Friday, March 23, 2018

Fearsome Shadows

"I have seen the future, and you aren't in it," ... Creep 
(previously attributed to W.S. Quinton, June/1993)

September 9th, 2059

1300 Hours:  Heroes Retreat Comic and Collectibles, RTG

"I'm telling you, the new Infected issue is amazing! Doctor Cain is getting so close to a cure." the clerk's face was animated as it floated in my AR overview. "I know you'll love it.  Doctor Cain is determined to find the cure to save his daughter.  But she is preying on people and spreading the infection.  It's tragic vampire drama at its best!"

"Vampires aren't my thing," I said.  If the kid had seen what I had he wouldn't be so excited. "I'm looking for something classic. I have a print copy from Ocho Studios, but I haven't been able to find them on the 'trix."  I panned my feed over the battered digest. The images in the old comic book had faded over forty years but there were illustrations in it of beings I had encountered in a certain metaplane.  "If you've got anything from them I'd like to get it."

"Yeah, I'll keep my eyes open," the kid took the contact info I sent. "Are you sure I can't interest in you copies of Infected?"

I relented and ordered copies of the first six issues. That's me, supporting my 'local' online comic shop.  The price of print is always high, but there is a lot to be said for the media.  There is just something special about having your comic books in hard copy.

I closed the store's page and walked back to the bedroom. Aria needed to wake up for work. I found her lying in bed, blissfully asleep.  Rose was laying on the bed at her feet.  With her black and brown fur, she was a beautiful rottweiler.  Rose had taken a liking to 'napping' at the foot of the bed.  She didn't sleep of course, but I saw no harm in it.

As I approached, Rose lifted her head to look at me.  I heard her voice in my mind, "She will want to sleep a while longer."

Rose is my ally spirit, what some would call a familiar or household spirit.  I had summoned and bound her, but she was much more than a servant. We shared a telepathic link to each other, which had taken some getting accustomed to. "You're probably right, Rose" I replied. "I would like to wake her in private if you don't mind."

The rottweiler cocked her head at me, "You will sex with her?"

I blushed and sent my thoughts to her with care, "Not right now, Rose. I just wanted a little alone time. Private time is important to relationships."

Rose nodded at that, "I understand.  You will sex with her later.  You will now share words."  The rottweiler jumped from the bed, shimmering in mid-air and landing in the form of a young blonde elf girl.  In that form Rose looked no more than ten years old. "I will get the coffee machine working.  I know the buttons."
"Thank you, Rose.  That would be fantastic." I watched as the spirit-girl walked into the hall and headed toward the kitchen.   I sat down on the bed and brushed a lock of hair away from Aria's face. "Aria, honey, its time to wake up." I said.
"Not yet baby, give me a few minutes."  She pulled the blanket up over her head.
I left her in the bed and went to the kitchen to check on Rose.  I found the coffee pot percolating. The smell of fresh coffee was welcome in the early afternoon.  "Rose, you were right.  You seem to know how to make the coffee." I said out loud.
Rose turned to look at me, the small figure of the young elf girl was floating a meter off the ground while she retrieved coffee mugs. "I do not lie to you, though sometimes I may be mistaken," she had spoken out loud and her voice was one of a young girl.  "I do not know how to cook the chicken embryos.  Aria says she will teach me when I am 'old enough'. Will we fly to Aria's work today?"
"Yes, we'll take her to work. It's safer and she will make it to work far faster." I added, "She also loves to fly. I can cook the eggs, the chicken embryos.  I'll make some for you if you like."
"No thank you.  The food you prepare is unpleasant in my mouth." Rose retrieved three mugs, then floated over to the dining table. "The one called 'Solomon' prepares very pleasant foods."
"Everyone's a critic," I muttered. More loudly I responded, "I prefer Solomon's cooking as well."
I was enjoying my coffee when my pocket secretary buzzed.  I had a message from Sheila X asking for a meeting.  A pair of messages were exchanged, and I suddenly had a meeting scheduled for 1800 that night.
"Looks like I may have some work coming my way, Rose." I said to her.  "When we drop off Aria I'll be meeting with Sheila X.  This is business, so would you mind taking on your human shape while we're inside?"
"Of course," she replied. "Will we eat the food there?"
"Certainly," I replied.  I had never thought I would need to feed my ally spirit.  She didn't need to eat, but she enjoyed it.  How could I say no?
Aria stumbled in, hugged Rose, "Good morning baby-girl," she said. Aria gave me a hug and a kiss and took her coffee.  After her first sip she set the mug down and pronounced, "Thank you for making the coffee Rose.  It's perfect."
"You are welcome," the spirit replied.
We made it to the Brick Yard at 1730.
Aria hugged Little Rickie around the waist as he held the door for us.  Rose had taken her gold ring form and was wrapped around Aria's finger.  I made my way to the bar while Aria went to the ladies' room.  She took a knapsack that held clothes for Rose.  A few minutes later Rose and Aria came walking out.  Rose sat down next to me, while Aria hurried to the kitchen.
Rose's human form had pale skin and dark black hair.  Her eyes were dark, and she stood exactly two meters tall.  She wore rescue rated combat boots, armored fatigue pants, and a dark grey sweater.  She had a suit of form fitting body armor on underneath. Rose hardly needed the armor, but I justified it as it would help her to blend in.  It also couldn't hurt her to have a little extra protection.  She was pretty as a human, in a hard-as-steel kind of way.
Rose saw Sandy approaching and I heard her voice in my mind, "I would like to eat the food,"
I put on my best smile, "Sandy, good to see you.  Can I get an order of the bourbon chicken and a bowl of gumbo, a sirloin platter for my chummer Rose here, bourbon for Solomon, and four platters for you and the kids. Lemonade for both of us."
Sandy gave me a tusky smile, "Thank you for that.  I'll put those orders in. Rose, how do you want your sirloin cooked?"
Before I could formulate a response, Rose said, "By the one known as Solomon.  The food he prepares is pleasant in mouth."
Sandy's eyebrows arched up, "Cook's choice then," she said.
As Sandy walked away I heard Rose's thought-voice in my mind, "She is suspicious of you."
"She is probably wondering who you are and why I'm buying food for you. She knows Aria and I are together, so she is probably just worried for her friend." I sent my thoughts to Rose and watched as she nodded in response.
At 1800 hours Sandy came back and said, "She'll see you now.  I'll bring your plate out."
"Both of them please Sandy, Rose is coming with me." I said.
I walked back to Sheila's booth with Rose following closely behind.  Rose slid in ahead of me and I sat down across from Sheila.
Sheila X looked to Rose then back to me, "Rose?"
"Yes.  What do you have going on?" I asked.
"A certain Mr. Johnson is asking for a meeting.  Eye of the Needle, tomorrow night, you and a 'plus one', 2000 hours.  Meeting under the Johnson and Thomas party. Sounds familiar, neh?"  Sheila X looked at me. "Aria needs to be here, find another girl."
"I've got it covered," I responded.
Our plates arrived, and I slotted my credstick for another big night at the Brick Yard.  I sat and picked at my meal while I asked Sheila about some books I wanted to discretely lay hands on.  She took the information and told me she would look into them.
"I've got another meeting in about ten minutes," Sheila X said. "Crank has been asking about getting enchanted tattoos.  Any thoughts on that?"
"I was talking to him about that.  As a hypothetical, you understand." I replied. "I think it’s possible, but I don't know how to actually create them."
"Let me know if you learn anything new about it. Crank has proven to be a reliable asset. I would like to help facilitate that for him if possible." Sheila added, "Good luck tomorrow."
With that, Rose and I took our plates and moved to a table across the room.  Rose ate every bit of food on her plate though where it went I haven't the foggiest.  I sent a message to Russell and made an appointment for the next day as Rose would need evening attire for her first Shadowrun.


September 10th, 2059
I spent the morning checking my gear and briefing Rose on social cues and things I had observed about Mr. Johnson and Ms. Goode.  I heard the shower running shortly before 1300 hours and realized Aria was awake.  When Rose and I came up from my lab she took on her young elf girl form and set to work making coffee.
When Aria walked into the kitchen she smiled brightly, "You're going to have a great time at the Eye of the Needle baby-girl.  The food is fantastic!" Aria gave Rose a hug and kissed the top of her head.  She then bounced over to me, kissed me fiercely, and said "Rose you keep him safe now, please."
"I will not let anyone harm him," Rose answered. She gave an awkward smile and added, "I will do violence if anyone attempts to do so."
"As for you," Aria turned back to me. "you keep our little Rose safe.  I know it's work, but don't let anything happen to her."
"I'll take good care of her.  You watch out for that orc that likes to slap your ass." I feigned worry and earned another kiss for my efforts.

