Tuesday, March 13, 2018

That first big score: The Geo-Dynamics Job

I knew a lot of colorful characters in my time in the shadows and beyond.  I've worked with philosopher-warrior-poets, wannabes, cold and calculating professionals, functional sociopaths, an assortment of people with varying degrees of mental illness, several angry idealists, greedy profiteers, a few genuine anarchists, desperate criminals, and a few people who were just lost and who found a life in the shadows.  I don't know where I fall on that range. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just deluding myself into believing I'm a decent human being and other times I feel pretty righteous.  Then there are the nights I wake up from sleep walking, standing at my sink, trying to wash blood off my hands that only exists in my memories and haunts my dreams.  Step into the shadows at your own risk, chummer.  You'll never be the same afterwards.

June 3rd, 2059 
I was twenty years old.

My pocket secretary began its angry buzzing at 0404. I recognized the number as the one Sheila X had given me. "Good morning." I muttered.

"Care to meet over lunch?" Sheila asked. "I'm buying."
I rubbed my sleepy eyes and stretched. "Sure, what time?"


"I'll be there." I said.  Sheila hung up without another word.
I took things easy that morning.  I had my breakfast, then a long hot bath. With hours to go before I needed to be at the Brick Yard, I was enjoying myself.  After my bath I pulled on my new suit of form fitting body armor.  I had it adapted for warm weather to keep me from sweating too much. I suspected there was a job that Sheila wanted to talk to me about, so I pulled on a good pair of jeans, my rescue rated combat boots, and a white cotton shirt. I belted on a low-profile hip holster for my viper sliver gun and pocketed two extra magazines.  I went down to the lab and grabbed a hip flask of water (an expendable focus material, the water was from the Blood Falls and had been refined for use in magical healing) and a magical dust I used for certain combat spells. 

I came up from the lab and grabbed my go-bag from its spot on my coat rack.  I checked the materials within, then slung the pack on my back.  I walked out my door and was met by the Euro Westwind my car service had kindly provided.  I called Aria from the car at 0950 and woke her up.  I told her I was going to work, and that I would call her as soon as I could. 

"Take me flying when you get back?" She had a worried tone to her voice.  I couldn't blame her. I had been badly banged up and had some pretty bad mana burns from the last bit of work I'd done.

"Sure thing," I said. "Maybe we can take another weekend vacation afterward."

"I'd like that." she said. Then added, "Be careful"

"I always am." I responded.

I had the car drop me off at a florist shop in Lynwood.  I placed an order for a floral delivery for the next day and paid in script. The card read, "For Aria".  I walked out of the florist shop and wove an invisibility spell around myself, then called out to the astral plane.  The air elemental was powerful and ferried me to the Brick Yard in under twenty minutes.  I was an hour early when Little Rickie opened the door for me as I walked into the Brick Yard on business for the first time in months.

I ordered a lemonade and waited.

At precisely 1200 hours Sandy came over and said, "She'll see you now."

I walked back to Sheila's booth and sat down across from her.  I had seen Sheila several times over the last few months, but not for biz.  Sandy took my lunch order and walked away with an odd look on her face. 

"Been a while since you sat here." Sheila said. "Interested in work yet?"
I thought a moment before replying. "I'm always interested in work. I have bills to pay same as anyone.  After the last job, well, I wasn't ready for work.  I didn't think it wise to get back to it if I wasn't at one hundred percent."

"And you've been enjoying the time away. Good for you." Sheila said.  She paused as Sandra brought her lunch and set it before her.  Solomon came right behind her, my sirloin platter held in hot mitts. 

"Thank you, it looks fantastic." I said.

"Oh, it is," Solomon said. "It’s a favorite of mine too."

I nodded knowingly.  Sandra and Solomon left us to our meal. I looked about and noticed we were the only people in the place.  "Quiet day?" I asked.

"Live band tonight.  Not much biz today, a few folks out and about, talent is spread thin."  Sheila took a sip of her drink. "A certain Mr. Johnson asked about you.  I'm told it’s a big job. I imagine it comes with similarly significant risks.  Interested?"

"Maybe," I replied. "I'll listen to the pitch, and if I can do the job and the nuyen is right I'll likely take it. When does Mr. Johnson want to meet?"

"Tonight, at the Eye of the Needle."  Sheila X fixed me with a knowing look. "You have reservations for you plus one under the name of C.U. Thomas."

Suddenly I had a very cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Oh." I said. That's me, eloquent.  "Does Aria work tonight?" 

Sheila X shook her head, "Find another girl. I need her here. Big act playing tonight and all."

I frowned at that. "Understood. What time is the reservation?"  Sheila told me, and I sent a text off to Angel. 

Sheila X and I ate in silence. "Thanks for the call," I said. "Glad for the work."

Sheila finished chewing, "When people start asking for you, it should tell you something. People with rough work have a hard time finding professionals who are reliable and willing to take on the job and succeed."  She paused and took a sip of her drink. "How ever it may have happened, they know you're alive. I expect that so long as you continue to perform, you'll likely have work."

"They made me on the meet after that last job with Angel.  Saw through my new form to the real me." I confessed.  I chewed on my heavenly steak. The imposing sight of Mr. Johnson and Samantha Goode looking down on me invaded my mind. "Mr. Johnson called me 'Charles'. I think he wanted me to know he saw through me."

"Didn't know that could be done," Sheila replied.

"Oh yes. He was looking at my aura or Samantha was and told him discreetly.  Either way, they know its me." Lying to Sheila X is a bad idea.  Forgetting the fact that I was dating her daughter, remember that she was the best fixer I knew and was really good about setting me up with work that paid well.  "Their money spends, but two jobs done and a lot of dead runners between the two. Definitely not for the faint of heart."

Sheila X looked at me, her cybernetic eyes looked real but emotionless. "Do you know when to walk away, Tommy?"  She asked.

"I do.  I walk away when my personal code tells me to, when I can't pull off the job, or when the body count is likely to be too high."  Sheila nodded as I added. "You have to know your limitations, not just your capabilities."  My pocket secretary buzzed as Angel responded to my text. I checked the message and looked to Sheila. "I've got my 'plus one' for the evening." We finished our lunch and I thanked Sheila as I left her booth.

I flew home wrapped in my invisibility spell, dashed inside and put in a call to my favorite tailor (as it wouldn't do to be seen in anything less than my best at the Eye of the Needle). I hit the car service app, winced at my usage for the month, and took the Euro Westwind to Bellevue where Russell was able to squeeze me in at 1400 hours.

Being tall, pale, and having platinum hair makes you stand out. I needed suitable attire and something that wouldn't make me stand out any more than I already did.  The Westwind dropped me off in front of the shop and I walked in to find the genius orc tailor smiling at my arrival. "Russell, good to see you." I said.

The orc tailor smiled politely, "A pleasure, sir.  I'm glad we could accommodate your schedule.  If I may ask, what is the occasion?"

"Dinner Russell, at the Eye of the Needle.  Meeting an old friend.  I'm not certain what my date will be wearing, but I'd like to dress appropriately without drawing undo attention." I put on my best smile.

