Five Minutes To Midnight

Episode 1: Tightening Belts

RECAP:

  • About a month ago, the Tanuki Trading House got rolled by a Qing-Sweeper alliance
  • Food is now growing scarce.
  • The Blackwoods find that a number of former Tanukis are coming to them for medical attention. Vincent hears from his contacts that a number of the Tanukis escaped death, far more than the Qings and Sweepers want to admit.
  • Treating two of them — a woman with a burned face, and a strung-out man, Hilly hears that she is planning to track down where the Tanukis hid their stash and sell it to Fabrication.
  • One morning, the Blackwoods are interrupted by a delicious smell: the Calicos are having a barbeque.
    – Flick goes to chat with the Chrome Lotus and see if they’ve got an answer. She meets with Kain and a highly borged Lotus devotee called Xiu Xin. They offer her a proposal: prices are being driven up because the Qing have a monopoly, but if Flick can figure out a Parkourier route across Qing territory, then they can buy from the Sweepers instead. Flick promises that the Blackwoods will help them.
    – Lottie goes to speak with Rusty Joe, in the unclaimed territory near the corp outposts. Vince comes with her. Joe doesn’t know anything about the lack of food, but he talks about a new guy, Williamson, who has the current shift manager rattled.
    – Monty goes to find his son, Ferris. He’s not at home; he’s at the Calico barbeque. Monty decides to go to the Calico barbeque.
    – Hilly is also sneaking into the Calico BBQ. She comes across a flyer for it: “Bring a bottle; All Welcome; No Blackwoods.” She sees Monty heading for the gates, and decides not to intervene.
    – Monty reaches the gates and asks to see his son. The Calico guards tell him to piss off. He doesn’t, and the guards start beating on him. He’s tough enough to hold them off, but there are more Calicos showing up.
    – The rest of the Blackwoods, having heard that Monty is in trouble, show up to save his skin. After a tense confrontation, they extract Monty at the expense of jokes about Vincent, who is visibly fuming.
  • Saul, the Blackwoods’ contact in Steve, answers Vince’s call and shows up.
    – The Blackwoods try to talk him into helping them with food. They offer a promise of uncovering the Tanukis’ stash in return.
    – Saul tells them the problem isn’t the Qings price-gouging; it’s that Reclamation are playing the Qings and Sweepers off against each other, tricking them into a bidding war for the food shipments. Steve wants to disrupt Reclamation, so that Haulage can play the same game, but he needs the Tanukis’ ledgers, which he believes are with the stash.
    – Saul agrees to ensure that the Blackwoods can eat, in exchange for their commitment to finding the Tanuki ledgers.
    – “Oh… one more thing.” The Tanukis used to hold one of Haulage’s Grid nodes, and one of their men, Loser Kai, was the sysadmin. Steve needs a new admin to keep an eye on Haulage’s Grid presence and remove any digital graffiti, etc. The Blackwoods agree to do this. Vince appoints one of the kids, Duo, to oversee it.
  • The party decide to try to track down the woman with the burned face as their best lead on the Tanuki Stash.
    – After passing through Qing territory and making a search of the unclaimed area to the north, they find a Sweeper patrol closing in on a lockup. They get there ahead of the Sweepers and find the woman, who has been beaten up and is too badly injured to walk. Monty tries to carry her away, but the search has exhausted him — he’s not strong enough, and stumbles and falls. With the Sweepers closing in, Vincent persuades her to divulge the location of the stash, but Monty and Flick are unwilling to abandon her to a Sweeper patrol, and the Blackwoods — reluctantly — prepare to face the music.
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Episode 3: Going to Shit

Having defeated Hu Gang and the small cadre of Sweepers, Flick Blackwood commandeers the hoverbike and takes Lina, the woman with the burned face, back to Blackwood territory to the care of the Fu family.

On the way, Lina and Flick speak. Lina offers use of her contacts in Manufacturing to sell the drugs on, when they’re found, but doesn’t trust the Blackwoods enough to just hand over the names. Flick makes no promises.

On arrival, the door is answered by Fu Alex, the eldest of the two Fu daughters, whose eyes are red-rimmed. Flick checks her memories of local gossip, and recalls hearing about an argument at the Fu household: Mrs. Fu recently lost her arm in an industrial accident, and the Lotus have offered to replace it, but not unless the family convert. Flick promises to speak with Xiu Xao on their behalf, and Mr. and Mrs. Fu agree to give Lina shelter.

The rest of the Blackwoods make their way through Qing territory to the unclaimed area where Tanuki Tower is. They run into a cadre of guards; they tell them they’re on their way to the Sweepers, and the guards offer to escort them.

Realising that their story is about to proved false, Vincent prepares a diversion, creating a small toy out of scraps of cardboard to entertain the guards while Firebug sneaks off to create a fire as a diversion. As the guards rush off to fight the fire, the Blackwoods sneak away and on to their destination.

Outside Tanuki Tower the Blackwoods spot two figures lurking around in the shadows; they confront them; they turn out to be Calicos, who Monty scares off. Flick arrives, and they ascend the tower.

Firebug checks the door, and confirms it’s clear of tripwires or traps. She crowbars it open, and takes a shotgun blast to the left bicep from an old hermit, Mr. Lo, living inside, who is ranting about the Reticulans and how they won’t take him away. Monty uses his talents as a midwife to calm the situation down while Hilly attempts to extract the shot from Firebug’s arm and clean the wound; unfortunately, the poor light and tense situation mean that she accidentally mangles a tendon in her arm in the process.

