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Mato -


You awake in the chill confines of the space you've come to think of as you new den, in this giant village of metal and glass, the sound of an ad outside screaming in full audio. It's been three days now since you lost track of Ama, the odd girl that had become your unlikely companion during your journey to find the creature or creatures who's scent still lingered in your mind even now.


She'd found you out in the edge of your tribes land, peering with some consternation at a paved roadway, where you scent trail seemed to have led directly to. In the distance, you could see the edge of the persistent nightmare, as several people in your tribe called it, that was filled with disillusioned people, leading fake lives and doing fake work for fake goods and fake money. She had simply pulled up in front of you in a large, humming vehicle that stank of plastic, and said that she'd been sent by her Goddess to help you in your hunt. There was an ad for some full simsense trideo that was playing on the side of the vehicle, though what, exactly, a full simsense trideo was you hadn't know until later.


In just a day or two, she'd found you a place to live in a place that had an actual backyard and wouldn't ask too many questions, and given you a few details about the land in which you now hunted.
Casting your gaze around the den, you are struck again at the sense of disconnection that pervaded everything in this place. Nothing was connected to the earth, even the floor beneath your feet, and everyone was a tribe unto was rare to even see people touch one another, nevermind gather for communal stories or worship, the way they had  back in the real world.

Noticing the small, blinking light on the piece of technology the woman had instructed you to carry with you, a fumbling tap on the flashing image of the woman's face brings up a short message and an address, along with the number for cab company, unfamiliar characters slowly morphing into intelligible words as you concentrate.

<<@Mato[Ama]: I have found some that have knowledge of the person we seek. Call this number, tell them you need a ride, and give them #this address#. They will not give up the information we need easily...bring your weapons and armor.


The address is for a location somewhere near the edge of where this artificial nightmare gave way to the real world again, and the number seems to be for some one named Karl that had something called a 'Kombat Kab'.


You awaken, your first sensation one of pain, severe enough to cramp muscles and force you into a tightly curled fetal ball. This wasn't unknown to you, had often left you in this state the next day, and it brings a sense of familiarity to your mind to run through the breathing exercises that would allow your to rapidly lock your awareness of the pain into one small part of your awareness, giving you the control you need to be able to finally open your eyes.

The room is small, no more than a few meters square, and covered with vomit and blood. Splattered around the room, it paints a lurid picture of violence done to more than one person, judging by quantities and age. In addition to the physical evidence, there's a shimmering field overlaying everything...a dingy, grey, oppressive miasma that seems to tint everything you're looking at. The only other furnishings are a single metal chair, with solid manacles on the armrests and legs, bolted and concerted into the floor itself, and a single door. You can see the doorway, filled with the physicality of a heavy, vault looking door that's slightly ajar. Overlaying that, however, is a solid black film, shot through with a tracery of red veins.

It's only after this instinctive inspection and assessment of your surroundings that you look to your own body, still wracked with soreness, skin pale and almost translucent, the blue pulse of veins and arteries beneath the skin. You can see the angry red scar of massive wounds up and down both wrists and forearms, the flesh looking like it was split in slashes an inch wide or more, but healed to an extent that would imply injuries several weeks, if not months old. Scattered around you are the remains of your hair, long locks from your head and shorter from other places, shorn from your body as if plucked forth by a million grasping fingers. You're covered in only a light shift, a hospital garment, nothing more than two flaps of paper held at the sides with small plastic clips and ties.

Thinking back, it's then that you remember the last few minutes of your life before this room. Leaving the NAN tribesman you'd been sent to in the newly rented safehouse, heading out to track down a potential lead, the ripple and wash of pain that accompanied powerful magic tearing through your defenses and flooding your mind with agony, followed by blackness. There are images, flashes--

--You glance down at manacles strapping your wrists to the metal chair--

--Creatures gather around your form, dark and lithe and deadly, but they part like water as dark shape flows through door--

--Blood sprays from your wrists, you can see teeth sink into the flesh--

--Chanting, the figures are crooning some loud, sick-sounding song at the figure--

--Fire rips through your body, and you can hear the voice of the Goddess in your head, whispering, promising--

Back in yourself, looking around the room, you could feel the certainty, though, that this was the test. The gift had been given, and it would be determined whether you were worthy of it, whether you could stand under the fire as one of Her progeny and serve with the wholeness, the totality of your new being.



The time spent in your home plane has been fraught with anxiety of the most complex type you've ever experienced. You saw the explosion that engulfed Beatrix and Sean, but the familiar sense of transitioning that normally accompanies travel back to your home metaplane was absent. Instead, you were ripped, bodily and painfully, flung from this world and cast, the spiritual equivalent of broken and bleeding, back into Alfheim. You were a curiosity there, for a while. Old compatriots of the Hunt had avoided you before, after you'd been called by the witch, calling you caeth, or slave.

But you were something different, and they seemed to know it, were eager to take the time to be able to inspect you themselves. You could feel their eagerness, bright and sharp and caring nothing for you as a being. You could feel the link, tenuous but resilient, that had first been formed when Beatrix called for an avatar of Dog to guide and help her. It had been a mixture of curiosity and duty that had drawn you, for despite the fact that the hunt held dozens of spirits of your kind, Dog was just as much a part of your Nature as the Hunt. Your form was difference in the Astral plane, more like a dog than the Hound your had been under the Huntsman, but intrinsically you knew that it would have been shaped by she who called you. She was there, in the center of the circle and surrounded by glowing astral forms, seemingly weaving together the threads that called and bound you to her.

That had been years ago, and life with Beatrix and Sean had been anything but boring. There was almost always some new job, with Sean egging Beatrox and the rest of the group into accepting riskier and riskier jobs, citing the higher and higher pay they were receiving.  And when they weren't on a job or scrambling to pay back Sean's debts or find enough to eat, there had been a whole new world to explore, free from the overwhelming presence of the Hunt.

It had been days, weeks even, and you could feel the tie to the mortal plane regrowing, repairing itself, strengthening slowly to the point at which you'd be able to lean on it, travel down it and get back to Beatrix. You already knew something was wrong, though. There was a difference to the connection, a less specific tug, the feelings more generalized, diffuse. Perhaps she was hurt, even dying? She needed your help...but the only thing you knew in Alfheim powerful enough to send you back before your time was the Huntsman, and a bargain with him was never, ever worth the cost. So you were as patient as you knew how to be waiting, anxious, and alone for the first time in years.

Finally, the day had arrived, and you felt the final threads slip into place, and with an eager rush you had thrown yourself across the lines, felt the veils parting as you pass between the planes and along the link and back to Beatrix. You find yourself sitting at your familiar spot at the end of her bed. The blankets are wrinkled but empty. You can see Sean sitting by the side of the bed, passed out, an empty bottle still in his carelessly flung hand on the bed, a framed picture of the three of you under his tear stained and raw looking cheek. A massive, shaggy golden head nuzzles at his limp form, one of the chimeric retrievers is sitting next to him, it's whining ceasing as it lifts his head and looks around, not able to actually see or sense you, but feeling some shiver in the room, probably a residual connection from your frequent possessions. You can see the dyes and markings in its fur, tattooed into the flesh, the symbols of the circle and the coven, the rituals that would speed possession by any spirit marked indelibly into the artificial creatures skin and fur. You can hear the heavy, dense thump of one of it's feet as it takes a tentative step away from the body, head swinging around as it searches the room.


