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> The Vignette Thread, (Please contribute)
post Jun 23 2009, 06:48 AM
Post #1

Shadow Cartographer

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Posts: 3,737
Joined: 2-June 06
From: Secret Tunnels under the UK (South West)
Member No.: 8,636

23/06/09 Enter Violin by knasser
23/06/09 Michelle (tentative title) by ravensmuse.
23/06/09 Liverpool (tentative title) by Wesley Street.
23/06/09 Raven (tentative title) by Mirilion
23/06/09 The Trap by paws2sky
24/06/09 King (tentative title) by Mirilion
24/06/09 Bongo Slade (tentative title) by pbangarth
24/06/09 Freedom of the Hunt by knasser
24/06/09 Daughter by Mirilion
25/06/09 Bar Fight by Kerenshara
25/06/09 First Kill by martindv
25/06/09 Union Blues by paws2sky
26/06/09 Wiggy by knasser
26/06/09 And they say killing is hard by Kerenshara
26/06/09 Tempo-tation by Prime Mover
26/06/09 Serve and Protect by Mirilion
26/06/09 The Case of the Missing Niece: Prologue by SincereAgape
27/06/09 Hell Money by Abschalten
28/06/09 Last Play by Critias
28/06/09 Chowder's Drone Shop by Shard
29/06/09 New Dog, Old Tricks by Crash2029
01/07/09 Dark Revival by 006
01/07/09 Never, Ever by knasser
02/07/09 Cool White by The Jake
02/07/09 Running (tentative title) by Chrysalis
02/07/09 Revenge Is Best Served by Prime Mover
03/07/09 Horror Story by kanislatrans
03/07/09 Treadmill by Naysayer
04/07/09 NSFW by knasser
14/07/09 Stormcrow by knasser
15/07/09 A Question Answered... by kanislatrans
16/07/09 Into the Shadows: Deep Twilight by TeknoDragon
17/07/09 Rockin' Runners by Crash2029
18/07/09 Interrogation by knasser
18/07/09 Food Fight by kerenshara
22/07/09 Street Cred by Prime Mover
28/07/09 Home Coming by Critias
28/07/09 Booming Business by AzureusJake
29/07/09 Wired by IceKatze
29/07/09 You wonder why I'm here? by DWC
30/07/09 Better running thru chemistry by Crash2029
30/07/09 Lesson Learned by Prime Mover
30/07/09 Episodes by Critias
31/07/09 When Angels Fall by The Dragon Girl
31/07/09 You lucked out by Kerenshara
31/07/09 Fallacious Romance by Prime Mover
03/08/09 Taken by TeknoDragon
03/08/09 Svartálfheimr by Kerenshara
05/08/09 Baptized In Fire by The Dragon Girl
06/08/09 Harvest Mood by Chrysalis
09/08/09 Sunday Shooters by tisoz
09/08/09 Food Fight by tisoz
09/08/09 Aftermath by tosoz
09/08/09 Vera (tentative title)
09/08/09 Payment by The Monk
09/08/09 A Rough Conversation by The Monk
10/08/09 My Summer by Chrysalis
11/08/09 Through the Looking Glass by Kerenshara
11/08/09 Idiot by Kerenshara
13/08/09 Who knew? by Warlordtheft
15/08/09 Nightmare by Kerenshara
15/08/09 Family by Tachi

Vignette Comments thread
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post Jun 23 2009, 06:48 AM
Post #2

Shadow Cartographer

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From: Secret Tunnels under the UK (South West)
Member No.: 8,636

Enter Violin

Stephen took off the little wire rim glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. He'd got off the Berlin to Los Angeles flight just an hour ago and still felt creased and irritable. No rapid sub-orbital had been thought necessary for him. Evo only provided those for its executives, not for musicians.

He cleared his throat and looked out at the orchestra waiting expectantly. He had the urge to rehearse them again, but they were nearly all using skill wires - they'd never play better than they did today and they'd never play worse. At least half of them weren't even musicians - they just did work that took some manual dexterity and so had good quality wires and relatively agile fingers. A lot of them were drone mechanics and it was a great laugh for their manager to tell them they'd be spending an afternoon playing oboes and violas.

They'd cleaned up well though. Everyone was immaculate in their pastel coloured suits. Stephen took in the arrangement of colours and felt like he was conducting an orchestra of NERPS. He tugged self-conciously at his own white suit. Everything was chosen to impress. Everything was designed to look heavenly and grand and awe-inspiring.

He put his glasses back on and the green wires of an AR overlay swam back into vision. He tapped the comm icon of the studio manager and it connected with a soft ping. "Okay," said Stepehn, "send them in."

A handsome elven woman in a pale blue dress led in two dozen children of various ages from about eight to fifteen. Their clothes and faces were dirty, but that was the point. Some of them still clung to their beakers of hot chocolate and the elven woman gently but firmly removed these. A technician made minute, final adjustments to the simrigs the children were wearing as the elven lady instructed them to sit and listen.

Some marketing exec in the corp was going to get a bonus for this. Take a group of ghetto kids whose only musical experience was the Goblin Rock booming from some gangers car and - as one of Evo's public charity events - round off a day of healthcare and treats with a classical performance - and record their emotions to add as a emotive track to the recording. Certainly there were those who might feel the beauty of Beethoven's music, but how much better to feel the awe of street children hearing it for the first time while you listened yourself? And of course knowing that your purchase had been an act of charity too as each child would leave the day with various biometric coded vouchers for improving opportunities and goods.

Stephen turned to the children, mostly human with a some representatives of every metahuman species. This was his big moment in the day.

He tilted his head a little, looking down at them like a respected but affectionate patriarch and intoned "Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Magor, Third Movement." The children were silent and completely focused on him.

Stephen turned to the orchestra, tugged his black AR gloves up a little tighter and raised his hands. He tapped his finger against the air and it made a chopstick on a table teh-teh-teh sound, then raising one hand he began the count and pointing the other he brought in the lead violin. Quietly, softly and very precisely the violinist danced lightly over the music, the notes tripping up and down, calling to the children and to Stephen. On his signal, the rest of the violins entered swelling the noise majestically, but still lightly, and then the brass added their weight - a preview of the booming they would do a few minutes later. In a AR overlay, Stephen could see the children behind him, staring. He would review their emotive tracks individually later, advising on which ones to focus on and where. A stocky little ork boy of ten or less was staring at the performance with that incredible seriousness which only children could manage. That would be one to look at. At the side a human boy started to turn to his neighbour to make a joke. The elven woman moved within two beats and twisted the boys arm painfully. That would have to be edited out.

The whole orchestra erupted into booming sound as Stephen raised a glove high. They were too synchronised in their response. Stephen had meant to introduce some timing errors into the activesofts just to give the sound a more human quality, but there hadn't been time after the flight for fine adjustments. The music was still beautiful though. The instruments collapsed into silence leaving that lone, lead violin playing the same delicate melody to draw the music out, followed by one last resurgent exultation from the wind instruments together with all the string section.

There was silence. And Stephen looked out at the smiles and pleasure on the faces of the musicians and mechanics alike and didn't care for anything other than the pleasure of the music. Music which took a hundred listenings to really understand but which could be appreciated by anyone instantly. He turned to the children, whose first ever taste of classical music would be put on an album and sold, and bowed deeply and majestically and warmly toward them.

The elven lady began clapping and a moment later the children got the idea and began clapping - genuinely. Some of them whooped and two orks got up and started punching their beefy little fists in the air in appreciation. The elven lady would take them out and given them their final treats and vouchers. A year or two from now, some of them might re-appear on one of Evo's self-promoting follow up shows, detailing how that child's life had been changed by the opportunities given or recalling their glorious day that they they'll always remember. Most of them would probably just go back to the same old lives and forget this. Or just remember it privately, secretly sometimes. And those ones, for some reason, Stephen found he cared about those the most. Everyone, even if only for one day, should have violins.

Stephen pulled off his gloves and started shaking hands with the orchestra. It had been worth the trip.
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post Jun 23 2009, 12:11 PM
Post #3

Running Target

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From: Lower UCAS, along the border
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Michelle had a knack for getting into interesting situations. It was her thing. And tonight, her knack had brought her to a forgotten graveyard on a full moon night, clad only in a white nightie.

This would upset most people. Michelle just took it as the same old, same old.

The path was spongy underneath her bare feet; she could feel herself pushing in just a little with every step she took. Mist escaped from between her lips and met up with the mist floating in-between the headstones. She shivered; her kingdom for a coat.

Something she needed was buried in one of these graves, and she didn't have time to fool around. With a moment of concentration, a brimstone colored imp in a loincloth coalesced into her hand.

Michelle smiled. "Good evening Firebrand."

The imp bowed.

"Would you be so kind as to help me out?"

He nodded and flew up into the misty night.

Michelle ran to keep up with him - those little wings made him quick! - which took her off the path and into the wet grass between the headstones.

That was when the trouble began.

She heard something tear, like paper. Michelle turned her head. Hands were emerging from the ground, feeling for something to grab onto. Michelle swallowed. "Drek."

She ignored them and continued to follow Firebrand. They were there expressly to slow her down and she wasn't playing their game. More hands emerged as she ran past. One of them almost grabbed at her bare white ankle, but she was too quick for it.

The imp came to rest atop a particular headstone towards the back of the graveyard. Michelle slowed to a stop. The imp was tapping at it with his claw.

"Good work." Michelle held out her hand and the imp obligingly disappeared in a puff of smoke.

She bent down to read the headstone, which she had to clear of mold and moss. On the pockmarked surface she read, "here lies Jim Banchs, Chief Operating Assistant, Manadyne. A pretty cool dude."

She grinned. "Perfect." Concentrating again, Michelle felt the weight of a shovel fall into her hands. "I hate to get my clothes dirty," she chuckled, "but when in Rome..."

There was a low moan behind her; the zombies had finally caught up. Michelle turned and grimaced. They looked like humanoid potatoes, dried husks slowly shambling their way towards her.

She concentrated again and another imp popped into existance, this one dressed in 19th century finery. His skin was pale, his clothing black and red with a cape hanging from his shoulders and his hair a tumble of grey curls down his neck. A sword dangled from his hip; the sheath rattled against his leg as he too bowed.

"Protect me," she commanded, and again the imp bowed before flying forward, growing in height as he did.

Michelle watched for a second before reminding herself why she was here in the first place.

The dirt was tougher than it looked. Behind her her imp kept the zombies at bay. Sweat poured from her brow, her hair coming undone from the knot that she had tied, little ringlets falling in front of her face and getting into her eyes.

Finally, the coffin emerged. She hopped down into the grave and brushed aside the dirt, revealing the Manadyne corporate logo. Michelle smiled. "Perfect."


Someone knocked on her tube. Michelle's eyes popped open and without moving her head, looked to her right. An AR feed popped up; in the camer feed stood a sheepish looking ork grinning, at her. He waved. "Mornin' Zero."


"Boss wants to know what's going on."

There was protection on the coffin. Her decrypter form, a tiny little knight in red heart boxers, was poking at it with his lance. She sighed. "Tell him to give me five minutes and it'll be on his comm. Okay?"

The ork shrugged. "Whatever." He walked away, but she heard him mutter, "grumpy."

Michelle returned to her white nightie.
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Wesley Street
post Jun 23 2009, 12:40 PM
Post #4

Shooting Target

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From: Indianapolis
Member No.: 15,686

Reposted from an older thread...

Ladyboy arrived at Stamford Bridge as the baggies were setting up. Flanks of truncheon wielding Dinos ran from the Tube station at Fulham to the stadium entrance. A Yellowjacket and flock of security drones circled above.

First came the song, "Liverpool, la-la-la, Liverpool, la-la-la," followed by the chanting young men and their shaved heads and red and white scarves. A beer bottle went over the cordon line at a middle-aged geezer, probably on his way to his mystery book club meeting. This breach of civilized conduct was rewarded with the hooligan tackled, his arms wrenched behind him, then handcuffed.

A few of the young toughs caught a glimpse of Ladyboy. She received the usual calls of "fuckin' poofter!" and "fuckin' bastard!" She ignored them as she leaned casually against a lamppost, hands in her pink Zoe jacket.

The mark was among the last of the Merseysprawlites to arrive via Tube. Some poor BritRail sod was going to be working double overtime fixing up the cars the thugs had trashed. As if the Tube wasn't in poor enough shape as it was. After tasking a watcher spirit to keep an eye on him, she walked into the stadium.

An hour was spent at one of the sticky concession stand tables, coating her nails with clear polish. The stomping of feet and shouts of "fuckin' bastard!" echoed through the halls beneath the East Stand. Her mojo kept the increasingly drunk crowds from noticing her. There were the usual "Trogs out! Trogs out!" chants that ended with the slaps of fists on soft body parts as a meta or a sympathizer took offense.

The spirit informed her that the mark was on his way down. Staggering, a bent cigarette in his mouth and an empty paper cup in his hand, he was a pathetic sight. She followed him into the toilets. He had already dropped trou and was about his business. Hiking up her skirt, Ladyboy let the invisibility spell go and joined him at the adjoining urinal. "Think you could help me out with a zip-up love?" she asked. "My nails aren't quite dry yet." This was the part she liked best.

The mark looked at her startled. "Fuckin' poo-" he began as she jammed her index finger in his ear. The little shit wasn't worth wasting mojo on and a shock glove jolt to the tympanum worked as well as a bullet to the dome. He fell; trousers around his ankles, and his life ended twitching on the scummy floor of a football stadium bog.

As she walked out, she smacked her lips at a pair of Chelsea loyalists on their way in. "He's all yours, mates," she cooed.

Fog had rolled into the streets outside The Bridge and dark was falling on The Smoke. Her heels clicked on the sidewalk. She pulled out her 'link. When Buffalo Soldier answered she told him the job was done. "Ta for this," he told her. "The Old Boys will be pleased. Fancy a pint later?"

"Can't do it love," she replied. "I’ve got a date with a curry and a Ken at the Jabberwok."

"Go easy on him, alright?"

Ladyboy just laughed.
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post Jun 23 2009, 03:48 PM
Post #5

Moving Target

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Member No.: 17,271

In his dreams, he was still slender and pale. Standing there at the edge of the cliff, dark clouds filled with lightning above, and a sea of fire below,
all he could do was raise his arm and stare at it, fascinated.
It was a child's arm, white, smooth skin over thin bones. Long, delicate fingers, his mother called them "pianist's fingers" once.
Raven flew beside him, urging him on. "come, boy, spread your wings. FLY !"
But the boy couldn't, he had no wings. Raven laughed. "You think you have no wings, do you ?"
"No, I don't, and you know it" answered the boy.
"Ha. Shows how much you DON'T know, little one" raven laughed again.
The boy took one step forward, his toes flexing just over the cliff's edge.
"I know what you should do. Learn about condors."
That caught the child off guard. "Huh ? Why condors all of a sudden"
"Maybe raven wings are too small for such a big boy".

Those last words echoed through his mind as the dream faded away. He woke up still hearing raven's laughter, which made him smile in turn.
Raven was always happy, more so when something interesting was happening.
He sat up, his heavy body making his child's bed creak. He looked at his arm, but it was still the familiar and dissapointing
dark, muscled and hairy arm he had for a year now, since the night of his expression.
From that slender, pale boy, he turned into a thing, a monster, an ork.

Condors, he thought, after freshening up. His mother and father were still at work, another long day, as usual.
Lately they didn't seem to want to come back home at all, with him all big and monstrous, hiding in his room.
Oh well, at least this evening he'll be able to use the big cyberterminal port in the living room, instead of his own smaller one.
Quickly he logged on and ran a search for condors, selecting an old trideo about south american wildlife. He dimmed the lights, and watched the huge
birds soar through the air. For a while, he forgot about everything else, the loneliness, the neglect, the fear and hatred.
For that short while, only the majestic kings of the mountain winds existed.

He was startled when an error message popped up suddenly, informing him about a broken connection.
He stopped the trideo player, freezing the condor in a particularly weird pose, standing on a rock with one leg raised. Raven would laugh.
He tried to reboot the cyberterminal, but the machine still wouldn't log on.

Suddenly, everything became dark. All the sounds of the tall apartment building stopped. The silence was as loud as thunder, but then a series of harsh,
metallic clangs could be heard, and felt through the floor. He knew those sounds, that was the building security automatically activating in the event
of a general power failure. Slowly he adjusted to the starlight entering from the outside. A feeling grew in him, something strange, that made his heart beat faster.
Maybe it was fear, but it wasn't that bad. He could hear shouts, of anger and fear, from the other residents of the building. When he tried to
open the main door, it was locked. Nothing he could do would cause it to open, he knew that much.

