Monday, March 5, 2018

In the Shadows of Dead Men

"The shadows hide the illusion of civility in men and allow the predator within to come out to play..." Norman Calloway, AKA the Lynnwood strangler, physical adept.  His last words before execution.

February 15th, 2059

1055 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time:

Aria was coming over for lunch.  I had exhausted my culinary skills by boiling water and had resorted to following an instructional video in order to prepare a passable meal.  As embarrassing as it may be, I discovered that "folding" an egg, isn't what it sounds like.

{Hey, I ate out of stuffer shacks most of my pre-teen and teen years, then at the Brick Yard whenever I could afford to. I couldn't cook. ~ T}

{Still can't ~ Angel}

I used a lot of packaged mixes for the lunch I was 'preparing'.  Then set my timers and ran outside to catch my ride.  I hadn't downgraded the car service so I had another EuroWestwind.  The price was a sinful indulgence, but it was such a nice car!  I picked up Aria and we made it back to my place in a little under an hour.

Lunch was edible, not fantastic, and I had a terrific time just sitting at the little table in my kitchen talking and eating.  I gave Aria a tour of the house, and even took her down to the lab though I told her not to touch anything (some of those materials are poisonous and you have to handle them delicately).  She saw the circle I had sketched on the floor and asked what it was for.  I told it was from an astral journey I went on that didn't work out the way I expected and that I had been lazy and hadn't cleaned it up yet.  She shook her head at me, "Shame on you." She had a pretty smile.

We spent a couple of hours at my place after lunch.  I had two pair of AR goggles so we spent an hour playing around in the new MMORPG I had picked up.  We were terrible, but we laughed and had fun, and died over and over again.  Aria had to be at work at the Brick Yard at 1800 so I hit the car service app and we rode back to her place.  She let me in while she went in the back to change.  I had a horrible suspicion that I was probably under surveillance, so I sat on the couch and didn't touch anything.  Aria came out dressed for work, a big smile on her face.

"To bad we can't take the Westwind to Redmond," she said.

"I never do. But I can certainly take you the way I usually go," I smiled.

We flew down to Redmond, and invisibility spell wrapped around us (can't have gangers shooting at you as you fly overhead now, can we).  We landed quietly in the parking lot next to the Brick Yard, and Aria was ecstatic. "I REALLY could get used to that Tommy Gun.  You're spoiling me."

"Well, I try to be fun. I'd be a poor date if I didn't try, now wouldn't I?" I said.  She kissed me, then dashed around to the front door. I walked after her and came into full view of Little Rickie.  He opened the door for Aria, who hugged him around his waist (I'm telling you he was the largest person I ever met) before dashing inside.

"Come here," Little Rickie pointed at me and I felt a sudden need to comply.  I walked over and looked up at the huge man with a feeble smile.  "I've known that girl her entire life.  Don't hurt her."

"I won't." I said.  Rickie always intimidated me without really trying.  Now he held a faint menace in his voice and I felt my heart rate speed up.  I nodded at the large man, "Honest I won't."

Little Rickie looked down at me, "I like you, and I know who you are.  Don't make me hurt you Tommy." I left the Brick Yard and flew home.  I had some things to do before my meeting with Angel.


I needed a paying "job". Angel and I had worked well together in the past.  I went to my basement laboratory, cleaned up the circle and purified the area. I opened myself to view the astral space about my lab as I placed my incense burner beneath the beckoning ball of light. The area pulsed with its power.

I carefully drew out the boundary of my summoning circle, adding symbols of elemental significance as I went. The circle complete, I retrieved a bundle of sage and a dozen incense blocks.  I thought about the smoke for a moment, then opened the narrow window that looked out onto an empty flower bed along the back wall of my home.  I grabbed a dozen candles I had picked up in Boston the year prior.  Each had been hand made by a Wiccan enchanter whom I knew did outstanding work.  Each was a form of expendable foci specifically created for summoning work.  My hands were full of the tools I would use as I stepped over the boundary circle and began arranging things for the working to come.

With magic, anything worth doing is worth doing correctly.  You don't meet many magicians who are slapdash with their work.  Reckless summoning can produce uncontrolled spirits in close proximity to you.  I took my time arranging my summoning circle.  Once I was certain that my symbols, foci, and geometry were correct I lit the candles, incense and sage. The spirit I was calling was the most powerful I had ever attempted to summon.  I seized on the power of the pulsing ball of light and intoned the summoning.  Hours passed as I spoke the words of calling and binding.  I was sweating from the heat and the effort, my sight drifting from the hazy smoke-filled basement to the electrified energy of the adjacent astral plane.  The room was alive with magical energies, the ball of light glaringly bright, and my summoning circle was drawing that power in.

Shortly after dawn, the spirit appeared.  My binding held but I thanked the spirit for answering my call and for the services it would provide.  {Magicians take note: I've made it a point to treat spirits with respect.  While you may not agree, I believe they are intelligent and aware beings, not merely constructs of mana. ~ T}

I locked the basement door behind me, then strode into my kitchen for a bite before bed.  I was sticky with sweat and my nose had been bleeding from the smoke and the strain of the forcing so much magical energy through myself.  My pocket secretary was on my kitchen table and was flashing a message alert.  "meeting moved to 0800, don't be late" it came from Angel's number.  That was less than an hour away.  I called her.

"Hey chummer" Angel answered. "You lose your phone?"