<<BigPanda@[Shivan]: "No, no, the kitten is a pet, the cow is food. You can't go around eating people's kittens.

<<BigPanda@[Shivan]No, I'm not angry. It's okay Shivan, how could you know any of this? Those bastards have kept you locked in that little cage your entire life, have jacked you full of chemicals and cyberware. How could anyone expect you to know anything about anything real, you know? Those monsters have tried to ruin the beauty that exists inside you, tried to twist and corrupt the glorious creature that you are. I...we won't let them, though, don't worry. It'll be soon.>>

<<Gaia's Sister[Shivan, BigPanda]: No, I'm sorry, we've got to ask him. Look, Shivan, we have a plan to get you out...well, an idea, really, but we need more information. Can you give us the names of the doctors? And any information you can about the lab? What's it's layout? Do you see security guards, and can you take pictures or describe what they're wearing? Are there corporate names on any of the gear you're using? We want to help, but you're going to have to help yourself...we can't come in blind.>>

<<BigPanda [Shivan]: I'm sorry, Shivan. We're not trying to use you for our own ends...she really will get you out, I promise. And if you could see what we're doing, how it's going to help...I know you'll want to join us when you get out here. Just as soon as you're free, of course. We would only want you of your own free will, but I just know when you see the beauty of the nature we're trying to save, nature you've never been able to see, you'll understand our cause. I can feel it, that we're the same, and I.>>

<<Gaia's Sister [BigPanda]: What the frag's up with the kid gloves? He needs to know how it is out here.

<<BigPanda[Gaia's Sister]: I know, just give me time. I want him to come to us of our own accord. Of his own free will. It'll be better this way, just watch.>>

<<BigPanda@[Shivan] We found it! We got the location, with your help. T says we have to move quick though. Sometime within the next couple of weeks...we just have to track down some more resources in your area. You were wonderful, just perfect! And soon you'll be free! Free to make your own choices, to live your own life! In the meantime, you need to know more about how to operate out here...look, so, here are the metatypes, most people walking around are one of these.

No, they're just random...I mean, except for the elf male. That', actually.

Yeah, I thought you might, I mean...


<<BigPanda@[Shivan] We've got it, all locked down and planned out. T says it should be easy...they're banking on obscurity, and they don't have a lot of tech guarding the area. Just think, a few more days, and it'll be fresh air and the real world for you.

Are you sure they're not tracking or monitoring your communications here?

No? You're really sure?

Did you get the parts we mailed? For the commlink, right.

They were? Good, I wasn't sure...I mean, I picked them out based on what you said you needed. I'm glad you like them. The stylization on the case was my idea, I thought you might like it.>>

<<BigPanda@[Shivan] We've got the date planned out. Three days, that's all!

Right, so, be ready to go.

No, we'll probably do it at night. It'll be better that way, less doctors and stuff, and the guards will be tired.

I...we can't wait to see you, to help you get back to your people. We've got feelers out to several groups already, trying to figure out where your parents came from.

Well, I...we'll be sad to see you go, of course, but we can still talk. And you'll be back with your own people, that's what's important! >>

<<BigPanda@[Shivan] Bad news...every naga group we talked to, when we told them about what had been done...they said it would be better for us to kill you. That you'd be a monstrosity in the community, and that you'd be considered some sort of second class citizen, since it probably burned the Magic out of you.

No, what are you...I'm sorry, I don't know! Look, it's not that bad. You could be happy, with us, here. It's not a bad place, once you get out of the cities and back to Nature, back to the earth. We could get you some more drones, and we have a Matrix connection, and you'd be welcome here.

Of course T would take you in! I'll make her. She's not a tyrant dictator, after all, we've all got our say in what the commune does.

I would never let them put you out on the streets or anything like that. Believe me. I'd never let them hurt you.>>

<<BigPanda@[Shivan] Are you ready? It's starting, I can't...can't talk, I've got to go. But be ready!>>

<<BigPanda@[Shivan] Are you..are you there? Look, it's not...not going so well.

No no no, it's not your fault. It's just...there's a lot of guards here. Way more than you described, more than we found.

No, look, can you...can you get into their system? The commlink has some programs on it that should help, but you've got to give us some info or something to help.

Please, Shivan.>>

<<BigPanda@[Shivan] Are you there? Look, no, we're stuck. We're in a room, and there's people banging on the door...

It's jammed, whatever you did worked, I think, I just can't...T's hit, I can't tell if it's bad, but it's all green...she's foaming, I think the round was poisoned. We're...there's only a few of us here, we...we need help. You have to help us. There's defenses, securities...

No, you have have to kill them. Turn the drones on them, and unlock our door. We can come get you when we're out of this room, we just...Oh my god, you have to help us. Please, please.>>

Boots considered letting Sean sleep it off...but no, he looked pretty out of it, and Boots needed to find out where Beatrix was. She might be in trouble - she probably was, based on Sean's state. Maybe she was hospitalized? Boots manifested, appearing as a ghostly image.

"Woof! Sean! Sean! Wake up! It's Boots, where's Beatrix? What happened after I was banished? Sean!"

When that didn't rouse Sean, Boots attuned himself to the mortal hound so he could wake Sean up and find out what had happened.

Although Boots could mask the signs of possession, he didn't bother to do so - if he could rouse Sean at all, he wanted it to be obvious he was back since he couldn't communicate easily. The dog's eyes glowed with a brilliant ruby light and it's fur acquired a ghostly overlay to match the markings on Boots' coat.

Boots headbutted Sean gently, then less gently, then nipped his arm in an attempt to awaken him.
Mato lumbered across the room. The lake of echoes sounded interesting, though he doubted this forsaken tribe had kept the fish healthy. He had been to one of their superb markets, though there was nothing superb about it. Nothing looked or smelled the way food should. They had lost their way, the spirits of the land cried out in anguish.

He pulled on the tight arrow-stopper that fit beneath his clothes. It itched. It did not itch when it aired near the fires and the open sky, but now it did. The heavy, black claw-turner came next. The pair were given to him by the people, they had seen him through many battles and held back even the tiny metal arrows that the forsaken people used.

Furrowing his brow, Mato looked at the small screen. He spoke to the device, the smallest fingers on his hand were still too big for the buttons. Slowly, he got the strange box to enter the number and show him the address at the same time. Forsaken tribe always do things hard way.

"I need a ride. Was told, you take me. Bad place, address is... "


"This is Babs with Karl's Kombat Kab. I've got the address you're looking for, and...whoo-eee, this one's gonna get me double hazard pay for the night. Alright, just click the button to send me your address, and I'll be there in 15..maybe 10."

The still picture accompanying the call was a bright and chipper looking young blond, probably in her late 20's or early 30's, with a short page-boy haircut.
The dark thrill and ecstasy of her being gifted warred with her growing panic of the vast abyss before her - she had little idea what to do next or even where to go. The room reeked of death which was comforting and disturbing at the same time. She has served Izanami faithfully and death was not something new to her in her instruction with the Elders but so many questions remained unanswered. Why was the blessing given now? She hadn't completed that task with Mato and in fact, they had only really just begun. What was the next step - what must she do now to prove her worth and where were her few meager possessions.

