Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Aftermath, Chapter 13: Shadow of the Dragon



"In death we see equality, for all that lives must surely die.  With the invention of the last will and testament, we have the means for the dead to strike out at the living one last time."

~ Attorney Lewis Dewey of the Dewey-Cheatum Law Firm (1989)

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

I woke up to Violet pushing my eyelid open.  She giggled, drooled and reached for my other eye with her tiny fingers.  I took a slow breath and savored the moment.  Tiny giggling noises, the scent of the baby shampoo their mother favored as well as the lingering scent of vanilla and honeysuckle.  It was a profound comfort, that moment of peace when my whole world was just a little elf girl smiling back at me.

"Are you awake?" Aria whispered.

"Yeah.  Violet is just checking my eyes to make sure they work." I replied.

Violet giggled at the sound of her name, her twin Jasmine peeked over her shoulder to investigate the happenings.

"Hi girls." I said softly. "I missed you both so much. Aria, Honey, how are you?"

My wife put on the ghost of a smile. "I'm fine.  Shade magicked me up almost as well as you do baby.  I have to say though, I don't know why you haven't quit the life yet.  Getting shot sucks."

I felt anger start to bubble up inside me.  Jasmine climbed over her sister and kissed me on the nose, quenching my rage in joy and drool.  I reached out and took Aria's hand.  She squeezed tightly as the twins took turns pulling at my hair, giving me kisses, and poking at my eyes.  "I'm so sorry honey."

Aria lay down next to me and put her arm over me and the squirming twins.  "Let's not talk about that right now. I'm just glad you're with us."

We lay there, playing with the twins while Rose and Lily stood by in the astral plane watching for threats.  An hour ticked by faster than I would have thought possible, before Sheila opened the door and joined us.

"We need to talk, Tommy." Her voice was softly inflected and weighted with a severity I could feel in my bones.

*****

Aria protested that her mother wanted to speak with me alone.  Words were said that surprised me and I think I may have actually seen SheilaX flinch.  The scene deescalated as a foul odor wafted up from the twins. Aria and Lily took the suddenly stinky twins out for a change and a bath while I was left alone with my fixer.

"You can't get away from this by dying again, Tommy." Sheila didn't waste any time. "You're going to have to make this right or they're going to just keep at you."

She fixed me with a stare that would melt the nerve of any sane being. "If they hurt my little girl again, or my grandchildren, I'll cut off your head and deliver it to them myself."

I didn't know what to say to that.

"You've been a great asset and Aria loves you." Sheila paused a moment, her emotionless eyes focusing on nothing. "She loves you, but she needs to keep breathing.  Last night someone shot her, over you.  I won't accept that.  Fix this Tommy.  Now."

"Any idea how?" I asked.

"Do you know what they want?"

"I think so, yeah." I replied.

"Can you give it to them?"

"Maybe.  I'm not sure about that.  I do know they shouldn't have it." I said.

"I don't give a damn if they should have it or not Tommy!" The steel came back into Sheila's voice and I found myself fixed by her glare.  "Give it to them, work out a deal, or die trying.  You have forty-eight hours." My mother-in-law left the 'or else' out.  I was certain she would make good on her threat if I didn't find an impressive solution to an impossible problem.

How do you appease a dead dragon?

*****

February 14th, 2061

Happy fraggin' Valentines' Day.  I had less than twelve hours to fix my life before Sheila would end it.

The word on the street was that some heavy hitters were looking for a certain shadowy wizard.  My family was in hiding again, I was mostly broke after paying Angel and Crank what I owed them, and the more I learned about the mess I was in the less I liked it.

SheilaX made some discreet inquiries and found the Johnson behind the hit team.  Angel hacked his commlink and left him an email.

"This is Thomas Michael Gunne.  I want to talk to your boss."

The return email address routed through more dead drop accounts thank I could count. Two hours later I had a return email.  "Where and when?"

I kissed Aria, taking in the scent of vanilla and honeysuckle and silently prayed that it wouldn't be the last time I saw her.  Jasmine and Violet were asleep on the bed.  SheilaX watched as I said my goodbyes.

"I'll get things squared away." I promised my wife.

"You come home to me Tommy." Aria whispered to me. "Promise me?"

I took a slow breath, looked right into her beautiful eyes and lied. "I promise baby."  I kissed her again, turned and walked out of the safe house.

Crank was on the street in front of the safe house, sitting on his pink scooter.  There wasn't another soul around to be seen.

"You comin' back Tommy?" he asked.

"Yeah, Crank." I lied. "You know me, I'm like one of those bum drones with a bad GPS. Always landing in the yard."

