Monday, October 8, 2018

The Art of War, Part One: Gather information

Art by: Christian Martinez
From: Whispers of Persephone (now on KickStarter)


“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”
Sun Tzu
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December of 2060 was a tough month.  At work I found myself going through dossiers of potential team candidates.  The number of bodies we had assembled had grown to more than five times what it was when I came on and showed no signs of slowing.  Creep was locked away, heavily medicated and being seen by professionals who (shockingly) declared that he showed signed of psychosis.  Jazz was unconscious.  He had slipped into a coma post-op and was being monitored for any signs of recovery.  I tasked Fey to stand in for Jazz, at least until he recovered, and set myself to vetting another magician.  The remainder of my time was spent in reading up on metaplanar theory, and filing expense reports for training exercises.

Things at home were buzzing with excitement as the mainstream Christmas holiday (mandatory gift-giving day) was approaching.  Aria and I bought new toys for Jasmine and Violet and after considerable thought, bought gifts for Lily and Rose. After the issue at the archology the previous year, we ordered our gifts from the 'trix.

I spent time during my lunch breaks shopping for a gift for my wife, and my evenings playing with my twins and enjoying my family.  The twins liked to be levitated around, which led to the invention of a strange game where I would float them around the room then Aria would have to guess which twin was which.  She always knew the correct answer.

Lily and Rose stayed home unless I called them. Aria's life was easier with them around to help with the twins, and I didn't feel pressed to have them around at the office. I was busy, and spent very little time in my basement laboratory that month.  Venturing down to check my inventory of key supplies, and to reassure myself that the wards on my safe were intact.

Christmas came and there was a lot of joy in the house.  We made it through the conventional holiday season and kept right on celebrating through the Orthodox holiday season as well. Snow fell over the Metroplex in the early days of January 2061, blanketing the city in a veil of white.

*****

January 9th, 2061

Sometime around 0300 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

I woke up covered in sweat. The hairs on my arms were standing on end and I felt the prickly sensation of a static charge against my skin.  Beside me Aria was blissfully asleep.   Rose lifted her head and looked at me, her thought voice whispering in my mind. "Something is different, there is an energy that passed through the house." 

My answering thoughts reached out as my feet found the cool floor. "Get the twins, gather Lily and bring them here.  Protect Aria and the babies, I'll check it out." 

Rose vanished from the world and into the astral plane.  I padded across the chilly floor, dragging my bathrobe around me as I went. I made it to the hall and saw Lilly and Rose in their metahuman forms, carrying the sleeping figures of Jasmine and Violet toward me.  I waved them into the room then crept down the hall and into my living room.  

The house felt cold, and seemed to be getting colder by the moment.  The heating unit was running, but to little effect. My breath created little puffs of fog and I shivered in spite of the thick bathrobe.  

I opened myself to the astral plan and beheld a misty fog of mana flowing through the house. It was growing thicker, more dense, and the air was becoming chilled as the magical energies continued to manifest in my home.  I felt a rumble of power beneath my feet, and felt a sinking feeling in my gut. There were sounds in the astral plane, a low murmur or buzz like you hear in a large church before services start.  It may have been distant voices or astral echoes surging into prominence with the presence of so much magic energy.  I didn't know what was going on, but I had a bad feeling.

The stairs to the basement were shrouded in a real, tangible mist.  My astral senses were occluded by the mana-mists that were trapped within my home.  The wards were holding well, bottling up the mana and keeping it trapped inside.  My bare feet felt the cold concrete of my basement as I stepped down and thumbed the lights.

My basement was laid out in very particular manner. Everything has its place, the equipment is aligned according to geomantic principles, and I have a circle etched into the concrete.  That circle was six meters across and its center rested beneath the small glowing orb that provided such a steady flow of mana into my home.  My eyes saw a dim light in the fog while my astral perception saw a brilliant light blazing like a small sun hovering over the circle's center.  Dew was visible on every surface I could still see through the thick fog.

This bizarre manifestation of mana energy was something I had never experienced before.  In fact, I had never even heard of anything like that before.  Mana and mist flowed from the mana eruption.  Dew had collected with small puddles of mana within the circle, while so much more was pouring out into my lab.

"Right. First step, containment." I said out loud.  Talking to yourself isn't a bad thing unless you start using different voices, right?

"Father?" Rose's thought voice sounded worried.

I looked about at the mana flooding my basement and calmed myself. My reply was as gentle as anything I would have said to the twins. "It's okay Rose.  I'm fine. Protect the family while I resolve this."

"Yes, father." She still sounded worried.

I scrambled over to the my reagent cabinet and pulled out a sealed glass bottle filled with fine blue sand.  The sand had been collected in the Painted Desert and carefully purified from any lingering pollutants over the course of hours of alchemical refinement.  The powder was always cool to the touch, tingled with the promise of magical potency and was one of my more rare reagents.  I pulled away the wax seal that lined the cork and walked back over to the engraved circle in my floor.

