Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Wedding Bells and Burning Hells (Part three ~ Requiem)

"There must be some way out of here"... All along the Watchtower


Sunday, July 25th, 2060

1425 hours, operational area local time

I was afraid.  I don't mean I was nervous.  I am not saying I felt the cold tingling hands of fear.  I mean I felt the kind of fear that puts an icy cold sensation in your guts.  The kind of fear that makes grown men lose control of their bodily waste functions.

"Machine?" Jazz whispered.

I didn't respond.  I heard him and understood he was wanting to know what I saw, but I didn't know what to say.

"Machine!?" Jazz's voice was insistent. "What the hell?!"

"Jazz. We're in deep." I took a breath and tried to steel myself against the fear I felt. "Let's go." I pushed myself up and stepped into the bloodied room.

"Oh. My. God." I heard Jazz swear behind me. "Machine, what the HELL is that?!?!"

"First guess? I think it's a metaplane and probably one of the hellish variety." I replied.  A wailing sound blew into the room on a gust of hot air tainted with the scent of ozone and brimstone.  "Get the team up here and put gun barrels facing that gateway but save one to watch the steps."

The team filed in and each paused upon seeing the portal alight against the far wall.  Creep joined me at the totem.  "The essence trail goes in there." He said. "Whoever it is, that person is alive."

"Agreed.  Have you ever seen something like this?" I pointed to the totem.

"No. It's pouring out mana energy, fueling the portal." Creep looked at me, his eyes alight with magic and madness. "I've never seen this much power in an object."

"I have. It didn't end well." I looked out onto the hellscape beyond the tear in reality that stood at the far side of the room. "We're going to take it with us if we can get that gate closed."

"That's a big IF." Creep replied. "I've known free spirits that could create portals for a brief amount of time, but this has to have been open for a while.  With this thing feeding the portal power, there is no telling if it's even possible to close it."

"Have you ever seen a metaplane like that?" I asked.

"Sure have." Creep replied. "I think you and I wander through different realms, Machine."

"We have a survivor to retrieve. I'm going to need you and your demons to hold the gate."  I felt a terrible dread about what I was about to do. "While I'm gone, get these victims into body bags, we'll take them back with us."

"You're going in there?" Creep's eyebrows went up. "No offense meant Machine, but have you lost your damn mind? Walking into a random metaplane is stupid.  Walking into one that looks like it came straight out of Dante's Inferno is a whole new level of stupid."

"We have a mission, Creep." I was still scared drek-less but talking about what was about to happen helped settle my nerves.  "Hold the gate.  I'll be back with our target if at all possible."

"And you think I'm insane." Creep shook his head.

"Jazz, you're in charge until I get back.  Taz, Ace and Fey are with me.  Don and clear your masks, we're going in."  I got some disbelieving looks but the three weapon specialists pulled on their gas masks nonetheless. I stepped up to the tear in space, and looked out on the blasted landscape beyond.  "Jazz, hold this gate."

"Copy that Machine." Jazz replied. "Bring them back."

I nodded and stepped through the gateway and into the hellish metaplane.  The stench was horrific.  The stench of burning flesh battled with brimstone and ozone as each tried to destroy my sense of smell in the most painful way possible.  The spells I had woven into my very body kept the toxic atmosphere from killing me, but I had to endure the odor.  My stomach threatened to revolt.

"Jazz can you read me?" I asked over the comm.  He didn't respond.  I turned and saw the portal behind me, floating in empty space mere inches over the blasted landscape.  I could see Jazz, his AK-97 propped over the lip of the dais.  "Jazz can you read me?"  Jazz made no indication he heard me.

I switched to the team-wide channel. "Radio check."

"I hear you just fine, Ace replied.  He was standing in front of the gate and had been the last of the three weapon specialists to cross.

"I have you loud and clear," Fey replied. "but I can't raise Puma."

"It's hot as balls here." Taz murmured.

"Stow it, we all feel it." I looked around, opening my sight as I did and located the think wisps of essence.  "We go this way.  Stay calm, conserve ammo, and we'll get out of this just fine." I just hoped my fear wasn't noticeable in my voice.  "Stay close everyone."

