Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Aftermath, Chapter Six: Filed under 'M' for murder

There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief

From: All Along the Watchtower,  by Bob Dylan
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Excerpted from the file:

*****
From:  Tabitha Wainwright, Human Resources, External Assets Office
Date of report:  February 2, 2060
Subject:  Thomas Michael Gunne                                Date of Birth: January 8th, 2039
Prepared by request of:  Mr. Donald Johnson, Senior VP of Water Purification Technology Division

Known Aliases:  Thomas Gunderson, Aka Tim Guthry, Aka Tomy Cannonari, Aka John Deeds, Aka Ash Thomas.  {NOTE:  Urban intelligence assets indicate that subject is most commonly known as, Tommy 'the Machine' Gun by persons in the so-called "Shadow Community".}

See Pages 54 and 81 for images of shapes assumed to support Alias identities.

Magical Talent:  Subject has been observed as a fully manifested magician.  Observations of spirit-entity summoning and banishment are on file (see pages 88, 96, 107, 123 and 145).  Spell casting observations indicate that subject is conversant with a variety of lethal and less than lethal spell matrices, invisibility, psychokinesis, mental manipulation charms/curses, shape changing and physiological enhancement charms.    (See detailed report of astral assessing observations from detective Lana Cooper, concerning physiological enhancements).  

Warning: Subject's known concurrent spell effects place his physical threat level on par with a Tier Two physical adept.  

Warning: Subject's spell repertoire is extensive with regard to direct magical combat. As with any spell casting asset it is difficult to gauge capability, but it is the opinion of the external assets office that this subject is at least on par with military trained combat magicians.  

...

From page 166 

...  In conclusion, subject's psychological profile supports that this individual can be motivated to comply with directives through financial reward.  Subject's close association with other 'professionals' indicates a desire for socialization and acceptance which lends itself to development team relationships.   Subject is suitable for short term, task specific employment in a detached capacity.  Long term or permanent employment is not advised as subject is prone to exercising extreme force of violence when under emotional distress.  

Ideal tasks assigned: Paranormal target termination

From page 167

Terminate upon conclusion of contract.

*****

The file went into great detail about my various identities, named several people I had worked with and included pictures of two of my former identities.  There were months of my life that were missing from their timeline, but they weren't long periods of time.  The corp had done their homework on me, and some magicians had given my aura a detailed examination without me noticing.

Angel had opened Creep's file and was reading through it. "Oh my God." she muttered.  She swore repeatedly as she read through the file.  She was done with Creep's file before I was done with mine.  When I sat my file down, I saw that she had gone pale and looked ill.

"That bad?" I asked.

"I didn't know," she began. "I mean, I know Creep gives me the willies but I had no idea."  She shook her head, wrapping her arms in front of her stomach.

"What?" I asked.

"If this file is accurate, then Creep is a serial killer." Angel looked like she was going to throw up.  "I'll check the names the file mentions and see if things match up, but this is horrible.  They knew and they still hired him."

I should have been surprised, but I wasn't.  Creep was certainly insane, I just hadn't been fully aware of the depth of his madness.  "I didn't know.  Does it give his victim profile?"

Angel nodded. "Seems he kills fast food employees.  Narrow pool of victims, that.  The major chains all use robotic autocooks, so his victim pool is limited to the little mom and pop craft kitchens.  Seems he has worked in restaurants for years before the corp took him on.  The file lists several victims the corp attributes to him."

A memory of Creep's wand flashed through my mind.  That bit of wood and the metahuman teeth that rattled from it made me feel sick.  "Check for missing persons too, not just the ones that were found dead.  He could have had his demon spirits destroy corpses." I picked up his file and started reading through it.  Angel connected to the network and began to look into the list of dead an missing people around Creep.

It was a terrible read, full of psychological analysis and photo evidence from crime scenes.  I finished reading it and had no doubt that it was accurate. "Well, I suppose I should have seen this coming."

"A lot of dead and missing co-workers around Creep.  Police contractors looked into him a couple of years ago but didn't find any evidence beyond the circumstantial.  Looks like he was working in restaurants to find victims, then stalked and killed them. Murdering bastard." Angel swore.

"They have his number." I replied. "His magic has always seemed odd, and he gives off a bad vibe.  I told Fey once that he was a lunatic but he was 'our' lunatic, so I just kept him pointed in the right direction."  Angel looked at me reproachfully. "I didn't know."

"What does he know that either of us should be worried about?" Angel asked.

"I've worked with him several times, not just for Mr. Johnson either.  He was with me a few times when I went hooding and took the fight to some infected in the Willows. He knows how I operate, and he helped me on a personal job I did a while back."  I shook my head as Angel opened her mouth to protest. "No, I don't owe him for that.  I paid him, plain and simple.  We did a few jobs for Mr. Johnson and he fell apart on a couple of them.  Lost his mind on the last outing and they committed him to a hospital and put him under sedation."

"Why?" Angel asked. "If they knew he was murdering psychopath, why bother?"

I paused at that.  "I don't know."

"What's next then?"  she asked.

"We've got some names in these files.  People who compiled the information on us.  I think I need to pay them each a visit. I'll need you to gather what information you can on each, and we'll clean up their data along the way.  If this 'external assets office' has information on shadowrunners it could make for some valuable paydata." I smirked at Angel. "Interested in twisting the knife a bit?"

Angel didn't smile, she just nodded.  "I can think of a lot of folks who would like to have their data wiped from a corp database.  Several others who could find it useful, too.  I'm all for slicing their system up and making off with the prize.  It will be easier if you can pry some information from their people though."

"I can do that."  I replied.  "We'll need to grab everything they have and wipe out any other copies they have laying around.  What about the chips?"

"Encrypted.  It'll take me a few hours to crack into them." Angel said.  "If it's worth anything, I'll let you know and cut you in."

"Appreciated." I picked up Jazz's file but Angel interrupted me before I could open it.

"What are we going to do about Creep?" Her face betrayed her disgust.

I opened Jazz's file and began to read through the dirt the corp had on him. "I'm going to kill him."

*****

February 8th, 2061

The circle was chalked out in the ruins of the safe house garage, four elemental spirits stood ready outside its boundary, and Lily and Rose were playing with their twin sisters somewhere in the metroplex.  "Please tell Aria and your sisters that I love them." The mental links to my two spirit daughters, had been the only contact I had with my family.

