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It was quiet.

The quiet bothered Andrew. He’d been all over the world, all sorts of conditions. It was hot here, but heat he could deal with. Heat, cold, raiders, paranimals, he’d seen it all. It didn’t bother him any more. The quiet bothered him.

They’d been out here three weeks now, in the Australian Outback. They’d left from Perth in a convoy of jeeps. They’d had no problems, except for one of the guards being bit by some sort of spider that had killed him before he could take two steps. Lars had wanted to catch the spider….

How had they even come to be out here? Australia had been a dangerous place since the Awakening. And so full of mana and mystery that most researchers would give their neighbor’s first born (not their own, let’s not get crazy now) to get a chance at what lay out here. But someone high up had pulled the right strings to put together a 15 man crew, half of those guards, to come put here and investigate a site. Someone in Neonet wanted to know the secrets of this place. Rumors even said someone from Black Omega had been sent before them.

No teams had been sent into Australia’s Outback in the last five years. The UTA reported that mana storm activity had decreased over all over the last few years. But the activity that there was had become stronger, and according to the rumors, directed. Corporate enclaves and research facilities had been decimated. There were hardly any corp enclaves out here any more. The talismongers had been having the same problems. The storms always seemed to find them. The rumors said that they were being directed by a dragon that lived out here. Nature or Dragon, it was clear that the corps weren’t wanted. But they’d come out here anyway.

Andrew had put together his team from some of his veterans. Lars was his botanist, and specialist in parazoology. Anna was an amazingly skilled shaman, Yoshi knew more about archaeology than most archaeologists twice his age. Andrew was their reader, a psychometrist. What some called an astral adept. He had brought them out here….

The silence stretched on….

He went over it again in his head. It didn’t make any sense. The cave tunnel descended 60 feet at a 20% grade. The cavern below had a 35’ ceiling. It should only be 12 feet tall, not 35. The pool of water was fresh and clean, but it was fed from no water source that they could find. It had some particles that read as similar to the “dragon tears” they’d “acquired” from the Shiawase team last year. It assented as being an extremely powerful site. Had he the proper equipment, he would have classified it as a class 5. But all that was destroyed in the firestorm….. it wasn’t an alchera, he’d seen those. It wasn’t aspected, it didn’t have a background count, he couldn’t even tap it’s power. He could barely even assense it! It just made no sense. The Silence stretched on.

Andrew looked around at the four faces around him , still staring at the camp fire. Diego, the last of the three mages Neonet had sent with them. Deigo was an angry elf. Angry at the failure, and his inability to do anything about it. Andrew had no doubt that all of the mages shielding would be on himself if another storm hit. Even with the three company mages and Anna shielding form the first one, they’d still lost Yoshi and one of the guards.

There was Topher, the last of his fellow researchers. He wouldn’t meet anyone’s eyes after they’d identified Lars’ body three days ago. God, the blood…

At least they had found Lars. The others, Anna, Mitchell, Erika, so many guards who’s names he’d never learned… gone…. Just … gone… No sign, no screams, no blood, no nothing… they were just gone. Ever since they’d gotten to this damn cave, this damn puzzle in the ground.

Leaving wasn’t an option. The mana storm had destroyed the jeeps, and all of the communications equipment. The one mage they sent astrally for help hadn’t come back. His body just stopped breathing. Spirits did not return, none would answer summoning here….

None of it made any sense! Why were they at this cave? Why were people disappearing? Why had Lars been found, and so badly mutilated? Were the others the same? Was it the dragon? Something worst?

Andrew looked up again at the three face around the fire….

Three… not four…. Where was Diego?

Andrew looked back down. Probably just off relieving himself. Andrew tried to convince himself of that. No one else said anything. It was dark around the fire.

It was quiet.
Michael woke to the beeping of his commlink. Six in the morning wasn't unusual, but that beep meant a priority message coming through. That was important.

He put on his glasses, clicking them on with a deft touch, and selected the info packet flashing red on his AR. His room lights slowly lit as he awoke, responding to the movement, but not to fast, since it was still early. Thank God for technology...

The face of Dr. Wilkins popped into his view. Wilkins was the head of his project team with Neonet, and had been for the last three years. The man was a ladder climber, throug hand through. His work was good, but he always wanted to be higher. At least he had the decency to help others along the way, as long as they weren't in his.

The screen hesitated for a moment as the decryption algorithym did it's work. Encrypted huh? Interesting....
"Good morning Michael, sorry for the early morning. Good news for you though. I'm unfortunately going to have to let you take some leave from my team. you've been reassinged, to Australia. Apparently Dr. Andrew Wood is has been out there for the past couple of weeks and needs some more able hands. So get your tail in to the office ASAP. Oppurtunities like this don't even come around once in a lifetime. You've earned it, and they're giving you the shot, so be punctual. Be here in an hour."

The commlink chirped end transmission

Well, not a bad start to they day. New project..

Michael started to rise from his bed

Wait, did he say Australia? Did he say an hour!?

Michael rushed to the shower...
Hood was hung over. Such a thing was unusual. it took quite a lot of alcohol to do that to the large irishmen. Looking around his doss at the bottles of Jack, and the young lady under his arm, he decided that he had indeed drank quite a lot of alcohol, and everything was ok.