Crank's face hardened slightly. "Yeah.  I thought you'd say something like that." The big man stood up and walked up to me, looking down at me with worried eyes.

"I don't have many good friends Tommy." he said.

"That's because I've got all the best ones in town, Crank." I grabbed his huge hand and squeezed.

"Damn, that kinda hurts Tommy." A ghost of a smile appeared on his face. "If you don't come back.  If you get lost or something.  Call me."

"I'm coming back, Crank." I told him. "I've got a plan."

"A good one?" he asked.

I looked at my chummer and shelved the bulldrek. Crank was my friend, he had earned a little chip-truth. "Not really."

"Yeah, that's what I figured." he said. "You need a good gun hand, I've got two."

At that moment I really wanted to say yes. I wanted to have my friend with me, but I didn't want his blood on my hands.  "Thank you, Crank.  I've got this. Do me a favor though and make sure Jazz gets up on his feet?  Maybe introduce him to some people.  He's a good gun hand and I think you'd like him."

"Will do, chummer."  Crank clasped his hand on my shoulder.  This time, it didn't hurt at all.  "Do your thing and duck back into the shadows omae.  I'd hate to have to train another magician to be a decent runner."

"Keep your head down, Crank. I'll see you." I paused for moment.  "Honorable and professional, two rare qualities that you've got in spades."  I stepped around my friend, wove an invisibility spell around myself and vanished from sight.

The air elemental carried me away and I soared south. "Lily, protect Aria and your sisters.  Rose, GATEKEEPER."

"Be careful, father." Their concern carried through the link we shared. I spared a moment and looked through Lily's eyes as she rocked Jasmine to sleep.  I changed my focus and watched as Rose surfaced from the waves and spread her wings beneath a brilliant, star-filled sky.

I triggered my reply email as my feet touched down on familiar ground.  I put down the address and added, "Come alone."  I stuck the commlink in my pocket and knelt down to clear some branches from Pepper's grave.

"I'm sorry to do this here." I said as I sat down in the thin layer of snow that covered Pepper's grave. I sat there and talked as if my old friend could hear me.  Maybe he could.  After fifteen minutes the wind picked up fiercely and tall woman dropped from the sky and landed with all the grace of a cat.  Her flaming red hair and bright orange eyes were luminous under the night sky.

"Thomas Michael Gunne," she said. "you actually came all by yourself.  Is it foolish pride, a martyr's conviction, naivete or a death wish?"

"Probably just hopeless optimism." I replied. "I want to resolve our differences before anyone else gets hurt."

"You betrayed and killed my servant." She took a single step toward me. "One who had served me far longer than you can imagine."

"He betrayed our contract, tried to extort something that is rightfully mine, beat me and threatened my family.  His behavior was disgraceful, dishonorable and wholly unprofessional." I took a breath and a step toward her. "So yes, I killed him."

"Proud of it are you?" There was the slightest hint of something dire in her tone. "Killed a dragon, didn't you boy?  Murdered a being of such magnificence that you can't even comprehend its true nature." She took another long stride toward me, closing the gap between us to two meters.

"I'm not proud of having killed anyone. That's a disorder for psychos like Creep." I took a single step toward the woman. With less than a meter between us I caught the scent of cinnamon and something like smoke and molten metal. "I am pretty sure dragons don't work for metahumans.  You're a dragon yourself or the agent of one. I'm no threat to you, unless you keep after my family and then I can be a real problem."

She bristled at that, her hair turning a brighter shade of red.

"I'm pretty sure you can kill me outright but that isn't what you want." I looked her right into her blazing orange reptilian eyes. "You want the Place of Gates, and you can't have it."

"Another will take your place." She hissed at me.

"No doubt." I replied. "But it will be an eternity before that happens. Even now my daughter waits your decision. If you kill me she will seal the gates and deny you access for ages. You can kill me and wait for another age to come along or you can work with me and I can allow you access, but not for free."

"You dare?!" She spat.

"Yes." I reigned in my fear and put on my best glare. "You'll find that I can dare to do anything."

Her telepathic roar echoed in my skull.  Blood trickled from the corners of my eyes as the capillaries in my tear ducts ruptured. I was knocked flat from the force of her will.

"This again?" I asked as I picked myself up and rose once again to face her. "Your servant tried the same thing.  Can we deal, or do we fight, you kill me and lose the Place of Gates?"

"I don't have to kill you little mage, I can deliver unto you such torment that you will beg for death." Smoke snaked from her nostrils as her hands clenched into fists.