"The Neo-Edo look is very trendy right now" Russell mused. "I think, given the time table, the broad hakama trousers, in black with silver patterning. Pair it with a kimono in black with silver accents and tie your hair back with a black silk cord."  Russell showed me an AR overlay of the look and I found it to my liking.  It was appropriate to the crowd at the Eye of the Needle and wouldn't look out of place.  Russell added a wide waist belt with silver embroidery as a finishing touch, and I suddenly looked the part of a modern fashion victim. Kevlar II reinforcement and a few strategically concealed ballistic plates offered some protection, in case things went badly. The price was sinful, but it was a rush job and Russell’s work certainly was worth the rate.

Russell and his staff had my new suit done by 1700.  I dashed across the street to a barber shop (the prices were horrific) and had a shave and haircut.  That done, I summoned the Westwind for a trip home to change. 

I picked up Angel at 1900 hours.  She wore a red and black dress, with onyx jewelry.  Angel stood half a meter shorter than I, but she got a boost to her height that evening from her seven-centimeter heels. She wore her hair in a single braid through a pair of gold rings.  It was a good look for her, and even though I knew it was likely armored I didn't see any hint of concealed protective layers.

The same Maitre D', a middle aged human man with grey hair and a distinguished manner, was once again manning his post. "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.  

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 turned to Angel, "Care for a trip to the bar?"

"Thank you, that would be fine." she replied.

Angel ordered a club soda. "I'll have what the lady is having" I told the barman.  I soon discovered that I preferred champagne.  Angel and I made small talk until the Maitre D' showed us to our table.

I was holding the chair for Angel, when Mr. Johnson and Samantha Goode joined us.  Mr. Johnson mirrored me by pulling out Samantha's chair.  He was just as large and formidable looking as I remembered.  His salt and pepper hair lending him a distinguished air.  Samantha, by contrast, was dressed to kill.  Her brown Amerind skin was flattered by a crimson dress that left her shoulders bare and fell to her knees.  Rubies adorned her ears and neck, while each of her hands bore a pair of silver rings.  Her hair was held up in a web of braids.  She was beautiful on any day, but her outfit that evening drew a lot of attention.  I knew all too well how powerful she was, and the allure was wasted on me. She was far too powerful to allow myself to be distracted by her appearance.

"Good to see you again Charles," Mr. Johnson said.  He extended his hand and I shook it.  Even with the spells enhancing my strength and fitness, I could feel the might in his grasp.  "You're looking well.  I trust you recovered from your ordeal?"

"I have, thank you." I replied. I put on my best smile. "Nothing a few days of rest and recuperation couldn't clear up. How's business been?  I understand you've been burning up the real estate market."

Mr. Johnson's smile exposed strong white teeth.  "Oh, yes.  If anything, it's been interesting. So many old structures, unsafe and unfit for habitation, its one's civic duty to help clear that up."  Our waiter appeared and took our orders.  Samantha ordered champagne, Angel a club soda, I copied Angel and Mr. Johnson ordered, "Kentucky bourbon, the real stuff please not the synthetic."

The waiter shuffled off.  Angel was quietly nursing her drink, Samantha hadn't said a word, and Mr. Johnson was being talkative.  The whole tableau was making the hair on the back of my neck start to rise.  "Charles, I wonder if you've heard.  Geo-Dynamics has been looking at expanding into the Seattle Metroplex."

"I'm afraid I'm not familiar with Geo-Dynamics." I replied. "What manner of business venture are they proposing?"

"Charles, I'm surprised at you." Mr. Johnson smiled.  "Geo-Dynamics is making quite the name for themselves in renewable energy.  They are claiming to have developed a generator that will draw power from the Earth's geomagnetic field.  Fascinating technology really.  It is a revivification of the work of Nikola Tesla."

Our drinks arrived, and Samantha interrupted the quiet, "Ms. Turing its fabulous to see you again. How did you find the time to get away?"

Angel set her drink down, "I have the luxury of setting my own schedule." Angel smiled. "I also happen to enjoy the ambiance here, so Charles' invitation was most welcome."

A moment after the waiter left, Mr. Johnson's voice rang in my skull.  "Do you know what power is?"
I winced. "No. I don't think I've heard of Geo-Dynamics before.  Fascinating topic though."  I said.  Mr. Johnson's eyes seemed to gleam.

"Power is the ability to make things happen, such as energy and its relationship to matter."  His voice in my mind was giving me a headache. Mr. Johnson took a sip of his bourbon. He nodded appreciatively and said "That's the real stuff.  You really should try bourbon sometime Charles, you'll never want to go back to the synthetic swill."

"I rarely drink alcohol, but I may try it in the future." I said.

"Magic, as you well know, is also power.  Magical power can grow or wane, it can change its nature, can be used to create or to destroy," again Mr. Johnson's voice assaulted my mind. "There is an object that has passed into the control of Geo-Dynamics.  They mean to use its magical power to augment their efforts.  They don't know the harm they may cause.  I have need of a competent agent to penetrate their security, take the item from them, and bring it to me.  No Geo-Dynamics personnel are to be killed, and no one can know you did this or that it was brought to me."

I took a drink of my club soda. My head was beginning to throb. "I'd like to learn more about Geo-Dynamics I think.  I am after all, a big believer in clean energies."

Images and information assaulted my mind. I picked up bits and pieces that seemed particularly significant, and other pieces of information that seemed routine by association. The target item was a totem of some kind, ancient beyond the histories of man.  I struggled with the flow of information, latching onto the data I could sift through.  It was ancient, not of any age recorded in the annals of history. It was made of a metal that resembled orichalcum, its color that of faded gold and aged bronze.  Eleven stones of irregular size were mounted around its mid-point, arrayed in an irregular way. It was nearly a meter tall and tapered at both ends. 

I could sense that Mr. Johnson desperately wanted it.

"It is a power not to be trifled with." Mr. Johnson's voice rang in my skull. "I will have it, the question is whether you shall profit from me having it, or not."  He smiled as he sipped his bourbon. 

It was, on its face, a simple theft. With this Mr. Johnson I just knew that couldn't be the case.  Whatever it was, it was certainly unique, and that meant it was valuable.  "Where is Geo-Dynamics going to build their new generator?"

"Renton of all places.  A surprising choice, but property values being what they are it would be cheaper to build there."  Mr. Johnson said.  "It seems it always comes down to money." 
I met Mr. Johnson's gaze, his eyes were the same stormy blue gray, and replied, "Money is something most people equate to value. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but money is far easier than barter. Some people spend their whole lives chasing it, never finding 'enough', while others never have it and live quite happily.  Is it the money that makes them happy?"  I uttered a Sperethiel word I had learned and formed the spell in the palm of my hand.  Numbers appeared, illusory writing, depicting an amount.  There were several zeroes.  Mr. Johnson looked down to my open palm, and for just a tic he paused.  

He looked me in the eye and my skull rang with his voice, "Do you know what the item is?" The voice in my head seemed surprised somehow.

"Not at all."  I said.  "It's what they do with it, and how they live."

Mr. Johnson contemplated me for a moment.  I steeled myself, thinking I may have gone too far and asked for too much. "No deaths, no one knows you did it, no one knows I have it, and you bring the item to me, undamaged. You'll have what you ask for."  A barrage of information assaulted my mind.  I had a month to obtain the target. "You'll be paid upon presenting the item."

Oh drek.