I started at a jog, following the wisps of essence that would lead me to our survivor.  Flames jetted up from pits in the landscape.  Screams of pain and terror co-mingled with the wailing of the dead to haunt the abrasive winds.  We skirted suspicious puddles of green liquid, and felt the sweat soak our clothes.  The heat was comparable to a blazing desert at noon.

"How much further?" Ace asked.

"Don't know." I replied. "We'll know when we get there."

We traveled for what seemed like hours.  We crested dunes of small bones, trudged through stinking patches of sulfur, and felt the winds sting us with blown particles.  I saw a lake of burning sulfur where demonic fire spirits, looking much like the ones Creep bound to service, tormented astral forms by holding them down to burn.  The cries of the damned brought harsh laughter from the beautiful demons.  We gave the lake a wide berth, trudging through charred plains of shattered volcanic glass.

I saw an astral form, the soul of some hapless being, picking its way through razor sharp spines of obsidian only to be dragged to the ground, held fast by the jaws of demonic looking dog.  Taz raised his SMG but I motioned for him to lower it.  We hid as the dog dragged the screaming soul away to whatever torment awaited it.

"I had it dead to rights, Machine!" Taz sounded fierce even with his gas mask on.

"We don't want to raise attention.  We're still going to need to get back to the gate once we have our target." I told him.  We took five minutes to catch our breath, then cut back toward the lake of fire and picked up the essence trail once more.  We followed it to a pit that opened on an expanse of salts and plunged into darkness.  Tortured screams and laughter echoed from the rough-hewn rock walls of the pit.

"Down there?" Fey asked.

"Yeah, down there." I replied.  "Everyone remember where we parked.  Let's get this done."

There were no steps, and no easy ways to climb down. I took hands with the others and wove the levitation spell around us.  We floated down into the pit as screams wafted up to meet us.  Minutes stretched out and the pit's opening shrank above us.  The heat was stifling, and the air became tainted with a stench I don't have words to describe.  We landed in heap of rotting corpses, tattered astral bodies, and suffering souls.  I climbed over the heap, following the faint wisps of essence that led me into this hell.  The wisps were growing faint, and I was suddenly fearful that we might lose our way if the survivor died.

The damned grabbed at me, pleading in languages I had never heard before.  Corpses burst in clouds of stench that ignited and charred the filth around us.  The dead hated us, and we found ourselves batting away corpses and throwing down damned souls that sought to bury us under the pile with them.

We scrambled over, then tumbled down the mound of gore, striking a floor of rough black stone.  I gained my feet and felt the heat through my boots. The sound of my footsteps echoed menacingly down the vast corridor in front of me, a ribbon of fading essence lead the way.

Try as I might, I could not silence my footsteps on the stone.  Each step echoed all around me, while the cries of the damned and demonic laughter rang out ahead of us. Strangely, the sounds of souls and demons produced no echoes.

The corridor opened into a chamber that was roughly the size of a basketball court.  The floor was of the same blackened stone of the corridor, the walls were rough stone and adorned with the bones of countless victims.  The rest of the archaeological team was there, crucified to the walls. The fading wisps of essence drifted over the wretched figure of Dr. Louise. She was hanging limply from the wall, her wrists were pierced by shards of bone that held her pinned to the wall.

"They don't look like they're going to make it out there." Taz said.

"We take them anyway.  That's the mission." I replied. "Let's move, sooner we get this done, the sooner we get out of here."

We were halfway across the room when the air shifted in the heat. A figure stepped out, fully four meter's tall.  It had the body of sultry, feminine demon with cloven hooves and a barbed tail.  Its red skin was covered in small scales the size of a baby's fingernails.  The face possessed flawless skin that ended in a bare skull just below eyes of blue-white fire.  A crest of six horns sprouted from the top of the monster's skull and ran to the back of its head.  It was nude and reeked of sex, sulfur, and death.

The monster's voice rang in my skull. "Oh, new toys.  How I so love to play.  Such consideration as I have all but broken these latest."

I hardened my magical defenses, extending them over Taz, Fey, and Ace.