"I've been tormented by an enemy of madness and night. I've faced the Hell of men and been tortured by my greatest fears made reality. I've seen horrors," she flinched at that. "that no metahuman can describe.  Do your worst and you will lose that which you seek. A second time I ask, can we deal?"

Her neck elongated as her form shifted. Golden orange scales took shape as the dragon revealed herself.  She was massive, dwarfing the one she had only named as her servant.

The ground shuddered beneath her.  I felt the tingle of static shocks as the very air came alive from contact with her naked power.  Her long, scaled tail crashed down, creating a furrow in the church yard's lawn and cracking the plascrete in the parking lot. The dragon flared out her wings and blocked out the moon and stars. The very sky itself was replaced by the shadow of the great dragon before me.

Someone pissed my pants.

*****

Thank you for reading my fan fiction.  I want to thank Russell Zimmerman, Stephen Kenson, Lisa Smedman, Robert N. Charrette, Tom Dowd, Mel Odom, the legendary Nigel Findley (RIP), Michael A. Stackpole and so many others who have brought the world of Shadowrun to life for all of us fans.  Each added more color, depth, and breathed life into the setting in their own way and I am grateful to each of them.

We are nearing the end of "Aftermath".  I hope you are enjoying this tale and that it in some way will breath a little more life into your own Shadowrun world and experience.

I hope you'll join me for Chapter 14.

Thank you.
W.S. "Sam" Quinton
















Monday, April 29, 2019

Aftermath, Chapter Twelve: Chummers

It's getting dark too dark to see
Feels like I'm knocking on heaven's door

~ Knocking on Heaven's Door, lyrics by Bob Dylan



"When you're a professional criminal, a thief, a spy and yes a murderer, people will tell you that you can't have friends or any real relationships.  You'll be told that you cannot trust anyone, that when the chips are down and the bullets are flying that your chummers will cut and run out on you.

People who say that have really poor taste in friends."

~ Thomas Michael Gunne     Alias:  Tommy "The Machine" Gun
____________________________________________________



The sun made the effort to pierce the gray Seattle sky and slapped me in the face with a dazzling sunbeam.  It was hard to open my eyes and impossible to see with the full fury of a star doing it damnedest to fry my brain through my eyeballs.  I covered my face with shaking hands and sat up.

"Hey, Tommy take it easy chummer." Crank's voice was a welcome sound.  I didn't know where I was or how I was alive.

"Crank, where are we?  Where's Aria?" I pulled my hands down and tried to force my eyes to adjust to the daylight.

"Don't know about Aria." Crank replied.  His huge hand grasped my shoulder and, for the first time I can remember, it didn't hurt.  "As for where we are, I brought you to shaman I know.  He's in the kitchen right now."

"Rose said Aria has been shot, Crank.  We have to go."  I tried to stand and found myself pitching forward.  Crank caught me easily and pushed back onto the cot I had been laying on.

"Yeah, that's not happening right now Tommy." Crank was calm but insistent. "Let my chummer get you patched up.  Then we'll find out what the frag is going on."

I heard a door open and my hand went to my shoulder rig. "Wow! Easy now, Tommy."  Crank laid his hand over my chest. "Calm down omae."

An amerindian elf walked in with young anglo human woman behind him.  I recognized the elf immediately as a street shaman SheilaX had teamed me up with once.  I hadn't seen him in over a year.  The young woman was familiar but it took a long minute for my memory to catch up to me.  She had grown a bit since we pulled her out of Missoula, but she had that same fierceness to her.

"He always such a hard-ass?"  the girl asked.

{I couldn't remember her name at the time and I'm not going to throw her under the bus by naming her now.  For our purposes I'll call her "Joy". ~ T}

{Oh, she is going to hate that Tommy. ~ Angel}

"Only when he's had his ass kicked real good." Crank replied.

"It's been a while, Machine." the elf said.

"Too long.  Sorry if I've put you out." I replied.

"Not at all. Besides, you helped put down the Reapers.  I can't have you falling dead because of some schmucks from Everett."  He winked at me and smiled.

{I miss him. ~ Angel}
{Me too. ~ T}

"How bad is it?" I asked.

"Magicians shouldn't use stims." he said sagely.  "That said, you're basically just suffering from the after effects.  Your body purged the toxins very quickly.  Nice spell work with that Machine.  I'm truly impressed.  Most hermetic magi don't think about their bodies and health, they're too busy trying to compare fireball radius measurements."

"That's a penis joke." Crank whispered to the young woman.

"Yeah, not a good one though." She muttered back.

