So this'll be a short update, mostly to clear out a couple of side trips before dealing with the Chastity Bene sidequest. Oh god the Chastity Bene sidequest. First off, we'll finally catch up with Nick Cannon at Voice of God Radio.

Voice of God Radio: News reporters of the future have become more plugged into technology than ever before; they are literally plugged into their desks, with headsets that can spool information coming in from field reporters around the country via tele-links and vid-graphs.

Nick Cannon: Nick Cannon is jacked into a news-gathering system, a complex telecommunications console that allows Cannon to monitor global information services. Data flows directly into his suit's computer, is sorted and indexed, and then is displayed across a holographic interface before his eyes.

Talk to Cannon

Hey, Cannon, the world can wait. You've got company.

No...wait a second. Is that you, Gideon Eshanti? Then Rachel Braque must be there, also. The news waits for no one. Be with you; I'm assigning stories. French authorities probe latest report of a hell portal opening. What else? A minor demon named Morax is elected to the Georgia state assembly. That's it. Download and assign; hold the rest. ...Sorry to make you wait. Too much news streaming over the lines. Too much happening. Speaking of news, what's the buzz with you two? Transgressions put out a wire a few nights ago that had you two scrubbed. They don't usually make mistakes about who's dying. You two a couple of ghosts?

No mistake, Nick. They wanted us. They just didn't get us this time.

Wire said that you two were running virtual pornography with a demon called Mr. Beautiful. I've got two reporters on it right now, getting the details from Transgressions. Planning to run a sidebar on Beautiful.

We got lucky and got the drop on the scrubs that came to do us, but luck won't keep us alive.

Whoa! Something's coming over the wire that would have interested you when you with ARC. Gang of kids in Judiciary Square calling themselves the Phreakbeats. They're a bunch of fourth-generation deck babies with a serious hate for anyone associated with artificial realities.

Warrens around the Square are rife with outlaw techs. They've picked their hunting grounds well.

Yeah, we've been covering their activities. Hand likes to report on techs getting scrubbed. Censors pass that stuff through almost without comment. Phreaks' current rant is that they're drawing a bead on the whereabouts of an Acti-Deck pioneer.

If you didn't catch this from the manual excerpt at the beginning of the thread, the Acti-Deck was an early VR game system which screwed up the genetics of its users, leading to mutations down the line. It's one of the things that lead to widespread public support for the ban on VR, and the formation of ARC to enforce such bans.

He's gotta be a thousand years old by now. I thought they were all dead.

Phreaks think he's there. Who cares? The only reason I'm telling you this is because you're gonna need a hiding place, and the warrens are a good place to disappear into. Phreaks'll like that you were ARC. They might put you up. They sound kinda crazy, but you can't be too picky right now.

Talk to Cannon again
Too much news, too much news! Even with these machines, it's too much for one person.

Well, we've got a pretty good hideout in Dante's place, but it never hurts to have backup, right? Off to Judiciary Square we go.

Phreakbeats Hangout: The remains of holovid and various sim-stim games stand in various states of collapse around the hull of this derelict arcade. As old as the place is, though, a lot of the damage seems recently inflicted.

Wicked Stick (at game): Venom seems to leak out of the pores of this kid's acne-ridden face. He's got a buzzcut that makes it look like his hair is standing up out of fear of the noggin below.

Cyber Schmyber (on box): The only thing betraying the outward sangfroid of this attractive teenager is the fact that her hair appears lifted with a static charge, and the fact that she seems to eat nails for breakfast...her own, which are bitten to the quick.

Cyber Schmyber. Indeed. This is just one of many indications that Hell's creators subscribed to the Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead school of character naming.

Fire Extinguisher: Fire hasn't changed any over the years, nor has the quick means to extinguish it.

Talk to Wicked Stick

You friggin' machine! I am, like, jackin' out of this bitch.

You aren't jacked into it, dirtbag. You're in an arcade, not surfin' the net.

Rach, this place may not be the ideal hideout we heard it was. I mean, you think these punks could outwit a scrub team?

