Thursday, March 7, 2019

Aftermath, Chapter Nine: Racing the clock

"What?" Angel asked.

"I'm going home. They need me." I grabbed my commlink and rose to my feet.  I powered it up and tried to put thoughts into something that resembled rational. 

"Tommy, what do you mean 'they need you'?" Angel prodded.  "I thought you were sleeping.  Were you out in the astral?"

"Maybe." I hit the call button and shuffled my restless feet as I waited for an answer. 

Sheila answered on the second ring. "Verification."

"Your coffee is drek." I replied.

"Tommy, what's going on?" Sheila asked.

"Move the family, they're compromised.  I'm not sure how yet but hurt is coming."  I looked up at the inquiring faces of Angel, Crank and Ratchet.  "Get as much muscle and magic there as you can. I'll reach out to the girls and be there soon."

Sheila's face took on a look I had last seen when a mob boss had kidnapped Aria.  "Get your ass in gear then Tommy. I'll send everyone I can." 

The connection broke and I faced my three chummers. 

"One hundred thousand nuyen each.  We go get Aria and the girls and take us all to the Willows. If anything gets in our way, it dies hard."  I grabbed my satchel and retrieved my menpo-styled ballistic mask. "Grab your gear if you're going."

Ratchet opened his mouth as if to speak, but clamped his lips closed and hurried to his dinged up roadmaster. "Drones are loaded and ready to fly.  Crank help me with the ammo belts."

"Will do." Crank replied.  He looked at me and clamped his massive hand on my shoulder.  It hurt. "Don't worry omae, we'll get them out safe and sound."

Angel stared at me.  "What, exactly, do you expect me to do?"

"Same as always, electronic overwatch. Keep your eyes open for movement in the area of operation and all that." I looked at my friend and felt my eyes threaten to tear up. "Please, Angel.  I need your help."

She hugged me.

"Let's go get your family." She whispered.

I brushed the budding tears from my eyes and reached out to the astral plane. "Rose. Lily. Enemies are coming. Where are you girls?"

Five minutes later Ratchet's roadmaster was roaring down the streets.  Traffic signals cycled to green as we approached.  Traffic cameras went dark as we sped past, heading north as fast as we could. 

"Traffic systems think we're an ambulance." Angel's synthesized voice came over my earpiece.  "We're clear all the way to Everette on the I-5."

We hit the ramp up onto the potholed old interstate at more than one hundred KPH.  "Where the 'ell is all the traffic?" Ratchet asked.

"Traffic systems are diverting everyone around.  I've flagged a maintenance lane closure, so even automated patrols won't be on." Angel's reply spoke volumes toward the amount of work she had accomplished in remarkably little time.  "Don't spare the horsepower, Ratchet. You're all clear."

I lurched in my seat as the roadmaster suddenly accelerated. "OH, YEAH BABY!" Ratchet howled over the comms.  "I COULD GET USED TO THIS!"

Crank chambered a round in his pink light machine gun.  "We'll get there soon Tommy.  Don't worry, this is a good gun.  If anyone raises a hand to them, I'll blow it off."

"Patching in Sheila." Angel announced.

"Put her through." I replied. "We're en route.  ETA is... Ratchet?"

"Thirty minutes, tops."

"ETA is thirty minutes by land.  Rose and Lily report no contacts." I offered.

"You're sure this is necessary?" Sheila asked.

"I am."

"That's good enough for me. We're catching up but you're ahead of us a good bit." Sheila left the connection open.

We hurtled down the I-5, with Ratchet screaming like a berserker as he assaulted the pavement. For fifteen minutes we careened over wrecked pavement, blurred past highway signs and brought me ever closer to Aria and the girls.  "We're coming up on 128th, hang on!"

I bounced off the seat in front of me as Ratchet braked hard.  The roadmaster swerved violently to the right and down the off-ramp at more than three times the recommended speed before spinning hard to the left and bouncing me off the passenger side door.  Crank and Angel kept their seats by the four-point harnesses they had belted into.

"Angel, talk to me.  How are we looking?" Ratchet asked.

"We're clear all the way to 112th.  Traffic cams are out at the intersection, can't see anything so stay alert.  I've got multiple contacts coming up behind us though, looks like the 'Fivers." Angel's electronically generated voice didn't betray any concern.  Crank glanced back at the armored doors and I heard a squeak as his grip tightened on his weapon.

"How many of them, Angel?" I asked.

"I think, maybe all of them." She replied.  "Pulling drone feed now."

I opened the AR window that blinked read for me and saw dozens of hard faced elves on sleek looking motorcycles racing our way.  "Thanks, Angel.  Everyone get your game face on."  I pulled off my AR goggles and pulled my ballistic mask down over my face.  My fingers found the tracery over the mask and I pushed a touch of mana into the pattern. Shade's formula had been incredibly difficult to enchant but as we sped toward Aria and the girls I felt the mask's well of power come alive. 

"They're closing fast." Angel said. "At this rate they'll be able to reach out and touch us in two minutes."

"Ratchet, float the rotor-drones.  Maybe we can spook them away." I replied.

The roadmaster's back door swung up and the first roto-drone came to life.  The dual rotors lifted it smoothly from its launch rack and carried it out into the night.  "Launching.  Stay clear of the rotors everyone."

I was staring out toward the horde of oncoming elves when I felt Rose's touch on my mind. "Father! We have enemies here!

"Ratchet!  How long until we're there?" I yelled out over the wind and rotor noise.

"Ten minutes, maybe more depending on those gangers." He called back.

The second rotor-drone took off into the night.  Ten minutes was far too long. "Proceed on target. If these assholes start anything, put them down.  I'm going ahead."  The air elemental appeared at the open door.  I jumped into its swirling winds as the pavement blurred beneath me. The spirit lifted me above the roaring armored behemoth and we streaked through the night.

I opened myself to Rose's senses.  I saw a bullet riddled door, heard the staccato of automatic weapon fire and smelled pizza.  Behind her, Lilly was carrying Jasmine and Violet into a panic room hidden behind a flight of stairs.  Aria came in behind her, a shotgun cradled in her arms.  The door closed seamlessly behind them, leaving no evidence of its existence. 

Lily materialized into view her body shifting its form from that of a small elf girl to that of an avenging angel.  Wings sprouted into view as Rose's form shifted as well. 

"We will do violence!" Rose and Lily's voices rang out in my mind. I shifted my perception back to my own body and saw the telltale ribbon flashes of weapon fire on the street ahead and below me.  Dozens of armed assailants were firing into the house that held my family.

My earpiece was filled with chatter as Angel, Crank, Ratchet and Sheila were speaking in hurried voices.  I ignored them, my anger deafening whatever they were saying as I picked a point in the middle of the strangely crowded street, tapped the mana of my power focus mask and cast my hands forward with a scream I imagined them hearing from a hundred meters away.

"MORTUORUM EGO CREO! IGNIS MAGICAE!!

Flames exploded fifteen meters into the sky in a column thirty meters wide.  Flames washed over the ruined buildings and splashed along the walls of the house where my family hid. Dozens of gunmen died in an instant. The plascrete melted and exploded in a fury of fire of death.

I had announced my arrival, given away my location and fell right into the trap that had been laid for me

____________________________________


Thank you for reading my fan fiction.  I hope you are enjoying Aftermath.

I do apologize that this chapter has been so long in coming out.  I had a successfully funded KickStarter campaign wrap up and tasks that needed attending to in that regard.  I hope you'll join me next time as we continue Aftermath.

*Reminder*  I do not own Shadowrun.  This fan fiction is for entertainment purposes, so I hope you've enjoyed it.

As always, your comments are most welcome.












Monday, February 11, 2019

Aftermath, Chapter Eight: Sweet Dreams

The air was choked with dust and smelled of cordite, shit and blood.  Lightning flashed and thunder roared all around me. In the flashes of light I saw corpses, bloodied by gunfire, laying limply across the rubble strewn floor.

I heard screaming ahead of me.  Screams containing all the rage and pain a person can stand was echoing from a man in the darkness.  His soul was tearing itself apart as he lashed out against unseen enemies, cutting a swath of death in his wake.  My feet followed those pain-filled cries, blood splashing to up to color my rescue rated field boot in a vibrant crimson.

Shapes moved toward me, filled with menace and spite.  I brought my sliver gun up and felt it cough out death at my touch.  I stepped over the broken bodies of gangers sporting neon faux-hawks, my trigger finger keeping pace with the hammering of my heart.  The gun ran dry, the magazine fell away into the crimson muck I plod through as I slammed a new one home.

Heart beat, fire, heart beat fire, over and over as I advanced over the twisted and deformed corpses of ghouls.  Survivors cried out, their flesh torn and faces malformed as the virus overtook them.  The gun tracked over them sparing a round to the head for each, the cough of the silenced weapon kept time.

The second magazine fell away and was replaced. Lighting continued to flash and thunder roared only to be drowned out by the anguished screams of rage ahead. My boots crushed fanged skulls as a thin figure blurred forward.  I saw a fanged maw open and shoved the pistol into the vampire's mouth, blowing the top of its head away in time with my own racing heart.  I leaped over the falling corpse and tried to catch up to the screams ahead of me.