She felt the chaos pull at her and threaten to overwhelm her. She rose and looked around the room for any clothing or equipment - anything of value. She also needed an idea of where she was and how long she had been unconscious. She searched for something to give her any indication of the passage of time. She made herself focus on the tasks at hand to keep the madness from overtaking her.
"I am Mato. Yes, Babs, clicking button."

The massive paws and blunt fingers were not designed for small electronics, but Mato eventually gets the right angle to touch the button and send the address. When he is off the call, he lumbers over to the kitchen and uses the river-for-washing to get a large glass of water.

A few minutes later, he is standing on the street. The large tomahawk, taller than many of the boys he took on their first hunt, is strapped to his back. He sits on the place-for-walking and waits. Soon, he would find Ama and they would hunt. The hunting would lead them closer to the thing that brought death to his people.

As he waits, Mato listens for the spirits of this place. Surely the forsaken ones had not turned so far from themselves as to deny their names.

It took a sharp bite on the man's arm to rouse him, and the drunken haze didn't really leave his eyes as he blearily blinked them open, staring in shock at the glowing eyes and ghostly features.

"Boooooootssss?" he slurred, voice heavy with drink. "Boots, boy, is that you? Oh, wow, man, it's been...where have you been?" He throws his arms around the neck of the huge beast in a clumsy hug.

"I thought you....though you took off, when Beatrix...Oh, poor boy, how do know she...she's gone, right?" The revelation sparks tears in the trolls eyes, and he buries his face in the scruff of your neck, beginning to sob quietly, fingers tangled in fur. "She's...s-s-s-she's gone, poor Bea, poor little Bea..."



Eleven minutes later a battered looking sedan pulls up to the curb with a brief squeal of the tires. The vehicle itself is fairly large, a big old four door job more reminiscent of late-model Detroit steel than the more sleek, plasticy cars that filled the roadways today. All of this information is, of course, completely lost on you. Behind a mesh of metal, a tinted window rolls down, and Babs's page-boy cut leans across the seat to smile at you, dark sunglasses tugged down to rest on the tip of her nose, bright blue eyes matching the cheery smile.

"Whoa, you're a big 'un, aintcha? Well, look, I got your address, just pile in the back, I got room." One of the rear doors swings open of it's own accord, accepting you into the cramped (only because of your size) interior. Inside, the back of the vehicle is fairly spartan, looking like one solid piece of molded plastic, for the most part. Three five-point harnesses dot the back row, obviously intended for the protection of the passengers. Separating the front and back of the car is thick though transparent glass, a series of holes on the side opposite the driver allowing for sound between the two sections. She turns around as you clamber somewhat clumsily inside, giving cheerful instructions and making motions until you've got the harness strapped around broad shoulders. You can see the business end of some large looking weapon pointed up and strapped beside her, attached to the dashboard, and she gives you a thumbs up as the door swings shut and she pulls the vehicle away from the curb.
What does he mean? I should have appeared near her...she must be imprisoned, maybe behind a ward. I'm not going to get useful answers out of Sean until he sobers up, and I shouldn't leave him like this.

"Bark! Bark! Rrrow?"

Boots drags Sean to lie down on his side, hopped up onto a bed, and grabbed a pillow and blanket to throw over the troll. Boots then let Sean pass back out, then removed any obvious sources of alcohol and returned to the astral plane to keep watch over Sean until he woke up. Boots really wanted to interrogate him...but there was just no chance of getting anything sensible right now.
Seeing nothing of value and very little to give her some idea of where she was, she cautiously moved to the door and forced it open just enough to allow her to slip into the hall outside the door. She pauses briefly before deciding to head to the left - picking a single wall and following it. She remembered reading somewhere that that was a way to get out of a maze. She hears her feet pad quietly on the ground and the chill of the concrete traveling up her legs.

Sean groans as you knock him over, and you realize that he's sitting in some kind of complicated looking chair with wheels. Drunk as he is, however, he weakly fumbles at you before passing back out. You wait, patiently, for one hour and then two, watching his body slowly relax as from passed out into sleeping, and-

Abruptly you're blinking a different set of eyes open, your head level to the ground. Above you, the shaggy head of the tattooed and decorated chimera stares down at you, you're ears ringing with a loud 'WOOF!' of concern.



The hallway stretches out in either direction a few meters before ending in a door at either end. Paper debris litters the ground at your feet...discarded soychip wrappers, the plastic from a set of vending machine clothes. Following the wall, slowly, carefully, you pause at the other door. Muffed, as if at a distance or through another door or two, you can hear a, more a cheer, several voices raised in exclamation.
Hearing the voices she feels her training take over - her breathing slows and deepens filling her lungs and giving her focus. She moves to the door and tries it to see if it's locked.
"This very heavy wagon-with-no-horses, not break. Good wagon. Do you know of Lake with Echoes? I think of go there, but do not know it. Maybe when have answers for Ama"

The harness stretches tight across his girth, but Mato sits back with his legs spread for support. The thick wall between him and Babs kept him from stretching out too much. Mostly, he watched the people of this strange land. Many were of the People, he could see it in their skin and their eyes, the cast of their cheekbones, but they were all lost. A tribe of one, unwilling to open themselves to the possibility of greater things.

"Your people, Babs, where come from? Long ago, in old time?

You can hear the muffled shouts, maybe a sporting event? It's obvious, again, that they're not immediately behind that particular door. The handle slides under your hand with a small click.



The woman laughs, actually turning around, despite the rather rapid rate of speed she's maintaining, blue eyes sparkling as she looks at you.

"You're in Lake Echo, hun, and most people don't wanna live here. I mean, I know it's green and all, but...they talk about giant mutant bugs and paracritters. Oh, my people? I don't know, from like, 18 different countries? I'm pretty much a melting pot of flavors of white. I don't rightly know if I really even have a people, you know? What about you? I mean, you're obviously from one a'them Injun tribes, right? You local and all?"

A screech of tires and an electronic warning blares out over the interior of the car, and she abruptly whips her head around and cranks the wheel hard to the side, muttering curses about cheap computerized Pilots not knowing how to drive.

The landscape she leads you through transitions rapidly from the overgrown greenery to the the completely lifeless (in your opinion) urban zones, and from there to torn down wreckage that seems to barely pass as buildings or habitations. You can sense the pall that hangs in the air here, slightly tinting everything a dingy red, replete with desperation and frustration that spikes occasionally into depression and a murderous rage.

Boots instinctively tries to scramble to his feet on all fours, falls in an ungainly heap, and blinks in confusion as the chimeric dog scrambles clear.

Realizing that he's in Sean's body after he has a chance to see his limbs, Boots tries to return to the astral plane...with no effect.

This is really strange. Why am I stuck in here?

Boots starts by carefully examining his and Sean's aura - something he hadn't bothered with earlier. Then, while thinking about anything he'd heard from other spirits about what might have caused this, Boots begins cleaning up the area - starting by hiding any alcohol he could find, then just fixing things up in general, making sure the dogs had food and water, and the like. It wasn't really necessary, but it gave him something to do while he thought. He also drank all the water he could manage, figuring Sean would probably have a nasty hangover in the morning.