1945 hours
Rose and I stepped from the elevator and into the Eye of the Needle.  Rose's dress was a burnt orange color that reminded me of autumn leaves.  Rose held my arm, just as Aria had shown her, as we walked to the waiting Maitre 'D.   He was the same middle-aged human with grey hair and had the same reserved, professional manner. "Good evening sir, madam.  Do you have a reservation?" he asked. 
"Yes, indeed.  I'm C.U. Thomas, I'm here under the Thomas and Johnson reservation." I replied. I felt a slight sense of deja vu come over me.
The Maitre D' paused just a tic, "I see sir.  Your table is almost ready.  Would you care to adjourn to the bar in the meantime?"
"I'm afraid the lady is too young for the bar," I replied. "We'll wait."
The Maitre D' stood stock still a moment then replied, "Of course sir. Your table will be ready in a moment."
Rose's thought-voice entered my mind. "Why am I to young for a bar?" 
"I don't have a fake ID for you yet," I replied. "It would be embarrassing to have service rejected because they didn't believe you were of drinking age."
"I have had beer at the Brick Yard," Rose responded. "Is it not the same there?"
"No, it's not the same here. The Brick Yard is a place of professional criminals, like myself.  It's a rough area and no one cares about the drinking age laws.  This place has many clients who are law abiding citizens, and something as insignificant as a drinking age law is still very significant to them.  We want to blend in, so we don't draw unnecessary attention," I thought to her. "I'm an outlaw of sorts. I think Mr. Johnson chooses to meet here because he is in his element here, and I'm not.  Here I'm coming to him for work, as opposed to when he sent Goode to the Brick Yard when he was reaching out for talent."
"He is manipulating the environment against you," Rose's thoughts took on an edge I hadn't experienced before. "why do we come here then?"
"This is where I have an opportunity for work.  I work to earn money to pay for the things I need and to provide for Aria and yourself." With Rose taking a liking for eating Solomon's cooking that certainly was going to increase my expenses. "I want the money so I can live without worrying about poverty."
"I do not yet understand," Rose responded.
"It's okay Rose, sometimes I wonder why I do it too." 
The Maitre 'D retrieved us and escorted us to our table.  We sat next to one of the large windows looking out over Seattle.  The skyline was slowly changing as the restaurant continued its slow rotation. 
I pulled a chair out and Rose sat down.  As I pushed the seat forward Mr. Johnson and Ms. Goode arrived.  Mr. Johnson pulled out a seat and Ms. Goode sat across from Rose.  Mr. Johnson extended his hand, and I shook it. "Charles, so good to see you again.  I hope business has been good." His grip was held an undeniable strength.  He had saddled me with the alias of C.U. Thomas for our first meeting.  'Charles' had been the name he used for me on those few times I had met with him in public, while in private he used 'Tommy'.  While the world at large knew that Tommy 'the Machine' Gun was dead, Mr. Johnson and Samantha Goode had seen through my deception.  That knowledge had made the Geo-Dynamics job available to me.  It also meant that Mr. Johnson knew more about me, by far, than I did about him.
"It's a pleasure to see you again." I replied. I turned to Ms. Goode and added, "Samantha you're looking well."  Samantha Goode was a stunning woman.  Her brown amerind skin and elven features, athletic build, and emerald eyes were a treat to the eyes.  She was also a mystical powerhouse. I had once caught a glimpse of her aura, and the power of the woman was alarming. She was wearing an emerald dress which somehow matched the color of her eyes. A magician of rare beauty and extraordinary mystic might.  She was dangerous, of that I was certain. "Allow me to introduce, Rose.  Rose, this is Mr. Johnson and Ms. Samantha Goode."
"Thank you, Charles.  Rose, it’s a pleasure to meet you." Samantha held her hand out to Rose. Rose took her hand and shook it.
"I am pleased to meet you, Samantha." Rose replied. "I like your dress."
Mr. Johnson and I both sat down. "It's been too long Charles," Mr. Johnson began. "Whatever have you been doing with yourself?"
"Mostly studying," I replied. "I've been working on honing my skills. I find that it creates new opportunities."
Mr. Johnson's smile was predatory. "Oh, I'm sure it will. A man of your talents must have ample opportunities for new career growth.  I'm surprised you remain self-employed."
"I find that I enjoy the freedom of choosing the projects I will spend my time on. I'm sure I could find employment elsewhere, but then I would be a servant to an agenda other than my own."  Our waiter appeared, took our drink orders, and left us with menus.  I turned my attention back to Mr. Johnson. "I also appreciate the freedom to grow my talents without management oversight.  It's very fulfilling."
"Rose, how do you like Seattle?"  Samantha Goode asked. She was looking intently at Rose.  I opened my astral sight and saw that Samantha was likewise opening herself to perceive the astral plane.  In astral space it was plainly obvious that Rose was a powerful spirit.  Samantha must have been caught off guard by that revelation because I was able to see her aura blazing with magical power.  She turned to me and I saw her aura become occluded until she seemed perfectly mundane.
"I enjoy the city.  It is full of life and a variety of people." Rose responded.
I looked back to Mr. Johnson. He appeared completely mundane and healthy.  I forced my astral sight closed (it's always been a hard thing for me to do) and sent a telepathic message to Rose. "Good answer."
"It is also true," Rose's thought-voice sounded in my mind. "It is far easier to tell the truth."
"I have an opportunity for you Tommy.  One I think you'll find interesting." Mr. Johnson's thought-voice rang painfully in my skull.  Where Rose's voice felt like normal natural communication, Mr. Johnson's voice in my head was like a troll thrash metal band pounding the interior of my mind.  I winced reflexively.
"I am interested in hearing what you've been up to lately." My voice sounded strained, even to me. Rose lay her hand on my leg and I felt her magical might reinforcing my own.
"There were reports of graves being robbed in a small community in Salish-Shidhe lands.  The town of Lewiston.  It may be nothing. Perhaps ghouls or aspiring necromancers. Or it could be something darker. Something far darker." a feeling of dread hit me.  If Mr. Johnson was still looking for the spirit possessing Bill Cooper, then this was a job I really didn't want to be involved in. The pain I had felt at his first communication was absent.  He was still 'loud' but not painfully so.
"I've been leaving much of the day to day operations to my subordinates, but I've made a habit of following certain news sources.  You would be surprised at things people have been up to lately." He said.  He took a drink of his bourbon and smiled. "Did you ever give the real stuff a try Charles?"
"I have, though I don't drink much or often.  I think I prefer champagne." I replied honestly.
"Yes, people will do the strangest of things," he mused. "Bill Cooper's corpse was found across the river in Clarkston.  I don't think it's a coincidence."
"Do tell.  I've seen a lot of man's inhumanity to man during my work in Redmond. The spirit of man is sometimes a dark soul indeed." I took a drink of my ice water.
"True words indeed." Mr. Johnson nodded. "I want you to investigate. Determine if it is just coincidence or if the Bill Cooper's spirit is behind the strange goings on."
I took another drink and thought furiously about how I might politely tell Mr. Johnson to go frag himself.  Rose interrupted my thoughts, her voice sounding in my mind, "I will protect you." I set my drink down.
"Sometimes, when you confront that darkness. It is best to just get out of the way."  I said.  My mind was still working on how I could get out of this with my rep and my life intact.
"True, one can always walk away." Samantha said. "But the world needs people to stand up and make a difference."
"There are some things in this world so dark that it is painful to shed light upon them." I replied. "A man has to know his limitations, as well as his capabilities."
"Irrelevant!" Mr. Johnson's thought-voice sounded in my skull. He pushed buttons on his pocket secretary while his voice sounded in my head. "You are a practical man.  I'm certain we can come to an agreement." He turned the pocket secretary to face me and I saw the number he offered. There were a lot of zeroes.
The dark spirits which had been held captive by the late Bill Cooper had proven they were nearly invulnerable to harm and were damn difficult to banish.  In my last encounter with them, two shadowrunners had been killed and one of Ratchet's SUV's had been partially melted.  They were not entities I ever wished to face again.
But there were a lot of zeroes.

