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Cutty nods patiently as he listens to Jawsey.

"A man goes to the doctor," Cutty says when Jawsey is done. "He says, 'Doc, it hurts when I do this.' The doc says, 'Don't do that.'" Then Cutty gives a belly laugh.

When he's done laughing, he asks to see Jawsey's sword. He draws it and considers it.

"Ah, so that's what this is,"
he says. "I didn't get a good look at it. Now I see." He gives it a few swishes in the air.

"Fencing lessons were a smart choice. It's not unlike a Pariser, an pe. Quite stiff, good for thrusting. Be careful with slashing or it may bend or break."

He passes it back to Jawsey.

"Up to you," he says. "Although the general principles apply to both. Sheath off for lethal, sheath on for non-lethal. Here, let me show you a riposte that I like. It's a flick of the wrist that immediately transitions from a parry to a counterattack. See? Watch this. A simple twist and the defender has the right of way and may immediately attack. The height of subtlety, leading to surprise."

It all looks so devilishly simple when Cutty does it. And, in fact, Jawsey finds the move quite accessible. As the action is largely contained to his wrist, Jawsey does not need to twist or turn his back. Within minutes he can execute the wrist-work precisely, although some of the compound footwork may require some more attention to master.

Cutty nods, satisfied with Jawsey's progress. In addition to his encyclopedic knowledge of martial arts, Cutty is an accomplished instructor. He makes things look easy, and then breaks them down to the point where they are easy.

"Smart of you," Cutty says to Jawsey, "to avoid being in a fight in the first place. If I had kids, I'd want them to have something else. But I figure a lot of kids around here don't have anything else, so they might as well have this. Worked okay for me. It puts soy on the table, enough so that I can die old."

It's unclear if Cutty is implying that he's old now, or if he's referring to some uncertain point in the future.
Bobby was a lot more tense than he normally would be - mainly because this was practice and not actually combat where he could just cut loose. Learning something new required him to supress his instincts - which in turn made him more clumsy than usual. On the other hand, he liked Cutty - and for the first time in a long time he didn't really feel the urge to compete with the older, more experienced man. All this time he had known on an instinctual level that he was able to win every fight, except his last. Maybe it was living with three other people who just accepted him as he was. Maybe it was because he had actually experienced what it was like to help people - without any ulterior motive. Or maybe, because that fragging spirit had perverted one of his core memories.
Whatever the reason was, he really did not want to frag this up. So he held back and let the man actually teach him something. The new technique was useful, more elegant than his usual brute force attempt. A small advantage, but possibly essential.
"Teaching? I'd have to learn first how to do that. And maybe meditate a lot more so I don't frag up pupils that give me lip. But you can count on me when I have spare time. I like that place already. Next time we can work on my footwork - I want to learn that sweep you used. Could be useful if I want to take someone out without killing them."

Bobby was surprised to hear the last words from his own mouth. When had he developed compunctions about killing people?

When Jawsey stepped up, Bobby did his best to encourage his friend: "Ey Jawsey, you got this!"
Seeing AM vent at the punching bag, he stepped up and kept it still from the other side. And since he had been asked to think about teaching he even said: "Something eating at you? Use the lower part of your palm more or you'll frag up your fingers."
AM responds, Fists..." she takes a breath to finish the next sentence [color=cyan]"the gun is not ready for melee fighting don't want to damage the electronics. she does not lift her eye from her target, and she keeps punching the bag with all her zeal. She is always calculated, even when she wants to vent it all out, melee hardened gun is more money to spend, and money is time, and she would not spend money for nonsense until she pays Bobby everything she owes him.

Boxing is for fun, magic and firearms are likely enough for all but the direst situations, and disarming her would not really disarm her.
"Fists it is," Cutty says. "But, for future reference, I'm not talking about striking with the gun. I'm talking about how to keep your gun when someone is up in your face."

He joins Bobby and AM.

"Boxing, eh?" Cutty muses. "I'm going to be honest, boxing is the least likely to be useful in a street fight." Then he leans into AM to whisper something conspiratorially, "But it's also my favorite."

He leans back out. "Krav Maga or Wildcat will save your hoop in a gutter fight, but the sweet science will save your life outside of a fight. It did for me anyway."

Cutty corrects AM's stance, moving her feet. "People think that boxing is all about fists, but it starts with your feet. Your footwork controls the space, creates angles, and helps you dictate terms. Your feet are your foundation. Like magic and mana, your might comes from the Earth. The power starts at your feet, travels up your legs, through your core, and then down your arms to your fist."

He moves her fists. "Hands up by your face, knuckles facing the sky. Keep your elbows tucked in to your sides; protect your ribs and core. When you throw a punch, return to this guard position immediately. Speed first, strength second. Snap your punches. Just a quick lash out. SNAP! SNAP!" He snaps his fingers with concussive force that reverberates through the large room.

Cutty shows AM how to jab. "The jab is the key punch. It should be hard and stiff and travel in a straight line. This is how you gauge range and distance. How your opponent reacts will tell you what to do next; it will expose all their weaknesses." AM feels Iktomi buzz with excitement at the prospect. "Once you have it established, it sets up other punches and combinations."

Cutty quickly wraps AM's hands, then fetches a small pair of old gloves from one of the numerous boxes laying around. He puts them on her fists, then puts on some focus pads on his own hands so that AM can strike a cushioned surface.

"Let's see some. SNAP! SNAP! Good!"

This is, dare AM say it, fun? The POP when she jabs the target pads is tremendously satisfying.

