Blood and Ferrocrete (A Shadowrun 3rd edition Game)

Silver Linings
Or: Disassociative Compartmentalization

From Samriel’s Mental Journal:
30-09-54 (September 30th, 2054)

Someone once told me that when God closes a door, he opens a window. And generally speaking, I’ve always hated this saying. Why? Because that would make God a total jerk. Because a window is much smaller than a door. So closing the door to open the window would result in a net loss. As opposed to, I don’t know, opening the back door or something. Wouldn’t that be a much better saying?

For most of my life, things have seemed fairly straightforward. I knew what was real. I knew my place in the world, more or less. I mean, I argued with the Professor some since I didn’t think elves are inherantly superior to every other sort of creature. But I still felt relatively sure of my place in the world, as a particularly gifted individual in many respects. I had vast amounts of knowledge gained from some of the wisest entities in the world. I possessed a deeply-ingrained understanding of how magic worked before the Awakening even came.

But, recently I’ve been leading an… interesting life. Monsters that should never exist. Existential crises. Kidnappings for people to mess with my mind using some sort of horrible machine. There’s been.. sort of a lot of things. I mean, it’s been bad enough that I’ve genuinely been questioning my sanity.

So, most of my life I’ve been pretty solid, psychologically speaking. My mind’s been solid and well-refined, and as a result I suppose it’s been rather rigid in most respects. Perhaps that is why I’ve traditionally been very good at concentrating on things, such as individual summonings. I can concentrate as hard as orichalcum rods. But that hasn’t traditionally made me so terribly wonderful at multitasking.

Glitter is always urging me to work, and learn, and grow. She always wants me to push myself to be better, to master new skills, and so on. It’s very endearing, honestly; she wants me to the best me that I can be. But lately the tasks she’s been having me do, trying to concentrate on multiple things simultaneously… have sort of started working.

I don’t know what it is exactly. Maybe my mind is working a little more… fluidly? Maybe it’s less set in its ways to focus on a single thing? Maybe Greg could tell me a little more, as he has a stronger grasp of psychology than I do. But I think I’m sort of learning to split my attention to focus on two things. Glitter calls it compartmentalization. It’s … honestly sort of surreal. I’m not sure if it’s disassociation, or what’s going on.

Essentially I sit there and I concentrate on splitting my mind into fragments. The exercise I’ve been doing lately is that one part of my mind goes looking for a pretend item that I’ve hidden somewhere in my house. Then the other partition of my mind goes looking around the house for the hidden item. Mentally of course. But still, it’s rather surreal. I’m getting to the point where I’m getting really good at hiding things, and I have to concede the game and ask myself where I hid the object. Surreal. But helpful. I’ve just about mastered holding a spell up while forming another one. It’s not as easy as just one, of course, but far easier than it used to be…

Maybe I had to go borderline insane in order to master this new talent. I guess maybe everything really does happen for a reason.

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Horrors, and Hope

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.

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Experiences, Spirits, and Scars

From Samriel’s Mental Journal:
28-09-54 (September 28th, 2054)

Have you (the hypothetical You, of course, since this is all inside my head… unless it’s not?) ever made a bargain with a free spirit? Most of them are relatively uninterested in money or material gain in general. Makes sense if you think about it, since they’re essentially beings of thought and emotion, not of physical reality. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that when you bargain with a free spirit, they don’t want money or material goods, generally speaking. What they want, is something they cannot attain for themselves: the human experience.

Free spirit are intelligent, self-aware entities. They seem neither to be angels nor demons. Perhaps they’re related to the demi-beings spoken of in Genesis, when angels knew men and women. Perhaps it still happens on occasion. In any case, they’re sentient, even if it’s not precisely a human intelligence. They’re not stupid for the most part, it’s just they are different than us, and have different priorities and thought processes. Despite being sentient, however, even free spirits, with their own will and desires, are mostly static entities. They are birthed (as it were) full-grown, knowing more or less everything they’ll ever know. They don’t change, don’t grow, don’t learn the same way we humans do. If it’s important to them, they’ll remember you, certainly. But they won’t spontaneously learn to throw a fireball if they weren’t birthed with that knowledge. Bound spirits never change. But despite being primarily static, free spirits have the /potential/ to do so. It’s just hard.

The exception to this rule of stasis are those free spirits who make bargains with humanity. Spirits have many things they can do, as well as thoughts, experiences, and knowledge that humans simply don’t. Understanding spirits, even free ones, is like trying to imagine what a creature from the bottom of the sea thinks. It’s foreign; alien even. But regardless, they have or can do various things that humans desire. And in exchange, the free spirit takes pieces of their experience.

I spent this evening with Sunflower. Not today, of course, since like many elves and many shadowrunners I prefer to sleep much of the day. So I spent the evening with Sunflower. I snuck into a neighboring cornfield near the farm, and we played hide and seek for some hours, and some light gymnastics, and a few other things. She even likes word games. I’d never seen a spirit that so strongly resembled a child. She’s playful, mischevious, full of wonder and excitement. She likes to play pranks on people, which may result in the occasional bump or scrape, but she’s not malevolent about it in the slightest. We played until well after midnight, as I was starting to tire rather badly. While playing, though, between bouts of losing myself in her childlike enthusiasm, I couldn’t help but think about this.

When you give a free spirit bits of your experience, it’s both the emotional and personal impact of the memory granted, as well as its personal significance, that you give up. Lord knows I must be an expert on it by now, I’ve given enough bits and pieces to Glitter over the last year. You still retain the memory, but it’s… it’s like it’s greyed out somehow. You remember the factual information about it. You remember what happened, and can see in your mind’s eye from your perspective. You don’t lose the memory. But it’s… disconnected somehow, if you give it up to a free spirit. It no longer has any emotional impact. You could give up the most terrifying memory you have, and thinking about it wouldn’t scare you anymore. The soul of the memory is gone, as if it happened to another person or you read about it in a book. It’s still there, but something vital is gone from it. It loses its power. It loses its impact.