The elf shaman smiled at the two of them. "Everyone's a critic. Machine you can go if you like, but you should rest first if you can."  His expression changed as he asked, "Unless it's that serious?"

"Too important for me to wait to heal." I replied.

"Ah."  He shuffled over to a messenger bag that was hung on the wall.  He rummaged around in it before pulling out a few vials.  "Well, then you shouldn't go out unarmed."

He placed the first vial on the cot next to me. "Holy water, from the River Jordan in case you run into demons."  The second vial he proclaimed as "Water from the Blood Falls.  Good for healing magic." I nodded in the affirmative at that. "And distilled peppermint oil blended with honey."

"What's that for?" I asked.

"It'll help with the jitters." He replied.

"Thank you." I said as I fumbled open the vial. I sniffed at it, inhaling the sweet scent before I took a taste.  It was sweet with the kick of concentrated peppermint behind it.  "It's like candy."

"Well, of course.  Not all magic has to be fire and brimstone, you know."  His smile was infectious.

*****

Crank and I walked out in broad daylight.  Rose had told me where I could find the family.  She and Lily had suggested that I have them come get us but I told them to stay with their mother and sisters.

Crank looked like hell.  His clothes were torn, burned and smudged with strange new stains.  He looked down at me, smiling with those perfectly polished tusks and teeth.  "Redmond.  We spent way to much time here omae."

"Thanks for getting me out, Crank." I looked up into the big man's eyes. "Seriously, thank you."

Crank shrugged.  "We fight monsters. Can't have you dying on me.  Besides, it would be unprofessional to break our deal. I told you I'd help you get your family.  I'm sticking to that."

"I've got good taste in friends." I said.

"Yes, yes you do." Crank replied.  "Shall we get vehicles or what?"

"Frag it." I said. "This is Redmond.  If folks around here don't know to leave us the frag alone by now, then they haven't been paying attention."

Crank squeezed my shoulder. Yes, it hurt.  "Frag it then."

We turned west and strode down the middle of the street.  Crank's good luck charm rode easily in his massive hands.  My sliver gun  stayed in its holster, my hands out and open.   Squatters watched us with wary eyes.  We took a left onto 156th and ran headlong into a dozen elf gangers on sleek racing bikes.  Crank looked at them, smiled and called out "Well?"

"You Crank?" one asked.

"Damn right." he replied.

"Sub-zero.  I'll let them know you're coming." The elf tapped out a message on his comm and cycled up his engine.  "Go on.  Don't keep the lady waiting."

We were halfway down the block when the door to one of the ratty houses swung open.  Little Rickie ducked under the doorway and out into the sun.  "Tommy. Get your ass in here boy before someone shoots it off."

The outside of the house looked like any other rundown place in the barrens.  The inside had been cleaned of any debris, the walls were free of holes and graffiti, and I heard water running from somewhere within.  Rose and Lily were standing in a living area playing 'levitate the babies' with the twins.  Jasmine and Violet giggled and cooed, and didn't notice me slip past them and into the hall.

I found Aria lying in a back room on an inflatable bed.  SheilaX sat next to her daughter, my wife, running her fingers through her hair.  Shade was motionless on the floor, his breathing so weak as to be almost undetectable.  I opened my eyes and saw the magician floating above his own body, a weapon focus blazed with a pure white light in hand. He acknowledged me with a nod and then gestured about the room.  I spotted four powerful elemental spirits, each occupying a cardinal point in the room.

Shade wasn't taking any chances with astral security.

"They shot her Tommy." Sheila's voice was cold enough to make goosebumps rise on my body.

I looked at my wife and noted that her aura was strong and healthy.  There was a lingering sign of magic that clung to her abdomen, the remnants of a healing spell.  A drug coursed through her, growing weaker as I watched, holding her in a dreamless slumber.

"They drugged her?" I asked.

"Stun gas."  Sheila replied. "Gas grenade, pitched at us when we went in to pull her and the babies out.  My cyber and bioware mods shook it off.  Same with Rickie.  Aria though, it hit her hard."

"I'm sorry." I started.

SheilaX cut me off with a wave of her hand and fixed me with a stare. "Don't. They came after her and you tipped us to it.  We got her and the twins out.  You don't apologize for saving your family, Tommy.  You get razor focused, go out and kill the people responsible."

I stood there, my relief at seeing Aria alive and whole being battered by my own guilt.

"Knock it off, Tommy." Sheila said sternly. "Wash up, get some food in you, then come get some rest with your wife.  She'll be happiest if she wakes up next to you."  Her tone made it clear, it wasn't a request.