"Fists back to guard position!" Cutty instructs, catching a moment of slowness to lash out with unbelievable speed. Before AM can blink, Cutty has stopped his fist a centimeter from her liver. "Your fists will bounce a bit when your punch connects. Use that kinetic energy to return to your guard before you do anything else. Defense first, attack second," he says. "The surest way to win a boxing match isn't to damage your opponent beyond repair, but to protect yourself at all times and to avoid unnecessary harm. A good lesson for life too."
AM accepts advice from Bobby and comments, and nods. When the lesson from Cutty starts, she remains silent and accepts without questioning or commenting on anything he has to give her. She has nothing to say. She is an empty vessel, low enough for the water to flow to her. No ego the way the Trickster would want her, there is no past, there is no future, the entire world boils down to this specific moment where she needs not to be punched and return to stance, and not stumble. Luckily for her, her body is much more responsive than normal, and she feels less fragile than she normally would.

When she is exhausted, she stops and goes for some water. She realizes that she is sweaty and feels a bit uncomfortable, suddenly aware of herself, but none of the guys seems to care, so she says nothing and drinks. "It was just what I needed. I'll come again if you have patience for me. It feels good to work out... but before you answer. Know that I am also Shaman Maka of Iktomi and that the spirit of wisdom, mischief, and trickery takes a close interest in my life, and by proxy in people around me. I will understand if you prefer me to keep a safe distance, and I will respect your wishes.
"Ha!" Cutty barks a laugh.

"Wakȟŋ Tȟŋka is strong here. Come back and bring Iktomi with you. The martial arts have plenty of room for wisdom, mischief, and trickery. In many ways, those are the core elements."
AM feels surprised "These are the core elements? she says, and then adds I am genuinely amazed at how much of the great Spider remains hidden from me." It takes a moment for Cutty's words to sink in, and then she smiles a genuine and very rare smile Many thanks Cutty

While AM's logical mind insists that it is a coincidence she feels that Iktomi asks her to study martial arts as a means to better understand him. It somehow makes sense in her mind that the Trickster would lead her on the most amusing path.

Oh, I'll study martial arts great Destroyer. She committed to herself, but deep down AM knows that it all could be one big fat joke on her account. She can never know when the trickster spirit is serious. However, with all the suffering and mischief that Iktomi has already inflicted upon her, making a fool out of herself was a small price to pay for getting closer.
Watching Cutty work with AM, something clicks in Jawsey's mind and he starts paying close attention indeed. That posture, that patter, and there is something about how he moves ... it is too much to capture in one lesson, but if he keeps coming back he thinks he can learn. As a bonus he'll learn more about proper use of his cane, but the real prize is being able to imitate Curry's commanding presence and confident movements to make others less confident in attacking him.
Bobby went back to the watercooler to refresh himself. He had to admit that this place was a lot better equipped than their washroom back at SIS - and allowed for much heavier training.
While he thought about instructing others, he had to admit that he liked the idea more and more. It had been a while that he had advanced his skills in a meaningful way. Dealing with newbies might just be what he needed to get off the plateau.

"Tell you what, Cutty: I'll come over during downtime at SIS and help out with training. But I'd like to set up a bit of Parkour training on the sides. Moving about quickly is nearly as important as being able to stand your ground around here. And training kids to run away fast might help them in the long run more than just throwing punches."

'Huh? When did I come to that realization?' Bobby wondered after the words had left his mouth. 'I might be getting soft - better get that training going then.'
Mato returns from his travels, initially disappointed by his lack of success. "She's in the wind," he says of Bonita. "Who would have thought that a dozen gangers would be able to drop off the grid so effectively?" He looks half affronted, half amazed.

His mood brightens considerably when he finds out about Cutty and the new gym. "That's great!" he exclaims and rushes over to check it out immediately.

"They have a big, flat roof over there," he explains when he returns, even though that would be obvious to anyone looking at the building. "I think it's an opportunity. I've been studying some rooftop gardening ever since we saw that greenhouse on top of Pike Hall."

Rooftop gardening is probably not what most people expect when they see Mato, but every man needs a hobby.

"We can do a small one on our roof but our place doesn't have a big enough footprint to be very productive. Cutty must have at least half an acre up there, maybe even three-quarters.

"Acid rain is going to be the biggest hurdle,"
he continues, scratching his head. "There's a lot of bullet holes in the roof too, probably from people shooting into the sky on New Years'. I'll need to patch those up."

He snap his fingers, a strange metal-on-metal clicking sound.

"OR... I wonder if I could leverage some of those holes to run irrigation lines up to the roof. Redmond water isn't exactly clean but neither is rain water..."

Outside of this project, Mato is an eager student of Okichitaw. Cutty shows him the basics but then it falls to Bobby to reinforce them.

"I want to work on that counter again," Mato says. "Katya - the Russian merc - did it so smoothly. One moment I'm the one attacking, the next moment - the next instant, really - I'm the one being attacked. It was mostly luck that she missed. I want to know how to do that too. Just, you know, actually connecting when I do it."
AM replies "If you are serious about gardening then I can purify the rainwater with ritual magic. They'll be as pristine as in the time of our ancestors. I'll be honored to study the old rituals and spells for this purpose. Besides, if you grow food on the roof it will be healthier than the crappy processed food we all eat. "

[ Spoiler ]
"Farming? Here? You'd have to bring a drekton of limestone up on the roof to neutralize the acid rain. Not sure if that building can take that. Especially if the earth soaks up a lot of water. Better run a few of those numbers before you start." Bobby showed once again a surprising amount of insight for somebody who spend most of his time running around as various critters. But then, his mind stayed human - and he certainly had a lot of time to think while running about.

At AM's suggestion he nodded: "I'll help you with that if I can, but I suspect it's easier for you to perform that ritual on the ground and we just pick up the cleaned dirt and put it on the roof."