"No Angel, I'm good, I was working." I replied. "I missed a call from you.  What's up?"

"Yeah, meeting moved to 0800." she said.


"Things are moving faster than I expected. Biz is booming you might say."  She paused a tic. "I'm going to jump, but I'll see you soon, right?"

"Yeah, 0800 hours.  See you then." I replied.  I looked at my chronometer.  It read 0704.

February 16th, 2059

0750 hours:  It wasn't like Angel to be vague.  I thought maybe she hadn't been alone, or maybe her line wasn't as secure as she liked.  Both thoughts made me question coming to the meeting, but I showed up anyway.  Angel and I had seen a lot of shadows together and had traded favors over the years.  The least I could do was hear her out. I ordered coffee and waited.

She arrived just before 0800, walked straight to my table and sat down. "Did you order anything yet?"  She asked.

"Not yet."

"Well let’s get some food and you can take a look at this." She opened her satchel {Purse, Tommy, it’s called a purse ~ Angel} ... and pulled out an old book.  The cover was battered, its spine cracked, and it smelled of musty paper.  I took the book and glanced at the cover. "Eldritch Secrets of the Aztecs" was proclaimed across the cover.  I opened it and glanced at the copyright date: 1985.

"It’s a book." I said.  I didn't recognize the author’s name, but the publishing company was the same as I had seen in the old copy of "Eldritch Secrets of the Babylonians".  I had a bad feeling about what was to come.  "I would have to read over it to know more.  What can you tell me?"

"Not much.  What can you tell me about blood magic?" Angel asked.  She may as well have slapped me.

"I don't know anything about it in practice.  I know the premise is that the magician can use the blood of a sacrificial victim to help power magic.  I don't know why it works or how to do it.  It’s illegal as all hell, and some seriously dark stuff."  I responded.  Blood magic is a taboo topic in magic circles.  It’s like talking about cannibalism with your cook, you just don't do it.

"Do you think that blood magic could bring the dead back to life?" Angel asked.  I started shaking my head but then I stopped as I took a moment to think about it.

"First instinct is to say 'no', but I think the better answer is that I don't know.  I want to say 'no', but there are too many instances of people coming back from the dead or seeming to come back from the dead to wholly discount it. Just read the ancient legends or a few religious texts and you'll see what I mean."  I took a drink of my coffee and looked her in the eye. "Angel there is also another possibility.  Someone may have died and then a spirit taken up habitation in the body and animated it.  It’s not quite resurrection, but it is something I've seen before."

Angel fixed me with a calculating look. "You've seen that before?" she asked.

"Oh yes." I answered. "Once, and there was a book similar to this one at the scene.  It was full of nonsense but there was what looked like a summoning ritual within.  The spirit animated a chip head's corpse then tossed me around a bit."  I started thumbing through the book.

"What happened to the spirit?" Angel was leaning in closer.

I kept my voice low and watched for the waitress. "It kicked my ass until I managed to banish it.  Its probably in whatever metaplanar hellhole it came from. I've heard some rumors of necromancers who animate corpses with minor spirits, but this was something else.  It was predatory, and powerful."

Angel's face was becoming pale.  I looked at her, waiting for her to speak.  Our waitress came by and took my order.  Angel just asked for coffee.

"You look worried." I said. "What’s going on, Angel?"

"Not here." she said.

We ate our breakfast in silence.


We took another trip to a hotel, this time the Belmont downtown. I wove an invisibility spell around myself before entering.  We took the elevator up to the ninth floor. I followed Angel to the room and when the door opened for her I slipped in. I opened myself to perceive the astral space there, and promptly shooed off a trio of watcher spirits. Angel pronounced the room 'clear' of electronic whatsits five minutes later.  I took a seat at the small table in the corner and let my invisibility spell unravel.

"Okay chummer, what is going on?" I asked.

"Mr. Johnson hired me to look into something." She said. "Seems a certain someone made himself very unpopular down in Las Vegas.  Ended up getting shot to death outside a condemned building on the outskirts of town.  Nothing really amazing until you fast forward three days and the same guy is up and walking around back in Seattle like nothing happened to him."

"Someone botched the hit, or it was faked maybe?" I asked.

"I thought so too, but I pulled the coroner's report and watched the autopsy.  I compared the face using the best facial recognition I can lay hands on.  I had a guy get fingerprints, then had a girl get a set as well.  They match up to the dead guy. " She took a drink of her coffee.

"Have you checked to see if the guy had a twin? Or maybe it’s some sort of vat job?" I was reaching but I wanted to know what she had looked at.

"No twins, and twin’s fingerprints don't match anyway.  I ran medical records and cross checked his information against every database I can access, no biotech jobs on the guy."  She looked up at me and her eyes narrowed. "I ran a check against him through every facial recognition database I could access.  I pulled up some footage that had him walking out the morgue.  He was wearing a lab coat and nothing else. The coroner had some kind of nervous breakdown and has been confined to an institution.  I'm telling you, this guy had no vitals according to the systems monitoring the autopsy. The good doctor cut him open and checked him out, then the guy just gets up and walks out.  Without his liver, heart, and several other organs I might add."  Angel's face flushed.

"Was he implanted?  Maybe he's some kind of bot?"  I earned a reproachful look from that question.

"No." She said.  "Could someone use a spell to make the corpse walk around?"

