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

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