Monday, November 19, 2018

The Art of War, Part Six: All warfare is based upon deception

Never deal with a dragon,
Famous street proverb

January 17th, 2061

0820 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

The elevator ride up gave me time to simmer in a sea of emotions.  Fear fought with anger as I mulled over the events of my last 'meeting' in Samatha's office.   I hardened my resolve, stoked my anger to quench my fear, and marched out of the elevator to confront Samantha's assistant.

"Good morning, Machine." She smiled at me. "She says you are to come right in."

"Right." I marched past her to Samantha's office door.

"Enter." the voice from the speaker sounded before I could knock.  The door opened and I stepped through without breaking stride.

Samantha Goode, Control, was alone in her office.

"Please, have a seat." she said.

I sat down across from her and took in her office.  It had been repaired, remodeled and cleaned since my last visit. "I see you cleaned up the place."

"Mr. Johnson wants that stone, Machine."  Samantha was beautiful.  One of those examples of elfin grace and otherworldly loveliness that poets write about.  She was also a frighteningly powerful magician.  I had seen her conceal the approach of an aircraft so well that I hadn't even become aware of it until the dust it kicked up gave away its landing.  At that moment, she looked tired and more than a little angry.

"I don't care." I replied.

"Machine, Tommy, I want you to give him the stone. I'll be very grateful if you do."  She looked over at the window that made up her wall.  It overlooked downtown Seattle and was a fantastic view.  "I'm authorized to pay out bonuses.  Did you know that?  Even with your contract I can make that happen.  I have access to knowledge I think you would find most useful.  I'm sure I can express my gratitude in many ways."

"Should have tried this tactic before beating me up." I said.  I paused, thinking furiously over what my next move would be.

"Yes. Alas, dragons are not known for their patience when confronted with a prize they have long sought.  I'm certain Mr. Johnson regrets your discomfort."  Samantha sounded almost sincere.  "Tommy, don't be a fool.  It will be far better for you, and your family, if you just give him the rock."

There it was.  Thinly veiled, not at all subtle, and right to my face.  Samantha was most likely watching my aura as it betrayed the anger that bloomed in me. Physically, visibly, I held my composure.  "Call him, I'll take him to the Place of Gates and we'll take care of business there.  Just the two of us, Samantha.  You aren't welcome in my home."

"You expect him to go in alone?" Samantha's eyebrows arched in surprise.

"Come on. You and I both know he's practically immortal." I let frustration eek into my voice and my expression. "He's got no reason more reason to be afraid of me than you do.  You're both far more powerful than I am, or are likely to become."

"We're not fools, Tommy.  If you try anything, you'll not live long enough to regret it."  Samantha's voice was the same calm professional tone I was accustomed to.  She was a frightening woman, capable of ordering people to be killed and equally capable of ordering her own people to their deaths.

"Call him.  I'm sure he isn't worried."  I leaned forward and gave her my best hate-filled stare.

Samantha rolled her eyes at my efforts and hit a button on the commlink built into her own desk.  "Sir, he's agreeable but on certain terms.  He wants you to come alone with him to the 'Place' for the exchange."

There was a pregnant silence before a familiar, deep baritone replied. "Excellent. I'll have my car pulled around up front, have him meet me immediately."

"Of course, sir." Samantha replied.  The connection broke and Samantha stared at me pointedly. "I believe you know the way."

"I do." I rose and turned toward the door. "Oh, Samantha?"

"What is it, Machine?" she asked.  Over my shoulder I saw that she had turned her attention to the display on her desk.

"You never should have mentioned my family." My left hand was already extended, the fingers crooked in a gesture of offensive power.  Samantha's eyes went wide and her hands came up in warding gesture that would certainly have broken any spell I sent her way.

In my right hand my viper slivergun made three soft 'pfftt' sounds.  Samantha Goode's head snapped back, half of her skull blown away, her brains splattered across the wall behind her.  I opened my astral sight and saw that her life and considerable magical power had vanished.  I put three more rounds into her chest, just to be certain.

I hurried over to her side, and ripped the health monitor from her left wrist.  It hadn't had time to register anything more than a sudden spike in her blood pressure. "Dishonorable and unprofessional. You should have known better." I took her right hand and thumbed the 'do not disturb' button on her desk control panel.

Samantha Goode had been a beautiful and powerful woman.  The caseless flechette rounds had done away with her beauty, power and her life.   I took my old burner phone out of my pocket and dropped it into her lap.  I holstered my viper,  cast a quick charm to clear the air of the stench of cordite, then wiped away my astral signature from the rooms astral space.

As I headed toward the door Samantha's corpse slid from her chair to land lifelessly on the floor.  I walked out, my face a composed and emotionless mask.  To Samatha's assistant I said, "She asked that she not be disturbed. Something about a divination she needed to perform."