"I think it's certainly possible.  I don't know why you would though.  You could just shape change into the dead guy or use an illusion. I think that would be far simpler and have fewer potential complications.  Why would anyone want to be this guy? What is so special about him?" I asked.

"Nothing at all.  Just a wage slave at the department of sanitation. He pushes papers around to help the department claim a larger payroll budget." Angel shook her head. "Honestly, I don't even know what Johnson's angle is, and that bothers me.  I can't put my finger on Mr. Johnson at all.  Don't know who he works for, who he is, or anything.  It’s like he just materialized.  Credsticks came back clean but I lost the money trail in the Caymen Islands."

"Mr. Johnson has you look into a random slub who happened to get killed and then suddenly get better?"  I shook my head. "There is something important we don't know.  What's this guy been doing since he got up and started walking around?"

"He goes to work, then he goes home. Sometime in the night he slips out, and my camera drone doesn't see him leave."  Angel said.  "His spending has gone down.  He hasn't been buying food, his electric and water usage are far lower than his average, his refrigeration unit has been signaling that he needs to throw out the milk but he hasn't.  Could he be a vampire?"

I thought about that, then got up and paced around the room.  "I suppose he could be.  Any dead people popping up, or an increase in the number of missing persons?" I asked.

Angel shook her head, "None reported. Crime rates have dipped a bit since he got back but he hasn't been back long enough for me to exclude weather or other influences."

"Back to the book," I opened it and started glancing through the pages. "How does it fit in?"

"I'm not sure.  Its the only thing I've found that he has purchased that seemed interesting." She replied.

I found a section of the book that possessed diagrams and other illustrations.  They were crude, and mostly nonsense but one looked familiar to me. "You say he bought this?"

"Yep, picked it up in a lore store in Renton." She thought for a moment. "He didn't buy anything else there though."

I looked over the diagram and summoning ritual described in the book. It was nearly identical to the one I saw in Eldritch Secrets of the Babylonians. "I would like to compare this to another book I have." I said. "Can I keep it?"

"Sure." Angel replied. "I don't know why he bothered buying that old copy.  You can get it in electronic format for ten nuyen."

I shook my head at that. "I've got a bad feeling about this Angel. Any chance you can dig up records on the authors of this book and a book titled 'Eldritch Secrets of the Babylonians'?  And while you're at it, can you check with the records for that publishing company and see what other books they released? "

"Going back to 1985?  Probably not much there.  There wasn't a matrix back then. Hell computers back then had less processing power than my sunglasses," she paused for just a tic. "I'll run some searches and see what shakes out.  Anything you're looking for particularly?"

I opened the page that held the ritual and showed it to Angel. "I'm looking for books that have this in it."

Angel looked at the imagery, wrinkled her nose, and said "What the drek is that supposed to be?"

"It’s a trap, Angel."

"A trap.  The book is a trap?"  She asked.

"Yes. A deadly one." I saw Angel looking at me. "You've got a mystery. What do you need from me."

"I need a magician to field the hard questions. I need your eyes open to see what I can't, and I need you around to help keep me alive. And..." she paused just a tic, " I need to know what this guy is if I want to get paid."  She sat down across from me, dropping into the seat. "I planted a watcher drone in the target's doss.  He walks around the place.  He lies down on the bed but I don't think he sleeps. His eyes stay open." She paused for a moment and pulled up an image file.  It was an image of what looked like a storage room. Several corpses in various stages of decomposition lay on the floor. "He's been stealing bodies. I've managed to find reports of graves being robbed in several nearby cemeteries. What do you make of that?"

"I don't know. But I don't think it could possibly be anything good." I said. "What's this guy's name?"

"Bill Cooper."

"Well then, I think it’s time I start looking into Mr. Cooper, or whatever makes his corpse run around." I said grimly.  I had a few thoughts on what might be going on, and none of them were pleasant.  I wasn't looking for a rematch against whatever kind of spirit it was I had seen animate the chip head, and I sincerely hoped I was wrong about the ritual in the book.

Angel and I came to an agreement and I was on the job.  {Thank you Tommy and I'm sorry. ~ Angel}


When you are dealing with an unknown type of spirit, or really any type of unknown that may be dangerous, being cautious is advised.  I had a nasty feeling the walking dead guy was in some way related to the spirit that had animated the chip head months prior.  I didn't imagine it was the same type of creature as its behavior was less overt, but the walking dead guy theme was familiar to both. This guy wasn't walking around trying to attack people, not that I knew of anyway.  The behavior was different.  The guy/thing/whatever was going to work, no one seemed to notice much different about him.  He went home and seemed to go through some of the motions of living.  That he wasn't eating was a giveaway that something was different, to say the least.  He also vanished periodically.  I thought he may be using magic, a simple invisibility spell perhaps, to leave the house when he went grave robbing.  Whatever it was, it was smart enough to avoid detection, but not savvy enough to realize it was under surveillance.

Angel had been watching this 'guy' for a few days.  That her Mr. Johnson wanted the mystery unraveled begged a LOT of questions itself.  Angel provided me with the home address of the target, which was in a rough part of Kirkland, a couple kilometers from the barricade at Redmond.  My car service sent a lightly armored SUV, and I took a ride by the residence.  I paid careful attention to the area, watching for natural features and watching the astral plane for anything I could use as a landmark.  I found a small lake south of NE 69th street where it met 140th avenue. There were a pair of spirits playing there, and the water was pristine.  The target's doss was just over Old Redmond Way to the south, and a couple of blocks over.