The glass doors of the balcony were locked as well. Raven came to his mind, saying "ooh, what do we have here ? something NEW!".
Startled, he looked around for the voice's source for a moment. This was the second time Raven made himself heard during waking hours.
"What do I do?" he asked his friend.
"How should I know, I'm just a silly bird, and you're a wingless big boy" laughed Raven.
"You're a lot of help, you know" he said, annoyed. That only made Raven laugh harder.

Bah. He needed to open the glass doors, to look outside and see what was happening in the city below.
And to get some air, he thought. The air conditioning failed as well. Suddenly the feeling of excitement he felt grew stronger. He picked up a kitchen chair, and smashed
it against the doors with all his orkish strength. Again and again he did it, and each time there was dull clanging sound, and the chair bounced back, the doors unharmed.
"Oh, oh, stop, please" laughed Raven, and the boy could HEAR him holding onto his stomach with the
laughter. The young ork felt anger, then. "You shut up, you're just a stupid BIRD !".
The boy threw the chair at the doors angrily, and this time the chair left a crack, before falling to the floor.
"Oh, and what are you going to do about it, orkboy" said Raven, and this time he could actually see him, flying around just beyond the glass.
The boy was stunned with anger. Orkboy was what his classmates had called him that time, months ago, when raven first came to him while awake, before his
parents pulled him out of school. The feeling that grew in him took over. His heart beating madly, in a fit of rage, he charged the raven.

In that split second, before he hit the glass doors full on, he could feel something changing inside him, around him.
The glass was barely there, made of a thin sheet of almost nothing. How could he NOT shatter it ?
How could he NOT grab the annoying bird and make it sorry for what it said ?

The boy crashed through the glass in a shower of thick splinters that fell on the balcony floor, accompanied a moment later by the door's empty frame crashing down.
A sickening headache caused him to sink to the floor, breathing heavily. "What... what... how ?"
And raven answered, this time not laughing. "You can do this, and much more, child. Rise, and look at your city".

The boy looked downwards, at the city streets below, and the tall buildings nearby. All was dark, but in many places there were fires, and screams, and cars that crashed into one another.
People started gathering in the streets, shouting. People cried, security guards tried in vain to hold them back. He could hear gunfire from afar,
and a sudden explosion bloomed a few blockes away. And there was something else, another feeling he could not name.
An aura of emotions, almost palpable in the air. Everything looked different like that, everything had more depth. He could not describe it in words even if he tried.

Why am I not afraid, he thought. Raven answered in his mind "because we feel no fear. We feel alive at times like these. Times of change, of chaos.
Now you know we are alive, we hear the sounds of the world truly for the first time."
And before asked his next question, he knew the answer. He WOULD get out. He would not return. He would find a new life down there, somewhere.

A condor flew from the balcony, for a few moments twisting awkwardly before understanding how the
winds guided his flight. This is great, he thought, holding back the headache that almost overwhelmed him at first.
Raven's laugh surrounded him, this time less sarcastic, and more joyful. "Now you know how I feel ALL THE TIME, boy", said raven without speaking.
"Come now, lets find something to eat. Growing boys must have regular meals".
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post Jun 23 2009, 08:17 PM
Post #6

Running Target

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Joined: 16-November 07
Member No.: 14,229

The Trap

Another Sunday night in Seattle. The rain poured down. Again. Steady and soaking. Acrid smell of chemicals and pollution mingled with the stench of the the waste water recycling plant nearby. Good old Seattle.

Lynx leaned his Rapier tight into the turn, confident he'd be able to make it, despite the slick chemical rain coating the streets. His bike's sensors and datajack link fed a constant stream information through the fiberoptic cable into a cranial cyberdeck and several specialized SPUs. He could correct for almost anything in less than the blink of an eye. It was his edge. And today, he needed it more than ever.

Adrenaline flooded Lynx's system and his bike's sensors registered a parked car he'd just passed exploding in a ball of fire, cut in two by a high power laser. Explosion courtesy of the car's ruptured fuel tank.

Another impossibly sharp turn, then a clear straight away. Lynx gunned the engine to gain ground, putting more distance between him and his pursuer. But not too much. He wasn't trying to loose his tail, just frustrate him. It. Whatever.

It had been 19 minutes and 43 seconds since he began playing this deadly cat and mouse game with Magus. It would be another 13 to 14 minutes, depending on Downtown traffic, before he was finally free of this thing.

Another hairpin turn. Lynx felt the bike almost slip out from under him. His heart raced. Correcting his angle, he right himself and sped on.

Another sharp turn. His sensors began screaming warnings, a semi was blocking the road. No time to stop. No time to turn around. Instinct, honed by years of riding with a go gang took over. Just enough room to angle the bike under it, leaning it left, him right. His helmet clipped the semi trailer's supports. Too close. He missed his turn. He was off track now.

Lynx weighed his options, orientation system and math SPU both running hot, overclocked just the rest of his headware. The second fastest course came up at 15 minutes and 22 seconds. He cursed. A quick burst transmission from his internal radio. Hopefully the others would get it.

The fastest course would have been the highway, but he'd be a fool to try that. It was too open. He'd be easy pickings for Magus there. He plotted the new course into the system and, for the first time in his adult life, prayed.

More turns. All sharp, hard, barely in control. The rain got worse. Seconds felt like minutes. Minutes seemed like hours. It was the longest ride of his life. Turn here, turn there. Dodge a squatter. And another.

Magus, his pursuer was powerful, but it had its limits. He knew all about them from the schematics he'd stolen. It may have been a breach of etiquette to copy the files he was supposed to be delivering to Mr. Johnson, but his gut had told him he should. It would pay off, he told himself. At the time, Lynx considered SOTA pay data, potential cash flow to help buy the latest and greatest implants. Who would have thought it'd hold the key to destroying a technomagical monster.

A towering humanoid body, about the size of a troll and as tough as a dragon. Integral weapon systems, including some high power lasers. Multiple mobility options from jet thrusters to an underwater intake system to a ground speed of almost 65kph. All of it so cutting edge it made his fixer's drek hot SOTA look like two nuyen junk.

The body alone was a wonder, but it was what was controlling the monster that made it really dangerous. The brain, as it has become known, was a prototype computer composed of an organic crystal resin, unlike anything in the science journals. It was alive. Highly intelligent. Frighteningly, magically active.

Mr. Johnson had the brain installed in the chassis same night, right as the runners left the meet. It was a hell of night too. Thunder and lighting, a total mad scientist scene. Magus killed Mr. Johnson that night and burned the build to the foundation. It went on to kill everyone and destroy everything that had any data on it.

Everyone but Lynx. It began trying to take over the shadow community, try to turn it into some kind of army. Through intimidation and money, it subverted runner after runner, like some kind of shadowy puppet master. And it wasn't long, maybe a few weeks, before it found out about Lynx. Somehow it knew. Maybe someone slipped up, said something they shouldn't have. Maybe someone sold him out. He'd probably never know. It was blind luck that Lynx survived the monster's initial attack. The rest of his gang, the men and women he'd grown up with, weren't so lucky.

Another hard turn. Two minutes and two seconds to the dome. The traffic report was clear. The trap was set. The trap. The do or die scenario that Lynx and the few remaining Seattle runners who refused to work for Magus had been working toward for the past month. If it failed, they were all worm food. Or ghoul food. Wouldn't really matter either way.

The bike's sensors registered a low flying aircraft. Low, as in just above street level. Magus. There was a clear line of sight between him and the monster and the dome. Lynx broke a sweat. Magus was toying with him. Cars and trucks and building started erupting into flame around Lynx.

A squeal of pain came from Lynx's backpack. The little paracritter had been keeping Magus' magic at bay by creating some sort of astral disturbance. Whatever that meant. Now, hopefully Talbot and the others had him in line of sight to shield him from spells.

Forty five seconds. The final stretch. Another burst transmission. The message was simple: Go Time. Magus had given up on magic and gone back to using its laser.

An explosion ahead. Magus was getting smarter. Better improvisation. Not good. No where to go, except through the flame. Another prayer, short and sweet. Too short. Lynx struggled to control the bike as debris from the explosion tore into his tires as he sped through the fireball. Run-flats rocked on cars, but on bikes, well, not so much.

Sensation of falling, vertigo. He closed his eyes and braced for impact. Confused when it didn't come. He was being lifted. An elemental? No, a nature spirit. Sanguis, crazy ass Shark shaman, now my my hero. The spirit wrapped around him, lifting him clear of the wreckage, optical cable ripping free of the port. Mild disorientation, not full dumpshock. He was carried into the upper decks of the dome.

Everything was a blur. Another explosion. Plumes of smoke. Exhaust from missile launchers fired at Magus. Not sure if they connected. Cadillac and LT, respectively the best street samurai and physical adept that Lynx every met each fired another missile before ducking back into the stadium. Like the rest of the crew here, they didn't take kindly to being bossed around by Magus, and buckets of nuyen be damned.

Almost time to spring the trap. The spirit set Lynx down and he ran, as fast as he could to the control center to make sure everything was set. His cyberdeck, the one he carried with him for show, was already sitting in the middle of the field on a small folding table.

The wall exploded as Magus burst into the stadium, trying to find his attackers. They were well hidden. It would take him hours to find them, assuming they didn't slink away. Magus noticed the cyberdeck, not surprisingly. "What is this?" the monster's voice boomed, amplified by an amplifier.

The stadium's old fashion public address system crackled to life. "Its my deck Magus. All the information you want is on it. Everything. Take it. Get out of my life," said Lynx. He hoped his voice didn't betray anything.

Magus' jets propelled it to the center of the stadium. "You realize, this solves nothing, Lynx" boomed Magus as it crushed the deck in his enormous hand. "You know too much." The metal monstrosity was clearly scanning the stadium, trying to find fix the speaker.

"Suit yourself." Lynx whispered. The decker grinned to himself as he triggered the trap. A shrill, high pitched whine, almost too high for the human ear, issued from the PA. Nearby, a dozen or more dogs began howling. Magus fell to its knees. "What is this?" it screamed, before crumpling to the ground. Its crystal brain shattered into countless pieces.

A moment later, a dozen runners appeared from their hiding places, weapons and spells at the ready in case it was a trick. Magus lay unmoving. Lynx let the program run for another minute, just to be sure.

Lynx examined the remains. The sound of a thousand crystal shards jingled inside the head. Croc confirmed there was no longer a living aura about the head or body. Cadillac did the honors with his Dikote-treated combat axe. Three chops and the monster's head left its shoulders. Talbot and Corper were on their phones, making arrangements to have the remains destroyed. Everyone agreed Lynx should oversee it personally.

Magus was dead.
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post Jun 24 2009, 01:57 AM
Post #7

Moving Target

Group: Members
Posts: 202
Joined: 11-June 09
Member No.: 17,271

The small, run down club was empty except for one seat next to the bar. Under the dim lights, the
stained red carpets and wallpaper looked covered in dark blood. The figure in the chair seemed
surrounded by smoke, as he lit one cigarette after another, waiting.

As the outer doors opened, several youths entered, bringing with them noise and lewd laughter, some
with their hands around their girlfriends. They were street boys, tough and confident, wearing their
gang's uniform of red bandanas and black leather jackets with the serpent symbol on the back.
One or two glittered with chrome and plastic as they moved, revealing their augmentations with pride.

As they settled down, one of the younger youths, a large, blond haired gang soldier, turned to the
bartender. "Yo pops, get some beers over here, will ya ?". His eyes settled on the man sitting near
the bar. "Hey, drekface, this is our hood, why don't you get yourself outa here before I slot ya

The rest of the gang froze. One of them, older and shorter than the tall blond, disentangled himself
from the young woman sitting in his lap, smacked the younger one loudly on the back of the head, and
stepped forward. "Yo, King, this guy is stupid and doesn't know you. He didn't mean nothing, yeah?"

The man grunted, ignoring them.

The gang breathed a collective sigh of relief. "You dumb shit, Max", said another one to the blond,
and now somewhat scared, youth. Max leaned toward one of his friend and asked "why, who'se that guy?"
The older gang member, the one who apologized, sat back down, grabbed the girl and set her, laughing,
on his lap again. "That's king, yo. He's here sometimes, meeting friends or something. Hes the most
chromed mother I know, man. This guy did drek you wouldn't believe."

"What, what he do ?"

The older one bent forward, readying himself to tell the story, the girl in his lap leaning on his shoulder.

"Man, I heard a story about him, when he was our age. Like twenty years ago, or something.
The guy was a street soldier, yeah ? Like, nobody special. They are sitting with old Red Crow, that's
our Red Crow's grandpa, in this banraku parlor. Old Red is all happy there with two puppets making him
feel good, and our boy King is right there outside the door listening to all the grunts.
Then all drek breaks loose, man. Like, grenades, and automatics, with smoke and fire and everything. Our boy
king runs in, kicks the puppets off the old man, and hides behind a table with old red behind him,
shooting at the mothers like there's no tommorow. The other guy is down. And then they stop firing and
something bigs steps in the room."

Beers arive, carried by the aging barkeep. The old, round faced man deftly places the glasses on the
tables. "Here's some on the house, kids. And something for the ladies". He puts some smaller glasses
with stronger drinks beside the beers, and two margueritas for the girls.

After a few minutes the story goes on, as the bar slowly fills with more people.

"Anyway, it growls and leaves saliva everywhere. It's like a lion, like a huge, fragging dinosaur-lion
thing, roaring and growling right there. Now our boy king, insead of pissing himself, jumps right out,
charges the thing. Now he knows all the enemy are just there waiting to cap him, but he jumps anyway.
The thing is there opening its maw right at him, and he raises his gun and fires, right into the
things brain. Now, it turns out the thing was a spirit, but with all the smoke it was hard to see.
The bullets did nothing, but the thing jumped on King and bit down hard on his gun arm.
King was near death, his right arm all mangled in the thing's mouth, when all the gangers started laughing.
And this guy comes out behind the wall, and steps through the hole they made in the parlor.
And he's all wearing feathers and little skulls and whatever. He's laughing with the rest, saying drek
about taking over the hood.

So our boy king, half dead from shock, pulls out another gun with his left hand, and shoots the shaman
in the face, splattering him all over. Now the thing roars, and king falls down. And the thing starts
trampling around, breaking the walls, scaring everyone away, taking bites out of everyone in reach.
After a few seconds it vanishes, and all is silent, like a grave. After maybe ten minutes some of the
gang make it there, with old Red Crow's son, our own old Red Crow. They find the old man hiding under
the tables, with the two puppets, having fun like nothing happened.
And they find King there in a pool of blood, his right arm looking like troll's drek.
Some of the gang purged right there just from the sight of him."
That's how he got his first implant, his right arm. The Red Crows pitched in and got him a really good

The blond man looked impressed. "That's hardcore, man". Another steps in, saying "I heard that story
man. You don't know everything. I hear some years later he got hit real bad. Old Red Crow didn't want
King to die, so he went to the shamans. And they called the thing back, and put it inside King's body.
Now King is, like, this, MONSTER, man. I swear it's true."

The rest paused, considering. After a while, it was Max who broke the silence. "You're full of drek,
man.." and they broke into laughter.

Max didn't forget. As they drank and laughed, he emptied his mind and envisioned the astral plane. He
could still hear all the noise and music, but he saw the bar as it really was, a shadowy place full of
dim auras. Only one aura was stronger than the rest by far, convulted with the presence of implants until it resembled a malignant cancerous thing,
and that was the man at the bar. Overlayed on the image of the man, hidden very well, but not well enought for one of Max's skill, was something else, something huge,
with a lashing tail coiled around the sitting figure, and a head that was all fangs.
The monstrous head started to turn around, and Max quickly shifted back to the dimly lit room,
gritting his teeth and laughing along with the snake-gangers, him being initiated into their gang not three says earlier.

On his mind was his old friend, revenge. "I found you, I found you, you shit. You killed my father, but now I
found you."
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post Jun 24 2009, 06:30 PM
Post #8

Old Man of the North

Group: Dumpshocked
Posts: 9,633
Joined: 14-August 03
From: Just north of the Centre of the Universe
Member No.: 5,463

Borrowed from another thread:

The late afternoon sun glaring through the dust on the window didn’t help his just-awake mood, but the stale pizza hanging over the edge of the dinette table did. The beer beside it made things even better. Bongo Slade considered his options for this evening. A quick run at midnight meant he had a few hours to kill. He packed the necessities into a duffel bag and headed to the Rex. The band tonight was supposed to be into old-style jazz, and he hadn’t played any in a while.