The bathroom had running water and clean towels.  I took a hot shower, wiped out my body armor and ran my fingers through hair to tame it.  I stepped into the hallway feeling clean and tired down to my bones.  As I walked into the living room I saw Lilly and Rose rocking the twins in their arms.

"Nap time." Their voices said in my mind.

"Thank you girls.  Go on back and lay them down with your mother.  Please wait there as well." I replied.

Lilly and Rose padded silently down the hall and disappeared into the bedroom. I found Crank in the kitchen with Angel.  Both looked solemn.

"Ratchet?" I asked.

Crank's head shook as Angel turned to me. "No.  He went up with his ride."   Her eyes shone.  Angel was, and always has been, a professional. She wasn't going to let anyone see a tear fall, even for a good friend and ally.

"Did you get the one who killed him?" Crank asked.

"I don't think so, but I've got the recording of the fight plus feed from Roy and his bunch.  I'll have her ID soon."  Angel's voice carried an acidic tone that would cower a wise man.

"Good." Crank replied. "Then we go kill her."

"Yes." I said. "We'll start with her.  Angel let me know when you have something.  I'm going to keep an eye on Aria.  Crank, get some rest omae, you've earned it."

"Tommy," Angel interrupted, her expression fierce. "We kill this one for Ratchet.  You are going to help us.  Ratchet was our friend, all of ours.  We put her down for him."

"For Ratchet." Crank muttered.

I've got really good taste in friends. I nodded in agreement. "This ones for Ratchet."

I laid down on the air mattress, my sleeping daughters between me and my wife. Lilly lay on the floor on Aria's side while Rose lay near mine.  I draped my arm over the sleeping babies and put my hand in Aria's.  Her fingers closed over over mine and I drifted off to sleep with my family.

In the living room Little Rickie was watching an AR overlay from cameras hidden around the house.  Crank was sleeping the utility room once held a washer/dryer.  Angel was sitting in the kitchen, furiously stalking the woman from the vid.  SheilaX sent payment to the elf gangers then fired off a series of messages to shadowrunners, assassins, thieves and information agents all around the 'plex. Someone had sent a hit team to kill her daughter and SheilaX was not going to let that stand.

I dreamed of fire and death.  Seattle burned while my wife slept and my daughters laughed.  Words reached my ears, a distant echo stretching out from my past. "If they've hurt her you'll be able to see the fire from orbit."

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

Thank you for reading my fan fiction!

I hope you'll check out my latest project on KickStarter the Sinopa Omnibus, Volume One which contains stories, characters and stats for the 5th edition (not shadowrun unfortunately, but for Gary and Dave's game). Please do check it out at the link below.  I hope you'll pledge your support if you can and share the link with others to help us reach out goal.

Thank you!










Thursday, April 25, 2019

Aftermath, Chapter Eleven: Run through the Concrete Jungle

Sometimes we need to lose the small battles
                    in order to win the war
~Sun Tzu, The Art of War
**********************

A howl echoed off the plascrete as Crank race past the dilapidated storage units.  His heavy footfalls resounding like the opening beat of a troll thrash metal concert, Crank ran for all he was worth, his chummer Tommy slung under one arm.  Behind him a beast snarled and howled in frustration as Crank's fierce pace maintained the distance between them.  Sweat ran freely and his breath came in heavy gusts as his pink machinegun beat against his back, dancing on its reinforced leather and nylon sling.

"Damn'it Tommy!" Crank swore as he raced down the broken pavement. "Wake up!"

Tommy hung limply under Crank's massive arm.

A burst of gunfire thundered and bullets raged after the fleeing shadowrunners.  A round struck Crank's left horn, blowing half of the carefully manicured and polished growth away and tearing open Crank's scalp.

"DREK! " Crank's yell rang out as he spun to his right and crashed through a barely substantial bit of fencing, his legs churning to get back up to speed.  Behind him, the howling sound grew louder, closer.   "Lil' help here!  Ratchet! Angel! Respond!"

An explosion boomed in the distance behind him sending a plume of fire and smoke into the night sky.  Crank spared a glance to the fireball before ducking around a stinking dumpster.   The veteran shadowrun changed course, heading north as he tugged the priming pin from a grenade he saved for emergencies.  He skidded to a stop and pitched it into the dumpster before turning back and dashing toward a run down apartment complex.

Crank was breathing hard as he dashed past a bullet-riddle sign that once read "Welcome to Camelot."  The beast's howl was interrupted by grenade detonation.  Bits of flaming garbage rained down on the potholed street.

