From Samriel’s Mental Journal:
29-09-54 (September 29th, 2054)
I was awoken – thankfully without a hangover – at seven this evening. It was Murphy. Glitter’s out of town for the last few days, and I need the money, and didn’t really have a reason not to take the job. So I told him I’d be at the Shamrock before ten, which is when he wanted to meet me.
I got my things together. Given how things have been going lately, I made sure to get my helmet. I don’t want of the potentially-arrested people to know precisely what I look like. Less hassle that way. I went to Bruce’s and picked up the Jackrabbit to drive to the meet. He had something to do so wasn’t going to be joining us, but he was kind enough to wish me luck. After the way things had been going with Murphy’s jobs lately, I’d probably need it.
I arrived. There was a new guy there, who didn’t really introduce himself much, but Captain Jack was there, which heartened me a little. Strange guy, but he seems competent at least. Murphy laid out the job: the father of an Ariel Simpson was worried about his daughter. She’d disappeared, but she’d only been missing for about twenty-four hours, so the cops wouldn’t do anything. Murphy said the job would pay fifty grand collectively. Made me curious who the father was, both to get worried so quickly, and to have that much money on-hand. We got chips with the vital data, and examined them for a few minutes. It sounded relatively straight-forward. Most work in the Shadows isn’t all running and gunning and breaking into insanely secure places, so there was nothing all that strange about that.
The new guy introduced himself as Tom. Hispanic-looking fellow. A little declasse, but then that’s not unusual amongst professionals. Tom said he was a driver, which made me glad, since Bruce wasn’t around. Bruce… MacGuyver. Ugh. Honestly the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I shouldn’t call him Bruce either. But I digress. Murphy assured us that Tom comes well-recommended, and is a member of… some group I’d never heard of. But apparently either Murphy is really good at bullshitting me, or it’s genuinely impressive, so I took that as a good omen. Jack negotiated an extra ten grand out of Murphy if we were able to find the girl and return her alive. Murphy agreed, and suggested we make sure that if anyone had hurt the girl, they wouldn’t hurt anyone again.
After looking over the information, I thought the simplest method of dealing with this would be to go to her apartment or dorm room, acquire a usable magical link, and then cast a relatively weak spell along the link, and follow it to its endpoint: the girl. We went to her apartment complex. Two guards, which was sort of impressive in its own way, but nothing we couldn’t handle.
Tom said he was skilled with electronics. So I wove mana about him to make him effectively invisible, and got to try out that Levitation spell I’d learned to see if it would be useful. I levitated him over the fence, and walked about the neighborhood like I was lost or something. Tom broke in, and kept us updated via comms. Inside the apartment everything seemed pretty normal. The girl apparently had a roommate, and Tom collected things from both rooms. He also found a peep-camera hidden behind a poster. He took the samples, I levitated him back over the fence, and we headed back to the van so I could drop the spells.
After releasing the mana flows, I projected and sent myself into the apartment next door, to see what I could see. Feelings of… I don’t know. A twisted mind. Reverence. Desire. Longing. Lust. Admiration. But mostly reverence. There was something strange and tentacled inside an aquarium. There was a little altar sort of thing with a squid-like symbol on it, that had strong feelings. I found a room with a fiberoptic camera I expect it was, and many used tissues. Just being in there made me feel dirty. And then I figured out that I didn’t know what dirty was. I entered a ritual room, I suppose it was. Reverence. Like a place of worship, except it was… strange somehow. Off. Wrong.
I went back to my body and reported on what I’d found. Jack seemed uninterested since the girl wasn’t there. For all I knew there was a murder-torture room beneath the moldy apartment floor, but Jack didn’t care since it wasn’t the job. While professionalism is to be praised, the streak of lack of curiosity, and more importantly the lack of empathy or concern for others lowered my estimation of the man somewhat. Disappointing.
Anyway, so we went to an anonymous motel in the red light district, since I surely wasn’t taking the pair of them out to my farm, or my safehouse, and sure as hell not to Glitter’s place. The guy behind the counter was a racist son of a bitch who wanted twice the usual rate since I’m an elf. I didn’t feel too bad at all for stealing his personal freedom enough to make him think I’d paid him. I got the key, and went to the room.