The neighborhoods in Kirkland had definitely seen better days. The houses had fallen into disrepair and the streets were potholed.  I pulled into a cul de sac and saw Cooper's house blending in nicely with all the others.  It was run down, the vegetation around it was unkempt, and the bars on the windows were corroded. The house to the right had crime scene tape hanging across it's door.

I didn't see anyone on the street, so I opened myself to look at the astral space around me.  There were dim echoes of children laughing while they played, mixed with a eddy of worry and grief as homes were lost and families dispersed.  People had grown up here only to lose everything.  The neighborhood was dying and only the dim echoes of past happiness brought any color to the astral space about it.  The vegetation around all of the houses struggled to grow in chemically tainted soil.  The old homes, grey and lifeless, were pale shadows of their vibrant past.  It was a sad place, not yet overtaken by the violence and despair that seized Redmond.

I shook my head and looked around for anyone that might be watching.  The area was empty.  The SUV parked and awaited my instructions.  I lay down in seat and slipped from my body and into astral space.  I drifted out of the insubstantial shell of the SUV and across the street.  I drifted around the outside of Cooper's house, into the back and found a robust old tree thriving in a patch of struggling grasses.  The ruins of a tree house perched precariously among its branches, the walls still holding the dim echoes of happy children.  I drifted up among the branches and examined the tree house, for no reason other than to soothe my own curiosity.  There were warm, happy feelings lingering there.  It must have been a place of great joy for some children once.  The feelings imprinted would have been very strong to have lingered so long. I smiled at the thought and turned to the house.

The house was unremarkable for the neighborhood and just as bland and insubstantial as the houses around it.  The faint echoes in the street and in the yards around the area just didn't cling to the houses themselves. I drifted along, looking for any hint of danger, making two circuits around the house.  I looked and saw my body suspended in the ghostly form of the vehicle. No one else was around.  There weren't any animals either, which was wrong.  Stray animals love old suburbs, and the fact that none were here was telling.  Something would have to scare them off or drive them away from the area.  "No getting around it, I suppose" I told myself.  Then I began to probe the house, looking for wards.

I regretted it immediately.

I had reached out, feeling for the telltale pulse of shaped and ordered mana.  Instead my hand pushed through the phantom walls of the house, and suddenly felt as if I was being pulled in.  I tried to pull away but my arm sank deeper, and I was being drawn in.  I struggled and fought with everything I could muster, and the house sucked me in anyway.  I vanished without a sound, swallowed by the old home while body lay locked in the SUV across the street.


{Angel here ~ before we get back to Tommy's tale of this fragged up mess, I want to tell you what happened while Tommy was 'away'}

I left my meeting with Tommy firmly convinced we were dealing with a vampire.  Vampires are frightening, and if you don't think so you need to have your head examined.  I don't pretend to understand all the ins and out of magic and the awakened critters of the world. I DO understand that vampires eat people, and that is something I do not want to have happen to me. I was a bit concerned for the well-being of myself and those people I had brought into this fragged up cluster of a job.  Honestly, if the payday hadn't been so promising I would have said 'helz no!' and that be that.  But no, everyone has a price point where you are willing to compromise and subsume your sense of self-preservation in the interest of a big pile of nuyen.  And that, everyone, is how I came to get myself into this mess.

Tommy told me he was going to check things out at Cooper's place.  I didn't think anything of it beyond "cool". Then I went about scooting my narrow hoop to my hideaway for more remote recon.  I had access to Conner's pocket secretary, and it was reporting in real time with his location.  At that time, Bill Cooper was at work, seemingly slaving away.  I tapped in and started listening in on his day, became very bored with the silence, and tasked a smart frame to monitor communications. That done, I started a script to compile data that was still coming across from the various feelers I had sniffing for data on Cooper. They were pulling everything from old emails and primary school functions, to ex-girlfriends and known associates.  I had all of his financial data, but it wasn't worth much.

My little bots were coming up with nothing on Mr. Johnson, he was a non-entity as far as the matrix was concerned.

I had skipped breakfast, and the coffee I had with Tommy was making my stomach hurt, so I chucked a burrito in the 'wave and stood fidgeting for almost a minute until the hot bean goodness was ready. The burrito went onto a plate, I grabbed an Ice Cola, and went back to my work room.  I put on my AR goggles so I could eat and still watch what was happening.  I reordered the screens while my burrito cooled, placing the drone feed that showed Tommy's SUV where it pulled up in front of Cooper's house in the second row of images. I had the Department of Sanitation internal security feed running along the top of my field of vision, and I could see Cooper as he sat, dutifully clicking away at his station.  He worked for few minutes then suddenly looked up, stood, and started walking. He went out of the cube farm, down the hall, and walked out to the security desk.  He badged out, walked out to the Metro stop, sat and waited for the bus. I watched and ate my burrito. It was a weird break in his normal routine.

I watched for about twenty minutes, glancing over pages and checking for motion alerts, sound clips, anything interesting.  I looked at the SUV Tommy had ridden over there in, and I realized he had been there a while.  I pulled the feed and checked his arrival time.  The SUV had been sitting in front of the house for twenty-five minutes. Cooper had bolted from work, five minutes after Tommy got there.