Honestly, it sort of makes me wonder if free spirits are the source of lore regarding the fae. For all the Tir na nOg elves enjoy playing at seelie and unseelie courts, a being of inhuman morality and conscience doing things the way its nature dictates reminds me too much of certain stories of the fae. And some fae are grave and honorable, while others are shameless if innocent tricksters, while others are malevolent entities interested in violence and suffering. And many of them were interested in what humanity could give them. A soul. A child. Things the fae lacked.

Back on topic, perhaps it would be good for me, to give up some of the more painful memories I’ve accumulated over the last couple of years. God certainly knows the horrors I’ve seen would have driven many people off the deep end by now. Sometimes I can’t help but doubt my own sanity. If I could get rid of the sting of some of these memories, of the horrors, of the Things Which Should Not Be, I bet I’d feel a lot better.

These are some of the things I thought about as I played with Sunflower. I’ve always been prone to thinking too much. It makes me excellent in study and academic studies and a number of other things, but too much thinking certainly doesn’t lead to happiness. Perhaps that’s why I value my time with Sunflower quite highly. It’s not perfect, but in fits and starts I’m able to stop thinking for a while.

Greg’s been teaching me more about psychology, and the workings of the mind. I… am not entirely certain he’s all there, the more time I spend with him. As a result, I’m hesitant to open up to him too much. He seems to have good intentions, and despite being a professional criminal I can honestly say I think he’s a good person, aside from his penchant for brutally forcing his will upon others. I haven’t yet figured out if it’s worse to harm someone physically, or to take away their freedom of thought, their capacity for self-determination. Anyway, he’s offered to listen. He seems very sympathetic. But the fact that he doesn’t seem to be quite all there makes it hard to confide in him very much.

It might be better for me to give up some of these more painful memories. The ones that scar me too badly. A certain amount of pain is a natural thing. It helps us grow stronger, it builds our will and determination. But maybe some of these memories aren’t so much just pain, but some sort of psychic leaking wound. Taking the pain too far could be crippling.

The thing that really bothers me about this whole train of thought is: if free spirits gain power, knowledge, experience, through this trade, then mightn’t the content of the experiences given up matter? If I gave to Sunflower my terror, my nausea, my revoltion, the sheer unholiness of my memory of Madame Ulisha’s true self… what would that do to Sunflower, the bright and innocent and exhuberant girl? Would it be like taking a child and beating her, terrorising her, giving her horrors nobody should ever have to experience? If our memories, our experiences, are what grant a level of dynamism to free spirits, then perhaps just as we are shaped by our experiences, free spirits are also shaped by the experiences they inherit.

Intellectually I’m curious, but it would be beyond immoral to experiment on the topic. Just the thought of risking something like that with a spirit like Sunflower, or – God forgive me – Glitter makes me want to wretch. However intellectually curious I might be, the thought of either of them gaining such experiences is terrifying.

So where does that leave me? It may be possible to get rid of some of these psychic scars. They hurt. But I’d never wish such horrors upon my worst enemy, much less someone I love, or someone as kind and innocent as Sunflower. God is good, and so he would never give me trials I could not get through. The question is, is finding a way out of the situation the trial I’ve been given, or is learning to cope with it the trial He’s given me? Greg could probably alter or remove some of those memories. But would that be just taking the easy way out?

In either case, I couldn’t risk giving either of the free spirits those sorts of memories, just in case it should have an effect on them. Instead I’ll give them bits of my joy, my pleasure, my happiness. It dampens my life but a little, but should they ever gain truly bad experiences, it may give them strength, and seeing either of them laugh or smile or dance or sing fills me with joy anew. And I thank you, Lord, for that.

Now, perhaps I’ll go get a bottle of taengele, and pay Scarpy a visit before the sun comes up. Glitter’s away and I’ve no desire to go home alone, and I should stop ruminating.

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Why Me? Have I Offended You, God?
Or: How I Spent A Run Relaxing In The Tank

Or: How I Could’ve Gone To a Nice Party, But Babysat Instead. Badly.

From Samriel’s Mental Journal:
27-09-54 (September 27th, 2054)

I got a call from Murphy the other day. I’m starting to wonder if it’s really the best idea to do jobs for Murphy. He keeps setting me up with people who don’t know what they’re doing, and I don’t know why. He owes me a favor. Does he have some sort of vendetta against me? Or does he get to keep the shares for people who die? I must learn more about how fixers get paid, because this baffles me somewhat.

So, when I got the call, I was getting ready to go to a party with Glitter. The guy who played Karl the Kombat Mage was throwing a charity gala, and Glitter asked me to go as her date. So we were in the middle of getting ready, when Murphy called. He said it’d pay a minimum of five grand, so reluctantly I decided to go ahead and take the job. Glitter was mildly annoyed, considering she has shoes that cost more than five grand, but since I blew all that money on the Se’lahan weapon focus, I can’t turn down money for no reason. So… instead of going to the party, I went down to the Shamrock. And the meeting that I skipped the party for? Took twenty minutes. I could’ve phoned in my presence, or let Bat- … no, I still just can’t call him that. I could’ve let Bruce be my proxy for it or something, for all the good my presence was.

Bella Rose was there, which seemed like it would bode poorly for the mission. But… money. So I stayed. Murphy outlined the job: pick up a man from the parking lot of Dante’s Inferno and protect him for a couple of days until his plane arrived. Now, at the meeting, I saw a guy wearing a Roman-style helmet and carrying a riot shield. That… didn’t bode well either. One of them arrived in a Eurocar Westwind, which was evidently not armored, and not exactly subtle… so… yeah. Murphy offered the veterans among us an extra three grand if all the new guys came back alive.

I went with Bruce in his veritable tank, since I trust him to drive and it’s a safe place for my body. And I took a nap in the tank while we were waiting. Bruce and I made sure to arrive early, so I could scout the place out. I saw a drunk guy, and a terrified guy, probably our client. So we waited for the others to show up. They did.