"You like to play little wizard, don't you?"  My defenses held and I heard the demon's voice from it's own mouth.  It was a delightful sound that hurt my ears.

"Open fire." My words were answered by the burping sound of Fey's SMG.  Silver rounds stitched up the monster's abdomen, spilling green blood and eliciting a scream of anguish.  Taz and Ace stood slack-jawed, staring at the demon.

"Get in the fight you two!" Fey yelled.  Taz and Ace ignored her and continued to stare.

I drew out my S&W500(tm) Magnum and leveled the heavy pistol at the monster.  The monster looked me in the eyes and everything changed.

I was standing in my bathroom, steam clouding the mirror.  My form fitting body armor had blood on it.  Aria was standing in front of me, her eyes wide with terror.  The babies were crying down the hall.  My heavy pistol was leveled at her head.

"Tommy! No, baby please. Wake up!" she pleaded with me.

I lowered the gun. "What happened?" I asked her.

"You came home from work and wouldn't talk to me.  You had blood on you and just went to the bathroom. I came in to ask you what was wrong, to see if you were hurt, and you..." Aria teared up in front of me.  "... you pointed your weapon at me."  She cried and took a step toward me.

"I'm sorry Aria." I heard myself say. "I don't know what happened. I don't remember coming home."

"It's okay my love." she said through her tears.  She took another step toward me.  "Don't leave me again.  Please.  I hate it when you leave."

"It is not the truth," I heard a faint whisper in the back of my mind.

"I can't stop yet, honey.  You know that." The trideo was on too loud and I found it hard to think over the sound of gunfire.  "We should turn that down or the girls won't get any sleep."

Aria took another step toward me, her eyes wet with fresh tears and a smile creeping up on her face.  "It'll be okay my love. Rose can sleep through anything."

"A lie..." I heard the whisper again and a cold knot formed in my stomach.

I brought the heavy pistol back up, its barrel touching the Aria's forehead.

Aria's face didn't show surprise or fear. "I love you." she said.

"If I'm wrong I'll find those magic balls," I promised her.

Her face took on a puzzled look. "What?"

I pulled the trigger and my wife's head exploded in a shower of blood, bone and brains.

Everything was dark. "It was a lie." repeated over and over again in the darkness.  I heard a soft, rhythmic thumping sound pulsing somewhere.

"Was I wrong?" I wondered. My voice echoed against the darkness. I remembered the look on Aria's face and prayed I wasn't wrong.

"It was a lie." The voice came louder this time, closer.

I couldn't see, but my hands felt warm and sticky, like they were covered in blood.  "Who's there?" I asked.  Fear was creeping up on me.

"We're coming. We will do violence."  I heard the voice sounding in my head.  It was warm, and familiar.

I opened my eyes, and found my left hand pinned to the wall by piece of splintered bone. My right hand grasped my heavy pistol like it was the only thing keeping me alive.  In the chamber before me, Fey darted about.  Her enhanced reflexes keeping her just ahead of the demon that sought to kill her.  The Colt submachine gun in her hand burping out silver rounds that stitched small wounds over the monster that was trying to kill her.  Taz and Ace had been crucified to the wall on either side of me.  Their eyes were glossy and vacant, their breathing shallow.

My wrist hurt like hell.  I holstered my pistol, grasped the splintered bone and tore it from the wall and out of my arm.  I bled horribly and uttered the incantation of healing as I struggled to open the vial of water and poured it out over my wound.  The waters bubbled and popped as they came into contact with tainted air I was breathing, and foamed as it made contact with the wound.  I didn't have time to waste, so I gritted my teeth and held on to the spell as best as I could.

"If anyone can hear me I need help!" Fey yelled over the comm.  "Damnit! Ace! Taz! Machine! Snap out of it!"

I drew my heavy pistol again and took aim at the demon. I had a flash of an afterimage, Aria's face at the end of the barrel. "No.  Not this time."  I pulled the trigger, the heavy pistol bucked in my hand and the silver round struck the demon on the chin and blew its lower jaw off.

"Reloading!" Fey screamed.

I aimed between the demon's exposed breasts and fired again, blowing a hole the size of a troll's fist into the creature.  "Two." I said, and pulled the hammer back.