We finished our evening with sparse conversation and amazing food. Angel and I took the Westwind to my place.  One quickly woven invisibility spell and a mental call to an air spirit had us flying to a safe house I had set up in Bothell.  It took us about twenty minutes to get there. I keyed my way in and checked the house for signs of magical surveillance.  I whispered to Angel and she conducted a sweep for electronic surveillance.  After thirty tense minutes, I released the invisibility spell.  Angel and I sat down to talk about the job.  

"He did that thing where he yells in your head?" Angel asked.

"Yeah, really wiz trick that.  Bit of one sided communication so I feel that what I'm saying wouldn't make sense to anyone listening in." I paced over to the refrigeration unit and pulled out a litter of water.  "Want some?"

"Yeah, thank you." Angel replied. "I take it you'll need a decker."

I took a drink, thought about things a moment then said. "I want to learn as much about the target as I can first, but yeah, I need you on this.  Then I'll look at the team to put together.  No sense in setting up talent we may not need and lacking someone essential." Angel nodded.

"What's the action?" she asked.
"We get to steal a whatsit from Geo-Dynamics.  Something Mr. Johnson doesn't want them to have around their proposed power plant." I thought a moment. "I know what it looks like, according to Johnson anyway.  I don't have a name for it, but it was dug up on an archaeological dig and is older than recorded history. "

"I can work with that," Angel said.
"We only get paid if we succeed Angel.  Are you okay with that?"  I asked.

"You've done as much for me before," she replied. "So yeah, I'm onboard for that."  We came to an understanding about the payment for the job, then set to work.
Angel and I sat for an hour while I described the object and she worked to create a three-dimensional virtual image of it.  I slipped on my AR goggles and she sent the feed to me.  She had the general shape down in just a few minutes.  I did all I could to mine my memory for details on the item.  It began to take shape, floating in the space above a small table in the main room. She put a skin over the image, mapping a color very close to what I saw.  "That's about it." I said.

Angel nodded, "Okay then, I'll start digging around.  Can you give me lift downtown?  I'll have my car pick me up, then I'll start the hunt from my home system."
"Sure thing."

I dropped Angel off then went home and changed clothes.  I sent Aria a message, "Need a flight home tonight?"

Aria: "You spoil me. I'm getting off from work late, the band is blazing hot tonight."
"See you soon." I replied.  I showered, climbed into my form fitting body armor, threw on some good jeans and clean shirt. I left my gun at home, grabbed a cloak and flew out to Redmond. The night was pleasantly cool.

I landed in the Brick Yard's parking lot, allowed my invisibility spell to unravel, then walked around to the front.  Little Rickie was on the door and saw me the moment I turned the corner.  I could hear the music pumping from inside.  Rickie opened the door to let me in, when a presence brushed against my awareness.  I spun around looking back down the street.  My sudden motion must have alarmed Little Rickie because he brought up his hand cannon in flash, pointing it in the direction I was looking.
"I don' see nothin'" he growled.

The presence I felt stalked closer.  It felt wrong, alien, and hungry.  I knew the sensation all too well.  I turned to face the door and said, "Rickie, we've got a vampire heading this way.  It’s about three hundred meters out, down that way, and its moving slowly like it’s trying to creep up."
"Is it comin' here?" he asked. He holstered his weapon. "Don' want to give away we know it’s there."

I looked up at the towering man.  Little Rickie had always been frightening as Hell itself to me. Here he was confronting the possibility of a vampire approaching and he was already a step ahead, calm and convinced to not give away a potential advantage.  "I don't know.  There is a lot of real estate between us right now.  Think its hunting someone?  Any squatters around?"
"Plenty." He replied. Little Rickie narrowed his eyes and I thought I heard a soft whirring sound. "Yeah, a group of six people. Look like orcs, squatting down in that boarded up comic book shop.  You know the one I mean?"

I thought about what I knew of the area. "Yeah, I know the one. It's close to them.  Can you see it?"

"No.  I don' see nothin' but the heat sig of those folks." the big man explained.

The music beckoned behind me, but my conscious gnawed at me. "Wouldn't happen to have a gun I could borrow, would you?" I asked. I looked up and saw Rickie giving me a questioning look.
"You gonna bring it back?" he asked.

"Only if I survive." I said.
Little Rickie nodded, knelt down and pulled a heavy looking revolver from his boot.  I had seen Ruger Super Warhawks before but had never fired one. "My back-up. Make sure you bring it back," he said.

"Will do." I took the weapon, checked the safety, and slipped off into the night.
Three hundred meters is a long distance to cover if you're trying to be sneaky, so I cheated.  I wrapped myself in my silence spell and ran like hell down the street.  My feet furiously pounded the plascrete as I headed toward the old ruin of a building.  I could sense the vampire and it was uncomfortably close, seemingly in the building itself.  I let the spell unravel as I crept in.  The boards that once covered the old door lay splintered atop the wrecked door frame.  As the spell dissipated I heard a raspy, feminine voice, the words laced with power, "Come to me, that's it, come to me."

The ceiling had partially collapsed at some point.  Old ceiling tiles blocked my line of site to the source of the sound.  I crept along, confident my rescue rated boots would protect my feet from any errant debris.  I brought the heavy revolver up, leveling it toward the area where I felt the vampire's presence.  As the I passed the ceiling tile I beheld the monster, illuminated by the light from a fire in an old trash can, its face latched upon the throat of a hapless orc. Small motes of light danced around the vampire, my spell singling it out in the close confines. Orcs stood about, witlessly waiting for their turn to be slaughtered. I took aim with the unfamiliar weapon and squeezed the trigger.
The Ruger Super Warhawk roared, and the recoil caught me off guard.  I think I hit the vampire in the ear, but I doubt I'll ever know for certain.  Its head exploded, showering the victim it was feeding upon and spraying the far wall with blood, bone fragments, and brains.  The entranced orcs snapped out of it as the motes of light suddenly vanished and ran out through the partially collapsed back wall.  They left their friend behind.

I opened my astral sight and confirmed that the vampire was dead, then turned to the victim. His aura was weak, and he was bleeding out quickly.  "Please, help me" he said.  I saw the small swirling patterns of darkness spreading into what was left of his essence.

"I will," I said.  I leveled the heavy revolver and did what I could for him.  I called out to the astral plane as I left the old shop.  My fire elemental gleefully burned the place to the ground.
It was 2325 when I handed Little Rickie his gun back.  I could see the flames from the old building as it blazed away.  "You gonna burn all Redmond down one day Tommy." Rickie said.

I looked back at the flames. "Not today Rickie.  I told the spirit to just burn down that one."

Little Rickie opened the door for me, and I walked in.

Aria was still on duty and the place was packed.  I squeezed onto a stool at the bar and managed to catch Sandy's attention.

"Lemonade?" she asked.
"Yeah, and a triple rum for Solomon. Four sirloin platters for you and your boys." I paused for a moment as she stared at me, "and bring me a bourbon, the best you have."  I rubbed my eyes and could smell the cordite on my hands.

"Thank you," she said. "you're not eating though?"
"Already did." I answered. "Thank you though, Sandy."

She returned a few minutes later, my lemonade in hand.  "Solomon says thank you and he recommends the Maker's Mark bourbon with bar-b-que wings.  He says it’s the peanut butter pie of bourbons, if that makes any sense to you."