At four in the morning, on time, Jack got out of his car. The drunk fellow asked Jack the pass-phrase, and Jack gave the countersign. Right as the client came out from further in the alley, a racing car came toward us at high speed. People started shooting at it like crazy. It blew up. There were apparently a couple of teenagers in it. Apparently they were street racers or something. Poor, unfortunate souls.

Shortly thereafter, just after we got the client into the FOX, we saw some SUVs following us along the road. More shooting ensued, resulting in an SUV being disabled. And the enemies apparently disabled the Westwind, from the sounds of it on the radio. From the sounds of it, the two people in the Westwind got themselves killed by the enemy with fully automatic weapons. Bruce sent one his drones in to protect the others, which mowed down a few guys.

About the time all the fighting ended I was finally able to get astral. By then we were miles away from the fighting and things seemed to be over. Bruce took us to his … to his home, and we piled into his big-rig, and we drove around occasionally for the next several days.

Finally, Monday arrived and we let our client board his plane, and we got paid. And a few minutes later, the plane blew up. It wasn’t until after the events that we heard back from Iceman regarding our client. Apparently the Yakuza had put out a quarter-million nuyen bounty. And we got paid five grand. No bonus since the new guys mostly died.

All in all, I got paid five grand for missing the party. I didn’t really do much of value, except feel a little bad for the dead people. Darwinism, I guess.

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The Name of a Rose
Or: I couldn't think of a more clever title.

From Samriel’s Mental Journal:
16-09-54 (September 17th, 2054)

Lately, I just sigh quietly to myself when I think about my life. You know, there was a time when I was respected. I was well-renowned in the field of magical research. I had money, free time, professional and intellectual fulfilment from my job, I was spiritually at peace, mentally energetic. Things were good.

And then, something happened. And I don’t even know what. All anyone could tell me was that there was an accident at the lab, and everything was destroyed, and I was in a coma for just over a year. And that’s… all I know. I don’t know what happened, or if it was even something I did, or something else entirely. And when I woke up? All my savings was gone. My girlfriend had left me. My lab was destroyed. And I was blackballed by every magical research corporation on the bloody planet after the incident with the lab. And so, for lack of other options and trying to figure out a way to learn about something new and interesting to restore my reputation. I did alright for a couple of months, and then Charlotte hooked me up with Murphy. And nothing’s been bloody predictable since then.

For example:

Last night I got a call from Murphy, asking if I had time for a quick job for him. I didn’t really have anything major going on, so I said sure, and drove on into the city to the Shamrock. I parked and went into the bar and headed for the war room. There I found Captain Jack and a new person, a mohawked redhead human woman who identified herself as Bella Rose.

The job was pretty simple. We were told to be at Pier 39 at 2am to pick up a package from a hispanic man in a Zodiac, with the passphrase that “K” sent us. We’d get the package, and take it to 160 1st Street in Redmond, which was a dilapidated 4-story tenament building with a post office box in front of it. We were to yell “Kolmetz” and then once it was picked up, leave. Lacking a car, we rented Murphy’s van. Jack was able to determine that there was a gang of trolls in the area, named the Dockers, both because they’re dock-workers and due to the excellent pants that they wear. I wasn’t much excited by the five hundred nuyen Murphy was offering, but since he’d said he was doing the job for a friend, I said I’d do it for him as a favor rather than going home. He figured it’d cost him more than five hundred nuyen in the end, but agreed to owe me a favor if I did the job.

We spoke with K-Fin to acquire drugs to give to the Dockers, and K-Fin offered us a pair of yellow pills he located in his car somewhere and didn’t know what it was. And Bella Rose… ate them. Right there. Right before the job, she consumed the pills of unknown drugs. I don’t know what effects she was experiencing, but after she barely got into the van, and started being annoying, I asked Jack if I should knock her out. And Jack agreed. So I stunbolted her so she could sleep it off. And then, since we had time to kill, Jack decided he wanted to go to Wenches ‘N’ Grog, the local pirate bar.

As we pulled up, someone tossed a grenade into the parking lot. We parked and Jack went in. I watched them play strange pirate games, wondering what it is about my life that I’ve wound up here. I banged my head on the steering wheel after one of the pirates fell into the water from some cargo netting. Maybe I’m being tested, in some sort of Job-like manner. I don’t know.

Speaking of being tested, when I hit my head on the steering wheel, I accidently hit the horn, and it attracted the attention of a couple of drunken pirates, who proceeded to tell me about Jack’s adventures in lecherousness. I tried to laugh at the appropriate junctures to avoid offending them. During this, Bella Rose evidently woke up, and left the van, and went into the bar. Loud fighting ensued. And so did more banging my head on the steering wheel. Bella Rose comes back, sobered up some, and we proceed with the actual job.

We went down to the docks and I went to scout the place out. Five trolls. Nothing astrally interesting. So Jack and Bella Rose went to talk to the gangers while I played astral overwatch. Jack gave them the drugs, and then apparently Bella Rose was still high and sort of wandered off or something. So I worked on guarding Jack from the astral.

A Zodiac came up to the dock after Jack set up the signal device. Hispanic. Not very interesting. About that time, I saw an astral metahuman who looked like he was a detective, who identified himself as being there in an official capacity and I needed to leave. I told Jack over the mindlink what happened, and headed back for my body, about the time bright lights came on.

I drove Murphy’s van over to pick Jack up because things were going hairy, and pulled up alongside without stopping, the door open. Jack leapt in, looking rather impressive I thought, even if it was a little insane. I punched it (as best as a van can be said to do so) and headed for the highway, and merged into traffic. Astrally projecting once I turned on the auto-nav, I watched for pursuit. And the imp I’d summoned showed me the… well, anymore I can’t even say it was the most revolting thing I’ve ever seen. Blood spirits had been hypothesised, but… somehow assensing it by proxy at least, it felt… wrong.

So, we drove to Redmond, and dropped off the package. The tall robed and cowled figure came out to retrieve the package. He gave us our money, and he gave me an odd chip. I’m interested to know what it has on it. Surprisingly, Jack declined the chip. And so I went home. I don’t know where Bella Rose went to.