September 13th, 2059
I had managed to negotiate an additional sum advanced to me for expenses.  Mr. Johnson's willingness to provide such told me that my worst fears were likely true, and this was a bug hunt for spirits which had always proven to be terrible foes.  I used part of the advanced funds to bring Angel in on the job.  She was pulling data on the grave robbing Mr. Johnson mentioned and managed to dig up the police report and subsequent autopsy of Bill Cooper.
The Clarkston police were keeping things about Bill Cooper very quiet.  They had concluded that the corpse had already undergone an autopsy and were investigating his case as a bizarre instance of grave robbing.  The police were thorough and had already pulled the report from the Las Vegas coroner's office about Mr. Cooper's first autopsy.  The Salish-Shidhe government had apparently filed the whole thing under the "really weird drek" category and had sent a forensic shaman down to Clarkston to gather more information.  That shaman was apparently still in the Clarkston-Lewiston area looking into the case and was working alongside two of the detectives assigned to the grave robbing cases.
"Drek," I swore. "Angel the tribal police have a helluva head start on this.  We need to get up there and take a peek."
"We may be too late," Angel replied. "I've set up to receive data from the local emergency and police services.  Their data security is contracted through Riverdyne out of Boise, so I hijacked some admin credentials to listen in.  Should hold up for a few more days, but we need to get out there and it's most of a day's drive or we can fly into Orofino and drive from there.  Maybe two hours that way, plus time through customs inspection either way."
"Smugglers?" I asked.
"Not likely.  Border is hot right now and the best t-bird pilots I know are laying low until the heat dies down."  Angel shook her head. "I think it's smarter to go in legally, play the part of the tourist-gambler, then split off and get the work done."
Angel turned and gave me a hard look. "The real problem is getting back-up.  You saw what two of those things could do, but you weren't awake when Cooper came calling.  Crank fired on him the whole time and he didn't blink.  Good chance people die if it is the same thing."
"I know."  I had given it a lot of thought. "I can think of a few people I'd like.  Crank comes to mind.  Gitti and Edgy Ed if they'll do it. Creep would do it I wave the nuyen at him and having a second magician on hand is a good idea.  I really want Adam if we can find him.  I think that spear of his can hurt these things and he's fast enough to avoid them.  So long as we can keep their numbers down we'll do fine."
"Ratchet?" Angel asked.
"I don't think so," I said. "too hard to get his gear across the border."
"And Adam's huge-ass spear won't be?" Angel asked.  Her eyebrow had arched up.
"I'll think of something," I said.  "I'm meeting with Crank in a couple of hours. If I can get him on the job, I think Ed and Gitti will be more comfortable with the idea. See if you can round up Adam and set up a meet."
"Sure thing. I'll get the ID's set up for you and Rose.  That girl is weird Tommy, where did you find her?"  Trust in the shadows is a rare commodity.  When you find someone who you can trust you have to question why you trust them.  If you find there is a real reason to trust the person, then you know you're probably being conned and you should check again.  Angel had been a solid chummer and we had worked on more runs than I cared to remember.  If I could trust another shadowrunner it would be Angel.
"I didn't find her, I summoned her." I saw the surprise hit Angel's face. "She's my ally spirit, my familiar.  She's also very real so don't treat like she isn't a person.  She's still learning things about interacting with people."
"Damn," Angel whispered. "You created her?"
"Some people would say that.  I prefer to think that I summoned her.  That I called her into this world.  She is powerful, I trust her, and she's my responsibility." I let that sink in then added, "Not many people know. I'd like to keep it that way."
"Sure," Angel answered. She snapped out of her surprise and turned to her cyberdeck, "Okay then, I'll get those ID's worked up so you two can travel and I'll put some things together for the rest of the potentials.  I'll complete the ID work ups once they're committed."
"Thanks Angel"
I met Crank two hours later.
"Are you fraggin' crazy, omae?!?" Crank was clearly not liking the idea.
"It's a job Crank.  Yeah, I know if it turns out to be these things it’s a bad scene, but it may just be ghouls.  Either way we investigate and get the data back to Mr. Johnson." I stated.
"Nah, omae, you don't believe that." Crank turned to me.  He was physically imposing enough that, though he rode around the Redmond Barrens on a small pink scooter adorned with flower stickers, people left him alone. "If it was ghouls you would just have me sit down with whoever else and we'd be talking about ghouls.  You brought up the possibility right off. You're trying to keep your conscious clean, man."
"You're probably right, Crank." I said. "But I'm going out there to take a look and I'd like you to have my back.  The money is nice, and it'll get you out of the 'plex for a bit."
"I don' know, omae" Crank started.
"Twenty thousand nuyen and I'll get the identity done up for you to use on the trip." I wanted Crank with me and I was prepared to pay for it.
"Money is no good if I'm dead," he responded.
"Thirty-five thousand, Crank.  I want you on this." I tried not to sound desperate.
"You cover the travel too?" Crank asked.
"Yeah, get you there and back too. You in?" I asked.
"I'm in.  You going to ask Gitti and Ed too?" Crank rose and stuck his hand out at me.
"Them, Creep and Adam." I answered. 
"Adam? The physad?" Crank's eyebrows quirked up.
"Yeah, the physad, carries a big spear." I replied. "Creep, short little weirdo, likes to burn drek down, smells like old burritos, magician … him too."
Crank nodded.  "You sonuvaslitch." Crank's hand snaked out as he reached for me.  My spell enhanced reflexes served me well as I was just able to avoid the large man's grasp.  "Tommy you bastard!  You think you're so smart?" He took another swing at me and I back pedaled to avoid having my cranium dented. "Same type of boots, same type gun, same runners, and you still order the same damn food. And who else orders fraggin' LEMONADE at the Brick Yard!?!?! Then, suddenly Aria is shacking up with you only a few weeks after you supposedly kick off! We had a funeral for you!" 
"Hey!  Hold up chummer!" I was made. I had been careless and small clues had been stacking up in front of Crank's eyes.  Others may not have seen it, but Crank was no one's fool. "I'm sorry Crank!  I didn't want the mob hunting after everyone!  I thought everyone would be safer if I bit the dust. It wasn't personal, omae."
"Damnit, Tommy!" Crank fumed. "We fought ghouls together, we fought fraggin' vampires together, and yes, we hit the mafia in the mouth, TOGETHER!  You don't bail on your chummers then dance around in front of them. What? You think I'm stupid because I'm a troll?  Who else buys two hundred nuyen drinks and dinner for Solomon and Sandy?  She cried when she heard you died, you fraggin' bastard!"  I was just able to keep out of the big man's reach as he jabbed and circled at me.  I was faster, but he was far better the fist-fighter.
"What? No magic to put me on my ass? Fraggin' coward!" Crank feinted with his left and I dodged right into a huge right-hand haymaker.  I saw stars as the big man's punch took me off my feet and sent me sailing five meters away.  I landed badly in the rubble of the old store we had chosen to meet in.  If not for the spells that made me stronger, tougher and faster, he might have knocked my head off with that punch.
My jaw hurt like hell, "I'm sorry Crank," I confessed. "I should have come clean. I thought I was doing what was right for everyone. Particularly, for Aria.  Could she live the rest of her life with the mob looking to ice her boyfriend and maybe take a bit of revenge on her too? What do you think they'd do with her?"  I made my way to my feet though I wobbled a bit.
Crank advanced on me, his face full of rage, "Fraggin' sunuvaslitch!" He grabbed me and hoisted me up into the air.  Rose materialized behind him in her full angelic form. "I missed you. You tiny little bastard."  Crank hugged me, and I thought I would likely die from being crushed against his armored vest.
"It's okay, don't hurt him Rose. It'll be okay." Rose shimmered and vanished back into astral space.
"If you ever do this to me again, Tommy. I'll finish this fight." Crank held me at arm's length for a moment then set me down. "Okay, I get it with the thing about Aria.  I won't say anything to Ed, Gitti or Adam.  Does Creep know?" 
"I haven't seen Creep since I 'died' so I don't see how he could." I thought about it a moment. "Damn, that means I really can't use him.  I would like to have another magician on the team, but I don't want Creep knowing I'm me."
"I can understand that. He gives me the bad kind of goosebumps." Crank said.
I nodded at that. "So, are you still good for the job?"
"Fifty thousand, because you're an asshole, you pay for ID and trip both ways. And," Crank waved a finger at me. "You don't die. I don't care if they shoot you until you sink, you don't die on me."
I couldn't help but smile as Crank quoted my own words back to me, "I like that plan. I'm excited about the whole 'not dying' thing. Let's do that." 
Crank smiled at the sound of his own words. "Damn Tommy, it is you." He frowned suddenly. "Which means those things are actually more badass than I thought."
"That's why you're getting fifty thousand to go take a walk with me up in Salish-Shidhe." I chided.
"Yeah," Crank sighed. "lucky me."
September 15th, 1400 hours (Seattle Metroplex local time)
I was waiting for the plane to begin boarding.  Crank was two rows over, wearing jeans and a loose-fitting t-shirt that read “I’m just here to play”.  He was reading a print copy of a book titled “Poker for People who shouldn’t gamble”.
Gitti set off the airport security alarm, but his fake ID held up against the security check. His cybernetic implants were listed as having been implanted for UCAS military service. I’ve since learned that several of his cybernetics actually were implanted during his service in the UCAS Army.  Security waved him on with one officer shaking his hand as they passed him through.
Angel came with us and made it through with nothing more than a pat down.
I had been shuffled off to an inspector who verified my identity, then opened his astral sight to inspect my aura.  He looked me over, asked some pointed questions about the spells I had permanently woven to me and checked against my records.  When he was satisfied, I made my way to the boarding area for our flight and sat myself where I could see Gitti, Crank, and Angel.  
Edgy Ed had been stopped by airport security when his cybernetic enhancements set off the security alert.  The identity Angel had constructed for him had permits for each of his enhancements and had even gone so far as to list his wired reflexes enhancements as a medically therapeutic device for his Parkinson’s disease.  I felt the tension rising until Ed was brought out to the boarding area, driven there in a small electric cart by a security supervisor. 
At 1430 hours the boarding attendants made the announcement “Flight 193 to Orofino will be boarding momentarily.”
It was a small commuter plane that routinely flew people out to the Nez Pierce Tribal Airport.  Most of the passengers were tourists with a few vacationing gamblers heading out to the casino.  I was one of the first to board, my seat being in the very rear of the aircraft. 
We took off from Sea-Tac at 1455, climbed quickly into the afternoon sky, and headed east.  I was walking through the customs checkpoint at the NPTA at 1600 hours. I stopped by the men’s room and was startled by my reflection.  It was strange seeing my face in the mirror. I had broken the mana loop that held my shape change spell in place, reverting to my true form.  It was the only means available to me to get through the inspection at the airport without flagging suspicion. It had been most of two years since I had worn my actual face in public. Angel was certain she had erased anything on the ‘trix with my old identity on it, but it was still weird to see ‘me’ again.  I washed up and headed out of the terminal and to my taxi.
The cab took me on the thirty-five minute trip to the Oro hotel in Lewiston.  I climbed out of the car, grabbed my bags and waited in line behind Crank to complete my final registration.  I checked in and made my way to my room.
I settled in as comfortably as I dared and waited.  I turned on the trid to a local news podcast and was entertained by an expose on the rise of gang violence on the anglo-reserve outside of Hatwai. The young man reporting claimed a rise in anglo incursions off the reservation and into tribal territory, with a corresponding increase in assaults, thefts, and vandalism in the area.  “When will our leaders address the problem of the anglo menace?” he said.  “It's becoming so bad that parents don’t dare let their children play outside after sundown.  These are tribal lands, not Seattle!” 