Mr. Lo inhabits the upper floor of the water tower, which he has been using as his cistern. He has jury-rigged a wireless radio from spare parts, and believes that the faint voices he’s picking up on it are aliens who are speaking prophecies to him and threatening to abduct him. Although they’re clearly not that, and are too indistinct to properly comprehend, Hilly notes that it’s surprising that any transmission is going out on radio frequencies.

While Hilly is distrcting Lo by listening to him blather on about Reticulan prophecies, Vincent and Flick go about trying to find the Tanuki stash. Vincent succeeds in finding the dossier hidden at the bottom of a stack, but manages to knock the stash into the tank in the process. The Blackwoods struggle for some time to recover the satchel of drugs, even going so far as to empty the tower, but are eventually forced to concede that they’re lost. Frustrated with the situation, and angry that Mr. Lo harmed one of his family, Vincent has Flick restrain him while he takes Lo’s shotgun away and shoots out the radio.

The Blackwoods decide to decamp to Hongmen territory for some R&R, go over the letter that they found in the dossier and get Firebug’s arm looked at. Monty takes a closer look, and is able to diagnose which of the tendons have been severed — this will assist should the Blackwoods negotiate for a prosthetic. Meanwhile, the dossier turns out to contain a lovenote to Loser Kai, warning him of the then-impending Qing/Sweeper attack and urging him to flee with the note’s author.

On the way back, Flick is handed a Parkourier mission from the proprietor. She’s to deliver to Sweeper Fly. The rest of the Blackwoods come with for protection.

Sweeper Fly is running the Sweepers’ food warehouses. He knows that the Blackwoods got into a fight with Hu Gang earlier tonight, and demands Gang’s Sweeper identification back, which Flick hands over. He’s not angry about Flick scuffling with Hu, but he does want reassurance that this isn’t a sign that the Blackwoods have sided with the Tanukis. Vincent says that the Blackwoods aren’t siding with the Tanukis, they’re just picking over the remains. Fly asks if they’ve found anything, and offers to beat Saul’s price on the dossier, telling them that Saul’s days with Steve are numbered. He offers to open trade with the Blackwoods, if the logistics problem can be solved. Vince suggests that the Blackwoods secure the unclaimed territory southeast of their own, which would be enough for the Sweepers to trade with them.

Vincent says that if they find the dossier they will sit on it — they won’t hand it over to Saul or Fly just yet.

With that, the Blackwoods withdraw to their home turf, to pick over the dossier they’ve found. In particular, in response to the note Vince attempts to set up an anonymous mailbox on the Grid with a large neon graffiti-tag above reading “K. YOU NEED TO KEEP YOUR PROMISE.”.

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Episode 4: Twisting the Arm

Lottie approaches the family over breakfast with a series of magazine cut-outs detailing cybernetic arms she’s been researching: a cheaper model with a built-in flamethrower and a more advanced, stronger one.

Checking his sources, Vincent recalls that Rusty Joe was seen recently trying to sell the mire expensive model. Firebug sends Flick over to Joe’s to make the deal, while she prepares Joe’s payment in Yellow Bensons.

As Flick heads out, she notices that Stack 9 at the northwest of Blackwood territory has been painted with Calico tags. She tries to get the full story, but Stack 9 seem unwilling, for now, to talk.

Making the deal with Joe, Flick is troubled when she realises the arm that he’s selling (for drugs) is his own. Uncomfortable with the prospect of buying a man’s arm for drugs, she promises Joe that she’ll find him a replacement.

Back at the Blackwood’s, Vince is approached by Theresa Coetzee, a representative of the Blackwood tenants. Theresa tells him that Stack 9 were convinced by the Calicos that the food shortage was due to Vinces senility, and advises Vince to step down as the Blackwoods’ public leader — at least for the time being. Vince reluctantly agrees, leaving Monty in charge.

Having realised the value of the arm that the family have purchased from Joe, Vince resolves to sell it on rather than offer it to Lottie. Monty checks in with Xiu Xin and Levi at the Chrome Lotus, who are more interested in Flick’s previous promise to arrange a parkourier route importing food from the Sweepers; Monty promises that Flick will be around that evening to arrange it.

Checking the arm, Xin isn’t convinced by Monty’s story that it was purchased from one of his patients, and calls him on his lies. Monty admits the truth, and Xin is far more hesitant to buy at full price; although, he says, he will do so if the Blackwoods persuade the Fu family on their territory to convert to the Lotus.

Vince hatches a plan to solve the family’s problems: clearing Tent City to the southeast so that the Sweepers can import food and discrediting the Calicos. The family will seed rumours that the Calicos are offering another free barbeque, getting all of Tent City to attend. While Tent City are causing trouble for the Calicos, Blackwood tenants will move in and take their land, and Vince will instigate an incident between the Corp enclave and the Calicos on the north edge of Calico turf.

Vince meets with Williamson, an ambitious and openly corrupt corpacop, to discuss this. Williamson speaks of his disdain for his superior, Ivanovich, and his desire to gain power in Haulage far from corporate eyes. He agrees to warn Ivanovich of a potential riot in Calico turf and manipulate Ivanovich into firing on civilians, if Vince can arrange an agent provocateur in the Calico crowd to fire first. Williamson promises Vince a prosthetic arm from supplies if he can carry through.

As the Blackwoods are making their final preparations, they are interrupted by a furious Saul backed by some mercenary muscle. Saul demands to know why the Blackwoods have graffitied the sky with a reference to the letter to K — graffiti which Vince inadvertently created with admin rights, so it’s traceable to him — and where the letter is. The Blackwoods hand it over and Saul burns it; Vince says they were trying to smoke out whoever had written it. They also hand over the Tanuki dossier, and Saul leaves, unaware that Vince has made his own copy…

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