I set up the ritual space. Jack stayed in the van, but Tom seemed curious, and so I let him watch. It was probably boring for him, as I shaped and concentrated the mana, focusing my desire upon it. After a couple of hours of shaping, I felt the mana reach the target, the girl Ariel. Whether the spell would work or not was immaterial; what mattered was that I was able to follow the link to her location.
I gave directions to Tom and we drove out to the docks. An abandoned-looking area, that Jack said was supposedly haunted. I did astral recon. Three guys wearing armor and carrying big guns standing outside, being guards. An astral barrier inside the warehouse preventing me from seeing much. Oh, and a big kraken in the water right next to the warehouse. It was asleep, at least.
Jack decided we’d hit them hard and fast. Tom drove the van around in a semi-circle while Jack shot the enemies. There was a lot of shooting, and I was playing astral overwatch watching the scene. Guns and bullets aren’t really alive or particularly elemental; they’re not easy to see from the astral. But it was clear everyone was in a fight for their lives, and there were numerous gunshots. The enemies launched grenades at the van, which – thank God – Tom was able to get out of the way of. My body was in that van, after all.
Jack and Tom managed to kill the enemies, I guess, and I broke the barrier in the warehouse. I’m a little surprised my ritual casting made it through the barrier. God was clearly with us; and with Ariel.
What I encountered was… revolting. I expect my poor, injured psyche bears yet another scar from that. The things I’ve seen in this job. It’s like I’m constantly exposed to the worst things in the universe. Things I’d never imagined. Entering the warehouse past the now-destroyed barrier was like… it was like entering a freshly-used charnel house, Auschwitz, and the temple of a demon or some dark god, all rolled into one. The place stank. The mana flows were wrong. Corrupted. Seething. The emotions were all but overwhelming. Fear. Terror, even, since fear doesn’t begin to touch it. Pain. Horror. Revoltion. Desperation. Despair. And yet elation and excitement and reverence, too. Wrong. So wrong.
As I entered, I was evidently just in time to see the culmination of a dark ritual. The girl was laid naked upon an altar. The ritualist drew his blade over her throat, slitting it. From her blood, mana welled up, and it collected in the circle. The ritualist sent it to run along a link to the kraken I’d seen in the water. Some sort of control spell, I could tell. This was… bad.
About this time, I could hear Captain Jack trying to open up the warehouse door. He was having trouble. But like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t take my eyes from the ritual space, watching helpless and unable to help the poor girl in my astral form. Nor could I wreak vengeance upon her killer since he wasn’t astrally active. All I could do is watch. One way or another, it would all be over well before I could get back to my body and come in to intervene.
The ritualist declared words I do not want to remember. Asking the kraken, as if it were some dark god, to come and devour everyone. He asked that it start with him. And, controlled by the spell, it wrapped a tentacle thick around as my waist about the ritualist, brought him to its beak, and bit him in half. The kraken, freed of the ritualist’s spell, returned to the water. And the whole time, I did nothing but watch, dumbfounded and impotent.
I gathered myself as Jack got the door open enough to come in. I appeared as a psychic apparition, and directed him to the girl, whose life was quickly flowing out of her body. Thank the Lord, Jack was able to close the wound enough to stabilize her, following the instructions from his medkit. He brought her out to the van. I didn’t want to stay in the warehouse any longer, and the reek of its foul mana threatened to make me vomit regardless. Returning to my body, I healed the girl as best I could. It was clear from her aura that her life was no longer in danger. Jack stabilized her, and I brought her back from the brink of death, but she’ll still likely bear a scar, and she lost a lot of blood. Truly, the Lord was with her, and with us. We managed to save a girl from a dark fate. Regardless of the horrors I saw in there, and the unnatural workings of mana the ritualist had employed, I was able to help save that girl from a horrible fate. For that, I’m truly thankful.
We called Murphy, and he told us to bring her to the hospital. We did. Murphy paid us the twenty grand each he’d promised. Which is nice. Money is useful. But we saved a girl. We did some good. She’ll probably be scarred physically and psychicly. But she has her life. And she has a chance. And that is something I’ve gotten to do far too little in this job: help someone.