I turned off the trid as my pocket secretary started buzzing.  A message came through from Angel, "Clean of electronic eyes and ears, check magic?"

I fired my message back, "Give me a few minutes."

I checked the rooms we had and found no hint of astral surveillance.  Not even peeping watcher spirits. We met up in my room at 1900.

"When's Adam getting here?" Crank asked.

"He should be arriving in a few minutes." I replied.  "The spirit I tasked will bring him straight to us.  They're being careful not to be detected."  Rose was flying Adam across the border, but it was a long flight with a lot of opportunity to be spotted.  She was making the most of her powers to foil detection from the eyes and tech of the border patrol.

"Ballsy move," Ed said. "the gear better not get lost along the way."

"Don't sweat the drek you can't control, omae." Gitti replied. "We got in smoothly.  So long as we don't trip up we'll be out in a few days. In and out like smoke."

"That's the idea anyway," I added. "Angel is going to set up our communications, Adam is bringing our 'luggage', and the local police have a few days lead on us. I'm going to step outside for some air and walk Adam in.  Everyone sit tight."

I walked out of my room, through the hotel's small lobby, and out into air that smelled of pine.  Mountains surrounded the area and the sun had dipped below them casting a halo of light over the western mountain tops. I focused my concentration and watched through Rose's eyes.

She was flying just above the treetops.  Elk were running among the trees and birds took flight in the wake of her passing.  Ahead of her the Clearwater river flowed swiftly in its bed.  Lights were winking on in homes scattered across rolling hills and up mountain slopes.  It was a breathtaking vision of the end to a beautiful day.  I breathed deeply, taking in the clean air, and waited.

Rose and Adam were wrapped in an invisibility spell, one of the many spells Rose was adept at casting.  She landed lightly, shifting from her pegasus form to that of her pale skinned shadowrunner persona.  Two duffle bags shifted from her back to her hands, while Adam landed lightly on his feet.  "Follow me," I said.  I walked back in through the lobby, my invisible companions moving silently on my heels.  I keyed the door to my room, walked in and held the door open long enough for the two of them to move inside.

Rose released the invisibility spell once I had shut the door.

"Lady makes a helluva entrance," Gitti said.

"Gangs all here," Angel interrupted. "Time to go over things."

"Everyone check your gear.  Adam, did you have any problems?" I asked.

"First time flying on a pegasus, but other than that no hint of it.  The invisibility was a trip.  Felt like I was having that dream where you're flying."  Adam smiled and added. "I think I'd like to go again."

"You'll get your chance when we leave." I responded.

Crank was pulling equipment out of the duffle bags.  Sub-machine guns, pistols, two assault rifles, and Crank's 'good luck charm' came out of the first bag.  Boxes of ammunition, and a pink light machinegun with flower stickers all over it came out of the second bag.  A smattering of electronics and a small leather bag that held a selection of expendable spell foci came out of a small knapsack Adam carried.  He had carried his iron spear in his hands.

"Angel, can you give us the overview of what the police know?" I asked.

"Yeah, about that," Angel began, "It seems things have changed."  Angel used the room's trideo unit to display her findings. An image of a middle-aged Salish shaman sprang into view.  "This is Daniel Joseph Swiftwater, forensic shaman for the Salish-Shidhe tribal police forces.  Records indicate he is a shaman who follows the totem of Bear.  His military record is mostly deeply classified stuff.  What I can tell you is that he participated in joint tribal training program in the thirties where he went through the Wildcat training program."

"In other words, he's a badass shaman." Gitti said in a matter of fact tone.

"Yeah, he's a badass.  As of 0900 hours this morning he is also officially listed as 'missing' as are the two detectives he was with." She changed the display and the images of two Salish police detectives came up. "Detective Amanda Snow: age thirty-two. Ten years on the force with four years military service before that.  Single, no kids, and no reprimands on her record. Expert marksman and volunteers at a center for at-risk tribal kids.  Detective Dakota Grey Fox: Age twenty-four.  Four years military service and only two years on the police force.  His father is a middle manager with Gaeatronics, his mother is a tribal judge.  Seems that there may have been some politics in his rapid promotion to detective.  Mediocre marksmanship, no reprimands, but he's been taking every training opportunity that comes up.  Both detectives were assigned to assist Swiftwater.  They checked in this morning at 0800 but missed the 0900 check-in and there hasn't been any sign of them since."

"Either of the detectives magically active?" I asked.

"Not according to their records." Angel said.

"Where were they when they last check in?" Crank asked.

"Orofino," Angel said. "Nothing special about it.  Just reported location, and all clear. Seems they were picking up Swiftwater and having breakfast. Camera footage at the waffle joint had them there until 0845.  They headed out, crossed the river and headed west on old highway twelve. The police found a video file of them pulling off the road, and they found the vehicle at 1535 hours.  There hasn't been any sign of the detectives or Swiftwater."

"Anything the three of them have in common?" Ed asked.

Angel worked her deck for a moment, and data points begin to line up for the three missing police officers. "All three are of the Nimi'ipuu tribe.  What the French dubbed the "Nez Pierce".  All three have at least a minimum of military service time.  All three are single."  Angel shook her head.  "They are from different towns. All three list 'Catholic' as their religion. Nothing stands out to me."

"Worth a try," Ed said.

"No, it was a good idea Ed." I told him. "Anyone have anything else?"

"Maybe," Gitti looked thoughtful.  "Swiftwater had training as a Wildcat, you say? What if he went missing on purpose?  Wildcats aren't known for getting lost in the woods.  This seems to indicate he and two former military personnel disappeared off a logging road in a rural mountainous area.  That sounds like they wanted to be gone to me."

"Did the police who found the car take an inventory of it?" Crank asked.

"Yeah, they listed inventory as 'three disposable coffee cups, car keys, jumper cables, evidence kit (full), and one pack of gum'" Angel reported. "Mean anything?"

"Yeah, I think so." Crank said. He looked around the room. "You guys ever know a cop that didn't keep an extra weapon in the car?  Was there an inventory of gear when they signed the vehicle out?"

Angel worked at her cyberdeck a moment and the vehicle history came up. "Looks like inventory was checked when they signed it out." Angel had a surprised look on her face. "Two riot guns are listed as are two boxes of ammunition. How did you know?"

"Every police car I've ever been in had a shotgun in it." Crank responded.

"So, they took their guns and left their keys. I think you guys are onto something here." I looked to Adam.  "You've been pretty quiet.  Any thoughts?"

Adam shrugged, "I think the cops would have known these things too.  How many police do they have looking for them?"