I'll say. If these kids had dynamite for brains, they wouldn't be able to blow their noses.

They're with ARC, they're with ARC!

Will you disconnect? They're not ARC. If they were ARC we'd be cranked by now.

Wait a minute! That was pretty good, kid. You must have read my mind. You psionic?

I'm a lot of things. You better watch your friggin' step, even if you are with ARC!

Were with ARC. You're good, kid, but you're not perfect. We're on the lam, trying to avoid ARC just like all of you Generation Experimental kids. I guess that part didn't get through to your receptors.

Get cranked, asshole!

Sounds appetizing! Probably a good thing I don't know what that means, punk.

You don't know about friggin' Crankauer?

Well, kid, here's a novel opportunity for you. Enlighten us.

Julius Crankauer. He invented the friggin' Acti-Deck.

Is he here?

He's totally dead, man! Crankauer got cranked by Phreaks just like us! Happened years ago.

If he'd known the Acti-Deck was gonna lead to kids like you, he probably would have killed himself.

Wait 'til we get his little employee! His blood's gonna be all over the place!

What are you Phreaks talking about? Man, these Gen-Ex kids give me such a headache.

We're gonna kill him, that's what!


Drexler, Oscar Friggin' Drexler!

Wicked, man, you're really starting to drool. These two morons don't know anything. Drexler used to work for Crankauer at Vesuvius Labs, back in the 30s, back in the friggin' dark ages. They were making games; now we're gonna play a little game with Oscar.

Wham, bam, bam, bam! Oh man, it's gonna be beautiful! We're gonna crank it up! We found out he lives over by Union Station, and we got it all planned out. Just a few more hours, and we're taking him out.

You're gonna murder this guy in cold blood?

Yeah! And if the Phreaks kicking in the door miss him, there's gonna be two more outside his window, flying with low-grav jet boots. He won't even see it coming, damn freak maker. You two wanna watch? The deal's going down soon!

Wait a minute. You two and the rest of your gang are gonna kill an old man for something he did sixty years ago?

What's that supposed to friggin' mean? You think we can't do it? You think we shouldn't? His damn invention made us freaks! Oh, man, I should be the one to kill the old bastard. I wouldn't even need a friggin' weapon!

He's killed people with his friggin' brain!

C'mon, Gid, let's get out of here. I'd rather take my chances on the street. They don't call these kids Phreaks for nothing.

Talk to Cyber Schmyber

You got a problem, scuzzball?

Kid, you're vibrating like a tuning fork. What's wrong with you?

I heard the Phreaks had some weird manifestations, but this isn't quite what I anticipated.

What'd you expect? You think we all had two heads or something?

Not exactly...

Look, kid, just relax. The more excited you get, the more you seem to vibrate. Maybe we should talk to somebody else. Where is everybody?

There's a bunch of us around, so watch your freakin' step!

Let's move on, Rach. There's something going on around here; the natives are restless.

I grabbed the fire extinguisher here, though I'm pretty sure there's nothing you can do with it. Maybe it was important to some puzzle that got chopped in the editing process, but I can't remember ever using it for anything. Anyway, the whole business with Oscar and the Phreakbeats (note to self: band name) is a completely optional sidequest. Once you activate it, you have a VERY short window in which you can warn Drexler and get him into hiding, but there's no penalty if you let him get killed. No reward for saving him, either, for that matter. I'm just doing this for completion and karma. Either way, after talking to the Phreaks, you can travel to Drexler's apartment via the DC Map. Also: Friggin' friggin' frig frig.

Oscar Drexler's Apartment: Small and cramped as it is, the occupant of this attic apartment seems to be pretty relentless about stuffing it with homemade toys and inventive projects.

Those little red RC-car things toodle around the floor while you're on this screen. That's the sort of thing that makes me more than happy to rescue Drexler: he's the sort of dude that builds tiny cars and lets them cruise around his apartment, just because he can. That, and Stick and Cyber are just kind of dicks.

Oscar Drexler: A nervous old man surveys his cluttered apartment that serves as both living space and workshop.

