|ShadowHaven||Mirage Casino||The Mojave Desert|
In which Zenith goes to Vegas and experiences the glory of the big city to hunt down clues about his missing wife.
After the events of The Sound of Her Voice Zenith found out that there was a runner in Las Vegas by the name of Sidewinder who might have information regarding the strange game that his wife and daughter are caught up in thanks to Countess O'Cathalàin. Zenith has spent the last several weeks preparing for this trip and hoping to confront Sidewinder without violence in the hopes of getting some solid answers.
Meet Me in Las Vegas
Zenith, after finally coming home from a few days of laying low in the Ork Underground, finds his new home in Fort Lewis quiet, with both Harriot and Shine missing. He texts his daughter, learning that she's with Gabriella and that it will be about an hour until she's home. He makes some gyoza as a snack and packs up a few bags with essentials for travelling.
When Harriot comes back, he moves down to the kitchen and the two discuss things, such as how she felt about finding out that Zenith and Shine were dating, as well as letting her know that he had to go out of town for a few days so that he could track down a lead on her mother. Zenith also divulges more about his work, explaining that he is mainly used as a Breaking and Entering expert, keeping his wetwork expertise a secret. He tells her that he'll call her as soon as he's able, and she offers to compile and register a courier sprite so that they're able to talk discretely over distance.
Thankful to his daughter, Zenith gives her a hug and tells her that he loves her, finishes packing and heads out towards the middle of the night to take a moment to call Amrei Veidt who he asked to come meet with the Dog Soldiers that Argent has facilitated his travel to Boise through. The Dogs get Zenith out of the city easily enough, though they run into some trouble at the border into Boise and are forced to hide out in the forest until the drones and watchers leave the area. Zenith is dropped off in Boise and heads across town to the meeting point with the Koshari syndicate. The Koshari are silent but efficient smugglers, and able to get to Vegas without much more issue.
Giving his appreciation to the Koshari, and letting them know that he'll contact them when he needs to exfiltrate, the adept heads down the strip, pretending to be a small-town tourist in the big city. He headed away from the strip, heading up north and finding a No-Tell Motel where he can store his gear. Deciding to stay as tourist-casual as he can, Zenith leaves the motel and heads back to the strip, calling up Highrise, a mafia fixer that Argent said could help him figure out the next steps for. The fixer tells Zenith to come to The Flamingo, a luxury casino on the strip that the runner quickly makes his way to. Unfortunately for the perpetually disheveled Zenith, the Flamingo has a dress code and an armored jacket and revolver do not suit it. After unsuccessfully arguing with the bouncer, but remembering that he was asked not to piss off the mafia and the fixer who has agreed to assist him, he instead goes and gets a Crimson Sky suit that he can wear into the club. Zenith is suitably uncomfortable with the luxury elements of the club, but eventually makes his way to one of the tables in the back where Highrise sits.
The Mafioso tells Zenith to sit and play a few games. The fixer inquires why a well-known assassin is in his city and if he plans on making trouble, to which Zenith responds no, that he's only there to have a conversation with Sidewinder, not interested in any sort of violence. Zenith asks about the security around The Mirage, where he's informed Sidewinder is a regular at their high roller tables. Highrise tells him that the Mirage is protected by some serious meat security, though due to the fact that the Mirage does not offer Matrix games, preferring to keep things old-school, perhaps their Matrix security is somewhat lacking. To that end, Zenith offers 14k to the fixer to find him a decent decker who can get into The Mirage's host. He also asks for the mafioso to somehow get his trusty Ruger Super Warhawk into the Mirage, and hesitantly hands it over to Highrise.
Before leaving the Flamingo, Zenith spots something odd, a shadowy figure smoking nearby in a non-smoking area, and when pointed out to Highrise, the mafioso cannot see them. Leading Zenith to believe they're some sort of invisible mage, but before being able to confront them, they disappear...
Before heading back to the North side of Vegas and his hotel, Zenith visits a tailor that he had recommendeded to him by Amrei and picks up a very nice Zoe Heritage 12 that he can use to raise himself to the Mirage's exacting standards.