Lightning ripped across the heavens, dazzling my eyes and revealing corpses rising as far as I could see.  Pools of liquid darkness shone with the malevolence of the spirits riding the corpses.  I felt the cold hands of fear and panic claw down my spine.  The sliver gun fell, lost in a pool of ichor, my hands took on a reddened glow as the words of the spell rang out of my mouth "Et si ambulavero in valle umbrae mortis, non timebo mala creo ignis magicae!"  Blood red flames erupted in a firestorm that swept over the corpses and rendered them to ash.

I ran through the smoldering ruins, chasing the lightning and screams.

Hideous monsters rose from cracks in the earth.  Terrible beasts, forever trapped beneath Lac Assal, rose before me.  My hand lifted my Smith and Wesson, the big revolver roared as it blew the head from one of the beasts.  Its companions fell upon it, tearing at the corpse with fangs and teeth.  I ran, blood and ichor splashing up my legs in ribbons of ebon black and vibrant crimson.

Lightning tore the heavens and the thunder battered the heavy revolver from my hands.  The ringing in my ears couldn't conceal the anguished cries I heard so clearly.  I opened my eyes and saw a figure wreathed in fire, kneeling in the skeleton of some great winged beast. The agony in those screams made my soul want to weep.  I didn't recognize the voice but the pain was somehow familiar.

I took a step toward the figure and the lightning and thunder ceased.  I saw the burnt corpses of winged elves laying among the bones. "NOOOO!" he screamed.

One step closer, then another.

I stretched out my hand thru the flames and they died away.

Two small corpses lay charred before him. He turned, screaming into the darkness all about us.

I saw my own face, my daughters laying dead all about me.  My hands covered in blood and ash I knelt alone in the skeletal remains of the dragon, screaming out my impotent rage as my soul rent itself with a pain I had only ever experienced in Hell.

I jolted upright, screaming in fear.  The fire alarm blared in Ratchet's garage as I jumped up from the sleeping bag that had erupted in flames beneath me.

Ratchet came running with a fire extinguisher, spraying foam across my legs and boots before turning it against the blazing fabric of my sleeping bag.

I crumbled to the floor, my throat raw from smoke and screams. I sobbed and cried, the pain of the nightmare eating at heart and soul.

Angel put a hand on my shoulder, holding fast as I sobbed and screamed wordless sounds against a fear I couldn't name.  I don't how long I sat there, crying until I ran out of tears.  I heard Ratchet ask Crank if they should tranq me, but I didn't care.  After a very long time, I looked up at a worried Angel.

"What happened?" she asked.

"I need to go home." I replied.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Thank you for reading my fan fiction.  I hope you are enjoying Aftermath.

As of this writing I am funding my comic book, 47 Furious Tails Issue One on KickStarter.  I hope you'll check it out, support the project if you can and help me to bring that title to print.




I hope you'll join me next time as "Aftermath" continues with Chapter Nine















Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Aftermath, Chapter Seven: That Smooth Jazz



Angel's vital signs were strong and well within her pre-set safety margins.  Somewhere, deep in the electronic vistas of far flung servers, Angel sliced through security protocols of the corps human resource databases.  Her heart rate ticked up a beat when she started pulling down data, leveling off as opposition failed to appear.

A message packet appeared on my comm: "Easier than I thought it would be.  I'm running a scan on the data to make sure they aren't trying to slip a trojan in on me."

"K." I replied.

The safe house creaked as the wind picked up outside.

I watched, my face bathed in the soft light of my comm, as the minutes ticked by.  When you're watching a decker work it is far too easy to let your mind wander.  Angel was depending on me, so I focused on the tiny displays as they beeped and chirped about her vital signs.  I had been on jobs where people had played games on their comm when they were supposed to be watching their decker.  It usually wasn't an issue, but the times that it was were always terrible.  The data streamed by:

Heart rate: 61 beats per minutes

Blood pressure: nominal

Alpha Rhythm     12 hz    118 microvolts
Beta Rhythm        16 hz       7 microvolts
Delta Rhythm         3 hz   148 microvolts
Theta Rhythm        7 hz       8 microvolts

I had no idea what those values meant but the monitor indicated they were in the "safe" zone.   Angel's heart rate jumped to seventy-five beats, the display froze, then turned white as I lost access. 

Angel reached up and pulled the cable from her head.

"Smooth."  She said.  "I must be better than I thought.  No alarms and I have the data."

"What did you get?" I asked.

She smiled, a frightful mischief gleaming in her eyes. "I copied all of their personnel databases.  Their social identity numbers, job titles, work locations, addresses, all of it belongs to me now."

"Oh!" I exclaimed, as comprehension dawned upon me.

Angel's face broke into a smile that would make an anime super villain proud. {HEY! ~ Angel}  "Yep, if you can do that magic shape and sex change thing we can get you in as one of them."

It must have been contagious because I felt my own face break into a grin.  "Oh I LOVE working with you, Angel."

***
Two days later...

Ratchet was a block away, the old ambulance he was driving looked impeccably clean.  Crank rode in the back, the paramedic uniform was tight on him but it was the best we had been able to find.

Jazz was still listed as being in an induced coma in the corp hospital.  Creep's death was being investigated as 'suspicious' and I was officially wanted for questioning for a number of things I had never done, and for dozens of things I actually HAD done.  All of that would make me walking into the corp hospital an exercise in gross stupidity.

Carla Rodriquez, age forty-one, was a pretty woman who was gracefully entering her middle years with a fierce regime of exercise, dietary monitoring and some very discrete surgery.  She had worked for the corporation for sixteen years, being recruited straight out of her stint in the UCAS Navy.  Through hard work, finely honed skills and more than a little corporate power-playing, she had advanced to middle management in the corp's security division. Carla didn't have any trouble entering the corporate hospital at all.  She walked in the front door like she belonged there.

The real Carla Rodriquez was sleeping off a double dose of tranquilizers we had injected into her toothpaste.  Angel watched her from the camera built into her trideo unit while I was walking in the front door of the hospital.  The AR display in Carla's chic sunglasses highlighted several staff members, their names floating over their heads like characters in an mmorpg.

"Mrs. Rodriquez, good to see ma'am." SGT. TIMOTHY CAVERTON, AKA: TIM, according to the data hovering over his head, said to me with a smile.

I waved back, and walked toward the sec-guard.  "Sgt. Caverton, Tim, just the man I wanted to see." I said with a thin smile.  "We've got a patient transport with special needs occurring in about thirty minutes.  Orders should already be in but I want to see Lieutenant Sanders about it.  Can you tell her I'm here please."

"Yes, Ma'am." 'Tim' said.  "She said something about that order coming through this morning."

I fixed him with a calm look and did my best to give him a reassuring smile. "Not here."

He nodded, "Understood."

"I know the way, Tim. Tell her I'm coming." I turned with a wave, taking short steps to keep my hips from swaying, and walked toward a door that read 'STAFF ONLY'.

The sensors embedded in and above the door scanned my face, build and height while the pressure sensor in the floor measured my weight.  Carla's stolen commlink received a ping from the security system, and the doors opened silently for me.  I didn't break stride as I walked down to the security office and knocked on a door that bore the title "Supervisor" on it in bland lettering.

A woman's voice called, "Enter".  The lock clicked and the door swung open into the room beyond.  The AR overlay promptly floated over the sole occupant of the room. LT. SAMANTHA SANDERS, AKA: SAM".  A data field appeared next to her, reminding me that her daughter's name was Sarah and that she had a vacation coming up in two weeks.  I walked into the room, pulled off the expensive shades and smiled.

"Sam, good to see you." I said. "You ready for your trip yet?"

Samantha Sanders stood up and returned my smile, extending her hand to me. "Oh, God yes!  Jean is trying to screw me over on the time-share with my daughter though.  I swear, sometimes I wish he would just stop being an asshole and grow up."

I shook her hand.  "How is Sarah?"

"Ugh.  Adolescence is setting in. She likes this boy at her kendo class.  He seems like a good kid, but I don't think she needs to be developing an interest just yet."  She should her head. "Anyway, thanks for asking.  What's with these last minute orders?"  She gestured to the chair that sat opposite her desk.

I sat, placing Carla's purse on the floor next to me.  I crossed my legs and got my game face on. "Came from higher up.  I'm going to be there when he gets loaded on the transport.  I want you there with me.  He's too important to risk but I don't want to make a big show of it and draw attention."

"I can understand that." Samantha Sanders looked at me, her face a perfectly professional mask.  "Are we still expecting someone to try to kidnap him?"

I nodded. "I'm afraid so.  If I had to guess, I would say they are going to shuffle him around a bit.  Make it harder for someone to snatch him."

"Well, so long as he's out of my hospital and on to being someone else's headache that is fine by me." Samantha looked at me and smiled. "How long has it been since you danced the tango?"

I paused and immediately realized that I had made a horrible mistake.

Samantha's smile vanished and her hand blurred toward her shoulder rig. She was at least as fast as I was, her gun clearing her holster as her face contorted into a hard-lined grimace.  My right hand came up, my finger pointing at the sec-guard as she pulled the trigger.

I flinched, expecting a bullet to blow my brains across the room, and nothing happened.

Samantha's eyed went wide as my little sleep spell wrapped around her brain and squeezed her into unconsciousness.

I keyed Carla's commlink. "She made me somehow."

"I was listening. Probably some kind of personal code phrase." Angel replied.  Her voice was clear over my earpiece.