I nodded. "He's convinced me.  But I'll have a slice of peanut butter pie after the wings."  Sandy nodded.  I saw Aria come around the bar, grab some beer bottles and bounce away.  I took a sip of my fantastic lemonade, then detected the familiar scent of honeysuckle and vanilla, and turned to see Aria smiling at me.  She put her hand on mine and squeezed.
"You eating?"  she asked.

"I ordered a little bit.  You hungry?"
"I ate a bit ago, needed a break.  It's been crazy here tonight." She leaned in and kissed me, then whispered in my ear, "Can I stay at your place tonight?"

I smiled, "You certainly may.  Want to go flying around a bit, or just head home?"
She gave me a smile that banished much of the stress I was feeling.  "I think just home. I'll let her know." She bounced away, scooping up empty glasses as she finished her circuit back to the bar.  I turned to find boneless bar-b-que wings and a short glass with a couple of centimeters of toffee colored liquid being pushed in front of me by Sandy.

"Thank you, Sandy" I said.
"You're welcome," was her reply as she served up a pitcher sized mug of beer to the troll sitting next to me. "Didn't think you drank alcohol."

"Rarely.  Never had this before."  I said.
"You sip it," Sandy offered. "Take your time with it or it will really hit you."

I nodded, bit into BBQ heaven, then took a sip.  It was not what I expected, but not wholly unpleasant.  The bourbon went well with the wings, but I could tell the alcohol content was far higher than I was accustomed to.  I finished the wings by 0130 and still had half of my bourbon left. I decided against finishing it. I was flying after all.

Aria spent the night at my house.  I woke up comfortable and warm, with my pocket secretary blinking a message alert at me.  I had two messages from Angel:
0313 hours: I have some data, sending to you like Shakespeare.

0506 hours: My location compromised. Burn your phone.  Meet me at Pepper's place.
I felt a jolt run through me as the adrenaline kicked in.  I yanked open a small section of flooring that concealed my floor safe.  The Faraday cage built into the hole would shield the pocket secretary more certainly than me trying to destroy it.  I opened the safe, an old tumbler lock version, and pulled out my burner phone, a roll of UCAS $100 script and a pair of certified credsticks. "Aria.  Aria, honey, wake up." I said.

Aria stirred, "Not yet, baby, I'm still sleeping."

"No. Aria we have to go.  We have to go now."  I pulled a spare armored vest off a hook in my closet. I had picked it up and added it to my go-gear when Aria started staying over. "Get your clothes on honey and put this on."  I tossed the armored vest onto the bed.
Aria, bolted up and scrambled into her clothes. "Where are we going?" she asked.

"I'm taking you home, then I've got to meet Angel.  Something happened, and I don't know what."  I said.  I was pulling on my form fitting armor as quickly as I could. "It’s probably work related. I'll keep you in the loop as best I can." 
"Tommy, I can help.  I can come with you." Aria offered.  She was pulling her panties on as I jumped into a good pair of jeans. 

"Aria, honey, if they are just after me I can lose them.  I can take on another face and blend into a crowd."  I took her face in my hands and kissed her. "And if something happened to you I'd lose my mind." 
She kissed me back.  "Don't die, baby.  I'd never be able to find all those silly magical balls from the cartoon to bring you back." 

"I'm so keeping you," I said. I put my forehead to hers, "right now though honey, we have to go."
I stepped back and pulled a t-shirt on.  Aria climbed into her jeans, stuffed her bra in her pocket and pulled her shirt on.  I shrugged into my shoulder holster, picked up my sliver gun, thumbed the safety, chambered a round then holstered the weapon.  I sent out a mental call and my spirits appeared near me in the astral plane.  I set the water spirit and earth spirit to protect the house.

I wrapped Aria and myself in an invisibility spell, then hurried us out to the back yard.  A package, wrapped in white packing tape, was laying in the grass. "Right, Shakespeare" I said.  I grabbed the package and called to the pair of air elementals I had bound.  "I've really got to summon that ally spirit."
Aria and I flew to her place. She grabbed my arms and kissed me, "You come back Tommy Gun". 

I pulled her tight, the smell of honeysuckle and vanilla strong in her hair.  I kissed her, then promised "I'll see you soon."
I vanished as she disappeared into her building. Then I flew off toward the church. 

I was descending and saw a pair of large men moving among the grave markers. As I got closer I saw them train pistols toward the far end of the graveyard.  I followed their aim and saw Angel's dark hair behind a large marble monument. I turned on my commlink and headset mic.

"Angel, can you hear me?" I asked.

"They're closing in Angel.  I'm airborne above and behind them.  Stay low, and don't shoot.  I don't want to get killed by friendly fire."  I said as the spirit lowered to me the ground.  I sent a mental call out to the astral plane. "Get them," I said.  Two air elementals appeared and engulfed the gunmen.  They struggled and gasped as the spirits choked them into unconsciousness.  I raised my gun, then paused. I opened my astral sight and beheld the same warmth that permeated the area every time I had been there in the past.  The two gunmen were hurt, but they would live. They were no threat to anyone at the moment.  I turned and walked out of the graveyard.  I looked to the front of the church and saw a man sitting in the driver’s seat of a blue SUV. He was a normal orc, with no trace of magical potential.  He had a modest amount of cyberware creating dark spots in his aura. I figured him for the getaway driver.  My water elemental engulfed him, choking him into unconsciousness.
I opened the SUV door and patted down the driver.  I took his keys, phone, the heavy pistol under his coat, and credstick.  I pulled him out of the vehicle and lay him on the pavement.  I closed the door and locked the SUV.   I dashed back into the graveyard and let my invisibility spell unravel.  I found the two gunmen laying in the grass atop a pair of graves.  I patted them down and took their weapons, phones, and money.  "Tommy?  Tommy are you there?" Angel's voice sounded in my ear.

"I've got three down, Angel. Come on out." I said.
Angel appeared with an Ares Predator in hand. She brought the weapon to bear on the two gunmen. I looked at her and shook my head. "Not here Angel."

"These fraggers tried to kill me Tommy." Angel growled.
"I understand" I said. "but this is holy ground.  Don't kill them here.  Pepper's grave is just over there, and I'd like it if the peace of this place weren't disturbed."

"Fraggin' hypocrite," Angel strode off, leaving the gunmen alive, I rose and followed her.  "They traced my signal back to my home host Tommy!  If they can reconstruct the hardware they'll find out where I live."  She turned to face me, her face was flush "I can't just change my face with the wave of my hand Tommy!"
I caught up to her and handed the captured phones to her. "I've seen you do amazing things with less than this." I said. "And if they find your home, you get a new one.  If you need to change your face I can help with that."

"It’s not that simple Tommy." Angel said.  I wrapped us up in an invisibility spell and we walked away from the church.  Angel explained a few things to me.  Things I won't repeat here.  Like I said, she's still in the business. What I can tell you is that we had to make sure that whoever they were, they didn't crack the hardware they had captured. Angel had built in a clever little device into her host hardware.  I don't pretend to understand it, but she said it used some old tech that isn't in common use anymore.  In short it would send out a signal she could track until it ran out of power, which would be in just a few hours.
I called up the air elementals and we flew down to Ratchet's garage.

June 4th, 2059

1138 hours
I was running on four hours of sleep out of the last thirty-three and fatigue was creeping up as we landed in front of the entrance to Ratchet's garage. I respected Ratchet's space and landed in front of his gate.  I let the invisibility spells unravel and breathed a sigh of relief.