"Yes, father." they replied.  "Mommy wants to know when you are coming to get us."

"I don't know yet, girls.  Tell her that I'll let her know the moment I do."  It wasn't safe for them to see me yet. I didn't know how long it might be before I could go to them. "I love you girls.  Lily, keep the family safe, Rose I'll need you to come with me for a few minutes." 

I contemplated the circle before me, the elemental spirits lingering nearby, and the photographs Angel had printed for me which I had arrayed within the circle.  The images represented each of the twenty-one people we were certain Creep had murdered. Before each image I had scribbled Creep's name in black chalk. I don't pretend to understand what drove him to kill so many people who were just living their own lives. The images were their to strengthen my link to Creep and, in my mind anyway, to provide their memory with some sense of justice.

"How long will this take?" Angel asked.

"Same as anything else.  A few seconds or a few minutes, it will take as long as it may take."  To my mind I sounded wise, as a wizard should.

"Wizard's" Angel sighed. "I'm going to be monitoring the hospital's systems.  I'll cancel the alarm when he flatlines and we'll just let nature take its course from there.  How long after that before you get back and when should I become worried?"

Apparently my wisdom was unappreciated. "If I'm not back in ten minutes I've had a problem."

"Better." She replied. "Now, go kill that bastard."  With that, Angel turned and stalked back into the safe house's kitchen, closing the door behind her.

The spirits watched me, waiting.

"Okay.  Let's get started then."  I stepped into the circle with a wave of my hand and a whisper of magic.  Seven candles sparked alight, their light illuminating the images of Creep's victims and casting his name into shadows. Rose appeared next to me as I lay down on the cold, broken cement and closed my eyes.

"Spirits of the elements, heed my call." I began the litany I had prepared, breathing magic into the words and hardening my will. "Serve me on this quest for justice and revenge.  Hear the names of the fallen and carry word of this deed to their souls so that they may know rest."

It took four minutes to recite the names.  Each name was spoken in turn, from the earliest victim Angel had identified through the most recent victim.  I spoke their names and hoped they would hear me.  " ... Desiree Martin, I will bring your killer to justice."  I slipped from my body into the astral plain and beheld the astral impressions of the many victims. Outside the circle, elemental spirits raged in their power. Rose stood beside me, a blazing angel of wrath, patiently waiting on me.

The corporate hospital was in Bellevue. I streaked across the blighted urban astral space, arriving at the speed of thought to the hospital lobby.  The magic of the circle tugged at me, nudging me toward Creep.  I drifted through walls, storage closets, a toilet and passed dozens of hospital staffers.  The circle's power ended at the warded walls of the psychiatric wing.

The ward was potent, crafted by magicians who sought to keep out entities that might prey upon the troubled minds within.  I probed the wards, admiring the handiwork I saw, until I found what I was looking for. The hospital maintenance crew had cut away a section of the wall to access a leaking water line.  The pipe had been repaired and the wall patched, but the hospital hadn't had that section of wall warded again yet. It left them wide open for any astral traveling ne'er-do-well to exploit, and I took full advantage of it.

My astral form slipped into the psychiatric wing and the chaotic jumble of impressions that clouded the astral space around it.  Madness reigned, colors swirled, screams and laughter range off the warded walls.  It took me a couple of minutes to get my bearings and to drift out into the wing itself.  I drifted from cell to cell, searching for an astral signature I was certain I would recognize.

I wasn't disappointed.

Creep was laying on the floor if his cell.  His aura was dim and dull, the drugs the staff had given him were doing a fine job of keeping him sedated.  The room was crowded with five demon women who waited about in astral space.  When they saw me they laughed in high pitched squeals, like small children who laughed themselves into hyperventilation.

"He sleeps now." the demonic spirits cooed. "His mind is far away, waiting dreamless in the darkness." "Your angel cannot save him."  "Come to us, and we will show you pleasures you have never before imagined."

"Father, shall I do violence?" Rose asked.

I looked at her blazing face and took her hands in mine.  My instructions reached her through the mental link we shared.  "I'm sorry to ask this of you baby-girl." I told her.

"It is okay, father.  This one has needed to die for a long time." She replied.  Rose appeared within Creep's padded cell, a towering figure of divine retribution.  The demon women hissed and spat at her but she ignored them.  She placed her bare right foot upon Creep' neck, so gently that the sleeping psychopath didn't even stir.

Rose drove her foot down toward the padded floor with all her might.  I could only imagine the snapping sound that must issued from the death blow. Perhaps it was the sedatives that held Creep in his dreamless sleep that kept his bodyfrom rattling in death spasms. I watched as Creep's aura dimmed, his soul slipping from his body to rise amid the demon women.  He noticed me through sleepy looking eyes.

"Tommy?" Creep asked.  His confusion was clear.

"Hi, Creep." I replied.

"What's going on?  Where am I?" He asked.

"I found out about your victims, Creep.  I'm here to kill you." I replied.

The disembodied Creep nodded knowingly.  "I couldn't stop.  Never really wanted to, but I did try.  Killing me won't be easy though Tommy.  I'll fight you, may even kill you." Creep sounded like he was apologizing. "Nothing personal, I just know what is waiting for me."

I pointed at his dying body. "It was easy, Creep.  You're already dead, we're just waiting for your last breath."  The demonic spirits he kept bound lay their hands on him, whispering in his ear and wrapping their tails around his waist.  "If you were worried about what was waiting for you, there never was any sign of it.  You could have made more of an effort to change, to stop yourself. So yeah, Creep, this is personal. "

Creep smiled, his madness beaming at me as the demon women dragged him away.  "I'll see you soon, Tommy!  I'll see you soon!"  His screams faded as the demons dragged him away, giggling like small girls as they caressed him lovingly.  There was a flash of fire and the stench of brimstone, and then Creep was gone.

Rose looked to me. "It is done father.  The madmen is dead."  She shifted her form, taking the shape of a young elf girl.

I hugged her and she returned the embrace.

"Thank you, I love you baby-girl." I told her as we parted. "Go back to mommy and your sisters.  Keep them safe for me."

"I love you too father." She replied. "If any should try to harm the family, I will do violence."

