Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tommy's Story: Ghosts of Puget Sound

August 25th, 2058

I was nineteen years old.

My first astral quest had taught me a lot.  My magical talent was stronger and I had learned the technique to "quicken" spells to make them permanent.  But with a new life to start living I was in need of work to pay my modest bills.  I sent a message to Sheila X to let her know I was available, then settled down for a long wait.

I spent the next nine days watching old twentieth century flat vid cartoons, doing some light exercise, meditating, and going a little stir crazy.

On the tenth day my phone rang.

"Tommy, can you swim?" Sheila's question struck me as oddly interesting.

"Like a fish," my answer was far more true that she could have expected.

"Great, lets talk soon."  Sheila broke the call before I could respond.

I grabbed my go bag and headed for the door.  I stopped just short of opening it, realizing I may need to take stock of what I was carrying.

Can I swim?  Its an interesting question for a fixer to ask.  Can I swim?  I emptied and repacked my bag.  It was a little heavier now and had some materials that I thought might, just might, come in handy. 

I wrapped my invisibility spell around me and ducked out of my apartment.  I just barely avoided bouncing into a woman who lived down the hall. She had a baby in one of those front carry things that makes it look like its growing out of the mom's chest.  The baby gurgled and waved at me.  I waved back, remembered I was invisible, and smiled at the little squealer.  Poor kid was in for an interesting life. 


I landed in the parking lot at the Brick Yard, let my invisibility spell slip away as I walked around to the front.  It was 1900 hours, the sun was up and I could hear music pounding from inside.  Little Rickie opened the door for me.  I still felt that same attack of politeness that always came over me when I saw him.

"Hey Rick.  Thanks Omae." I strode in and felt the pulse of the music hit me.  I made my way to the bar, and managed to keep myself from dancing all the way there. 

There was a band I liked at the Brick Yard that night, "Grey haired goddesses" they did covers of a lot of old songs from the twentieth.  A five woman group of vicious elves, they were hammering out their tribute to "The Sky is a Poisonous Garden" by Concrete Blonde*.  I was loving the vibe and for just a moment forgot I was there on business.

"Mr. Gun", Sandy's big tusky smile was infectious.  "Hungry? Or just here to dance?"

I smiled easily with Sandy, "I'm always hungry beautiful.  How are the kids?"

Sandy's eyes brightened a bit, "Always a handful!" she exclaimed. "I swear those three are going to be the death of me.  Or, they'll work me so skinny I'll pass for an elf."  She laughed at that.

I smiled, "Kids must be tough.  You're more hard core than I'll ever be."

"I'm tough stuff", she nodded.  "You have something in mind or shall I tell Solomon to just put something out for you?"

"Surprise me." I said. "And have him put something together for you and the kids, on me.  Triple rum for him, and I could really go for some of that lemonade you guys keep so hush-hush."

"You are always so sweet.  Thank you Mr. Gun" with that Sandy took my order back to Solomon.  I slotted my credstick for the bill, put another 50 nuyen on as a tip (hey, diapers for three HAS to be expensive), and settled in to enjoy the music while I waited.

Solomon did his usual job of amazing my taste buds.  I was finishing my meal when Sandy refilled my lemonade and nodded me to the back. I bit into the last morsel of my bourbon glazed chicken, took my ice cold lemonade and walked back toward Sheila's booth.

The curtain was open revealing Sheila X in her usual seat, and four other people sitting in the booth.  I recognized one immediately but the other three were new faces to me.  I squeezed in next to Sheila X, nodded to Angel, and kept my mouth shut.

"Angeline is acquainted." Sheila's flat emotionless tone was comfortably familiar to me. "Lance, Cole, Mel, this is Mr. Gun."

"This is 'Tommy Gun'?" the man direct across from me asked.  I later learned he went by 'Mel'.  "Come on Sheila, this kid?"

Ghost save me from ignorance.  "You can call me 'Mr. Gun'." I said it flatly and as emotionless as I could muster.  I was accustomed to people being surprised by my age, but it was still a stupid thing for professionals to worry about. 

"Mel, zip it" Angel let a little attitude into her voice.  "I've worked with him, he's frosty."