I plugged my deck and slipped into the matrix.  I had Tommy's SUV pegged already so I piggy-backed the signal and beamed down to the vehicle.  I pulled the internal security feed up and saw Tommy laying in the seat, his breathing slow and shallow.  Internal sensors didn't show anything odd, but I didn't like it.  Creep never took this long on any of his little astral hikes, and I hadn't known Tommy to take that long either.  I slaved the internal cameras and had them beam a live stream to my host.

A minute later I opened my eyes and toggled my phone.  My conference call opened in my AR view and five, of the six person team, floated into view (I access the cameras, but Crank's phone had muck all over his camera). "Mage is on site checking the house, he's not responding though.  Everyone roll on target."  I had a series of affirmative responses. "I'm switching over to the AR and live feeds now.  Let’s go see what happened to my spell slinger."

I watched as Bill Cooper, or rather what had once been Bill Cooper, got on the Metro bus.


{Now, back to Tommy ~ Angel}

I was pulled through the wall and into darkness. It was cold in there, vast and empty.  I couldn't see but I felt, things. There were things out there in the darkness.  Things I couldn't see or hear or smell, but my intuition told me they were there. I was in a vast floating emptiness.  I have never felt so alone as I did then.

I tried to move about but seemed to go nowhere. I risked casting a smell, and felt it sucked out into the vast emptiness.  Whatever that prison was, it held me fast with nothing to act against, nowhere to turn to, and nothing to run to.  I fought the panic I was feeling.  I was terrified and I thought I may be dead.  I don't know how long I flailed about in that dark space.  It seemed like ages passed.  I finally got a grip on myself and thought about my situation.  That's when the voices started.

I couldn't make out what they were saying, but they sounded hostile, hungry, and alien.  I called out, hoping my spirits would hear me.  I felt my connection to them tremble weakly, and the voices rose in volume as if to shout down my call.  The voices were painful on my senses and seemed to assault my very soul.

The air elemental I had summoned that morning was the first to arrive.  I felt it rather than saw it, and its 'voice' reach me. "Why have you brought me to this place?" It demanded.

"I'm trapped! Help me escape!" I was desperate and hoped against hope that I could get away.

"As you wish," the spirit answered.  It vanished a moment later.  I couldn't feel it nearby.

Light suddenly appeared before me.  It seemed blinding after being trapped in such darkness for so long.  I flew toward the light and erupted in the storage room of the house as my astral-self poured from a corpse on the floor.  Voices muttered all around me.

"You will die here." the air elemental said.

I watched as the fingers of the long dead began to move, their presence in the astral dark and solid.  Eyes began to open, and I glimpsed hungry dark spirits within. I tried to fly through the wall and bounced off with a terrific amount of pain rewarding my efforts. The house's wards held me like a prison.  Four of the corpses started to rise, the dark spirits within staring hungrily at me.

I dashed past the rising corpses and hoped against hope that I was wrong in thinking that I was seeing more of them moving.  I soared up the stairway from the storage room and into a kitchen area.  It was empty.  I tried to push through the walls and was met with solid resistance.  I looked back, and saw the possessed corpses clumsily climbing the stairs behind me.

I moved through the old house, testing myself against every wall, window, and door. The wards were simply to powerful.  There wasn't an escape.  The first four walking corpses gained the kitchen and followed me.  I found the stairs to the second floor and dashed up. I checked every wall and window, to no avail.  I was trapped and there was seemingly no escape.


{Me again ~ Angel}

I had the team standing by a few miles away from Cooper's house, but it still took a while to get there. With Cooper on the Metro he would take about forty minutes to get home, so the race was on.  I ran the numbers and found that he was likely to arrive right on top of us.  That just wouldn't do.

I plugged in and slipped into the matrix.

One thing you should always do in this kind of situation, where you're about to be discovered, is to slow other people down.  Hacking the Metro bus lines is hard because they've been hacked so much their security is actually pretty good.  The same cannot be said for the traffic signal system.  I slipped in to the ground traffic control host and flagged half a dozen lights as malfunctioning.  The lights transitioned to blinking red, and traffic along the bus route suddenly slowed.

I smiled to myself in juvenile joy, then pulled the feed from my AR stream into my host network. Being free from your meat body to work in your own host is very liberating. But it also means I saw what happened without being able to close my eyes to it.

"I'm pulling up now," Crank called over his mic. Gitti, Edgy Ed, Mic, Ratchet, and Bunny were right behind him in one of Ratchet's armored SUV's.  Ratchet was streaming a drone feed to me from a lighter-than-air micro blimp he had floating over the area.  With the camera drone inside the house, and the drones Ratchet and I had floating in the area.  We had a fantastic view of what went down.


{Back to Tommy, again ~ Angel}

{I think they get it~ T}

I floated at the top of the stairs watching as corpses came climbing after me.  I risked spell casting in astral space and sent a bolt of sizzling mana into the lead corpse.  It hissed at me.  I was wracked with pain from the effort of the casting. "This is not good." I said to no one in particular.

I fled down the hall and into a small room on the east side of the house.  Sunlight poured through the window casting a wane illumination in the astral space.  I dashed into the room and backed up to one side of the window.  I didn't have to wait long before the dead came for me.

The first one turned at the door and started walking toward me.  His fellows behind him, took a more direct route and simple tore through the wall. I watched as one of the corpses strode into the sunlight, and nothing happened.  My faint hope that the purifying light of the sun might harm them as it does vampires vanished.

I muttered a prayer, then began my fight against the spirit animated corpses.