Queen Street West was the usual, pink mohawks and chains rubbing shoulders with slumming Armantés. The doorman at the Rex lit up a big smile when he saw Bongo and waved him through the lineup. He called up a buddy by commlink, “I don’t care who you’re with, drekhead. Get your hoop down here, now. Slade is here tonight.?

Bongo found a good vantage point by the bar despite the crowd. The bartender brought him the usual, and he settled back to scan the audience. “Oh, now she looks amazing!? he thought. He memorized her in great detail. Sometimes a memory like that made a long stake-out bearable. She seemed to enjoy his scrutiny. “Hope she’s here later.?

The band had just started, and their style went way back. Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Joe Pass. This was a treat. He settled in and let the music flow through him. Near the end of the set, a waiter came to him and said the band would be honoured to have him sit in for a piece or two. No problem. He signaled the bartender to watch his gear.

Bongo scanned the instruments on stage, thought about the style so far, and asked the percussionist if he could borrow the djembé for a while. The drummer was happy to comply. The band conferred with him a moment, and they selected a slightly more modern piece that highlighted the percussion. Bongo quieted his thoughts and centered himself. He set the piece in motion with a single, deep thump at the centre of the instrument, then pulled out the rhythm from inside himself. Horns, bass and guitar wove their themes around the rhythm, and Bongo called up the magic. The patrons stopped eating and drinking, the waiters struggled with their orders... all eyes sought him out. The musicians on stage found new hooks in the rhythm they never new existed, and danced intricate improvisations they had never tried before. “Yeah,? he thought, “I’m in the pocket tonight.?

The applause eventually died down, and Bongo thanked the musicians for the opportunity to play. He checked the time and decided he had to go. Collecting his gear, he headed out the back, avoiding the sizably increased crowd. Nearby was a room he kept for business. He made sure no one tracked him, and went in. Minutes later, a different man came out. Older, worn clothing, five-o’clock shadow from days ago, smelling of sweat and something indescribable, he shuffled down the alley and onto Queen Street. The nightlife gave him a wide berth and looks of disgust. He mumbled incoherent phrases and stumbled as if drunk. A nearby alleyway was his destination. It led behind Club Rojo, tonight’s target. He tripped and fell into the alleyway, climbed up the brick wall to standing position again, and shuffled down the alley, singing in a gravelly voice, “One hundred days, one hundred nights, to know a man’s heart…?

At the back of the club, a bare bulb lit a door and entryway and two men in cheap suits standing in front of the door. They watched Bongo approach, and kept an eye on him. He fell beside a dumpster and the garbage can he had moved close to it last night. “…and a little more, for him to know his own.? The door guards were not sure about what he was doing, except for the disgust they felt for him. His left foot started to twitch, banging against the dumpster in a long, complicated rhythm. He grabbed the garbage can, as if to stand, but drew it down onto himself, clanging. He held onto the lid, flailing as if to ward off something flying around him, banging against the can in a counterpoint to his foot-beat. Once again, he called the magic. The guards paid him very close attention.

As they watched him, someone dressed in black leaned down from the roof of the entryway to the club and adjusted something on the video camera above the door. Two others, dressed similarly, slid down either side of the entryway and incapacitated the guards easily. The only thing they would remember later is the drunk and a sudden pain in the neck. Bongo finished the contrapuntal composition with a flourish, and rose steadily. One of the team in black nodded to him, and he replied in kind. He headed out of the alley, drunk and disorderly again, and the three in black opened the door with a key from the guards, and entered.

As he took a more circuitous route back to his change room, looking forward to cleaning up, Bongo recalled the image of the woman in the Rex. He wondered what language they might speak tonight.
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post Jun 24 2009, 10:45 PM
Post #9

Shadow Cartographer

Group: Members
Posts: 3,737
Joined: 2-June 06
From: Secret Tunnels under the UK (South West)
Member No.: 8,636

Freedom of the Hunt

She burst into a world of a thousand scents. There were sharp tangs from polished wood that burnt the nose, there was man-scent everywhere, males and females, but no animal or plant. She could smell the coating on the walls and the odor of stale prey-food eaten here days ago. And she could scent urine and blood. She was in a room made of painted stone and squares of glass. Her eyes picked out the contrasting greys even in the poor light from the glass squares and the night outside. The night she couldn't smell but knew it was just a leap away.

A male man crouched behind a flimsy wooden thing in the corner of the room. His aura gleamed with sick power but his body was weak and little, muscles barely worthy of the name, a flabby pot of a belly. It was he that stunk of urine, sweat and blood. A shimmer of mana was wrapped around him hiding him from merely physical eyes. Distaste filled her. She tensed and untensed each of the muscles in her legs, her broad back and neck, stretching out both sets of jaws and digging clawed feet-hands into the soft-fibres that smelt of ancient oil, covering the floor. She tested each sinew of the body she had woven from herself and when she was satisfied, she rose and took deliberate steps toward the man.

The command was like a leash on her throat. The man's aura glistened as he exerted his will against her. Like walking against a river, she took a second step toward him and again, the man commanded her obedience. For endless seconds, they fought with each other. She could smell his fear, but it wasn't of her she realised. Something else scared him... A muffled voice from outside the room spoke: "We shoulda been told fragger was a shaman." And a deeper voice: "I think I got him when he went invisible." She understood the words, but in her moment of distraction, the leash got tighter. The man's power held her, just barely. One task she thought, then free me.

"Agreed," came the reply. The magician slumped against one of the walls, exhausted and she sniffed at him disgustedly. He smelt of death soon to come. He had a wound on one arm that smelt of burnt metal and torn flesh. It was a paltry wound that should hinder no creature, she thought. His mental battle with her had weakened him more than the wound, she thought. The voices outside were getting closer. They were hunting this man. Hunting was something she understood.

"Kill them," muttered the shaman. She looked at him - demanding of her that she fight his battles for him - and then reluctantly turned to the closing hunters.

She let her body dissipate back into energy, but remembered the form and the feel of it. She would conjure it again in a few moments. Freed of it for a moment, the walls and doors of this building of man were no barrier to her. But she missed the scents of this world.

She ran at the opposite wall, springing through it to reveal the men on the other side. As she flew at one of them - a man even smaller and lighter in comparison to her than the rest of them were - she pulled the muscles and the sinews and the skin of her body together again, entering this world truly, as she seized his shoulder first in her outer jaws and then sinking in her inner, teeth into the space between his shoulder and neck. Blood splashed against her tongues and her momentum and a pull of her neck muscles tore the flesh from the man as he collapsed under a weight five times his own. The claws of her prehensile feet dug through his flesh and wrenched at ribs. She let her body fly apart once more becoming energy only just as one of the others raised spitting metal at her, leaving holes in the wall behind where her body had been. One of the remaining two men raised its metal stick, swinging it around in case she reappeared. The other squatted down to touch the fallen one. This one had tusks to bite with and was more muscular than the others. A little hunter itself. It shook its head at the other one and made a chopping hand gesture. Together they ran back the way they had come, keeping eyes ready for her next attack. She floated along above them for a moment but found it unsatisfying - this was unfair. She dropped through the floor of the tunnel she was in, through the soft fibres and smooth stone and metal struts below, into a similar tunnel underneath. This was some sort of man-warren. Once more, she drew together bones, hearts and other organs, wrapping them in more bones and tough, furred skin. She would hunt them in their world.

There were a hundred scents in this passageway but none were the two she hunted. Many little wooden panels were set into the walls, each surely opening into another part of this warren, so she listened. Somewhere not far from here was a scraping, whining sound. She listened a moment more to be sure of its direction and then ran through the passageways toward it. The passage way lit as she ran, light from little circles on the roof following her and she did not like that. Her eyes could pick out all the contrasts that she needed.

The passageway ended with little metal archways with little metal panels in them. They reminded her of the entrance to a temple some thousands of years ago when she had last been in this world. The noise was coming from behind them. She raised one foot and pressed it softly against the metal surface, and felt a vibration. Her claws tore into the metal - it was thin and weak - and wrenched. She realised as it came loose it was meant to slide sideways into a cavity, but she pulled it screaming from its socket and tossed it into the corridor behind her. Inside was a vertical tunnel, unlit with a rope of metal in the middle, steadily lowering a metal box below her. She reached out and grabbed the rope, gripping it to pull the box back up, but the rope was rough, tearing skin from her pads as the too heavy box continued its descent. Snarling, she plunged into the shaft and landed awkwardly on top of the box, squeezed between the rope and the tight sides of the shaft.

The box shook with her landing and a moment later loud noises came from within it and she realised little bits of metal were punching through the top of the box and striking her. There was no room to move and avoid them, but they did little harm. A couple lodged in her flesh and she flicked one out from her foreleg in a little spray of blood. The sensation of mild pain delighted her. And now she bunched her muscules tight and in single powerful movement punched down through the metal below her, tearing the box open. She was rewarded with more delightful pain as bits of metal stung against her skin. The man with the tusks pointed its stick at her face, trying to find a vulnerable point. She hunched her shoulders to keep the biting metal away and swung her foreleg around inside the box. The tusked one squatted on the floor out of reach, but her swinging leg made contact with something. She felt thick, rough cloth and instinctively grabbed it, yanking it upward through the gap. The terrified face of the other man swung into view, eyes wide with fear - he stank of it too. The tusked man was on her arm instantly, pulling to free him. Irritated, she slammed his face against the jagged metal edge where she had torn through. He screamed through his lacerated mouth until she managed to yank him higher and push his throat onto the edge and rip it apart. He died soundling like a bubbling forest stream.

Suddenly, pain lit up her foreleg - actual pain! The last of the men had rammed a blade through her paw and into the wall of the metal box. The man's muscles were bunched with exertion and he leaned into the blow with his whole body, driving the point deeper into the flesh and the metal behind.At the last moment, he yanked the blade down, managing to snap off the handle. At the same time, the box came to a stop and the panels at the front slid open. The man took off at speed.

She was at an awkward angle, not able to get down into the box without twisting the blade around even more. Pressing her face into the gap in the roof, she could see that the blade had been wider at the bottom than the top. If she pulled her paw away, it would make the wound even larger. But her prey was escaping and that was a greater pain. With a rough snarl, she pulled, feeling the blade force its way through tendon, flesh and pad, pushing bones wide apart as it went. With a sudden movement and a spattering of blood on the walls, her foreleg came loose. She ripped the hole in the box wider with her other forearm, bunching muscles and peeling back the metal like bark from a tree. It took precious seconds though and when she eventually dropped down into the box, her prey could not be seen.

She slouched into the tunnel and at last could smell the night air outside. Fumes of oil and rain and a swarm of mankind assailed her from open glass panels at the end of the tunnel and she could see a whole unknown world just beyond. She padded forward carefully on her injured paw. Her prey's metal weapon was discarded partway down that tunnel leading toward the outside, and the thick top with the hard plates that it had worn was shrugged off and dropped a little nearer those invitingly open doors. It looked as though her prey had fled into the night.

But it smelt like he was still here. She inhaled deeply and smelt sweat and the burnt metal smell a little to her left. She padded silently down a different tunnel, following the scent and came to a door. This one had been damaged. She could see the splintered wood of the frame part way up even before the tunnel lit up with those irritating roof lights that followed her movement. Reaching first with her injured paw, and then changing her mind and instead resting on her haunches and reaching with the other, she tugged at the little hook that came from the door. She could barely fit two clawed fingers around it as she tugged it down and swung the door open to reveal her prey standing inside.

No, not prey. This one didn't smell of fear. Adrenaline, anger, nervousness, but not much fear. Why had it hidden here in wait instead of running? Did it plan to attack her by surprise? Did it plan to double-back and kill the one that had summoned her to this world? Either way it was a hunter - a little hunter - like herself. She leaned forward. extending her head into the room. It was tiny and filled with strange objects. There was a distant scent of sex - some men had rutted in here once. She inhaled the scent of the current occupant, noted that this man was actually a female man, saw the tusks jutting up from its lower jaw like a boar's - not good for bringing down prey but good for goring, for defending. She looked at the dark patches in its life field and wondered at it - the creature had metal woven into its bones and its muscles were made of some strange sinewy material that wasn't its own. And she saw her own massive head reflected in its eyes - her own large, dark eyes, the wide muzzle with the second, tearing jaws inside. The female man met her gaze, steady, calm. She liked this one - respected it. But that leash of control tugged at her. Angrily, she snarled. Thinking the noise the prelude to an attack, the female man leapt at her, trying to wrap its arms around her neck. The grip was powerful, but she moved before the little hunter could get a proper hold and instead it found its arms wrapped around her head. Nonetheless, it squeezed at her, trying to crush her skull. She pulled back from the room and dragging the clinging creature with her. She bit as well as she could in the locked arms, tearing open the creature's side but not reaching any vital organs. She leaned back on her haunches lifting it into the air and raked down the creature's back with her claws, snagging them on its ribs, feeling a lung puncture and muscles tear. Still the grip didn't loosen. She slammed her head against the wall, hard, and there was a crack. The creature's skeleton was protected by its spiderweb of metal, but it was no match for her strength. The creature fell to the ground and she saw that she had knocked it senseless against the wall. Blood seeped from its temple. It had fought well, even knowing it could not win. In other circumstances, she might have let it live. But he urging of the one that summoned her kept insisting she honour her bargain. Silently, she thanked the female man for the pleasure of the hunt and then, to honour it, she pulled its rib-cage apart and consumed its heart.

She was free now. And she could let this body she had made dissipate and return to the black forests of her own world across the gulfs of manaless void. But the scent of blood was rich here, and there were so very many interesting smells. Perhaps she would like to stay. In which case there was one thing to deal with.

She drifted upwards through the layers of this warren and found the shaman not far from where she'd left him. He was tying strips of cloth around his wound and talking to a little box. He fell silent when her body reformed however. "You can go," he said. "I have no more need of you, you stubborn piece of drek." She snarled, merely to show him her many teeth. Very pale now, he gestured at her: "Go!".

She took a step toward him, then another, and he scrambled backward in fear. She saw him focus his energies before his spell even hit her. The mana splashed away harmlessly and even if he hadn't been exhausted, his spells would not scare her overmuch. He was playing with forces that he could barely control, and ultimately couldn't.

He was sobbing when she finally killed him by breaking his spine. No final courage like the other one. She would not eat his heart. Instead she chewed his head a little and then spat it to the ground where it would lie disfigured and uneaten, not even worthy as food. Walking to the glass wall, she butted against it until it broke, and then in came all the thousands of scents of the night - burning oils and bitter rains and excrement of dogs and people and the distant, hidden oily secretions of dragons. She smelt the stink of dead meat heated in boiling fat, of the dark sea some miles away and of the droppings of birds hardened on the walls, of copulation, of blood, of buildings of man made of strange materials and scents like grains gone off and grown sweet and intoxicating.

She inhaled them all and knew there were yet more to find, as she stepped out through the glass, clinging to the building with three good clawed feet-hands and one bloody injured one. She flexed it, revelling in the pain. And there would be hunting, of course. And perhaps even being hunted. This world promised much.

And above all, she was free.
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post Jun 24 2009, 10:49 PM
Post #10

Moving Target

Group: Members
Posts: 202
Joined: 11-June 09
Member No.: 17,271


During recess, the children stayed in the classroom, engrossed by their various augmented reality activities. Some sat silently behind their friendly brown-blue plastic desks, manipulating their
commlink wheels. Others were noisier, gesturing wildly with their AR gloves, shouting at each other as they fought in a virtual battleground displayed on their school-issue goggles.

A virtual sound of a door opening alerted them to their teacher's approach. They sat down and waited in respectful silence. In their displays, a woman's head appeared in front of the class.
An obviously computer generated, friendly middle-aged woman. "Hello, kids. Everyone please wear their trodes. Before we begin, where shall we go to today ?"
The classroom filled with childish voices all talking at once, as they donned their colorful helmet-like trodes, each connected a desk by an optic wire.
"The lake !" seemed to be the most popular choice, although one of the virtual soldiers had practically roared "the volcano !".
"Now now, we can't have a math class in the volcano, can't we? The lake it is."
The virtual teacher snapped virtual fingers, and the kids' trodes kicked in, switching them all to VR mode.