"Near as I can tell, all of them that aren't on other calls.  Off-duty officers are looking as well." Angel reordered her own AR overlay for a moment. "Yeah, looks like every officer they have locally is on this."

Crank whistled, "Okay then. So, let me make sure I understand this. The cops that are investigating the same thing we came up here to look into have either gone missing or they are hiding.  Every cop within twenty miles that isn't on duty is looking for them."  Crank scratched his horn thoughtfully.

"We don't need to find the cops," Adam interjected. "If they knew something they found it out somewhere.  Can we retrace their steps?"

"Easily," Angel said. "In fact, the detective coordinating the search for them has been doing just that for the last few hours.  I'm cloning his data as it comes in.  This is all happening as we speak, so I don't have conclusions yet." A blue dot started flashing on the trideo display.  "Hold on. Something's happening." 

Angel accessed the blinking dot and a display window opened.  It was labeled 'Officer N. Pischell body cam', the time stamp showed it was a live feed. The officer's voice carried a definite tone of fear as she yelled into her mic, while the sound of her weapon punctuated her words, "... I SAY AGAIN, OFFICER DOWN!  SERGEANT TEGIR IS DEAD!  FIREARMS INEFFECTIVE.  I NEED HELP HERE! OFFICER DOWN!"  The lighting was low, but her body cam gave us all a first-person view of the horror the police officer was facing.  A pair of ancient corpses, their faces sunken to the bone, were advancing on her through the hail of bullets she sent through them.  A third corpse was holding the limp form of an armored police officer, his name stencil, "Tegir", was clearly visible. 

We watched in silence as officer Pischell continued to stream her losing battle.  She fell back and reloaded but the dead pursued her.  They moved surely, with dreadful purpose, even as she put a dozen bullets into them.  She turned to run, and we saw five more figures, each a corpse in various stages of advanced decay, coming toward her down the hillside.  "I'm surrounded!  Officer in distress!"  The body cam spun slowly, then she holstered her weapon and started to run. 

"Angel, can you find out what their response is?" I asked. 

"Yeah, put your AR on everyone this is going to be a lot of data."  Angel responded.

I pulled on my AR goggles and began receiving numerous feeds.  I moved the images to make more sense of them and felt a chill run down my spine.  Angel linked the officer's biometric sensors to their body cam feeds.  Dozens of display panes were floating around me.  Officers were running through the dark, calling out when they came in sight of one another.  I pulled up officer Pishell's feed.  She was climbing into a tree and had a panicked tremor in her voice. 

Gitti broke the silence in the room, "Angel, who is Sergeant Branigain?"

It took just a few seconds for Angel to respond, "Sergeant Allison Branigain, age twenty-eight, technology specialist first class.  She's a rigger. Why?"

"Her biometrics are flat, and she's looking up at the sky." Gitti responded.  "Yeah, she's dead."

I opened the display pane labeled 'Sgt. A. Branigain body cam', I could see stars starting to poke out of the night sky.  The sound of gunfire beat against the night.  The biometric sensor recorded that the officer's bio-signs had gone flat only a minute earlier.  "Angel, give me an area map from the gps data on the police feed.  I want all officers with active bio-signs color coded in blue, all of them with flat bio-signs color coded in red."  It took Angel two minutes of digital wizardry to produce the map I wanted.  Small icons appeared on a heavily wooded slope.  Officer Pischell was still in blue, but a handful of other officer icons had gone red. 

"Angel," I said. "Are the local police getting this feed?"

"No, this is running on a local network.  Looks like they set it up in a vehicle signed out to Branigain." Angel's voice took on a somber tone. "They're on their own."

"How far away are they?" I asked.

Angel zoomed out the map overlay. "They are just outside of Peck. So, about fifty-five kilometers."

"Get into that network and send the feed to the 911 dispatchers in the area.  They need to know what is going on."  I said.  I opened officer Pischell's feed and watched as she fired her heavy pistol down at a corpse that was climbing up the tree after her.  She screamed defiantly as the corpse slid down the tree for a full two meters before it arrested its fall.

"They're all going to die," Gitti said. 

"Better them than us," Ed responded.

I looked at Adam. His knuckles were white as he grasped the haft of his weapon focus.  I turned to look at Crank and saw his hand clutching the shotgun he lovingly referred to as his 'good luck charm'.  I saw Angel manipulating her cyberdeck, a grim expression on her face. 

Rose was watching me.  Her expression was unreadable. 

"Crank, Adam, you're with me.  Gitti and Ed, you hold here and protect Angel.  Angel keep our communications up and running and keep us up to speed on what is going on. Grab your gear, lock and load." I pulled my shoulder rig out of Adam's pack and shrugged into it.  I checked my sliver gun, thumbed the safety, and chambered a round.  "We're going to get confirmation on these things."

Adam and Crank both wore calm expressions.  Crank pulled on a heavy armored vest, a pair of armored forearm guards, and a pair of heavy leather gloves.  Adam was ready to go, relying on his form fitting body armor and enchanted spear.  We walked out with Rose, under a carefully woven invisibility spell, at 1954 hours.


Angel kept the feed streaming to my AR goggles.  There were moments when I would briefly lose the signal, but she managed to bounce the data off cellular data towers to keep me in the loop.  Rose had taken her Pegasus form and was flying me across the dark mountainous terrain at a terrifying pace, while Adam and Crank were both born aloft by air elementals I had bound to service. 

2004 Hours

"Tommy, Clearwater sheriff's office is responding to the 'officer down' report going out from the 911 dispatch.  Orofino police, Lewiston police, and the Nimi'ipuu tribal police outpost are rolling every officer they can.  Place is going to be crawling with cops very soon." Angel reported.

"Angel, is there any way you can give me an estimate on the number of walking corpses?" I asked.

"A lot?" she responded. "Give me a minute." 

"Best estimate will do," I said.

"Running a crude count and using a facial recognition algorithm to exclude duplication." A few minutes passed before she gave me the bad news. "From the images on the police body cameras I can confirm forty-one distinct targets."


"Okay, thanks Angel." I replied.

"Tommy, you should know that a few of the police, a few of the dead police, are moving around." Angel was full of bad news.

"Understood." I replied. "How many officers still alive on scene?"  I asked.

"I've got four with bio-signs.  Three running north back toward the highway, and then officer Pischell, still up her tree. She shot off most of the lower branches.  The dead are having a problem getting to her."  she replied.

"Okay, Angel we're going to audio only.  Keep us in the loop as to what is going on.  It's too dark to try to navigate with the AR in our field of vision.  Ed, Gitti, you two keep an eye on those police feeds.  Shout out if you see anything important."  I pulled down my AR goggles and keyed my mic. "Crank, Adam, we're going to confirm what these are. I'll need to get close enough to exam them from the astral which means I'll need you to keep them from killing me. Crank, cut their legs out from under them to slow them down. Adam, you'll need to use that spear to kill these things."

"What about the cop in the tree?" Crank asked.

"If we can, we'll get her out. ONLY, if we can." I replied."

"Copy that." Crank replied.

"Remember, don't let these things touch you, and stay together." I felt a knot forming in my gut as we careened through the night over darkened mountain slopes thick with pines.

2009 Hours

"Tommy, Orofino police have encountered the three survivors who ran off.  Tribal police will be arriving any moment, Lewiston officers are still behind you." Angel reported.  "I've got zombie cops heading north that will reach them in about five minutes.  I've also got a couple of zombie cops heading south that will be in Peck in about fifteen minutes."

"What's in Peck?" I asked.

"Families and pair of small churches.  Population is reported at three-hundred and five." Angel's voice took on a worried tone.  "Tommy if the people killed keep getting up this is going to go viral in very short order."

"Understood, keep that data streaming through to police. Is 'zombie cops' the term we're using?" I said.

"Only thing that came to mind," Angel replied.

"I like the term 'monsters'," Crank called out. "It sounds so much cooler to say, 'I fought monsters this weekend.'  If you say, 'I fought zombie cops' it sounds like you were playing video games."

"Monsters," Adam chimed in. "Yeah I like calling them 'monsters'. For the record, you aren't paying me enough for this.  If we do this again it's going to cost more."

"Yeah, what he said." Crank chimed in.

2014 Hours

"Orofino officers report opening fire on 'zombies'.  Tribal police are arriving on scene now." Angel paused for a moment. "They've got two shamans with them, Tommy.  Think that will be enough?"

"Depends on the shamans," I replied. "We're still a few minutes out.  Keep eyes on what happens with the police and keep us updated. Is there any type of emergency alert system locally?  Can we alert the folks in Peck?"

"Didn't think about that, I was watching the cameras." Angel confessed. "I'll see what I can do."

2018 Hours

"There is darkness below us," Rose whispered into my mind.