With that she vanished, disappearing to wherever Sheila had hidden my family.

I carefully wiped away the astral impressions of spirits and death, then zipped back to the safe house garage and my waiting body.

When I walked into into the safe house Angel plugged a network cable into the data interface at her temple.  "Right, then. Time for this girl to work a little of her own brand of magic."   She lay down on the creaking floor, her head propped up on her satchel. "I've slaved a feed to your comm.  You'll see my bio-monitor data."

She closed her eyes and took off into the network.

********************************************************

Thank you for reading my fan fiction. Tommy's stories are fictionalized accounts of game play and the in between session down times.  If you have enjoyed these tales please do share them with others.

I also create other role playing game material under open game licenses and I am currently developing my own tabletop role playing game.  On my Drip page,  subscribers have early access to material such as sneak peeks at art, access to play test material, behind the scenes "how-to" information as well as monthly PDF releases.  In 2019, Drip subscribers will have access to my new web comic strip "D'FAQ!"  which is 'Dystopian Fantasy Adventure Quest' a comic strip about role playing in fantastic, near future settings.

https://d.rip/w-s-quinton



Funds raised through my Drip page help pay for original art for releases.  Please do check out the site and subscribe to support my work.

I hope you'll join me next time for Chapter Seven!

~ W.S. Quinton

Monday, December 17, 2018

Aftermath, Chapter Five: It is a crime to lie to a federal law enforcement officer

The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.
~ John Calvin
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My conversation with my captors was remarkably short.  I left them in Pepper's backyard, three meters beneath the surface.  I suspect that they remain there to this day.


February 4th, 2061

1119 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

Alexia drove while I rode in the back seat.  I held her heavy pistol pressed against the back of her seat as she surrendered control to the vehicle's autonomous navigation system.  We rode in heady silence until we reached Madison street.

"You really aren't going to shoot me?" Alexia asked.

"No. I don't have a reason to." I replied. "But I would recommend that you not come after me. If you ever point a gun at me again, I may just take it personally."  Fey's voice still sounded odd coming from my mouth.

"No worries about that." she muttered.

When the car stopped for a traffic light I removed the heavy pistol's magazine, ejected the round from the chamber and dropped the empty weapon on the floorboard.  "Good.  Go hang out in Redmond somewhere for the rest of the day. I don't want to see you again."  I said as I swung open my door and stepped out into the street.  I gained the sidewalk and didn't look back.


1153 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

The coffee shop was almost full when I walked in.  Fey's commlink queued up the menu, highlighting Fey's favorites for me.  I ordered her usual, my stomach growling at me as I never did get to eat the pastry I had bought just a few hours earlier.  The line moved smoothly and I soon had my flavored coffee and a sandwich.

I turned and very nearly collided with Special Agent Anthony Johnson.

"Glad to see you." He smiled at me. "I have to admit, I was wondering if you were going to show up."

"Why?  I told you I would be here, didn't I?" I didn't try to smile back. "I got called away from the office though.  I admit, I wondered if I was going to make it on time."  If I were being watched by the FBI, it was prudent to cover my sudden departure from the usual routine.

"I'm glad you could make it. Hey, I've got a table.  Agent Williams is joining us, I'm afraid.  She was hungry."  He turned and lead the way back to a small circular table occupied by a troll woman in a grey business suit.  Her outfit showed off her curves while her sculpted horns and long curly hair lent her a gentle femininity.

The troll woman stood as we approached, towering over Agent Johnson and myself and extending her huge hand to me.  I shook it, her grip carefully gentle as if she were afraid of breaking my hand.  "Ms. O'Faery," she smiled at me over polished white tusks. "so good of you to join us today.  I'm Special Agent Susanna Morgan."

"You can both call me 'Fey'." I said as I slid into my seat.  The feds sat down and Agent Johnson lifted his own coffee and took a drink.

"Ok, thank you Fey. This is just an informal talk.  Seems the man you worked with, the one they called "Machine", may not have been who he said he was."  Agent Susanna Morgan's words snaked their way into the dark corners of my mind where old fears lay sleeping.

I took a bite of my sandwich, found it lacking in anything like flavor, and chewed slowly as I considered the agents.  "Machine's 'real' name, is that of an elf who went missing about ten years ago.  He was presumed dead.  Just another runaway teenager with a chip problem."  Agent Johnson offered. "That's one thing, Machine didn't appear to have a chip habit.  That he was suddenly awakened, and from all accounts a capable magician, is surprising as he had been tested as a child and hadn't been magically active."

"He was definitely a magician." I offered.  "I can't go into details, but I've seen him use magic to levitate things."

"Did you ever see Machine use spells that you would consider 'offensive' in nature?" Agent Morgan asked.

"No. Nothing inappropriate to the office." I smiled at her in what I hoped was a knowing way. "It's not like he was using magic to send pics or anything."

Agent Johnson cleared his throat as if covering a laugh. "No, I think Agent Morgan means did he ever demonstrate any spell casting ability of the combative variety?"

"No." I replied. "We don't engage in combat in the office."  I did my best to feign a confused look and was certain that I didn't fool the agents. "What do you think we do, anyway?"

Agent Johnson leaned back and spread his hands in a placating way.  Agent Morgan leaned in slightly and lowered her voice as she spoke softly to me. "Fey, we think Machine is a terrorist. A wizard who has assumed the identity of some forgotten runaway boy and hidden behind that mask while he used his gifts to murder and maim.  If you know anything, we can protect you, both from him and the corp."

Good cop, better cop?  This was a new one to me.  "I am not aware of any acts of terrorism.  You may have overestimated my level of contact with Machine."  I sipped at my coffee.

"How do you know Mr. Bruce Parker-Kent?" Agent Johnson asked.

"He worked with Machine." I replied.

"I see.  Did you know he was a magician?" Agent Morgan asked.

"Oh, yes.  That creep kept promising me a 'magical experience' if I would go on a date with him. The nerve of some people."  I replied.  "Honestly, if Machine hadn't told me to check on him I would be just as happy if I never saw him again."

"So, Bruce made romantic advances?" Agent Johnson asked.

"I wouldn't call them 'romantic'.  He has as much charm as a moldy taco."  I took another bite of my bland sandwich, chewed and contemplated the agents.