Hood settled back into his bed, and started to drift back to sleep, until he realized taht the annoying beeping sound in the back of his head had in fact not originated there, but was coming from his commlink. More importantly, it was coming from his work commlink. The one he had to answer.

Fuck, what a way to start the day. it's only.... 11:30, and I get a call.

He picked up the 'link and looked at the text. it was from Felix, the fixer Havoc had hooked him up with. He waited for his eyes to get focused and read.

Work, The Blarney Stone, 1300. Come ready to work and travel. 2K for the inconvenice. Good pay.

Felix was good at hitting the high points.

Hood rolled back over and put his arm around the blond... she was a blond right? he checked... yup, blond. He was sleeping above the Blarney Stone today. No need to rush.


Hood wandered down stairs around 1230. The blond had left,then come back for her underwear, then left again. He loved using Mindwipe to make them forget that.

He was wearing standard street clothes, since he had no need to impress Felix. He'd been working on and off with the fixer for the last six months. Besides that, the Blarney Stone was his place, and his reputation spoke for it's self anyways. might as well appear calm and comfortable, even if he did have a lingering hang over.

Felix was there already. Apparently once a runer, always a runner. Must be an expensive run if Felix was coming to him. Hood pulled up a chair, spun it around, and sat at the table with the man. Felix was human, middle aged, and dressed decent enough. Armor wasn't to obvious, neither was his weapon beneath the jacket. He had a pint in hand, and a comforatble smile on his face. Fit right in with the Blarney Stone's "lunch" crowd, such as it was.

"Top of the mornin' to ya' hood" Felix never could manage a good fake irish accent. nice of him to try though.

"I've got work if you're ready to move. Neonet team, headed out to the outback. They need a guide. Someone who's been there, can handle him self in a fight, and has mojo to burn. Need to baby sit a couple of corp types for two weeks, then bring them back. Also need to be able to fly tonight. I got the word, and immediately thought of you. They offered a price, I raised it. nuyen.gif 150,000 if you can give me a yes within the hour. I know better than to dick around with you, and you know better than to expect me to change the price. You in?"

"Top of the Mornin Felix."

Hood took poured and took a quick shot of Irish Whiskey to take the edge off. It was one hell of a night....from what he can remember. He'd have to make up for what ever he did at Mass this sunday. That he was sure of.

"So, the Outback, you say? And only an hour to give ya an awnser? Hell Felix, if it were anyone else I'd wait fifty-nine minutes to tell you to piss off."

Hood began that Barroling laugh of his. Hood knew the importance of being professional, but hey, this was his place, and he didnt consider Felix some nose-in-the-air Corp Johnson. He figured he could try to get a chuckle out of him.

"Sure, I'm in. Never turned down a job before. Especially one with such clarity"

To be honest with himself, Hood didnt even know the meaning of the word. But he knew Felix didnt know that, and besides, Havok would be so proud that Hood used a three syllable word, sober.

"Just tell me where to be Felix. I'll head back to my place and get my shit together. And also pay a visit to Titan. Got a new toy I want him to make. Oh, and I'll be taken my two thousand now." He says with a grin.

After the money hand-off, Hood goes to take another shot when the oh so famialair tingle in the back of his head begin. Then came the voice of Bahamut.

"That'll do, Gealic."

Hood slowly put the shot down. Says to himself under his breathe:

"I hate when he does that...."
tingling continues...

"You should know Hood, that I wasn't the one that sent the first or second group. Bt I am sending you. Keep quiet this for now, but there's something out there. And be careful of the cave."

Felix handed off the cred stick, gave Hood a nod, then headed out. Hood's commlink beeped as Felix sent him the instructions for the meet. 2100, a private tarmac off of SeaTac. The passcode algorithim was on his commlink as well.

A transfer of nuyen.gif 75,000 went through to Hood's account. Felix was always good about half up front too. Which was why he was the type of fixer that could show up and drop a run on your lap that you had to pick up or drop immediately.
He'd also never screwed a runner, that anyone knew of at least. Which meant that he at least kept any back stabbing low key, which was important in the biz.

" Be seeing you Hood. Keep your head down. Watch out for the bunyips."

The word "Bunyip" made Hood laugh a little bit as he re-called the story about Havok and Bob in the outback looking for Bunyips. Couldn't find any, so they "settled" for an Indestructable Flying War tank.

Hood stood up, handed the bottle of Vodka to Jefferson.

Hood: Jefferson, Im going to be out of town for a few weeks, so-

Jefferson knew this speach all to well.

Jefferson: Yeah I know, watch the place for ya. And if a Leprechaun comes in, his drinks are on the house......Wait boss, arent their strong wards up in here?

Hood Chuckled a second at the irony. O'Malley COULD have free drinks, IF he can break the wards. Hell, if anyone could break these wards, Hood would by their drinks out of his own pocket. Bahamut put up these wards. His spirits were aloud by any means. But certain ones Hood had run in's with.....He shuddered at the thought.

He quickly responded to Bahamut, letting him know he understood and would be careful. Always ended with that, "Ill let you know if something happens." But They both knew that he wasn't going too. Either he would forget, or communication of any form would be imposible. There was always a catch.