Angel hit the call button, "Ratchet!  Let us in Omae."

A moment later the gate retracted. We walked in under the watchful eye of an array of surveillance cameras.  The front door opened as we approached. "Ratchet?" I called out.
"In the garage, you two" Ratchet's voice came over speakers mounted in the ceiling.  "I've got my hands full but come on in."  We walked down the hall and passed through an open door leading into Ratchet's garage.  He was working on a stripped-down SUV frame. Several badly singed, partly melted body panels were piled in the corner.

"Your target did a helluva job on my ride, Angel" the dwarf turned to face us. "As for you, magic guy, I've known magicians before. I get that you're new, but you need to get your drek together if you plan to stay in the biz." he turned to Angel.  "Where'd you find this guy?"
"Ratchet, I don't have time for this" Angel said.

"Ratchet, I'm sorry that thing toasted your ride.  I'm going to need a rigger for a job I've got going on." I peeled off two thousand dollars in UCAS script.  "As for my magic, you don't know what you're talking about. So, do you want a job?  Two thousand to drive for the next two days."  Ratchet walked over and snatched the script from my hand.
Ratchet counted the money then looked up at me and said, "Elf, you cover any damages to my gear.  I'm not having another ride melted down."

"Sure Ratchet," I replied. "There may be some more work coming afterwards if you're interested. But for now, we just need wheels."
"Don't care, we can talk about that if it happens" it was odd to hear Ratchet talk to me like that.  He and I had gotten along well when I was walking around in my previous identity.

"Ratchet," Angel interrupted " I need a few things, so we can find my host hardware.  Can I borrow your tools for a couple of hours?"
"Sure Angel," Ratchet said. "Just put them back when you're done.

I found a couch in a back room, lay down and went to sleep.  I woke up shortly after 2100 hours.  I washed up in the restroom and went looking for Ratchet and Angel.
I found Ratchet sitting in the Captain's chair of a Bison and plugged into the rigger interface. I had no idea what the hell he was up to.  Angel was plugged in to her cyberdeck. Her breathing was shallow and regular, the monitor display said her vitals were fine, so I left her alone.  I walked about the garage for a moment, then sent a text to Aria, "I'm fine, I'll let you know more when I can."

Aria, "Thank you for the flowers baby."
"You're welcome" I responded. "talk to you later."

I sent a message to Angel, "I'm awake what are you two up to?"
Angel didn't immediately respond but the tone on her monitor changed.  A moment later she reached up and disconnected herself from her cyberdeck.  She stretched and turned to me, "Just checking to see how much drek we've stepped in chummer."

"Okay, I'll bite, how bad is it?" I replied.
"Bad enough," she said. "I've found my hardware and it’s not going to be easy to retrieve.  It’s in the Geo-Dynamics annex office downtown."

"Where is it, exactly?" I asked.
"Madison and 5th, the old Seattle Tower.  They've set the annex up on 12th floor.  Odds are its where they're running their security ops from as well."  Angel, shook her head. "They are watching for people searching the 'trix for this whatsit.  They made my search bots, then tasked security deckers on me.  They've got an image of me circulating around town among local law enforcement and corporate law enforcement.  'Wanted for questioning' doesn't sound like much fun to me."

"Any chance you can pull that image back?  Get a retraction of the warrant or something similar?" Being on a watch list was going to make working damn near impossible. "I can change what you look like, but it will take time."
"No, I can't just change it!" Angel snapped. "I can't just hit some keys and make it go away!  I'll have to be on site and dive into their security system to have a hope of pulling that off.  Are you going to run against that target?  Huh?!  My fraggin' face is everywhere!"

"But if you can get into their office you can make that go away?" I asked.
"Yeah, if I can get in there.  If I can crack their system while I'm floating past their on-site security, not be seen by the system or by people, IF I can get the system to recognize me and execute the recall, then SURE. I can make it happen."  Angel exclaimed. "Oh, and while we're at it, you can run down to their tech department and pick up my servers for me. I'm sure it’s only heavily guarded and being attended to by Geo's best available computer security people.  Drek."

"Doesn't sound any different from what we normally do, Angel.  It's just personal this time." I said. "Give me an hour to take a look around for magical problems.  You get with Ratchet and figure out an escape plan and a back-up escape plan. We'll get you in and you deal with the system niceties.  Point me to the hardware and we'll snatch that while we're there.  While you're at it you can dig up data on the target and we'll make it a trifecta."
"If we can't get that server out it has to be destroyed.  It has to be.  I can't have them cracking what is on it." Angel was adamant.

"Give me an hour to take a peek. I'll check the magical defenses, if any, and we'll go from there." I put on my best smile and walked back to the couch I had been sleeping on.  It was time to take a look at Geo-Dynamics.
Astral travel is very fast.  I made it over to the Seattle Tower in seconds, floated up to the twelfth floor, and began probing the exterior glass for astral barriers.  The windows were weakly warded but encompassed the entire floor.  I chose a spot at the corner office, focused my will and wiggled my astral self through the barrier.  Whoever had created the wards either hadn't been trying very hard or didn't know what they were doing.  I checked the wards behind me and found them seemingly undisturbed.

Within the warded area the astral space was alive with magical energy.  It flowed along the ceiling, floors and walls in potent wisps of power.  I waded through eddies of power, my astral body buffeted by currents of magic the likes of which I had never experienced. I had never felt an abundance of mana on that scale before.  It dwarfed the small eruption of mana in my basement by comparison.  It was a heady feeling, and the phrase 'drunk with power' sprang to mind.  I focused my will as best I could and pushed my way out of the office and into the hallway.
On a "normal" astral jaunt I would say I floated about or flew along, but this wasn't normal.  I was swimming in mana that was being bottled up inside the flimsy wards.  I had to force myself to move from one room to another, struggling against currents of mana that changed erratically.  It was evening, and the floor seemed to be empty of people. I swam about from one room to another.  As I struggled past an unmanned security checkpoint I saw an astral form swept away in front of me.  I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a magician's astral body before it passed through the grey, insubstantial walls and out of sight.  "Okay, that's just weird." I said.  I swam on, fighting against the currents as I chased after the errant astral body.  I found it, slapping against the warded windows, growing dimmer in the sea of mana.  It was a magician, of that I was certain, but she didn't seem to see me.  Her arms flailed for a moment then her astral body shattered, disrupted on the flow of mana.

Physics don't mean much in astral space but will and intent certainly do. I planted my feet against the wards and pushed as hard as I could and fought to swim back through the currents.  I was fighting for ground and gaining slowly.  I was back to the security check point when I realized that I was actually fighting the current of mana.  It was buffeting my astral form, dragging at me, and trying to pull me every which way.  I had been swimming against it, fighting whatever this current of mana was as it tried to pull me apart.  So far, I had been winning that fight and keeping myself together.  I swam past the security check point and through the wall the astral form had flowed out from. The power around me continued to tug and pull at me as I passed into a large lab, the sight of which I will never forget.
There had been six magicians working in the lab.  Four were dead upon the floor while two others were desperately working to build a ward around a blazing ball of magical energies.  It was beautiful and battered me with light and magical power as raw mana erupted from it in all directions.  Mana energy had pooled like liquid fire along the warded ceiling and floor and was a couple of centimeters deep.  It blazed throughout the room and outshone the bright astral forms of the two magicians who were struggling to contain it.  They were fighting to hold themselves together and struggling to erect wards that there were disintegrating under the tide of power.  I stood there, staring into what appeared to be a star, stripped out of the heavens, and left to blaze away on Earth.  It was beautiful, breathtakingly powerful, and it was flooding the floor with magical energy.