"Fey," Agent Morgan had a pained expression on her face as she spoke. "If we ask your co-workers about your relationship to Machine, what do you expect they'll say?"

I shrugged. "Half of them probably think I was sleeping with him, but that would be from the half of them who wish I were sleeping with them.  The other half probably won't have an opinion one way or another."

"Were you?" Agent Johnson asked.  His eyes were cast down into his coffee. "Were you sleeping with Machine?"

"No." I replied as I stood, my jaw set. "Just because we worked together, that doesn't mean I was having sex with him.  He was professional with me, far more than Bruce ever was. This talk is over, agents. Have a great afternoon."  With that I did my best impression of Angel storming off in a fit of pique.

I left the coffee shop and approached the office.  My plan for penetrating security that morning had blown up when I got kidnapped by Alexia and her runner buddies.  The meeting with the Feds would, hopefully, keep them guessing long enough for me to accomplish my own infiltration without them tripping me up.

I took my place in line at the security check point and sent a text to Angel. "Delayed. I'm going to work now."

Her reply came through less than a minute later. "Understood. Don't be late getting home."

--------------------------------------------------------

February 4th, 2061

1300 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

Two large men in security uniforms met me when I got off the elevator on the 87th Floor.  "Fey, come with us please. Danny wants to see you."

'Just perfect' I thought.  To the security officers I said, "Good, I was hoping to talk to him today."

We road down to the 85th floor and marched past the ruins of Samantha Goode's office.  Crime scene tape marked the warped door and the smell of char and fire retardant lingered nearby.  The desk where Samantha's secretary had worked sat empty.

An unmarked door swung open as we approached.

"Fey, come on in.  Officers, you are excused." Danny's voice was clear, calm and professional.

I stepped into the office, mindful to keep my stride short, and heard the door close behind me.  Danny was typing commands into his terminal while his AR glasses glowed with residual light.

"Thanks for seeing me." I started.

"One tic, Fey." Danny said.  He punched in a series of commands, then pulled off his AR glass and rubbed his eyes.  "I need to get my implants upgraded so I don't have to wear these damn things.  My autofocus has trouble when I pan between the screens and it's giving me a headache."

"Surely you can get that done in an afternoon." I replied.

"Yeah, but with Control dead and Machine running around free I don't have time.  Speaking of which, you're late.  What the hell happened?" Danny asked.

"Feds wanted to talk." I held up my hand as Danny's eyebrows tried to climb into his hair. "Don't worry, I didn't give them anything.  Seems they believe Machine isn't who he claimed to be.  They asked about Creep too."

"Troubling. What did they want to know about Creep and what did you tell them?" he asked.

I shrugged. "They just wanted to know how I knew him and if I knew he was a magician.  I told him he had claimed to be a magician when he made a pass at me and played the part of the harassed co-worker. " I straightened myself into a rigid posture and added, "I stormed out when they asked if I was sleeping with Machine."

Danny nodded.  "Okay.  Next time remember that you aren't authorized to speak to outside law enforcement agencies on this.  It's a corporate law matter. That said, well done Fey."

"Certainly." I replied.

"Now.  Jazz is coming back tomorrow.  He'll be taking over team lead. Nothing personal Fey, he just has more time in the field and seniority. I'm sure you understand."  Danny stared at me, his cybereyes looked almost real.  I opened myself to view the astral and took in the telling story of his aura.  Danny was tired and feeling a lot of stress.

I focused my will and mentally recited the formula for a spell I rarely used, infusing the construct with magical energy and sending it snaking through the space between Danny and I.  The mana energy flowed into his mind, rippling around the cybernetic implants that marred his aura.  "Danny, I want the file on Machine.  Give it to me please." I asked as nicely as I knew how.

At his desk Danny smiled at me. "Of course." He replied, as he stood and strode over to a blank space on the wall.  "Authorization:  Daniel Lopez. Open."   A section of the wall recessed and slid away to reveal a safe.  Danny placed his hand on the biometric scanner.

"State your password" A feminine synthetic voice commanded.

"Daisies." Danny replied.  There was a soft click as the safe swung open.  Danny reached into the safe and paused.  His aura swirling as his sub-conscious warred with his actions.  The mana energy began to crack as the spell unraveled.

"Wait, what did you want?" Danny turned to me, shaking his head as if to clear it.

"Sorry Danny." My little sleep spell wrapped itself around Danny's mind and squeezed.  I put the full weight of my magic behind it, and felt Danny's will resist like a drowning man grabbing for a life vest.  He staggered, his hand reaching into his jacket.

"What the 'ell!?!?" He muttered as he produced a heavy pistol from under his jacket.

"Somnum." I said as my second casting invaded his mind and knocked him into blissfully dreamless sleep. "Damn, Danny, you've got a hard head chummer."

I collected Danny's emergency alert bracelet and set it on his charging pad.  I left him lying on the floor, gun in hand.  From the safe I gathered three printed file folders, a chip case that held three unmarked data chips, a stack of UCAS $100 bills and three credsticks.  I placed the cash, credsticks and chip case in Fey's purse.  The files went into a briefcase I found sitting behind Danny's desk.

My astral signature lingered in the office from my spell casting.  I took a couple of minutes to wipe their stain away from the local mana field before I walked out of Danny's office.  I took the elevator to the helipad level and stopped by the women's restroom.  The door had only just closed behind me as I finished weaving the invisibility spell around myself.  I stepped aside, holding the spell in place and waited until a lady washed up and left the restroom.  I followed close behind, slipping into the corridor and heading out onto the landing pad.

*****

I met Angel at our safe house.

"Oi, chummer." I smiled at her. "A little something to soothe your worries." I handed over two of the credsticks.

Angel looked them over skeptically, then ran them through a verification app.  "Damn, Tommy.  Is your conscious bothering you or something?"

"I figure I should pay you now.  You know, before things get fragged up." I broke the self-sustaining look that held my shape changing spell in place and felt my body revert back to my true self.  Fey's clothes shifted around my body, suddenly not fitting at all.

"Ghost preserve us.  Go put some clothes on Tommy before you ruin that nice suit."  Angel shook her head at me, hiding her smile as she tried not to laugh.

I popped open the briefcase and pulled out the files.  "Later, first thing we do is go over these."