When Mato came for sparring, it was obvious that he outclassed Bobby thanks to his chrome. Still, Bobby had a few tricks to keep it interesting.
"That counterstrike technique is based mainly on one thing: Fast things hurt more than slow things. If someone wants to hit you, quite often they start by pulling back. They do that so that they can increase the distance to you, which gives them more time to accellerate and therefore a higher end speed. If you time it right, that gives you a little window of opportunity where you can intercept their strike before they get a good head of steam. At the very least, their strike will hurt less. So the most important thing about that technique is not to be afraid to get hurt by running into that swinging bat. Any hesitation and you come to late to do anything about that 200 km/h fast end of their big stick. Get in early and you stop it at 10km/h halfway down its full length. So, quick jabs at the points that count instead of long wind ups, telegraphing where you want to land a devastating blow.
My reflexes are magically enhanced, so despite me not being the most graceful guy, I generally have no problem getting my timing right. So let's give it a try."
"Well that's what I'm saying though," Mato tells Bobby. "What if we do a greenhouse instead, like on top of Pike Hall? It provides controlled and consistent environment, which would help protect from acid rain so we don't need a drekton of limestone. But if you do that then you need to provide irrigation. Then we're back to the question of whether we can decontaminate rain water, making the pH suitable, or whether we can run drip lines up from the plumbing running through the warehouse below.

"Have you passed over Pike Hall yet? You should fly over it sometime, check it out, tell me what you think."

When it's time for training, Mato nods with Bobby's explanation.

"I get the physics of it, mass times acceleration. I'm good at the acceleration part: I can hit with the kinetic force of a gunshot... although Katya shrugged me off." He scowls. This memory eats at him, how he hit a defenseless opponent as hard as he could... to no effect. He tries to tell himself that it would have been different if he has been using his cyberspur. Perhaps that's true, but still. His pride is wounded, his confidence shaken.

"I can take a hit," he continues, "not that I want to." And not like Katya, he thinks. "The limbs are carbon fiber and titanium, both of which have better shock absorption than steel. The pain receptors will scream proportionately, so it won't even hurt much if I take a baseball bat to the elbow.

"It's the technique I need to work on, the instant transition from defense to offense. I need help with that flow, to be moving one direction and then all of a sudden moving the opposite way. Show me again..."
"That should work. It's high enough up that people can't easily break it - except by shooting at it, so at least for the sides we need transpex plates. That will be some investment. On the other hand I really love the idea of fresh produce. That leaves us with getting a thin cover of soil up there as well as a drip feed irrigation and some kind of watertower.

Yeah, I'll take a flyover to that place. Speaking of which: What about that drone you managed to grab? Any idea how we can turn that into an asset for us? In my wild, misspent youth I went on a ride along for a bunch of car boosters. They had a truck where they changed ownership of the cars while they drove through the wilderness. My job was to run interference against critters and spirits. As long as the previous owner is out of the picture it's usually pretty straight forward. Fun fact: They all start their work at exactly 2100h. Kinda a "you can't catch us all" measure in the industry. The authorities can't react to all attempts. And a lot of them actually just have drones doing the work anyway - just a swarm of them working together. Pretty neat operation.
In any case"
, Bobby showed Mato again the stance, "Let's focus on this for the moment. Force of a gunshot isn't particularly impressive if people are wearing bodyarmor. I bet my best strike wouldn't do much more than inconvenience you - at least not in my current form. And you aren't filled up to the gills with deltaware like those special agents the rich can afford. There's little you can do beside getting a can opener to crack their shells. Or have friend who can just levitate them or turn them into an elephant seal. Always funny to see them flop around."

When the session ended, Bobby called for a team meeting:

"So, we talked about the magical group earlier. Are you in? The theory sounds quite easy if we don't want to turn it into a magical club house with dozens of codes and strictures and what not.
Mato, I know it wouldn't help you out that much, but you could improve your theory as well if you take part in the sessions. I at least need a few more initiations to get some natural armor in all my forms. A group would certainly help me with that.
AM responds, "I can transfer ownership. I'll need some equipment but I can do it. It is not without risk however, GOD may come after us. I'll need security, so you'll need to keep there for several hours, and it is a race against the clock. If I finish all the illegal updates before GOD understands what I am doing the device is ours, otherwise we'll need to handle their attention. I'll need all the help you can land me physically or mentally for finishing quickly. Make sure that I always have the right tool, and that I am never distracted. Whatever happens keep me working, no small talk it is a race against time but we cannot know for certain how much time there is.
"Yeah, an investment..." Mato says, clearly rolling over the numbers in his head.

"Maybe I'll pay a visit to the Plastic Jungles. They basically created greenhouses out of discarded bioplastic sheeting, wood, thatching and whatever other materials they could scavenge. Could be some good lessons there."

Mato looks over Bobby. "They distrust humans though. 'Norms' or 'normies' they say. Maybe you could come as a parrot on my shoulder! That would fit right in with the tropical and semitropical vegetation they have growing over there."

Conversation turns to the captured drone. There's talk about it over tea and soykaf at the kitchen table at SIS.

"Road trip?" Mato asks, holding a mug of soykaf with his beloved milk in it. "Would be nicer in the spring or summer than in January. Do we need to be on the move constantly or just in the wilderness? Cascade Ork lands are just across the border and this kind of thing is right up their alley.

"What do we need? A satellite uplink? The proper toolkit? Is this the kind of thing that can be done in the backseat of the Americar or do we need to rent a Bulldog or something with some more elbow room?"

You can tell that his wheels are turning, trying to figure out how much this drone will cost. He's not saying no, especially since many of the required items are investments that can be reused in the future, but a habit of frugality is not easily left behind.

As for the magical group:

"I'll let you three figure that out. I'd be more of a drag than a boost, and I wouldn't get much out of it personally. We already have three experts in arcana; we hardly need a fourth.