I forced my way back to the warded windows and focused my will as I passed out into the night.  It would have taken my breath away, were I breathing.  Imagine climbing from a hot tub then jumping into an arctic lake.  The difference in the local mana field was disorienting for a few minutes.  Then I flashed across the Seattle sky and back into my body.
I opened my eyes and rolled to me feet as quickly as I could.  I caught a look in a mirror on the wall and saw that my hair was sticking out in all directions, like I had electric current running through me.  My hands and feet tingled, and the scent of ozone assaulted my nostrils.  I ran out into the garage and found Angel with a room full of shadowrunners.

Crank, Edgy Ed, Gitti and Ratchet were listening to something Angel was telling them when I came dashing into the room.  Three hardened shadowrunners were suddenly pointing guns at me and I came to a sudden halt. "Easy chummers!" I exclaimed. "It’s just me."
Crank lowered his weapon, Ed and Gitti followed suit a tic later.

"You're back early," Angel said. "What's happened?"
"Security is almost non-existent right now.  They are having a problem with something in one of the labs.  If you can bypass the alarms, we can get in and take care of biz before they know we've hit them." I looked at Angel. "I didn't find your gear, but if it's there we'll have little to no opposition.  We need to go now."

"Now?! If you have a plan I'd like to hear it.  I need my gear back but damned if I'm going to walk in not knowing what is going on." Angel snapped.
I looked at the people around me.  They were solid professionals but only Angel knew anything about me.  To the rest of them I was a stranger, an unknown asset that hadn't proven himself.  "Listen, I know this is a rush, but Angel and I need backup for tonight.  We get in, we get her gear and get out, you each make ten thousand nuyen.  We grab her gear and this thing I want, you each make thirty thousand nuyen, but we go now.  What do you say?"

Crank looked up and said, "You've got the money?"
"Yeah, Crank I've got the money." I responded.

Edgy Ed started to say something but Gitti put his hand over his mouth.  "Rush job, fifty thousand each or no deal." Crank said.
I needed them in case things went bad and there was certainly that possibility. "Okay, but nonlethal rounds only.  Don't kill anybody, that was Johnson's condition on the job and we're sticking to it. Everyone good with that?" I said.

"Omae, you better have that money," Crank uttered. "I'm going. Gitti, Ed, Ratchet you guys coming or not?"   Heads nodded in agreement and we hurried to get on the road.
For the record I prefer to plan out ops as best as possible.  I like knowing things about the target, escape routes, the Johnson I'm working for, and the possible problems that may come up.  This was not a night that allowed for such luxuries.  We cruised downtown in Ratchet's Bison and over to a parking garage a block away from the Seattle tower.  It was a long thirty-minute drive, but the only real option we had available.  I had Ratchet park on the top level where we would be exposed to the sky.

"Okay, I'm taking Angel over first. She'll disable the sensors on the windows then I'll take down the wards.  We need to let the mana level bleed off or it will definitely hurt you.  Once it settles down I'll get come get Ed and Gitti. Crank you stay here and cover Ratchet and for God's sake don't let anything happen to the Bison."  I looked at Angel.  She looked tense, angry, and determined.  I pulled my hood on and watched as she did the same.  I turned toward the Seattle Tower, then sent out the mental call to the spirits at my command.
Three air elementals manifested in front of me.  At my command the first drifted over the street and a fog began to take shape, covering the block.  I wove an invisibility spell over Angel and myself, then the two remaining spirits carried us along to hover, twelve stories over the street below, in front of windows for the Geo-Dynamics floor.  Angel swore prolifically the entire trip there.

{I fly in planes and helicopters, Tommy ~ Angel}

It took Angel five very long minutes to deactivate the security and environmental sensors on the window. "It’s ready," she said.  I placed my hand against the glass and opened my astral sight.  The ward was alive with energy and weakening as I watched.
"It's going to collapse soon anyway," I said. "When this goes there will be some spillage I think. Local mana event if you will.  No telling what it might do so shut your systems down for a moment."  If looks could kill Angel would have murdered me then and there. She spent a minute shutting things down then gave me a thumbs up... {No, I flipped you off ~ Angel} ... The ward shattered as my will assaulted it and a geyser of magical energy erupted from the twelfth floor as the pent up magical energy shot out into the local environment.  My head spun, and Angel became visible in front of me, as did the air elementals holding us aloft.  I signaled to Angel and she powered her gear back up.  Seconds ticked by as I watched colors I didn't have names for shoot into the Seattle sky.

"I'm good," Angel called out.  I shook out a small amount of magical dust into my hand, muttered the incantation, then flung the magic powder at the window as I released my spell.  The power ball shattered the window, sending shards exploding into the office to become embedded in the furniture, floors and ceiling.  The spirits carried Angel and I into the ruined office.
The magical energies continued to erupt from the building, but the sudden explosive release was done.  As I landed in the office, the mana flowed against and around me, no longer threatening to sweep me away.  I saw Angel's aura holding steadily against the mana current and breathed a sigh of relief.  The two air elementals brought Gitti and Ed next, though Ed looked a bit green after the flight over.

Angel jacked in at the desk, and I turned on my ear piece and mic. "Gitti you're with me.  Ed, cover Angel.  Angel, find your stuff and guide us there."  I moved out into the hall, passed a secretary's desk and went out into a waiting area.
"Second right," Angel called out.

"Copy that."
We found the first body when we turned into the hall.  A security guard was laying behind the security check point, his fingers were blackened, and his hair singed.  "Mana burns," I said to Gitti.  My astral sight showed him as a lifeless corpse.  The pooled mana must have hidden him from me when I did my astral recon. "he's dead Gitti.  Nothing we can do for him."

"Copy that," he said.

We crept along, Angel guiding us to a security door. As we approached the light indicator changed from red to green. Angel's voice was calm in my ear, "Go".  Gitti opened the door and slipped inside and I followed close behind.  We found Angel's hardware and three dead technicians laying at the work station where they had been disassembling it.
"Gitti, grab the hardware. Angel make certain we aren't missing anything critical." I said.

Gitti pulled a nylon pack from his back and started loading pieces of tech into it. I looked over the dead technicians. Each had horrible mana burns, particularly along their cybernetics.  Datajacks were scorched, flesh blacked around the ruined implants.  The air smelled of singed flesh, burnt hair and ozone.

"Magic, I've got movement on your location." Crank's voice was oddly quiet in my ear.  "Helicopter dropping peeps on the roof. I'm seeing a dozen or more personnel.  Ropes are going down on your entrance corner."
"Confirmed," Ratchet's voice chimed in. "I've got solid contact on two roto-drones coming up out of the fog as well.  ETA, less than a minute."

Gitti looked at me. "Don't stop, Gitti.  We're getting what we came for."  I said.  "Angel, how much longer?"