Hood quickly gathered himself and returned home. Went through his "Horde" in his basement facility. Scattering through weapons, and crazy plans for an underground facility that MIT-Nick and Ash had laid on him. Figured he'd go along with it, some good cred might come out of it. Besides, MIT-Nick had done more than enough for him in the past, and Ash was a good kid. He didnt mind lending out an earth spirit or two.

As Felix mentioned before Hood had been to the outback before. He packed the essentials. "No beer this time hood" he though to himself. So he put it back in the fridge. After going through everything, and double checking to make sure he had absolutely EVERYTHING he needed.

[ Spoiler ]

After words he spent most of the day trying to remember the blondes name, and if he had gotten her number. He killed some time for a bit back at the Blarny Stone, talkin over a beer with a few of the regulars. When the time came, he got his act together and headed to the address Felix had given him.

"Time to go to work."
Diving into the shower and just about remembering to put the AR glasses on the side first he spun the water on as his thoughts ran on. Australia.... man really a chance in a lifetime.... hmm Manastorms, and a lot of paranormals out there and most hate us all..... wonder if it really is the Dreamtime coming back..... and as his thoughts ran on luckily his body went on automatic finishing the shower and towelling him dry.

Walking out and into his room the background noise of the apartment waking up and used to his habits getting a cup of tea brewed and breakfast ready to be grabbed.

Quickly putting on his clothes his thoughts still dominating ....Uluru. Erm, right what do I need.... erm, 48 minutes to go and a 15 minute trip.... no wait that's not important right now, now clothes are important.... ah okay clothes are on, so right... bag... bag... where di... ah there it is. Right extra clothes, check. Armoured Jacket, chec... no wait as Major Henrick says that I'm supposed to put that on until I'm in the compound. Right that's on, next chemsuit, medkit... Okay I'm sure they'll give me everything else I need.

Heading to the door and drinking the cup of tea in one hand and holding a toastie in the other he's nearly out the door before he turns, finishes the tea, darts back into the bedroom and reappears clipping his commlink to his belt, slipping the earbuds and contacts in. Picking up the bag in the now empty tea hand and munching the toastie Michael heads out the door and to the garage.

Setting the AutoNav to the main NeoNet research complex and sitting back he makes sure that his commlink is charging off the solar charger in the business suit.
Okay 24 minutes to go shouldn't be a problem unless someone caused a major problem and tapping away on the AR keyboard quickly gets the traffic reports feed to a window in front of him in AR. Hmmm, doesn't look like anything problematic ahead, no gang problems.... well not here although I hear that Redmond is awful for that sort of thing....

15 minutes later the Jackrabbit pulls into the NeoNet underground car park, the barriers rising automatically as Michael's commlink forwards the correct security information and the cameras identify him and no other passengers. ....would surely help the situation there... Ah time to get up there see what I'll be looking at out there.

Stepping out of the car and unclipping the armoured jacket he stuffed it into the almost empty duffel bag he was carrying and headed for the elevator hit hit the button for the research floor.

Heading straight to Dr. Wilkins' office door and noticing the lights on he headed over and knocked.

Dr. Wilkins: Come in, and I hope that's you Michael you've only got 5 minutes on your time limit.

Opening the door and heading in Michael gets the familiar view of the inside on Dr. Wilkins' office and the man himself. Yes it's me, sometime I'd love to know how you always know... some magic I'd guess.... maybe a... wait I'm thinking outloud again, sorry sorry. You mentioned Australia, sir?
Dr. Wilkins : "Well please sit Michael, we haven't got all day after all. I'll cut right to the chase, since we're on a time limit here.

The situation is this: Word has come down from on high that a secret research project taking place in an "undisclosed location" in the Australian Outback is falling behind schedule. The details I don't have for security reasons, besides that it is the examiniation and classification of a magical site.

Dr. Wood and his team has been out there for over a month, and they apparently aren't making any progress. Neonet doesn't have the resources to dispatch an entire team to reliev them, so instead we're sending in backup, so to speak. You and three other researchers, including Dr. Patrick
Dr. Wilkinds givess a sly wink will be heading out there to join their efforts.

Accompanying you, Neonet has seen fit to assign a .. .ermm... "special asset". A guide, but a Seattle-ite, who has previous experience with the Outback and can tell you what to expect. He'll be meeting you at the hanger, where you're flight will leave for ...
*checks papers in front of him* Perth.

Dr. Wood is heading the team, so when you arrive at the site, you'll be answering to him. But until then Michael, you're iin charge. The coordinates I'll download to your commlink. it's a short five day ride in by jeep. Your plane leaves tonight from a Neonet air strip off of Seatac. Transportatino to the airstrip has been arrarnged, you leave at 2130.

You'll have a nice plane trip over on a provate jet, where you can get to know the rest of the team, and then.. off to adventure!"

I hope I'm not being to melodarmatic, but this really is a once in a life time chance. You'll be "confined" to Neonet facilities until your take off, for "mission security"
*mimics quotation marks with his fingers and rolls his eyes* but any equipment you need will of course be provided.

Now, unless you have any questions for me, get out of my office. I've rambled on enough and you've got an adventure to begin".
Dr. Wilkins smiles broadly to show the good natured jibe, and wishes you well once again as he gets the door for you.