"Frag it!  Sorry chummer." Crank dropped Tommy behind the sign and threw himself down next to him.  "Getti always said, bring a medkit. 'Crank, what happens when you need it and don't have it?' he said.  'Always good to have' he said." Crank pulled a battered nylon case from his pocket.

A howl shattered the night, making the hair on the back of Crank's neck stand up.

"Thank you, Getti." Crank whispered as he tore open the stimulant patch.  Crank slapped the patch on the back of Tommy's limp hand then unslung his pink light machine gun and worked the action.  "Sometimes, it ain't easy being your friend Tommy."

The barghest was bleeding from a dozen injuries.  The beast barreled over the street, fangs bared and eyes fixed on the old sign and the two blazing heat sources behind it.

Crank leaned into the stock, forced his breath out in a slow, controlled exhale, and squeezed the trigger.  His light machinegun sprayed a dozen rounds into the oncoming monster.  The barghest tumbled forward, yelping and baying in pain and anger.

"Shoot straight." Crank whispered as he rose from behind the sign and sighted on the writhing barghest.   He took three long, quick strides toward the monster.

"Conserve ammo." The words crossed his lips unheard as he put six rounds into the barghest's skull, splattering bone and brains across the plascrete.  There was a sudden silence that fell on the night as Crank jogged back to his friend.

Tommy "the Machine" Gunn opened his eyes and took in deep rapid breaths.  The magician bolted upright, gasping for air while his eyes darted about.

"Never, EVER make a deal with a dragon." Crank finished the old street proverb, extended his hand to his friend and pulled him to his feet.

{Gaiman-Zimmerman app used to describe what we pulled from the feeds. ~ Angel}

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

I came to with my heart hammering in my throat.  I was laying on broken pavement and felt like I had been beaten to death. Crank thrust his hand out and I took it, pulling myself upright and trying to get my bearings.

"Where the frag are we?" I asked.

"North of the safe house.  We've got angry people chasing us."  Crank replied.  He ducked down behind a bullet-riddled sign and trained his pink light machinegun toward a rundown storage facility. There was a dog-like creature the size of a small horse twitching in the street, its head blown apart.

"My family?" I asked.

"I don't know chummer." Crank replied.  "We came rolling up and you were falling out of the sky.  The whole neighborhood was up in flames like hell had opened up to swallow the block. I managed to catch you but people were shooting at me and then they turned the dog loose on me."

"Thank you." I said.

"Don't thank me yet.  Angry people with guns coming.  Thank me later." Crank's eyes never wavered but he smiled, revealing those perfectly polished tusks.  "And pay me.  Don't forget to pay me."

A quiet little laugh escaped me.  "You got it, omae."

The first shot nearly took my head off.

The tip of my right ear was torn away as bullets streaked out of the night.

"Told you!" Crank called out.  He returned fire, sending a storm of death downrange.

"Yeah, yeah. I hear you!"  I called back.  My ear was a sharp pain piled atop so many others.  I was wrung out, my body coursing with a chemical cocktail that made me jittery.  Spell casting was a bad idea. I whispered into the astral plane and felt the spirits respond.   "Get 'em!" I shouted.

The fire elemental manifested, instantly causing the placrete it stood upon to melt and bubble.  It gave a curious little curtsy before it rolled away leaving a molten trail to mark its path.

"Good one, lets roll!" Crank shouted.  He clamped his hand down on my shoulder.  It hurt.

We ran past rundown apartments, rusted hulks of ancient automobiles and abandoned shops whose vacant windows stared out at us like the skulls of dead men.  The spells woven to my senses detected a ghoul to the west but I ignored it.  Crank was running and his longer legs gave him a huge advantage in speed.  His own spell enhanced reaction time and speed, courtesy of my own magic, made him faster than me.  As I began to fall behind he slowed, allowing me to keep up, as we broke out to the east and headed back toward the I-5.

My commlink was fried, killed in the initial attack that had knocked me from the sky. I reached out with my thoughts, praying my family had survived. "Rose, Lily, are you girls safe?"

"Father!" Rose replied. "Lily and I are well. Jasmine and Violet are fussy.  Mother has been shot."

My blood ran cold, my vision swam and I collapsed in a heap on the street.  The stimulant patch's chemical cocktail had finally been purged by a spell I had laid upon myself years ago to protect against poisons and stun gas.  The last thing I remember before the darkness engulfed me was a flare of panic as Rose's words struck home.

