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(Yes, you may recognize this from the Ask AH thread. What can I say? Sometimes the music, the mood, and the muse line up and you can put out something. Thoughts? Opinions?)

"So you wanna know about that night, huh? Thaat night.... Yes, yeah, you wanna know, hmmm? Heheh... Our story begins two months earlier, back here in beautiful, fuggin' rainy Seattle."

"So, you're looking for a group of suicidal fraggers to penetrate a deep-cover, high-security front for Cross Applied, recover the stolen whoose-whatsit, and return it, right?"

"That's correct."

The J was as slick as oiled ice, smooth and cool as a cryofrozen cucumber, whatever the frag onna those is supposed to be. Snappy suit, calm, collected; alone. We all knew there were probably about two dozen razorfraggers ready to carve us up if we got stupid; not that we were planning on it. We are, after all, professionals, and this fragger was offering good nuyen.

"And it's in France."
"The location is a remote 'research outpost' near the Ardennes. Remote being the key word; this faccility has no official ties to Cross Applied Technology."

"Right..... And the price?"
"One hundred thousand to get you started. Three hundred thousand when it's done."

I resisted the urge to let out a whistle. That was the kind of nuyen that meant you were doing something suicidal. Or it was a backstab. Ignoring the part of my brain that was screaming at me to take a walk (And cynically advising that part of my brain that it might be off a short pier if I did,) I looked at the other members of my party. They were all giving the go signal, and I nodded. "We accept."

I don't think I need to tell you what kinds of things happen in two months of prep-time. Suffice it to say that just about every resource on the topic had been explored, every topic investigated, every continengency up to and including Ghostwalker showing up and attacking the facility during the run had been planned for. (Here's a hint: That contingency was 'beg for mercy and swear we have nothing to do with CATco.')

So, yeah. We plotted our plots, greased palms, called people who called people who called people. Accessed sattelite maps, drew up VR sims, the works. The fraggin' works. By the time we were on the suborbital to Paris, we just wanted to get the fragger over with.

There were four of us. I'm the Face, the one who does the talking and the driving when it's nessessary. I like to hope it's not nessessary, but it usually winds up being so. I'm not bad with a rifle, either.
There was our Sammie. Let's just call him Sammy. Just about every steryotype you know about Street Sams applied to this fragger. More machine than man, obvious cyberware, swords, guns, the whole nine yards. Carried an LMG on his back and a rifle in his arms. Literally in his arms. So wired he hums.
Punch-Boy as I call him. You know the kind. Running, jumping, dodging bullets, using that wierd voodoo crap, whatever. Y'know what I'm talkin' about, I don't need to tell you what these guys are about. He was the muscle and the quiet action guy.
And our wizard. Ghost rest his fragged, restless soul. Don't know much about magic, doubt I ever will. He made stuff go boom and could tell us when we were about to have paracritter company, and that was good enough for me.

So there we are, on a suborbital coming into Paris. It's December, it's cold. Snow is in the forecast, so we're all gonna gearing up in whites and stuff. You know the kind - thermal-insulating white outfits that keep your heat in (and thusly, not only where it belongs, but away from prying thermovision.)

We get our rigger, a local hired for the job, to fly us in under cover of darkness. Nap of the earth, hugging the forest, slow white plane with about a zero percent metal construction. I gotta give her and that little rustbucket credit. It was an uncomfortable as hell ride, cold and bumpy, but it stayed in the air, even at the ten miles an hour it took for us to jump out into the soft snow. That was kinda fun, I think.

The Run itself... Well, that was unremarkable, as amazing as that seems. All that practice had paid off. We were being paid for maximal body count; if it was shootin' back, J didn't want it to go home, and that was fine by us. That's how we like to operate; like to think of ourselves as Darwin's Angels. If you're stupid enough to try something, you weed yourself out of the gene pool.

So, yeah. The Run's not the focus of the story. I dunno what the fraggin' package was, it was wrapped up nice and tight for us like Christmas came early, and we grabbed it, swiped a few other goodie-lookin' things, and made a bees-line for the pickup spot.

And that's where everything started to frag up. We arrived at the pick-up point, early if you can believe it. The rigger didn't show. (Later we found out she'd been shot down herself by, of all things, a stray hunter that thought her plane was a big game prize. Figures, don't it?)

We knew Cross was on our tail. There was no, absoloutely no way they coulden't be.

"So, what're we gonna do? I don't think Cross is gonna politely take back what we stole and call it even."

I shrugged at Sammy. "DamnifIknow. They can't fail to follow us, though..."

Our mage shoot his head, his long beard shaking. "We gotta get moving, then. We can't just stay here."

"In the middle of winter? Into the Ardennes?" I pointed into the forest, and he nodded. "We don't have a choice. And you said you studied the area."

"When I was thirt-fucking-teen and World War II was all I could think about!"

A look at my companions said all there was to say. We were truely up the creek here, so I sighed. "We don't have a choice. Let's move..."