A pair of Neonet security guards flank you as you move out of the office, escorting you for "security reasons". Dr. Elza Patrick...

Michael couldn't help but muse to himself: Dr. patrick is of course, a leading scientist in the field of Anthropological studies, a very respected and well liked individual in her field. A visionary even.... The fact that she's a petite red head with eyes like emeralds and hips like..... like... something very attractive to compare to hips ... well it has nothing to do with... well it's nice...
Nodding to the two security guards and smiling slightly nervously at the new faces, Michael walks almost in a daze towards his normal lab Dr. Elza Patrick.... a top bab... no bad Michael top Anthropological authority.... hmmm so the site'll hav ancient culture links.... prehistoric.... that'd be bottom... erm, nice gotta focus or this is going to be a long trip and a bad mark.... and a freelancer? Strange that such a secure mission would use a free lance guide.... maybe a 'runner? Now that'd be something to see, wonder if they're like the trid.... Although probably not, too mercenary unless security.... no that's too horrible.... ah the lab.

Entering the lab and pulling on his lab coat out of habit before sitting at his terminal and starting to access as much data as he could from archives about current conditions in Australia, survival tips, awakened creature reports and the like.

Half way through a quite dull report on mana storm prediction he suddenly remembers that this is a solo mission and he's in charge. Man, what do the group leaders do.... ah get a meeting together, have some background.... erm that could be tricky considering the security attached and lack of info currently... ah commlink.... wonder if there's any more information that's been sent to me.... and must contact Dr. Patrick.... too

Tapping a few AR keys and pulling up his messages in one window, he sets up a quick message to Dr. Patrick asking her for a quick meeting about a possible research opportunity.
After performing a thorough data search on the subject, you get a list of equipment that you'll need. First off - Anti-venin. Snake bite kits, poison kits, perhaps a detox spell, and about six other was of dealing with poison. Australia has a large number of poisonous critters in the Outback, even more so after the awakeneing.

Next: Water . Water purification tablets, plastic for a still, canteens (plural), or a create water spell. Without water in the Outback, you die.

The list goes on to subjects like standarad desrt and jungle survival kits, a hat , coat, BOOTS, changes of socks, powdered graphite for firearms in the desert regions, etc. Some custom designed cooling jackets are also suggested (and available through NeoNet.

Next on the list: batteries. A common mistake, people forget them all the time.

Also, something to link up your commlink to a satelite, and the savvy to know how to do it. Thank goodness for modern tutorials. The weather can be touch and go in the Outback, so even a Sat-link isn't a guarantee.

Surivival turorials! yes, Neonet has those available for download, as well as a number of lingua softs.

And then of course, ther's food, or the knowledge of how to hunt. Rations. Wonderful.

And the only thing more important than water, a good map soft and GPS system.

Who knew that leading a team could be so ... heavy. Good thing that "outside expert" will be along to tote some of that gear.

After researching the needed equipment, you send a message to Dr. Patrick. YOu recieve a reply within ten minutes, in text

"Dr. Holder, thank you for the prompt message. I'm very much looking forward to the expedition, and working with you personally again. I've taken the time to look over some of your work, and think our fields will cross-mesh nicely.

I'll be available for a team meeting around 1700. I'll still packing and getting some files together. smile.gif I'm eager to seee the Australian Outback and the native tribes. Did you know that the aboriginal culter there has survived for over 40,000 years purely by oral traditions!? Very exciting!!

Let me know if 1700 will work for you. I assume in the East Wing Conference Room A?

Dr. Elza Patrick"
Reading the message and blushing slightly Michael logs back into the system and books the conference room for the meeting. She likes me.... wait I'm reading too much into this.... Of course she's excited about the expedition, Australia it is incredibly rare, and we will mesh well.... skills will mesh well....

Room booked he sends a message back to her

"Dr. Patrick,

17:00 should be good and I've got East Wing Conference Room A booked for the group to meet up at. 40,000 years? Should be interesting to see how it meshs with the other ancient history we've uncovered.

It'll be great working with you again too!

Dr. Michael Holder"

Then dives back into organising his current research so that it can be easily taken over by the next researcher and building a list of the gear the team will need to forward to security for checking and then stores for requisition.


Heading over to the conference room, his equipment lists cleared and authorised Michael was looking forward to finding out who the rest of the scientists would be. I'm sure there'll be at least one security trooper... unless that'll be sorted in Perth of course... that and I really want to find out what we'll be investigating although that'll probably have to wait until we get to Dr. Wood...

Opening the door and heading in, he was pleased to see he got there first and could setup ready for the others to come.
You've had about 5 minutes to get settled when the door opens. Dr. Patrick walks in smiling and laughing.... and looking over her shoulder. Walking in behind is Dr. John Michel Floren, an archaeologist. Most people around the research labs call him Dr. Jones, after a character from the flat vids from before the turn of the century. He's handsome, witty, and adventorous, and here. Apparetnly he's also on your team.

Dr. patrick smiles : "Dr Holder, I believe you know Dr. Floren? He's been assigned to us on the expedition. Sorry for the tardiness, we literally bumped in to each other on the way here. We just took a moment to catch up on old times and found that we'd be working together. The tardiness won't happen again..