"I'll keep watch while you meet. If someone finds out about the timing of monthly meetings then it could be an opportunity for them to strike. I can just imagine the Halloweeners firebombing us while everyone is in a trance. I'll stand guard instead."
"I think satellite connection in the wilderness would be most secure. Who knows, maybe we are lucky and get this done in just two hours.
Anyway, I'm always up for a roadtrip.
But let's to the ritual thing first. You never know what happens out in the country. "

Bobby replied to AM

"Using foil and trash is an option, but we need the right kind. UV stabilized stuff doesn't let in enough of the right wavelength for the plants. Also we really need to take a look at the roof first to determine if you can actually walk up there. Let me tell you that I've visited enough rooftops in Seattle that I wouldn't trust to carry more than a few pidgeons at a time."
"Alright, let's form a mystical bond. My approach is to make the most basic contract and trust our arcane knowledge to avoid strictures that may be uncomfortable in the future. That is, unless we want our Totems as part of the group, which would complicate the process"
"Fair. Let's set it up in the living room - we'll need enough space to move."
Bobby replied, getting ready to fetch the bag of reagents he kept for especially taxing occastions.
AM suggests "We can do the ritual at the magical lodge, and it would be quicker and cheaper. She scribes a quick contract on her deck, forcing only good behavior and mutual help between the cycle members but no attendance, or exclusive membership in case they'll ever want to join another magical society.

[ Spoiler ]
Mato scratches his head and looks around, trying to make himself useful.

"So what do you need for the ritual?" he asks. "A chicken? I don't think I can get a live one, but what about a pigeon? Would a pigeon work?"
"We will need a symbol of growth and prosperity to represent our potential... Perhaps a seed would work...
She thinks as she plans the ritual... Definitely seeds if we can get some... some earth to sow the seeds... and clean bottled water from a natural spring to represent the purity of our intents.

She writes that down in her deck and then continues. We can sow the seeds... Mato, can you find out which seeds are best to sow this time of the year? The spirits would smile at us if the seeds take root. "
Looking pensive she adds "We will need something to symbolize the Wolf as wolves hunt in packs, and they work together toward a common goal. It would symbolize our commitment to helping each other and our common desire for knowledge., We need a symbol of belonging, I will need from each of you a small item that represents you, and then I will bind these items together and form a small trinket out of them to symbolize our bond.

She thinks for a moment. "I will draw a dream catcher on a data chip to represent my desire for technology and my commitment to past tradition. Each of you should come up with something that you connect to. It can be anything really.

She spends some time on her deck mentally forming a basic contract, and saying We will follow the shamanic path for rituals, stating blessing and respecting all the great Sioux spirits. We will seek their guidance in unlocking the knowledge of our ancestors. Then we will make an offering to each spirit of a magical reagent to power the ritual, as well as the four elements of our existence - earth, wind, water, and fire. So a few grains of sand, a few drops of water, a small candle, and incense to visualize the invisible air all around us.

By making the offerings we open our minds to accept their guidance and influence. We show them that we are worthy to study the secrets of our ancestors together, and we will then demonstrate our connection by telling the stories of our people, and by singing their songs. We will chant until we feel that the spirits are present and that we have their attention. It can take a few hours, depending on how lucky we are, and how worthy they see us.

Then we will smoke the pipe together to symbolize an agreement and then read out our contract aloud several times. We will hold hands and ask the great spirits to bind us in bonds of honor and respect. Here we will mention all our commitments to the group and to each other, each of us telling them in his own words so that we share the same views and same interpretation. After that, we drink tea, or if we can find it - hot chocolate also works. We bid the spirits farewell and celebrating and expressing our gratitude.

She looks at Jawsey and Mato "The arcane need is only for some form of celebration, which implies either food, or dancing, or even a glass of wine. I think I can get away with sealing the celebration outside of the lodge if you feel like walking --- it has to be walking to a restaurant. Or we can do something quick at the lodge, and be done with it.

Bobby nodded: "It's still winter, so no sowing for a while, but we could put in some winter barley seeds. Those are sown in autumn and need the cold to germinate. I'll put also in a knife to show the spirits that we are not to be toyed with and our fangs and teeth are sharp. I'd leave it at tea. There at least we have something unprocessed.
For the celebration let's brake out some real apples. I know a place where I can get them really quick. I'll be back in an hour."

Bobby said and went for the window.
AM is impressed "Humility and strength! Alright, then a knife to the center of the ritual, and I'll wear my throwing knives as another symbol of strength."

She then looks at Mato and says "Mato, we are your family too, and awakened or not awakened you are part of the tribe. While only the Shamans can connect directly to the spirits. The great spirits guide all our people, and they represent our heritage. This is a real opportunity to feel connected to your people- and perhaps you may even get a glimpse of your glorious past. Bonds like this are a manifestation of our heritage. They symbolize that we survived all the hardships, disasters, and tragedies - and that we still continue the endless chain of generations, and seek the wisdom of our old ways. Despite everything, we are still here - and we are still committed to this land, and to our culture, and we still respect the great spirits." There is something else in her voice when she speaks, some uncharacteristic sincerity. Normally, AM weights every word she says to be certain that delivers the exact message. She'll show emotion to get her message across but keep what she genuinely feels buried deep inside.

This time there is truth, passion, and a genuine pain in her voice. It saddens her deeply that Mato may not participate in the ritual, as it would have one of the people getting lost and consumed by the modern world, forgetting his heritage and losing the wisdom of old.
No there are no measurable benefits for him to do the ritual, but he is part of a tribe, and at this moment AM is an embodiment of her social role and lifelong mission as a Shaman. It is her social role to connect the tribe together and to educate them with the wisdom of the spirits. A role that she never fulfills despite her shamanic oaths because few would seek such guidance from her - especially in Seattle and especially as she does not look the part. Her pale skin complexion, blonde hair, and green eyes are clearly Anglo. Somehow the Trickster has a sense of humor about her, considering that she is half Sioux.