I stood and pulled the heavy pistol from Samantha Sanders' hand. "She had me dead to rights.  What happened with her gun?"

"Checking on that, give me a minute." Angel replied.

I used the time to lower Sanders to the floor and handcuff her hands behind her back.  I found her cuff keys and put them in Carla's purse.  "Any time now Angel.  I need to know how bad things are."

There was an uncomfortably long pause before Angel answered.

"Friend or foe safety on the gun.  Carla's commlink is flagged as friendly and the gun's optics matched you to Carla within ninety-eight percentile points. It set off a warning in the sec-systems. I've flagged it as a false alarm triggered during a weapon inspection. Sec-guards are going to be curious about it." Angel's news wasn't as bad as it could have been.  That Sanders was now unconscious and handcuffed on the floor was far worse.

"She was awfully quick on the trigger, Angel.  Keep your eyes open. Signal for pick-up." I picked up Sanders' heavy pistol and thumbed the switch to eject the magazine, it wouldn't budge.  "What the frag is up with this thing." I muttered.

I powered Sanders' commlink off, pulled its battery pack, and stuck it in Carla's purse.  The heavy pistol wouldn't cooperate with me, refusing to allow me to remove the magazine or even to engage the safety.  It went into the trash bin near the door as I took one last look around.

Behind me, someone knocked on the door.  I took a step back, suddenly very aware that I was trapped in a room with an unconscious security supervisor.  "Enter" I said.

There was a click and the door swung open toward me, revealing Sgt. 'Tim'.

"L.T., division HQ says they can't confirm..." he trailed off, glancing around the room for his boss.

"Is there a problem?" I asked, as the door clicked closed behind him.

"No, ma'am. Well, not really.  Division can't confirm the transport orders.  I've sent a request to authenticate."  He replied.

I felt my stomach tighten.  "Good work."

"Where's lieutenant Sanders?" he asked.

"Ladies room. It couldn't wait." I replied.

"Oh.  Well, I'll just forward this to her comm then." He stopped, his eyes falling to his comm. "Weird, she's offline.  Must be one helluva head call."

My little sleep spell squeezed against Tim's will and he crumpled to the floor.

"Angel this is getting complicated." I said.

"I heard. It'll be a few minutes before the query gets processed.  They'll have a person look it over. I'm wiping all cameras that you've passed so far.  Get out, I'll wave Ratchet off."  Angel's voice held a tension to it I didn't like.

"Negative.  We're getting Jazz." I replied.

"So we're still go?" she asked.

"We are go. Is the nursing team moving him yet?" I opened the door and walked out into the corridor and donned Carla's expensive sunglasses.

"Not yet.  They prepped him but haven't pulled him from his room." she answered.

"Get them moving." I said softly.

Ahead of me another sec-guard walked into view as the doors opened.  He nodded in acknowledgement of me, the icon over his head proclaiming him as S/O LANT AKA: LEWIS.

"Excuse me, is the L.T. in?" he asked as I tried to pass him.

I turned and fixed him with a cold stare. "She's in a meeting with Sergeant Caverton. I think they'll be a while."

"Damn, I need to leave early.  My son got sick at school." he said.

"If it's an emergency, just log your time and send her a message.  It'll be fine.  Tell her I okay'd it." I said as I took two more steps toward the door.

"Yes, ma'am.  What was your name again?" he asked.

Ghost save me from new guys. "Carla Rodriquez. Make sure you log your time correctly."  I walked away, ignoring his gaze.

I took the elevator up to the fortieth floor and met the nurses and medical interns who were overseeing Jazz's move.  "Where's Sanders?" an older nurse asked.

"Seeing to a problem in the ER.  Something about an man with an invalid social identifier code." I replied drably.

"Of course." She huffed. "Probably stole the ID of a dead person.  People have no respect."

"No, they certainly don't." I replied.

I rode in the elevator with the medical team.  Jazz looked horrible.  His head appeared swollen to me and surgical seams marred his otherwise smoothly shaven features. The monitors he was hooked to, beeped softly, contrasting with the 'bing' of the elevator chime as we passed each floor.

"Your team is taking him to the Shasta Center?" One of the medical interns asked.

"Above my pay grade, I'm afraid." I replied. "I'm just here to make sure he gets on the transport."

"I hope they're ready." The older nurse injected. "His new implants really took their toll on him."

I frowned at that.  "I was given to understand that he is stable enough for transport.  Is that not the case?"

"No." She replied. "No, he is fine for transport, so long as he stays hooked up anyway."

The elevator chimed and the doors opened to reveal another corridor.  We followed the hospital bed as it wove through hallways to the ambulance bay.  Crank was standing near the open doors of Ratchet's ambulance, a name badge proclaimed him to be "Larry".

It took twenty painfully long minutes for the hospital staff to transfer Jazz to the ambulance and run through their checklists, before clearing the way for Crank to climb back in.  The ambulance doors swung closed and the vehicle pulled away toward the facility exit.

"Thanks for sticking with us." The older nurse said to me.

"Glad to do it." I replied.

Angel talked me through the twists and turns of the maze of corridors until I finally arrived at the main entrance.  I walked out the front entrance with a silent prayer on my lips as I fought the urge to break and run.

"No sign of pursuit. No alarms yet, but the lady who received the request for confirmation of those orders is trying to call Sanders." Angel's voice hadn't lost the tension I heard earlier.

"I'm out.  I'll see you in thirty minutes."  I vanished into the car I summoned from Carla's commlink.
I was on the I-5 when I wrapped the invisibility spell around myself.  I opened the sunroof and whispered into the astral plane.  The air elemental lifted me easily and we soared out over the highway and turned east.  Below me the car zipped away, Carla's purse and commlink laying on the back seat as it drove back to her home.

I met Angel, Crank and Ratchet at the clinic in Redmond.  The doctor was in, and was not at all happy about the state of our patient.

*****


Thank you for reading my fan fiction. I do hope you enjoy it.
Aftermath is a longer story, presented in chapters for ease of reading.  I do hope you'll join me next time as the story continues.

I also create role playing game books and comic books.  My first comic book, 47 Furious Tails (Issue One) is currently seeking funding on KickStarter.  I hope you'll check it out, support the project if you can and please do share the link to the campaign with others.



I'll see you here next time for Chapter Eight!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Aftermath, Chapter Six: Filed under 'M' for murder

There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief

From: All Along the Watchtower,  by Bob Dylan
-------------------------------------------------------------------

Excerpted from the file:

*****
From:  Tabitha Wainwright, Human Resources, External Assets Office
Date of report:  February 2, 2060
Subject:  Thomas Michael Gunne                                Date of Birth: January 8th, 2039
Prepared by request of:  Mr. Donald Johnson, Senior VP of Water Purification Technology Division

Known Aliases:  Thomas Gunderson, Aka Tim Guthry, Aka Tomy Cannonari, Aka John Deeds, Aka Ash Thomas.  {NOTE:  Urban intelligence assets indicate that subject is most commonly known as, Tommy 'the Machine' Gun by persons in the so-called "Shadow Community".}

See Pages 54 and 81 for images of shapes assumed to support Alias identities.

Magical Talent:  Subject has been observed as a fully manifested magician.  Observations of spirit-entity summoning and banishment are on file (see pages 88, 96, 107, 123 and 145).  Spell casting observations indicate that subject is conversant with a variety of lethal and less than lethal spell matrices, invisibility, psychokinesis, mental manipulation charms/curses, shape changing and physiological enhancement charms.    (See detailed report of astral assessing observations from detective Lana Cooper, concerning physiological enhancements).  

Warning: Subject's known concurrent spell effects place his physical threat level on par with a Tier Two physical adept.  

Warning: Subject's spell repertoire is extensive with regard to direct magical combat. As with any spell casting asset it is difficult to gauge capability, but it is the opinion of the external assets office that this subject is at least on par with military trained combat magicians.  

...

From page 166 

...  In conclusion, subject's psychological profile supports that this individual can be motivated to comply with directives through financial reward.  Subject's close association with other 'professionals' indicates a desire for socialization and acceptance which lends itself to development team relationships.   Subject is suitable for short term, task specific employment in a detached capacity.  Long term or permanent employment is not advised as subject is prone to exercising extreme force of violence when under emotional distress.  

Ideal tasks assigned: Paranormal target termination

From page 167

Terminate upon conclusion of contract.

*****

The file went into great detail about my various identities, named several people I had worked with and included pictures of two of my former identities.  There were months of my life that were missing from their timeline, but they weren't long periods of time.  The corp had done their homework on me, and some magicians had given my aura a detailed examination without me noticing.

Angel had opened Creep's file and was reading through it. "Oh my God." she muttered.  She swore repeatedly as she read through the file.  She was done with Creep's file before I was done with mine.  When I sat my file down, I saw that she had gone pale and looked ill.

"That bad?" I asked.

"I didn't know," she began. "I mean, I know Creep gives me the willies but I had no idea."  She shook her head, wrapping her arms in front of her stomach.

"What?" I asked.

"If this file is accurate, then Creep is a serial killer." Angel looked like she was going to throw up.  "I'll check the names the file mentions and see if things match up, but this is horrible.  They knew and they still hired him."

I should have been surprised, but I wasn't.  Creep was certainly insane, I just hadn't been fully aware of the depth of his madness.  "I didn't know.  Does it give his victim profile?"