I'm not bad in astral fight.  I hit the first spirit and it rocked back and fell flat on its back.  This afforded me a fantastic view of not just the three who were original pursuing me, but the other three coming up behind them.  The three in the room lurched and reached for me, but I was just able to avoid their grasp.  I was running out of space in the small room through, so I floated up to the ceiling and withdrew from their reach.  I made it to the hall and saw it was full of the dead.  They reached for me, grasping and clawing.  I drifted, dodged and slipped into the master bedroom at the end of the hall.  The room I had seen Cooper pretend to sleep in.

The air spirit stayed with me, gliding along in astral space, hugging the ceiling like a small cloud trapped indoors.  "They will not stop." It said.  I contemplated the spirit and promised to investigate what it might know at some future point. If I survived this nightmare that is.

"Nowhere left to run to.  We fight them here." I said.  "As service to me, I ask that you fight them.  I will fight as well."  The spirit's eyes flashed like lightning.

The corpses came shambling in.  Dark, hungry spirits driving the bodies towards me.  The air spirit surged forward, ripping and tearing.  I saw a severed arm knock over a lamp, and a thought occurred to me.  As one of the corpses reached for me, I took its wrist and dragged at the spirit with all I had, turning into a hip throw Pepper had taught me years ago.

The spirit, anchored to the corpse, flew toward the window.  In the physical world, the corpse hit the old glass and knocked the window, frame and all out into the front yard.  The corpse plummeted to the ground.

I soared out the opening, no longer hindered by the strongest wards I had ever encountered, and into the daylight. Several people were closing on the house.  I turned and yelled. "Come with me" to the spirit, then dashed back to my waiting body.

I opened my eyes and instantly felt horrible.  My muscled ached, I tasted blood, and there was a smell of burned hair.  The tips of my fingers tingled as I fumbled for the door release.  I heard guns firing as I opened the door.  I leaned out and fell onto the street.

The steady tempo of fire picked up as each of the people in the street started firing.  I looked and saw Crank, Gitti, and Edgy Ed shooting at a walking corpse.  A runner I recognized from The Brick Yard was shooting as was a woman I had never seen before.  I heard a high-pitched whine and saw a roto-drone lift off from the back of one of Ratchet's SUV's.  It climbed into the sky and the light machine gun slung under its air frame began to cycle up to speed.

I pushed myself up and turned on my mic.  "Angel, its bad! We need to leave."

"Who 'dis?" Crank asked.

"Negative, magic.  Primary target is en route as well.  ETA five minutes.  We take him here."  Angel responded.

"Damnit, Angel we DON'T take him here!  I don't know what this thing is but it's stronger than I imagined.  We need to LEAVE!" I yelled into my mic.  The corpse kept coming toward us, the bullets seemingly doing it no harm as they blew through the body.  I watched as a second corpse fell from the second-floor window to land with a loud 'thud' in the grass.

"This isn't working!" Gitti yelled. The first corpse was walking toward him with no regard to the damage it was receiving.  "What do we do?"

"Angel, we have to leave!"  I called out.  I looked at the closing corpse and saw the second one rising.  "Ratchet!  Keep fire on that window! Don't let the rest of them out!"

"Who the frag?" Ratchet started.

Angel interrupted, "DO IT Ratchet!"

The roto-drone opened fire, pouring hot death into corpses that refused to die again.  "Sit rep." Angel called out.

"We can't kill them.  They're possessed by spirits that are using them like puppets." I said. I sent a bolt of mana into the approaching corpse.  It staggered but kept coming. Crank pulled out his good luck charm and blew the corpse in half at the waist.  The runner I recognized but couldn't put a name to, holstered his pistol then two cyber spurs popped with a 'snick' sound from the implants behind his wrists.  The woman kept shooting at the second corpse, hot brass from the roto-drone rained down on them both.  "We need to go Angel. If we stay here, we die."

"Running low on one, spinning up number two now." Ratchet's voice came out over my earpiece. I saw the second roto-drone launch from the back of the SUV. 

"Angel" Crank sounded odd. "are you seeing this?" 

The first corpse was still coming, crawling toward Crank.  It's hips and legs lay still in the sickly grass, while the arms dragged the rest of it forward. 

"I see it Crank." Angel replied. "Stay on target. Weapons free people."

Crank took two steps toward the first corpse, leveled his assault shotgun, and blew the it's head apart.  It collapsed with a shudder.  There was a pause in the roaring fire from the roto-drone as it dipped and swooped back toward the SUV.  The second drone took it's place, its light machine gun spinning up to speed as Ratchet turned it to face the gaping hole in the house where the window once stood.

I heard a man scream and a woman yell "Mickey!"

The woman checked her fire.  The man she had been fighting alongside had buried his cyber spurs into the chest of the second corpse. A dead hand grasped his arm and he screamed in pain.  I looked into the astral and saw his aura being drained away, consumed by the dark spirit possessing the corpse.  It was over in a moment, his body held numerous cybernetic enhancements and what was left of his essence, the remnants of his soul, were greedily devoured.  He died in seconds.

To my astral sight the dark spirit seemed no different. The bright living energy of the aura simply vanished into darkness.  The possessed corpse released the arm and the dead runner fell to the ground.  Crank shouldered his shotgun, taking aim. The woman resumed firing.  I saw movement in the periphery of my vision and looked down at a headless corpse pulling its way toward Crank. 

