents worth using. –F ”. It dawned on her that Felipe must be the Johnson/fixer operating at Antigo.

Over the next couple of days, Xiùlán finally finished the rituals to finish improving her lodge. She chatted with Hui Zhong via Matrix a couple of times, and she stopped in once to chat with Felipe at Antigo. She explained her position as a wage mage for a single-A corp with a small team of operatives (which Felipe explained that he already knew) and told him a little more about the kind of work that she was looking for, and he promised to let her know if anything came his way that looked like it might be a good match for her and her team’s talents. Of course, he explained, there would be a slight finder’s fee, but that he didn’t mind a trade in goods, services, or information if money seemed too gauche.

And so, after two weeks, Xiùlán was ready for more work. Hopefully Xin would call soon. Of course, if she didn’t, Xiùlán could always stop by Antigo and see what kind of work Felipe was offering. Between the two of them, Xiùlán was sure the group could stay busy.

Total Changes since last session:

Magical Lodge improved from level 4 to level 8
Sustaining Focus (Health) lv1
3 spells: Shapechange, Stealth, Shape Metal

3800 nuyen remaining
5250 nuyen in store credit @ Green Dragon remaining
1 Karma remaining

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