Angel nodded. "Seems he kills fast food employees.  Narrow pool of victims, that.  The major chains all use robotic autocooks, so his victim pool is limited to the little mom and pop craft kitchens.  Seems he has worked in restaurants for years before the corp took him on.  The file lists several victims the corp attributes to him."

A memory of Creep's wand flashed through my mind.  That bit of wood and the metahuman teeth that rattled from it made me feel sick.  "Check for missing persons too, not just the ones that were found dead.  He could have had his demon spirits destroy corpses." I picked up his file and started reading through it.  Angel connected to the network and began to look into the list of dead an missing people around Creep.

It was a terrible read, full of psychological analysis and photo evidence from crime scenes.  I finished reading it and had no doubt that it was accurate. "Well, I suppose I should have seen this coming."

"A lot of dead and missing co-workers around Creep.  Police contractors looked into him a couple of years ago but didn't find any evidence beyond the circumstantial.  Looks like he was working in restaurants to find victims, then stalked and killed them. Murdering bastard." Angel swore.

"They have his number." I replied. "His magic has always seemed odd, and he gives off a bad vibe.  I told Fey once that he was a lunatic but he was 'our' lunatic, so I just kept him pointed in the right direction."  Angel looked at me reproachfully. "I didn't know."

"What does he know that either of us should be worried about?" Angel asked.

"I've worked with him several times, not just for Mr. Johnson either.  He was with me a few times when I went hooding and took the fight to some infected in the Willows. He knows how I operate, and he helped me on a personal job I did a while back."  I shook my head as Angel opened her mouth to protest. "No, I don't owe him for that.  I paid him, plain and simple.  We did a few jobs for Mr. Johnson and he fell apart on a couple of them.  Lost his mind on the last outing and they committed him to a hospital and put him under sedation."

"Why?" Angel asked. "If they knew he was murdering psychopath, why bother?"

I paused at that.  "I don't know."

"What's next then?"  she asked.

"We've got some names in these files.  People who compiled the information on us.  I think I need to pay them each a visit. I'll need you to gather what information you can on each, and we'll clean up their data along the way.  If this 'external assets office' has information on shadowrunners it could make for some valuable paydata." I smirked at Angel. "Interested in twisting the knife a bit?"

Angel didn't smile, she just nodded.  "I can think of a lot of folks who would like to have their data wiped from a corp database.  Several others who could find it useful, too.  I'm all for slicing their system up and making off with the prize.  It will be easier if you can pry some information from their people though."

"I can do that."  I replied.  "We'll need to grab everything they have and wipe out any other copies they have laying around.  What about the chips?"

"Encrypted.  It'll take me a few hours to crack into them." Angel said.  "If it's worth anything, I'll let you know and cut you in."

"Appreciated." I picked up Jazz's file but Angel interrupted me before I could open it.

"What are we going to do about Creep?" Her face betrayed her disgust.

I opened Jazz's file and began to read through the dirt the corp had on him. "I'm going to kill him."

*****

February 8th, 2061

The circle was chalked out in the ruins of the safe house garage, four elemental spirits stood ready outside its boundary, and Lily and Rose were playing with their twin sisters somewhere in the metroplex.  "Please tell Aria and your sisters that I love them." The mental links to my two spirit daughters, had been the only contact I had with my family.

"Yes, father." they replied.  "Mommy wants to know when you are coming to get us."

"I don't know yet, girls.  Tell her that I'll let her know the moment I do."  It wasn't safe for them to see me yet. I didn't know how long it might be before I could go to them. "I love you girls.  Lily, keep the family safe, Rose I'll need you to come with me for a few minutes." 

I contemplated the circle before me, the elemental spirits lingering nearby, and the photographs Angel had printed for me which I had arrayed within the circle.  The images represented each of the twenty-one people we were certain Creep had murdered. Before each image I had scribbled Creep's name in black chalk. I don't pretend to understand what drove him to kill so many people who were just living their own lives. The images were their to strengthen my link to Creep and, in my mind anyway, to provide their memory with some sense of justice.

"How long will this take?" Angel asked.

"Same as anything else.  A few seconds or a few minutes, it will take as long as it may take."  To my mind I sounded wise, as a wizard should.

"Wizard's" Angel sighed. "I'm going to be monitoring the hospital's systems.  I'll cancel the alarm when he flatlines and we'll just let nature take its course from there.  How long after that before you get back and when should I become worried?"

Apparently my wisdom was unappreciated. "If I'm not back in ten minutes I've had a problem."

"Better." She replied. "Now, go kill that bastard."  With that, Angel turned and stalked back into the safe house's kitchen, closing the door behind her.

The spirits watched me, waiting.

"Okay.  Let's get started then."  I stepped into the circle with a wave of my hand and a whisper of magic.  Seven candles sparked alight, their light illuminating the images of Creep's victims and casting his name into shadows. Rose appeared next to me as I lay down on the cold, broken cement and closed my eyes.

"Spirits of the elements, heed my call." I began the litany I had prepared, breathing magic into the words and hardening my will. "Serve me on this quest for justice and revenge.  Hear the names of the fallen and carry word of this deed to their souls so that they may know rest."

It took four minutes to recite the names.  Each name was spoken in turn, from the earliest victim Angel had identified through the most recent victim.  I spoke their names and hoped they would hear me.  " ... Desiree Martin, I will bring your killer to justice."  I slipped from my body into the astral plain and beheld the astral impressions of the many victims. Outside the circle, elemental spirits raged in their power. Rose stood beside me, a blazing angel of wrath, patiently waiting on me.

The corporate hospital was in Bellevue. I streaked across the blighted urban astral space, arriving at the speed of thought to the hospital lobby.  The magic of the circle tugged at me, nudging me toward Creep.  I drifted through walls, storage closets, a toilet and passed dozens of hospital staffers.  The circle's power ended at the warded walls of the psychiatric wing.

The ward was potent, crafted by magicians who sought to keep out entities that might prey upon the troubled minds within.  I probed the wards, admiring the handiwork I saw, until I found what I was looking for. The hospital maintenance crew had cut away a section of the wall to access a leaking water line.  The pipe had been repaired and the wall patched, but the hospital hadn't had that section of wall warded again yet. It left them wide open for any astral traveling ne'er-do-well to exploit, and I took full advantage of it.

My astral form slipped into the psychiatric wing and the chaotic jumble of impressions that clouded the astral space around it.  Madness reigned, colors swirled, screams and laughter range off the warded walls.  It took me a couple of minutes to get my bearings and to drift out into the wing itself.  I drifted from cell to cell, searching for an astral signature I was certain I would recognize.

I wasn't disappointed.

Creep was laying on the floor if his cell.  His aura was dim and dull, the drugs the staff had given him were doing a fine job of keeping him sedated.  The room was crowded with five demon women who waited about in astral space.  When they saw me they laughed in high pitched squeals, like small children who laughed themselves into hyperventilation.

"He sleeps now." the demonic spirits cooed. "His mind is far away, waiting dreamless in the darkness." "Your angel cannot save him."  "Come to us, and we will show you pleasures you have never before imagined."

"Father, shall I do violence?" Rose asked.

I looked at her blazing face and took her hands in mine.  My instructions reached her through the mental link we shared.  "I'm sorry to ask this of you baby-girl." I told her.

"It is okay, father.  This one has needed to die for a long time." She replied.  Rose appeared within Creep's padded cell, a towering figure of divine retribution.  The demon women hissed and spat at her but she ignored them.  She placed her bare right foot upon Creep' neck, so gently that the sleeping psychopath didn't even stir.

Rose drove her foot down toward the padded floor with all her might.  I could only imagine the snapping sound that must issued from the death blow. Perhaps it was the sedatives that held Creep in his dreamless sleep that kept his bodyfrom rattling in death spasms. I watched as Creep's aura dimmed, his soul slipping from his body to rise amid the demon women.  He noticed me through sleepy looking eyes.

"Tommy?" Creep asked.  His confusion was clear.

"Hi, Creep." I replied.

"What's going on?  Where am I?" He asked.

"I found out about your victims, Creep.  I'm here to kill you." I replied.

The disembodied Creep nodded knowingly.  "I couldn't stop.  Never really wanted to, but I did try.  Killing me won't be easy though Tommy.  I'll fight you, may even kill you." Creep sounded like he was apologizing. "Nothing personal, I just know what is waiting for me."

I pointed at his dying body. "It was easy, Creep.  You're already dead, we're just waiting for your last breath."  The demonic spirits he kept bound lay their hands on him, whispering in his ear and wrapping their tails around his waist.  "If you were worried about what was waiting for you, there never was any sign of it.  You could have made more of an effort to change, to stop yourself. So yeah, Creep, this is personal. "

Creep smiled, his madness beaming at me as the demon women dragged him away.  "I'll see you soon, Tommy!  I'll see you soon!"  His screams faded as the demons dragged him away, giggling like small girls as they caressed him lovingly.  There was a flash of fire and the stench of brimstone, and then Creep was gone.

Rose looked to me. "It is done father.  The madmen is dead."  She shifted her form, taking the shape of a young elf girl.

I hugged her and she returned the embrace.

"Thank you, I love you baby-girl." I told her as we parted. "Go back to mommy and your sisters.  Keep them safe for me."