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An Evening with Allan
Or Vash's Wild Ride

The Shamrock is actually jumping when Murphy calls the usual suspects. Bella has been at the bar since about 1400 steadily drinking Guiness and bulldrekking with Patrick and later K-Fin. Murphy has a client that needs protection for the weekend and to be put on a plane out in the Salish on Monday morning. He rings Samriel who agrees to drive in, Bella agrees to hear him out, he calls Captain Jack who was asleep and goes back to sleep.
Then his phone starts ringing. He lets it roll over to voice mail and learns that Arnie has been giving his name out. Some chick named Vi wants work. He tells her to be at the Shamrock at 2100
His phone blows up again. Voicemail again then he calls the guy back. Some dude named Vash also needs work. Sure he thinks more the merrier. 2100,chum
He’s just settled in and about to talk to Bella when his phone goes off again. Jeez, Arnie, didja take out an ad in the Post? Voicemail then some chick named Karla wants in as well. 2100
On a whim, he calls BatDwarf and the caped rigger agrees to be there. Bruce fires up the FOX and rolls out of his secret cave entrance.

Vi, a redhead in a skintight dress, shows up first, having driven her crappy antique Buick Regal from the Redlight district. She introduces herself then putters around the bar.

Vash jumps into his sleek SILVER Westwind and roars off from the Seattle Hilton. He arrives a few minutes later and strolls in, an imposing figure in his dark coat and Roman war helm.

Karla, an ebony skinned woman in a red dress, rolls in a few minutes later. When she takes her coat off, its obvious she thought nothing of walking through the Redlight district at night because she has a Predator in a thigh holster and a pair of katanas with a heavy crossbow on her back.

Captain Jack gets up, straps his usual gear on and heads out to his antique but restored Toyota Tundra pickup, The Rum Punch Express, so named for the passenger compartment rum dispensers built into it.

He arrives at the bar ..and Patrick pulls out a Predator and sets it on the bar and looks meaningfully at Jack. (Jack shot the trid during the last run cause Pat wouldn’t change the channel). ‘Gonna be destroying any o me property tonight boyo?’ Jack says no but would Pat mind terribly changing it to rugby. Pat puts the Pred away and changes the channel.

Karla decides to get on the pool table. BOOM! A smoking 12mm hole appears in the wall next to her head ‘Ive had enou’ o tha shenanigans. Get offa me table’ Pat roars. Karla gets down. Vash decides he’s going to try it. BOOM! "I"m equal opportunity boyo"

Samriel exits off the interstate and cruises by the pub. Crappy Buick, Crappy Toyota, The Batdwarfmobile, a silver? I didn’t even know it came in any color but red or black Westwind and Murphy’s panel van crowding the lot. He decides to park at 5th street parking and walk back.

The War Room is standing room only and there are some who gets a chair antics. Finally the team is settled and Murphy does his white noise generator tridscreen trick. A young fresh faced man appears on the screen. ‘This is the client, Allan Smythe. He needs protection. The gig pays 5000 each for 3 days work. He wants to meet you in the parking lot of Dante’s at 0400. He’ll ask you for the time and you’ll reply that your watch is broke. Any questions?’ Of course the team haggles a bit and Samriel gets Murphy to bump the payout to 8K if all the newbies come back in one piece. Murphy gets an evil look on his face as he turns to his kit bag and begins pulling out….flowers. Boutineers to be precise. “Everyone has to wear one of these when you meet him so he knows you’re from me.”

Everyone agrees some reluctantly. Then theres a pell mell of confusion as to who’s riding with whom. The caravan winds up being Vi and Vash in the Westwind, BatDwarf, Samriel, and Bella in the FOX and Captain Jack and Karla in the Rum Punch Express. The team breaks to collect gear and catch a nap before the run. Unfortunately for Captain Jack, Karla oversleeps and misses the run entirely so he has to roll solo.

They arrive at the proper time and park across from the now closed nightclub. Samriel goes astral and reports back that there are two people in that alley over there. One of them begins staggering towards the trio of cars. Captain Jack gets out to intercept him. Its a grizzled street person who mutters ‘Hey uh got tha time’ Jack says ‘I lost my watch’ The bum says ‘ok foller me’. Jack, Vi, Vash and Bella all begin to follow a complete stranger into a dark alley.

They soon meet and collect Allan. As they are headed back to cars, screeching tires as a riced up Honda 3200 screams around the corner. BatDwarf launches the Fox forward on a collison course while Bella stands in the road. Vi dives for cover. Vash and Captain Jack pull thier guns and Pulp Fiction style blast the drivers compartment. The innocent street racer and his girlfriend are hit by multiple EX rounds and die. The Honda crashes into a wall.

The team shoves the principal into the FOX and Bella clambers in after him. Jack jumps into the Express, and Vi and Vash get in the Westwind as a blacked out SUV turns the corner and begins pursuing the FOX. Jack makes the block to get in trail position as V Squared pull alongside in the Westwind. The windows on the passenger side of the SUV buzz down and two broken nose snouts of AK97 submachineguns poke out. Vi pulls her handcannon and fires past Vash’s face, holing the SUV’s engine. Simultaneously, Captain Jack switches hands and fires the Flintlock of Doom, blowing out a rear tire and shattering the rear glass. The SUV comes to a halt as Vash, blinded and deafened by having a heavy pistol fired 2 inches from his nose, careens off the road to come to a screeching halt in a nearby lot.