It was a sunny day, with light breeze flowing through the grass and causing the mirrorlike waters of the lake to ripple ever so slightly.
The children appeared one after another, and sat down cross legged at the lake's grassy shore. The tall oak trees at their back shelered them from the virtual sun.
Their teacher appeared as a floating icon in the form of the Horizon logo, until all the children settled down. This time, there was a smaller icon next to her's, in the shape of a stylized child's face,
all lines of lips, cheeks, eyes and a little shadow of a nose.
The children whispered among themselves, looking curiously at the strange icon, until their teacher appeared fully. She was a short, rounded middle aged woman, wearing old fashioned glasses,
her graying hair tied in a bun. "Hello there, everyone", she said.
"Hello, Mrs. Eva", answered the kids in practiced unison.
"Before we begin, I would like to introduce a new student who will be joining our math, physics and chemistry classes from now on." She turned to the small icon floating beside her.
"Anna, dear, please show yourself".

The icon vanished, and in it's stead stood a painfully thin girl. Her hair was long and smooth, platinum blond, her eyes a startling clear green. She wore the standard virtual school jumpsuit as the
other kids, with the horizon logo over the heart, and the school's logo just below the right shoulder.
The girl lowered her eyes to the grass, obviously shy.
"Children, this is Anna. She can't visit our school in person, so she will be attending our virtual classes. Anna dear, please sit down next to Dianne, over there."

As Anna sat down on the grass, the slightly rounded, red haired Dianne smiled at her. "Don't do anything funny, new girl. The Eva virtual teachers can't really deal with anything weird, so they just
call the inspector. And then we all get in trouble."
"Oh, I see", said the thinner girl gravely. "May I ask what sort of funny things you were reffering to?"
Dianna gave her a strange look. "You MUST not get out much, if you talk like a grown up all the time".
Anna looked back, not understanding. Dianne smiled again. "Well, nevermind. You know, noise, stuff."
"I'll be quiet, then", Anna told her.

The class ended after an hour, the virtual teacher logged off, and one by one the children vanished as well. "So, how come you can't visit school?" asked Dianne.
"Well, my mother said I have a special condition, and I need to stay in bed most of the time."
"Oh, that's glitchy.", said the red haired girl, sympathizing. "Well, you can always call me if you want. Maybe we can play some games together". She sent Anna her address.
"Of course, I will", she said,"I mean, sure, thanks", Anna smiled. She waved goodbye, and vanished.


In the computers lab, the woman removed her smartglasses and rubbed her eyes with fatigue. The man next to her, still enganged in AR activity, turned to her. "Are you okay?".
"Oh, yeah, yeah. I've just been spending a lot of effort on the project. You know, I think i'm getting a bit attached to he... it." She stumbled over the word "her", and the man didn't miss it.
She could see his eyes rolling behind his sparkling glasses. "I'm serious, Donna. You shouldn't. You know she's not a real girl. Don't make this into something unhealthy."
The woman sighed. "Of course I know, David. It's just that she... it... is so HUMAN. I mean, it emulates a little girl so perfectly that it makes me sad sometimes. Think about what we do here,
experimenting on a little girl, and no matter what you say, that's what it looks like"
"Emulates is the key word here. So it is sapient and has rights, but we're treating it very well. We don't even have to hold it here, it just stays here and doesn't want to leave. We're trying to enhance
it's attributes, that's all. One day an exec will come over here and take her away, and you couldn't do anything about it."

David suddenly leaped from his chair. "Oh drek. I have to go. My wife is going to go razorgirl on me if i'm late again." He quickly made some last touches on his commlink, and ran out.
"Go home, Donna !" he shouted as the lab door closed behind him.
Donna smiled sadly, and stood up. She switched off the lab lights, throwing the room into a shadowy darkness, lit only by the access corridor's dim green lightsaving bulbs.
Suddenly, a red communication icon appeared on one of the blank screens, casting strange shadows on the nearby equipment.
Donna went to the screen and activated it's AR link. She could see little Anna in her room, chatting and playing some sort of game.
A window popped up, informing her that Anna's partner was Dianne Sawyer, one of the girls from the Linden school. The Security spider allowed the call, based on her instructions earlier.

Instead of leaving the lab,like she knew she should, Donna sat down and put on the VR trodes linked to the console.


Hours later, lying in bed, Anna was happily smashing the strange pink blobs jumping around on her AR display. "We're almost done !" said Dianne, her little character chasing a particularly evasive pink
blob. "We need ten more, then we can go return the quest. You'll probably level up too."
Anna could hear Dianne stiffling a yawn. "Are you okay, Di", asked the thin girl, concentrating on a particular blob that got stuck at the edges of the map and couldn't escape. "I'm fine, just tired.
It's midnight already, and if my parent catch me they'll be really mad."
Anna halted. She could her her mother coming near. Will she be angry ? "Oh Di, I have to go.. sorry about the quest."
"It's allright. We can continue tommorow. We'll lose the XP bonus, but still it will be pretty high.Okay then, see you in physics tommorow !"

The AR display died just as Donna entered the room. Anna sat on the bed's edge, looking anxious.
"Your'e not angry, right, mommy ?"
"Of course not. But you have school tommorow, you can't just stay up late and wake up at noon anymore, okay ?"
"I guess.." Anna lay back, covered herself with the blanket. Donna said "lights off", and the room went dark. She sat by Anna's sleepy blanketed form, and gently moved her hand through the delicate
blond hair. "Good night, sweety". Anna fell asleep almost immediately, as always.


Donna stood up. She made up her mind. The child would NOT go to the Horizon PR machine, to be molded into some sort of Horizon advertisement, at best.
The sentient, delicate and gentle program that was Anna will be free, somehow... she just had to talk to the right people.
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post Jun 25 2009, 12:30 AM
Post #11

Shooting Target

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Member No.: 17,166

(Reposted from another thread)

Bar Fight

The stunning woman with the wavy auburn hair and ice blue eyes pushes open the door to the establishment, and steps inside out of the seemingly permanent Seatle drizzle and haze, wrinkling her nose at the odors of wet cloth, unwashed bodies and stale beer and ignores the slightly over-warm temperature. The bar is something of a dive, but she’s been in worse. Kerenshara sweeps the entire establishment with a trained eye noticing exits and possible threats, despite the gloom. A number of the patrons take notice of the new arrival, a beautiful flower out of place in a bed of weeds. Her mirrored shades match well with the roguish cut of her hair and the way her tight black jeans hug her curves. She unzips Rachel’s high-necked blood red leather jacket, exposing an ample amount of décolletage enhanced by Rachel’s black leather bustier and the regard of many of the patrons sharpens to keen interest. The stillness on her face and something about her stance deter these veterans of the mean streets. Subconsciously they recognize the wolf that has just entered amongst their flock.

The stiletto heels of Rachel’s black leather thigh-high boots clack sharply on the hard concrete floor that may once have been polished or even had a covering as she stalks over to a corner booth and drops herself casually into the back corner, the cushion’s cracked synthetic fabric squealing in protest, facing the rest of the bar. She casually puts her booted heels up on the slightly greasy looking table, crossing her ankles and turning slightly to better hide the silenced pistol concealed within the jacket, but easy to reach. The black velvet choker around her throat feels a little tighter than usual as she senses something change. There is a slight commotion across the bar, as a young woman tries to escape the pawing hands of an ugly looking human with a scar over his left eye and dressed in purple and orange synth-leathers. The girl looks like she has seriously fallen off the bus in the wrong part of town. Another male, this one an ork not much better looking than his friend and wearing the same colors steps across her path to block her way.

Kerenshara turns her head slightly away, appearing to watch somebody else in the bar. Her enhanced hearing easily picking out the hushed conversation as the two males - she would NOT give them the honor of the term “men? - explain what the price for her safety in their piss-ant gang’s territory was going to be. The girl is near tears, and the fear she is radiating tears at Kerenshara’s senses. Even the mundanes must be feeling it, but they all seem engrossed with their drinks. Most other conversations have even stopped as everybody studiously ignores the events closer to the entrance.

“I can’t afford to blow this identity? Kerenshara thinks to herself, watching the human’s hand begin working its way up the girl’s skirt, resisting the urge to draw the pistol and splatter the contents of their skulls all over the walls. She can taste the adrenaline starting to sing in her veins, and fights the need to destroy them as time begins to slow down. By main force of will, she holds herself in place and even manages to remain outwardly disinterested. Then she hears the human tell the ork that he saw her first. Now Kerenshara has to fight not to smile as she focuses on the ork out of her peripheral vision, feeling the mana rushing to meet the adrenaline in her veins and reaches out to the crude metahuman. She feels the emotions on the surface of his mind, and the black laced red haze of bitter anger is everywhere. She mentally blows on the embers of anger, stoking them to rage and simultaneously whispers an indignant curse before pulling back out as easily as she had entered, just as the Ork screams the same indignant curse and swings a massively calloused fist at the human. In seconds the two are too focused on each other to notice the girl bolt out the door. “Smart girl? Kerenshara thinks to herself with a mental smirk as a glint of metal reveals that the fight just turned deadly. A third man, this one a not-bad-looking troll in the same colors stands up suddenly and shouts to the two males, who instinctively freeze and turn to him in fear and back away from him as he herds them out the door with a flurry of kicks, punches and curses.

The bar seems to breathe for a moment, then like an old Wild West saloon, conversation resumes as though nothing has happened. Not a soul even turns toward her, and Kerenshara permits herself a very tight but indulgent smile as the adrenaline fades from her system. Before she can draw the attention of one of the detached wait staff, the door opens again and an Asian man with a suit that marks him as much an outsider as a jay amongst a flock of wrens steps inside. His shoes shine in the dim light, and the crease in his slacks refuses to acknowledge the drizzle outside. He scans the bar and his eyes fall on Kerenshara. He seems to nod to himself, and walks directly over to her table, and bows marginally to her. “Good evening, Ms. Smith,? he says in only slightly accented English. The accent’s Chinese, but the bow’s Japanese. Body language’s harder to train out, so the voice is probably the lie. “Mr. Johnson. Good evening. Will you join me for a drink??
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post Jun 25 2009, 08:42 PM
Post #12

Moving Target

Group: Members
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Joined: 8-October 07
Member No.: 13,611

First Kill

I keep thinking about my first kill. She had those mesmerizing grey-green eyes that you see and you just think that you don't deserve to be what they see. I remember those eyes looking at me. She was fine. Short. Angular face. Jet black hair. It was long and pulled back behind her. I remember that day. It was freezing cold that morning, and windy as fuck. That's what you expect for the town in the middle of February. But it was clear. Totally clear. Not a cloud in the sky. The wind had been stinging my eyes like a bastard all day, and I'd been tearing up constantly, especially in the right eye.

She was leaving a Persian restaurant. It was a pain in the ass, but I didn't give a fuck. The place was at the end of a strip mall full of eateries and at least two clothiers. It was next to a standalone chain restaurant and a cheap hotel; all of it was within an industrial park with another three restaurants on the other end of the strip mall from the Persian place and across the road from them were several two-story office buildings. Behind all of the restaurants was an interstate with the exit behind the hotel and another fucking chain restaurant. It was a busy fucking place. But everyone kept to themselves because if they were outside it was to get to their fucking cars as quickly as possible because the wind and cold were merciless when most of the year the city was hot and dry and, frankly, pleasant.

The setup was that I'd shoot her as she got into her car. A van pulled up behind her car so that no asshole customers from any of the restaurants saw; the offices were empty behind us, and as soon as she was down I'd hop and and we'd make our getaway. That was the plan.

Problem was that I'd never done that. I'd fucked people up, and I'd ever stuck a gun in one or two peopl's faces, but no kills. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't expect her to smile at me when I approached. I didn't expect her to smile. It's like she didn't know, or didn't care. The van came along like clockwork. I was too fast on the draw. Thank fucking Christ for silencers. I shot her just above the bottom of her jacket. Twice. But I couldn't just stop walking. That would just be more likely to draw attention as my ride was waiting. I raised the gun and fired twice more into her chest as she fell. She still had that smile on her face as she fell; it twisted as she hit the pavement into something perverse.

I didn't stop. The next shots were just above the sternum and then her mouth. It was fucking sick, but I was so busy trying not to fuck up. I've seen some other guys. They just cruise along looking straight ahead. The bullet that tore open the bottom of her lip and then... I felt a shiver up my spine and through my back and shoulders. Tears welled up as I fired several bullets into her face/forehead until the gun was empty. The next thing I remember … It just goes blank for a second or two. If that. And I was in the back of the minivan, and we were gone. Within twenty seconds we were on the interstate.

Looking back, that was a ridiculous plan. It was too public and it was too overt from the perspective of her seeing it coming. The more I think about it, the more I can't figure out how she didn't see it. I mean, she wasn't a civilian; for Christ's sake she'd killed more people than I had. Maybe she just … Maybe she did. And she was resigned to it. It's not like people like us live forever. It does make me wonder if I'll smile at the guns when my time comes.
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post Jun 25 2009, 08:48 PM
Post #13

Running Target

Group: Members
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Joined: 16-November 07
Member No.: 14,229

Union Blues

Sandoval appraised the scene. It was a sunny afternoon. A lean ork woman dressed in coveralls bellowed into a beat up megaphone. "An honest wage for honest work!" The crowd she was addressing burst into cheers, waving bright blue handkerchiefs. Nearly two hundred employees - the entirety of the factory's skillwire-equipped workforce - had showed up to the rally. The crowd was racially diverse, motivated, and very energized. Some had obviously been in fights recently - black eyes mostly, but a few had casts on arms or legs.

Sandoval sighed inwardly. "They're only making matters worse for themselves," he thought. He knew from his own experience that any monetary losses from the work stoppage would be added to their corporate debts. Not that it mattered, he supposed. Their contracts locked these poor fools into ten to twenty year work terms at subsistence wages. Barely enough to live on, let alone raise a family. Some of those people would probably never be out of debt. They'd probably die still owing the company. A debt that would be transferred to their children, if they had any.

Having seen enough, he reached out to deactivated the holo projector, then turned to the man in the suit sitting across the table. "Its a labor rally," said the man, swatting away a fly.

"Indeed. So, how does this concern me, Mr. Johnson?" asked Sandoval.

"This work stoppage is impacting the company's bottom line. The persons that I represent want to put an end to this. They want those workers back on the line immediately." Though the man tried to hide it, Sandoval's enhanced senses and empathy software easily picked out the man's disgust.

"I assume these are contracted workers? Why not exercise the standard anti-union clauses. Surely that was included in their contracts," said Sandoval smoothly, before taking a long drink. The beer was flat and warm, with a sythnetic after taste. It was barely drinkable by most peoples' standards, but for Sandoval, it brought back memories.

Mr. Johnson hesitated. The shadowrunner's augmented hearing picked up a sudden increase in heart rate and his empathy software began to register a nervous tick in the corper. "If it were that simple, we would have. The architects of this... union are exploiting an obscure loophole in corporate law that allows them to organize a union if the workforce in question manages a unanimous vote."

"So their rally is entirely legal then. How... unfortunate for you." Sandoval wanted toi say more, but held back, maintaining his professional cool, thanks in no small part to the hit of Frosty he took before the meeting. The drug suppressed emotional responses and muted body language. He didn't like how it made the world feel out of sync and gooey, but it made empathy software next to useless. "What did you have in mind?"

"We want the laborers to go back to work. Time is of the essence. We're losing tens of thousands a day in lost productivity."

"You'll need to be more specific. I'm not a contract negotiator. Nor am I a lawyer. So I'll ask you again, so there's no confusion, what do you want me to do about your problem?" The fly buzzed near Sandoval's ear. He ignored it, focusing instead on Mr. Johnson. It was too hot in the room. Probably 30 degrees Celsius.

Fortunately, Sandoval wasn't the only one feeling the heat. He didn't even need his empathy software to tell the man was growing impatient and agitated. Angry, "What!? You want me to spell it out for you?" Sandoval could imagine the man mentally adding, "you stupid trog" to the end of that sentence.

"Yes. Please do. Just so we're clear."

"We want you to eliminate the union organizers. Permanently. This needs to stop and I don't care how you do it. And it has to be done by Sunday night."

"Ah, I see. A hit, then? Multiple targets, I'd assume. You provide names and addresses of the targets. I can take it from there."

"Of course, I have names and addresses. Usual hangouts. Everything you'll need."

"Good. The price is ten thousand per head, held in escrow. And I'll need 10% of the cost up front, on certified cred."