Hours later, Boots tucks himself into Sean's bed - he doesn't want Sean to re-possess his body standing up in the middle of a room. Boots replaces the picture Sean had with him to the stand nearby, and waits.

Where are you?
Shivan slithers back and forth in his cage.

It's going all wrong. Where did all the security guards come from? I checked the rosters. What did I miss? Did they find out somehow? I need to help them!

He settles down on the cushions that form his nest. The plascrete walls and armored plexiglass of his cage fade out, replaced with a digital representation of a forest he would now never live in.

Abomination! That's what they called me. They don't want me back. No! Worry about that later. I need to help T and BigPanda.

He slithers through the digital undergrowth looking for his friends. If he could find them, he could help them. The commlink he had painstakingly built over the last weeks was more powerful than anything the scientists had let him use on his carefully monitored access to the matrix. He flies through the matrix at the speed of thought, code flashing in and out of existence as he runs through the suite of programs installed on the 'link. He juggles programs and load ratings until he achieves a happy balance as he searches for his 'rescuers'.
"From north, land of the People you call Algonkian. You always have people, even when forget them. Many people here forget them."

Mato watches the landscape change. He feels the life draining out of the land and the people. As the buildings falter, the former protector sighs. Need and pain resonates through his mind. These people had lost everything, many lives snuffed out. He knew the pain of loss that came with death. There was little that he could do to ease it other than lay the head of the creature that slaughtered his people at the foot of their grave.

These too shall be avenged. First find Ama and assist her with this information. Then we shall help them as best we can...
With a look around one last time and taking in her sorry state just in this paper medical gown, she opens the door and looks briefly before sliding into the next room.

The house is in shambles...about the only thing that Sean has been doing regularly is feeding the dogs. Well fed and groomed, it's obvious that they've had more attention then anything else in the ramshackle house. Sean and Bea had rented the house with some serious excitement months ago, exclaiming about how it was perfect for the dogs, and how they had been yearning to sleep under an actual roof again, one that didn't have people crowded around on all sides.

The dogs are eager and vaguely remember Sean mentioning that there was a training program for the dogs that hadn't had a chance to be enacted, something to train and make them suspicious and prone to violence to strangers. Whatever it was, these are definitely not there. They jump and clamber around Sean's feet as you go out to the kennel that they'd built in the back yard, with it's careful stores of probably three months of food and stores of potable water next to the faucet that tapped into the City system.

Later, lying in Sean's bed, you think back over what you know about the pacts...agreements made between free spirits? and men, some that were better deals for one side or the other, some that were an even trade, at least in the opinion of the spirits that had shared their experiences. An hour passes, and then another, and you're starting to wonder exactly when Sean's going to wake up when abruptly you're jolted out of Sean's body, and you find yourself standing in the astral next to the bed, looking at a blinking and groggy Sean that's slowly rubbing his face and groaning. Blinking around, apparently surprised, he turns and leans towards the edge of the bed and abruptly falls off with a shout, cursing.

"Where tha' fuck's ma' chair?" he shouts, looking around the room with a now frantic gaze.



Rushing through the forest, you can see BigPanda's last message still flashing in your view. The forest around you was mimiced after some of those in South America, thick rain forest spread out in all directions, several layers of canopies stretching out in the fairly realistic view. You can see the training areas flash past you, the playgrounds where they'd taught you to manipulate cyberlimbs that you had absolutely no muscle memory for controlling. It had been hard, but the scientists had been insistent, poking and prodding, dumping you in the playground full of equipment that all required two limbs to manipulate...doors, handles and levers to turn, knobs to be twisted. They'd pushed you through gross motor manipulation, moving on to finer and finer articulation and finger-work until you were able to handle things as adeptly as any small child. And then, experiment mostly completed, they'd...not quite abandoned. They still talked to you, but not with the same intensity, and definitely not with the same care. Around you, you can see the floating icons for several dozen generic hits on your search, too many to sort at the moment and far too many to check individually. The second search, the longer, harder one, leaves you with a small cluster of 5 floating nodes in front of your eyes...that had to be them. No one else would be hidden in this facility.

Ahead of you, a green wall rises up abruptly. Before, it had been camouflaged, impenetrable before you had the right software, the right skills. Now, though, the different color is obvious, and it's with a significant lack of grace that you slam into the door, hands scrabbling at the edges, digging into the metal and peeling it back, leaving rough furrows in the metal that show the code pouring beneath, the complex interplay of algorithms and computations that represented the work being done by the new commlink and the included programs beneath the surface of the interface. Inside, the room is spartan, a concrete command-and-control bunker that resembles the scene from a dozen different trids, probably used because it's fairly well recognized. Arrayed on the walls are twelve glowing green shields, with four more that are dimmed to a dull grey. Three of the lit icons are surrounded in jagged stars. Lined up on the walls are a series of icons of eyes, flat and floating slightly off the surface of the concrete. Square in the center of the room is a waist high table, dim lines and icons dotted around the table, although they're not moving, and the details look like they're probably more an affectation of the icon than any particular information.

<<@Shivan[BigPanda]: ...Shivan?>>



"Oh, sure, people, I got people all over. I mean, Jersey, New York...well, not really in New York anymore, I mean, you heard what happened there, right? So, from up north, huh? You certainly look like you could survive in the cold.

The last part is accompanied by a small laugh, eyes looking into the completely unnecessary rear-view mirror back at you. Another small screech of tires and a slight skid, and she turns and glances back.

"Okay, look hun, this is your stop, and you look like you can handle yourself and all, but this doesn't really look like a great I waiting? You know what, I'll wait."

She slides out of the driver's door, one hand tugging shotgun free from it's holder on the dash as she does. A ratcheting sound, the shotgun sliding up and down in one of the woman's hands, and she's leaning against the side of the car, glancing warily around and at the boarded up building that you're parked in front of. A sharp contrast to the gun metal grey, you can see that her fingernails are manicured, and painted a bright bubblegum pink.

Stretching five stories up into the air, the entire structure looks like it's been boarded up or closed off. The front doors have heavy duty looking sheets of construction plastic sheets stapled to it for reinforcement, and obviously scavenged boards nailed to the inside of the windows all the way around the building. It's an otherwise unremarkable building, except for perhaps that the structure is fairly intact, despite standing in an environment where most buildings over two stories have been severely damaged or even mostly fallen. In the astral, the building sits as a writhing mass of black and red negative karma.



Pressing through the door, bare feet silent on the cold concrete, you can see a small L-shaped hallway. To your left, a door is cracked, and you can see a battered trid entertainment unit showing some sporting event, and it's from there that you can hear the shouts and the cheering, one loud cheer accompanying some motion on the entertainment unit. To your right, the short hallway leads to three doors, one on each wall. You can see a chair just inside the door, probably meant for a guard at the very door you're slipping through, and similar the hallway before, the ground ahead is littered with broken plastic food containers, and a small rivulet of dried blood, maybe weeks or months old, that seems to run from your door straight down the hallway to the right and through the center door.

I think I really need to talk to someone who understands the theory of this sort of thing better than me, it doesn't make sense

As Sean fell out of bed, Boots manifested, confused by Sean's falling and panic.