I realized that the mists I could see weren't water vapor.  The spell I had quickened to myself which allowed me to see underwater would have cut through regular fog easily.  No, this was something else.  I passed through it and my skin tingled with every step.  Sparks popped along the glass bottle every few seconds, making me jump at the thought that the glass might break.  It came to me as I bent down to activate the magic circle engraved into my basement floor.  Ectoplasm.  I was seeing a full blown manifestation of mana and the mist were the physical embodiment of mana and spirit energies, ectoplasm.

My hand pressed through the clear plasm I had mistaken for dew and my hand made contact with the engraved circle on the floor.  "Operio" I whispered as I forced the circle closed with an effort of will.  The circle came alive with magical energy, forming a barrier round the blazing point of light that was spilling mana and ectoplasm into my basement lab.  The mists outside the circle began to drift down as they were cut off from the energizing flow of mana energy.  A clear slime of ectoplasm was collecting on every surface. I checked the circle's integrity, noting with satisfaction that the Seal of Solomon I had painstakingly painted on the ceiling above the circle appeared to be acting as a lid as it was holding the mana energies down in the circle. Sparks flashed within the circle as bottled up mana energy was flooding the circle.

"Step two: Identify problem." I told myself.  "Or is it, 'assure safe working environment'?  I always forget which." 

"Father," Lily's thought voice this time. "Mother wants to know what is going on."

"Not certain yet." I replied. "May take a while to fix this. Ask her to call the car service. She and the twins need to be away until I get this contained. Tell her they should go to her mother's place for tonight to let me work on the problem."

"She will not like your answer, father." Rose interrupted.

"I know, but right now I'm not sure what is happening.  Mana is ankle deep in the basement. I'm literally slipping in ectoplasm." I saw mana energies spark within the circle. "Get them out of here safely.  Let me know once you have arrived and notify me if there is any trouble."

"Yes, father."  Lily and Rose's thought voices whispered into my mind.

I turned my attention toward the vexing problem before me.  Mana energy was building up within the circle, I didn't dare to release it as there was simply no way of telling how it might affect the materials in my lab.  I called out to the elemental spirits I held bound and watched as they manifested within the mana heavy environment.  Earth and fire spirits were tasked with reinforcing the circle.  Air and water spirits crossed the circle's boundary with me, as we stepped into the flood.

I stepped into the heavy mist within the circle, ectoplasm clinging to me in a fine layer of ooze. I reflexively wiped at my face, pushing away a layer of ooze that was replaced almost instantly.  The floor was cold, and covered in inches of ectoplasm.  I lay down in the muck, turned my focus inward and let my astral form slip from my body.  The power surging out of the blazing orb had a purity to it I had rarely felt.  There was a faint odor that reminded me of the sea after a storm.

Mana filled the circle, growing more intense as power continued to pour in from the metaplanes.  Minutes ticked by, but the eruption of mana only grew more intense.

"Drek." I cursed quietly.  The elemental spirits looked at me with curious expressions.  "I need answers, and I know where I'm going to have to get them."   I returned to my body, and sat up in the slimy ectoplasm.   It was twenty centimeters deep and had a faint blue luminescence to it.  I called out to the second air elemental I held bound and relayed a series of carefully worded instructions.  It retrieved a box of candles from the reagent cabinet and set them around the circle's at the cardinal points.  It pulled out a bag of salt harvested from the Dead Sea and laid down a second circle to encompass the candles.   A single command to the fire elemental ignited the candles.  The second circle came alive with energy, the candles shooting bursts of flame forty centimeters into the air.

I lay upon the cold concrete, submerged beneath the ectoplasmic slime.

"Spirits of fire, light of the east, I beseech you.  Light my way as I journey the hidden paths.  Cast aside the darkness that I may see."  I intoned the words through slime covered lips. "Spirits of the waters, keepers of the secrets of the deep, I beseech you.  Reveal unto me that which I seek.  Part the deceptions of time, and reveal unto me the truth. Spirits of the earth, foundation of the world, I beseech you.  Support my efforts as I travel the darkened paths.  Guide my steps and strengthen my resolve. Spirits of air and sky, breath of the world, I beseech you.  Watch over my working, blow back the dusts of time, and grant me your foresight." My astral form once again began to slip from my body even as the final words left my mouth. "May your power aid me on my journey." 

My astral form swam through the energetic ooze and soared into the blazing star above me.  A river of power flowed over me as I approached a dark four-armed figure guarding what appeared to be a castle gate.  The Dweller on the Threshold stood ten meters tall if he was a centimeter, glowing swords were brandished in each of his four hands.  "Who dares, to approach!"

I swallowed in fear.  Apparently, the Dweller on the Threshold was in no mood to frag around.

*to be continued in part two*
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Thank you for reading my fan fiction!  I do not own Shadowrun.  This fan fiction is based on game play events and tells the story of one of my favorite characters.

I also design, write and publish role playing game material (not for Shadowrun though).

Recently, I was invited to be a creator on KickStarter's Drip platform.  On that platform I am providing behind the scenes information for subscribers, as well as offering monthly PDF publications.  I hope you'll check it out here: https://d.rip/w-s-quinton

I also have a book project on KickStarter at this time, written for the 5th edition of Gary's game.



 As always your comments and questions are most welcome.


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