I looked to Angel and noticed that the other three were doing the same. It seemed that Angel was in charge, which was just fine to me. 

"Tommy, Mr. Johnson put us on a job and I need you on the team." Angel was straight to the point. She had my attention.  "There is an item in the Puget Sound.  An item that has been down there for a few years.  An item we're going to get but it would be far easier, far safer, if you were along." 

"What can you tell me about the whats-it?" I asked.


My eyes went up a bit.  "What does this trip pay?"

She told me.  I was not impressed. I thought about it for a long moment.  Angel was top talent and we had worked well together in the past. I didn't like the figure she was throwing at me, but she was sending her people into the sound.  She was right too, she definitely wanted me on this job.   I negotiated another ten percent out of her for appearance sake in front of her team, and we set up a meeting time and contact protocols.  {Thanks for this one Tommy~ Angel}

"I can lay hands on some scuba gear if you don't have any," Angel offered.

"No thanks. I'm good." I had that covered.


August 28th, 2058  2335 hours

We were heading north on Seaview Avenue and had just passed the Seattle Sailing Club's gated entrance.  The signs said we were approaching Golden Gardens Park soon but we had other plans.  Angel was driving, which scared me drekless {damnit Tommy!}.  She pulled off Seaview by the most expedient method of hoping the curb, mowing down some bushes with the bumper, and {deleted*}.  

{We safely disembarked the vehicle and commenced this successful run with style ~ Tommy if you make fun of my driving one more time I swear I'll subscribe you to every porn site on the matrix!}

... crossed the darkened highway, and climbed down to the water.  I stripped down to my cold weather adapted form fitting armor then took a moment to stretch a bit. 

Mel laughed at that. "Whatsa' matter 'Mr. Gun', afraid a mermaid going to shoot you?" 

Idiot.  "No, if a mermaid shows up the last thing I'm worried about is gunfire. Last thing you should worry about too." I was going into the water with three runners I didn't know.  Angel had a small aqua drone, about the size of a dinner plate, that she was going to guide down with us.  Mel, Lance, and Cole were pulling scuba tanks and spear guns out of the large duffle bags they had carried down.  I had a surplus web belt with a few pouches attached, a knife (never go diving without a knife chummer), and kept my reinforced search and rescue boots on.  I taped on a throat microphone (I had a guy I knew adapt it to work underwater the previous day), pulled my armor's hood on, and stepped into the water. 

My three compatriots were just about ready to step into cold dark waters of Puget Sound when I called out into the astral for some help I had waiting.  Two large water elementals manifested as towering water spouts.  Three shadowrunners blinked back their surprise, while I dived under.  So you know, Puget sound is cold at night.  Even in August its a chilly, polluted, dark body of foreboding water.  Think I'm being dramatic?  You jump in the sound after sundown and we'll see if you come up again chummer.

I swam out, surfaced about fifty meters from the bank and saw the rest of the team submerge.  I waited, about five meters down, until they caught up.  They were navigating by gps apps built into their diving masks.  A soft glow came from around the edges of their masks that each of them look like some sort of weird cyclopean seal. 

If you're wondering how I could see so well close to midnight and fifteen meters underwater then you're paying attention.  Good for you.  Months prior I had devised a spell, with help from an elemental I had summoned, that let me see underwater.  The spell was not quite what I expected.  I could see fine underwater in any lighting condition, but I couldn't "see" the water itself.  That particular flaw in the spell design made it look like things were floating in air.  The spell was a detection or divination spell which tricked my eyes into relaying what it was detecting. Lighting isn't an issue with this spell at all.  Honestly, it would be a great spell for lifeguards, if magicians took jobs as lifeguards.  I had quickened a casting of it shortly after I mastered the technique.  It was just too useful to not have it running. Down side though, I can't see rain or snow, which can be a pain in the ass.  I also had a medical spell I had permanently enhanced myself with, which oxygenated my blood.  That clever little enchantment makes me very resistant to airborne toxins and gases, and enables me to breath underwater.  Which is just really cool.

I had a clear line of site, other than through the garbage floating in the water, for about fifty meters around me.  Our target was a long two kilometer swim toward the middle of the Puget Sound.  The little aqua drone swam ahead of us, I was on the far right side and trying to watch everywhere at once.  My water elementals were above and below me, while my companions were to my left and slightly below me and spread out about ten meters. 