And so it came to pass that I led my group away from our inevitable pursuit by Cross Applied Technologies, into the dark heart of the Ardennes, and into Hell itself.

We marched for felt certain to be hours. The black of night wasen't getting any lighter, and even Sammy's thermoeyes were about as useless as tits on a male cat-drone. I didn't count the time, I switched my chrono off. I was gettin' a bad feeling about it; we all were. I remember lookin' back and Gramps (The name we gave our mage in affection of his long beard,) was looking decidedly spooked. He said there was a major mumbo-jumbo imbalance in the air. Exact quote there, folks. Even the punch-boy looked like he was doing a highwire act on razorblades. And it only got worse as we forged ahead.

Hell if I can tell you what the trigger was. I do not know, to this day. One second, we were walking past a fallen log and a biiiig rock, on our right. I remember that, because it saved our synth-pork. It was like the gates of Hell had been thrown open in a nano-second. Quiet one instant, and then all hell is breaking loose. We were in a depression between two wooded ridges. All hell exploded from each side; it was utter chaos. Machine guns chewing through the sky, tracers ripping through the night, the harsh crack of individual rifles and the churning sound of submachine guns adding their two hundredths of a nuyen to the conflagration..

We dove for cover behind that rock, which was on our right. This turned out to be our ultimate saving grace, because the guys on the left side of the tiny valley weren't shootin' at us, the guys on the right were. We learned that lesson pretty quickly.

Now, let me take the time to try and explain the full scope, the unimaginable magnitude of what was going on here. Desert Wars dosen't even come fucking close. Not EVEN close. Desert Wars is a bunch of yahoos shooting each other up in undeveloped places for money. They have crap like thermal sensors and medicine and sometimes mages. They have air support on call 24-7, sat recon, and crap. And the engagements tend to be small, usually no more than a hundred men total. I doubt any of you gentle shadowpeople have ever seen a fight like that. Sure, we get into fights, but remember what I just said about that run? We never engaged more than three guys at a time. It was pure tactics and pure thinking, manuver and strategy and coordination and cyberware.

Shadowrunning, in short, is a game of life wherein a small number of highly trained, highly-cybered and skilled magicians can have a very big impact.

This was nothing like that, chummer. This was pure, unadulterated, outright balls-to-the-walls warfare, as far as we could see. Down each side of the ridge nothin' but people duckin' for cover, praying to God, cursin' the devil and shooting their guns. No particularly brilliant manuvers to execute, no obvious head to cut off the beast, just two seeming hive-minds of scurrying people trying not to die while trying to kill the other guy. This was a fight like you never saw before. No drones that could take a seemingly infinate stream of small arms fire and chew people up. No laser weapons flashing or airstrikes or T-birds or chopper support or sat recon. Just men, terrain, and more guns than Ares Macrotechnology.

Gramps said he was going to try and percieve, that thing he does. I thought he was crazy, who has time for paracritters at a time like this? He was only wonky for a second before he came out screaming, fainting against the rock. Puncy slapped him awake, quickly, while machine gun fire chipped at our cover. It wasen't fun, even when Gramps woke back up.

It was at this point which the rock we were sheltering in was mostly destroyed by a rocket shot from across the valley, and we seemingly independantly all had the same idea simultainously. It was time to haul hoop or lose it. And so we hauled - Sammy and I alternated covering fire towards the ridge, while the mage and punch-boy ran between us. A line of machinegun fire, and I'll tell you something, no matter what Ares says, they do NOT produce weapons that can fire that fast. It was like a lead laser coming at us, and it was produced in 1942. Kinda makes you wonder, don't it? Sounded like hell's chainsaw, even my enhanced cyberears and wired reflexes coulden't pick out the individual bullets firing. The line of them stitched across gramps' legs, an' he went down, hard. Somehow, the rest of us were missed, don't ask me how. Punch-boy grabbed him as he fell, and we all dove for the cover of another rock. Grand total of futility? Eight meters.

We needed another plan, and I pointed up the ridge to our left. The team seemed to get it, which was good. I heard the shouting, then, somehow it came through, maybe through lulls in the bullets. "Panzer!" And some stuff in German. This was when I started to really know the true meaning of insignificance and helplessness, as I heard that horrific rumbling sound.

We ran. We ran like dogs, somehow making it up that hill, with machine gun fire from a couple of nests stitching towards us. I don't even want to guess at how lucky we got that night. The tracers were lighting up the sky ahead of us, as we ran up that hill and dove for cover. I've never seen someone look so surprised as that boy - frag, just a kid, lookin' so scared as he held his rifle in trembling hands and was trying to reload it as he saw us four, the punch-boy carrying the mage on his shoulder, charge up that hill, me an' Sammy firing over our shoulders. We dove into his foxhole, clustered together like a bag of rats. He wasen't so lucky, as the machine gun fire meant for us took his head clean off, his helmet landing in the snow above us.

Poor bastard.

Well, what were we gonna do? We were trapped, and no concievable way out. So we started shooting, putting the poor son of a fragger's foxhole to good use. Punchy threw the grenades he found on the kid clear across the lines, dropping them into foxholes and those open-topped APCs perfectly, every time.