********
Thank you for reading my fan fiction.  

I hope you'll check out my current project on KickStarter, Sinopa Omnibus Volume One which contains characters, creature and monster entries.  These are written for the 5th edition game mechanic (not Shadowrun unfortunately) and each entry consists of a story, stats, treasure information and more.  I like to think it’s a lot like the old dungeon magazine, though I may be flattering myself a bit.   Please do take a look (link below) support it if you can and help spread the word by sharing it out on social media.



I hope you'll  join me next time for Chapter Twelve as Aftermath continues.  As always, your comments and questions are most welcome!










Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Aftermath, Chapter Ten: It's a Trap!

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War
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Mana surged through me.  Raw, angry power shaping the mystical forces into an inferno that seared flesh from bone, ignited ammunition and transformed the street into a molten plascrete hell.  I had given in to my fear, to my rage and lashed out with all the magic I had at my disposal. In the astral plane I shone like an exploding star, making myself an easy target for the magicians waiting for me.  

They didn't wait long.

Mana flared as half a dozen spells slammed into me.  I felt my breath forced out of me from concussive force, saw a kaleidoscope of colors as magic assaulted my mind, a lance of raw spell energy impaled me from the astral plane and blood splattered the inside of my enchanted ballistic mask as the capillaries in my lips, nose and tear ducts exploded outward.  The raw power of the attacks sent me tumbling through the sky, held aloft only by the spirit that still faithfully served my last command.  My vision clouded, my body went limp and the air elemental suddenly vanished as it was banished from our world.  

Everything went black as I plunged toward the pavement.

******

I don't have Tommy's gift for fancy story telling but I'm going to give you the scoop on how things went down that night. Fair warning: if you tamper with this I'll burn your deck to ash.  This is a night that should not be forgotten. ~ Angel 

"FRAGGIN' WIZARDS, MAN!!!!" Ratchet screamed as he applied an unsafe level of breaking force.  The big vehicle went into a skid. Ahead of us the plascrete was on fire and bubbling.  Metahumans screamed like the damned as their lives were snuffed out in the inferno. 

{No gift for storytelling, eh? ~ T}

{I used the Gaiman-Zimmerman storytelling app to make it more interesting. Now frag off and let me tell this, Tommy. ~ Angel}

The sky exploded in multi-colored light and a deafening roar.  The roadmaster screeched to a halt barely two meters from the firestorm.   Crank vanished through the open back hatch, darting through the night far faster than a man that size should have been able to move.  

The roadmaster's sensor suite detected an object falling from the sky and several small aircraft on approach. I watched as what looked like a hundred elves brought their motorcycles to stop and sprang toward us.  A dozen vehicles squealed to a stop behind them.

"BAANGG!!!" The interior of the roadmaster rang like a church bell.  

"OH, HELL NO!  YOU DID NOT SHOOT THAT DREK AT MY RIDE!"  Ratchet's scream didn't reach my ears.  I 'heard' the synth version over my feed.  My meat body was suddenly laying in the vehicle's floor as the cannon round's impact had knocked me loose.  Warning indicators flashed the damage report and I cringed.  "FLOATING THE BIRD!  ANGEL! FIND THAT SLITCH!"

A second round struck home and warning indicators flashed red as the roadmaster's frame buckled from a direct hit.  Passenger side ablative armor had been blown off leaving the primary hull exposed to fire.  I queued the tactical computer's threat analysis and prayed it would find the fragger before he killed us.

A red targeting icon appeared on my overlay.

"There she is ratchet!" My synthesized voice was loud and enraged, or maybe scared drekless. "Target is fifty meters, elevation ten meters.  Weapon identified as Ares Mark I BFG!  Acquire target and kill same!"

"DIE YOU SLITCH! DIE!" Ratchet triggered the loudspeaker, not realizing it had already been blown off. His two roto-drones poured fire onto the suddenly located assailant.  I saw a new warning indicator flash as the recessed grenade launcher failed to deploy.  "YOU WRECKED MY BOOMER!"

"Ratchet!  She's got some cover, keep on her!" I triggered my log off and woke up in the smoke-filled cabin.  "Drek! Ratchet we're on fire!  Sensors are bugged."  I couldn't hear myself over the ringing in my ears.  "RATCHET! GET OUT, WE'RE BURNING UP HERE!" 

A hand clamped down on my arm like a vise and yanked me out into the street.  The tall elf ganger tossed me like doll into the arms of one of his chummers.  I felt myself hit armored leather backed up by rock hard muscle and looked up just in time to see the ganger's head explode.  I crashed to the ground atop the corpse, still deafened, and covered in blood and brains.  All around me pistols flashed in eerie silence as the gangers returned fire.  

I saw Tommy falling like a dead bird out of the sky.  Watched as Crank jumped a full three meters and plucked him out of the air. The two disappeared behind a blazing van.