Talk to Oscar Drexler

So, there really is an old man here. Maybe the Phreaks are onto something.

Whazzat? I don't know any Stick boy, wicked or otherwise, and don't mention history to me. Can't barge in here talkin' about history. I'm just an old man down on his luck.

Whatever. Maybe you are just some guy, but there's a gang of deck mutants called the Phreakbeats who are convinced that you were Julius Crankauer's right arm, and they're on their way here to get revenge for all their genetic misfortune by killing you.

Dammit! Dammit to hell all over the place. I was just a punk, a kid. I never even met Julius Crankauer or even made it inside Vesuvius's main lab. Didn't design the stuff. It's not my fault the damn machine corrupted the gene pool.

We can talk later. The Phreakbeats are on the way, and they're taking no prisoners. C'mon, we'll take you someplace safe.

Ennh. I'm not budgin' anywhere. You don't know how many times I've outwitted punks like this. Maybe it's time I was caught.

Listen, we've talked to these Phreaks, and they're whacked. This Wicked Stick kid's got them wilded on getting you. I'm certain they'll try again. You really should go somewhere safer, at least temporarily.

You got a deal. Besides, be nice to have someone to talk to for a while.

Gideon and Rachel then stash Oscar at Dante's. Fortunately Dante doesn't seem to mind, though we'll be sticking him with some much less acceptable company in the reasonably near future, the poor bastard. Dante doesn't have anything new to say yet, but you can get a new line from Drexler.

Talk to Drexler (at Dante's)
What'd you say? Time to eat? Oh, good! Them refried beans and pan-fried quails went right to my toes.

Next up, Dr. Clean, who appears to have been the victim of a recent raid.

The Cybershop: The full-body surgi-seat next to the toolbox on wheels reveals what goes on in this room, and the fact that it can be moved at a moment's notice. It's a cramped, back-alley location, but the technologies for cyberlimb and ocular enhancements, although outlawed, have been in use for so long they've become fairly miniaturized.

Dr. Clean: The woman known to you only as Dr. Clean surveys the mess that was once her illegal pawnshop and surgery.

Copper Tubing: A fairly long length of copper tubing.

If I've taken anything away from the wisdom of Bubbles, it's that scrap metal is an excellent source of income for the down at heel. Yoink!

Talk to Dr. Clean

Unlicensed body modification as performed by a blood-spattered back-alley doctor who apparently practices surgery with some sort of pizza cutter? Surely nothing regrettable can come of this.

What happened here, Doc? You never were much of a housekeeper, but man, this is ridiculous.

Technology Assessment finally caught up with me, sent a goon squad over here to do this.

What now? You're not crazy enough to restock, are you?

What's with the questions, Rachel? You two looking to set me up a second time?

What's that mean? You think we caused this?

Somebody sure as hell punched my ticket!

Not us. We struck a deal with you, and we stick by it. Damn it, we came here to see what you were stocking; thought you might have something that could help us. The Hand's come down on us too.

Look, I...I apologize. I know you wouldn't sell me out. I don't know what I'm gonna do. Head west? Maybe get my face reconstructed again, new identity and start over. Not that I have much left to start with. Look at that pile of junk there! This Preston Tensile Picklock's about the only think I'm certain will work, and that's 'cause I was carrying it on me. Listen, I can use the cash; I'll sell this to you and install it for $6000. That's a steal, guys! No cutting involved! Simple skin graft. The lockpick folds on itself when not operating. The whole mechanism only weighs half a pound, and you can have the graft removed anytime. Nobody'd know you ever had it. Whaddya say?

Think we'll be needing that lockpick implant? Come on, what kind of game is this? Unfortunately, we're short a full 5 grand at this point, so we shall have to respectfully decline.

Man, you guys are tough, but I'm not lowering the price. I got some pride left.

Nothing too important, but might as well get it out of the way before the text-and-fetchquest flood that makes up the Chastity Bene arc. Besides, we're going to need that copper tubing soon enough.

Next time on IPAT: Hell...Gang Alley! Aiee!