"You got the files on you?" she asked.

"I don't know.  They were in Danny's safe. I didn't have much time to get them and get out so I just took them all." I told her.  "Any word on corp security, the FBI and Fey?"

"Not sure about the FBI.  Corp security issued an arrest warrant for Fey about five minutes ago.  They are on their way to her doss now."  Angel replied.  "Want me to feed them a false address?"

"No, let them pick her up.  She doesn't know anything important and it will keep them focused on her until they figure out it wasn't her at the office today."  The files were stamped on the cover and tied shut with a thin nylon string.  I laid them on the small table in the kitchen and read the stamps on each.  "Creep, Machine, Jazz, seems I may have actually gotten lucky."

I opened my file and soon realized that I was wrong.  If I was anything at all, 'lucky' wasn't it.

******

Thank you for reading my fan fiction. Tommy's stories are derived from game play and fictionalized for better reading (I hope).  If you have enjoyed these tales please do share them with others.

I also create other role playing game material under open game licenses and I am currently developing my own tabletop role playing game.  On my Drip page,  subscribers have early access to material such as sneak peeks at art, access to play test material, behind the scenes "how-to" information as well as monthly PDF releases.  In 2019, Drip subscribers will have access to my new web comic strip "D'FAQ!"  which is 'Dystopian Fantasy Adventure Quest' a comic strip about role playing in fantastic, near future settings.












Funds raised through my Drip page help pay for original art for releases.  Please do check out the site and subscribe to support my work.

I hope you'll join me next time for Chapter Six!

~ W.S. Quinton








Thursday, December 6, 2018

Aftermath, Chapter Four: Dressed to kill

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court ....
~ Typical beginning of Miranda Warning, see Miranda v. Arizona


"We're lousy criminals, omae."
~ Crank, Troll shadowrunner after choosing to betray Mr. Johnson for the sake of a child's safety
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The FBI guy was standing between me and the car.  I felt like my stomach was going to turn to stone.

"It will only take a few minutes.  I just wanted to ask you about 'The Machine'."  Special Agent Anthony Johnson was all smiles and pleasantries.  If he had any clue that the wanted man he was looking for was standing in front of him, he didn't show it.

"I'm on my way to work right now.  Can we have lunch and talk about it then?  I should be able to make thirty minutes or so available." I replied.  The sound of Fey's voice coming out of my mouth was reassuring. 

The fed frowned.  "I was hoping to get this done this morning.  Are you sure you can manage thirty minutes?  Say around noon?" 

"Noon should be fine.  There is a coffee shop across from my office, they have a good lunch menu.  See you then?"  I tried to smile in a reassuring manner.  It felt very strange.

"Okay. Well, I'll be coming down from my office on 3rd.  I'll leave early and get a table." He extended his hand, an FBI business-style card between his fingers. 

"Don't take it. Grab a picture of it if you want, but do not take that card." Angel's voice was faint in my ear. 

I pulled out Fey's commlink and took a picture of the card. "Thank you." I said as I added his information to the contact list. 

"I swear I'm not contagious." he laughed.

"Don't take it personally.  I have a thing about germs." I replied. 

The car service vehicle flashed its lights, indicating it was time for me to leave.  I stepped over to the passenger door and climbed in.  "See you at noon." I smiled and waved at the FBI guy as the car backed out and sped off toward downtown.

"The FBI can trace their cards.  Microtronics that ping off the network.  It's a safety feature to help find agents if they go missing." Angel explained.  "It has been suggested that they have used this to track people whom they've given cards to, but never proven." 

"Understood.  Nice catch, Angel." I told her.  "Does my voice sound weird to you?"

"I don't know.  You sound like a woman.  I've never heard her speak.  You'll need to watch your phrasing too, so you don't arouse suspicion."  Angel paused a moment then added.  "You're also going to get more attention than you're probably used to.  People notice women built like her."

"Like Fey?" I asked. 

"You are too married, you know that Tommy?" Angel sighed.  "Yeah, wiggle your rear as little as possible.  You have to learn that short stride marching step or your hips will sway all over the place."

"Damnit, if I knew it was going to be this hard I would have just gone in invisibly." I had been shape changed into a woman for less than five hours and it was already proving to be very difficult. 

Angel laughed at me. "Going in invisibly would just cause more problems if you have to speak to someone. Honestly, it's not that hard.  Try not to do anything someone might mistake for flirting or you'll get pictures you don't want."

"Don't make me curse you." I replied.

*****

0805 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

The car stopped half a block from the office. I stepped out onto the rain slicked street and opened my new umbrella.  The acid rain was potent and the faint odors of ozone and sulfur rode in the air. Angel's advice is usually pretty good so I took short, deliberate steps as I marched down the sidewalk.

Scarcely ten meters later I felt eyes watching me.

Fey was already late for the office so I walked in to the coffee shop where I was supposedly meeting with the fed for lunch later.  The line was short as most of the working wageslaves would already be at their desks toiling away.   An app on Fey's commlink queried my order, offering suggestions based on Fey's prior history.  I selected a flavored coffee that didn't sound horrible and a bacon stuffed pastry.  Fey's diet app flashed before it suggested an extra mile of running to compensate for the added calories.

My detour bought me an additional ten minutes as I worked my way to the counter and picked up my coffee.  I felt my skin prickle as the detection spell I had woven and quickened to myself continued to detect the presence of someone who meant me harm.  I punched a number into Fey's commlink and sent a message while I took the first taste of the caramel mocha latte.... "Contact. I'm just across the street from the office."

Angel's response came nested in a coupon pop-up from the coffee shop. Plain text drifting across the 'Thank you for your purchase' and 'Get 5% off your next latte'  that read "Understood. I've got the traffic cameras."

I opened my astral sight and walked out into the rain.  The detection spell buzzed against my senses warning of several people closing on my position.  My feet found the crosswalk and I forced myself to into a short stride and did my best to act 'natural'.  People crossed and passed me on either side, one of the people coming for me quickly caught up and I felt a small hard object poke me in the back as I gained the sidewalk at the corner.

A hand lightly touched my left arm and I heard a woman's voice whisper in my ear. "Don't move, don't call for help.  You do anything stupid and I'll blow a hole in your spine."