"Ten thousand each!? That's twice what your agent said it would cost. I won't pay it." Any composure the man may have had was gone. And the temperature in the small room was nudging ever higher. Sandoval's commlink displayed 35 degrees Celsius.

"Suit yourself. I'm sure you'll be able to find another qualified hit man in the next thirty six hours," said Sandoval, rising to leave.

"Wait!" Mr. Johnson's teeth were grinding. Definitely not a professional. "Fine. I'll pay, but you better follow through with it. Or else. If this job isn't done by Monday, you won't get another nuyen." Mr. Johnson produced data chip. "Here are you targets. Make sure they're dead."

Bingo. "Open threats are no way to conduct this sort of business," Sandoval said, as he picked up the data chip.

"Don't lecture me. Here's the first part of your pay." Mr. Johnson was visibly sweating. "Get out of here and get the job done so I can tell my employer its handled."

"Don't worry yourself, Mr. Johnson. Everything will be taken care of."

The air conditioning kicked on as Sandoval left the room. The corper was so relieved by the sudden rush of cool air and departure of the shadowrunner that he failed to notice the bother some fly landing on Sandoval's shirt.

The runner sent a quick message to his associates, "Meet me out front."

As he passed by the bartender of the rundown dive, he transferred a sizable tip, easily a month's rent. Compensation for allowing him control of the building's ancient air conditioning unit.

Sandoval exited the building, bracing himself against the hot summer air, which threatened to steal his breath away. A cheap, imported black sedan pulled up in front of him. Sandoval noted the wear and tear along the bottom and around the wheel wells.

The door popped open and Sandoval sat down in the back seat with a heavy thump. The cheap plastic seats stuck to his back, making a harsh, peeling sound as he tried to get comfortable.

"Was I right?" Sandoval turned to face the speaker, a lean ork woman with a bruised face. She'd tried to hide the bruises with makeup, but the damage was too extensive. The car pulled away.

"Yes," he said slowly. "The union leaders have been targeted. The company wants them eliminated them before Monday." Sandoval sniffed, suppressing a sneeze.

"Killed." It wasn't a question.

"Yes. He was very specific." The Frosty was wearing off and his sinuses were starting to go crazy. This was the worse part.

"So what do we do now?" The look of fear on her face was plain as day.

The shadowrunner's hands danced in the air, manipulating an AR interface. "That's up to you. At the very least, I suggest you and the others go into hiding until your 0800 hearing at the local Corporate Courthouse Monday. I'm sure whoever the hit man is, he or she will ransack your homes looking for you. He or she may even go so far as to lean on people at some of your favorite hangouts, though its unlikely they will be injured."

Sandoval sneezed loudly. "It will, of course be very dramatic. These things always are. Then, when Monday rolls around, any remaining obligations on his or her contract will be null and void. Any remaining pay forfeit, per the agreement."

Pressing a button on his commlink, Sandoval ejected a small optical disk. "I recommend you provide the enclosed trid footage of the meeting with the hit man. Unfortunately, the hit man's face is obscured by some sort of technical glitch, but it clearly shows the Mr. Johnson soliciting the hit and mentioning that he will report to his superiors."

The look on the woman's face was priceless. He took a still image with his cybereyes to remember it. "You've planned this out," she said.

"Of course. Its what I do."

"Aren't you concerned about getting a bad rep? Don't people in your line of work live and die by your rep?"

"Don't believe everything you see on the trids. My connections aren't going to hold this little breach of etiquette against me." Not with that Humanis thug involved anyway, he wanted to add.

"This is my stop," Sandoval said, addressing the driver. The car pulled over and Sandoval opened the door to get out.

"Um, aren't you forgetting something?" she asked. "Your payment?" She sheepishly produced a credstick. "Its not much... We all pitched in."

Sandoval considered the credstick for a moment. "Keep it," he said, stifling another sneeze. "You need it more than me," he said as he stepped out of the sedan, disappearing into the night.

The five thousand nuyen advance would cover living expenses for a while. Now to go put on a good show.
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post Jun 25 2009, 11:04 PM
Post #14

Shadow Cartographer

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From: Secret Tunnels under the UK (South West)
Member No.: 8,636


Wiggy took another swig from his lemonade with a big grin, enjoying the way the bubbles tickled his nose. His beer-drinking buddies around the table were watching him and he realised he'd been asked a question. He ran one big hand through his frizz of ginger hair, "What," he asked?

The others stared at the teenage troll, fourteen years old and 6'1" with a wide, spare frame that looked like it could run the 100m in 9 seconds flat. Redblade, the samurai, leaned forward over the table and fixed the troll with clear blue, artificial eyes. "I said," he replied, "that we only got this job because we said we had a mage. So you have to take this job seriously. No... misbehaving. Okay? Can you do that?"

Wiggy smiled. Redblade was his friend. "Sure," he said. And then a moment later, "what was the job again?"

Swan, the other samurai put her head in her hands whilst the others exchanged worried glances. "Oh Wiggy...," she said.


They were hunched up together in the back of their rigger's van. Redblade was dressed in well-cared for armour with an Ares Alpha slung by his side and his trademark katana across his back. Swan sat next to Wiggy dressed in her rather less military but still servicable armoured long coat. Her delicate, chinese face and soft black bob belied the speed and skill with which she could move. She reached up one hand to the young troll shaman sitting next to her and gave his left horn an affectionate tug. Wiggy smiled down at her.

"Are you okay," she asked? Wiggy nodded. "You're not... scared?" The troll shook his head. "Nope. It's exciting. The last run was fun." There was a sharp intake of breath from Damocles their rigger up front, and Swan knew that he was rubbing the still painful gunshot wound in his shoulder from that last run a couple of months ago. "There will be men who want to shoot us," she said. "When the van stops, we have to get out and run to the shadows as quickly as we can, got it?" Wiggy nodded happily. "Do you remember what rule number 1 is?" Again, the troll nodded and replied: "If I get confused, just find you and follow you."

"Well done," she said and stroked his muscular arm. There was something very attractive about trolls when they were just hitting their teens - about the size of a muscular, athletic man, not yet starting to fill out into the heavier bulk they got when they were older. Yet mentally they were still teenage and random and dependent and that was arousing - she withdrew her hand quickly - which was very wrong, of course.


The three of them ran through the compound, racing from the shadows of shipping containers to the cover of cranes and the recesses of railway sidings, spending as little time in the floodlit open spaces as possible. But to Wiggy, everything was bright and shimmering with the energy of the Astral world. He watched the sparkling play of colours of the aura around his hand, making the mana run around his forearm in circles like a pretty snake. Redblade nudged him: "come on Wiggy, do your thing." When Wiggy just stared at him, Redblade prompted: "you know - get rid of the spirit."

Wiggy rose from the shadows - a tall, gangly pale figure with red hair in an ancient and faded Concrete Dreams t-shirt and called on the spirits. Tiny little watcher spirits, will-o-whisps of every colour bobbed around him. The spirits always came when Wiggy called, fawning on their favourite. "Time to play 'Chase' today," he told them and waving his arms like a conductor he sent them flying deeper into the compound. He turned to Redblade and Swan who crouched in the shadow of a freight wagon. "Wont be long," he said.

And it wasn't. The spirit came to them roaring like a fireball, manifesting in the air as it approached: an efreet of smoke and fire, dark eyed and flame-browed. Wiggy's paltry spirits fled before it vanishing in terror. Each copper-skinned hand of the pursuer was wreathed in searing flame. Swan and Redblade stared in fear as Wiggy stood between the apparition and them.

The spirit's voice was like tiger speaking. "This domain is under my protection and you have intruded and earned my master's ire."
"I'm Wiggy," said the troll.
The spirit glowered down at him. "I care not," it rumbled, raising the flaming hands above its head, "defend yourself and die with honour."
"Wouldn't you rather go back to your home?" The spirit stared, trying to work out if the young troll was courageous or merely didn't understand the danger.
"I am bound by my master to guard this place for a year and a day. I owe him this service."
"I can get you out of it," promised the troll.
"You can... 'get me out of it'", repeated the spirit, doubtfully.
"Here," said Wiggy. In the astral he watched the skeins of mana, gossamer fine, wrapped around the great spirit. They were hard to see at first, but he could always spot them when he looked for them. He'd tried explaining these threads to the other younger shamans, but he was no good with complicated words and they hadn't seemed to know what he was talking about and only the adult Indian man had seemed to understand and his eyes had widened in surprise when he realised what the teenager was already able to perceive. But Wiggy loved spirits and spirits loved him. He hated to see them tied up like this and, heart beating loudly in his breast, he one by one broke the minute threads that bound the spirit. As the last one broke, the spirit sighed and rose up, seeming to grow even larger than it was to begin with.

"I owe you my thanks, young shaman. You are most gifted."
"No worries," said Wiggy with a grin.


Back through the compound they sprinted, alarms ringing loudly behind them, staccato gunfire filling the air and a small but valuable package tucked under Swan's arm. Redblade turned every dozen metres or so and fired a few shots, just to make the security guards duck into cover and buy the runners some time. The gate to the compound was just fifty metres away. Damocles had pulled the van up to the entrance and they could see him through the windscreen waving them on.

And then a car screamed out in front of them and a half-dozen security guards ran across their path. The runners slowed to a halt, diving into cover. Floodlights were coming on and people were shouting all around Wiggy. "Swan," said Redblade, "you go around those crates and..." Wiggy leapt to his feet, raised arms on high - a strange, mad, prophet-like figure. "MANABALL!" he cried.

"No, Wiggy," yelled Swan, "not..." and then she blacked out.

As did Redblade.

And a dozen security guards.

"Oh," said Wiggy quietly, "that was..." and then fell on his bottom, stunned.


Damocles pulled the van up quickly, driving around the unconscious security guards (he was like that), and with coaxing, got the dazed Wiggy to help him quickly pull Swan and Redblade into the back of the truck. He slammed the door shut with Wiggy inside, then scrambled back to the drivers seat, snaked a cable from his temple to the dashboard, and sent the van, himself and all within it tire-squealing off into the safe, anonymous streets of Seattle.

When the van was nicely lost in the late night traffic, Damocles scrambled into the back where Swan and Redblade lolled on the floor. Gently, he patted Redblade on the cheek, eliciting a faint groan followed by the muttered word: "mummy". Swan was concious and searching for a beer under the passenger seat.

Damocles looked at the troll, resting his head down, horns against palms, moaning "oooh".

"Oh, Wiggy," he said.
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post Jun 25 2009, 11:18 PM
Post #15

Shooting Target

Group: Members
Posts: 1,894
Joined: 11-May 09
Member No.: 17,166

And they say killing is hard.

The man tied to the chair whimpered around the gag in his mouth. He had already been severely beaten and interrogated, and every last bit of information his brain could divulge had already been dutifully and faithfully recorded. He sat there naked, trembling and shivering in the bare, dank and windowless room. The concrete beneath his feet was as cold and unforgiving as the four sets of eyes watching him from a few meters away. As he looked into their faces, he knew there would be no escape for him from this place.

The oldest person present was a man with red hair, a swarthy complexion and eyes that had seen far too many things over six decades that nobody should ever see. As he pulled out a large silenced pistol, the captive whimpered again against his will. The old man turned and first offered the weapon to the man and woman standing mutely in the circle of each other’s arms next to him, but they just shook their heads silently and solemnly. So he then turned and extended the weapon to the youngest person present, who didn’t look as though she could be so much as twelve, even allowing for the delicately pointed ears glimpsed through that lovely hair. Even in the glare of the naked bulb he could tell it was a deep and vibrant red. She would have been extremely pretty if not for her eyes - eyes as hard and lifeless as the emeralds they resembled in the shadows and dim light.

“He’s yours, Cheryl.?

She looked up at the old man and nodded without a word. She took the gun from him and her eyes briefly flicked over the weapon. The captive was no amateur, and the cold professionalism of that glance and her assurance as she verified the loaded chamber, clicked off the safety and cocked the hammer frightened him worse than anything the adults had done to him. She raised the gun in nerveless hands and as the red laser painted across his left eye on the way to his forehead, his bowels turned to liquid and he whined pitifully one last time.

The gun bucked twice in the girl’s hands, and the captive’s whine ended with sickening abruptness as the wall behind the body became liberally spattered with red and gray. The girl lowered the gun and almost subconciously decocked the hammer and safed the pistol before offering it back to the old man. “That was more merciful than I would have expected,? he told her.

She shrugged “You were at my back, I put the rounds right where I wanted them, and I didn’t waste ammo. And the worthless sack of shit certainly wasn’t a WizWorm, so I followed your One Rule.? Both of the other adults looked shocked to hear that their beloved and precious eleven year old daughter could deliver that statement with such equanimity after calmly executing the man who had ordered her grandmothers murder, but the old man’s mouth quirked up at one corner as he accepted the weapon and began unscrewing the silencer from the muzzle. “That you did, granddaughter. That you did.?

* * * * *

Grandpa turned to me and held out the silenced Colt Manhunter. He said to me, “He’s yours, Cheryl?, so I took the pistol from him. It seemed a little heavier than when I had practiced with it at the range, but that just must have been my imagination. I checked the loading indicator and turned off the safety, then I cocked the hammer and pointed it at the scrag who had ordered my Grandma’s death. I looked into his eyes and he whimpered as the laser dot tracked up to his forehead. I let out a breath and I squeezed the trigger like I had so many times at the range. The gun bucked in my hands and the wall behind him turned red. I let the gun settle back from the recoil and squeezed the trigger again. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have wasted the ammo on what was obviously a clean kill, but Grandpa always advocated a double tap. Best to make sure, he says. The second shot threw more red onto the wall, so I guess there was something left in there after all.

I lowered the gun, decocked and safed it, then handed it back to Grandpa. And they say killing is hard.

“That was more merciful than I would have expected,? Grandpa said to me. I wanted to roll my eyes but it didn’t seem appropriate, given the circumstances.

I laid it out for him how I had followed his One Rule. Grownups. Go figure.

Mom and dad looked shocked for some reason. I mean, I thought they had killed people before. Grandpa looked like he was trying not to grin, but that wouldn’t have been appropriate either. He started unscrewing the silencer and said “That you did, granddaughter. That you did.?

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Prime Mover
post Jun 25 2009, 11:27 PM
Post #16

Shooting Target

Group: Dumpshocked
Posts: 1,755
Joined: 5-September 06
From: UCAS
Member No.: 9,313


Dark and hot. Smelling like dirt and sweat. I could hear my breathing, I sounded like a 3 pack a day smoker after a run up a flight of stairs. Just alittle light showing through the doors ahead and the chattering of the crowd on the other side.

Just two days ago I was working all my contacts for a fix. Three weeks without Tempo was killing me it was getting harder and harder to find. I've quit doing runs with my team. Pretty much just doing dirty work for dealers and dirt bags who can put me in touch with my needed fix.

It never used to be this way, I used to be on top of the game. A prime runner they called me. I worked with the best and was on the fast track to early retirement on a nice island in the Carib league. We did some work for the Ghost Cartels and I ended up "testing" there new drug. I've never been the type to get hooked...unless you consider Caff a drug.

Maybe it was the added feeling of confidence, maybe just the rush of getting a peek into the mysterious world of the astral. Whatever it was I was hooked hard. First I used my savings and took more and more time away from my team to just sit in busy places and stare at auras. Before I knew it my only reason to get out of bed was to find a fix and get back to my new found senses.

When my source dried up I had to work everyone of my contacts and use what money I had left to establish my own pipeline for the drug. That lasted almost a month. I tossed several thousand K into my new business only to have some freaking undercover agent infiltrate it and get half of my operation busted.

The bank wouldn't loan me anything and I'd leveraged my cars and savings. My team wouldn't take me back, said I was detriment to them now. I found a small time dealer, a corporate beaver from Aztec who said he could get me Tempo but the prices were sky high. So I took my shadow skills and put them to use for pimps and small time hoods trying to bankroll my high.

That worked for a little while but it got to the point were I couldn't replace my ammo and one night I didn't even have the yen for a coffin.

So thats how I found myself here.....behind this heavy wooden door, heart racing in my chest. Chattering getting frantic on the other side, sweat pouring down my face the heat oppressive in this little hallway. The Urban Explorer Jumpsuit and helmet were worn but intact and the tungsten alloy of the Combat Axe was reassuring.

I still wasn't sure if my heart was racing because I'd agreed to partake in bloodsports or because I was in withdrawals my head is filled with cobwebs.