"Calm down, Sean, I left your chair in the other room when I brought you in here to sleep it off. Do you...uh...need it?"
QUOTE (Fenris @ Oct 14 2012, 10:20 AM) *
<<@Shivan[BigPanda]: ...Shivan?>>
<<@BigPanda[Shivan]: I come. There are many nodes. Be patient.>>

Shivan marvels at how real the forest feels. He can actually feel pebbles and roots scraping against his belly as he zig-zags around nodes that look like giant tropical trees, their branches swaying gently in ebb and flow of data. Other nodes are represented by animals: birds, monkeys, some sort of deer, all flitting about or darting through the foliage from tree to tree. He may never see a real forest, and suspects he would be woefully unprepared to live in one, but here he is a predator.

The green wall appears suddenly and falls just as quickly to the exploit program that manifests as a digital representation of his cyberlimbs.

That was poorly done. If I had more time, I could have accessed it without such brute force.

He slithers into the room, leaves and twigs falling around him. He counts the shields.

Twelve! Where did they all come from? There were never more than two or three before.

He approaches the table, running digital fingers over its surface.

Some sort of map of the facility. If I can locate the ORCA team and the security guards, I can hopefully get them and myself out of here in one piece.

As he examines and manipulates the icon, a separate part of his mind calls out to his drones.

<<@Ferris, Sparrow[Shivan]: Wake up! Time to leave!>>

Two new icons appear in forest near his commlink's node. One is a small speckled brown bird, the other a large rodent.

"Aye, yeah, I frraggin' need it, whai else em Ah supposed ta' do wit'?" His voice is a snarl, the probable remains of at least a bit of the hangover making him his usual irritable self, and pitching his accent to the thick brogue that he always tried to lighten when he was in a better mood.

You can see that his legs are twisted beneath him, and he makes no effort to pull himself up onto them, and he seems to be trying to twist his head up to look at you, but with little success. With more of the incoherent growling he throws his other arm out and starts to drag himself towards the hallway. Two of the dogs whine and sniff around his hand, and he actually slaps one of them across the muzzle as he pulls himself along.



The concrete bunker around you ripples out to be replaced by a forest glen. A shimmering pool replaces the table, an icon you recognize quite clearly as correlation program, one designed to integrate various data feeds together and combine then with some sort of structured locale. The shields on the wall turn into small, dangling figures formed from twigs and branches and leaves, hanging from leather thongs along a branch. Eight of the twelve are human figures with a black band around their middle, and four of the figures are small animals. You instantly recognize them as humans and drones, respectively.

In front of you, the pool ripples as you stretch a hand out and drag fingers across the mirrored surface. The ripples spread and bounce against the shores of the small pool, and images begin to resolve. You can see a detailed map of the facility stretching out in front of you, with drops of water to indicate sprinklers, squares surrounded by hazard stripes indicating the two lockdown areas at the entries, and a cluster of two of the drones and four guards approaching a door which, once you overlay the data on the hidden nodes you found, seems to show the guards approaching your friends.
<<@BigPanda[Shivan]: Guards are coming. I will distract them. Take cover.>>

His digital hands flicker across the pool, touching each of the black banded human figures. Then, with a thought and a little help from his edit program, he flags them as 'hostile'. He then taps the little predatory creatures that represent the security drones and issues a simple command to them all.

<<@Drones[Admin]: Engage target [hostile]>>

How do other nagas survive without arms? he wonders as his fingers fly across the pool tapping the water droplets that indicate the sprinkler icons near the security teams and activating them.

He then touches one of the little door locks and holds it until all the others light up.

<<@Doors[Admin]: Lockdown>>

He pauses a moment while the locks change from green to red, then sticks his head into the pool. He skips rapidly from one camera to the next to see how his plan his working out.

Yuck! Too much 'film at eleven' for me. I'll stick to the overview.

He draws his head out of the pool, still dripping with data and watches the combat on the overview. He uses the time to plan out an escape route for his friends. One that will bring them past his cage. Then, almost as an afterthought, he accesses the HVAC controls and raises the temperature.

It's always too fragging cold in here.

Boots looked confused for a few moments.

How come he can't walk now? Nothing was wrong with his legs... it must be one of those 'biology' things.

"I'm sorry, Sean, I didn't realize what it was. Just wait here, I'll get it for you."

Boots ran off down the hallway and found the Evo Orderly that Beatrix had prepared for him to possess at times when he needed thumbs, then walked it down to the chair and brought it back down the hallway to Sean, then helped him into it.
Taking a few steps back to give herself a little bit of running distance, she springs forward - her feet lightly slapping against the cold concrete still barely making a sound. She angles her shoulder to push her way through the door entering the room. The three men in the room look startled at her sudden appearance. Two were sitting at a small table while another was lounging in a recliner of some sort. All this information flashes through her mind as flips herself forward and lashes out with both feet against the table's edge and sends it sliding into the two men sitting at it. She slaps down with her hands to either side of her body to soften the impact as she falls on her back to the floor.

The pool is a collection of rapidly blinking lights as you trigger the protocols to change the status of the guards, directly the drones to attack immediate nearby 'hostile' targets. As you dip your head into the pool, the first few cameras are blank hallways, lit by the florescents and the strobing red lights of the alarm. The third camera, however, shows a cluster of guards screaming and swinging wildly at huge, hulking, four legged things...dogs, or at least they would be, if they were a little smaller. The huge beasts, with the shining glint of metal flashing under their fur as they dart and rip and tear at the small team, seem to shrug off the rifle butts of the frantic guards. You can hear one of them screaming for override protocols from the computer system, and the high whine of servos as one of the dogs(?) latches onto the arm of one of the guards, ripping it clean off at the shoulder.

Shuddering, you pull yourself back. You can see a small digital readout next to the HVAC system glowing with a translucent bar to indicate how high the temperature will probably get to based on the current setting. Dotting a trail along the map, you lay out a path that directs them right past the lab where your cage resides, and then straight for a door. Unfortunately, based on the guards previous setup, the group will have to travel through either one or the other packs of guards and drones.

<<@Shivan[BigPanda]: Shivan, what's going on? We can hear screaming, but the doors are locked and the sprinklers are going that you?>>


As you help the cursing troll into the chair, you can feel the metal of the drone sway and give a little. Without your bolstering, it would definitely be difficult for the drone to lift Sean's body into the chair. With a final curse, he settles his large hands on the controls and twists the chair away from the bed with the inelegant motions of someone that's not completely used to directing a chair that he's physically sitting in. He rolls out of the room and into the hallway, pausing for a long second to stare at Bea's room before turning away, head hanging as he directs the chair into the kitchen.

"Where'd you go, Boots?", he says, bitterness evident in his voice. "When it went down, when tha' job went south, ya jus' up an' disappeared! Where've ya' been for tha' last four weeks?"

A bottle of cheap Irish whiskey joins a packet of soy bars and flavoring packets on the table, and he struggles a little pulling a bowl out of the dishwasher. "Ya' jus' up and took off!"



Two of the ganger's heads swivel around as you come crashing through the door, "What the FR--"! 's turning to muffled grunts of pain as you launch the table squarely into the two of them, snapping the cheap plastic as they stumble and fall backwards, tangled in the chairs and the pieces of the table.