Our target was a yacht that had vanished a couple of years ago.  It had once belonged to a certain organized crime boss, who had suffered a sailing mishap which sank his vessel.  Seems he and his crew never made it to shore.  Whatever our target was, it was believed to be in the yacht, stuck in the mud at the bottom of the Sound. 

We were approaching the gps coordinates Angel had dug up. Mel, Lance, and Cole were descending toward the wreck while I was watching out for things I hoped wouldn't show up.  I was worried about mermaids or sea serpents in particular, but a wayward shark could be just as bad.  I was focused on keeping my eyes out for critters which is why I didn't see the real threat right off. 

Astral perception underwater is mostly useless.  Open water is full of small organisms like shrimp and small fish. So you tend to see a cloud of living auras all around and it can be really hard to pick out individual auras in the crowd.  Imagine being crammed into a full bus, and then being asked to find one particular person on the other end of it. I wasn't watching astral space for just those reasons, so I didn't see the spirits until they manifested.  Where once there was a wreck caked with mud and littered with debris, now sat a wreck populated with seven restless spirits, ghosts in the common parlance, who seemed to take serious issue with the intrusion.

My fellow divers had the good sense to be scared.  They each started swimming for the surface but they were coming up fast, way to fast really, so I reached out to the water elemental below me and had it slow their ascent.  No sense in letting them get the bends. I then turned my attention to the spirits below me.

Ghosts are problematic to deal with.  Very often there is some object that holds them to the world of the living.  If you can identify that object, you can exercise control over the ghost, or put it to rest.  Personally, I'm a fan of the later solution, but I didn't have the foggiest of ideas about what could be holding them here.  I started my descent with my other water elemental in tow.

I felt the oppressive force of the ghosts' power when I came to within about ten meters of the wreck.  That same force must have triggered a fear response in my comrades but, fortunately for me, my mystic defenses held.  I swam over to the wreck and had seven angry ghosts staring at me. 

"What are you looking at?" I said. 

I "heard" all seven react at once in a jumble of curses and pleas for help.  Ouch, it really was a multiple haunting and not just a spiritual imprint.  Each was trying to communicate with me in one way or another.  One seemed particularly hostile and floated to the edge of the wreck, pulled a ghostly looking pistol from his jacket and started pointing it at me.  Nothing happened.

I swam around the wreck, careful not to touch it, and found a hole about two meters wide on the starboard side.  The hull had been blown out, probably by a small explosive charge.  A number of shrink wrapped boxes had spilled out of the wreck and littered the bottom of the sound.  I opened my astral sight and took a long look at the wreck.  It was a ghost ship, in the truest sense of the word.  There was an astral presence to the yacht and to the ghosts trapped on it that was plainly visible on the astral.  The ghosts and the ships seemed linked together in a way I had never seen before.

Angel's drone floated up in front of my face and a light blinked on and off.  My ear piece carried Angel's voice to me.  "Chummer what the hell is going on?  What are you waiting on?"

"Angel, the yacht is haunted, it ran off the rest of the team and the ghosts are trying to scare me off too.  I'm trying to find a way to get rid of them so the guys can board it, but it may take a while." 

"How much time are we talking about?" Angel sounded worried.  I don't like it when Angel sounds worried.

"I don't know.  A minute, an hour, a month, no telling really.  Let me look it over and I'll see what I can come up with."  The drone floated away, skirting the bow of the yacht and began ascending. I completed my circuit of the yacht, finding only a disturbingly powerful astral presence from the boat itself, and a painful barrage of the astral echoes of drowning men. 

Anytime I got close to the yacht all seven ghosts would appear close at hand.  They were keeping me from boarding even though most of them were pleading for help.  Ghosts don't often make sense in my experience. They didn't leave the wreck, but their presence was felt out to about ten meters from it.  I needed more information so I dove down and picked up one of the shrink wrapped boxes, and started a slow swim to the surface. 


Mel, Lance, and Cole were treading water a dozen meters from where I surfaced.  They swam over to me as I tore off the shrink wrap, and opened the box. "Chips?" I asked.  The box was full of what looked like sim chips.