I opened my astral sight as saw patches of dark spirit energy moving about the floor of the vibrant forest.  A lone metahuman form, ten meters up a tree, was blazing bright with fear and anger.  "That would be officer Pischell." I replied.  I saw the muzzle flash and heard the report of a loud pistol discharging. 

"Tommy, might as well get her now before we land." Crank's voice rang in my ear.

I heard the echoes of distant gunfire to the south.  "I'll get her," I replied. "I'm going to put you two on top of that roadmaster.  It's probably what the police used for their communication set up. Stay on the roof and kill anything that comes crawling up."  My two air elementals, deposited Crank and Adam atop the armored police vehicle then vanished back into astral space.  "Rose, let's get in closer to that police officer. Let's see if we can get her out of here alive."

"She is police. You are outlaw. Will she not arrest you?" Rose brought us closer to the besieged officer.

"Hopefully, not." I replied. "I would like to think that if she's smart enough to get herself up here, she's smart enough to accept our help."  I extended my hand as we came within two meters of the armored figure. "Officer Pischell!" I shouted.  "Climb on we're getting you out of here."

I certainly didn't have to tell her twice.  Police officer Naomi Pishcell, full patrol armor and all, jumped from the tree and grabbed my outstretched hand.  She was larger than I, but the spells that enhanced my strength kept me from being unseated.  The officer pulled at me, planted her foot atop Rose's wing, then swung up behind me.

"Glad for the assist!" She called out. "Now let's get the fraggin' hell out of here!" 

"Can't just yet.  I've got chummers on your truck."  I pointed at Crank and Adam just in time to witness Crank open fire with his pink, floral, light machinegun.  "They're great guys to have around.  Couldn't wait to come help get you."

"You have crazy-ass chummers, anglo!" she yelled.

"Oh, you don't know the half of it!"  Rose swooped over the truck, shimmered for a moment as she changed to her shadowrunner persona's form, and lowered us down next to Adam and Crank.

"Oi!  We're in the drek now chummer!" Crank yelled out.  The bursts from his LMG rang out into the night.  "If these aren't the same things, then they are way too DAMN CLOSE TO IT!"

"These fraggers are tough as nails!" Adam called out. His spear was imbedded in the chest of one of the 'monsters'.  I saw the energies of the dark spirit seared by the magical weapon.  It was hurt badly. 

"Keep on them! Don't let up." I called out.

"I'm out of ammo!" I heard officer Pischell yell out. 

"Take mine!" Crank yelled out as he pushed his shotgun into the officer's hands. 

"I was hoping you'd say that." Pischell shouldered Cranks 'good luck charm' and added it's roar to the battle erupting around us.  "

Rose's voice whispered in my mind, "You are in great danger.  These are foul things, dark spirits who wish to eat you.  You should do violence. I will help."

"Rose, use your spells against these spirits, I'll focus on the corpses they are inhabiting.  Don't let them touch you or any of these living people." 

"I will not fail you," Rose raised both arms, and for the first time joined in battle. 

Astral space was already bright with the life energies of the forest about us.  The dark spirits riding the corpses of the dead were out of place, alien blotches, defiling the living Earth as they scampered about seeking souls to devour.  On that night the essence of Crank and police officer Naomi Pischell were bright against that tide of darkness rising up to devour us all.  Adam shone like a lighthouse beacon, brilliant against the soul devouring monsters he lashed out at.  But Rose, she shone like the midday sun.  Rose's first spell erupted among the dead, scorching the dark spirits as mana energies tore at their very being.  Her second spell erupted among them less than a second later rending dark spirits with raw magical energy.  A handful of the dead collapsed, the spirits riding them torn asunder in the torrent of spell energy.  I turned toward the front of the van and studied the dark spirits coming at us while gun fire shattered the night, Adam brought his enchanted weapon to down to rend the darkness, and my young Rose, summoned by my own will, released spells with terrifying ease. 

I fixed on the animated body of Sergeant Allison Branigain, formerly of the Lewiston police department.  The spirit had torn her soul apart and possessed her body. It was a living dark energy, unlike anything that should exist in our natural world.  I raised my hands and brought my will to bear against the dark spirit.  "Avante!  Avante, dark spirit!  By my will and power I rebuke you!  I banish you from this world never to return!" The spirit was powerful and struggled against my banishment. As the contest of wills began I knew, without doubt, that these were the same terrifying things I had escaped at Bill Cooper's home, and in the body of a dead chip head that tried to murder a trio of kids foolish enough to attempt a summoning ritual they hadn't understood.  

"Die mortal vessel, die." It uttered.  I felt it's magical might strike me as it tried to shatter my will.  My training with the exorcist paid off and I withstood the magical onslaught, though with considerable effort.  

"Avante, dark spirit! Begone, spawn of the pit!  I cast you out from this world, never to return!" I raised by hands and worked my will and magic against the spirit. "Avente demon, BEGONE!!"  My will and magic slammed into the spirit inhabiting Sergeant Branigain's corpse, tearing it from the body it had stolen even while it clawed at empty space in a vain attempt to hold onto this world.  The dark spirit screamed a litany of curses, then faded and vanished, driven back into whatever metaplanar hellhole had spawned it.  The banishment was difficult, but I weathered it far better than I had in my previous efforts against these creatures. 

The vehicle was surrounded by nearly two dozen hungry spirits.  They tried to climb up to us only to be blown off by shotgun fire or impaled by Adam's spear.  Crank walked fire from the LMG across the swarming monsters, blowing holes through lifeless flesh, and slowing them down.  Several fell as they lost legs, then began to drag themselves toward the truck.  

"Is there a plan?" Crank called out.  

"Yeah, we're putting these things down." I called back.  "IGNIS MAGICAE!"  I yelled out as I pointed at the face of skeletal figure climbing up the front of the van.  A ribbon of white-hot flame lashed out, burning through bone and fragments of rotting clothing.  Bones splintered from super-heating and caught fire.  The spirit within clung fiercely to the disintegrating remains. "AVANTE! AVANTE DARK SPIRIT!" I threw my will and power against the monstrous spirit and felt it's power fail against the onslaught.  The damaged body was falling apart and with it, the spirit's hold on to our world.  "BEGONE AND NEVER RETURN!" The spirit screamed as it vanished into the metaplanar depths. 

Spells lit the astral landscape as Rose slung devastating balls of mana with no apparent effort. I looked about and found that suddenly only six of the fearsome monsters remained.  They surged against the driver's side of the vehicle, rocking it perilously.  

"I'm out!" officer Pischell called out.  

"Rose, Adam, with me." I called out.  I took two short steps, shaking out a handful of magical dust as I went.  Rose cast another spell, erupting mana among the monstrous spirits.  Adam thrust downward with his spear, rending a corpse and carving the possessing spirit in two.  I threw out the dust and put the full force of my magic behind the powerball spell.  Bones splintered and the road shattered under the force of the spell.  "Now Rose!"

Everything went white as my astral sight bore witness to the spell Rose released upon the shattered corpses.  Mana energies flared up, scouring the world of the dark spirits.  If they screamed I didn't hear it.  I forced my astral sight closed and felt the beginning of a headache coming on. "Angel, sit rep."

"Clearwater sheriff deputies, Orofino, and Nimi'ipuu tribal police are falling back.  They report three fatalities, and both shamans are incapacitated.  Lewiston police are about ten minutes out, they've got two swat trained combat mages with them. The constable in Peck has sounded the alarm and people are falling back to the two churches.  Feed is spotty but the handful that are heading that way are about ten minutes out."  Angel reported.  "I'm running an intercept on your faces to remove it from the feed, and from the on-board memory caches of body cameras."

"Good work Angel," I said.  "I confirm its as bad as we feared." I turned to battered police officer, "Officer Pischell, I would like to recommend that you take this vehicle and link up with your fellow officers.  Just run the dead over and keep going."

"Who the hell are you guys?" Pischell asked.  

"Tourists, ma'am" Crank answered. "We were just on our way to the casino to play some cards."

"That's right officer," Adam confirmed. "He was going gambling, and I'm just out for some late-night spear fishing."

"Spear fishing season is in the winter," officer Pischell said dryly.  "But I'll let you off with a warning. I'll radio in, so they don't shoot us up when we get there."

"You do that, but we're heading to Peck. A handful of those monsters are heading that way.  We can't let them spread any further." I said to Pischell.  

Lewiston police officer Naomi Pischell tossed Crank's shotgun back to him. "Thanks for that!"

"Thanks for giving it back," Crank responded.  

Pischell locked down the roadmaster and turned back to the north.  We watched as the police vehicle disappeared into the night.  The smell of cordite was heavy in the air, mixing with the smells of pine and wet soil.  

"Reloading," Crank said.  

"We really going to do this?" Adam asked.

"Yes, we are," I said.