The monster's barbed tail lashed out at me but I stepped aside and leveled the gun at the joint above the right cloven hoof.  The pistol roared and bucked in my hand.  The creature's joint exploded and its hoof came off.  It screamed in rage and pain. "Three." I intoned, levering the hammer back again.

The demon sneered in rage, extended her right hand and spat a word at me that no living being was ever meant to hear.  The spell struck my magical defenses and the mana rang like a church bell.  Energy pulsed around me, arching against the stones and tearing at my will.  I felt the burns appearing on my face and hands and smelled the familiar stench of singed hair and ozone.

I shot the creature in its outstretched hand, the roar of the pistol was strangely reassuring. "Four." I growled through gritted teeth.

The barbed tail lashed out as the monster pushed itself up on its elbow, narrowly missing my head as I thumbed the hammer back again.

"FIRING!" Fey cried out. "DIE YOU FRAGGER! DIE!"  Her SMG hammered out rounds that struck just below the monster's ribs and walked up over the bare breasts.  Bits of flesh were blown off and green blood splattered the crucified corpses behind the demon.  Fey pulled the weapon in tightly to her as she burned through the magazine.

I leveled my gun at the demon's eyes.  "Five." The back of the demon's head exploded.  A sickening rainbow of colors mixed with splinters of bone showered the stone floor.  The demon crashed to the floor.

"Reloading." Fey and I said in unison.

Rose and Lilly appeared in a flash of light.  Two angels, radiating strength and seething with a fury I could feel in my mind. "You are hurt." Their voices reached my mind and I felt grateful and worried for them.

"Girls we have work to do." I said.  Get the living people down off the wall, treat their injuries."  I pulled the hammer back on my pistol, walked over and put five more rounds into the demon.

Fey watched the corridor we had entered from. "So is this one of those 'as yet unidentified awakened threats' you guys were on about?"

"No.  This wasn't as tough as they were." I replied.  I looked over the corpse of the demon and watched as it began to turn to ash.  "Though I suppose it could be almost in the same league."

"You're slottin' with me, right?" Fey asked.  Her eyes were wide enough that I could see them through her mask.  "That thing took you three out of action in a blink."

"Yeah, it got my number and played in my head." I told her.  "This one liked to play mind games."

"Most of these are dead." Rose exclaimed.  "Their spirits have been consumed."

"This place is vile. Why did you come here?" Lilly's voice held a trembling quality to it.

"These people needed my help, Lilly.  I came here to save them" I explained.  I thought about it a moment and added, "and because I had to for my job."

We pulled Ace and Taz off the wall and got them moving again.  I had them police up the shell casings while Rose sterilized all of the blood that was left behind in that cavern of the damned.  We slipped out of the cavern, flying over the pile of the dead, with Taz and Ace carried by an air elemental.  Fey flew on Lilly's back and held onto Dr. Louise, while the two other survivors clung to Rose's back.  I levitated up behind them.

"Girls, follow the link back to the gate. Dr. Louise, we're getting you and your people out of here." I poured out a measure of water from the Blood Falls over Dr. Louise, and applied my best healing spell.  She was weak, and hadn't regained consciousness.

We flew on, covering miles of blasted, hellish landscape and picked up a flock of the winged eels who pursued us.  Taz and Ace shot down dozens of the little monsters.  We flew on, dashing across the sky as more winged shapes rose to give chase.  Demon women rose from lakes of burning sulfur to throw bolts of fire at us.  Maddened souls erupted from geysers of flame, screaming incoherently only to be dragged back down by some unseen force.  We fled for our lives and souls, following the fading wisps of essences bound up to Dr. Louise as they stretched on toward the tear in the fabric of reality.

We came through the astral gateway reeking of brimstone and death.  The survivors never regained consciousness.  We lay them on the floor and Simon opened the medkit and went to work on Dr. Louise.  "I'm not a doctor, but I've had a little training."  He confessed.  The other surviving members of the dig team, shuddered and coughed up bloody globs of sulfur and dirt.

"Machine, we've got company coming." Creep reported. I heard him intone a spell and saw his demon spirits hurl fire at a cloud of winged eels that were fast approaching.