Four hitters bail out of the SUV. Two turn towards the Express, two towards the Westwind. Captain Jack pulls down a side street and then clever fragger that he is doubles back to the firefight on foot. The Westwind pair advance on the car, triggering burst after burst, shredding the engine and paint job. A trio of 7.62mm rounds shatters the passengers glass and Vi is hit in the chest and neck. She flops over into Vash’s lap spraying blood and the Predator thumps into the foot well. The door gull wings up as Vash bails out, riot shield in hand.
Captain Jack peeks around the corner and fires the Flintlock O’ Doom. One of his merc targets is nearly eviscerated as his guts explode. He drops like a string cut puppet.
BatDwarf still speeding away launches the Guardian Hunter Killer drone and sends it back as air support, ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ playing from onboard speakers.
The second Westwind mercenary turns at the sound of the approaching drone and is shredded as .50 rounds from the onboard heavy machinegun mow him down.
Seeing this the other Express merc decides on the better part of valor and legs it.
Vash fires wildly over the top of the car, pegging his target with two shots. The merc stumbles but sprays fire back doing more damage to the only silver Westwind ever made.
The angry drone spins in place and walks the heavy machinegun fire up the mercenary killing him very very dead.

With all of the gunfire and commotion, lights begin coming on as the entire neighborhood wonders how they woke up in Beirut. Sirens begin to wail in the distance as Vi bleeds out and gasps her last in the front seat of the only silver Westwind Shadowrun will ever see.

Captain Jack climbs back into the Rum Punch Express and drives casually away, cause speeding draws attention.
BatDwarf recalls the Guardian and inside the FOX Samriel runs a bug scanner over the client. Give me your phone he commands. Allan resists until Bella threatens him then he gives it over. The phone sails out the window to shatter into useless junk and the BDMobile roars away into the night.

Finding himself abandoned by his so-called ‘team’ with a dead chick in his front seat, Vash panicks. He runs to the first car parked on the street and slams his fist through the window of the Jackrabbit. An alarm wails and the owner, a cranky ork in boxers with a shotgun comes out yelling ’Fool! You done tried to jack the wrong ride!" Vash sprints away

He’s overtaken a block later by a Lone Star cruiser that follows him for a bit before announcing on the loudspeaker ‘Stop running, jackass! We will shoot you, we’re the Star!‘. Vash darts down a narrow alley and sprints to the next block over. He kicks in a door to a house, setting off the burglar alarms. Lights come on in the upstairs as he tries to hide in the kitchen. ’Oh you fucked up, son. I’m a UCAS Marine and it’s your ass’ a voice growls. Vash can hear footsteps coming down the stairs so he throws himself out the window. Or tries. The window is plexiglass and he comically rebounds off of it, landing flat on his back and losing his cool helmet in the process. He jumps up and pulls a revolver firing at the window to crack it so he can try again. He’s more than a little surprised when he’s nearly blown out the window by the concussion grenade the former Marine tossed in the kitchen.

He gets up sans revolver and legs it, He slides his riot shield on his back which saves his life as former Sergeant Cook shoots him twice. Vash is nearly knocked off the fire escape ladder but he keeps climbing. A round punches through his bicep and he falls, knocking the wind out of him again. He stands up only to get shot twice more in the guts. He’s bleeding profusely and staggering as he stumbles away from the angry Marine. He makes it to end of the alley and collapses into Otis’ cab. In a cloud of celery and praise to Allah, he’s delivered to Patch’s clinic. He deposits his armor and weapons and on his last legs is finally allowed to see the doc. Unfortunately his wounds (four gunshot wounds, hairline fractured skull, massive blood loss and infection) prove too much and Vash dies on the table.

The rest of the team takes Allan to the BatDwarfCave where they load up the Monstrosity and proceed to spend the rest of the weekend out of town. They tolerate Allans whining and find out he’s got a 250 K bounty on his head for killing a Yakuza honcho while drunk at a pacinko parlor. His dad a up and coming corper is bailing him out constantly and apparently going to do it again

Monday morning, Unknown Salish airstrip. The Monstrosity rumbles into view and stops near an ancient cracked runway. Allan looking way less fresh stumbles down the ramp into the daylight and calls Murphy ‘I guess they did an ok job’. He then waits. A plane touches down and he enters. The team hears muffled arguing as it takes off again and then a clear gunshot. They see a small dot hurled from the plane to splatter on the mountains below. Guess Daddy got tired of paying the bills and cleaning up messes, neh?

The team returns to the Cave collects their cars and head to the pub where Murphy pays them.

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A Simple Delivery

The Shamrock is pretty quiet when Murphy makes a few calls to see who wants to do a quick job for him. Samriel, and Captain Jack pick up their phones and agree to meet about 2100 at the pub. When they arrive, apparently there’s a new chick in town. This mohawked redhead is apparently a merc of some sort going by the moniker Bella Rose and the three settle into the War Room to hear the details.

They are to be at Pier 39 at 0200 to pickup a package and deliver it to a certain address in Redmond. Simple, neh? They are going to be paid 500 yen each cause its easy peasy. Discussion is had as to who has a vehicle and which one is taken. In the end, the team winds up renting Murphy’s panel van for 100y each. Then Captain Jack makes a few calls since the waterfront is his stomping grounds. His buddy lets him know that the Dockers, a troll gang, like to hang out there. The team decides they will go with the offering drugs to the gang to have them piss off.

K-Fin resident pool shark/drug dealer is called and arrives in a cloud of Axe body spray a little while later hauling his crate o’ goodies TM. He digs past the porn chips, bits and odds and ends of crappy personal defense stuff and comes up with three vials of slab, a sheet of bliss tabs and two oddly shaded yellow pills. Haggling ensues and the team pays 200 y for the drugs. Bella to everyone’s shock buys the two pills and then immediately takes them.

She finds out the hard way that being both hypersensititve to stimuli and having her reactions slowed (Hyper and MAO don’t mix, mkay?) is a trip. Much consternation on the parts of her teammates causes Samriel to stunbolt her as soon as she’s in the van. Then the team has to kill a couple hours to let her sleep it off. The decision is made to head for Wenches & Grog, the local pirate hangout.