"I love you too father." She replied. "If any should try to harm the family, I will do violence."

With that she vanished, disappearing to wherever Sheila had hidden my family.

I carefully wiped away the astral impressions of spirits and death, then zipped back to the safe house garage and my waiting body.

When I walked into into the safe house Angel plugged a network cable into the data interface at her temple.  "Right, then. Time for this girl to work a little of her own brand of magic."   She lay down on the creaking floor, her head propped up on her satchel. "I've slaved a feed to your comm.  You'll see my bio-monitor data."

She closed her eyes and took off into the network.

********************************************************

Thank you for reading my fan fiction. Tommy's stories are fictionalized accounts of game play and the in between session down times.  If you have enjoyed these tales please do share them with others.

I also create other role playing game material under open game licenses and I am currently developing my own tabletop role playing game.  On my Drip page,  subscribers have early access to material such as sneak peeks at art, access to play test material, behind the scenes "how-to" information as well as monthly PDF releases.  In 2019, Drip subscribers will have access to my new web comic strip "D'FAQ!"  which is 'Dystopian Fantasy Adventure Quest' a comic strip about role playing in fantastic, near future settings.

https://d.rip/w-s-quinton



Funds raised through my Drip page help pay for original art for releases.  Please do check out the site and subscribe to support my work.

I hope you'll join me next time for Chapter Seven!

~ W.S. Quinton

Monday, December 17, 2018

Aftermath, Chapter Five: It is a crime to lie to a federal law enforcement officer

The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.
~ John Calvin
---------------------------------------------------------------------

My conversation with my captors was remarkably short.  I left them in Pepper's backyard, three meters beneath the surface.  I suspect that they remain there to this day.


February 4th, 2061

1119 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

Alexia drove while I rode in the back seat.  I held her heavy pistol pressed against the back of her seat as she surrendered control to the vehicle's autonomous navigation system.  We rode in heady silence until we reached Madison street.

"You really aren't going to shoot me?" Alexia asked.

"No. I don't have a reason to." I replied. "But I would recommend that you not come after me. If you ever point a gun at me again, I may just take it personally."  Fey's voice still sounded odd coming from my mouth.

"No worries about that." she muttered.

When the car stopped for a traffic light I removed the heavy pistol's magazine, ejected the round from the chamber and dropped the empty weapon on the floorboard.  "Good.  Go hang out in Redmond somewhere for the rest of the day. I don't want to see you again."  I said as I swung open my door and stepped out into the street.  I gained the sidewalk and didn't look back.


1153 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

The coffee shop was almost full when I walked in.  Fey's commlink queued up the menu, highlighting Fey's favorites for me.  I ordered her usual, my stomach growling at me as I never did get to eat the pastry I had bought just a few hours earlier.  The line moved smoothly and I soon had my flavored coffee and a sandwich.

I turned and very nearly collided with Special Agent Anthony Johnson.

"Glad to see you." He smiled at me. "I have to admit, I was wondering if you were going to show up."

"Why?  I told you I would be here, didn't I?" I didn't try to smile back. "I got called away from the office though.  I admit, I wondered if I was going to make it on time."  If I were being watched by the FBI, it was prudent to cover my sudden departure from the usual routine.

"I'm glad you could make it. Hey, I've got a table.  Agent Williams is joining us, I'm afraid.  She was hungry."  He turned and lead the way back to a small circular table occupied by a troll woman in a grey business suit.  Her outfit showed off her curves while her sculpted horns and long curly hair lent her a gentle femininity.

The troll woman stood as we approached, towering over Agent Johnson and myself and extending her huge hand to me.  I shook it, her grip carefully gentle as if she were afraid of breaking my hand.  "Ms. O'Faery," she smiled at me over polished white tusks. "so good of you to join us today.  I'm Special Agent Susanna Morgan."

"You can both call me 'Fey'." I said as I slid into my seat.  The feds sat down and Agent Johnson lifted his own coffee and took a drink.

"Ok, thank you Fey. This is just an informal talk.  Seems the man you worked with, the one they called "Machine", may not have been who he said he was."  Agent Susanna Morgan's words snaked their way into the dark corners of my mind where old fears lay sleeping.

I took a bite of my sandwich, found it lacking in anything like flavor, and chewed slowly as I considered the agents.  "Machine's 'real' name, is that of an elf who went missing about ten years ago.  He was presumed dead.  Just another runaway teenager with a chip problem."  Agent Johnson offered. "That's one thing, Machine didn't appear to have a chip habit.  That he was suddenly awakened, and from all accounts a capable magician, is surprising as he had been tested as a child and hadn't been magically active."

"He was definitely a magician." I offered.  "I can't go into details, but I've seen him use magic to levitate things."

"Did you ever see Machine use spells that you would consider 'offensive' in nature?" Agent Morgan asked.

"No. Nothing inappropriate to the office." I smiled at her in what I hoped was a knowing way. "It's not like he was using magic to send pics or anything."

Agent Johnson cleared his throat as if covering a laugh. "No, I think Agent Morgan means did he ever demonstrate any spell casting ability of the combative variety?"

"No." I replied. "We don't engage in combat in the office."  I did my best to feign a confused look and was certain that I didn't fool the agents. "What do you think we do, anyway?"

Agent Johnson leaned back and spread his hands in a placating way.  Agent Morgan leaned in slightly and lowered her voice as she spoke softly to me. "Fey, we think Machine is a terrorist. A wizard who has assumed the identity of some forgotten runaway boy and hidden behind that mask while he used his gifts to murder and maim.  If you know anything, we can protect you, both from him and the corp."

Good cop, better cop?  This was a new one to me.  "I am not aware of any acts of terrorism.  You may have overestimated my level of contact with Machine."  I sipped at my coffee.

"How do you know Mr. Bruce Parker-Kent?" Agent Johnson asked.

"He worked with Machine." I replied.

"I see.  Did you know he was a magician?" Agent Morgan asked.

"Oh, yes.  That creep kept promising me a 'magical experience' if I would go on a date with him. The nerve of some people."  I replied.  "Honestly, if Machine hadn't told me to check on him I would be just as happy if I never saw him again."

"So, Bruce made romantic advances?" Agent Johnson asked.

"I wouldn't call them 'romantic'.  He has as much charm as a moldy taco."  I took another bite of my bland sandwich, chewed and contemplated the agents.

"Fey," Agent Morgan had a pained expression on her face as she spoke. "If we ask your co-workers about your relationship to Machine, what do you expect they'll say?"

I shrugged. "Half of them probably think I was sleeping with him, but that would be from the half of them who wish I were sleeping with them.  The other half probably won't have an opinion one way or another."

"Were you?" Agent Johnson asked.  His eyes were cast down into his coffee. "Were you sleeping with Machine?"

"No." I replied as I stood, my jaw set. "Just because we worked together, that doesn't mean I was having sex with him.  He was professional with me, far more than Bruce ever was. This talk is over, agents. Have a great afternoon."  With that I did my best impression of Angel storming off in a fit of pique.

I left the coffee shop and approached the office.  My plan for penetrating security that morning had blown up when I got kidnapped by Alexia and her runner buddies.  The meeting with the Feds would, hopefully, keep them guessing long enough for me to accomplish my own infiltration without them tripping me up.

I took my place in line at the security check point and sent a text to Angel. "Delayed. I'm going to work now."

Her reply came through less than a minute later. "Understood. Don't be late getting home."

--------------------------------------------------------

February 4th, 2061

1300 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

Two large men in security uniforms met me when I got off the elevator on the 87th Floor.  "Fey, come with us please. Danny wants to see you."

'Just perfect' I thought.  To the security officers I said, "Good, I was hoping to talk to him today."

We road down to the 85th floor and marched past the ruins of Samantha Goode's office.  Crime scene tape marked the warped door and the smell of char and fire retardant lingered nearby.  The desk where Samantha's secretary had worked sat empty.

An unmarked door swung open as we approached.

"Fey, come on in.  Officers, you are excused." Danny's voice was clear, calm and professional.

I stepped into the office, mindful to keep my stride short, and heard the door close behind me.  Danny was typing commands into his terminal while his AR glasses glowed with residual light.

"Thanks for seeing me." I started.

"One tic, Fey." Danny said.  He punched in a series of commands, then pulled off his AR glass and rubbed his eyes.  "I need to get my implants upgraded so I don't have to wear these damn things.  My autofocus has trouble when I pan between the screens and it's giving me a headache."

"Surely you can get that done in an afternoon." I replied.

"Yeah, but with Control dead and Machine running around free I don't have time.  Speaking of which, you're late.  What the hell happened?" Danny asked.

"Feds wanted to talk." I held up my hand as Danny's eyebrows tried to climb into his hair. "Don't worry, I didn't give them anything.  Seems they believe Machine isn't who he claimed to be.  They asked about Creep too."

"Troubling. What did they want to know about Creep and what did you tell them?" he asked.

I shrugged. "They just wanted to know how I knew him and if I knew he was a magician.  I told him he had claimed to be a magician when he made a pass at me and played the part of the harassed co-worker. " I straightened myself into a rigid posture and added, "I stormed out when they asked if I was sleeping with Machine."

Danny nodded.  "Okay.  Next time remember that you aren't authorized to speak to outside law enforcement agencies on this.  It's a corporate law matter. That said, well done Fey."