Cole spoke up, "Looks like it. Not what we're here for though."

"Yacht has a lot of boxes like this down there.  Lot of ghosts too.  Any information on what they were doing when they sank?"  I asked.

No one spoke up. 

"Okay then. I've got one idea and its not a great one. Head for shore and look for me to come up."  I didn't wait for them, but dove back down toward the wreck.

Elementals are particular to their environments.  I wouldn't, for example, order a fire elemental to manifest in the ocean or a water elemental to manifest in an active volcano.  But in nature there are always instances where the elements meet.  I dove down and called out to a third spirit I had bound weeks before, gave out a set of very specific commands to the water elementals, and swam to the bow of the wreck.

The ghosts manifested and faced me with faces full of menace and pitiable torment.  I thought there was a good chance my plan wouldn't work but I had to try.  At my command my earth elemental manifested in the mud the wreck rested upon, my water elementals (one fore and one aft) seized hold of the yacht and the three spirits began to lift the wreck.  The ghosts went crazy for a moment, splitting up and heading to different ends of the yacht.  I tried to land upon the deck, only to see all seven ghosts come at me with murderous intent.  I swam back as quick as I could, and watched as the wreck rolled to the port side, the spirits struggling to lift and move the hulking wreck.  Debris littering the deck slid off into the muck... one of the ghosts fell along with it as whatever tied him to the ship was left behind.

The wreck moved another meter to the east and again the ghosts menaced my spirits until I moved to land upon the deck.  The wreck rolled again, to the starboard side this time, and more debris was shaken off to the bottom of the sound.  Two more ghosts fell from the wreck, as did several shrink wrapped boxes and the detritus of years of submersion. 

Meter after meter we continued this dance.  The elementals were tireless, moving the hulking wreck little by little, with debris falling from the shattered hull and from the deck.  Ghosts, tied to some physical object of significance, fell from the ghostly craft and were left behind.  Angel's drone followed me along for while, then disappeared.  I was too busy to worry about it.


August 29th, 2058 0458 hours

The wreck broke the surface and I saw the night sky for the first time in hours.  Only the gun waving ghost remained on deck, waving his pistol and trying to attack the spirits only to dart over to me as I threatened to set foot on the yacht.  Twenty minutes later the wreck was beached and rolled over onto its port side, the exposed hole in its hull reaching for the light polluted sky.  Dawn was not far off.

I climbed onto the wreck and down into the hull.  The ghost was on me in an instance.  I called up an air elemental I kept bound and had it hold the ghost and keep it from me while I searched. I found a corroded old heavy pistol that looked just like the one the ghost kept waving around.  I gave it the astral once over and saw the strands of mana that were woven from it to the ghost my elemental was currently holding in a head lock. 

The ghost wasn't hard to lay to rest.  Holding his anchor I was able to break its hold on the ghost and release him.  He faded slowly, then dark hands seemed to grab the ghostly spirit, its face changed to an expression of utter horror and it vanished with a scream.  I felt a cold shiver run down my spine.

We only had a few moments before someone would spot the wreck and phone it in or a wandering harbor patrol drone spotted it.  Cole, Lance, and Mel climbed over the yacht for about three minutes and came out carrying a small safe.  They started hoofing it back over the highway to the getaway car and Angel.  I followed after them, climbing into the vehicle behind Angel while the safe was loaded in.

Angel's Mr. Johnson was happy to have the safe and paid Angel while I ran astral overwatch on the meet.  All sides were tense, but things went on without anyone doing anything terribly stupid. Angel dropped me off at the Brick Yard, with a new certified credstick in hand.

That wasn't the first time I had run into ghosts, nor was it the last.  A few weeks after that run I went for a long swim in the sound, and managed to round up the objects holding those ghost to the world.  I was able to put each to rest and was glad that they each seemed to go peacefully.

There is a great hot dog joint north of the marina.  Lets go grab a beer and some dogs.  The place looks out over the water and you can often see otters playing near the shore.

Citation:  The Sky is a Poisonous Garden, Performed by Concrete Blonde; Album: Still In Hollywood


  1. This is really good story line with a step by step walk-though of talents Tommy has to offer up to those who can pay the asking price.


Thank you for your comment chummer.