Dr. Floren smiles and grins " Sorry to keep you waiting. So, where are we at in preperations? I've been told very little, except that you'll be leading this expedition. Care to fill us in?"
Dr Floren and Dr Patrick take seats opposite the table from you... sitting next to each other.

[Charisma + ettiquete test for "first impression"/]
"Dr. Patrick, Dr. Floren, no need to apologise we still have a fair amount of time. It's good to meet you again Dr. Floren" and he smiles at them both "As for information about what we'll be doing, I'm afraid you may well know as much as I. We are boosting the number on Dr. Wood's project out in the Australian Outback, as to what the project is I haven't been able to find out and I'm sure it is under high security. Although judging by our specialities I would assume it is another archeological site with ties to more ancient cultures than normal, probable magical links and I would suspect either dangerous or heavy going hence our team." Waiting a short while for that to sink in he continues.

"We will be meeting up with an outside guide and expert on the Outback at the landing strip here in Seattle before flying out to Perth. Now I've looked into what surplies and equipment we will need out there, but I have to admit I have less field experience than either of you, especially you Dr. Floren so I would appreciate your input on what we'll need." and with a few quick AR motions transfers the draft equipment list over to the other two scientists

"Once we get to Dr. Wood's research camp he will, of course, be in charge so please correct me if I screw up, okay?" his grin reappears to show the friendness of the remark and to some extent the fact that he really meant it. "There are also a large number of harmful creatures we'll be need to avoid and the manastorms. Now security did, luckily, teach me a spell to rid a person of toxins so that should help in some cases, and spell defence can mitigate some of the ravages of Mana Storms but it would be better to avoid them altogether. On the plus side some of the awakened creatures out there can help with that and I'd suggest we keep an eye out for Metaroos moving quickly in a certain direction, research seems to show they can detect the storms coming.
Dr Floren nods and Pr Patrick gives a warm smile

Floren: "Well it sounds as though you've got a good jump on things. I'll go over the equipment lists and put any needed finishing touches on it. Probably a fair assumption that security will make sure we make our take off, so all I really need besides that at this point is an ETD I suppose."

Patrick: "I'll get together what ever other texts I thin we'll need, and some linguafots, but besides that, I'm ready to travel."Graces you iwth another warm smile.

The door opens, and a large ork man enters. At first you take him for another security officer, until you notice little tells, like the glasses, lack of weapons, an honest to goodness pocket protector (God knows why these days).

Ork: "I apologize for the intrusion, or I supopse I should say lateness. my name is Dr. Evn Michaels, I've been asked to come along with you. Liek you Dr. Holder my specialty is magical theory with some archaeological background. To save you some air, I know generally where we're going and that you're in charge. My equipment is more or less together.

To be frank, I gather that at least part of the reason I've been asked to come along is to assist with magical defense for our expedition team. it wouldn't be the first time. So if you'll just fil me in on where we're at, i'll just fill in where I'm needed.

The four of you discuss things for about an hour. Dr Floren puts in a finished equipment requsition list for your supplies. Within a few more hours, your team has gotten to know each other a bit more, joined together as only people thrown in to an uncertain situation with little warning can be. it seems all to soon you're in the back of a limo being driven to Seatac airport.

The limo drives through gates without stopping. Apparently security already knows youre coming, and you've been green flagged through. A lot of accomadations have been made. Soon yuo arrive with your team at a private hanger, whre a very expensive looking jet with the Neonet logo is getting set to taxi out. They're jsut waiting for you.

Standing near the plane is a very large human man with red hair, and what appears to be a couple of bags of guns! Then man is heavily muscled, with rather wild hair, and male pattern balding. He appears to be in his thirties, and is wearing street clothes. You do notice a side arm holstered to his hip. He must be the ShadowRunner. *ooooooo*
"Here come the Lab coats." Thought Hood as he finsished the last of his ciggarette.

He put out his smoke without any sort of rush, and began to gather his bags. To say he wasn't looking forword to this expedetion was an understatement. For starters, he wasnt a big fan of Corps. And he remembered the last group of lab coats he was escorting in the outback.

"Fuckin blood-mage fragger. At least these guys arent from Utah."

After double checking his bags to make sure his stuff was still in check, he began to walk towards the limo to introduce himself.

"Just smile, Hood....Just smile." He said through his teeth.

Standing outside the limo watching everyone come out, he smiles and shakes hands with each of them.

"Top of the mornin! The name is Hood. Thats all you need to be callin me. I'll be you're guide for this expedetion. I see that you're prepared for the outdoors portion of this trip, but have you prepared for any sort of fight? The critters are brutal out there.
Takes a minute to laugh under his breathe.
Hahaha! Didnt think so. Dont sweat it, I'm more then prepared. If needs be, I suppose I can loan somethin out to ya. Well, we're pressed for time, so I suppose we should be on our way.

Glances a moment in your direction(Callidus) and gives you a nod and a smile showing he understand who you are. After the nod He holds out his hand.
"Dr. Holder. I've done some reading about you. Very impressive. It'll be a pleasure working along side you."

After this, a quick glance and smile to Dr. Patrick.
"Hello, I dont think we've had a chance to meet. What's your name?"