"Certainly." I replied.

"Now.  Jazz is coming back tomorrow.  He'll be taking over team lead. Nothing personal Fey, he just has more time in the field and seniority. I'm sure you understand."  Danny stared at me, his cybereyes looked almost real.  I opened myself to view the astral and took in the telling story of his aura.  Danny was tired and feeling a lot of stress.

I focused my will and mentally recited the formula for a spell I rarely used, infusing the construct with magical energy and sending it snaking through the space between Danny and I.  The mana energy flowed into his mind, rippling around the cybernetic implants that marred his aura.  "Danny, I want the file on Machine.  Give it to me please." I asked as nicely as I knew how.

At his desk Danny smiled at me. "Of course." He replied, as he stood and strode over to a blank space on the wall.  "Authorization:  Daniel Lopez. Open."   A section of the wall recessed and slid away to reveal a safe.  Danny placed his hand on the biometric scanner.

"State your password" A feminine synthetic voice commanded.

"Daisies." Danny replied.  There was a soft click as the safe swung open.  Danny reached into the safe and paused.  His aura swirling as his sub-conscious warred with his actions.  The mana energy began to crack as the spell unraveled.

"Wait, what did you want?" Danny turned to me, shaking his head as if to clear it.

"Sorry Danny." My little sleep spell wrapped itself around Danny's mind and squeezed.  I put the full weight of my magic behind it, and felt Danny's will resist like a drowning man grabbing for a life vest.  He staggered, his hand reaching into his jacket.

"What the 'ell!?!?" He muttered as he produced a heavy pistol from under his jacket.

"Somnum." I said as my second casting invaded his mind and knocked him into blissfully dreamless sleep. "Damn, Danny, you've got a hard head chummer."

I collected Danny's emergency alert bracelet and set it on his charging pad.  I left him lying on the floor, gun in hand.  From the safe I gathered three printed file folders, a chip case that held three unmarked data chips, a stack of UCAS $100 bills and three credsticks.  I placed the cash, credsticks and chip case in Fey's purse.  The files went into a briefcase I found sitting behind Danny's desk.

My astral signature lingered in the office from my spell casting.  I took a couple of minutes to wipe their stain away from the local mana field before I walked out of Danny's office.  I took the elevator to the helipad level and stopped by the women's restroom.  The door had only just closed behind me as I finished weaving the invisibility spell around myself.  I stepped aside, holding the spell in place and waited until a lady washed up and left the restroom.  I followed close behind, slipping into the corridor and heading out onto the landing pad.

*****

I met Angel at our safe house.

"Oi, chummer." I smiled at her. "A little something to soothe your worries." I handed over two of the credsticks.

Angel looked them over skeptically, then ran them through a verification app.  "Damn, Tommy.  Is your conscious bothering you or something?"

"I figure I should pay you now.  You know, before things get fragged up." I broke the self-sustaining look that held my shape changing spell in place and felt my body revert back to my true self.  Fey's clothes shifted around my body, suddenly not fitting at all.

"Ghost preserve us.  Go put some clothes on Tommy before you ruin that nice suit."  Angel shook her head at me, hiding her smile as she tried not to laugh.

I popped open the briefcase and pulled out the files.  "Later, first thing we do is go over these."

"You got the files on you?" she asked.

"I don't know.  They were in Danny's safe. I didn't have much time to get them and get out so I just took them all." I told her.  "Any word on corp security, the FBI and Fey?"

"Not sure about the FBI.  Corp security issued an arrest warrant for Fey about five minutes ago.  They are on their way to her doss now."  Angel replied.  "Want me to feed them a false address?"

"No, let them pick her up.  She doesn't know anything important and it will keep them focused on her until they figure out it wasn't her at the office today."  The files were stamped on the cover and tied shut with a thin nylon string.  I laid them on the small table in the kitchen and read the stamps on each.  "Creep, Machine, Jazz, seems I may have actually gotten lucky."

I opened my file and soon realized that I was wrong.  If I was anything at all, 'lucky' wasn't it.

******

Thank you for reading my fan fiction. Tommy's stories are derived from game play and fictionalized for better reading (I hope).  If you have enjoyed these tales please do share them with others.

I also create other role playing game material under open game licenses and I am currently developing my own tabletop role playing game.  On my Drip page,  subscribers have early access to material such as sneak peeks at art, access to play test material, behind the scenes "how-to" information as well as monthly PDF releases.  In 2019, Drip subscribers will have access to my new web comic strip "D'FAQ!"  which is 'Dystopian Fantasy Adventure Quest' a comic strip about role playing in fantastic, near future settings.












Funds raised through my Drip page help pay for original art for releases.  Please do check out the site and subscribe to support my work.

I hope you'll join me next time for Chapter Six!

~ W.S. Quinton








Thursday, December 6, 2018

Aftermath, Chapter Four: Dressed to kill

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court ....
~ Typical beginning of Miranda Warning, see Miranda v. Arizona


"We're lousy criminals, omae."
~ Crank, Troll shadowrunner after choosing to betray Mr. Johnson for the sake of a child's safety
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The FBI guy was standing between me and the car.  I felt like my stomach was going to turn to stone.

"It will only take a few minutes.  I just wanted to ask you about 'The Machine'."  Special Agent Anthony Johnson was all smiles and pleasantries.  If he had any clue that the wanted man he was looking for was standing in front of him, he didn't show it.

"I'm on my way to work right now.  Can we have lunch and talk about it then?  I should be able to make thirty minutes or so available." I replied.  The sound of Fey's voice coming out of my mouth was reassuring. 

The fed frowned.  "I was hoping to get this done this morning.  Are you sure you can manage thirty minutes?  Say around noon?" 

"Noon should be fine.  There is a coffee shop across from my office, they have a good lunch menu.  See you then?"  I tried to smile in a reassuring manner.  It felt very strange.

"Okay. Well, I'll be coming down from my office on 3rd.  I'll leave early and get a table." He extended his hand, an FBI business-style card between his fingers. 

"Don't take it. Grab a picture of it if you want, but do not take that card." Angel's voice was faint in my ear. 

I pulled out Fey's commlink and took a picture of the card. "Thank you." I said as I added his information to the contact list. 

"I swear I'm not contagious." he laughed.

"Don't take it personally.  I have a thing about germs." I replied. 

The car service vehicle flashed its lights, indicating it was time for me to leave.  I stepped over to the passenger door and climbed in.  "See you at noon." I smiled and waved at the FBI guy as the car backed out and sped off toward downtown.

"The FBI can trace their cards.  Microtronics that ping off the network.  It's a safety feature to help find agents if they go missing." Angel explained.  "It has been suggested that they have used this to track people whom they've given cards to, but never proven." 

"Understood.  Nice catch, Angel." I told her.  "Does my voice sound weird to you?"

"I don't know.  You sound like a woman.  I've never heard her speak.  You'll need to watch your phrasing too, so you don't arouse suspicion."  Angel paused a moment then added.  "You're also going to get more attention than you're probably used to.  People notice women built like her."

"Like Fey?" I asked. 

"You are too married, you know that Tommy?" Angel sighed.  "Yeah, wiggle your rear as little as possible.  You have to learn that short stride marching step or your hips will sway all over the place."

"Damnit, if I knew it was going to be this hard I would have just gone in invisibly." I had been shape changed into a woman for less than five hours and it was already proving to be very difficult. 

Angel laughed at me. "Going in invisibly would just cause more problems if you have to speak to someone. Honestly, it's not that hard.  Try not to do anything someone might mistake for flirting or you'll get pictures you don't want."

"Don't make me curse you." I replied.

*****

0805 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

The car stopped half a block from the office. I stepped out onto the rain slicked street and opened my new umbrella.  The acid rain was potent and the faint odors of ozone and sulfur rode in the air. Angel's advice is usually pretty good so I took short, deliberate steps as I marched down the sidewalk.

Scarcely ten meters later I felt eyes watching me.

Fey was already late for the office so I walked in to the coffee shop where I was supposedly meeting with the fed for lunch later.  The line was short as most of the working wageslaves would already be at their desks toiling away.   An app on Fey's commlink queried my order, offering suggestions based on Fey's prior history.  I selected a flavored coffee that didn't sound horrible and a bacon stuffed pastry.  Fey's diet app flashed before it suggested an extra mile of running to compensate for the added calories.

My detour bought me an additional ten minutes as I worked my way to the counter and picked up my coffee.  I felt my skin prickle as the detection spell I had woven and quickened to myself continued to detect the presence of someone who meant me harm.  I punched a number into Fey's commlink and sent a message while I took the first taste of the caramel mocha latte.... "Contact. I'm just across the street from the office."

Angel's response came nested in a coupon pop-up from the coffee shop. Plain text drifting across the 'Thank you for your purchase' and 'Get 5% off your next latte'  that read "Understood. I've got the traffic cameras."

I opened my astral sight and walked out into the rain.  The detection spell buzzed against my senses warning of several people closing on my position.  My feet found the crosswalk and I forced myself to into a short stride and did my best to act 'natural'.  People crossed and passed me on either side, one of the people coming for me quickly caught up and I felt a small hard object poke me in the back as I gained the sidewalk at the corner.

A hand lightly touched my left arm and I heard a woman's voice whisper in my ear. "Don't move, don't call for help.  You do anything stupid and I'll blow a hole in your spine."