AM usually only shows her rational side, and very rarely lets deep emotions reach her lips. She is afraid that people would laugh considering how deep she feels about her native American heritage, and even at that moment, she anticipates laughter and mockery as a response.
"It's too early to plant outdoors," Mato agrees, "but lots of things can be planted indoors in January. Onions, cabbage, celery, kale, leeks, lettuce, peas, and mustard. Let's go with mustard. The seeds are very tiny. The Anglos have a wonderful metaphor about mustard, saying if you have faith as small as a mustard seed it's enough to change the world. Seems fitting in our case."

He looks around at SIS' modest surroundings.

"Plus the corps aren't as tight with seeds for herbs and spices as they are with food crops. I've heard stories about corps raiding rooftop gardens, claiming they owned the intellectual property of the seeds that were planted. Not sure if those are urban legends or not. Same with rooftop rain barrels, claiming that it robs the municipal water supply of a 'public resource'." He rolls his eyes. "Seems outlandish but there's pretty much no low the corps won't stoop to.

"We just need soil, seed trays, growing lights. I'll take care of it. I know a guy wit a deepweed operation - he swears it's medicinal - who can spare a bit of raw materiel."

Mato doesn't seem to mind AM's outburst of emotion. If anything, it seems to roll over him. Did any of it sink in? It's hard to say.

He hesitates before responding, perhaps dwelling on the recent finding that he is only half Sioux. But, then again, AM is only half Sioux too, and Jawsey not at all. He nods with AMs words.

"My family is dead. Perhaps my real father isn't, but I don't know who he is. I need another family, so I choose you.

"You go to the astral to advance your art; I go to a street doc. The spirits don't listen to my call, but it's obvious they exist and it's clear enough that they have plans for us. I'll walk with you as I have, to help you in your journey as you help me in mine."

Mato is gone for the same hour that Bobby is. He returns with everything you need for an indoor garden. He looks ready to participate, spiritually if not magically.
Jawsey nods along to AM's words. He doesn't know nearly as much about magic as she does, but it all feels right to him.

Well, it almost all feels right to him. Will the spirits that AM knows accept him? He only discovered his magic during those couple of years in the Sioux Nation, so he feels some kinship with their tradition. On the other hand, he ended up with a more general native shamanic tradition than a Sioux one. Maybe that means that he did not connect with the Sioux great spirits? Could he bring in any of the spirits of his people? But he didn't really know who they were; the actual spirits he called were a mash of what little folklore he remembered with stories his father had told him with things he'd read or saw on the trid with spirits he'd found on his own without knowing what they were. And no mentor spirit had ever claimed him, another suggestion that the greater powers didn't know what to do with him.

He thought some more, and finally something came to him, a way to provide a link to his homeland, that would hopefully help stretch this magical net to better cover him too.

In his room he dug through his duffel bag, finding the concealed inner pocket. From there he took a ziplock baggie, and from it a cleaned up dipping sauce container from Taco Temple, and from it he took a tiny pinch of sand. Sand his father had risked his job to extract before it went into cement at a job site, sand that MCT had dredged from Haida land and used to help build modern Seattle. It had been his father's token link to their homeland, and Jawsey had kept it, waiting until he knew what to do with it.

He sprinkled the few grains that he'd extracted onto his tongue, swished them around, feeling their grittiness, then swallowed. Quietly he declared "A part of you will always be a part of me." Then he split the rest into two. He returned one part to its container, promising it "I'll return you to to Haida Gwai, finally back home." The rest he poured into a tea cup, telling it "You will help forge a new home here."

When he finally returned to the others he brought his reagents, and the few spoonfuls of sand in a tea cup. He simply said "I bring sand."
Bobby had returned as a pelican - with a beak full of apples. Some still had little bits of wood hanging from them and they were comparatively smaller and less crisp than the standardized ones from the upscale super markets.
Once Bobby had washed them and put back on his trousers, he presented them in a bowl.
"There's this villa with a large estate - some Tir patriarch or something owns it with his huge private garden. I'm pretty sure he had whole old trees imported from Europe. He certainly won't mind me borrowing some fruits - and if he does, frag him. If he didn't want to share, he should have invested in tighter closing doors."

When the ritual began and it was time for his part to share, he picked up the knife and made a shallow cut on the back of his hand, letting four drops fall.
"This group is ours. We stand together, we bleed for each other, we feast together. You hurt one, you hurt all, you hurt one, we hurt you... worse. My father was a war shaman, my mother was an environmental engineer. One was of the land the other was not. The one fought the other build.
We do both. Those who want to be allies will find us steadfast, those who want to be enemies will find us relentless."

Bobby put down the knife and sat down again.
QUOTE (Tecumseh @ Jun 8 2021, 12:53 AM) *
"My family is dead. Perhaps my real father isn't, but I don't know who he is. I need another family, so I choose you.

"You go to the astral to advance your art; I go to a street doc. The spirits don't listen to my call, but it's obvious they exist and it's clear enough that they have plans for us. I'll walk with you as I have, to help you in your journey as you help me in mine."

Mato is gone for the same hour that Bobby is. He returns with everything you need for an indoor garden. He looks ready to participate, spiritually if not magically.

AM comments to Mato "Nothing is ever lost Mato, and I am an orphan too despite my parents both being very much alive. My father never acknowledged me publically. I only met him in secret. He got me educated, but as an orphan whose heritage is unknown. He is many things to me, but I orphaned the day I left my mother to develop my talent. I have no other family but you - but perhaps it is our way forward. Do you want to find your biological father? We are detectives after all."

She then excuses herself to prepare for the ritual, she has a lot of work to do. AM prepared to the ritual with a bit of an excess - she rationally understands how rituals work and can do them quite neutral and clean only focusing on the aspects of the ritual that have arcane benefit, but there was some truth and power to the traditionalist aspect of shamanism that she studied - and that power could not be explained. She could tell, that Iktomi was stronger with her than Totems, in general, were with more modern shamans. He was closer to her - something was lost when you took the experience of magic and analyzed it using unified magic theory - it was a good theory, but it was not the entire truth.