"Minutes, Magic, I'm nowhere near done." she said.  Gitti was gathering up pieces, dead bodies littered the scene, and magical energy continued to pour out.
"Then we need to buy you some time," I said. "Ratchet, those roto-drones have to go.  Crank, keep their heads down. Ed, no one lays a hand on Angel."

"Copy that," sounded in my ear from the three runners.
"Gitti, once you have that together, get back to Ed.  I'll be along in a moment." I said.

"That it, Angel?" Gitti asked.
"You got it, Gitti," she replied.

"Go, I'll catch up, I need to get my whatsit,"
Gitti, spared a glance at me then ran out the door and down the hall.  I ran the other way.

It has always been difficult for me to close my astral sight.  That night I didn't bother trying to.  I pushed through the rushing mana that was now freely flowing out of the building.  It was the difference between swimming in rough waters and wading through a swift stream.  I made my way to the lab door and saw that the door indicator was on green. "Thank you, Angel," I whispered.
"Times running out, get it and let’s get gone," Angel responded.

"Splash two roto-drones," Ratchet called out. "Roof is thinning out, they've found the stairs."
"You're going to have company," Crank's voice sounded tense. "I hit one, but his armor held up I think."

I made it through the lab door as gunfire began to ring out.  Only one magician was left standing in the lab.  His hands were scorched, and blood was flowing from the corners of his eyes.  He was standing before the meter-tall totem my Mr. Johnson wanted so badly.  My astral sight was assaulted by the radiant mana, the raw magical power, that cascaded from the artifact.  The last magician was babbling incoherently, his gestures were clumsy, and his aura was fading quickly.  Whatever his intent, he had no effect on the artifact.  I watched as the mana assaulted his essence, beating on his soul.
It ended quickly, the last of the corp magicians collapsed near his fellows.  His aura stripped away by an unending tide of magical energy.  I forced my astral sight closed, straining at the effort, as the body hit the floor.  Small popping noises of static discharges were accompanied by the sharp scent of ozone.  I found a notebook laying on the floor near the relic and snatched it up.  I didn't know what to do with the relic itself.  The sounds of gunfire rang out again and Angel's voice picked up over my earpiece, "Magic, they're going to need you.  Enemy is superior."

"Copy that," I said.  "Angel how much more time do you need?"
"Another couple of minutes at least, Magic." Angel exclaimed. "Get over here!"

I ran back, took the corner past the security station, and peeked down the hall.  A pair of men were heading my way, sub-machine guns at the ready.  I ducked back just in time to avoid having my head blown off as they opened fired.  Bullets blew through the wall, inches above my head.  I jumped back behind the security station, then felt the wind knocked out of me as I was slammed against the far wall.

The floor was warm on my face, I was facing the corridor as two men with sub-machine guns came around the corner.  They moved quickly and brought their guns down to aim at me.  My powerball spell shattered their weapons, warped the security checkpoint desk, and shattered the bones of the two men with violent cracking sounds. The walls blew out and the ceiling collapsed under the force of the spell.  Debris fell, dust rose, and blood seeped from the men forming dark pools beneath the rubble.  I took a breath and felt an odd numbness in my gut as I pushed myself to my knees.  I saw blood on the floor beneath me and watched as more blood dripped from a hole in my armor.
I gained my feet and leaned against a section of battered wall.  The team was calling out targets in my ear, but I couldn't make sense of it.  I was bleeding badly and making a helluva mess on the flooring.  I started to feel tired and cold.  I fumbled with a small flask in a pouch on my belt.  It took a moment to get the flask open. As I poured the water from the Blood Falls out over my gut wound it felt warm, and a static shock seemed to hit me.  Healing spells are hard, and only made harder when you have to perform them on yourself.  The ambient magical energy was playing havoc with spellcasting and I saw sparks leap from my fingertips even as the water itself began to glow a pale blue.  My stomach contorted, threatening revolt, as my abdominal muscles were knitted back together.  I slid down to the floor again, awash in a fresh tide of pain as the wound closed and expelled a badly deformed bullet.  I lay there, listening to my team calling out the action.

"Magic!" Angel called out. "Respond!"
"I'm hit," I replied. "I'll be up soon though, continue on mission."

"Angel, we have to go!" Ed yelled over the comm. "These guys aren't going away!"
"Stay on mission," I muttered.

"Damnit Ed, keep your head on right and keep them off me!" Angel exclaimed.  It sounded like things were going badly for the rest of the team too.
I pushed myself to my feet and uttered a spell to sterilize the blood I'd left behind.  I wasn't likely to get another chance, so I dashed back into the lab.  Two men wearing black military fatigues and light military armor were dropping a bag over the totem.  They were turning their heads when my little sleep spell hit them.  Mana flared at my fingertips and my fingernails singed as sparks danced along my hands leaving mana burns in their wake.  The spell hit them, a faint white luminescence appearing around them for just an instant as my spell wrapped around their minds and squeezed.  The two men dropped to the floor, the bag lay hanging atop the totem.   "Thanks for the assist guys," I said.

The bag was adorned with strange embroidery and had eleven small discs attached to its interior. I pulled the bag down around the totem and felt the pressure of the erupting mana drop considerably. The two men were breathing but lay still, so I took a chance and opened my astral sight.  The flood of mana had been reduced.  How ever it may have done it, the bag seemed to be containing a majority of the mana eruption.  The men on the floor were unconscious and both were magically active.  Given the power I saw in their auras it was good I got the drop on them as both were much more powerful than I was.  Each had a weapon focus, a knife, at their belts.  They were just too dangerous to leave with them, so I took the weapon foci and stuffed them in my belt.  I jerked the helmets off both men and beheld Amerind features, dark hair cut close in the traditional 'high and tight' military style, elven ears and face paint bearing a white spectral figure on each man's forehead.
"Angel are you seeing this?" I asked.

"Oh DREK!" she exclaimed.

"Yeah, we're leaving!"  I snapped. "If you don't have your data when I get there we'll have to find another way."
"I'm almost done!" she called back.

I grabbed the bag and hoisted the totem over my shoulder.  I was once again grateful for my spell enhanced strength as the thing was horrifically heavy.  I jogged out of the lab and out into the hall, the totem's weight slowing me down as I climbed over the rubble. I sent out the call and my air spirits appeared in the hall with me, a pale luminescence radiating from them. Gitti and Ed were spraying rounds down the hall ahead at the intersection ahead of me. At my command an earth elemental manifested in the hall. "No time guys we have to leave!"

The street samurai dashed back into the office ahead of me.  I heard a loud explosion and felt the shockwave through the floor.  I kept my feet and made it into the office.  "Everyone on me!"  I wove an invisibility spell around us and sent out commands to the three air elementals.  Fog engulfed us even as the spirits lifted and carried us out the window.  "Crank, Ratchet meet us on the ground level.  We'll use the fog to hide what vehicle we're in." I said.
"Rolling," was Ratchet's only reply.

Gunfire sounded behind us as we floated down the block and down to the entrance of the parking garage.  The bison rolled out from the exit, the back doors open, with Crank holding the door and watching.  I let the invisibility spell slip away and sent a final command to two of the air elementals, releasing them from their obligation to me with a final task.

Fog flooded the streets of downtown Seattle, the sky clouded over and hail began to fall.  "Ratchet get us out of her but drive casually.  I don't want them to make us as a getaway vehicle." I said.
"I know my job," Ratchet spat back.