Reaching out and shaking Hood's hand Michael remembers a bit late about the item below his glove. Frag, I really should remember about that, ah well too late to worry now or to cry over spilt milk as my mother says. Let's hope he just thinks it's a heavy AR glove or something.

"It's good to meet you Hood, I'm sure we'll be glad of your skills out there. This is Dr. Patrick, Dr. Floren and Dr. Michaels." and he indicates each as he introduces them.

Once the introductions are completed he continues "Well as you've already mentioned time is of the essence so shall we?" and he sweeps an arm in an almost ancient courtly gesture towards the plane's entry ramp.

And once everyone is inside and seated he turns towards Hood again. "So Hood, I've done some reading up on what we'll encounter in the Outback, but I'd appreciate your input on what we should especially watch out for. Real experience usually seems to pay out more than other people's accounts once they've had time to calm down and write it down." and he smiles friendlily.
Well, for starters. The same old critters you would have expected, snakes, scorpions, spiders the size of my head, and just about anything else that can poison you or leave you dead in an instant. Hope you brought some kits.

Takes a moment to tap a few keys on his comlink. Files on a few of the awakened creatures are sent to everyone.

Here are some files I've attained on the awakened creatures in the area. The one I'd be more afraid of is the Wendigo. The Wendigo is basicly an orc with the HHMIV virus. Looks at the Orc mage. You'd best be careful with this one, tusks. These are quite common in the outback. Theres also a few other beasties to watch out for. Basilisk for one. The stories are true about these ones, they DO turn you to stone. If this should happen, I'd be happy to change you back to normal, I am you're guide after all.

Takes a moment to tapo some more at his comlink.

The files you are about to receive is some personal files over I've put together over the years is to how to effeciantly kill most of the creatures in the outback. Believe me, you DONT want these alive. Now moving on to a much more...indept look. There is a very high backround count there. Alot of spirits, some good, most bad. Also some bad mojo there too. A few tribes. Not too sure on the names, didn't take the time to learn them, due to the fact most of them wanted me and my team dead. But as I said with the spirits, some good, most very bad. Just do me a favor and dont frag with any of them. Let myself, Dr. Holder, or our other magical support take care of this. Unless you have a better solution.Are there any questions?
"Only one question from my end, the cure for the Basilisk stoning is it simple? Might be covered in your notes and I'll make them my next priority. Just thinking in case one of needs to effect the cure."

Let's really hope that doesn't happen as losing our guide would be bad.... very very bad, considering the information I've gathered so far..

"Oh, one other thing we should organise a set of communication frequencies to use, I'll send you all a set and I'll check they won't interfer with Australian emergency channels as some as we arrive. Also I have some magic that should help treat any poisoned bites and we should have plenty of medical supplies available, but if you think of anything we've missed I should be able to requisition it in Perth."

And with a few AR key presses a file of communication frequencies is passed around the group include backup frequencies and an emergency channel. He then settles back for lift off and opens the files Hood had sent and starts to read and memorise them, but keeps an ear out in case anyone has questions for him or just would like to chat.
The only cure I know of to cure a basilisk stare is a simple dispelling. Any mage can do it, so you shouldn't worry too much. If there's nothing else, then I'm gonna take my seat and enjoy the free drinks.

Hood takes a seat next to Dr. Patrick hoping to make small talk with her.

A simple hello and how are you doing will do just fine in this situation

rolled a 5 on my charisma test for first impression
Dr Patrick and Hood chat amicabbly for some time. Dr. Floren and Michaels mostly chat amongst them selves, until Michaels strats going over files on his commlink, and Floren takes a nap.

The flight to Perth is mostly long and boring. Everything that can be discussed about the mission has been. The doctors and shadowrunner take turns flirting with Patrick, who seems oblivious to it all. Floren swaps stories with Hood for a while then goes back to sleep.

The stewardess provides the meals, pillows, etc. There is plenty of room to take a comfortable nap, and everyone does at some point or another. The stewardess also makes a point of ignoring Hood's advances.

After what seems like forever, the plane finally lands in Perth. The team grabs a meal at the airport first, then goes to the garage set aside for their two jeeps and gear. At some point in their trip, the coordinates were downloaded to Dr. Holder's commlink, under heavy encryption. The only other thing in the file except the coordinates, is Dr Woods' commlink number. of course, getting a hold of him from this range is likely impossible, since you'd have to bounce it off a satelite. There is of course no matrix access in the outback. Time for a real adventure.

The group's requested gear is in the back of the jeeps, labeld by names for who the packs are for, along with another 50 gallons of multi fuel for each jeep, in 2 25 gallon containers, and a 25 gallon container of clean water. Your trip should take 3-4 days depending upon terrain.
Driving through Perth is a study in contrasts. Modern day conveniences and buildings along side shanty towns. Modern day corps and security, just a few (well patrolled) bloacks from squalid slums. Just a few streets away from a Star Bucks is the Water Rations truck giving out a few gallons to the slums inhabitants.

The city has a feel of a rough, hard lived and hard edged city with a corporate veneer pulled over the places where the corpers are likely to go. The slums are likely left near enough to remind the wage slaves just why they work those extra 10 hours a week without over time.