"Crank, look out!" I yelled. 

Crank looked back and saw the headless corpse crawling toward him. "What the frag! Stay dead 'ya slotting worm farm." He brought his good luck charm down and emptied its magazine into the corpse.  He blew the torso to bits.  Chunks of the body lay scattered about that patch of grass.  I watched as the dark spirit possessing the body coalesced into its severed arm.  Crank jogged over to me.  "Reloading." I heard him echo, both from above me and in my ear piece.

"What the frag is going on Angel?" Edgy Ed called out. 

"Angel, how do we get these things to stay dead?" Gitti yelled out.

Both street samurai were afraid.  I could see it in their aura's and I didn't blame them. I was scared myself.  Crank's aura was tense, and the woman's aura was bright with rage and sorrow.  Whatever was happening it was personal to her.  Her pistol clicked on empty.  She ejected the magazine and was slapping another home when the second corpse reached her.  It was over in seconds.  Her lifeless body collapsed, her essence, her very soul, drained away from her.  The second corpse turned toward Crank and I and kept coming. Its stride a little longer, it's gate a bit swifter. 

"Crank, keep him off of us for a minute." I yelled.  Crank answered by firing his assault shotgun into the oncoming monster. I walked over to the crawling arm, raised my arm and called out as loudly and boldly as I could "Avante!  Avante dark spirit!  I rebuke and cast you out!"  The spirit fought against the banishment and my nose started bleeding again.  "Go from this place and never return!"  I saw the dark spirit struggle to hold on to the piece of dead flesh, clawing to hold on.  I watched as it lost our struggle of wills, slipping from the dead flesh with a scream.  It vanished from the astral plane, its scream echoing across the street where once the echoes of children's laughter reigned.  My head spun for a moment, the strain of the banishment was terrible.  "I should have slept before I came." I told myself.

"Running low." Crank cried. 

"Gitti, Ed, cover Crank!" Angel ordered. The two street samurai hurried to Crank’s side.

"This reminds me of that time in the Willows," Gitti said grimly. His submachine gun stitched bullets up the oncoming corpse.

"Yeah, wish we had Suzy with us." Ed replied. "Save a round for me, Gitti.  Don't let this bastard get me."

I saw the oncoming corpse wade through the hail of bullets from the two samurai.  The dark spirit was riding the corpse closer to us one step at a time.

"A little help, magic guy!" Crank called out. 

The spirit was strong.  It had fed upon the souls of two shadowrunners and seemed hungry for more.  The corpse was infused with it's darkness. We needed time, and a way out.  I pointed to the monster and loosed a minor bit of magic.  The corpse's feet left the ground as it floated a meter into the ground.

"Floating drone one.  Number two is half empty, someone figure something out quick, there's a room full of dead people just dying to get out." Ratchet's voice held a hint of worry I had rarely heard from the rigger. 

"Angel, how long until Cooper is home?" I asked.

"ETA is three minutes for his bus to hit the stop." She replied.

"Crank, can you help Ratchet cover the window?" I asked.  Crank looked down at me and nodded. 

"You two, cover Ratchet.  If Cooper gets here we're going to need a way out and Ratchet is our best bet."  I turned to the floating corpse and sent out a mental call.  A moment later my fire elemental manifested.  It's fiery form scorching the pavement and leaving the asphalt bubbling.  The corpse babbled something in a language I didn't recognize.  Then the elemental leapt upon the corpse, burning fiercely.  The stench was terrible.  I watched as dark spirit tried to fight the elemental. It raged as the elemental burned at its shell.  The corpse was shedding ash as it's flesh was burned away. 

Crank's good luck charm roared as he added his gunfire to the light machineguns of the drones.  I tried to shut out the noise as I raised my hands toward the burning corpse.  "Avante!" I called.  "Avante dark spirit!  I banish and rebuke you! Go from this place and never return!"  I tasted blood and I felt the wind forced from my lungs as the battle of wills was joined.  The monster was terribly powerful and fought back. Its charred lips muttered that strange language as it struggled against the banishment.  The fire elemental continued to burn and char at the dead flesh the spirit desperately clung to.

The dark spirit slipped from the immolated corpse, clawing at the blazing flesh as it faded from my sight screaming as it was forced into whatever metaplanar hellhole had spawned it.  My vision blurred and I fell against the SUV, then all went black.


I woke up to a classic rock stream.  Rammstein  was playing and I was briefly visited by a memory of my father going through his father's music library.  I tried to push myself up, but my hands didn't want to cooperate.  I opened my eyes and found myself in a dimly lit room.  I didn't recognize where I was. 

I was hurt, that much I was aware of.  Over my years in the shadows I had seen my share of injuries and the body burning touch of using to much magic. What I felt was a combo platter of mana burn and the pain of the soul that has been abused in astral combat, banishments or exorcisms.  My fingers were numb and my fingernails were singed black at the tips. I took a deep breath and felt an ache through my ribs and abdomen.  I smelled blood and had a bitter copper taste in my mouth. 

The door opened and a small shape crept through. "Tommy? Are you awake?" Angel asked.

"Oi, chummer" I said.  *cough* "I'm here."

The light came on in blazing fury.  I squeezed my eyes shut against the painful glare. "Sorry Tommy." Angel said. "Can you move?"

"Not yet." I replied.