The crowd started to cheer, a voice inside my helmet told me it was time. Just win one little fight and a years worth of Tempo was mine. Shit I've killed dozens of people in my line of work how hard was this going to be. The doors opened.

If it had been a Troll cyber zombie I'd have been ok. But the thing standing in the middle of the arena was no troll. The look of a black bear but nearly twice the size with half meter tusks jutting from his mouth. The 300 kilo Piasma was standing its full 3 plus meters on its hind legs roaring up at the crowd
watching and taunting from above. I felt something warm running down my leg my brain refused to leave the safety of my dark hallway.......
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post Jun 26 2009, 11:02 AM
Post #17

Moving Target

Group: Members
Posts: 202
Joined: 11-June 09
Member No.: 17,271

Serve and Protect

Her heart beat madly. She was too late and she knew it, but still, she could at least nail the bastard.
With a mental command, the world slowed down to a crawl, her wired reflexes kicking in at full power.
The woman kicked down the metalic door of the underground storage room with a well placed kick to the locking mechanism, her cyberleg emitting a noise not unlike a steam-driven engine.
Even before the door crashed to the concrete floor , she was already inside, running at full speed. Passed some corridors and empty rooms, she could see her target standing inside a room at the other end,
barely registering the noise.

The slender japanese man stood above his latest victim. The young woman's face was frozen forever in a pain-filled scream, as a pool of her life's blood spread on the floor. The man himself, wearing only
simple vending-machine pants and shoes, was covered in her blood as well. He was in the process ofturning around, his butcher's knife held in hand, when Emmi's knee connected with his face, sending
him flying across the room.

Emmi glanced once at the poor young victim, then concentrated on her target. The man had looked so boring, so bland. Even now it took some mental effort realize that the serial killer known as
Butcherbee was this harmless looking youth. He appeared unconcious, her kick dislocating his jaw and sending him head-first into a concrete wall. She toned down her reflexes, feeling sick at the sound of
the young woman's blood suddenly falling faster into the dark pool beneath the chair.

And now came the boring part. She cuffed him and picked him up, holding him suspended on her shoulder with one hand, the other gathering his clothes from the room's corner. Emmi had to leave the place,
before someone else came along, and so she walked quickly, barely registering his weight.
The outside greeted her with a rotting stench carried on the hot winds, the stars hidden above a layer of yellowish smog. Grimacing, she walked quickly to her car, the Lone Star logo shining on the
doors and roof, startlingly out of place in this stinking dump. His car was a brown, aging americar.

It took a lot of witness reports to come up with it's description, and when she spotted it today, she had no time to call for reinforcements before turning to follow.
Once again she tried calling in, but the place had no matrix reception. She took a drop of his blood, put it in the bioreader unit, and sped away. A few miles before entering the sprawl proper, her
recpetion came back. A nanosecond after making contact, her captain's face appeared up on her car's display, already shouting.
"Officer Lang, you're a crazy, stupid drek-stained BITCH, you know that ?! What if something happened to you out there, I would have to explain to the docs why their newest gear VANISHED, and they would
take it out of MY PAY !!"
Emmi tried her best to look shamed and regretfull as he shouted on. After a particulary long pause for breath, she stepped in. "I aplogize, captain. It will never happen again. I'm happy to report that the
implants functioned perfectly, and I have captured the alleged Bucherbee".
That shut him up, at least. "Oh ? do we have an I.D ?" he asked, his face red, but his anger slowly fading.
"No, sir. He had no gear, one-use clothes, no electronics, implanted or otherwise. I took the liberty of preparing a blood sample, though, but my car's computer doesn't have him in the database."
"Of course not. Wire it over to my console, i'll check it".
She did it, and continued driving toward the city, her captain's screen flashing a "busy" icon.

She enetered the city center now, the streets flashing with familiar neon signs and flashy AR ads everywhere, people in their multitude, unknowing of the dangerous animal in their midst captured this
night. Her captain's link went dead. And suddenly, all hell broke loose.

She could see the missile speeding at her, and then all went black. She came to feeling sick and crippled with pain. Not knowing where she was, she stood up shakily, the pain almost overpowering her
again. She looked towards a source of noise behind her, only to realize that the burning wreck in themiddle of the road was her car, surrounded by smaller flaming pieces, and the dead and injured
Her goggles were gone, along with her visual time display, but she was probably out only for a second or so. Without checking herself for injuries, she turned on her reflexes, and sped off between the
shouting and shocked people on the pavement.


Quentin was engaged in some sweet illegal matrix activities, better left secret, when suddenly he heard a faint knocking sound. That sound resolved into loud kicks and shouts once he logged off.
He ran to the door, and stood beside it, back to the wall and a gun in his hand. He shouted "Stop it, slag, who is it?"
The kicks mercifuly stopped, and a familiar, frighting woman's voice answered "It's me, Quentin, open up.. right now!"
Swallowing his usual answers to that kind of attitude, he opened the door. As expected, it was Lone Star outside, the detective as scary as ever. The freakishly tall and athletic asian woman didn't look
right at all, though. Her cyberleg was bent and sending sparks along powerlines, one of her eyes and the entire right side of her face looked beyond help, and a dark stain of blood seeped through her
black armor suit's stomach.

"Oh drek, Lang", he supported her heavy weight on his thin shoulders, guiding her to his couch, for a moment forgetting that some of his personal, very illegal equipment was right there on the floor. "You
stay right there, detective. Don't move."
She spoke in rapid bursts, between painful stops for breath. "I.. I... cought someone I... shouldn't have cought.. maybe some... high exec's kid... I.."
Emmi tried to continue, but only coughed up blood, her good eye glazing over in shock.

She arrested him once, back when she was still a beat cop. She wasn't total drek like most pigs, though. Helped him out of a rough patch that led to his arrest. Ever since they kept in contact sometimes,
mostly she buying information from him.
The fact that she came to him for help like this, instead of running back to her unit, meant everything.
"Don't worry, Lang. I'll fix you right up... but it'll cost ya."
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post Jun 26 2009, 03:46 PM
Post #18

Moving Target

Group: Members
Posts: 767
Joined: 18-November 08
Member No.: 16,610

The Case of the Missing Niece: Prologue.

Chinatown. Many native Chinese citizens will tell you, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The main streets of this cultural oasis in downtown Seattle, was filled to the brim the active commlink with augmented advertisement displays. English subtitles lay below neon colored Chinese calligraphy spamming bakeries, seafood markets, jewelry stores, gyrating dance clubs, and of course restaurants all sporting three star quality or higher. Every Chinatown had a nice area reminding Chinese tourists of the denizens of central Hong Kong. But people forget. For every golden sunflower which grows amongst the soil of an average garden, there is a weed growing in between the cracks of the sidewalk polluting the scenery.

Escaping the vibrant energy of Cherry Street, Chinatown, the elven street runner known as Durden followed the GPS system on his Fairlight Caliban commlink towards the housing place of the meet. He found himself on a narrow cobblestoned avenue, incoming traffic was only allowed to travel one way, which was towards him of course. Squatters of all races and metatypes littered this detour like the trash on the ground. Old men of Asian descent were reminiscent of the take out white take out cartons. There was a bum dressed in greased stained black pants and an open shirt that had been ripped in various places talking to himself, screaming at times about gibberish. The bum could have been compared to a large garbage bag which had been sitting on the streets for weeks. Durden remained un-phased. He was used to it. Squats in the Seattle sprawls were filled with disease, germs, and psychotic breakdowns. This was no different. At the end of the block, facing the street was a three story pagoda. A green augmented arrow appeared in the commlink’s corner, signaling this was the place.

Durden was as tall and slim like most elves, with bronzed skin so dark it almost looked black in the night, contrasting sharply with the yellow-bone color of his hair pulled back in a tight pony tail. A stylized tattoo of an Eastern dragon started on the outside of the arch of his right eyebrow, trailed down the side of his face, and curled its tail about his neck. The only interruption of the artwork was a thin shrapnel scar showing white against the bronze skin at the wing of the dragon. He was adorned in designer clothing, underneath a black lined coat duster. Sliding refined hands into his pockets, he casually made his way towards the yellow and black pagoda.

An octagon shaped Feng Shui mirror stood above the doubled door entrance. The Chinese believed this mirror warded off evil spirits, especially for buildings facing an open street like this one. A rusty creak acted as a flare for his location and arrival as he pushed open the iron double doors. The first floor of the pagoda served was a restaurant or at least what was left of one. It was a vacant grand ballroom, littered with empty tables, and a bar on the left wall. Sitting at one of the tables was a troll dressed in a purple suit. He was of the large ivory horn troll variety. Across from him was a human woman of unrivaled beauty. She had braided red hair which fell past her shoulder blades, a face fair of complexion, tall in stature and athletic body that was honed by daily exercise. Flanking her was a frail human dressed in casual clothing.  Seemingly they did not notice his presence because there appeared to be a discussion going on.

"Darius. I am telling you. The emotions of music should be interpreted by the listener," A femine voice said. "Not broacasted to them by the musician. It is entirely possible to have the feelings of the musician displayed to them as an option. But as the way things stand now. It takes away from the human spirit and individuality."

"People want to forget their problems and who they are. Research has shown personality disorders metahumans have developed because of veing abused socially have effected the way people can be impacted by musical empathy." Darius replied.

"That is exactly why it is important for people to be able to experience music on their own plane. Music heals. It will take time for us to be de-sensitized to the way things are....but it is possible.."

"Ain't going to happen."

The conversation was interrupted as the skinny human male coughed towards him.

“Durden,? the female began, turning towards him “Right on time.?

He checked the retinal display on the commlink. It read 0200.

“Darius.? She continued, smiling and gesturing towards the elf “Allow me to introduce Durden. He’ll be the key to finding the girl.?

The troll scanned Durden, looking him up and down. The stoic expression contrasted the flamboyant matador-esque suit he was wearing. “He better be Kat O’ Nine Tails. I’m trusting you.?

“So what’s the scan Mr. Johnson?? He had worked with the famous Kat O’ Nine Tails in the past. Her runs usually deviated from the norm when it came to the tone of the jobs. They tended to be professional affairs centered around favors, relationships, and trust. Nonetheless he exhibited a professional stern demeanor until otherwise noted. Despite her status as a cultural icon, Kat O’ Nine Tails is loyal to her roots and does not let the rewards of fame get to her head. She is down to Earth, humble, and educated on the blights of the sprawl. The dog respected that. He respected that.

“Durden, sit down and relax. We’re still waiting for the others to arrive.? Kat asked before concluding. “I want everyone to hear this together. If my gut feeling is correct, this one could be personal.?


It took some time but eventually everyone arrived. There were five people in the room in the restaurant in total. The emaciated male went by the moniker of Byron. Like Durden he was a local talent. A hacker of decent reputation. He was also a drone rigger, known for being anal retentive when it came to maintaining the condition of his 'children.' Rounding out the group was a member of Byron's usual team. A ork enforcer named Chicago. Large in size, bulging with muscles, and no doubt sporting more chrome then a 21st century electronic store, the ork spoke in a heavy mid-western accept. In good nature, Chicago flashed Durden a tusk like grin while nodding upward at the elf.

"Let's get 'down to bizzness' sir. Kat tewls us ye have a job of benevolent complexion." Chicago flicked a token in the air and caught it.

The troll Johnson leaned back in his chair. Crossed his heavy legs, and readjusted a dangling hoop earring in one of his horns before beginning. "A few days ago, a young female of great importance to my contact went missing."

"Do you have a name?" Durden asked.

"Yes. Athlea. Athlea Brementon."
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post Jun 27 2009, 10:21 PM
Post #19

Running Target

Group: Members
Posts: 1,076
Joined: 31-August 05
From: Rock Hill, SC
Member No.: 7,655

Hell Money

As soon as Storm entered the White Tiger, he knew there was going to be trouble.

Even for a dive, the White Tiger was a disgrace, and this was using Kowloon City standards. Doubtless local geomancers would have had a coronary at the way the tables were pushed close to each other, creating claustrophobic little avenues for human traffic, not to mention the dim lighting and the thick mass of smoke that hung in the air like so much stagnant chi.

Bad vibes were palpable here, as nearly every seat held some sort of thug, pusher, pimp, or trafficker; they delighted in trying to intimidate everybody else around them. In some of the more remote corners sat men with reputations and souls so dark that their ancestors doubtlessly reeled at the shame. Even the other toughs sat clear of them.

Storm ignored the sideways looks and outright glares that named him an unfamiliar face without saying a word. He walked confidently towards the bar counter, approaching a balding elven bartender with scars on his face and stains on his shirt. The bartender's paunch was stretching the thin white shirt to its limits, and there were dark patches of sweat stains around the man's armpits.

"Tequila," Storm asked politely. More politely than he felt, but there were rules and etiquette to observe.

The bartender paused in the act of half-heartedly toweling off some glasses. He reached underneath the counter and set one on the bar a little too hard, with a firm, level look at Storm. Storm's lips tightened. He felt insulted, but he'd give the bartender another chance. Besides, he didn't come here to start trouble, even if it did seem to follow him around.

Storm glanced down as the bartender went to pour, and saw stains and spots in and all around the supposedly clean glass.

"Uh-uh! No! Don't pour my drink into that! Clean that first!" He hadn't even had a chance to get situated, and already this stranger was making strides to get on his bad side. It didn't help when the tender lifted his glass, spit on it, and then wiped away a couple of the more egregious crusts of filth. Without allowing for a further moment of protestation, the tender poured tequila into the glass, half of it spilling onto the counter, and then he stalked off, grumbling.

Storm sighed. This wasn't going well at all. Right as he was about to open his mouth, a shady eel of a man sat in the stool next to him, looking straight ahead. Without turning his head, the man said in back-alley Cantonese, "Open your comm up to me."

Reaching down to fiddle with the knobs at the commlink on his belt, he allowed the man to make a connection despite riding it in hidden mode. Moments later, the imagelink in his cybereyes displayed the picture of a large orkish male wearing a tres chic designer suit and dark sunglasses.

"That's him, huh?" Storm grunted. "Tell your boss if he's got as much protection around him as he did last week, it'll be difficult. But, I don't forget favors, either. I'll do this for ten percent off the standard rate, with the understanding that any other information he can give me will be...appreciated." He said the final word haltingly. No, more than appreciated. He was desperate, crazy for clues, hints, leads, or anything that would give him the revenge he sought. If currying favor with known crime lords was the way to go about that, well... what choice did he have? But then, he had to keep control of his emotions.

"He'll be pleased. Now if you'll excuse me." The man practically slithered out of his seat. He paused before leaving to say, "You'll want to leave soon. A few here remember your face. You wouldn't want to, ah... start trouble." And with that, he was slipping out the door. Storm actually shivered.

Never one to ignore good advice, Storm moved to leave the bar.

"Hey!" bellowed the bartender, suddenly bounding back down to his untouched glass of tequila. "You better pay for this!" Conversations came to an abrupt halt, as if sheared off with a monoblade.

Storm smirked. "Sure." He reached into his pocket and fished out some crumpled green bills, dropping them onto the counter. The bartender reached for it, then gasped when one of the bills unfolded enough to show an image of the Jade Emperor, with a denomination of 1,000,000,000.

When the bartender howled with fury, all hell broke loose. Ah well. So much for controlling his emotions.


An hour later, Storm felt like he'd finally lost the cops. From his position on top of the apartment building, be could see the White Tiger still engulfed in flames. Knight Errant patrol cars had blocked off access, and they were still cruising Kowloon's streets, looking for those involved in the shootout.

Glancing down at a puddle, Storm's augmented vision could just make out his own reflection. He had a couple of new slashes on his face, but not all of the blood was his. The bulletholes hurt like hell, but so long as he got to Doc Chop soon enough, they shouldn't get infected.

Storm took another drag off his cigarette, then dropped it into the puddle. It went out with a hiss. Pulling up the image of the mark stored in his cybereyes, he made his way down the fire escape and into the dark Kowloon alleyway. He had work to do.
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post Jun 28 2009, 01:12 AM
Post #20

Freelance Elf

Group: Dumpshocked
Posts: 7,324
Joined: 30-September 04
From: Texas
Member No.: 6,714

Last Play


Time crawled for everyone still alive and active in the handful of city blocks. Nuyen saw to it, trained bodies riding the high of Wires or Chips or Boosts or terrific drugs. As the timer counted down, the seconds ticked away slower and slower and they all felt they moved faster and faster in comparison.