"If you ever ask me to take another job against these things I'm asking for a helluva lot more," Adam said. 

"Look at it this way," I replied. "You're testing yourself against a terrifying foe, in the dark of night, in foreign territory, with only a spear and a few chummers. It'll make for a great story."

"Only if we live to tell it," Crank said quietly.

"Well Crank, we're all there is for those folks in Peck.  It's a little town but there are more than three hundred people who could be murdered and turned into those monsters. I don't know about you chummer, but I would rather fight five or six of these things than three hundred." I said.

"Didn't say I wasn't going," Crank replied. "Just saying, don't die."

"Okay, we're flying that way.  I'm with Rose, we'll hit them from the air and hit them hard.  Then Adam finishes them with his spear and Crank you keep the dead from overrunning him.  Keeping us alive is primary goal, saving civilians is only other goal." I said. 

Rose shimmered into her pegasus form, her thought-voice sounded in my mind. "I will do violence against the unnatural things. You will help me."

"You are correct, Rose. I will help you and you will help me." I climbed up on the spirit-pegasus's back. 

"Is this why you summoned me?" Rose asked.

"I won't lie to you Rose. Yes, this is one reason I summoned you. Sometimes I fight things that are very dangerous." I replied. "I also summoned you to help my power grow and to help me to become the best wizard I can be. But now that you're here, I also want to be a good influence on you.  You've been brought into this world by me and you'll be here long after I'm dead.  I hope you'll have a great life here, and that you'll remember me fondly as the years pass." 

"I think I understand. Tonight, we fight 'monsters', but I am more than a weapon. Is that right?" she asked.  

I hadn't expected this conversation to come up as we hurtled toward a battle with dangerous spirits. "Yes Rose, but you are MUCH more than a weapon."

The air spirits lifted Crank and Adam and the three of us flew south to the small community of Peck.


September 15th, 2059   

2034 hours 

We flew following the road into Peck.  The restless dead had beat us there.  

"I've got half a dozen 'monsters' trying to beat their way into a church.  I've tapped into the interior camera system and the place if full. Has to be at least a hundred people in there." Angel reported.  "I've got a dozen dead locals in the streets.  Looks like they tried to face them with hunting rifles."

"Those are potential hostiles too. We'll hit those as we fly over." I opened my astral sight as a few lights came into view ahead.  There were bodies lying in an intersection, rifles close to hand.  I could see darkness welling up within the corpses. "Damn, the dead are about to get up. Game faces on everyone."

"Tommy, 911 dispatch is getting calls from Peck. Dispatch is telling them police are en route." Angel paused for a tick. "That's not going to happen though. Police have fallen back to highway twelve.  They haven't been able to stop these things."

"Pischell make it back to them yet?" I asked.

"Not yet."

"Copy that. Worry about them if we survive this. Grab every camera you can and keep an eye out.  Turn on every exterior light you can." I said.  I saw dark spirits rising as they animated the corpses they had stolen.  

I shook out another handful of magical dust and threw it toward the bodies.  My powerball spell broke bones and shattered the pavement.  Rose's manaball spell flashed and the spirits were burned away, the empty corpses collapsed.

I heard a shotgun go off in the distance. "Angel was that from one of the churches?"

"Negative. I'm checking but I don't see anything yet." she replied. 

"First church, let's go."  I called out. 

The spirits placed Crank and Adam fifty meters from the first church.  Six corpses were beating at the doors.  I heard the sounds of people singing hymns flowing from the structure.  

"Rose, let's stick to the mana-based spells. I don't want to damage the building with so many people inside." I told her.

"There is a beautiful energy to that place.  We will not let it be defiled." Rose shimmered, and I found myself being lowered to the ground by the pale skinned form of her shadowrunner persona.  She raised her hands and ribbons of mana lashed out at the monsters beating at the church. She strode purposefully forward, slinging spells with an ease any mortal spell caster would envy.  I hurried to catch up with her and sent a sizzling bolt of mana energy into the furthest monster on the right. 

The six corpses turned and started toward us.

"Crank hold your fire, civilians in the building." I sent another bolt of mana energy into the same monster, staggering it.  Louder I cried out, "Hey, Drekheads! No one attacks a church while we're around!"  

Rose cast a pair of mana spells in rapid succession and astral space erupted with raging magic.  Four of the corpses collapsed while the last two pushed on toward Rose and I.  I began my next spell, but Adam leaped ahead of me, his spear piercing the corpse and shattering the dark spirit inhabiting it.  It screamed in an alien language, the sound of which made my stomach want to revolt, and vanished from our world.  

Rose ducked under a punch thrown by the last monster, then punched through the corpse, grabbing the inhabiting spirit and tearing it from the bones it clung to.  The dark spirit struggled desperately to cling to the remnants of the corpse, but Rose ripped at its essence, tearing it apart mercilessly.  

I heard a pair of shotgun blasts from the northwest.  

"Not me," Crank called out.

"Someone else is out tonight," Adam said. 

"Get close chummers, let's be smart about this." I said.  I wove an invisibility spell around us then we went looking for the source of the gunfire. 

We were less than fifty meters from the church parking lot when Detective Amanda Snow appeared from between two small homes.  She was limping and turned to fire her riot shotgun back the way she came.  The spell that gifted me with the ability to see in the dark, just as an elf can, revealed the corpse of detective Dakota Grey Fox. A dark spirit drove the detective's body forward and it was gaining ground on the limping detective Snow.  

"First cop is clean, second is a monster. Put him down." I called out as I let the invisibility spell unravel.

"This will slow his ass down," Crank declared as he brought his LMG up and loosed a burst of fire that cut the corpse across the knees. The corpse fell and started pulling itself towards us. 

"Detective Snow," I called out.  "We're here to help." 

"Get out of here!" She yelled back.  "It's coming, you need to run!"  Her aura was full of fear and concern.  She was injured, with pain flaring in her hip and right knee. "Go! Run!"

Adam surged forward and buried his spear into the corpse of the late detective Dakota Grey Fox.  The spirit inhabiting him shrieked and faded into nothingness.  "That's how it's done, omae!" Adam shouted. He had a broad smile on his face, his aura brimming with excitement and pride.  

That's when the first spell hit him.  

Magical energy flared all around Adam.  Blood shot from his nose and his eyes turned red as capillaries burst.  He collapsed unceremoniously to the ground, his aura still full of magical power, but weaker for his injuries. 

"What the fraggin' hell!" Crank screamed. 

"Take cover!" I yelled.  "Rose where are those spells coming from?" I ducked behind a parked car, praying I had broken my adversary's line of sight to me.  Detective Snow collapsed a meter from me, her aura burned away from a spell that snuffed out her life.  

"I'll find the source," Rose said.

"Be careful." I cautioned. I saw the dark tendrils of spirit energy latch onto detective Snow's corpse. "AVANTE! AVANTE DARK SPIRIT!" The spirit was still trying to gain a foothold in our world as my banishment began.  Without inhabiting the corpse fully, it was far easier to hurl the dark spirit from our world.

"What happened to Adam?" I heard Crank whisper through my ear piece.

"Down but not dead yet." I replied. "One tick." I lay down and looked under the car. I saw Adam laying in the street, his spear still clutched in his hands.  I sent out a command to the air spirit that had been carrying him around, releasing it from all other services it owed me to save Adam's life (I hoped).  

Fog drifted across the street, covering Adam and hiding him from view.  The spirit manifested, scooped him and his spear up, then flew off toward Lewiston and our hotel. "Adam is in route to base. Get the medkit and keep an eye on him."

"Copy that, Tommy." Angel called out.  

"It is here," Rose whispered in my mind. I focused on her and saw a patch of darkness. A mystic black hole wearing the corpse of a man. "It's hungry and is looking for you."

"Get back here and stay out of its sight." I commanded. Rose appeared next to me in a blink. "Angel, find every camera on this block.  Crank, he's behind the house on the left, put some suppression fire down that way, I'm going around the other side."

Crank's LMG shattered the night as I sprinted across the front of the home to the opposite side.  I peeked around the back and saw the dead body of forensic shaman Swiftwater.  The most powerful dark spirit I had yet encountered inhabited his corpse. The monster turned fearlessly into the bullet storm Crank was sending at him and laughed. 

"Now Rose!"  Our spells flashed across the back yard and slammed into the dark spirit.  "Pour it on Crank!" I yelled.

Rose didn't pause a tick.  Spell energy flashed from her into the spirit. We had surprised it, getting in our magical sucker punch when it wasn't looking.  That it had withstood the onslaught of those first two spells was terrifying. It was pushing itself up as Rose rained down a storm of devastating magical energy and Crank worked his way through his weapon's ammo belt.  I shook out the last of my magical dust and hit the monster with the best powerbolt spell I could muster.  My vision swam as mana erupted and sparks danced along my arms.  The spell slammed into what had once been shaman Swiftwater. I heard bones shatter, saw blood gush out, and both of the corpse's eyes exploded.  I landed on my ass, hard. Staring in disbelief as the monster, no longer able to stand, began crawling toward me. 