So she showers to purify her mind and soul and then wears her shaman outfit. Which is not a true spirit tuxedo (these costs too much for her) but is inspired by one. It has no effect on the spirits but it shows her effort to get closer. She paints herself white, and draws black circles around her eyes, solely for the spirits of her ancestors as her face are not visible during the ritual but covered with a wooden shamanic mask, and her hands and legs are covered with rings that made a stream-like sound when she walked and moves. These represented the presence of all shamans from the previous ages. She was not just herself, she invited them all to be with her at this moment.

paints her face white and draws black circles around her eyes and mouth, then she wears her shamanic wooden mask decorated with a hand-drawn symbol of each great spirit. She feels the regret as she touches it, the hours of disappointment where all her offerings were rejected and no reached for her but she now had Trouble. The Trickster has shown that there is a way to realize her talent despite its incompleteness. She is already chanting a wordless melody as she organizes the magical lodge, and places the reagents. The music and the strict ritual behind every action help her mind to enter a trancelike state, and for once in a long time, she experiences release.

Release from being hyper-logical all the time, from always expecting the worst outcome - and from always looking over her back. True, she studied traditionalist shamanism because her poor parents could not send her to university, and all that was left was for her father to leverage his tribal position, and ask for a favor. True - it was humiliating because she was introduced to the spirits as Shaman Maka the orphan daughter of mother earth, but the experience was so captivating. Suddenly feeling the weight of entire history has given her the perspective for once to feel like part of a great unbroken chain of shamans. Countless generations of shamans stood with her and all she needed was to be sensitive enough, open enough to channel their collective wisdom. She was not alone, never alone, she belonged in the great story and her life would live an imprint for all future generations. Her life had meaning, she was no longer a scared girl hiding from the world trying to live life without getting abused by stronger people. Living with her single mother trying to get by - doing some minor matrix works to get by. She was a spiritual leader, one of the selected few to interact with the great spirits.

She responds
"Sand of our ancestors, the sand has more stories and more knowledge it remembers the old seas and even times before our land came to be. Sand symbolizes the immortals, and the eternal spirits, and our ancestors whom we invite to share this ritual with us all." and she instructs Jawsey to spill the send in an offering bowl.

When Bobby makes the offering of Blood she says Blood is the strongest essence in existence, and it symbolizes the rare ability to change. Most spirits lack this ability - but any person has it. We all have many faces, and we can grow and change, and evolve into things that we cannot imagine. We are humble and respect the great spirits, but we are also wise and know our place in the world, and it is a place of power and influence.

She then makes her own offering an engraved data chip I give an offering of technology and tradition. I come from the most humble place in society an halfbreed, and a bastard. I was introduced to the spirits as an orphan. No world has ever accepted me, and my road has always been hard. I never had good answers, but I always asked the right questions. The great spirits in their wisdom have accepted me to be a shaman, but I never had a tribe to accept me. In this event, I make a commitment to my new family and form a new tribe, and I am no longer an orphan.

She nods at her friends and pauses for a bit. Then speaks to the great spirits or to the void.
The modern world gives us the gift of technology, a gift that we never had before. From the rifles that defeated our people in the past, to body augmentations, medicine, and worlds within worlds of existence in Iktomi's web. The data chip I offer has the capacity to store all the written knowledge of our people, and more. It has great value, and like all new knowledge, it has great danger.

Wisdom always brings mischief, and Ksa is the Destroyer. Not because he was prevented, but because something is lost for everything that is gained. When you enrich the world with new knowledge destruction is the inevitable result. The new ways challenge the old ways, and our people are embarrassed and lost. Some go excessively to the old ways and denounce all technology as a foreign influence. They fear the unprecedented wealth of knowledge and wisdom that Iktomi has blessed us with because they fear the destruction that would follow so much knowledge. By rejecting this knowledge they fail to embrace Iktomi, and therefore they do not fully understand our heritage.
We should not remain frozen in the old ways, we should change and grow.

Many others embrace technology and forget the old ways. They are so fascinated by this wisdom that they become trans-humanist and seek to evolve into something more than humans. These people embrace change, but they forget who they are and they do not even know what they are giving up. They are very powerful, but can they be happy? Can they bring harmony to the world? It would take them forever to relearn all the important things that they forgot.

We need new wisdom because our old ways do not have all the answers, and we need our old ways and their wisdom to progress. They are not conflicting. Virtual reality can be used to show our people what they lost, and can be used to guide our people when they are scattered across great distances and Shamans are rare. Modern agriculture can terraform our world back to a healthy state, and we cannot even feed our people without it. While destruction is inevitable, and some knowledge may no longer be relevant to our world. Destruction can be minimized. Today, I ask for your support in our search for knowledge and meaning. We know and accept our place in the world and would respect the knowledge, even if we chose to discard, or change it."
QUOTE (Gilga @ Jun 8 2021, 10:18 PM) *
"Do you want to find your biological father? We are detectives after all."

"Yes," Mato says rather more forcefully than he expects. "Yes, I think that I do." The answer seems to surprise him even as he says it. The response seems instinctual rather than preplanned. Perhaps the spirits move in him still.

"I don't have much to go on. Rumors and innuendo. An elf of Aztlaner descent, perhaps a coworker of my mother's. But it could have been anyone: a vendor in town for a business trip and a quick tryst, the pro at the tennis club, a delivery man." Mato looks daunted at the prospect of trying to find a needle in a haystack, but the possibility seems much more within reach if there's a hacker helping him out.

Mato stands watch during the ritual, alert to the threat of the Halloweeners and the Crimson Crush. He finds the ritual more interesting than intimidating. He's especially intrigued with AM's thoughts on the past and the future, the blending of the old ways and the new ways. He agrees that they are not necessarily in conflict. If the old ways were to change and evolve, then perhaps the new ways aren't so different after all.