There was something familiar about the voice, but I couldn't place it.  Fey's commlink buzzed furiously in my pocket for several seconds before falling silent.  A man walked up to me flashing a brilliant smile while my spell rang out his hostile intent.  "Fey!  So good to see you dear.  I'm heading downtown, can I give you a lift?"

The gun in my back pressed against my spine.

"Good to see you too." I smiled back and saw his friendly facade crack for a moment. "I'd love a ride, the rain is horrible today."

Two more hostile presences approached as a red luxury sedan rolled to a stop in the street near us.  The man smiled as he opened the rear passenger side door for me.  The woman behind me shoved the gun barrel into my spine again. It hurt.

"Thank you." I said as I climbed into the sedan and took my seat next to a burly ork gentleman.  His suit fit him well, but the scarred knuckles on his hands marked him as someone accustomed to violence.  The gun wielding woman slid in behind me, her weapon pressed into my ribs.  The doors closed smoothly and we pulled into traffic.

The orc ran his hands over me, finding Fey's sidearm and commlink and appropriating both.  The man who had greeted me on the street smiled back at me and took the coffee and small bag holding the pastry.  "Good night, Fey." he said.

The woman seated next to me applied a dermal patch to the back of my hand.  I turned and looked at her, seeing her face for the first time.  I recognized her.

Alexia may have mistaken my look of surprise for the effects of the tranq patch she had applied.  I bit back any comments and let my head slump forward. The prophylaxis spell I had quickened to myself almost two years earlier fought off the tranq patch for me but there was no reason to let them think I wasn't unconscious.  We drove off in silence.

Honestly, as broad daylight kidnappings go, it wasn't a bad job.

*****

I'm not certain when we arrived at their safe house. We had ridden in silence throughout the trip. My body slumped as I stayed limp in the back seat.  My kidnappers carried me out of the car, up a few short steps and into the wreckage of an old house.  I kept my eyes closed, playing the part of the drugged target as best I could.  They dropped me on a stinking mattress then stripped my clothes off.  A pair of handcuffs pinned my wrists behind me.

I heard the ork make some worrisome comments which I won't repeat here.

"Don't frag up." Alexia snapped.  "Mr. Johnson said he wanted her unharmed.  Get your kicks from your usual joygirls."

"Maybe you should watch her." The voice was from the smiling man. "If she wakes up put another patch on her."

"Sure." Alexia replied.  I heard floorboards creak as two pairs of feet walked away.

"Drekheads." Alexia muttered.

Playing the part of the unconscious victim would only get me so far.  I let my astral form slip from my body and received a jolting surprise as the room I was in was heavily warded.  The room was a sad shade of what it had once been.  There were lingering astral echoes of a baby laughing and of the love of two proud parents.  Where once a crib had stood, now a filthy and torn mattress rested on scratched and pitted flooring.  I turned and found a stain in the astral plain, a profound shock layered in brilliant anger and soul shattering sadness.  An echoing scream of suffering rang about, overlaying the gentle cooing sounds that once made this room the nursery for a welcome addition to the family.

I knew this place.  The wards on the walls, floor and ceiling had been crafted by my own hands and fixed in place with my own energies.  Pepper's anguished cries continued to echo within the room.  I felt an old pain flare within me and a raging anger blossomed back into life.  Pepper's child had died in this room, the victim of gunfire that had blown through the walls.

"Lily, Rose, I need you here please."  My call out into the astral found my spirit daughters.  They both appeared at my side a moment later.

"Father, you are well?" Lily asked.

"Yes, I'm fine." I replied.

"Your body is in a strange form.  You took on Fey's likeness?" Rose's thought voice carried a confused tone to it.

"Yes baby-girl. I'll explain another time.  First, there are things I need you two to take care of for me."  I told her.  "They've handcuffed me and believe I'm unconscious.  It's time for me to make my escape though.  Here's what we're going to do..."  I explained my plan to my spirit daughters.

"I will do violence." they said in unison.

"Thank you, girls." I hugged them there in the astral space of Pepper's old home.  "Let's do this."

Lily and Rose manifested as two young elf girls.  Alexia's hand went to her gun but she wasn't fast enough.  Both spirits cast their sleeping spells, wrapping the mana firmly around her mind and squeezing.  Alexia slumped where she sat, a thin trickle of blood betraying a nosebleed. 

Lily and Rose returned to the astral plane and the three of us drifted easily through my old wards.  We found three auras I recognized from the car ride and a fourth belonging to an elf that I had never seen before. They were gathered in the ruins of Pepper's kitchen. None of them were magically awakened.

Their auras shifted to bright surprise as two elf girls suddenly appeared in the kitchen with them.  I smiled to myself, imagining what they must have thought upon realizing that the girls were floating above the bullet riddled floor.  Mana flooded the kitchen as my spirit daughters let loose with their own little sleep spells, ripping the consciousness from the kidnappers and sending them into dreamless sleep.  They collapsed where they stood.

Rose found the keys, walked back into the old nursery and unlocked the handcuffs.  I returned to my body, shivered from a chill that had crept in and went looking for my clothes.  Lily brought me the weapons and commlinks from my would-be kidnappers, along with a small stash of drugs and stims, then turned to the next task I had set her to.

I dressed and joined Rose in stripping the armor and remaining valuables from the kidnap team.  Rose and Lily's spells had sent them into an unconscious state that they wouldn't wake from for hours.  Lily finished stripping the clothes from the ork and carried him into the back yard. She took a pair of stim patches with her. "I'll let you know when I get there Father."

"Thank you, Lily." I told her. She smiled, shimmered into the form a griffon and launched herself into the sky.  The naked ork held fast in her talons, I felt magic in the air as she wove an invisibility spell about the two of them.

"There is only one set of handcuffs, Father." Rose informed me.

"That's okay, baby-girl.  I think we'll only need the one."  I told her.

We carried the three men out into Pepper's overgrown back yard. I whispered into astral space and felt the earth elemental respond. It manifested a moment later bending its might to my request.  Ten minutes later my three captives were buried up to their chins, their arms held against their bodies by the weight of the soil and old roots the elemental had braided about them.

We stripped Alexia's armor jacket off and took her weapons.  I handcuffed her hands behind her back and stripped off her shoes.  I found a package of tranq patches in her pocket and stole those as well.  I placed one of the stim patches on Alexia's bare foot and stepped back as the stimulants hit her system.  She twitched then her eyes flew open.

"WHAT THE HELL!?!?!" She exclaimed.  She flopped about a moment before realizing she was handcuffed.  She managed to sit up and stared daggers at me as I leveled her heavy handgun at her.

"Good morning, Alexia." I smiled. "Did you have a nice nap?"  It had been months since I had last seen the young shadowrunner.  She looked at me, saw her target pointing a big gun at her and set her jaw.

"Okay, you got free." She said through clenched teeth.  "No need to pull the trigger on me. Hell, I kept that drekhead from doing things to you while you were sleeping."

"I know." I told her.  Fey's voice still sounding strange in my throat. "I wasn't sleeping and I heard him, and you."

"Going to kill me anyway, huh?"  Alexia nodded as if understanding. "I don't blame you.  Just don't leave my corpse here.  Get me to an organlegger or burn me, please. Don't the devil rats or the ghouls eat me."

"I'm going to ask you some questions, Alexia.  If you answer and tell the truth, I'm actually going to let you go.  But I AM going to question your chummers too.  I need to know some things." I pointed to Rose who stood floating in midair.  "She's with me.  Don't do anything stupid."

Alexia and I had a long fifteen minute talk.  I watched her aura for any sign of deception and found none.  I pulled the stim patch from her foot and replaced it with a tranq patch.  "Don't worry, I won't leave you here." I told her.  Her aura dimmed as the drugs took hold and dragged her down into sleep.

I was walking through Pepper's ruined living room when I heard Lily's voice.  "I am here father.  Do you wish to see?"

"Yes, Lily, thank you." I cleared a spot on the floor and sat down, focusing on Lily.  My own senses vanished and I was suddenly looking through her eyes.  She had changed form and was flying high over the ocean. Her tall angelic form unseen as she held the naked ork suspended by one ankle.  Lily used a whisper of magic and telekinesis to apply a stim patch to his foot.  He jerked for a moment before waking.  He screamed a stream of profanities as he realized his situation.

"My father has a message for you." Lily's voice pronounced.

"Yeah, what's that you fraggin' slitch?" He shouted at her.

"Your actions were dishonorable and unprofessional." Lily told him. With that, she released his ankle, letting him fall from two thousand meters over the Pacific Ocean.  There was no land anywhere in sight.  He screamed as he plummeted and found that he had time to catch his breath several times before he hit the water like a meteor.

"I believe he did not survive, Father." Lily said.

"I concur." I told her.  "Thank you, Lily.  His conduct was reprehensible.  I'll buy you ice cream when I finally come home."

"Thank you, Father. Can I have the peppermint kind?" She asked hopefully.

"You can have whatever kind you like baby-girl." I promised her.  "Go to Aria.  Tell Mommy that I'm fine and that Rose will be back soon, and please tell her and your sisters that I love them."

"Of course, Father." Lily replied. She vanished into the astral plane and I focused on my own senses, watching as Pepper's place came back into focus.