When they arrive, someone tosses a grenado in the parking lot which explodes. Said tosser is launched off the balcony into the sea. Laughing pirates are playing Race the Rigging (a cargo net up the side of the building.) and Captain Jack heads in for a grog. He’s greeted at the door with a series of cheers and jeers. Dark Charlotte, a lecherous dwarf pirate wench, tries to latch onto him but Captain Jack cleverly avoids that by having his mate Thin Redbeard take the hit. He’s having his grog and slinging the drek when Coughin’ Chris and Redjack Ryan get into an argument…

Outside, Samriel is approached by two equally ugly and equally drunk pirates, Pirate Steve and Pirate Chuck. They were going to mess with the lone elf in a van but he lets them know that Captain Jack is his running partner. Inside, they begin a long winded and drunken tale of the death of the Fearful Barnacle. Bella wakes up at all the commotion and decides to go get a grog to clear her head. She walks into a full-on bar brawl and proceeds to nonchalantly make her war to the bar. She vaults onto the countertop just as the barkeep goes down from a clout to the skull with a grog tankard. She removes the tankard from a flailing hand and drains it.

Bella apparently draws power from the grog because she hops down, ducks a flying chair, grabs a cutlass wielding hand and takes possession of the blade by the simple expedient of a size 6 in the family jewels, continues towards the door, is accosted by a pirate, pins the scalawag to the wall through his bloused shirt and exits next to Captain Jack.

Finally finally the team is ready to go on the run. They get to the dock and Samriel goes astral and has a chat with a nice federal mage whos on overwatch. He notices the delivery boat, the drone following it, and the two cigarette boats out in the Sound waiting for delivery.

Captain Jack and Bella head towards where five high Dockers are trying to heave a Bulldog Stepvan into the water. One of them drops the van and the rest are griping at him so Jack has to step out into the open to talk to them. Bella hangs back at the corner, covering the massive gangers with her slivergun. Jack gives them the sheet of Bliss and the trolls toss the van in the drink and head off to find more vehicles to send to a watery grave.

Bella gets an urgent text and has to bolt from the run.

Jack steps out on the dock as a Zodiac inflatable buzzes up. A Hispanic man mid-40s exchanges the passphrase with him. He heaves the package a 3’long footlocker at Jack. Captain Jack is entirely familiar with Heave Ho cause how else do you unload booty from a plundered and sinking ship? He catches the package squarely on his shoulder as LIGHTS suddenly pop on. ‘UCAS CUSTOMS AND IMMIGRATION!!! FREEZE YOU SLAGS!!!’ Captain Jack does none of that. Clutching the box, he sprints down the dock towards the alley calling for Samriel to bring the van and leave the side door open.

Samriel does as requested and as the van clears the end of the alley, Captain Jack leaps inside. He deposits the box and draws his flintlock. ‘Got a watcher followin us’. He leans out the open van door as Samreil speeds away and pegs the surviellance drone with two explosive rounds. The drone operator decides along with the rest of the task force to ignore the runners in favor of the gigantic blood spirit that appears in the Sound.

Our intrepid duo heads for the address in Redmond. A crumbling tenement with an old US Postal mailbox. “KOLMETZ!!” they chorus and a tall figure in a cowled robe comes out of a locked basement door. His weird voice resonates as he says ‘Ahh my prize.’ He opens the footlocker to reveal row upon row of BTL chips. He offers one to each of the runners. Captain Jack is having none but Samriel’s curiousity gets the better of him and he takes it. He also assenses Kolmetz and shows him as a mundane. Then Kolmetz’s coat starts moving by itself in weird places and the guys decide they’ve had a long enough night. They get back to bar and get paid the remaining 300y each by Pat since Murphy went home.

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Got your number

Drek, who am I even writing this for. Maybe some nobody will compile this drek in to my memoirs. Haha, fraging likely story. Maybe i’ll have a laugh when my memory starts to go.

So got the numbers of a couple of orc chicks on the job today, the type who know how to handle a weapon, if you get my meaning. Becky and Betsy they were called, twins at that, havn’t been with twins in years, not since that time when we accidentally sank the Fearful Barnacle, May her hull rest in pieces.
Anyway, they were body-guarding, some guy called Orlando or some drek like that. He was treating them like hired thugs, trying to use those two pretty faces to bully his way past me in to a meet he was late or not invited too. Can’t be having that, anyway, said as much too, pretty sure i talked them over and they wouldn’t have gotten involved, after all they did leave me their number. Luckily our friendly neibourhood star stopped by, saving their professional allegiance from being tested. Just as well
Other than that, just a nother day on the job, tell a lie, lonestar want to give me the key to the city…. eh would ya believe that, all for blowing up some drek.

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Prodigal Sons

From Samriel’s Mental Journal:
10-09-54 (September 10th, 2054)

We left Chicago after we submitted the film. Chicago’s been hard to deal with, and I’d been wanting to get away ever since Madame Ulisha. It seems the rest of the group finally decided to agree with me, and we trucked our way Westward to Seattle. To home. We met up with the Wendigos on the way for a little bit, and introduced them to our newest friend. Rodney’s good company. We watched Superman. The first one, with Christopher Reeve. Drank a little. Talked about things that weren’t reality-warping. It was good.

You know, it happened without me ever noticing. I’d never really thought of the farm as home. Nor Seattle, really. It had just been the place I lived, while trying to find a way to repair my reputation. But like far too many things in life, you don’t always notice these things until they’re past. Driving up the dirt road to the farm, stepping out, the familiar smells of the agri-crops… Noir about killed me trying to trip me, she was rubbing herself all around my legs and purring… sitting down on the couch in the living room, with my book on the table neatly marked… holding Noir and petting her… Glitter coming home and giving me one of her warmest smiles. For everything I’ve lost, I’ve also made precious gains. I need to remember to be more thankful for those. I’d returned home again, never before having realized how dear it all is to me, what a precious gift it is.