Do the words sting when she mentions transhumanism and the desire to evolve into something more than humans? Perhaps a little. Did Mato 'embrace change, but forget who he was and not know what he was giving up'? Yes and no. His cyberlimbs were a metamorphosis, the chrysalis through which he banished the weakness of his flesh form and emerged stronger and more capable than before. Did he lose something in the exchange? Yes, some of his soul. Did he know what he was giving up? No, not really. The loss of your personal essence was something difficult to contemplate and even harder to convey to someone who hadn't experienced it before. The detachment from your own humanity is no easier to comprehend in advance than detachment from reality, or detachment from the four fundamental forces of the universe. And once you lose it, it's easy for the effect to snowball, to forget what you've lost which makes it that much easier to give up even more.

But would Mato make a different decision? If he could send a message in a bottle back in time, what advice would he give? He'd probably tell himself to do it all the same. The physical confidence that the new limbs inspired lead to mental confidence, to an improved personal bearing. He can't imagine being weak and infirm, stuck on a sofa for the rest of his life watching the trid. Was there a middle ground, perhaps? High-grade bioware? Limbs with skin and muscle that are still soft to the touch? Perhaps, perhaps... but that's not the decision he made. A wise man was once asked about free will, about choice versus destiny. He answered, "What you choose is your destiny." And so Mato's destiny is here: in Seattle, in Redmond, in Touristville, in this dilapidated house with these three mages, with his cybernetic enhancements. And he's okay with that. No regrets. No regrets at all.
Bobby sucked at the back of his hand until the bleeding stopped, following AM's words closely. Somehow he felt at the same time over- and underwhelmed. He was finely attuned to his own body as well as the ebb and flow of mana and he could feel the power that had been building inside the lodge. The pressure was not unlike having clogged sinuses. Just this little gathering of three magical active people had created more power than what each individual of them should be able to contribute. More than the sum of its parts clearly was a thing with magic. If they weren't careful they could flatten their flat with forces like that. Bobby briefly wondered if that was the kind of power the Great Ghost Dance also had created.
At the same time it felt surreal that they could do such a thing in their rather plain and simple flat with just a few cheap items. Somehow he had expected there had to be raging fires, flaring lights, shouting and dancing to achieve such an effect. That made him feel oddly disapointed - like bracing against a punch and then only getting a pat on the cheek.
He felt his thoughts starting to drift, and concentrated to retain what she said.
When the ritual ended and the pressure finally eased, as the circle was broken and the ambient mana was absorbed back into the environment, he breathed a sigh of relieve. He understood now how this circle could help you initiate. It was like a lense, amplifying your experience. But crafting that lense had also taken a toll. He could see it with his companions. Far worse how he felt when he had illadvisedly given some of his memories and potential to that motherfragging spirit. But at least this time he hadn't lost it so much as invested it, build something that only now was settling down. The dice were still in the air and the ritual could still fail. But he felt confident, that it could work. That these three people here were the right choice to start building.
Irritated he closed his eyes. He felt emotions stiring that he hadn't allowed to surface in almost 20 years...
Jawsey felt a bit intimidated when he saw Ana Maka in her full regalia. Did the spirits expect something similar from him? They'd never said, but would it strengthen his connection? He'd never really thought about how he appeared to them in the meat world, as he thought of them mostly from an astral perspective. Well, nothing to do about it now but to carry on as he was and think about doing something different in the future.

During the ritual he focused on using what little he knew about ritual magic to help support AM. In part because he was amateur enough to have to think through the whole thing, and in part because the whole thing was stirring up feelings that he didn't really want to address. AM's discussion of old ways and new caught him by surprise. What were Jawsey's ways? But now was not the time to think about that, and he returned his focus to the background chant that he was providing. Just get through the ritual, then you can have your navel gazing session. Not much longer now, so don't lose the rhythm, don't let the magic fall.
QUOTE (Tecumseh @ Jun 9 2021, 05:52 PM) *
"Yes," Mato says rather more forcefully than he expects. "Yes, I think that I do." The answer seems to surprise him even as he says it. The response seems instinctual rather than preplanned. Perhaps the spirits move in him still.

"I don't have much to go on. Rumors and innuendo. An elf of Aztlaner descent, perhaps a coworker of my mother's. But it could have been anyone: a vendor in town for a business trip and a quick tryst, the pro at the tennis club, a delivery man." Mato looks daunted at the prospect of trying to find a needle in a haystack, but the possibility seems much more within reach if there's a hacker helping him out.

AM says "I will do everything in my power to help you find him. Send me what you have and I'll dig up what I can. She pauses If he is out there, we can find him.

The rest of the ritual contains the usual stories, and chanting and is repetitive to give the participants a trans-like state. At the sealing of the ritual, the personal offerings are bonded together, in the bowel along with the other reagents. Physically nothing is visible, but the experienced can sense that mana levels ebb very high, and the keen-eyed can see that a similar bond now exists on the three members of the cycle. The spirits have accepted the offering and granted them this boon in return, either they convinced them with words or bribed them with items of significant emotional value it did not matter. They got the blessing, and the rest was hard work. At the sealing ceremony, she takes off her wooden mask and eat the apple looking like a skeleton or some shaman of old. Her mental state is euphoric as she fulfills her role as a vessel of spiritual energies and as a rare moment feels that she is not ignored by the spirits. Sure, these would mainly speak to conjurers but sorcerers also get their rare moments from time to time.

Once the ritual is done, AM makes a sharp change from a euphoric, trans-like state to her normal state. Yet, she feels drained it takes a lot of effort to do anything with magic - and rituals are long and you need to really be committed and let go of cynicism for them to work. The body paint and mask are more for her than for the spirits, she is well aware that they could accomplish similar results only with the bare necessities of the ritual foundation. Gifts to the spirits and meditation... but she needs to turn off half her brain to participate in such a ritual, asking invisible forces for favors and speaking to them as if they are in the room. Her mother would laugh at her for being so superstitious.