[ Spoiler ]
Stretching after the flight and shutting his active AR windows down, Michael stepped down from the plane and started helping moving bags over to the waiting jeeps.

As they moved off through the streets of Perth he couldn't help looking around and seeing all the differences here compared to back home in Seattle.

It's strange here, I wonder why they leave the slums mixed in like that.... Better things to do? Well at least NeoNet's doing well over here, I guess the rumours of great finds coming out of Australia really are true.

Looking around at the others in the jeeps and the supplies he felt comforted that they should be find as long as the jeeps kept going. And seeing that he now had Dr. Woods' commcode it'd be something to contact when they made camp and he could dig out the SatUplink dish.
Helping getting bags into the jeeps, two at a time. Hood notices Micheal looking around

A bit diffrent then home, eh? NeoNet is doin good here, but they're the only ones. These slums are probly the worst in the world, other then Boston of course, I could tell you some stories about that, I tell you.

After which get on to shadowland and look up the biggest threats in the outback. Something I may have missed, or never seen before.
Yes very.... sad in many way.... seems a shame to have everything mixed together and slums at all but I guess economics comes in again. there's a whistful tone to the end of the comment but he brightens again Weel I expect it'll improve over time.
Dr. michaels looks up at your comment "Never been to Cape Town then, have you? Australia certainly have it's squallor, and the heat makes things difficult, what wit hthe water rationing. But Cape Town is about the worst I've seen. And I've seen a lot. Adding a ghoul nation and a Great Dragon can do that. "

Everyone piles in to the Jeeps and heads off down the roads. After an hour or so, you're on more open terrain, heading towards the Outbak, where there are no roads. Hood, Dr. Holder, and Pr Patrick in the lead Jeep. Dr Patrick has put on an OC of baroque music.

The horizon is in front of you, wild open land as far as you can see. Who really knows what's out there.

With more than a little trepidation, you see that it is a cloudy day, with strong winds. Could be a storm coming in.
After sitting in silence studying the wild life of the outback, Hood finally decides to break the silence.

So Micheal. What is it you do at NeoNet? And what are they're plans with us?
In Reply to Dr Holder:

Dr Patrick : Nod and a smile It's a hopeful sentiment, and I agree. Sadly, in our society, it's is our way to create a slave race if there ins't one. The egyptians did it, medievil societys did it through serfdom. modern day society is no different. You would think with all of our "advances" we could find a better way, but the more things change... It's sad really. No matter who is today's slave, no matter what we do to raise them, society wil lalways create another group.
In response to Patrick:

I do agree miss, that there is always a slave race. But i dont necessarly think its people. Especially those of poverty. Poeple of poverty are much stronger and much smarter then anyone in the jeeps gives them credit for. Poor people are slaves? Slaves to what, I ask? With all do respect, of course.
In response to Hood:

Me? I'm a magical researcher, mostly examining items and book work, but intreging. The number of different ways people have come up with the achieve the same end result is staggering and that's just the hermetic sphere, when you move on to shamanic traditions it all gets very individuallistic.... but I'm rambling again and I'm sure neither of you want me to go into too much detail it tends to get rather technical and long winded.

In reponse to Dr. Patrick:

Looking slightly downcast at the bleak outlook but then brightening again in response to her smile Well Anthropology is your field Dr., but I think I'll hold onto my rose tinted specs a little longer and smiles broadly to show it's a jest.
In response to Micheal:

No no, please go on. I enjoy talk of magical theory. I get joy out of everyones veiws on them. You a mage?
Yes I am, a hermetic by the standard view of things although I try to take a more overall view of magic as a whole but I can't really get to grips with the freeformness of the shamanic traditions.... I understand how it works, but practically it just doesn't seem to be right.... Quite likely due to no shamanic totem link I would suspect.... and yourself?
Patrcik response to Hood:
Oh it's true, if not in the literal sense. People have to eat, and there will always be the haves and the have nots, and they will always take advantage of each other. That's what society is based upon , throughout history, sadly. These days are literal slaves are machines. but can you honestly say that today's population ins't enslaved into the system? From the lowest in the gutters to your average day "wage slave". Part of anthropology is studying how society works. It sounds harsh, but believe me, this is how the world has been for thousands of years.
Yes, I am an awakened. Though, I'm what you call a Mystic Adept. I pracitce many diffrent forms of magic though. I find that why should I stick to one when I can expand my horizans and become a stronger mage.

Looks ahead up into the sky.

Out here is where I became awakened. Theres very little that cant happen out here. But it looks like theres a storm coming in. Could be a mana storm, those dont let up easy, we should be prepared.
In response to Patrick:

Beleive me miss, Im not a slave to any wage. smokin.gif
Patrick asks :How doe we know if it's a mana storm, or jsut a regular wind storm? Is there any way to tell besides waiting to see if fire starts falling from the sky?

Hood - What an interesting conversation you are having. Don't mind me poking in I hope? I wanted you to know, there is something very wrong in the camp. I don't know what it is, but there is something there that shouldn't be. Don't alert the others yet, but be on your guard.
A Mystic Adept.... ah I've heard and read about that path but never had the opportunity to meet anyone following it.... hmmm if that is a manastorm we'd better get our shielding up, excuse me a nano. and twisting he his seat a bit to get a more comfortable position while keeping an eye on the other jeep. Michael works to clear his mind and extend the comforting blanket of energy that normally sits just above his skin out and out to cover the two jeeps and all the passengers, all the while channeling the power through the device on his right hand and feeling the slightly vibration of it responding to his mental touch.