"Jazz, suppression fire.  Keep those things busy until we can close that opening." I heard his AK-97 firing before I finished speaking.  The rest of the team joined him in sending death down range.

Dr. Louise convulsed violently, blood foaming at her mouth.  The bio-monitor hooked to her sounded the alarm as her heart flat-lined.  I watched as her essence finished dissipating.  Her soul vanished peacefully, while my ears still heard the wails of the damned from the portal behind me.  Simon started chest compression.

"Simon, she's gone. See to the others." I told him.  I turned to my ally spirits. "Girls thanks for coming."

"It is my pleasure." Lily replied. "I told you I would not fail you this next time."

Rose's thought voice reached my mind. "We love you and Aria was worried.  She would ask of you and was alarmed when we told her you were in the underworld."

Oh. Drek.

I removed the totem from the dais and watched as the gateway to Hell slowly closed. It went into one of the archaeological sample bags.

Of the archaeology team, only Michael Smith survived.  We placed Dr. Louise and the others in body bags and brought them back to the wall and the gate.  Wolf and Tom hadn't seen any action while we were away.  It was a relief to see them on the wall, healthy and whole.

It took three trips to ferry the bodies out of the ruins and out to the Osprey.

We didn't scour the ruins for relics.  I called out to control and showed her the totem we recovered.  She approved our immediate return and we packed up got out of there before anything else could go wrong.  I watched the body bags for any sign of movement, and was greatly relieved not to see any.

We were over the Gulf of Oman when I sent Lilly and Rose home ahead of me.  My ally spirits hugged me before they vanished into astral space.  Jazz stared at Creep who wisely said nothing.

Monday, July 26th 2060

0345 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

I opened my front door and found Aria asleep in the rocking recliner we had bought when we discovered she had been pregnant.  She had baby vomit on her shirt and her hair was up in a tail that had stray hairs escaping in a frenzy.  Lily was holding Violet, who was sleeping soundly in her arms, while Rose was holding Jasmine who was patting at her cheek.  I sneaked down to my bathroom and took a long shower, scrubbing at every part of my body to get the stench of brimstone off.  When I came out of the shower I felt like I had lost a layer of skin.  I pulled on my robe, and joined my family in the living room.

I had Rose and Lily put the twins to bed, while I carried Aria back to the bedroom and tucked her into our bed. She woke up as I was pulling the covers up.

"Hi, you." she said sleepily.  "I'm so glad you're home."

"Me too, it was a long day."  I kissed her on the forehead.  "I'm going to get some breakfast, then I'll come to bed."

"Okay, but if the twins wake up it's your turn to take care of them." Aria yawned and rolled over. "I need some sleep."

I managed to get three hours of sleep before Jasmine and Violet began to fuss.  Rose appeared and advised me that "foul odors were coming from the twins".  I pulled on my robe and went forth to do battle with dirty diapers.

My daughters, giggled and squirmed as I cleaned them up.  Their little mouths turned up in grins as I carried them out to the living room.  A little levitation had them floating in the air before me, as I made funny faces and tickled their little feet.

Rose warmed bottles of breast milk for them.  I fed and burped them, and watched as they fell asleep in my arms.  Lilly and Rose helped me put them down to bed.  I asked Lily to watch over them, asked Rose to make breakfast, and I sat down on the couch and fell asleep.

I woke up a few minutes later to bacon, toast, and my grumpy wife asking about coffee.

It was good to be home.

Thank you for reading my fan fiction!  I hope you have been enjoying the stories of Tommy's adventures throughout his Shadowrun career.  These stories are derived from game play and from down time activites.

I also develop, write and publish role playing game titles (though not for Shadowrun).  You can find my projects on KickStarter and on Drivethrurpg.  I'll hope you'll share these stories with others.

In August, after completing fulfillment of The Steel Road, I will be launching the KickStarter campaign for a new supplement book for the 5th Edition of Gary's game.  That project is titled Whispers of Persephone and includes art from Christian Martinez!

Art by Christian Martinez
From: Whispers of Persephone
All Rights Reserved

Your comments are most welcome.  I answer as soon as I can.

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