There was something familiar about the voice, but I couldn't place it.  Fey's commlink buzzed furiously in my pocket for several seconds before falling silent.  A man walked up to me flashing a brilliant smile while my spell rang out his hostile intent.  "Fey!  So good to see you dear.  I'm heading downtown, can I give you a lift?"

The gun in my back pressed against my spine.

"Good to see you too." I smiled back and saw his friendly facade crack for a moment. "I'd love a ride, the rain is horrible today."

Two more hostile presences approached as a red luxury sedan rolled to a stop in the street near us.  The man smiled as he opened the rear passenger side door for me.  The woman behind me shoved the gun barrel into my spine again. It hurt.

"Thank you." I said as I climbed into the sedan and took my seat next to a burly ork gentleman.  His suit fit him well, but the scarred knuckles on his hands marked him as someone accustomed to violence.  The gun wielding woman slid in behind me, her weapon pressed into my ribs.  The doors closed smoothly and we pulled into traffic.

The orc ran his hands over me, finding Fey's sidearm and commlink and appropriating both.  The man who had greeted me on the street smiled back at me and took the coffee and small bag holding the pastry.  "Good night, Fey." he said.

The woman seated next to me applied a dermal patch to the back of my hand.  I turned and looked at her, seeing her face for the first time.  I recognized her.

Alexia may have mistaken my look of surprise for the effects of the tranq patch she had applied.  I bit back any comments and let my head slump forward. The prophylaxis spell I had quickened to myself almost two years earlier fought off the tranq patch for me but there was no reason to let them think I wasn't unconscious.  We drove off in silence.

Honestly, as broad daylight kidnappings go, it wasn't a bad job.

*****

I'm not certain when we arrived at their safe house. We had ridden in silence throughout the trip. My body slumped as I stayed limp in the back seat.  My kidnappers carried me out of the car, up a few short steps and into the wreckage of an old house.  I kept my eyes closed, playing the part of the drugged target as best I could.  They dropped me on a stinking mattress then stripped my clothes off.  A pair of handcuffs pinned my wrists behind me.

I heard the ork make some worrisome comments which I won't repeat here.

"Don't frag up." Alexia snapped.  "Mr. Johnson said he wanted her unharmed.  Get your kicks from your usual joygirls."

"Maybe you should watch her." The voice was from the smiling man. "If she wakes up put another patch on her."

"Sure." Alexia replied.  I heard floorboards creak as two pairs of feet walked away.

"Drekheads." Alexia muttered.

Playing the part of the unconscious victim would only get me so far.  I let my astral form slip from my body and received a jolting surprise as the room I was in was heavily warded.  The room was a sad shade of what it had once been.  There were lingering astral echoes of a baby laughing and of the love of two proud parents.  Where once a crib had stood, now a filthy and torn mattress rested on scratched and pitted flooring.  I turned and found a stain in the astral plain, a profound shock layered in brilliant anger and soul shattering sadness.  An echoing scream of suffering rang about, overlaying the gentle cooing sounds that once made this room the nursery for a welcome addition to the family.

I knew this place.  The wards on the walls, floor and ceiling had been crafted by my own hands and fixed in place with my own energies.  Pepper's anguished cries continued to echo within the room.  I felt an old pain flare within me and a raging anger blossomed back into life.  Pepper's child had died in this room, the victim of gunfire that had blown through the walls.

"Lily, Rose, I need you here please."  My call out into the astral found my spirit daughters.  They both appeared at my side a moment later.

"Father, you are well?" Lily asked.

"Yes, I'm fine." I replied.

"Your body is in a strange form.  You took on Fey's likeness?" Rose's thought voice carried a confused tone to it.

"Yes baby-girl. I'll explain another time.  First, there are things I need you two to take care of for me."  I told her.  "They've handcuffed me and believe I'm unconscious.  It's time for me to make my escape though.  Here's what we're going to do..."  I explained my plan to my spirit daughters.

"I will do violence." they said in unison.

"Thank you, girls." I hugged them there in the astral space of Pepper's old home.  "Let's do this."

Lily and Rose manifested as two young elf girls.  Alexia's hand went to her gun but she wasn't fast enough.  Both spirits cast their sleeping spells, wrapping the mana firmly around her mind and squeezing.  Alexia slumped where she sat, a thin trickle of blood betraying a nosebleed. 

Lily and Rose returned to the astral plane and the three of us drifted easily through my old wards.  We found three auras I recognized from the car ride and a fourth belonging to an elf that I had never seen before. They were gathered in the ruins of Pepper's kitchen. None of them were magically awakened.

Their auras shifted to bright surprise as two elf girls suddenly appeared in the kitchen with them.  I smiled to myself, imagining what they must have thought upon realizing that the girls were floating above the bullet riddled floor.  Mana flooded the kitchen as my spirit daughters let loose with their own little sleep spells, ripping the consciousness from the kidnappers and sending them into dreamless sleep.  They collapsed where they stood.

Rose found the keys, walked back into the old nursery and unlocked the handcuffs.  I returned to my body, shivered from a chill that had crept in and went looking for my clothes.  Lily brought me the weapons and commlinks from my would-be kidnappers, along with a small stash of drugs and stims, then turned to the next task I had set her to.

I dressed and joined Rose in stripping the armor and remaining valuables from the kidnap team.  Rose and Lily's spells had sent them into an unconscious state that they wouldn't wake from for hours.  Lily finished stripping the clothes from the ork and carried him into the back yard. She took a pair of stim patches with her. "I'll let you know when I get there Father."

"Thank you, Lily." I told her. She smiled, shimmered into the form a griffon and launched herself into the sky.  The naked ork held fast in her talons, I felt magic in the air as she wove an invisibility spell about the two of them.

"There is only one set of handcuffs, Father." Rose informed me.

"That's okay, baby-girl.  I think we'll only need the one."  I told her.

We carried the three men out into Pepper's overgrown back yard. I whispered into astral space and felt the earth elemental respond. It manifested a moment later bending its might to my request.  Ten minutes later my three captives were buried up to their chins, their arms held against their bodies by the weight of the soil and old roots the elemental had braided about them.