Sorry about that, but I should be able to maintain that and converse fairly easily now. and grins slightly boyishly.
Dr patrcik looks a bit more at ease at that

Charisma check for Dr Holder.
Well anyone who can sense can usually tell. Other than that, take a look at the wildlife, awakened ones in particular. Kinda like, how a dog knows when an earthquake is coming.

Take a look around at some of the wildlife to see their reactions to the storm. Also while im doing this, aid Micheal and set up a sheilding, particualry stronger to be on the safe side, So he hopes, over the two jeeps.
SinN: At the moment, nothing unusual. Animals are taking cover from the wind, but there isn't any rain. If it was a mana storm, they'd be running full tilt.
There doesnt seem to be a mana storm coming just yet. We still need to be prepared though. But for now, you can relax miss.

Send a mindlink thingy to Bahamut:
Master, can you hear me?
Bahamut: All to clearly some times. You really need to practice at schooling your thoughts.

Especially when fantasizing about red heads.
Chuckles for a second.

Response to Bahamut:
I Apologise old friend. I was just making sure we still had a connection out here. Ill check in with you every once and a while to give you an update incase something goes wrong, or goes too right. Also, can you have MIT-Nick keep an eye on my com and those around me. I dont trust corps easy, just taking caution. You understand?
Ask MITnick your self, I DO have other things going. Just be on your guard. I wouldn't worry to much about comm security out here though. NO one but your immediate allies would be in range anyways. No one with you has the skills to threaten your system security. I'd be more cautious of magic in the area.

Incidentally, you'll have no worries of mana storms today . Tomorrow however, the next at the latest I expect. Good Luck.

Callidus, perception check. -2 for distraction, visual.
Thank you old friend. And sorry to have bothered you. I'll head you're warning on the mana storm. Good luck to you.

Comes out of what seems like a trance.

We're safe today, no mana storms. Tommorow how ever... We'll need to make sure our camp site is warded and protected as best we can. Dr. Micheal, I would ask for your help in doing this? It wont be a simple task alone. But with both of us, it should be no problem.
Feeling Hood's mana shielding kicking in underneath his own and re-enforcing the protection over the two jeeps, Michael feels much more comfortable about the possiblity of a mana storm.

After all we're prepared and I'm sure it won't be too bad, at least this far out from the center of Australia.... At least Dr. Patrick looks happier.... happier at Hood though.... man can't I get a break.... guess they'll always go for the slightly dangerous man rather than dependable.... just wish I had the guts to be that.... actually no I don't..... it wouldn't be me and might well get both me and plenty of other hurt.... but might get Dr. Patrick to like me more.... oh man.....
Well that's good news Hood, and of course I'll help with the wardings, it'll be a pleasure to work with another practitioner

and a chance to examine how a mystic adept shapes the weave
Great, it'll make things much easier

It'll also give me a chance to see how strong you truly are. No offence Micheal, I like you, but I'm just not on that trust a corp bandwagon.
The rest of the day's drive is filled with everything from small talk about the weather, to discussion on advanced magical theories. Dr Patrick chimes in with occassional annecdotes about aboriginal societys. Discussion is had about mana storms, the paracritters in the area, and whether or not there really is a drgon in the area.

Dr Patrick says that she has heard rumors about the so called "Rainbow Serpent" that feautres promintently in many myths of the aboriginal peoples, and also the sitings of the dragon called Bahamut that apperaed in late '63. She goes on to describe the legends of some of the Sky Heroes and their legends, and exactly what the Dream time is.

Camp is made after a long day of looking at landscapes, dry river beds, and paras-a-plenty. Old hands all, the camp is quickly established, with solar powered, self inflating tents, complete with water still, heating and airconditioning, and photovoltaic siding to hide the tents from animal eyes.

Michaels and Floren chat ammicably around the fire once dinner is set (!) , and a cans of a local brew called "Drop Beer" is passed around the camp. Floren swears he saw a wombrick along side the road late in the day, but didn't think they really had the time to examine it further.

Hood takes time to investigate the area around the camp for any snake hoels, and finds plenty. He and Dr Micahels take some extra time placing rocks over the ones in the area to deter nocturnal visitors, after agreeing with Dr Patrick to remove them when they break camp.

All in all, it's a rather pleasant evening for one of the most hostile terrains in the world. If only you could shake the feeling of being watched.
Puts down the can of Drop Bear.

Hood Steps away from the fire, and calls for Alexander.

Alexander. Its good to see you. I need to you to investigate the areas around the camp, and tell me what you find. Be carefule though, its very dangerous around here.
Alexander appears on the astral plane

I shall master. I shall guard this night as well. Incidentally master, if I may, even tough in the company of other mages, talking aloud to the air is generlaly thought of as a "bad thing". Perhaps telepathically next time?

Puts down the can of Drop Bear.
And that's Drop BeEr. You wouldn't want to try to drink from a drop BeAR. They drink from you.
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