She changes her mental state as she changes her clothes, the ritual dress is replaced by pants and shirt, and then a coat, and a warm hut. The ritualistic facial paint is replaced with subtle makeup to bring out her eyes, and, mask what needs to be masked, and the short messy blond hair gets combed into order. Logic is now the queen of this lady, not instinct. The chaos makes room for order. Yet, she feels a little bit happier than she should be, perhaps after one would feel after having sex. Connection is something she yearns for and on some level, connecting makes her happy.

She executed the ritual very well, DB would be professionally proud but he would be offended at what she said about him and his education. Time builds up distance, which builds up perspective and critique to all of the teachings she studied which were very dogmatic initially. They conflicted with all her rational thinking, and that conflict was a hurdle most of the time. Iktomi has gradually guided her to a solution with less conflict. Would she be welcomed at DB's fire spot after such a speech? She is an embodiment of Iktomi, at least partially - is Shaman Maka the problem or is it Iktomi that is not welcomed at DB's fire spot besides lip service to the great spirits? Was this the reason why she only met her totem away from the fire-spot? Alone in the wilderness fixing a car? All the chanting and gifting and dancing did not help, but Iktomi came at his own will with the strongest manifestation she has ever experienced when she was fixing a car. Perhaps a lesson that when the spirits have a desire to manifest, the ritual is not needed.

AM feels robbed of any desire to study further, the ritual took its tool and the social implications for her out of all people going full tribal with all the bells and whistles and gimmicks that modern shamans do not use. DB taught her that way, and she was attracted to the universal magic theory even before she knew how to practice magic. Yet, Iktomi taught her that understanding is good, but one needs to be humble and know that any knowledge is incomplete. That any template you frame magic into would miss out some aspects of the phenomena. That even magic theory has its limits, and it only captures some of the aspects and not all. The world is too complex, and magic knowledge is too young to know it all - she needs to use also instincts, intuition, and charisma. Magic is a dialogue with the spirits and sometimes being convincing is better than being technically right. The ritual was a success, and the magical bond was now visible, a small tendril of mana that connected them and allowed for some mental textures to pass from one member to the others. Another arcane achievement, a lot to be proud of.

She could see it, after the ritual was completed - but was careful to declare success before she sees the tendril endures. A follower of the Trickster should always be careful and skeptical. AM returns to the living room shortly after and says Careful optimism about the ritual, the bond is there -we'll just need to wait to see if it endures. Good work! she declares, pauses and then suggested anyone wants to go out?" Since she is already dressed up it is clear that she'll go out regardless.
The ritual lasted for several hours, but Mato was still up at the end of it. Due to his sleep regulator, Mato is up more often than not.

"Let's go," he agrees with AM. It's a Sunday night and Touristville might be quiet - might still be recovering from the New Year's binge the night before - but he's willing to go.

"Here's what I have," he tells her, providing AM with his mother's name, employer (Wind River Corporation, the king of agriculture in the Sioux Nation), and his probable window of conception.

"I think I was born premature," he says. "At least 3 weeks, maybe as much as 6. I was small, especially as an ork. My parents did a lot of drugs though, even while I was in utero. Mostly things like Psyche or Cereprax, but sometimes party drugs like Bliss or Zen or Aisa. Red Mescaline too. Redmesc complements the effects of Psyche, and combining the two is common. When you speedball the two, it's called a 'loco'."

This seems like unnecessary detail, but it shows that Mato was watching while his parents debased themselves. And that they were doing it in his presence.

"Anyway, I'd start with her calendar. Check her managers, her coworkers, maybe her calendar to check for meetings.

"Wait, this was over 20 years back, before Crash 2.0. Do you think any of these records will still exist?"
AM is sorry when Mato mentions the drugs, she makes an empathetic face but does not say much - he obviously tells it to find his father rather than get support. Her mother sort of locked her home so that she would not try drugs, and DB said that drugs offer great power but are dangerous and should be used only with a very experienced shaman, a dream-catcher, and only for specific purposes require vision-quests. He said that it was like rudely poking the spirits for wisdom, when the need is great they may grant that boon - intruding on other realms of existence is very dangerous. In more mundane words, drugs were the priveledges of a selected few male full magicians and out of bounds for tomboyish blonde initiates that sabotage even the most simple rituals with sarcasm.

AM accepts that drugs have something to them, she really wants to experience them, but she is too much of a control freak to try anything serious. She is a tiny bit jealous that someone can just do that consequences aside, and at the sad time sad for the little boy that received no attention from his parents because they chose to be elsewhere mentally if not physically.

AM comments "Crush 2.0 is a challenge, I'll search for it nevertheless.

She seems pensive and begins processing the information in her mind. Creating tasks in her calendar so that the search will not be forgotten over other perhaps more enjoyable tasks. Perhaps we can physically go there and try to find clues. Talk to people, find her friends, or family, or coworkers. We have a name, and we know where she worked we can at least someone that knew her and can shed more light on the situation. Then we'll progress step by step from there, the first step is always the hardest.

Then we can use the matrix to find these people that may know her. Here we the trix to help us - most people are very visible in the Trix. If all else fails, we'll have magic and mundane investigation as a backup. DNA samples from possible candidates, perhaps even use the DNA records in their SIN entries if we gain access. In a pinch, we have you, and you are connected by blood - ritual magic may help but I do not know exactly how to do that... I'll need to research. We have no answers, but we got a very diverse toolbox, including technology, social skills, breaking and entering, and magic. If we use the right tool to every subproblem along the way we will prevail."

She grins and tells Mato "I am a bit hyped from this day. Let's find some food and drinks, and music. I'll start with the searches when I wake up.
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