I saw the dark spirit stare at me through the astral space between us. It weathered Rose's barrage of lethal spell energies, gaining ground half a meter at a time. "I'll eat your soul too, little magician." The thought voice invaded my mind and rang against the inside of my skull. 

My nose gushed blood, as I raised my left hand in a warding gesture. My vision was blurring, Rose was screaming words I can only imagine she heard on the trid (or maybe in the Brick Yard), and Crank came around the corner of the house with his 'good luck charm' in hand.

Crank shouldered the shotgun, took aim, and opened fire.  Pieces of the body began flying off. "Rose, destroy the body it's inhabiting, we can beat him baby-girl." I pushed myself to my feet, batting a bolt of mana energy away as the monster sought to kill me. I called out to the astral plane and felt the spirit I needed respond.  "You aren't eating anyone else tonight."  I snapped at the corpse-thing.

Another spell flashed out at me. It hammered at my mystical defenses, driving me to my knees even though I was ready for it.  The monster was more powerful than I was.  So, I cheated.  "Now!" I thought.  An earth elemental manifested, engulfing the corpse and breaking line of sight.

"Rose, I need help." I said.  She was suddenly beside me, hands on my arm as she began a healing spell.  My nose stopped bleeding, and I instantly felt much better.

"Reloading," Crank called out.

"Spirit will be gone in a moment," I said. "Let's finish this piece of drek!"

"I will lend you my strength," Rose said.

"Thank you. This should only take a moment." I replied.  

The earth elemental trembled and shook, grinding at the corpse stolen by the monstrous dark spirit.  I raised my arms, readying myself.  "Now." I commanded.

The earth elemental disappeared, and Crank opened fire again.  Swiftwater's corpse was a mangled ruined mess the dark spirit clung to.  I felt Rose's power added to my own as I called out, "AVANTE SPIRIT! AVANTE CREATURE OF THE PIT! I REBUKE YOU! BEGONE FROM THIS WORLD NEVER TO RETURN!" the contest of wills was joined. It felt like I was trying to lift a lake.  The spirit's power was terrible, I felt my banishment pushing its energies away only to be replaced by a seemingly infinite tide of power behind it.

"DIE MORTAL VESSEL. DIE AND WELCOME THE HUNGER. WE WILL THRIVE IN YOUR BONES AND DRINK YOUR SOUL." The force of the thing hit me like a solid right, snapping my head back.  My nose was bleeding again, even as Rose added her power to my own to keep me standing.  The roar of Crank's shotgun continued as the large troll kept blasting bits of the corpse apart.

"BEGONE FELL SPIRIT! BEGONE UNCLEAN THING! I FORBID YOU STAY IN OUR WORLD! I CAST YOU FAR FROM THE SOULS YOU SEEK TO FEAST UPON! I DENY YOU! AVANTE SPIRIT! " I stood as I felt my strength fighting to return. I pulled the small flask from my hip pocket and poured out water over my head and chest.  The water from the Blood Falls glowed under the mana from Rose's spell working to heal me.

The spirit struggled to fight against my banishment. Clawing at the flesh that anchored it to the world. "You cannot defeat me! I will eat you all!"

"AVANTE SPIRIT! BEGONE FROM THIS PLACE, NEVER TO RETURN. YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE!" I screamed at the unholy thing before me, our battle raging as we pit our wills against each other.  "BACK! BACK FROM WHENCE YOU CAME!"

The spirit struggled, slipping from the body it had stolen which lay as a mangled and bloodied mess in the grass.  It spat at me as it faded, sending a bolt of sizzling magical energy headlong into me.  There wasn't enough time for me to raise a defense. The spell hit me, blasting at my life-force. I screamed and collapsed even as I heard the monster howl as it vanished from Earth.



Rose sterilized every drop of my blood I left in Peck.

Crank and I flew back to the hotel under cover of invisibility, while Angel updated us on the horror story that unfolded with the remaining monsters that pursued the police.  Lewiston police officer Naomi Pischell ran over the walking dead with the roadmaster crushing the corpses and weakening the spirits' hold on our world.  The Lewiston officers who showed up included two swat trained combat mages who made short work of the weakened spirits.  I'm given to understand that weapon foci were involved.

We had to get the hell out of Dodge, and fast.  We each checked out and headed back to the airport in Orofino.  The road to Peck was closed to all traffic as we passed.  At the airport, security was noticeably enhanced.  I saw Pischell watching people enter, her face was full of fatigue but she kept her eyes open and watching the dozen or so travelers who came through.  She saw us. Of that I have no doubt.  If she recognized us she didn't let on that she did, and we were allowed to board our plane and fly home.

On September 21st, 2059 the Lewiston and Orofino police departments announced that several officers were killed in the line of duty when toxic spirits, summoned by persons unknown, had attacked the small town of Peck.  The officers were buried with full honors and their tombs warded in recognition of their service.  Officer Naomi Pischell was credited for saving several lives with her fast and unconventional thinking, promoted to sergeant, and awarded the golden eagle citation.

Back in Seattle, I paid everyone and spent the rest of September recovering from mana burns and the after effects of a spell that would have killed me if Rose hadn't been working so hard to keep me alive.  I took her out for ice cream every day for the rest of the month.

Mr. Johnson made good on the money.  I could confirm that the spirits were of the same type, and I gave him a full data dump on the spirit that stole Swiftwater's body.  I told him in person, and handed him a printed copy of my recollections of the evening (names of shadowrunners involved were redacted, of course).

Angel sent the data she harvested from the detective's effort to retrace Swiftwater's work.  What she found made my blood run cold.  There was a hunter's cabin in the woods north of Peck called "Carver's Roost".  It seems that Swiftwater used bits of clothing from one of the vandalized graves in a detection ritual that lead him to Carver's Roost, which was just a mile from the vehicle he, Snow, and Grey Fox abandoned. Whatever they found at Carver's Roost left Swiftwater and Grey Fox dead and their bodies possessed.  However detective Snow managed to escape was lost forever.  Angel pulled a satellite image of the cabin, and found that it had burned down as had most of the mountain is rested upon.

I shapechanged back to my pale elf persona, though Aria says I made some changes. I didn't, I swear.  The job in Peck made me a lot of money, but I think my real treasure from that experience was knowing that I had helped save a lot of lives.  I wish I could say it was the last time I fought such spirits, or that they were the most powerful I would every confront.  But I can't, and they weren't.  There are fearsome things in the shadows, chummers. 

Be ready.


From the Author:

I hope you have enjoyed this latest entry in the stories about Tommy.  As mentioned above I do not own Shadowrun.  These stories are derived from game play and do not infringe on copyright.  

I am very grateful to you for taking the time to read my fiction.  I hope you will share this story with others, and I hope you'll share your thoughts about this and other stories here in the comments below.

I develop, write, and publish role-playing game materials (for other rpg systems) and release them under my company Sinopa Publishing LLC.  You can find my work on  

In the coming months I'll be releasing a number of projects on KickStarter.  I invite you to follow me there, and on my social media channels to stay up to date on these projects.  You can also check out my blog "My New Adventure" where I talk about my experiences as a new publisher.  I share my mistakes (there have been several), my ideas (good and bad), and generally try to make it an honest and useful documentation of my experiences.  I hope you enjoy it.

W.S. "Sam" Quinton  


  1. Hello, been reading these for a while, interesting and fun. But if you refer back to an earlier event, you might want to include a link to that store in the notes.

    Also, what were these spirits? Something unofficial?

  2. Seaofstarsrpg:

    Hey, thanks for reading these stories!

    Okay, so let me ask you this as I have only been blogging for about a year and I always look for feedback: How would you recommend putting the link to the previous story? Would you recommend just putting it as a footnote or nesting it after the event is referenced?

    These spirits are a reference to shedim. They didn't officially appear until later in the canon timeline but there were references to rumors of them appearing earlier that are mentioned in a few published books. We weren't up to that point in the timeline when they came out, but we put them into the campaign a little early and wrote it off as some of the rumored earlier appearances.

    We had a devil of a time with shedim when we encountered them and they always proved to be very difficult challenges. As Tommy was very often the only spell caster on the team it was tough enough with one shedim on the field but when others came up it was really bad.

    Thanks for your comment, I hope you continue to enjoy these stories. I'll be adding more to the stories about Shade later this year as well (I'm just swamped with working on my rpg publishing projects at the moment so one fanfic blog is what I can currently manage).

    W.S. "Sam" Quinton


Thank you for your comment chummer.