The next day, Zenith gets dressed and prepares himself after a night of restless sleep, dreaming of his wife and the many shadows that haunt his psyche. The adept shakes off the demons and gets dressed, adding a cowboy hat and a duster to complete the cowboy tourist look. He leaves most of his gear behind and heads to The Mirage, heading towards the Strip from the North side of the city and running across the mysterious smoker near to an alley. Moving over to him, Zenith is unable to reach him before the figure goes into the alley and disappears. Ignoring the strange ghost after assensing the cigarette, Zenith arrives at the Mirage and gets in.
Starting by spending some time at lower end tables, Zenith begins to move around the casino floor, casing the joint so that he would know a way out if things went bad. Checking out the security and trying to guide any information about the high rollers. He finds someone that might be in a similar occupation and begins asking questions, getting some generic information, Zenith goes and spends 20k on chips as well at getting his Ruger from one of the side lockers thanks to Highrise. Before approaching the highroller elevator, Zenith takes another look around and finds Sarah Snow at one of the tables, doing novacoke and drinking vodka alongside her more composed husband Liam Montgomery. Zenith asks Sarah if she has any information about the highrollers, hoping to get some information on Sidewinder. The incorrigible lawyer does in fact have a list of the highrollers, many of whom Zenith is familiar with due to their association with the ShadowHaven, however the name Jackie Guerra stands out as being a regular at the highroller tables. When asking about her, Sarah simply mentions that she ran into a red-haired elf in the bathroom who went up to the high roller elevator and got in. Extremely unnerved by this sudden realization Zenith steels himself and heads to the elevator, revealing his large case of chips and being allowed access into the elevator. While he's in the elevator he has the decker start to loop the camera and retrieves his revolver, sticking it into his jacket's holster and arriving at the high roller table, introducing himself as Messiah Cristos, a small-town gambler here to try his luck in the big city.
After a few hands, Zenith loses 10k, and asks Jackie to join him outside for a smoke and talk. The runner waits until the other players have begun the next hand before asking if Jackie is Sidewinder. The other adept, obviously taken aback by the revelation about their identity, asks about who Zenith is, and he is truthful about the answer. In a moment of tension where Sidewinder reveals a cleverly concealed gun as a few mundane object, assembling it quickly and then disassembling it before it can be seen. Zenith begins asking Sidewinder about Scarlet, what they knew about his wife's disappearance and that Countess O'Cathalàin had let him know that Sidewinder had been involved. While it was clear that Sidewinder was anticipating a fight, Zenith managed to keep his composure, and not pull his gun on the other adept. Sidewinder tells Zenith that it's been a long time since the job, and that they are nervous about a known assassin asking about a job from over a decade ago. They ask Zenith why he's doing this, and he just tells the other adept that he has a personal connection to it. Sidewinder decides to invite Zenith back to the table for another game.
A few hands have left Zenith still 10k down, but after an intense round at the table where Zenith cheats, palming one of the decks from the dealer and slipping himself an ace, he managed to win a 60k pot from the rest of the table, and Sidewinder leaves the room, telling Zenith in a private DNI to meet them on the roof. Zenith stands from the table and "accidently" bumps into one of the employees, grabbing their ID card and slipping to the employee entrance and up to the roof. There Sidewinder lets the adept powers that allow them to change their appearance. Dropping the form of the red-haired elf much to Zenith's relief. Sidewinder still wants to know why Zenith cares about a twelve-year-old job, and Zenith admits that Scarlet is his wife. Sidewinder seems to know about his relationship already, explaining that they were instructed to wait until he was out of the house to get Scarlet. They also explain that a few weeks after being hired by the O'Cathalàin family to kidnap Scarlet from Seattle, the same team was hired by someone from Tir na nOg with almost opalescent skin to kidnap her again. Though he didn't know where she was being held now. While still wary of Zenith, Sidewinder says that he wishes the other adept luck in his mad quest, and Zenith asks if he can come back, knowing Sidewinder's rep as a skilled infiltrator and gunman, as well as with a better understanding of magic. Agreeing to teach Zenith Hapsum-Do. As Sidewinder leaves, Zenith goes over to the edge of the casino roof where the spirit that he's run into twice is looking out at the Mojave desert. Realizing that whatever this ghost wanted, he was going to find it in the Mojave, he resigned himself to the fact he was going to have to head out into the dangerous desert.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Leaving the Mirage and rushing back to his No-tell to grab his gear, Zenith heads back to the Strip, intending to buy a dune buggy that he can drive out into the Mojave and find whatever this ghost seems to be pointing him towards. He also gathers up a dozen bottles of water and is almost to the car rental place when something catches his eye, the flashing neon lights of a camel's silhouette, and as things so often go in Zenith's life, he made the stupider decision. He bribes the bouncer at the casino and wires more money to the decker still providing Matrix overwatch for him. Finding his way down into the tunnels that led to the animal pens, Zenith finds a camel and quickly befriends it, ignoring any tack for the animal and fleeing with it out of the tunnels, running into the desert.