You can see a single other ganger in the room, another door on the wall next to his chair, and a trid entertainment unit, blaring a 3d projection of an Urban Brawl game hanging 3 feet high and 5 feet wide along the otherwise bare and dingy wall. The third ganger makes no motion to get up or move, and seems completely unaware of the commotion as the other two scramble. You can see brutish, heavy looking pistols tucked into waistbands.
Not waiting to even see how badly injured the other two men are - she throws her legs up and over her head using the momentum to bring herself to her feet. She feels the non-existent weight of the paper medical gown against her skin and knows any shot that connects is going to do damage - damage she could not afford to take. She sees the folding chairs near herself and cartwheels over - gripping the edges and swinging the chair up and over her head intending to use it as a weapon.

Casting a wary eye around the area, the massive guardian pulls the helmet onto his head. Mato looks over Babs, getting a feeling for her aura. The choking filth of this place weighs heavily upon his shoulders.

"Be careful. I want no harm to you."

The bear in human form then shuffles toward the door. One of his large hands close around the handle to see if it is locked. In his other hand, the tomahawk is at the ready to meet whatever comes his way.

Shouting and struggling, the two men on the floor scramble for the weapons shoved so carelessly into clothes before. One of them manages to jerk the ugly looking pistol free of his jeans, snapping off a quick shot that ricochets off the concrete behind you. The second is a little more careful, pulling the weapon free of his pants and actually putting both hands on the pistol as he snaps off his shot, and you can feel the potential for harm winging it's way through the small room towards you.



The building rises up in front of you, an ugly smear on the astral, and not any prettier on the physical plane. Several of the windows seem to sport carefully concealed crevices or cracks, despite their otherwise decrepit and boarded up appearance.

A quick glance behind you at the woman holding the shotgun shows a vibrant, healthy woman of middle years, overlaid with a faint shimmer of some larger figure, medieval garb and the briefest flicker of a shining sword. Her aura burns brightly, very much so for an un-Awakened.



A slight tremor shivers through the space around you, and crows begin to caw from the branches surrounding the pool (system hardware warning!). A series of quick motions tag the ORCA members as friendlies, protecting them from the drones, and you watch as the dots make their way through the now friendly drones, the animals(?) busily engaging the remaining security forces.

A moment later, you see the dots enter the space that represents your lab. One of them remains near the door, and the others move towards the space you know your cage is located within. You blink your eyes open, and --

"Holy frag, that was amazing! I think one of those...those things wanted to lick my hand when I walked by! What did you do?" The words are pouring from a tall, broad-shouldered elf with a shaggy blond haircut and a short goatee and mustache, standing near the bars to your cage. Leaning heavily against him is a human woman, dark hair and eyes, a smear of red across her abdomen. There's a faint trickle of greenish fluid leaking out from the corners of her mouth, and the gaze she directs at you is bleary and unfocused. Further down, near the door to the cage, another figure, smaller, stockier than the rest, is flipping dark goggles over her eyes and holding something that sparked and buzzed up to the lock on the door.

"We're gonna have that cut free in just a sec, don't you worry." The elf's eyes are locked on you, and you can see a smile tugging at the corners of his lips, despite the context of the situation. "It's good to finally meet you, Shivan. I'm Big Panda. Oh, and this is Gaia's Sister, G for short." he says, almost belatedly, with a motion to the woman tucked against his side.
Letting the chair pull her to the side, she compresses her main body mass to as small of a target as possible hoping it will be enough.
Shivan draws himself up, his head coming level with that of the shaggy-haired elf. He is initially filled with a sense of pride, but it quickly turns to a mix of guilt, horror and confusion as one of the dog drones pads silently into the room. It's maw and claws drip with blood and gore.

I killed them. They would have killed my friends. I had no choice. But I still killed them.

He tastes the air, getting the scents of the three individuals, plus the sharp electric tang of the cutting torch and the oily taste of blood. He recoils slightly in his cage before composing himself. Still, the words tumble out of his mouth in a series of rapid-fire statements.

"The commlink you were able to get to me iss very good. I hope Janet did not get into trouble bringing in the componentss. I have not sseen any of the sscientisstss for many dayss. I wass able to take control of the ssecurity ssysstem. I do not think I raissed any alertss but we sshould leave quickly. Thank you for coming to resscue me. Gaia'ss Ssisster is hurt. I believe there iss a first aid kit in the cabinet over there."

A metal arm unfolds itself from his back, seemingly moving with a mind of it's own. It points to one of the cabinets in corner of the lab.Then, it's task complete, it folds itself away again. He glances at the dog drone standing patiently waiting for instructions.

"Can we take the dog drones with us? Ferriss and Ssparrow too?"

A little Ferret drone and an MCT Fly Spy move out of the gloom to Shivan's side, the Fly Spy hovering near his head.

As the dwarf finishes cutting through the lock, Shivan turns his attention to it. His head drops down to the same level as the dwarf's and he stares at the cutting goggles concealing the dwarf's eyes.

"I am Shivan. You are a dwarf, yess? Are you male or female? What are you called?"

Even though he knows that it wasn't his fault, Sean's words still make Boots feel guilty.

"I'm so sorry I haven't been here when you needed me, Sean. That explosion disrupted me - it banished me back to the metaplanes for 28 days. It took me this long before I could return, but I came as soon as I could."

You can hear a scuffle just inside as your massive hand closes around the door.



Condensed as you are, you can hear the whistle and whine of the shots as they ricochet around the small space, sliding past your body by spare inches. You can see the men scrambling to regain their footing. Beside you, the single figure in the chair sits, comatose, a thin line of drool leaking down his jaw. The world around you contracts, that familiar mix of adrenaline and training that seems to line the world up in a neat, orderly succession when you're in combat.




BigPanda laughs, eyes locked on you as you rattle off the statements, nodding, a spill of words tumbling out to match your own.

"No, that's great, you did fine! I was amazing! You were great! Of course you can bring your to...friends." He nods rapidly as you finish, turning to look behind him at the wall, and releasing the bars to stumble over to the wall, pulling the kit from it's clearly marked red-stickered safety zone and returning to fall to his knees next to the wounded woman slumped against the cage. He tugs pieces out and rapidly sets them down, sliding a strap with a band over her wrist, watching the various readouts as they start spewing instructions.

The dwarf looks up at you and starts as she suddenly realizes you're only a few inches away from her face.
"Wha! Oh, err, yeah. A dwarf. Name's Stump. Now, stand back." She rises to her feet, takes a half-step back and gives the cage door a solid kick that connects right at the cut lock, slamming the cage open abruptly.
The filth and taint of the area weighs on Mato. He feels it pull and tear at the edges of his senses. It wears on the connection he has with the ancient spirits of his tribe. Inside, the sounds of a scuffle. This place smelled of the struggle between strong and weak. Too many had suffered here to allow the predations to continue.

Slinging the tomahawk over his shoulder, the bear growls in his throat. From human vocal cords, it is a coughing bark more than the stentorian growl of a grizzly bear.

Mato pulls his hands into a double handed fist and slams them into the door, smashing the steel with repeated blows.