We stripped Alexia's armor jacket off and took her weapons.  I handcuffed her hands behind her back and stripped off her shoes.  I found a package of tranq patches in her pocket and stole those as well.  I placed one of the stim patches on Alexia's bare foot and stepped back as the stimulants hit her system.  She twitched then her eyes flew open.

"WHAT THE HELL!?!?!" She exclaimed.  She flopped about a moment before realizing she was handcuffed.  She managed to sit up and stared daggers at me as I leveled her heavy handgun at her.

"Good morning, Alexia." I smiled. "Did you have a nice nap?"  It had been months since I had last seen the young shadowrunner.  She looked at me, saw her target pointing a big gun at her and set her jaw.

"Okay, you got free." She said through clenched teeth.  "No need to pull the trigger on me. Hell, I kept that drekhead from doing things to you while you were sleeping."

"I know." I told her.  Fey's voice still sounding strange in my throat. "I wasn't sleeping and I heard him, and you."

"Going to kill me anyway, huh?"  Alexia nodded as if understanding. "I don't blame you.  Just don't leave my corpse here.  Get me to an organlegger or burn me, please. Don't the devil rats or the ghouls eat me."

"I'm going to ask you some questions, Alexia.  If you answer and tell the truth, I'm actually going to let you go.  But I AM going to question your chummers too.  I need to know some things." I pointed to Rose who stood floating in midair.  "She's with me.  Don't do anything stupid."

Alexia and I had a long fifteen minute talk.  I watched her aura for any sign of deception and found none.  I pulled the stim patch from her foot and replaced it with a tranq patch.  "Don't worry, I won't leave you here." I told her.  Her aura dimmed as the drugs took hold and dragged her down into sleep.

I was walking through Pepper's ruined living room when I heard Lily's voice.  "I am here father.  Do you wish to see?"

"Yes, Lily, thank you." I cleared a spot on the floor and sat down, focusing on Lily.  My own senses vanished and I was suddenly looking through her eyes.  She had changed form and was flying high over the ocean. Her tall angelic form unseen as she held the naked ork suspended by one ankle.  Lily used a whisper of magic and telekinesis to apply a stim patch to his foot.  He jerked for a moment before waking.  He screamed a stream of profanities as he realized his situation.

"My father has a message for you." Lily's voice pronounced.

"Yeah, what's that you fraggin' slitch?" He shouted at her.

"Your actions were dishonorable and unprofessional." Lily told him. With that, she released his ankle, letting him fall from two thousand meters over the Pacific Ocean.  There was no land anywhere in sight.  He screamed as he plummeted and found that he had time to catch his breath several times before he hit the water like a meteor.

"I believe he did not survive, Father." Lily said.

"I concur." I told her.  "Thank you, Lily.  His conduct was reprehensible.  I'll buy you ice cream when I finally come home."

"Thank you, Father. Can I have the peppermint kind?" She asked hopefully.

"You can have whatever kind you like baby-girl." I promised her.  "Go to Aria.  Tell Mommy that I'm fine and that Rose will be back soon, and please tell her and your sisters that I love them."

"Of course, Father." Lily replied. She vanished into the astral plane and I focused on my own senses, watching as Pepper's place came back into focus.

I stood, chambered a round in Alexia's heavy pistol and switched off the safety.  "Right, time to get back to work." I told myself as I walked through the kitchen and toward the back door.  Angel was right, the short steps did keep my hips from swaying.

***************

Thank you for reading my fan fiction. Tommy's stories are derived from game play and fictionalized for better reading (I hope).  If you have enjoyed these tales please do share them with others.

I also create other role playing game material under open game licenses and I am currently developing my own tabletop role playing game.  My Drip subscribers have early access to material such as sneak peeks at art, access to play test material, behind the scenes "how-to" information as well as monthly PDF releases.  Funds raised through my Drip page help pay for original art for those releases.  Please do check out the site and subscribe to support my work.














I hope you'll join me next time for Chapter five!

~ W.S. Quinton






Aftermath, Chapter Three: Cross dressing for the office

I'm not even supposed to be here today!
~ Dante, from the film "Clerks" by Kevin Smith
----------------------------------------------------------

Penetrating physical, real world security can be an exercise in many disciplines.  Bypassing the electronic security supplementing the physical presence is best left to capable deckmeisters and their electronic wizardry.  Getting around physical assets (read that as living breathing guards) poses an entire set of challenges unique to each site.   Never assume that one site is like another as each metahuman security officer brings his or her own challenges.

Let's forget, for just a moment, that I was planning on returning to the scene of a crime.  You might think that having been on site for months at a time that I would be intimately acquainted with the security at my former workplace.  If you think that, don't become a shadowrunner.  Assumptions like that will get you killed.  I tasked Angel to start gathering information about the target, putting out feelers and farming electronic data as if I had never heard of the place.  Taking that level of precaution saved my life.

*****

While I had been in hiding, the security team at the corp had been investigating the 'incident' that resulted in Samatha Goode's death.  The people looking into fire had taken a special interest in the fact that I had been the last to see Samantha alive.  According to Angel, they had been trying to contact me and had officially listed me as a suspect or "person of interest" in what they were calling a suspicious fire and death.  The fact that my own home had burned down the same day was sending up flags that something weird was going on and no one involved in the investigation was dumb enough to believe it was a coincidence. 

Angel had breached the company's network, installing some manner of permissions for herself that allowed her real time access to the investigation file, the user accounts for the people working on the investigation and communications concerning yours truly.  Things went from looking bad, to looking terrifyingly worse when Angel discovered communications between the corp forces, Lone Star, Knight Errant, the Seattle Metroplex Guard and the UCAS Federal Bureau of Investigations.  My old face, the tall idealized elf, had been distributed to every major law enforcement agency and security contractor in the Metroplex.  The Feds had then sent the image on to Interpol and the NAN law enforcement agencies listing me as a suspect in a homicide. They listed me as an elf magician, male, and as 'armed and dangerous'.

Of the information in the file Mr. Johnson had read to me when I was 'hired', there was no mention and no sign that it existed.


Fey was a top-notch warrior, cool under fire and had been delivering a briefing on communication protocols to the FNG's* when the fire alarm had finally sounded.  That she had worked with me had been enough to earn her a few interviews from corp-sec. Angel had pulled the audio-visual files as well as the transcripts.  I watched them, noting that Fey answered truthfully.  She didn't embellish, she didn't hesitate, she just told the truth as she knew it.  The questions that were asked of her avoided things like where we had been and what we were doing while out of the office on assignments and focused on my behavior 'at work'. 