"Oh, thank you Machine." she replied with a bright smile.

I walked in the elevator, commanded it to take me to the lobby.  I reached out to Rose and Lily, our mental and spiritual connection making the communication as easy as if they were in the same room.  "Girls. Rapture." I felt a jolt of surprise from both of them.

"Yes, father." their voices came back to me in unison.  I just hoped it wasn't the last time I would ever hear them.

As I walked out onto the street, Mr. Johnson's limo pulled up.  Danny got out and opened the door for me.  "Thank you." I told him as I climbed into the back of the beautiful car, to sit across from the dragon pretending to be a man.

"Machine." Mr. Johnson smiled. "So good of you to come to your senses."

"Well, I had to think of my future. The family, all that." I replied.

"Wise." His perfect teeth and stormy eyes seemed alive with satisfaction. "I understand you're getting a rather large bonus, for all the great work you've done.  Well deserved, I'd say."

"That is what I understand." I said.  A thin smile crept onto my face. We rode in silence the rest of the way, pulling up into my driveway an hour later.

I walked Mr. Johnson to my front door, thumbed the biometric scanner and stepped in as door swung wide for me.  "Please do come in."

Mr. Johnson stepped in to my house while Danny stood outside near the limo.  "It's far quieter than I would expect.  Particularly with two infants about."  Mr. Johnson commented.

"Aria must have taken the girls somewhere."  I replied.

"I see.  It's a smaller house than I expected.  Somehow I thought you would have put your pay into grander accommodations."  The dragon looked about, his human eyes taking in my home with analytical eyes.

"It serves my needs, and I'm comfortable here." I told him. "Shall we get this over with?"

I walked into the kitchen, and opened the door to the stairs that lead to my basement. "Yes, I sense there is power below us.  You seem far more resourceful than I gave you credit for." Mr. Johnson's eyes narrowed at me. "You do realize that even with the power of your sanctum, you are no match for me."

"I know." I replied.  "Doesn't mean I have to like it, but its true."  I walked down into my basement.  Mr. Johnson, the dragon disguised as a man, followed.

My safe was open, and empty.  The girls had followed my orders, it seemed.  I gestured to the circle I had carved into the basement floor. "I'm certain you can see the font of the power here." I stepped into the circle and sat myself on the cold floor. "If you wouldn't mind?" I gestured to a space within the circle across from me.

I reached into my pocket and wrapped my hand around the small piece of chipped stone.  Power hummed through my body and I opened myself to the astral and watched as mists began to flow from the orb of light into my basement.  "The way will open shortly." I said.

"I am ready." the dragon's thought voice rang all around me.

I floated into the blazing light before me, the dragon close behind me, to emerge in the waters surrounding the gate.  I kicked against the currents and shot upward, breaking the surface of the choppy sea.  All around, ghostly images were manifested and displacing the sea.  The water churned from whirlpools into other worlds, planes, and far flung places on Earth.  A whisper of power floated me out of the sea and onto the isle of rock.  Atop the stone spire, the totem blazed with light and warmth.

Mr. Johnson, erupted from the water turning in air as his body elongated and wings erupted behind him.  The dragon turned with profound, serpentine grace.  Gliding through the air as its thought voice carried a laugh that made my stomach weak.

"AT LAST!" It roared.

I leaped into the air, and flew toward the gate leading to the hellhole beneath Lac Assal.  Behind me, the dragon's laughter turned to a roar of rage.


I shot through the gate, into the ancient tower beneath Lac Assal.  The dragon was close behind.  He shimmered, changing his shape and shrinking to fit through the opening.  I soared past the dais, passed a dozen boxes labeled "Cinnamon Rolls" and soared out into the darkened ruins. The flaming spirits Creep had brought into existence, had long since been vanquished by the monsters in the dark.

I flew as fast as I could, the dragon's roar behind me giving me more than enough reason to run for my life.

The dragon shot out of the tower above and behind me, twisted and shimmered in mid-air as it assumed its full draconic form then roared at me. "GIVE ME THE STONE OR DIE!"

I plummeted toward the dark waters below.  The surface was beginning to break as monstrous forms clawed for the surface, the dragon's wrath waking them from the deep.  I reigned in three meters above the water, praying it was enough to stay out of reach.  I gripped the small piece of stone like it was my only lifeline, and hardened my will against the spell I was certain was soon to come.

The dragon did not disappoint me.

The force of the spell knocked me head over heels as the force of it met my defenses.  Whatever power the small stone could lend me was just enough to keep me from falling victim to the dragon's sorcery.  The spell fell on me like a truck, struck my mystical defenses, and both mana constructs exploded in a kaleidoscope of lights and colors.  Mr. Johnson, the angriest dragon I had ever seen, dove toward me.