We rolled away in the suddenly slowed traffic as an unseasonable storm set it.  The fog wasn't a problem for autonomous systems, but vehicle controls slowed traffic in response to the hail and accompanying rain.  It took us forty minutes to get to Ratchet's place.
Ratchet was in a foul mood even though his gear was all intact and undamaged. His payoff seemed to lighten his mood a bit though and he said, "If you need a wheel man again, I'll consider it."  It was the best I could hope for at the time.  Crank, Ed, and Gitti were well pleased with their payouts.  Ed had been shot, a grazing wound on the inside of his left thigh, but I was able to heal that up easily enough.  Gitti had some injuries to his feet where the glass from the window had penetrated his boots. I was able to heal those up on the ride back to Ratchet's garage.
I paid off Crank, Edgy Ed, and Gitti, then left the garage with Angel.  My car service picked us up and ferried us to my safe house.  I sent a text to Mr. Johnson, "target retrieved. local assets dead on arrival.  Opposition team members dead or injured.  No friendly casualties."

My response came almost instantly, "Same storage unit one hour"

I made good on my deal with Angel.  She offered to come along but I declined.  The totem was a dangerous relic and I thought the fewer people exposed to it the better. I only had thirty minutes left to make the rendezvous, so I called out to my last bound air elemental and flew over to the storage facility, bag full of scary totem in hand.
I was alone, exposed, and anxious to get rid of the artifact in the bag. The door to the storage unit opened as I approached.  It was a large unit, easily able to accommodate a pair of vehicles.  Inside a limousine faced the entrance.  Three large troll gentlemen were visible, one at the door control, one near the driver's side door, and one on the passenger side rear doors.  As I approached the rear passenger doors opened and Ms. Goode glided out of the vehicle. She was wearing a turquoise business suit and looked like she was fresh from a meeting.  Mr. Johnson stepped out behind her, as imposing as always, and waved me forward.

"Charles, I'm surprised to see you so soon." he said. "Can we give you a ride?" 
Let me make this clear. I'm generally against the whole, 'let’s go for a ride' thing.  It smacks of old gangster flat vids where they bury someone alive in concrete.  There was a lot of money on the line for this deal though, and I was hedging my bets that pulling this off was going to make me valuable enough to keep alive. I just prayed I was right.

"Thank you," I said.  I walked to the limo and extended my hand to Ms. Goode, "Samantha, a pleasure to see you again."
"Likewise," she replied.

I climbed into the limousine, and gently set the bag containing the meter-long totem on the floor.  Ms. Goode glided back into the seat next to me, while Mr. Johnson climbed in behind her and sat across from me.  The limo began to pull away, effortlessly and with no highway noise evident.  "A beautiful vehicle," I complimented.
"Thank you," Ms. Goode replied. "Now that we're alone do you mind if I call you 'Tommy'"

"Not at all," I replied. "Would you like to see the artifact?"
"Yes," Mr. Johnson replied.  I unzipped the bag and carefully pulled back the fabric to reveal the bronze-gold coloring.  His eyes fixed on the object, cold and calculating. "You seem remarkably well for someone who has been shot. Glad of it.  I'm impressed by your success."

"Don't be, I can't claim it was a stroke of genius. Geo-Dynamics had triggered something, it was erupting mana into the local astral space." I paused for a moment. "Several Geo-Dynamics personnel were killed by mana burns and by having their essence worn away. I saw they were vunerable and acted." I explained as I zipped up the bag.  "A second team arrived while we were extracting the artifact. They must have concluded the same thing as I and tried for the artifact. There were several injuries."
"Who?" Ms. Goode asked.

"Amerind elves, Ghosts from the look of it." I replied.  Ms. Goode turned to Mr. Johnson.  There was a moment of silence as something unsaid passed between them. "The two I inspected were alive and had white imagery upon their foreheads. " I patted the two knives at my belt, "I took these from them."
"Trophies?" Mr. Johnson asked.

"No. I didn't want them waking up and stabbing me in the back with them." I added.  "They are, of course, for sale if you'd like them."
Mr. Johnson smiled at that, and I suddenly felt a little sick to my stomach. "Oh, I think we can come to an agreement." Mr. Johnson made his offer and I accepted.  It wasn't a negotiation.

Mr. Johnson and Ms. Goode gave me a small case containing the agreed upon sum. The certified credsticks held more nuyen than I had ever had in my life at that point.   "It’s a pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Goode." I said. 
"Likewise, Mr. Gun" Mr. Johnson replied. 


It seemed a great time to get out of town for a while. I spoke with Aria, and we planned a little getaway.  Sheila didn't complain about me taking her waitress on a holiday.  We spent the rest of June in Europe, hanging around tourist traps and seeing the sights.  We spent three days in Rome and took a tour in the Vatican, which was pretty cool.  

We returned to Seattle on July 3rd.  I made contact with Angel and she confirmed that she has been able to remove all the trouble that warrant had caused.  I brought Aria home with a suitcase full of souvenirs, a chip full of great images, and some fantastic memories.  

I picked up a few books while in London, and had a shock when I had to pay the import fees on them. They were added to my collection and I told myself I was finally going to get to work on some projects I wanted to tackle.  I reinforced the wards on the house and hired Angel to upgrade the security. 

The Geo-Dynamics job was my first big score.  I seriously considered retiring.  I thought, "I'll go straight" but the shadows held me fast.  It would be years before I could break away.


From the Author:

Thank you for reading my fan fiction.

As you know, I do not own Shadowrun.  These stories are derived from game play and any resemblance to any real person or crime is purely coincidental.

If this is your first time reading one of the stories about Tommy, I invite you to catch up on his previous adventures.  Learn what motivated the character and drove him to acts of mercy, as well as horrific acts of brutal revenge.

I also write role-playing game material.  I'm currently working on the final, formatted version of "Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock" which was funded on Kickstarter (thanks backers!!).  My next Kickstarter campaign should launch in late April or early May for my book "The Steel Road" which is a resource of fifty exotic weapons from around the world.

Art from "The Steel Road"
Art by: Zachary Viola (used with permission)

"The Steel Road" is copyright (c) 2018 by W.S. Quinton (me).  All art for that book is copyright (c) 2017 and 2018 by Zachary Viola and is used with permission and under contract.  Published by Sinopa Publishing LLC.

In "The Steel Road" you'll find weapons from exotic locations such as Africa, Korea, and Somoa (among other places).  The interior is designed to have the appearance of a sketch book, kept by the fictitious narrator who leads a caravan of weapon merchants.  Travel the world on the edge of a blade, and bring exotic weapons to your table.

About the Kickstarter for "The Steel Road":  During the first three days of the KickStarter campaign I will be offering backers PDF and Print on Demand codes for the ridiculously low backer level of $8 (USD), and that level is stretch goal eligible.  The book is being made available in 5th edition OGL format as well as in a Pathfinder compatible edition.  All weapon statistics are independently developed and each weapon is illustrated.  You will also find that an enchanted, "legendary" version of each weapon is described and illustrated as well.  I've made a great deal of effort to make this book useful and fun, while Zachary Viola has done an amazing job in making the art look fantastic.

I hope you'll support my efforts in the campaign for "The Steel Road" and I hope you will continue to enjoy my fan fiction.

Thank you!

W.S. "Sam" Quinton

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