The next day I went to visit Farshorn, and let him know I was back. It had been months and I’d missed him. I had learned a couple of interesting tricks, becoming so adept at healing spells, which he was quite interested in; he taught me a few as well. We talked well into the morning. I’d missed him. I also went to see Sofia Leadbetter. Neither she nor Farshorn really knew anything about my life in the Shadows; they’d thought I was away on a consulting job. So I hadn’t talked to Sofia in some ages either. We talked, catching up, even if mostly all I did was listen, and I brought her a bottle of sweet ice wine and thanked her profusely for looking after Noir while I was gone. I need to do something more to thank her. She really did an important favor for me when I was in a tight spot, despite not knowing me that well. I intend not to forget that, and will find a way to repay her kindness.

I spent the next couple of days getting back into the rhythm of things. Meeting people, making friends, getting introductions, that kind of thing. Nothing too exciting, but useful and productive nevertheless.

Then yesterday, just after going to bed, I got a call from Murphy. I was surprised. I’d heard his bar was attacked; I’d assumed they’d got him. Evidently not. He asked if I was free for some work. Just asked for me, so I didn’t call anyone else up. Agreeing, I told him I’d need some time to get there, but that I would. While the car drove itself to the Shamrock – which evidently existed again – I made some inquiries and kind of pieced together some things. It would appear as though Murphy survived, and took some vengeance against the Vory for destroying his bar. Which meant I was in part responsible for what happened to his place of business. Which meant I owed him.

Arriving at the Shamrock, I found a parking space and went in. The bartender pointed me toward the “war room,” and to my surprise I found Calico Jack already there. Deciding not to make it clear we’d come back together – Erebus is dead, after all – I greeted him like we’d known each other some time back, and Murphy laid out the job for us: at noon that day there would be a meeting. At noon the doors would be sealed. At 1pm, the doors would be opened and the meeting would be concluded. We were to provide security. Oh, and the meeting would be /today/ and it was already almost eleven. For this hour of work we would be paid 2500 nuyen. I owed Murphy; I wasn’t going to try negotiating. Though given the pay involved I didn’t expect it would be a walk in the park, either.

We went to the location, Maynard Pavillion, near Freeway Park, just a few blocks from the Shamrock, to check it out as best we could. We looked around the building and the area around it, familiarizing ourselves and coming up with basic strategies. I called up a horde of imps, and set them in groups of two at each door; one to come warn me of intruders while the other tried to stop them. I also set Tempest above the building, and Grunt beneath it. Murphy showed up and entered the building; so did several others. At noon, the doors locked, and the Captain and I began our vigil.

Five or ten minutes after noon, a big man with two female ork bodyguards and a pair of bound elementals showed up. I was invisible and watching, while Calico Jack patrolled. Jack went up to the big guy, who identified himself as Rolando. Rolando was clearly very full of himself and incensed that we would dare to stop him. I readied my demons to attack and prepared to begin banishing Rolando’s bound spirits if necessary. Calmly, Calico Jack talked to Rolando and made it clear. Just as I thought things might come to blows, a patrolling security mage stopped and inquired as to whether there’s a problem or not. Rolando backed down finally, promising that he wouldn’t forget about this. And the park became quiet again. Kids playing, joggers running around, that sort of thing.

A little after that, /another/ person showed up and started talking to me despite being invisible. A quiet, furtive-looking fellow inquired as to what we were doing there. He introduced himself as Scarpy. I assured him that we weren’t there to cause any trouble for the park or anything, without actually explaining what we were there for. I figured it was obvious we were guarding the place. Scarpy seemed molified, and went off back to a place in the trees where he apparently made his home.

And then frizbees and balls and pigeons and things started flying at us at apparently random. It was pretty obviously magical. I spotted a field spirit that looked like a little girl. A free field spirit, interestingly, using her Accident power on people. I offered to play with her for a whole hour later, if she’d let us concentrate on our job here without accidents. She readily agreed.

Soon enough, several drones buzzed over the building, and paused somewhere out of my sight to fire their guns. We tensed, but the drones left again without trying to start anything. Apparently they were part of the nearby security conference, showing off the latest model of murder-bots.

Calico Jack and I had settled into a good set-up. I was stationary and was watching around, while my spirits also watched. Captain Jack was patrolling around the building on an irregular circuit. Just when I’d thought that every possible hazaard in the world had finally showed up and we’d dealt with it, Scarpy comes back out and points Jack to “Hugh,” who had been acting funny apparently. Jack went to investigate. I was watching for spirits and living things, so I wasn’t much paying attention, truth be told.

I found out later that Captain Jack smelled something odd from the gardener drone. He investigated. He picked it up and put it in a trash can. It cut its way out after a minute. And then, according to Calico Jack, it began to charge toward the building. So he decided to… shoot the gardener drone. I wasn’t much aware of any of this since he didn’t radio me about it.

The next thing I knew, there was an enormous, earth-shattering explosion. Heat and light washed over me, and I goggled a bit, trying to piece together what just happened. Clearly, it was bad; I hope nobody was hurt. Although as full as the park was, I fear I probably won’t get that hope. Murphy came out of the building and said the meeting was over, and the Fixers began to depart quickly. At Calico Jack’s urging, so did we. Calico Jack said he wanted to rough it in the barrens until the heat blew over. He didn’t seem to feel that a proper safehouse was all that important. Personally I intended to head for Tarislar.

I’d just arrived at my Tarislar apartment when I tripped and smacked my face into the wall rather painfully. The free Field Spirit was quite incensed that I’d apparently lied to her about playing with her. I apologized profusely and tried my best to explain, and played with her a great deal to help make it up to her.

The next day I got a call from Murphy. He reported that the cops had stopped looking for us. Thanks to a skilled decker hired by the Fixers, the police evidently discovered that one of the people in the park was a known terrorist. Apparently, Lone Star wants to give Calico Jack the key to the city to thank him for preventing something worse from happening. Murphy also informed me that we were now even, which was a welcome bit of news.

After the furor died down, I went to talk to Scarpy since he’d been asking around at Murphy’s place, and I explained it at least in basic terms. And I made friendly with him. And I’ve kept up playing with the Field spirit, who calls herself Sunflower. It’s actually rather… therapeutic, really, playing with Sunflower. She’s so bright and carefree and everything amuses her. It may sound corny, but playing with the little girl spirit really warms my heart.