We had laid the made down, his back propped up against the back of the foxhole, as we fought on, mowin' down wave of the guys coming at us. It was sick. Anyone who's fought the Corps, even the best, the Red Samurai or whoever their suicide-by-corp-du-jour is, hasen't seen anyhting like this. Corp killers are cold, ruthless, professional, well-armed, well-equipped, and cybered up. These guys in grey, the just kept comin' with their rifles and their submachine guns, with their snipers and machine guns providing supporting fire.

It didn't matter how many we killed. I ran out of ammo, and had to heave my rifle because it's barrel was starting to warp. What could I do? I grabbed the rifle the kid had fallen, slammed home the clip he was fumbling for when he got shot, and started firing again.

Then the grenade hit. I didn't see it, Sammy didn't see it, Punchy didn't see it. I don't care how much cyber you have going for you, you can only keep track of so much, and when you're in the middle of Hell itself, you can't keep track of everything. Thank Ghost, the mage did see it - he must have put up some kind of screen for it. That's the only way I can think of that he alone absorbed the blast; and absorb it he did. There was no checking, no reaching for a pulse. His poor hoop was dead as Dunklezahn. Never, I repeat never, find yourself in a ten-foot-by-five-foot-by-four-and-a-half-foot-deep hole in the ground with an explosive device. There's only one thing worse than that, and that's spending your night in a ten foot by five foot by four and a half foot deep hole in the ground with two moderately injured chummers, and two corpses.

I don't know when, or how, it ended. It became a blur of shoot eight times, reload, shoot eight more. Sammy and Punchy can't tell me any more than I can tell you. I do know that the grey-suited guys got into the hole at least twice, but Punchy kicked them right back out.

Eventually, I woke up. We were buried in the snow, literally. I remember the stinging cold, the cold, frozen earth at my back, and the hard thing I was leaning on. Fortunately, all we had to do was stand up and we were through it. I looked around on a pristine, snowy wilderness. There were no piles of bodies. That rock that was blown up last night had been all rounded and worn down. No flaming husks of metal machines. We dug through the snow, in the hole we were in, and found Gramps. We also found a skeleton wearing a set of boots with tarnished dog tags laced into the decayed laces. They looked like they'd been laying there for the last hundred and twenty years. Then I actually looked at what I was holding in my right hand; it was a brown rifle, wooden and well-used, which smelled like it had gotten quite the workout last night. Which it had. No signs of tarnish or rust. I never found my own rifle, but I realized I'd still got a buncha clips for that one with me, so I hung onto it, as we started walking. By mutual agreement, we all swore we'd walk ourselves to death before we spent another night in those woods. Hungry, numb with cold, we made it out by sunset, finding a town and filtering our way back home. Got paid, did our jazz. But none of us were thinking about the Run.

Later, I took the bullets the repair guy pulled out of Sammy's cyberarm, and the bullets from the clip I had, and took them to a chummer of mine with a private ordinace museum. He asked me who even made such perfect reproductions, let alone fired them at Shadowrunners. Then I took that rifle to be carbon-dated. Guess what - the carbon-dating sez it's only a year old. Fraggin' spooky, eh? I still have those dog tags. I thought about doing a search on the name and number, but with the great Crash... I doubt I'd ever find anything. Still... It's always on the back of my mind...

Always... Haunting me, that one night...
37 pageviews, of which only about 5 can be attributed to me, and no comments?

I am saddened. frown.gif
I'll ask the obligatory question I throw up in any of these fanfiction threads: are you looking for literary criticism or fanfiction criticism?
Umm, both? Preferably seperately? smile.gif
Only thing really wrong with the story is this:

Shadowrunning, in short, is a game of life wherein a small number of highly trained, highly-cybered and skilled magicians can have a very big impact.

Reading it gives me the idea that the best shadowrunners are:

A) Highly skilled
B) Highly cybered
and C) Very skilled, because thats the only way a mage is going to cast a decent spell with so much magic loss.

Prehaps have it read - ... wherein a small number of high trained, highly cybered criminals along with skilled magicians can have a big impact.
I'm not sure if that was sarcasm, bitterness at your own group, or what....

I'm kinda confused about it.... Ooooh, wait... Yeah, I see what you mean.

Highly-cybered magicians. That's a good one. nyahnyah.gif
Neat concept, but the execution was a little lacking.

There were some serious spacing and typographical issues, and enough grammatical errors to sort of sully it. The names were silly (and detracted from any sort of emotional attachment that might otherwise have occured), the description of combat was overdone (in a world of attribute 4-5, skill 4-5 infantrymen, Shadowrunners would actually kick a lot of ass) in an attempt at the dramatic, and the descriptions of weapons was a little over the top (what makes you think, for instance, Ares and/or anyone else in the 2060's doesn't have a machinegun that can fire "that fast?"). I might have just been turned off by all the Shadowrun slang, though.

I mean, neat idea. Just...needs some polish.
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