"Well we have to go.  Sorry chummer but we've got a meet with Mr. Johnson and he wants to hear your side of things. I'll catch you up to speed as we go." Angel had Crank come get me.  He picked me up easily and carried me to a badly charred SUV and lay me in the back.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Target showed up as we were loading up to leave.  Fireball hit us as were pulling away." Crank said.

"How bad?" I asked.

"Mickey and Bunny are dead." Crank explained. "We grabbed their bodies before we bolted.  You're SUV got hit as it was pulling away.  Angel had set it to return to its garage, but last time I saw it was driving away and was on fire."

"Perfect, my insurance rates are going to go up," I muttered.

I rode in the back of the SUV, looking out the back window at a night sky.  I didn't know how long I had been unconscious or even what day it was.  We crossed into Lynnwood and pulled into well-lit storage facility.  A few minutes later we were backing in to large unit.

"He's here." Angel's voice in my earpiece chirped. 

Minutes passed, then the back hatched opened. I saw a midnight blue suit and a black dress gradually being revealed as the hatch raised.  A shock ran through me as my former client Samantha Goode came into view and a jolt of fear hit me as I saw Mr. Johnson's face.  His salt and pepper hair, blue grey eyes, and strong broad features were just as I remembered.  His piercing gaze locked onto me and I suddenly felt like a sample under a microscope.  Samantha's eyes brushed over me and I felt that I was well and truly at their mercy if things went badly. 

"Mr. Johnson, Ms. Goode, pleasure to meet you," I offered. 

"A pleasure to see you again 'Charles'," Mr. Johnson offered. "I am glad to hear that word of your 'retirement' was incorrect.  You seem to have ran afoul of something.  Care to tell me what happened?"

I told them of the odd ward on the house that sucked me in, about being trapped in a corpse and how I had a spirit free me.  I told them of the dark spirits animating the dead, and I told them of the soul devouring death that had met two shadowrunners.  "I never even got line of sight on Cooper," I said. "but my guess is he is a pack leader of some kind or whatever passes for a hierarchy among these spirits.  Either that or he has found a way to bind some horrifically powerful spirits of a type I have never heard described by anyone else."

"Likely because those magicians who have encountered them in this age have died in the metaplane upon which they found them."  Mr. Johnson said. "Any recommendations on how to deal with them?"

"Run away?" I said.  That was met with a darkly disapproving look. "If not, then call in an air strike on the target, incendiaries, burn the structure down and do as much damage to the bodies as you can.  Follow up with a team of crack exorcists and combat magicians.  Use drone support to slow down the bodies long enough for the magicians to banish the weakest ones.  With that, you'll still see losses from those who don't or won't run away."

"What of Cooper?" Samantha Goode asked.

"Trick him into a heavily warded cell of some kind. Seal him in, brick it up and then ward the bricks.  Pour concrete over the whole thing, then ward the concrete.  Build a parking garage over it and call it a day.  If that isn't to your liking, hit him with everything you can bring to bear.  Keep on him and have as many magicians as you can recruit to lay into him with spells and spirits and dog pile on him in the astral plane."  My voice was cracking, but Samantha seemed to get my point.  "Don't underestimate anyone who can keep those things penned up in a house."

"Rest well," Samantha said. "you've had a busy day."

Mr. Johnson nodded to someone I couldn't see, then the hatch closed. 



Bill Cooper vanished.  His house burned down, as did three of the neighboring houses.  Witnesses would have reported gunfire and explosions, if there had been any witnesses.  Of Cooper him/itself there was no trace.  That bothered the hell out of me.  Angel found that his accounts had been emptied, but there didn't seem to be any trace of him. 

Angel made good on our deal and I spent the next three weeks recovering.  Aria spent almost every day at my place and helped me get through the roughest part of my recovery.  She never asked what happened, but there was worry in her eyes.  I promised to take her somewhere nice once I had recovered.  

I messaged Sheila and told her I wasn't available for a while.  I needed my recovery time and I had some things I needed to do.  She left me a number I could reach her at when I was well, and she messaged me once a week to check on me (though she was asking when Aria left to get to work).

In March I took Aria to Portland for a weekend getaway.  We took in the sights, ate at nice places and had a good time.  When we got back I arranged for some private instruction from an exorcist I knew from church and spent the rest of the March and all of April learning all I could about banishment and exorcisms. 

As May began I came into possession of a copy of "Angels, demons, servitors, and spirits".  I spent May studying and practicing the techniques described within.  I was able to complete my initiatory ordeal, and my magic grew stronger. I took notes on traits and formula described in that tome, as I began to contemplate the summoning of an ally spirit.

2059 was an interesting year for me.  Let’s go get a beer and some wings.  There is so much more that went down in '59, it will take a while to cover them all.


From the Author:

Thank you for reading my fan fiction.  I hope you have enjoyed this story.  If you liked this story please do share it with others.

I also develop, write and publish rpg materials (for other game systems).  You can find my publications on under my publishing company, Sinopa Publishing.  I crowdfund my projects to pay for art and printing. You can find keep up with my releases by following me on KickStarter. 

I'm presently working on fulfillment for Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock, an rpg adventure.  I'll be crowdfunding my next book "The Steel Road", a sourcebook of exotic weapons from around the world, this summer. Look for it as a Pathfinder compatible or 5th edition open game license edition. 

I hope you'll join me for the next entry in Tommy's story.

W.S. Quinton
 Dedicated to:  Chris Marrero


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