Sean stares at your ghostly figure for a moment, something raging behind his eyes. He stretches a hand out to pet you, but of course, it just passes right through your form. A whining head the size of a stewpot pushes up and under Sean's hand, and he tugs the huge dog close and buries his face in the ruff of the dog's neck for a moment, body shaking silently. Eventually, he lifts red-rimmed eyes and sniffs, loudly.

"It's okay, Boots. I know ye' came as fast as ya' could. Truth is, figured tha' blast us, figured it did you in too. I'm jus' glad ta' have ya' home." He noisily blows his nose on his sleeve and turns back to his cereal, scoping out huge spoonfuls, the fomori's hand wrapped around what would be a serving spoon for most people.

"Look, it's good tha' ya' came back. I'm planning something, something to score me a lil' money and pay the bills for a while so's I can figure out wha' ta' do next. You can help mightily."

He begins to outline a plan, obviously something he's been thinking about for a while. He could crack the security on cars easy, but he couldn't physically drive them away, and most of the nice ones that he could get good prices for didn't have rigger adaptions. With Boots inside something with arms and legs, it would be cake to crack them and drive them away. Sean could track down the specific models they needed over the Matrix, and then they could go to right where it would be alone for a little while.



The door shivers on it's hinges at the first blow, cracking and splintering in crazy angles at the second and third, your assault leaving it shattered and broken, scattered around your feet. Inside, you can see people scattering out of your way, filthy in both the physical world and the astral, signatures shot through with swirls of violence and greed. A small antechamber faces the door, two silvery metal doors set into the wall two meters ahead. To your left and right, short corridors lead to stairways heading up and down. You can see at least one person scrambling up the stairway on all fours, and you can hear shouts from further up the stairs on both sides.

Behind you, Babs whistles. "Day-yum, hun, you shure put a hurtin' on that thing. Hey, buddy, quit starin' and starting truckin'. Nuttin' to see here, moveitalong."



You can hear several thumps and a sudden crash, followed by more shouting from somewhere else in the building. The two men pause their struggles and glance at each other for a moment before renewing their efforts to get untangled and to their feet.
The noise rings through the room and she feels the tightening of dread along her body - more combatants is not the solution to her current problem. A small ripple of relief passes through her when she sees no look of recognition pass through the men she faces, She continues her movement and another shock passes through her at her speed as she swings around carrying the chair up and over her head to bring it down hard across their prone forms. She feels the energy along her limbs and realizes the other people in the room are moving so slowly compared to her.
"It's OK, Sean, I understand. You didn't know where I was or when I was coming back - the important thing is that we stick together now."

Boots listened to the plan. He didn't quite follow the technical details of Sean's explanation of rigger adaptations, but he got the basic idea: Sean would open the cars, Boots would drive them off. And they certainly would need the money.

"Sounds like a good plan to me. It even gives us a ready-made fall guy; if things go bad, I can bug out and everyone will probably assume it was whoever I possessed. I take it you know someone who'll pay us for the stolen cars?"


"Sean...I know it hurts to talk about, but I need to know what happened to Beatrix. Are you completely sure she's dead? How did you get out? Have you already looked into if someone set us up or sold us out? I was stuck in Alfhame, I have no idea what's been happening here."

I'd better explain the possession to him too... I wish I knew exactly what was going on.
Shivan surges out of the cage. His body is long, almost eight meters in length and in his excitement, his body snakes around and over the dwarf and the nearby equipment tables. The two small drones follow after him, dodging around the items he knocks over as he goes, while the big dog stands passively at the door awaiting instructions.

"I'm free! At lasst. Thank you, thank you. We sshould leave, the other dogss are holding off the ssecurity but more will ssertainly come!"

He slithers over to one of the cabinets and pulls out a strange looking coat. It resembles a cross between a parka and a sleeping bag and is clearly armored. Shivan's arms unfold and move with a disjointed grace, unlike anything a human would do, as he slips his arms into the coat. It just about covers the top two meters of his long body and reads 'Property of New Age Biotech' in large letters on the back.

"My armss are experimental and eassily damaged" he explains. "This coat will protect them. My heart and lungss too. It will alsso help to keep me warm. I do not like the cold."

He moves around, stuffing small items of equipment into the jacket's pockets. Then, realising the chaos he is causing, he settles down somewhat near to the drone dog and coils his tail under himself. One metal hand reaches out to pat it lightly on the head and scratch behind it's ears like he had seen on the trid. He remains quiet, head tilted to one side as he watches Big Panda treat his injured companion.

Iss sshe going to be okay?

You whip the chair down with blinding speed, catching one of them full in the face. With a splash of blood from a busted lip and nose, he slumps back to the ground. As you whirl the chair around for the second strike, the other one scrambles free of the table debris, just barely avoiding the brunt of the folded plastic weapon.



"She's gone. I saw her, after, when the Doc Wagon was taking us away." He barks out a laugh.

"I always told her tha' contract was a waste of perfictly good moneh'. She paid fer mine and hers anywah." He hangs his head at the questions, giving a quick shake and turning back to the table, not glancing in your direction.

"It was too dangerous, I know tha' know. I shoulda known then, Bea told us so. There's naught else to be said on the matter." He immediately launches back into the details of his new plan, talking about his contact, Fleet, whom had explicitly told him that he would immediately accept cars from a specific list, if Sean could take them to a specific location.



The small crew scatters as you frolic in the lab, with Stump and the other member scattering and dodging around the room, trying to avoid nearly 30 feet of muscular snake body. BigPanda looks up and chuckles, obviously amused, before his attention is pulled back down to the medkit. It beeps, finally, and he settles back, packing the materials away as Gaia's Sister blinks groggily and starts to sit up.

"She's gonna make it. The kit, I mean...Thank you. I don't know how we could have done it without you." He helps her to her feet, and she stares at you, at the full length of you, something like surprise in her features.

Under your hand, the dog is preternaturally still. It doesn't react to the petting either way, neither accepting or rejecting, and showing no signs that he feels the motion at all.

"So, you're real, huh?" she says finally.

"I was starting to wonder. I'm Gaia's Sister, this is BigPanda, that's Stump, and that's Windbrother," she points to the tall, taciturn AmerIndian figure standing near the door, having regained his position after you stopped cavorting around the room. Stump and Windbrother give small nods of recognition.

"Okay, okay, so we've got to get out of here. BP, do we have a plan?". She listens as BigPanda details out the route you'd shown him, nodding to Stump as she does.

"Sounds good. Let's go ahead and move, then. Where's my shotgun?" She turns towards the door as a BigPanda hands over her weapon, and she checks the chamber and loads a round with a practiced motion. Around the room, Stump is moving quickly, setting down small grey blocks dotted with black flecks, fiddling with each for a second, and then moving on.
"Sounds like a good plan, then. Before we get started, there's a few things you should know. I know you know about as much about metaphysics as I know about those computer things you work with - but you were right about me not coming back. Normally, a familiar whose master dies is gone, but I'm still here. I think it's because Bea would have wanted me to stick with you.

"We seem to be linked in some way - not the same way I was Bea's familiar, because you aren't a magician. I'm not sure why it happened, but when you're asleep, I possess you whether I intend to or not. I expect it's so I can protect you - it means you don't need to worry about your safety while you're asleep. I don't know exactly how we are linked, but it seems like the sort of thing you'd want to know about."
Crackling flames spread out from Mato's hands. Looking around, he sees the pain and fear laced through the air.