Tired squealed, a Honda Vector slipped as burning, peeling, rubber hit a patch of slick blood. The Outrider grimaced, sent a command through a slender datacable, and the bike gained traction and started to pick up speed. It left behind bodies. Two lay utterly still and would forever. The other six's poly-kevlar armor were painted in different patterns and different colors, but at the moment each of them glowed a urine-bright, cowardly, yellow.

Two men rode on the Honda's sleek back. Both wore tan and red armor, both had blood-spattered feathers dangling here and there, hand-painted stripes slashing over the urban camo of their Lakota Warriors armor. One was a part of the machine, another piece of hardware linked to it by cables and magnetic clamps, the tiny gyroscopes in his inner ear miniature twins to the stabilizing gyro in the belly of the Vector. The other was just a passenger. A parasite. He rode on the back of the beast and pointed with one hand, hung on for dear life with the other. He held an Ultra Power in the pointing hand, snarled orders through the radio in his helmet. He was just a Scout, but the Outrider did what he said anyways.

[Peel, Convict. They're almost there.]

The Outrider's bike snarled and ate pavement like the ravenous beast it was. A block faded away. The pilot payed no attention to the half-dozen gauges that fed him information all around the fringes of his vision. There were times to read each one and drive accordingly. This wasn't one of those times. He just felt the street beneath his wheels, hunched low over the handlebars of his Vector and sent a thought to his heads-up display to brush the numbers aside.

He'd emptied his Ultra Power for the seventh time in the carnage that was three seconds and a block and a half behind him. He knew he'd rolled onto the street with twelve spare magazines a million years and four points ago, but the magnetic clamps on his armor could only do so much so the extras were lying somewhere worthless. The Browning autopistol was dead weight, so it clattered to the street as his wheels slipped and slid around a corner to the long straightaway.

He wanted to do the same to his passenger, but couldn't.

[Five Predators on two of us, Convict. Get me there if you want to stay out of your cage.]

He'd played three games as a Scout. Four more bleeding and fighting as a Banger, then two as a Heavy. He'd been nine games deep as a Dog Soldier in the minors before the assholes had given him a bike and changed the roster to make room for him where he belonged. Then they'd congratulated themselves for being so fucking smart and, after just seeing him in one more game, moved him up to fill a hole in the Lakota Warriors proper. The Tsimshian assholes had lost the game against a real band of NAN fighters two weeks prior, of course, but they'd been vindictive enough about it to kill two of the Warriors' three Outriders in the process. That was his chance.

Ten games, though. Ten games, and seventeen seconds to go of number eleven, and every asshole here still called him Convict. He wondered if they'd ever shut up about how he'd gotten here.

The Outrider twisted his wrist and the bike lurched forward all the faster. A block away, heat signatures dashed from behind a building out into the open, crossing the street he raced down on their way to score what would be game-winning points.

[I've got 'em, I've got 'em...]

The Outrider's cyberaudio worked overtime to dampen the roaring thunder as the asshole behind him opened up, hand cannon held before him and firing not half a meter from the Outrider's ear. Dick. One of the heat signatures stumbled a bit, but the thoom-thoom-thoom-thoom of the big pistol mostly just made sure every prick in Ares armor looked their way and started shooting.

The Outrider hunched lower as smartguns start to chew at the Vector's ballistic plating. A shotgun roared at the end of the straightaway and a hail of pellets peppered his armor and almost knocked the monkey off his back. Almost. No such luck.

One heat signature in Predators armor kept moving, didn't spin to take a knee and open fire. That one was bent lower, arm curled tight to his body and carrying a heat-neutral little ball that was the most important thing in the Outrider's world.


The FN built into the Honda Vector's front started barking and biting, spitting fire and iron and lighting up the open road with strobe-blinking muzzle flashes. The shotgun didn't fire again, that red-orange blob of heat and life stumbled. The Outrider's PacCyber eyes faded from mode to mode, and he saw the fallen Heavy's armor glowing I-Give-Up-Don't-Shoot-Me-No-More yellow.


The autorifle kept firing, the Vector's engine snarled to keep racing against the recoil. The Ultra Power next to his ear kept clapping, and eventually a second Predator staggered and fell. The Outrider cycled back to thermoptics just in time to pierce the muzzle flashes and gunsmoke from the end of the street and see a huge white-hot barrel lift and point his way. His passenger noticed it, too.


[Blaster, Blaster, Blaster!]

The Ares MP-LMG roared at them like an angry dragon.

The Outrider sent his Honda into a sidelong skid, bike leaning far, far, less than the driver was. His armored left knee and left albow got ground and sanded and chewed on by pavement, but he kept the bike upright, moving, and held it's ballistic-plated mass between him and the incoming fire like a plainsmen shielded by his horse. His passenger had no idea what was happening and no idea how to react to it. One arm flailed to maintain his balance, and then a dozen rounds tore into and through him in the blink of an eye.


The Vector righted itself as the shooter's eye got caught by the falling, sprawling, package of meat and polymers and kevlar and blood and kept his machinegun targeting on the tumbling corpse. The bike juked left, then right, while the tak-tak-tak of incoming fire gnawed at armor plating whenever the hosing LMG was able to line up the stream of tracer rounds with the jinking Honda. One grazed his helmet and nearly broke his neck.

Precious milliseconds bled away before the Outrider was able to override the eight distinct emergency warning lights that tried their best to block his field of vision. Mental command after exasperated mental command flicked them away. When he could see -- ignoring the flames that licked at his bike's flanks, the uneven gait of his shredded-wheels, the emptying fuel gauge, the temperature warnings, his own pain -- he dragged the smartlink onto the incessantly firing player that was out to see him dead, and loosed a burst of retaliatory fire.

Two rounds pockmarked the street in front of the enemy Blaster. One tore through an armor-plated ankle, then one into his knee, and one into his hip. The hardmounted rifle let the recoil just drag the smartgun's point of aim higher and higher...only for the reassuring, murderous, FN to fall near-silent with a klaklaklaklaklaklak. A fresh emergency heads-up window blinked into sight, politely warning him that his primary firearm was empty.


The Outrider just kept the engine redlined, racing straight at him.


The Ares player howled as his leg buckled under the oncoming motorcycle. He stopped screaming as the Vector's front tire rolled up his good leg and folded him beneath it a full three-hundredths of a second before his armor blazed surrender-yellow. It was a legal hit. The Outrider smiled. Only one heat signature was left, the one with the ball. The one that counted.

His cyberoptics suite blinked back to standard mode even as he felt himself stutter-step and stumble, felt the bike lurching and failing beneath him. The ball carrier was too close to the goal to ignore, but too far from the bike and his empty gun to do anything else. He growled and his engine snarled with him, giving all it could like a loyal, dying, horse. It lunged forward because he willed it to, and because he sent that will through the cable that connected his right temple to the fading machine's console.


Over one hundred kilograms of muscle-augmented Elf and near-triple that of armored uniform, ballistic plating, engine, chassis, and wheels slammed headlong into the sprinting Ares Predator Scout. It had bled too much momentum to cross the last meters, though, and he didn't crumple and break like the last one. The three of them -- Scout, Outrider, and Honda Vector -- skidded and tangled and slammed into a graffiti-slashed brick wall. Both of the living players grunted from the impact, staggered for precious milliseconds as chipped reflexes and enhanced bodies fought to overcome concussions and send muscles screaming into action. The Outrider's helmet tumbled and bounced on pavement, long raven-black hair swung free, proud bronze features twisted in anger and determination even as blood streamed down from his forehead.

The magnetic plates on the side of the Vector weren't strong enough to hold his tomahawk in place when the Outrider sent his gloved right hand down to wrench and twist and tear the weapon free from its invisible sheath. The Ares Scout twisted and lurched, ball still in one arm, gleaming twin spurs snakting from special ports in his opposite gauntlet to swipe at the Outrider's face and neck.

The Amerind leaned and twisted, turning a kill-slash into a slice that just sent stray locks of hair fluttering to the ground. His left hand whipped up from the dead bike's handlebars to snatch the Predator's lethal wrist.


Both men grunted and strained. The Elf twisted and wrenched at the other man's arm, straightening it and hyperextending the Ares man's elbow. His combat 'hawk lashed out with chip-quick swings and all the strength behind them that nuyen could buy. It only took two before the forearm came free amidst a horrific river of crimson.

"Hoka hey, mu'fucka!" The Outrider threw his head back and howled, waving the trophy overhead as the Ares man got busy bleeding to death and activating his Brawler-down yellow plates just a little too late.





[Final Score: Warriors (7), Predators (6)]

Another win. Another week of freedom.
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post Jun 28 2009, 06:45 AM
Post #21


Group: Members
Posts: 40
Joined: 18-June 09
From: Arizona
Member No.: 17,299

Chowder's Drone Stop

Smitty's Repair Works was conveniently located in the belt of blocks that transitioned from suburbs to 'plex. It was far enough away from the center of the sprawl to be low heat and almost but not quite too far out of the way to be worth the trip. Tucked out of the way, without too much of a hastle from the gangers of the inner 'plex, it straddled two worlds and catered to them both.

A sleek black pickup eased to a stop on the cracked pavement outside. Chowder killed the engine and the lights and the industrial metal guitar riffs that had issued from the wiz audio system died with them. He ducked his head to look out at the place. There was light in the last bay of the garage, accompanied by intermittent bright flashes, but the rest of the shop looked deserted. It didn't look very special, maybe a place to get your mommy's transmission looked at, maybe.

Blend had said this was the place to get his team's drones checked out, and he knew what he was talking about. "Just ask for Lancer," the fixer had said. Chowder snorted, a distinctly orkish sound, and stepped out of the truck. The luscious soft black leather of his coat fell and draped around his bulk. It was custom tailored and well armored despite the designer style. With an encrypted command from his com, he armed the truck's security system and walked to the last bay door. He knocked.

A couple of minutes passed before a modulated voice issued from an intercom above the bay door. "Whatcha want Ork-face?" it queried.

"Got a drone problem I need fixed," Chowder grumbled.

"Who said we do drones, chum?"


A smaller door in the bay door cracked open. After a deep breath, Chowder cautiously pushed his frame through only to come face to barrel with a shotgun held by a small human. Well, he assumed it was a human, but the face was covered by a welding mask and bulky coveralls obscured body details.

"All your customers get this treatment?" Chowder asked calmly. Behind his shades his eyes flicked around the interior of the bay. He noticed various workbenches, vehicles and other various projects in different stages of disarray, but nothing breathing.

"Nope," a young woman's voice came from behind the mask, "only the big scary ones that come sniffin 'round after hours askin bout drones."

Ork brows raised and he took a second look at the woman in front of him. "Blend said to talk to Lancer, you know 'em?"

"Yeah, I know 'em." She lowered the shotty and flipped up the mask. Her face was smudged with grit and grease, not exactly attractive, but not homely either. She couldn't have been much older than 20. "What's your drone problem, leatherman?"

"Our roto took a few hits. Needs repairs and some... modifications. Lancer can do that, right?"

"Yeah, I can do that chum," she replied cheerfully. "Wouldn't be in business if I couldn't, huh?"

Chowder gaped. "You're the drone mechanic?"

Lancer rolled her eyes. This wasn't the first or even the second time she'd gotten this reaction. She might not look like much, but she knew her way around a toolbox. She'd had to have some sort of skill to survive growing up on the streets. "You chippin? Not until I get my hands on it. Gonna stand around lookin all night or what?" The ork snorted and considered her for a moment before he went to grab the roto from his truck.

TEXT >> BLEND >> Thanks for the Lancer lead, drekhead.//
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post Jun 29 2009, 05:35 AM
Post #22

Moving Target

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From: The seemingly unknown area of land between Seattle and Idaho.
Member No.: 9,910

New dog, old tricks

John was not happy. Being pinned down behind a dumpster while digging a half-dozen bullets out of his dermal plating tended to do that to him. He would have to have a talk with Car about putting him on teams of kids.
“I’m telling’ ya John, this is the kinda run you’ve done a hundred times before.?
“It’s not the job, Car, it’s the help. I’m not crazy about trying to ride herd on a bunch of teenagers.?
“C’mon man, it’s not like they are complete rookies. They have a few runs under their belts.?
“Car, seriously, they’ve been on, what, two runs? They’re FNG’s and you know it!?
“Yeah, that’s why when they wanted another gun I called you, a real veteran will show them how it’s done. Think about how many lives you can save if you teach these guys how to do it properly.?
John sighed tiredly “Fine, where do I meet them??
“The Cutting Edge, in booth 16.?
“Jesus, a goddamn strip club!?
“It’s secure.?
“It’s a goddamn strip club! Please, tell me you chose the location as a joke.?
Car shifted nervously, “Well, it could be worse…?
“Yeah, how so??
“It could have been MacHughes.?
“Don’t make me kill you, Car.?
John walked in to the club and zeroed in on the booth. He swore under his breath as he saw one of them, a sam, from the looks of him, getting a lap dance. John walked over to the bar and picked up the Guinness he’d ordered from the parking lot. He waited until the lady was finished with her work before he went over. While waiting he got a better look at them. Three of ‘em, a male human whose movements were just a little too smooth to be organic. John was pretty sure he recognized the fake nails that ‘razors hid under, as the youth obviously was intoxicated by the performer on his lap. A male ork who was either a hacker covertly accessing AR, or having a minor seizure. A female human in a Sally Tsung getup. John pegged her as a magician, the getup plus the look of superiority on her face practically screamed young mage. The performer finally left and John wandered over. As he came up to the table the sam looked at him with the kind of sneer only teenagers can do properly.
“Whaddaya want, geezer?? the sam said as the mage snickered. John invoked his military discipline and restrained from killing him.
“Car sent me.? The look on the punk’s face was priceless. In a flash the superiority was replaced by alarm.
“You?? The punk stammered a bit. “You’re gonna watch our backs? What are you, like 90?? he asked incredulously.
“51, actually.? John replied. He had to give them a little leeway, after all, from their perspective their fire support was a middle-aged ork in a battered longcoat chewing on the stub of a cigar. They had never heard of John before. Then again why should they? After all, back in the fifties John was a badass ‘runner who was renowned for his marksmanship and Herculean stamina. That all changed in ‘61. The comet triggered John’s latent metagenes and he goblinized into an ork. Turning from a human into an ork was bad enough, but the ‘ware he had caused his body to try to tear itself apart because as his physiology shifted the ware did not. It took nearly ten years and almost his entire fortune to put him back together. And now, in 2070, he did the only job he knew how. Unfortunately, as time moved on so did his rep. Thus the current situation.
“You sure you’re up to this?? the punk said.
“Well I’m sure as hell not gonna break a hip, if that’s what you’re worried about.?
The punk looked dubious, “Well if Car sent you I guess you must be okay.?
John sighed tiredly.
On the way to the building the job and objectives were explained. At least they have a decent van, John thought. The job was to get into a secured warehouse on the Tacoma docks, retrieve the doohickey, and bring it to a safe house on the Redmond border.
They got to the place and the hacker, Cheeto, managed to disable the security system. Tyr, the sam, and Aethra, the mage disappeared inside the building while John climbed on the roof of the van and got out his rifle. After a couple minutes they came out and got in the van. John’s AR display flashed a package acquired message and he slid into the cabin as the van trundled away.
The van stopped at the mouth of an alley just inside Redmond. Everyone climbed out and John followed as Tyr strode confidently down the alley. They reached the back door to what used to be a Stuffer Shack. Tyr knocked thrice and the door opened a crack. Whispered words were exchanged and then a small case was passed inside. Whoever was inside passed a few credsticks to Tyr and the door shut and locked.
As they started back toward the van John walked up to Cheeto.
“Hey, Cheeto, nice work on the security system.?
“Thanks man, I put a microdrone in there yesterday to gather surveillance. After that it was a cinch.?
“Where is the drone now??
“Tyr said to leave it there so it could let us know if someone found out before we were far enough away.?
“It’s still TRANSMITTING!?!?
“Yeah, so-? Cheeto started to ask as automatic fire erupted from the alley mouth. John, reflexes honed by decades of fighting, flung the hacker behind a dumpster as a fusillade of rounds buzzed like demon hornets through the place Cheeto had been standing.
“Incoming!? John yelled as he dove beside Cheeto. He grunted as several rounds stitched their way up his torso. “Dammit,? he thought, “I’m getting slow in my old age.? He checked across the way and saw that Tyr and Aethra had made it behind another dumpster. It looked like Aethra had gotten hit. John hand signaled Tyr to ask how many hostiles. Tyr just looked at him blankly. “Damn, kids,? he grumbled as he peeked out. Five hostiles, two behind cover of the alley wall, three behind the van. John pulled his Ingram’s and in the John Woo style he used to be famous for, put a burst in each of the gunmen behind the alley walls. The trio of round hit each in the head. “Heh,? John thought, “Still got it.?
“Fi-vuh hotels, too down, thuh-ree left, behind the van!? John yelled. He looked at Tyr who still had that confused look on his face. “Fine, I’ll do it myself.? John thought. He peeked out and saw that it would be almost impossible to get a good shot on them. He wasn’t quite fast enough and took a round in the shoulder before he could get back under cover. He grunted with the pain as he fished a flash bang out of his coat. He pulled the pin, tossed the grenade bouncing down the street and under the van. After a second he took off toward the van. His timing was right. The grenade went off right before he vaulted over the van’s roof. He landed among the gunmen who were still reeling. His left hand lashed out in a knifehand that crushed the throat of one, while he popped the spur on his right wrist and sank it into the eye of the man on his right. The final gunman tried to swing his rifle at John. John caught the rifle in his left hand and sank his spur into the man’ s heart. He managed a surprised grunt as he died. John took stock in the sudden stillness. He strode back toward the others while the still living guard gurgled as he choked to death. Tyr’s look of confusion had been replaced by one of awe as John picked up Aethra and dragged Cheeto back to the van. He tossed them into the back and looked at Tyr.
“You coming??
Tyr seemed to snap back to reality as he hurried over. John got into the driver’s seat and started up the engine. The van trundled on back toward a street doc John knew.
John sighed tiredly. “Damn kids.?