It is almost an hour when the regrets of his poor decisions begin to reach Zenith. He is already starting to feel the dehydration of the desert, and due to the late hour, the desert is getting extremely cold. The dark figure that Zenith has been following sits atop an Astral Horse on a far dune, never seeming to get closer. Eventually Zenith comes across a camp fire, and eager to not be freezing to his bones Zenith leaves the camel a safe distance away, seeing a figure near the fire that reveals itself to be Stiletto, Zenith's mother. Zenith is angry that she somehow managed to track him all the way out here, but Stiletto informs him that she isn't actually there, that the entire thing is a construct of his mind trying to sort things out for him. Not understanding the difficult psychological occurrence Zenith ultimately decides to shoot Stiletto, but the bullet goes right through her. Deciding to just go along with this weird hallucination, Zenith and Stiletto talk about ideals, why Zenith keeps going, why he doesn't make a bigger impact instead of acting like a mercenary. Zenith explains that his goal has always been to give Harriot the best life, but Stiletto asks if that was the case, why was he out in the desert instead of home with her, or why he didn't take the standing offer of a legitimate S-K SIN that Amrei offered him. Stiletto insinuates that for all Zenith wants to be separated from her ideals, he still wears them on his sleeve and he can't give them up. As she disappears, Zenith returns to his camel and heads to the next dune.
The next actor comes at the edge of a chasm that freaks out his mount. When Zenith gets off the camel this time, the camel takes off at a run, heading back towards Las Vegas. After losing sight of the camel, his next Ego-Ghost is in the form of Amrei Veidt. Amrei questions why he runs at all when he has alternatives. He could take S-K Prime's offer and he would have the freedom to pursue his goals, his skillset giving him a leg up above other triggermen in the Black Ops division. She taunts him that he's all but signed up already, giving him a flyer for the "summer camp" in Essen that he agreed to offer to Harriot in A Nest of Vipers. Zenith claims that he would have cut ties if Harriot hadn't wanted the opportunity, and Amrei lets him know that he's got more than just the camp hanging over his head. Zenith tells Amrei to frag off, and sends the Ego-Ghost away, draining another bottle of water and heading towards the next dune that the dark figure is waiting for him on.
While Zenith has a brief conversation with Shine about secrets and his frivolous attitude before Zenith moves past it, scared more of what his conflicted thoughts about his relationship could manifest here. He sees a house in the distance, a very familiar house. He moved forward and headed into the house, it was exactly the same as he recalled it. The house that he had bought in Snohomish with Scarlet the day they had been married. He walked through the home but as he crossed a threshold, the scene changed. Instead of the home with happiness that he recalled, it was the scene that he remembered the most vividly. The furniture overturned, blood on the ground and his possessions destroyed. He picked up a game piece that was on the ground, the game around it broken and hurls the piece across the room, watching it shatter against the wall, though just narrowly missing the Ego-Ghost of Harriot. His daughter talks to him about being there for her, what being a family means. She also tells him that he needs to be honest with the real Harriot, about everything, including the wetwork and the death of Gabriella's father Rich Davis ((See: There's No Business Like Snow Business)) Zenith agrees, understanding that Harriot probably already had some idea that her father killed people. Zenith hugs the Ego-Ghost of his daughter and tells her that he loves her, letting her know that he will try and be a better father before the illusion fades away and he is back in the freezing desert.