"Ama said this is the place for answers. Give me the hunter and you may leave. Travel the path like coyotes and seek easier prey. Scavenge other places."

The massive man made many trolls look small by comparison. He stands watching the movement around him o determine the differences of predator and prey.

Sean seems to take a long moment to digest this information, chewing and swallowing down several oversized scoops of SCREAMING OLLIE IRISH O'S™.

"So, how does this possession thing work, than? Ya' just come into me body and lay in bed while I'm sleeping? Or do you get into the chair and roll around, or...? And...kin ya see my thoughts, or whatever, while you're in there?"

Sean continues to press for details about possession, digging into all the angles with the focus that made him a credible hacker when he was working with Bea before, and the bent of a criminal digging for an edge he can use.



There's a moment of stillness as you stand, filling the doorway, and then you can hear a shout off to your left.

"I dunno who the frag you're looking for, freak, but you're gonna regret busting down that door!"
Upon hearing Mato's voice she feels a stirring of hope - at least one person here was an ally and he may know more about where she was or what was going on. All this flashes through her mind as she let the momentum of the chair turn her body and lashes out with the energy transferred through her body and into a kick aimed at the other gunmen's stomach as she cries out as loudly as she can. She sees the kick is unfocused and curses herself for allowing her attention to slip from this fight - the weight of the paper gown moving along her skin drives home the point how precarious her position was.

"Mato! In here!"

Boots patiently explained how possession worked, as well as he could - making sure to emphasize that he couldn't read Sean's mind or otherwise interfere with his thoughts.

Twisting around on the ground to avoid Ama's strike, the chair cracks as it strikes the stained concrete floor, splinters of plastic bouncing off of walls and the ganger. Seeing Ama shouting at the noise from elsewhere in the building, the remaining ganger looks panicked, and starts adding his own straining voice to the mix.

"That fragger's here for the Body! Don't let them get together, she's shouting at him, he's here for the fraggin' Body!"



You hear a metallic tink, tink as a small, cylindrical object bounces off the stairwell to your left and rolls past you several meters.



Sean listens somewhat impatiently as you try to explain, but it's obvious that his lack of magical knowledge has him lost really before you begin. He seems to pick up on your emphasized details, giving a great sigh of relief at hearing that you can't read his mind or anything like that. His face darkens, however, when he realizes that you can get up and walk around in his body when you're possessing him, cursing roundly and tossing the bowl and spoon into the sink with enough force to crack the cheap plastic dish. He directs the chair back away from the table, still fuming.

"Okay, fine, that's great. Look, I'm gonna do a bit more prep work, get some stuff lined up fer' us, and we'll head out ta-nigh. Can you take care of tha dogs?"
"Sure thing. Look, Sean, I know it's awkward having someone else walking your body around while you're sleeping - but you know you can trust me not to do anything to you. I'll get myself ready to go."

Boots tried to piece together some plans while making sure the dogs were properly taken care of.

There's more to this - that elf, Sean's friends - but I don't think now is the time to bring it up. I can't blame Sean for being upset about the possession, but maybe he'll just get used to the idea. And it's best we have some money on hand to grease palms with before we start poking our heads anywhere. I think Elinee would be a good person to talk to - maybe she can help figure out why me and Sean got linked like this, perhaps it has something to do with that elf?

The next few hours passes fairly uneventfully. If you check in on Sean, you'll find him slumped in his chair near his bed, apparently unconscious or asleep, though you obviously aren't being drawn into his body. He'll wake a few hours later and come looking for you.

"Alright, it's good, I've got one. Follow along, just stay...ya' know, out of sight."

He wheels the chair out of the house and down a recently constructed ramp to the street, rolling several blocks to a bustop for a line that didn't directly service the house. When the bus pulled up, a series of quick and sure motions by automated arms directed Sean's chair up and into the rolling glass-and-plastic edifice.

"Just give me a heads-up before you're ready for me to grab the car, so I can find a vessel."

Okay, remember, the move pedal is on the right, stop is on the left.

Boots followed behind Sean, staying on the astral plane and keeping watch on the manascape.
Mato lumbers down the stairs toward where Ama was calling him. Stomping down the stairs he sees the ganger twisting and shouting. A massive paw wreathed in fire swings down on the ganger.

"Ama they throw cans at us."
Shivan silently watches Stump as she plants the devices around the room. As each device is activated another node appears on the naga's AR display and is slaved to the dwarf's commlink.

"Are thosse explossive devicess?"

As he watches, he continues to stroke the dog drone. His metal fingers move in time to his digital ones, editing the dog drone's dogbrain to slave it to his commlink.

Is there anything left of the dog, I wonder? Or is it simply a biological drone?

His digital fingers probe deeper into the dog's node, looking for any hint of the beast itself. As he digs around the dog's node, a sudden thought occurs to him. He glances from Stump to Lady Gaia, BigPanda and finally the big indian, WindBrother, who is standing behind him in the doorway.

"Where is number five?" he asks aloud as he scans the map in his head for the missing hidden node.

The bus travels into steadily more populated areas for about an hour and a half. Eventually, Sean wheels out and into the aisle and off the bus again, seemingly irritated at how long it took the arms to unlead him in his wheel chair. He had glanced around frequently during the bus trip, as if trying to catch a glimpse of you, and he waited now just long enough for the bus to be out of sight and other riders to disperse before he whispered, "Boots? Boots, are ya' there, boy?"


Ama and Mato
The large man's massive fist slams into the ganger on the ground with an audible crack of bone and cartilage. The man groans and curls up into a fetal ball on the floor. Around both of you, the room is suddenly cramped. The trid unit against the wall continues to blare out the Urban Brawl game, and the scent of unwashed bodies and cheap soyfood is cloying in the still air.



Stump chuckles as she continues moving quickly around the room. "You better believe they're explosive devices!" Her voice is tinged with glee as she finishes setting the last one and joins Gaia's Sister and BigPanda near the door that marked the first step of the exit route you'd planned out.

Under your head, your fingers twitch involuntarily as you dive into the node attached to the security dog. The interior is featureless black space. Hanging in the void to the left is a pillar of gleaming steel, positioned in front of a bank of console monitors, a thin, silvery trail leading off from each monitor out and into the darkness. The pillar is dotted with fast moving articulated arms, and you can see them reach out to periodically touch a portion of one of the displays, touching controls related to whatever might be on those screens. Off to the right is a metal cage. The interior is ringed with mirrors, all pointed inwards, and you can see a dog trapped inside, constantly spinning to confront one image or another, snapping and growling before spinning to yet another image. The process doesn't seem to ever stop.

Out in the Real World™, G turns at your question. "Silent Moon is...dealing with the leftovers." Prompted by her comment, you flicker internal eyes back to the pool of water, and you can see signals that represent biomonitor readings on both scientists and guards flickering out. Murray, the scientists that had come by to handle maintenance on your arms...Jenna, the young researcher that was fascinated with the idea of not having arms and constantly came to talk to you about it...One by one, each person and drone logged into the network was being flatlined.
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