Once the initial shock of what happened wore off, we set to work gathering resources we'd need and fortifying our position in the hotel. Doc and I scrounged for food, water, plastic sheeting, and duct tape. We didn't know what that crap the drones were spraying was, but we didn't want to find out the hard way either. Fer busied herself with sealing off the windows, while Vic locked down the floor we were on using his hacking mumbo jumbo. Once all that was done, ol' Jack went for a drive.
The Coalition had turned most of Firetown into some sort of goddamn prison. The walls had been dropped with almost pinpoint precision. There were no gaps between them, nor any gates leading out of the area that had been cut off. I saw movement atop the walls. They were being manned, with orders to shoot to kill no doubt. Climbing the walls wouldn't be an option, not with Dead Boys gunning down anyone who tried. Ol' Jack reckons also that anyone trying to fly up and over the walls would likewise be shot down. The Coalition had us right where they wanted us, and they were high on keeping us there. It was almost like they had quarantined us off from the rest of the Burbs. Given the rumors we'd heard a while back, I'd lay even money that bastard Lyboc's fingerprints were all over the operation.
Ol' Jack reported back and we decided the next move was to see if there was anything to be gained by visiting the Recruitment Center that had been attacked a few days ago. Ol' Jack was curious if the ISS had high-tailed it before the walls fell or if the Coalition had trapped their "heroes of humanity" in here with us. A large group was gathered outside the center, so we pulled the car behind the Top Hat and mingled with the mob.
Turns out there were some ISS left. The mob had killed three of them by the time we arrived and a piece of manmeat was working on the last. I told him to break it up. He did, but it was too late. All Doc could do for the guy was put him out of his misery. Ol' Jack then told the mob to break it, up and go home, that we'd all work together to figure out what was happening. Once they began to wander off we talked to the mystery woman Doc spotted watching everything go down.
She was wearing Payne's colors, but none of us knew who she was; though Doc seemed to think she was familiar. We tried to get some info out of her, but she was tight-lipped as a grunt using hemorrhoid medicine as lipbalm. She vanished, so Fer, Doc, and ol' Jack got to work.
The recruitment center was a wreck. The doors had been beaten down, windows, smashed, and the place trashed - probably in the ruckus of the mop dragging the agents out. We found lots of what ol' Jack suspected was dirty paper, trouble is ol' Jack can't read. Neither could Fer. We heard boots and hid. Turns out it wasn't necessary because it was the lady in Payne's colors and some of her goons.
First she wanted to know where Fer was. If she didn't know that was a plus for us. Ol' Jack smarted off to the broad and told her "Our companion perished in the garden, the lions ate her". She didn't like that, but let it go. Then she started asking about that strange stone tablet we found. She wanted to know where it was. Ol' Jack mouthed off again and one of her goons tried to coldcock me. Seeing that didn't work he got handsy, and tried to muscle it outta me. I didn't know why this bitch wanted the tablet, but knew it wouldn't be good if she got it, so I lipped off again. That was when she switched tactics, and asked us if we really wanted to go up against #Payne_Man.
What the hell did Payne have to do with this? Naturally I asked, but like I said the bitch was tight-lipped. She told us Payne wanted the tablet and she was told to get it. She didn't ask any questions. Maybe she should have. That's when little Miss Bitch played her hole card. One of her gorillas brought in Fer's sister.
Now don't get ol' Jack wrong, I'm not against taking a hostage if the situation calls for it. Miss Bitch demanded the tablet in exchange for Charlotte's life. Ol' Jack relented and agreed to lead them to the tablet. One of her goons walked us out the door, and ol' Jack led the parade up the street to the Top Hat. I had a half-formed plan that if we could get close enough to the barrel of acid, all the baddies would get a nice cool shower. Fer started the party early though.
Fer had remained hidden and opened her comms so Vic could hear what was happening. Vic had stolen a car and drove like a bat out of hell to a hill near the Top Hat. He got out and set up to start sniping the goons. Fer was seething at the goon holding her sister, and came out like it was Halloween. She shanked the goon before he even knew what him him. My dance partner soon realized why ol' Jack doesn't neck on the fist date when ol' Jack latched onto the goon's neck and tore his throat out.