The dark figure reappears, bringing a second ghost horse with him that Zenith can get on, and pointing towards a massive tower in the distance. Unclear if this is real or another hallucination, Zenith heads for the dark tower and dismounts his horse a decent place away, sneaking towards the tower and entering. The tower is strange, and as much as Zenith would like answers, the dark figure had pointed towards the top of the tower, and giving who Zenith had seen so far, he was determined to reach the top of the tower. Stepping through he heard footsteps, and hid in the shadows, watching some strange figures move through the tower holding what looked to be a Blood Magic artifact. Despite the background count being high enough that Zenith's Astral Perception focus should have been turned off, his eyes switched to the strange hazy sight and he had to hold back his revulsion as he could see the intense taint of blood magic, and manages to realize it's some form of Blood Magic Alchera. Not liking either the idea that this exists or that it was in his brain, Zenith sneaks out of the tower to the exterior staircase. The building shifts and changes beneath him, but Zenith moves at speed. At the end of the staircase there's another way inside the Alchera, or he could attempt to jump across a rapidly expanding gap. Deciding that he was done with Blood Magic shit, jumps, and only after pushing off did he notice the horrors that laid beneath the tower in the gap. The Drake he had seen in S-K's offices, the Blood God who's mouth he had jumped into, The Ant Queen he had helped kill and many more horrors that the veteran runner had faced in his life.
Barely managing to hit the other side, the dark figure who had been guiding Zenith looks at him as though the adept is crazy, but Zenith, dehydrated, cold, and fed up with magic bullshit, just walks up the stairs to the top of the tower. The Ego-Ghost that is waiting for him however actually forces Zenith to his knees. Scarlet stood in front of him for the first time in twelve years, even though a part of him knowing that she wasn't real, it took all the strength from the adept. Scarlet moved to him and helped him to his feet, embracing him as Zenith let spill everything that he wanted to say, talking about Harriot, his search for the noblewoman, the new people who were helping him. He just spoke until he had no words. Scarlet brought him to the edge of the tower, telling him that she can't tell him where she is, but she knows that he'll find her. As the two of them stare at the sunrise over the desert, Zenith takes the moment to just be happy before the presence of Scarlet disappears, and the dark figure approaches Zenith and puts a hand on his shoulder and Zenith blacks out.
When he awakens, it is morning and he is at an Oasis a few dozen kilometers away from Vegas. He stands up and dusts himself off, walking down the path and eventually hitching a ride from another cowboy, Zenith meets up with the Koshari again and begins the trip home.
Returning to his home in Fort Lewis late the next morning, Zenith is grateful for the relief of a comfortable environment and sees Harriot waiting up for him. Remembering the conversations with the ghosts of his mind, he embraces his daughter and tells her everything about his work. Including the assassination work, though without getting into gory details. The one detail that he shares is that he was partially responsible for the death of her girlfriend Gabriella's father. Which prompts Harriot to gather her things and leave the house. Once more leaving Zenith alone.
IG5 discount 4k nuyen in gambling winnings (Mirage chips) Nice Suits (Summit Series and Heritage 12) 5 karma 12 CDP Optional Quality: Sensei (Pistols) @ Chargen price Optional Quality: Mentor Spirit (Oracle) @ Chargen price A very awkward conversation
Player After Action Reports (AARs)
I ain't cut out for this investigation drek. Life used to be simple, a J would show up, tell me to zero someone who pissed them off, I pulled the trigger, and then I got rent and food for the month. This drek though? Infiltrating fancy places in plain sight, getting answers without violence, and finding out that this rabbit hole is deeper than I've ever considered before. I ain't equipped for it. At least Sidewinder wasn't stupid enough to pull a gun on me, their rep was that of a good shot, maybe better than me, but in a gunfight like that, the one willing to take more risks wins.
Vegas wasn't as bad as I thought. Too many fraggers that care about appearance, but that's the same everywhere in high society. It wasn't the answers I was looking for, but this opal-skinned fragger that hired Sidewinder and their crew is the next lead to track down. It seems like TNN is my next personal trip, but it's going to be awhile. Can't go into there unprepared. Especially if the Count is there.
Whatever happened in that desert though. I feel different. I don't know if I feel better, but different. Maybe this will help, but if it hinders me then me and this ghost are going to have a problem.