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post Jul 1 2009, 02:49 PM
Post #23


Group: Members
Posts: 1
Joined: 1-July 09
Member No.: 17,345

Feedback welcome...

Dark Revival

“Nigel, if you can hear me, make a fist,? a gravelly voice said.

“There, his finger moved,? a female voice said.

I tried to open my eyes, but they were glued shut. I tried sitting up next, no luck there. The distinctive sterilized smell of a hospital room filled my nostrils, and I was suddenly aware of lying on a cot of some sort. The thought, “Where am I?? filled my mind, but all that escaped my cracked lips was a tortured groan.

“Relax Nigel, you’re safe,? the first voice said.

The name Nigel sounded familiar for some reason...

“Why can’t I open my eyes? Why am I tied down?? I demanded, my voice barely above a whisper.

“We... You were in a pretty serious accident,? the female voice said, “you’re not tied down.?

“Then why can’t I move?? I asked, once again testing my restraints to no avail. There was a memory worming around my subconsciousness, but it was like an army of spiders had been working inside my head for weeks.

“Your muscles have atrophied,? the male voice said, I assumed he was a doctor, “once your primary was overdrawn, we had to harvest your cyberware to pay for the operation-“

“You WHAT?? nothing wrong with my voice now.

“Don’t worry, now that you’re awake, we can get the issue of your identification sorted out,? the doctor said.

“The important thing is you’re alive,? the nurse said.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be reimbursed and we can get you cleaned up,? the doctor said, “we just need to know who your employer is.?

“My employer...? I mumbled, something about my (former?) employer was setting off warning bells in my head.

“That’s right, we couldn’t find any record of employment, but that’s not surprising considering where you’re from,? the doctor said.

“Wha-?? I said, slumping back, trying to buy a moment to think.

“Doctor,? the female voice said, “maybe we should give the stims a little more time.?

There were a few hushed whispers, followed by the sound of receding footsteps and a gently closing door. My mind was becoming clearer by the second. Nigel was one of my fake ID’s, originating from South Africa. I didn’t know if they knew I was Awakened, but regardless, I wasn’t planning on sticking around very long. The perfect darkness of my blindness gave way to the swirling eddies of the Astral Plane. The shadows here were deep, reflecting the technology all around me. I felt the pair approaching before the door opened, the doctor bearing something in his hands; a syringe. He was a dwarf, his bright aura a malevolent purple and orange. The nurse was human, more of a neutral brown.

“Tell me,? I began, weaving a spell as I spoke, “why are you so interested in my employer??

“Because,? the dwarf answered, “if you have a legal SIN, we can’t harvest your organs without risking serious repercussions.?

“Doctor!? The nurse exclaimed.

“Oh drek,? the dwarf said as my enchantment broke, his aura shifting to bright fearful blue. The next spell dropped him to the ground, unconscious. The nurse’s aura shifted to fear-tinged confusion for just a second before she dropped next to him. The mana here was tainted and the spells had taken more effort than I’d expected, but at least I wasn’t completely helpless. Another spell strengthened and reinforced my crippled muscles, and then I was pulling bio monitors off my chest, the machine behind me making an alarming beeping noise as I did so. The IV from my forearm was next, and then I was on my way out, the after-image of my strength spell trailing behind me like a comet tail.

Nothing in the trids about waking up half-dead at a chop doc’s office with your eyes ripped out,? I thought to myself as I shuffled barefoot down the hallway.

Nobody in the halls, must be night time, least I don’t have one of those ass-less smocks,? I thought.

While I could see the plants clearly, reading signs was impossible, making finding an elevator entirely more difficult than it should have been. Some of the rooms I peered into were devoid of life, but some were filled with weak auras of different metahumans, all of whom were asleep. I was still trying to piece together what had happened. After the crash, I’d quit and started an alchemy shop, thinking I could make some money away from the Man. That went well for a while, but the damn Triads busted up my place when I refused to upgrade to their platinum protection plan, then I’d fled to North America with a fake ID. I remembered getting in the taxi at Sea-Tac, because the cabbie had been an ork with an apparent aversion to deodorant, but everything after that was blank.

I rounded a corner and a human form was moving towards me, pale yellow with concern.

“Sir, are you alright? Let me help you,? a male voice said.

“Do me a favor, show me out of the building, then you can go back to work,? I said, weaving the same spell as I had on the doctor.

“Sure,? he responded as his aura shifted from concern to the warm pink of helping a friend in need.

I focused on following his glowing aura, the concentration required to maintain two spells took most of my focus. The nurse took me down a flight of stairs, his loud footsteps contrasting with my slapping feet, then out a metal door. The ground was wet, and the cool night air smelled like a combination of exhaust and rain. There were a few bugs overhead, drawn by what I assumed was a light, as well as a few hardy weeds growing from cracks in the pavement, but not a soul in sight.

“See you around, chummer,? the nurse said, turning back into the stairwell.

“Hey,? I called after him, “What day is it??
His aura turned around, framed by the stairwell doorway, drifting to confused yellow.

“The date,? I said again.

“Twelve, May, Monday,? he responded, blinking a few times and growing more confused.

“What year?? I demanded.

“2070,? he said.

What the frag? Two years?? I thought.

“Hey, you shouldn’t be out here,? he said, his aura shifting from confused to suspicious orange.

If I still had eyes, I would have rolled them before attacking his mind with a stun spell, dropping him unconscious. Reflexively turning my head to glance around, I stripped off his shoes and shoved my feet into them. They were a little large, but too big was better than too small. I still had no idea exactly where I was, but I sure as hell couldn’t go back to the life I left. The Triads had probably forgotten about the mess I’d made of the guys they sent to rough me up, but Aztechnology would do a lot worse than cut out my marketable organs if they learned I was still alive. The only way was forward, into the shadows.

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post Jul 1 2009, 05:38 PM
Post #24

Shadow Cartographer

Group: Members
Posts: 3,737
Joined: 2-June 06
From: Secret Tunnels under the UK (South West)
Member No.: 8,636

Never, Ever

"People commonly and mistakenly assume," began the mage, "that because a dragon is intelligent, that it must be intelligent in the same
manner that a human is intelligent. In fact, this is not the case."

The mage took a sip of his Nutrisweet BrainBuzz and wiped the green froth from his neatly bearded jowls, every inch the fastidious hermetic cliché.

"Whilst both humans and dragons share certain inalienable processes of logic, the underlying rationales and drives are quite different. A
dragon, for example, has almost no social instinct in the sense that humans would understand. Reptilian in outlook, it has no desire for
comfort or solace. More to the point, it has no degree of Socialized Identity. That is to say that it entirely lacks what would we would call
conscience or compassion. A dragon can and does seek conversance with other sapients for intellectual stimulation or rarely for protection,
but will never seek out contact through aversion to loneliness for example. Why would it? Humans are soft pink organisms devoid of natural
weapons or defenses. The entire basis for a human's survival and advancement is his ability to contribute to and derive benefit from a group.
A dragon is an armour-plated, highly mobile, cunning and magically capable beast with natural weapons that on a good day, can disable
armoured vehicles!" Here, the magician paused for breath having reached a peak of passion on the subject. "A dragon," he resumed more quietly (and his audience hung on every word), "has never developed an instinct for needing someone."

It was quiet in the bar that afternoon. Only the runners and a paltry smattering of other patrons listened to the mage holding court on his
favourite subject in the gloomy half-light.

"To a dragon," he said, "there is only Fight or Flight. Things you can eat, and things that can eat you. That is why you should never deal with a
dragon. They are incapable of seeing you as an actual ally to form a working relationship with, merely as an object to be manipulated. Dragons do not feel pity, because either the object of that emotion will always be weak and therefore of no use, or will one-day become strong again and should
therefore be eliminated while it is not a threat. They do not feel compassion, because this requires empathy with the target and as an asocial
animal, a dragon has no such capacity."

Everyone in the bar listened to the magician with interest, sensing some rhetorical pinnacle to his monologue.

"Above all," said the mage loudly, well aware that his audience had grown from the little table of runners to encompass the whole bar, "for all
its vaunted superiority over us, a dragon cannot love. No dragon has ever loved or will ever love, because love evolved from our ancestors
huddling together on dark, wolf-stalked nights, clasping each other together in need. And no dragon has ever experienced that need for each
other that we experience. However much people are awestruck by dragons, remember that they are empty, cold creatures who can't feel what
we feel. Man remains the superior creature for the simplest of reasons: his heart."

The mage sat back and smiled and the rest of the bar grinned at the moral. Even the hard-bitten runners acknowledged by their smiles, if only
tacitly, the importance of love to their lives.

Only a woman seated a little nearer the bar, in the shadow of a broken light, made no murmer of approval or recognition of the mage's tale.
As she stood, her face caught the orange light of the bulbs above the bar and the clientele noticed the strange beauty of her face and the
straightness of her back.

"Perhaps," she said (and her voice was calm and conversational after the mage's growing theatrics), "dragons look down on humans for
precisely that reason."

She picked up the coat of orange leather she had from the table and surveyed the watching people with cool green eyes. "Perhaps dragons
think that a love that is based on need and dependence instead of mutual respect, is an impure love and," she continued more quietly but quite audibly, "that grief for a
lost loved one that is born of sudden insecurity and personal vulnerability, is quite little compared to the loss of a love that has been cultivated
over millenia and never tainted with self-interest."

"Shoot straight, conserve ammo if you think it will help, but never, ever lecture a dragon." And with that, she left trailing a wake of silence.

The silence was only broken by the sound of chairs edging slowly and quietly, away from the mage.
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The Jake
post Jul 2 2009, 01:00 PM
Post #25

Shooting Target

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Posts: 1,849
Joined: 26-February 02
From: Melbourne, Australia
Member No.: 872

I dedicate this one to Zormal for his post here.

Cool White

My hands were shaking. Again.

I had the circuits checked just last week. My cybersurgeon tells me my 'ware is perfect. No software glitches with the software in my cyberarms, no TLE-X induced by my Move-By-Wire systems. No apparent physiological signs that would indicate a problem either. My arms and jacked up reflexes are some of the best that money could by. If they could speak, they would say "Made in Chiba". I even had one of the best surgeons in the world hack off my meat arms to give me the replacements. According to him, there was no reason for the shakes.

Except for the fact I was addicted to Beetles. Even though it was my doc I was speaking with, I didn't feel comfortable telling him. Even as a shadowrunner, you never know when this stuff can come back and haunt you.

BTLs. Better Than Life. I don't know if I liked the label - it just didn't seem accurate. Then again, I never hit the dreamchips, the tripchips, or the personafixes. Definitely not the snuff chips. I just took moodchips - and only one specific kind - a BTL that took away my emotions. "Cool White", he called it.

I can imagine the snickers that'd get from the real BTL junkies out there. A BTL with no emotions? I know, that kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it? At first I thought so too. But you'd be surprised how useful they are - and who uses them.

I still remember what the dealer told me that day. He told to me said it was his most popular. He sold it to other drug dealers. He sold it to poker players. He sold it to high stakes negotiators - you know, fancy corporate types who couldn't afford to get embarrassed when someone tried to piss them off. Someone could put a gun to your head and you'd never flinch. You'd react calmly, coolly and rationally. I knew right there, I had found my solace.

Before the chips, there was the alcohol, but always with a hangover, the churning stomach and weight gain - not good for my line of work. Then onto anti-depressants. They left me in a fugue state, often not knowing if I was awake, let alone alive. So they then prescribed me uppers, only to deal with the crash that would inevitable follow. Uppers. Downers. No matter what I took, half a day of sleep would always feel like a thirty minute powernap.

Every morning I'd feel like shit. I'd look at the holo-pic of Mei, and I'd want to put my gun into my mouth and pull the trigger. At times I didn' know if the picture made the nausea worse. But I knew I'd feel worse if I put it away - as if it was my body's way of punishing me trying to forget.

No - I could never forget. The most I could manage was to find a way to deal with it.

I still remember the day I met that dealer. I was doing a random street sweep while I was undercover, back when I was still employed by Knight-Errant. We bumped into this street dealer who was hustling. He was offering chips. There must have been something about us that gave us away - that we were the hunters, not the prey. He started babbling how he had the chip that was perfect for us - a chip that would make you rock calm. We had a good laugh as we showed him our guns and scared the hell out of him. After my shift was done though, I hunted him down alright.

The night I slotted that chip - the first time - I knew I was hooked. I don't know if you know what its like when you're depressed. There is a haze - a fog - that clouds your mind. It affects everything - your memory, your reaction times and your judgement. That chip lifted the fog for the first time in a year. That street dealer - that two bit hustler bucking for a few nuyen - delivered what he promised. I felt unstoppable. I looked around and felt instantly sharper, more accurate, but most of all - assuredly calm. The zero emotive track ensured that my cortisol levels would never rise. Babies don't sleep as calmly as I was feeling.

I would have said I loved it but I don't think I could honestly say that emotion came to me while I was chipped. I felt nothing and that is precisely what I wanted.

The shakes were telling me something, that the doctor couldn't, but I already knew - I had a problem with the chips. I needed to stop. But at first, I wrote it off. Technical glitch in the 'ware. Sorayama definitely isn't what he used to be - at least when I last saw him. Oh well, it doesn't affect my performance - if anything, it enhances it. Maybe the shakes will pass. Then I started to realize I wanted the chips all the time.

I wanted it when I woke up and the grief and depression hit me like a freight train. My hands would twitch furiously as I would fumble for the case and slide the chip into my datajack. I'd crave it when I was on patrol, heading into a Z-zone neighborhood, or escorting a high profile client. Thank God dating was not an option for me - I probably would have wanted it then as well.

Getting busted by Knight-Errant was definitely not one of my finest moments. But hey, at least I had more options to pursue freelance work. I guess it sucked that nobody would employ me legally. But hey, more money in the shadows, right? At least I'm free, right? Don't you feel liberated?

I don't know what I feel anymore - and of what I do feel, I can't trust its mine.

My hands are still trembling as the chip goes in and the wave of stillness washes over me instantly. My head is throbbing and I know that the tremors are a sign of nerve degradation. It may not have shown on the CT scanner - but I know its there - like a smoker thinks about lung cancer every time he draws breath.

I don't care.

I look at the picture of Mei and I think about the times we shared. We had some good times. Some bad times. I remember them all. Once the emotions are gone, your head doesn't do the mental math anymore to weigh them up so the good ones override them all. You see things as they are - warts and all. Some days now I have to look at that picture and remind myself that once upon a time I loved her - even if I can't recall the feeling. I might not feel human, but at least I don't feel pain.

I see my commlink beeping silently. Its a message from my fixer, Jake. "Meet at Dante's at 2100". He obviously has a job for me. Time to get to work. I jump out of bed and grab a shower.

I can deal with anything now.
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