Things got bad then. Miss Bitch activated her chainsword and stalked toward Fer, but at the last second decided to cut down Charlotte. Bad move Bubbles. The chainsword ripped and tore across Charlotte's chest and dug into her left arm. Normally Fer might have turned tail and ran, but seeing her sister cut down enraged her. Doc scooped up Charlotte and dashed over to his clinic. At the time we had no idea whether she was alive or not, but if anyone could help her, Doc could.
A few more goons fell. Now ol' Jack was close enough he could put his plan into motion. He reached out with his mind and grabbed hold of the barrel full of "hot sauce" and directed over Miss Bitch's head. I tipped the barrel all the way over intending to reduce her to a puddle of goo, but the squirrelly bitch got out of the way. Trouble is getting her out of the way put her right in the path of Fer.
Fer shook her with a few swipes of her vibro-knives. Then thinking I was a genius and desiring to make it easier for Fer, I attempted to put the now empty acid barrel on Miss Bitch. I missed. Fer wound up wearing the barrel as improvised armor. Sorry Fer. Vic took fire from the remaining goons as Fer and I danced with Miss Bitch. Vic took a couple shots to the shoulder. He was down but not out.
Fer shook off the barrel, and I attempted to jam my vibro-blade into the bitch's throat, but missed due to her thick dermal plating. It did provide the opening Fer needed though and she rammed her vibro-blades into the ribs of Miss Bitch and jerked them up until she heard a crunch. The last two goons bugged out and we hurried to Doc's to check on Charlotte.
Charlotte had been hurt bad. She was in a coma, and Doc had had to amputate her left arm. In any case, she couldn't be moved. So we spent the next few days fortifying the clinic and keeping an eye on the Top Hat. Ol' Jack went to retrieve a few personal effects and the tablet and, when I went to Vic's room, it was trashed. Someone had been looking for something. That was probably when Miss Bitch and her goons grabbed Charlotte. I told Vic about it and he panicked.
Vic pulled footage from Miss Bitch's cyber eye showing her talking to a figure that clearly was not human. It was emaciated with sickly gray skin, wiry oily black hair, and it wore tattered robes. This is the figure that wanted her to get the tablet. We weren't sure, but most of us thought it might be Payne himself. None of us knew because none of us had ever seen Payne. While he did that, Doc harvested Miss Bitch's cyber arm and attached it to Charlotte. It wasn't her natural arm, but it was better than the alternative.
We talked about our next move. I think we agreed we needed to reach out to the Coalition. Ol'Jack doesn't like it one bit, because it's essentially a death sentence if they catch me. We're running out of options though. Thanks to the revelations of Miss Bitch we weren't sure we could trust Payne or anyone in his organization anymore. Reaching out to the Dead Heads might be our last resort.
Charlotte woke up and she was not happy. She was not happy we had dragged her into the middle of our shitstorm. She had paid a high price for it. First by being kidnapped, then nearly dying, and then losing her arm on top of it. Needless to say she was pissed at all of us. Fer turned yellow and tried to pin the blame on Doc. I don't blame her, she was trying to deflect the blame to someone else to abate Charlotte's fury. Yeah Doc had saved her life, but had it not been for us, she wouldn't have been in the situation to begin with. Charlotte gave us all the heave-ho. I don't know if that means we're fired, but Fer thinks its best we give Charlotte time to cool off. Doc took some medicines to Charlotte before we left, telling her she would need to take them if she wanted to go on living. She slammed the door in his face - after she took the meds from him - she isn't stupid.
It had been a heavy day, so we went back to the only place we had now - our new digs at the Park Hotel.
We're in one hell of a pickle here. Charlotte is pissed which means the Top Hat is off limits. We can't trust anyone in Payne's organization, and I don't trust the Coalition either. One thing is certain, we gotta find a way outta this prison in which we find ourselves before the fuse the Coalition lit erupts into the War of Colors.