I stood, chambered a round in Alexia's heavy pistol and switched off the safety.  "Right, time to get back to work." I told myself as I walked through the kitchen and toward the back door.  Angel was right, the short steps did keep my hips from swaying.

***************

Thank you for reading my fan fiction. Tommy's stories are derived from game play and fictionalized for better reading (I hope).  If you have enjoyed these tales please do share them with others.

I also create other role playing game material under open game licenses and I am currently developing my own tabletop role playing game.  My Drip subscribers have early access to material such as sneak peeks at art, access to play test material, behind the scenes "how-to" information as well as monthly PDF releases.  Funds raised through my Drip page help pay for original art for those releases.  Please do check out the site and subscribe to support my work.














I hope you'll join me next time for Chapter five!

~ W.S. Quinton






Aftermath, Chapter Three: Cross dressing for the office

I'm not even supposed to be here today!
~ Dante, from the film "Clerks" by Kevin Smith
----------------------------------------------------------

Penetrating physical, real world security can be an exercise in many disciplines.  Bypassing the electronic security supplementing the physical presence is best left to capable deckmeisters and their electronic wizardry.  Getting around physical assets (read that as living breathing guards) poses an entire set of challenges unique to each site.   Never assume that one site is like another as each metahuman security officer brings his or her own challenges.

Let's forget, for just a moment, that I was planning on returning to the scene of a crime.  You might think that having been on site for months at a time that I would be intimately acquainted with the security at my former workplace.  If you think that, don't become a shadowrunner.  Assumptions like that will get you killed.  I tasked Angel to start gathering information about the target, putting out feelers and farming electronic data as if I had never heard of the place.  Taking that level of precaution saved my life.

*****

While I had been in hiding, the security team at the corp had been investigating the 'incident' that resulted in Samatha Goode's death.  The people looking into fire had taken a special interest in the fact that I had been the last to see Samantha alive.  According to Angel, they had been trying to contact me and had officially listed me as a suspect or "person of interest" in what they were calling a suspicious fire and death.  The fact that my own home had burned down the same day was sending up flags that something weird was going on and no one involved in the investigation was dumb enough to believe it was a coincidence. 

Angel had breached the company's network, installing some manner of permissions for herself that allowed her real time access to the investigation file, the user accounts for the people working on the investigation and communications concerning yours truly.  Things went from looking bad, to looking terrifyingly worse when Angel discovered communications between the corp forces, Lone Star, Knight Errant, the Seattle Metroplex Guard and the UCAS Federal Bureau of Investigations.  My old face, the tall idealized elf, had been distributed to every major law enforcement agency and security contractor in the Metroplex.  The Feds had then sent the image on to Interpol and the NAN law enforcement agencies listing me as a suspect in a homicide. They listed me as an elf magician, male, and as 'armed and dangerous'.

Of the information in the file Mr. Johnson had read to me when I was 'hired', there was no mention and no sign that it existed.


Fey was a top-notch warrior, cool under fire and had been delivering a briefing on communication protocols to the FNG's* when the fire alarm had finally sounded.  That she had worked with me had been enough to earn her a few interviews from corp-sec. Angel had pulled the audio-visual files as well as the transcripts.  I watched them, noting that Fey answered truthfully.  She didn't embellish, she didn't hesitate, she just told the truth as she knew it.  The questions that were asked of her avoided things like where we had been and what we were doing while out of the office on assignments and focused on my behavior 'at work'. 

When the investigators asked her about any associations outside of the office she had simply said, "Creep said something about him having a wife.  Other than that, only thing I know is the two of them had some kind of history."

Creep was still in the hospital, under sedation, and knew more about my past than was comfortable.  It was time to break my least favorite lunatic out of the nuthouse.

*****

February 4th, 2061
0415 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

When you're a wanted man it is a good idea to lay low.  I didn't have time for such niceties any longer.  So I paid a visit to Fey.

I flew to the address Angel provided under cover of invisibility.  Angel provided a bit of digital wizardy, and the back door to Fey's place swung open.

"Security system is spoofed.  Cameras and audio recordings are looping from the prior thirty minutes.  Make it quick." Angel's voice whispered in my ear.

I floated over the threshold and picked my way around haphazardly scattered furniture.  I found Fey laying on a narrow bed, a simsense player plugged into the datajack behind her ear.  I peeled the backing off the tranquilizer dermal patch and applied it to her forehead as gently as I could.  A moment later Fey's breathing slowed and she went limp. I opened my astral sight and watched her sleeping away with the simsense player feeding her dreams.

"She's out, switch the feed." I whispered.

The simsense player flashed a title change, then started up the new selection.  For the next twenty-four hours Fey would travel through time, having adventures with trusted companions while thwarting evil at every turn.  With any luck the simsense marathon would keep her busy even after the tranq patch wore off.

I let the invisibility spell unravel as I plucked a hair from Fey's head.  Her commlink was laying on a small table next to her bed.  I picked it up, then pressed her thumb to the screen to unlock it.  "Angel I have her comm."

"Copy that, I've taken control of her home host.  I'll have the commlink momentarily.  Go ahead and do your thing.  We'll reset the biometrics when you're ready."  Angel's voice was still softly muted in my ear.

Fey's closet opened, revealing an ordered array of work and dress attire mixed in with street wear and a selection of footwear that had to represent a dysfunctional compulsion.  I had often teased Aria about how vast her "shoe collection" was.  Seeing Fey's hoard I promised myself that I would never give my wife a hard time about it again.

"She's a shoe girl.  Huh, didn't see that coming." Angel whispered.  "Are you sure this is going to work?"

"Yeah." I whispered back. "Well, I'm pretty sure.  About ninety percent or so."

I reached in and grabbed a suit I had seen Fey wear in the office.

"No. Not that one." Angel said.

"What?"

"Not that one.  That's not something you wear after you've been grilled all week by law enforcement, and it will mean makeup work.  Pick something more office casual."  Her voice was insistent in my ear.

Three rejections later I had a black business suit and a pair of thin, flat shoes.  "Please tell me this one is okay." I said.

"Yeah, you're good." Angel replied. "Now what?"

"Now I need a shower."  I carried the outfit into Fey's bathroom, stripped out of my clothes and stuffed them into my rucksack.  I took Fey's hair and carefully recited my incantation.  I grew five centimeters, my hair and eyes changed color.  I experienced a profound sense of discomfort as my hips shifted and my body transformed from my own natural state to that of a healthy and athletic woman.  I looked in the mirror and saw a very nude Fey staring back at me.  "That's really awkward."

"Take a pic so I can run a comparison." Angel prodded.

"One tic." I held the spell, feeding it just a bit of mana as I tied the spell into a self-sustaining loop.  My body felt strange and I had a lot to do.  "Need that shower first."  The shower activated on command and I stepped into the warm jets.  I used Fey's soaps, shampoo and conditioner then stepped out, toweled off, and dressed in her business suit.

{I swear this wasn't meant to be creepy.  Using the same soaps was to help fool biometric chem-sniffers.  I didn't want to raise any flags about my scent not matching Fey. ~ T}

{I think this may have been the first time I saw you pretending to be a woman. ~ Angel}

Angel checked the selfie I sent her against the image of Fey sleeping away her simsense adventures.  "That's damn scary.  You're a ninety-nine percent match."

"Is that good enough?" I asked.

"Definitely good enough to get you into just about anything she would have access to."  she replied.

"Alright then.  Keep an eye on her and send up an alarm if she wakes up too soon."  I dumped the towels into the automat washer and heard it kick on.  "I'm leaving now."  The back door swung shut behind me as I stepped into Fey's tiny backyard.  The invisibility spell woven around and hiding me from mortal eyes and cameras alike, I flew off to meet Angel.

I got a surprise when I landed.

"We've got a problem." Angel exclaimed as I walked into the safehouse.  "FBI is watching Fey's place.  You're going to have to leave from there if its going to be believable."

"Drek." I swore. "Did they pick up our comms?"

"Doesn't look like it, as I'm not arrested and sitting in interrogation." she replied. "But they'll know something is up if she suddenly shows up at work and they didn't see her leave. They don't have any listening devices or cameras in her doss, yet."

"What about the corp?" I asked.

"Corp-sec ran an enhanced surveillance request on her.  I intercepted it and sent a notice back down the chain from their legal department advising them not to do so until authorization came down from their office.  It will be a few days before they follow up if they stick to their own operational guidelines."  Angel shook her head.  "Local law enforcement doesn't seem to have the same level of interest in her.  Not sure yet what angle they are pursuing, but they've made inquiries as to when they can interview Creep at the hospital. Could be any day that they show up with a warrant and snatch him up."

"First things first then." I turned and dumped my clothes out of my rucksack. "I'll head back to Fey's, let me in and I'll walk right out.  Help me change out the biometric data on her commlink to match my new look and then I'll fly back."

Thirty minutes later I walked out of Fey's little house. Her car service had sent me a notice on her commlink that her commuter vehicle had arrived.  A tall human man with pale anglo features, blonde hair and tired blue eyes was standing in the driveway.  He was wearing a conservatively cut suit in flat black, a cheap tie and well worn shoes.

"Allison Morgana O'Faery, I'm special agent Anthony Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Can I have a word?"  The fed smiled at me and I felt a knot form in my stomach.

*****

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Thank you for reading my fan fiction!  I hope you are enjoying Tommy's stories.
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