A hand covered in bony growths and larger than my head grabbed onto my ballistic armor.  I was jerked up from the ganger's corpse and saw a huge, familiar looking cyber arm.  Little Rickie backpedaled, pulling me clear.  I spared a glance back for Ratchet just in time to see the roadmaster explode.  I was passed into a pair of arms and watched as Little Rickie fell in behind Sheila X, her mouth silently screaming as she blazed away with the heavy pistol in her hand.  

I saw my best fixer running toward a burning house before Shade's body blocked my line of sight.  The magician's mouth was moving but I couldn't hear him.  He placed his hands on my face and a tingling sensation flowed into me, followed soon thereafter by a horrific pain in my ears and eyes.  I screamed as feeling came back to me and agony assaulted me.  It passed suddenly, and I opened my eyes to see a worried look on Shade's face.

"Sorry about that, Angel.  Nerves knitting together can do that sometime."  He was shouting to be heard over the hammering gunfire. "Lay still.  This will take a minute."

I lay there, praying I wouldn't catch a stray round or suddenly burst into flames.  Explosions roared.  Firelight danced in the night.  Guns sent hot death blazing all around.  The night reeked of burning plascrete, vehicles and metahuman flesh.   Elf gangers were everywhere, shooting at enemies and dying in the street.  

Little Rickie's heavy footfalls sounded like hammers as he ran up with Aria cradled in his arms.  "Shade!  Ass-up boy, we're leaving!"   Lily and Rose appeared beside him, holding Tommy's daughters and shielding them with their own bodies.  SheilaX came up behind them, snapping off shots as the moved.

"Right." Shade replied.  "Arisleia bocut'al ...." Shade's eyes glowed with a soft white light as he spoke a litany of words I had never heard before.  I floated up, his hands never leaving my face. 

"Haul ass!" Sheila growled.

Shade pushed me along, hovering on nothing. He pushed me into a vehicle and I felt leather as I was lowered to the seat.  My comm chirped as it finished rebooting and brought the chatter to my ears.  

"This is X, we are leaving.  Breakout now. Drinks are on me." Sheila's voice sounded tense to me. 

"This is Roy." said a voice I didn't recognize.  "I'm in position. You're covered."

"This is Goldie," another voice I didn't know, sounded out over the comm. "Get going little lady, we'll educate these hombres."

"Ghost protect you." this voice was quiet, calm. "Spirits are engaging the magicians.  I'll illuminate their positions."

"Copy that and thank you." Roy's voice.

"Reminds me of Chicago. Any of these Fraggers start spouting Atzlan Spanish I'm dumping the C12 on them." laughed another voice.  

The vehicle lurched forward and I felt Shade's grip tighten on my head for a moment.  

"Splash one." Roy said calmly.

"I got one." the cheerful voice replied.

“Splash two.” Roy replied.

“Now you’re getting greedy.” 

"Fivers are pulling their people out before they leave." Sheila interrupted. "Keep them covered."

"Copy that." Roy replied. "And one more makes three.  Come on Goldie, catch up."

"Anyone have eyes on Tommy or Crank?" Shade asked.

"Negative." Roy replied.

"This Goldie, I don't see the big guy or the little one either." there was a little less cheer in the reply.

A handful of voices replied with the same sentiment.  No one could see Tommy or Crank. We sped off as the twins began to cry, their mother laying limply in Little Rickie's arms.

"Ratchet?" I asked weakly.

"No.  I'm sorry Angel. He went up with his ride." Shade replied.

I felt my eyes get damp as the tears slipped silent away from me.  Shade kept the healing spell working its magic on me.  I didn't notice that my comm and deck had finished rebooting and synching up with Tommy and Crank's feeds.  We wouldn't know anything about what happened to them until it was too late.

{Rest in Peace, Ratchet. You earned it Omae. ~ Angel}

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

Thank you for reading my fan fiction.  

I apologize for the delay in getting this chapter of Aftermath out.  I've been busily writing and developing role playing game books and comic book titles for the last few months and time got away from me.  

I hope you'll check out my current project on KickStarter, Sinopa Omnibus Volume One which contains characters, creature and monster entries.  These are written for the 5th edition game mechanic (not Shadowrun unfortunately) and each entry consists of a story, stats, treasure information and more.  I like to think it’s a lot like the old dungeon magazine, though I may be flattering myself a bit.   Please do take a look (link below) support it if you can and help spread the word by sharing it out on social media.


Thank you!  I hope you'll join me next time for Chapter 11 of Aftermath.



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!