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Frail Reality

From Samriel’s Mental Journal:
4-09-54 (September 4th, 2054)

You know how I’ve always figured that God won’t throw anything at us that we can’t handle? I’m starting to wonder if I’m right about that.

Over the last couple of months, Lazarus has been busy. He made arrangements for a private security corporation for the team, in addition to helping … Bruce, we’ll say, because it makes me want to smack my head into something solid significantly less than the other option … to arrange for permits and passes and other such legalities for his truck. Antoinette introduced us to a Captain Calico Jack, whom most of the team seemed to get on with reasonably well, and so we took in as a member of the group.

The last day of August, we received word from Iceman that he had a solid lead on one of the movies we’ve been trying to find for The Mogul, Night of the Living Dead. Feeling calm, collected, and finally confident again, I was ready for the mission. Solidly focused. Captain Jack, better at talking to people than myself, made arrangements with the owner of the film for the following night. A hotel manager named Ryan Murdock. We were to meet him next to his green hatchback Toyota Elite at seven in the evening. Being that it sounded relatively straight-forward, we got our things together and headed out.

The drive was uneventful, and in Bruce’s car we travelled to Hotel Liberty, there in Philadelphia. I went to check things out of course, and found a man standing next to a car where he was supposed to be. A little cranial cyberware. Impatient, excited. Nothing unexpected about him, or suggestive of danger. There was a van with a reasonably powerful astral barrier around it, however; suspicious. I went back to tell the others what I’d seen, and we decided Captain Jack would call and inquire about the van and I’d watch his aura during his response. It appeared that Murdock wasn’t attempting to ambush us, and he had security check and apparently the van was legitimate. And so we did the deal. It goes off as expected, and then the doors of the van slammed open.

A couple of grenades I guess flew out of the van, and battle ensued. Nervous excitement and danger started swelling through the astral. Two trolls got out of the van and began attacking. I had Scorch manifest and told him to kill anything coming out of the van, including the trolls. I stand astral security while those in the physical plane battle. Within a few seconds, our side seems to have won, and our enemies flee. We proceed to leave before the police forces show up, and make for the nearest point to mail the package we could find. I continue to play astral security until the package is shipped off.

Bruce’s car rolled slowly to a halt a little way in front of a bug stopped in the middle of the road. A mist had come up. But then in the fog, from near the bus, I could see humanoid figures stumbling toward the car. But only their reflections in the astral. They had no aura. No spirit, no soul, no life. But they were moving around. They weren’t even being animated by magic. They had no mana whatsoever. Perplexed, I wanted to look closer, but Bruce turned the car around to head to a Stuffer Shack and to mail our things there. Captain Jack got out, and more of these… impossible things came out.

At this point I was starting to wonder if I’d lost it. All that work I’d done. All that effort. The blood (loads of it), and sweat, and many tears. Months to cope with what had happened at Madame Ulisha’s. Trying to put it behind me. To adjust to the new reality. Maybe it had been too much.

There are many doors to the mind. Places where the mind can go to cope with things. Sleep is the most common. After a trauma, people tend to sleep, and sleep deeply, while they cope internally with what’s happened. I suppose perhaps as a result of my training from a young age, I went into Intellectualization. I disassociated myself from my emotions entirely, without conscious thought, trying to puzzle out the strangeness before me. The strangeness that shouldn’t be possible, according to every law of magic and physics and anything else I could think of.

While I was pondering this, I manifested to let Captain Jack know what I’d seen. He responded with some smart remark, I think, but I wasn’t really paying attention to him at that point. Bruce hit them with his car, and then took off again, back to the truck stop where we’d placed his rig. And then more of the impossible things showed up.

My mind was racing, trying to come up with an explanation. It wasn’t a magical manipulation. Or a possessing spirit. It wasn’t some psychosis because they were dead. I don’t even think zombie-syndrome could cause your aura to die out. And, trying to figure it out, that’s when I felt something strange around my head, sort of vaguely. Perhaps I was dreaming or something. That would be the only logical option. So I willed myself awake.

There I was, in the dark. I was confined somehow, inside some sort of coffin-like object. There was a blinking red light. And then I felt a sting in the back of my neck. And then I was back with the others. So it was some sort of mental manipulation going on, I concluded, and told the others about it.

Of a sudden, we were in an abandoned storefront, apparently in the middle of nowhere. We had miserable headaches. Our things were there, including the film. I assense the place for any trace of what might’ve happened. I saw curiosity and excitement. An experiment of some sort, perhaps. And then we heard the zombie things approaching again.

Captain Jack announced he knew what was going on, and shot himself in the head before I could do anything. I started to cry out. And we woke up again, in the same abandoned storefront. With all our things. And I should’ve known to try to stop him, but Jack shot himself again, this time in the hand. Blood and bits of bone and tissue sprayed all over the place. And, apparently, horrible pain enough to convince the Captain. No sign of zombies. So it would appear we were indeed genuinely back this time, in reality.

We opened up the film case to check on it, and we found a note from a Chrysis Corporation thanking us for testing their latest SegAtari VR game system, and giving us 500 nuyen each for our participation. Wanting to get out of Philadelphia as soon as possible, we decided to drive back to Chicago to deliver the film, while considering how to make our displeasure as being kidnapped and mentally manipulated best known.

I locked myself in the bathroom for a fair amount of the trip back, once my mind poked its head out of the Door of Intellectualization to see if the coast was clear. I cried a lot. Relief, in part. Anger. Fear. A whole jumble of emotions I didn’t really know how to deal with. I don’t know how much more messing with my head I can take now. Nothing ever seems to make sense lately. It’s like everything I’ve taken for granted as reality keeps shifting. I don’t even know what to say about it. I just feel, somehow, like I know nothing. Maybe it’s His plan to rip away my preconceptions. Or maybe He is just testing me. I wish I knew.

I also began researching a spell to let me awaken people who are unconscious. Just in case.

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