I'm not going to lie, I pissed a little. The dragon was larger, more powerful and faster than I.  I was smaller, and darted in close to the pillar we had just exited, flying as fast I could back toward the portal.  I reached into the Faraday pocket hidden on the breast of my form-fitting body armor and pulled out the small plastic box that Crank had given me.

I hit the button on the right and prayed I had done it right.  Below me, turning with unnatural ease, Mr. Johnson gave chase.  From the water beneath the dragon, a large hand grasped the dragon's tail.  It ignored the monster clinging to it, and surged upward after me.

A scream of fright escaped me and I darted through the entrance, and flew back through the portal and over the water.  Behind me, Mr. Johnson shook off the monster that dangled from his tail, shimmered as he once again shrunk his shape.  He flashed forward, wings catching on the entrance as he continued his transformation.  His neck elongating over the dais and the scattered boxes.

"GIVE IT TO ME!!!!" He roared.

I pointed the little plastic box toward the gate as the dragon's head forced its way over the threshold. I pressed the left button and prayed.

Inside each of the cardboard boxes a red diode light flashed as the detonator within fired a charge into the ten kilograms of military grade explosives Crank had packed in.  The explosions ripped against the stone tower and the dragon trying to squirm through it.  Stone yielded, blowing out over the churning blackened waters.

The dragon's expression of rage froze forever as the portal collapsed, severing its head just past the first segmented scales of its neck.  Its battered corpse, plummeted into the littered ruins as its head fell into the pristine waters of the Place of Gates. A horde of ravenous monstrosities fell upon the corpse. The stone archway, the portal back to that hellish cavern hidden beneath Lac Assal, collapsed.  The dragon's head and the lintel stones plunged into the waters.

I gave myself several minutes to regain my calm, then plunged into the waters.  I spent hours beneath the waves, gathering small pieces of stone from the base of several whirlpools.  I drifted into the physical world, finding strange places and one that was frighteningly familiar.  Finally, I found the dragon's severed head, grasped it by a scale and one large tooth, and dragged it to the surface.  I lay it at the base of the tower, wary for any signs of life.

"It's mine you know." I said.  "I won't give this to you."  I looked out over the sea, the phantom images of other worlds and of distant places on Earth.  It was at that moment the scope of it hit me. It was mine.

January 17th, 2061

1308 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

I walked out of my house for the last time.  Danny was still waiting with the limo.  I strode forward, a perfect smile on my face.

"Sir, will Machine be joining us?"  Danny asked.

"No.  The Machine is broken it seems." I turned and saw the smoke as it began to curl out of the garage.  "We should go.  The fire department will be here shortly. Seems there was an accident. A shame, that."

Danny opened the door for me and I slid into the limo.  I pulled Tommy "The Machine" Gunne's commlink from my pocket.  Opened a new text message to a certain decker, typed in 'Rapture' and hit the send button.  Seconds later the commlink shut down, its memory wiped and factory reset underway.

In Samantha Goode's office my old burner phone received one last call.  The small explosive charge laced with half a gram of white phosphorous detonated.  The fire in Samantha Goode's office went unnoticed for several minutes, the fire detection and suppression system having 'inexplicably' failed. Samantha's assistant noticed an odd smell and discovered Samantha's office engulfed in flames.

I rode back to the office and discovered the building surrounded by fire fighters and police contractors.

"Seems there is trouble at the office, sir." Danny said. "Will you call it day then?"

I gave Danny a stunning smile and peered at him with my stormy blue grey eyes.  "Danny, I'm feeling like a bit of air.  Take the rest of the day off.  I'll go for a walk."

"Very good sir." Danny got out of the limo and opened my door.

I stepped out onto wet street, slick with water from fire hoses and the afternoon's acid rain.  "I'll see you tomorrow Danny."  I turned and walked toward the corner coffee shop.  Behind me Danny climbed back into the limo and pulled away into the mass of traffic. I stopped and admired my reflection in the window of the coffee shop.  Mr. Johnson's face, perfect teeth and stormy eyes looked good on me.

The small stones in my pocket hummed with power as I wove the invisibility spell around me.   I vanished from sight, even as I vanished into the crowd.  It was a long walk to the famous Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

I found Angel waiting on me.  It was time for me to disappear into the shadows once more.


Thank you for reading my fan fiction.

I hope you have enjoyed the "Art of War" story arc.  I also develop RPG material (though not for Shadowrun) as well as comic books.  You can support those efforts, as well as gain access to behind the scenes insights and subscriber content but subscribing on my Drip page. (Drip is similar to Patreon but is owned by KickStarter).

You can check out my Drip page HERE

I hope you'll join me as I continue to tell the stories of Tommy's adventures.

These tales are based upon game play and have been fictionalized to make them easier, and hopefully more fun, to read.

If you enjoy these stories, please do share them with others.

Thank you!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment chummer.