When the investigators asked her about any associations outside of the office she had simply said, "Creep said something about him having a wife.  Other than that, only thing I know is the two of them had some kind of history."

Creep was still in the hospital, under sedation, and knew more about my past than was comfortable.  It was time to break my least favorite lunatic out of the nuthouse.

*****

February 4th, 2061
0415 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

When you're a wanted man it is a good idea to lay low.  I didn't have time for such niceties any longer.  So I paid a visit to Fey.

I flew to the address Angel provided under cover of invisibility.  Angel provided a bit of digital wizardy, and the back door to Fey's place swung open.

"Security system is spoofed.  Cameras and audio recordings are looping from the prior thirty minutes.  Make it quick." Angel's voice whispered in my ear.

I floated over the threshold and picked my way around haphazardly scattered furniture.  I found Fey laying on a narrow bed, a simsense player plugged into the datajack behind her ear.  I peeled the backing off the tranquilizer dermal patch and applied it to her forehead as gently as I could.  A moment later Fey's breathing slowed and she went limp. I opened my astral sight and watched her sleeping away with the simsense player feeding her dreams.

"She's out, switch the feed." I whispered.

The simsense player flashed a title change, then started up the new selection.  For the next twenty-four hours Fey would travel through time, having adventures with trusted companions while thwarting evil at every turn.  With any luck the simsense marathon would keep her busy even after the tranq patch wore off.

I let the invisibility spell unravel as I plucked a hair from Fey's head.  Her commlink was laying on a small table next to her bed.  I picked it up, then pressed her thumb to the screen to unlock it.  "Angel I have her comm."

"Copy that, I've taken control of her home host.  I'll have the commlink momentarily.  Go ahead and do your thing.  We'll reset the biometrics when you're ready."  Angel's voice was still softly muted in my ear.

Fey's closet opened, revealing an ordered array of work and dress attire mixed in with street wear and a selection of footwear that had to represent a dysfunctional compulsion.  I had often teased Aria about how vast her "shoe collection" was.  Seeing Fey's hoard I promised myself that I would never give my wife a hard time about it again.

"She's a shoe girl.  Huh, didn't see that coming." Angel whispered.  "Are you sure this is going to work?"

"Yeah." I whispered back. "Well, I'm pretty sure.  About ninety percent or so."

I reached in and grabbed a suit I had seen Fey wear in the office.

"No. Not that one." Angel said.

"What?"

"Not that one.  That's not something you wear after you've been grilled all week by law enforcement, and it will mean makeup work.  Pick something more office casual."  Her voice was insistent in my ear.

Three rejections later I had a black business suit and a pair of thin, flat shoes.  "Please tell me this one is okay." I said.

"Yeah, you're good." Angel replied. "Now what?"

"Now I need a shower."  I carried the outfit into Fey's bathroom, stripped out of my clothes and stuffed them into my rucksack.  I took Fey's hair and carefully recited my incantation.  I grew five centimeters, my hair and eyes changed color.  I experienced a profound sense of discomfort as my hips shifted and my body transformed from my own natural state to that of a healthy and athletic woman.  I looked in the mirror and saw a very nude Fey staring back at me.  "That's really awkward."

"Take a pic so I can run a comparison." Angel prodded.

"One tic." I held the spell, feeding it just a bit of mana as I tied the spell into a self-sustaining loop.  My body felt strange and I had a lot to do.  "Need that shower first."  The shower activated on command and I stepped into the warm jets.  I used Fey's soaps, shampoo and conditioner then stepped out, toweled off, and dressed in her business suit.

{I swear this wasn't meant to be creepy.  Using the same soaps was to help fool biometric chem-sniffers.  I didn't want to raise any flags about my scent not matching Fey. ~ T}

{I think this may have been the first time I saw you pretending to be a woman. ~ Angel}

Angel checked the selfie I sent her against the image of Fey sleeping away her simsense adventures.  "That's damn scary.  You're a ninety-nine percent match."

"Is that good enough?" I asked.

"Definitely good enough to get you into just about anything she would have access to."  she replied.

"Alright then.  Keep an eye on her and send up an alarm if she wakes up too soon."  I dumped the towels into the automat washer and heard it kick on.  "I'm leaving now."  The back door swung shut behind me as I stepped into Fey's tiny backyard.  The invisibility spell woven around and hiding me from mortal eyes and cameras alike, I flew off to meet Angel.

I got a surprise when I landed.

"We've got a problem." Angel exclaimed as I walked into the safehouse.  "FBI is watching Fey's place.  You're going to have to leave from there if its going to be believable."

"Drek." I swore. "Did they pick up our comms?"

"Doesn't look like it, as I'm not arrested and sitting in interrogation." she replied. "But they'll know something is up if she suddenly shows up at work and they didn't see her leave. They don't have any listening devices or cameras in her doss, yet."

"What about the corp?" I asked.

"Corp-sec ran an enhanced surveillance request on her.  I intercepted it and sent a notice back down the chain from their legal department advising them not to do so until authorization came down from their office.  It will be a few days before they follow up if they stick to their own operational guidelines."  Angel shook her head.  "Local law enforcement doesn't seem to have the same level of interest in her.  Not sure yet what angle they are pursuing, but they've made inquiries as to when they can interview Creep at the hospital. Could be any day that they show up with a warrant and snatch him up."

"First things first then." I turned and dumped my clothes out of my rucksack. "I'll head back to Fey's, let me in and I'll walk right out.  Help me change out the biometric data on her commlink to match my new look and then I'll fly back."

Thirty minutes later I walked out of Fey's little house. Her car service had sent me a notice on her commlink that her commuter vehicle had arrived.  A tall human man with pale anglo features, blonde hair and tired blue eyes was standing in the driveway.  He was wearing a conservatively cut suit in flat black, a cheap tie and well worn shoes.

"Allison Morgana O'Faery, I'm special agent Anthony Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Can I have a word?"  The fed smiled at me and I felt a knot form in my stomach.

*****

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Thank you for reading my fan fiction!  I hope you are enjoying Tommy's stories.
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