Penumbra

Job's Over, the Conspiracy part V

“All right, so how do we stop Armageddon?” Bach, Mort, Toro, and Reeves all stood around looking at each other with a sense of approaching doom. Getting back from England had been an ordeal, but considering everything else that had happened, tricking security into believing that Bach and Toro had been in a car accident was the easiest thing they’d done in London. Finding a street doc was harder, though accepting that their doc operated out of a restaurant was hard for them all to accept. Bach had Helios loaded up on his commlink and they waited for an answer.

“So, in order to fully prevent the coming catastrophe, we’d have to knock out all the Matrix hubs around the world. We could take one, the Crusaders another, maybe I could try and hack the incoming signals to one other. That still leaves two or three more.”

“What happens if just a few hubs go off?” Asked Toro, for which Bach didn’t have an answer.

“The effect would be unknown. Was Wolfe trying to summon a large being that required one massive ritual? Or was it a series of small summonings that would tear apart everything by strength of force? We don’t know much. We should assume that each individual area will be devastated no matter what.” Reeves nodded his head.

“I don’t have enough man power to take over more than two areas. And that’s being generous.” Bach nodded and then looked absently away.

“Helios, would it be possible to commandeer a satellite and use it to interfere with the solar flares? Could we shoot something high powered enough to change the flare patterns?”

“It is possible, Mr. de Victoria, but given our current condition and time constraints, we would not be able to accomplish the task in time.” Bach looked downcast, but looked back at the group.

“Do we just accept that not everyone can be saved?”

“We could also attack the main server in Ottawa. If we can lock out the controls there, we might not need to worry about the remote facilities,” said Mort. Everyone nodded and Bach stroked his chin.

“Yes, yes that could work. We’d only really get one shot and if they have security precautions against tampering on the server, that would probably trigger the event prematurely. What effect that would have, I am uncertain, but still.”

“You could release me into the server directly, Mr. de Victoria, and I could work on controlling any reactionary effects and shutting down the server.” Back nodded and agreed.

“Do you want my men?” Reeves asked, cycling through his six-shooter sidearm and taking out each long bullet one after another. Bach shook his head. “That feels like we’re putting all our eggs in one basket.”

“Agreed, you should stay and prepare to try and recover Seattle if our mission doesn’t work.” Toro was thinking about his orphans when he spoke and he was concerned. Everyone nodded and Bach looked at Mort. “Well, let’s give your baby her first true spin. Prep the missiles and make sure all the gun systems work.” Mort smiled.


“I’ll get on the ground as soon as I can and try and deal with cultists or whatever.” Toro had one of his swords out as Mort launched the Thunderbird over the tree tops of Canada. Bach sat in a seat with one of Reeves’ men, who had an assault rifle and had been sent to cover Bach and Mort in the event of a ground firefight. Bach just nodded. They all heard a small ping from the tank’s driver seat and looked over, hoping the ping was nothing serious.

The Thunderbird jolted sharply to one side as an explosion rocked them about. The ping was a missile. Mort shifted control into the radar quickly to enhance its abilities and saw two gunships approaching and a ground anti-aircraft crew taking aim. Problematic.

Toro opened up a door and jumped out of the Thunderbird, having no interest in staying in a tank that was being shot with missiles. He activated his chameleon suit and ran through the foliage with a soft rustle, approaching a small encampment that held a few men with large planted machine guns watching the Thunderbird. Taking the advantage, Toro leaped over the sandbag cover, decapitating the belt feeder and impaling the gunner quickly, removing his blades and standing still. As he faded out of existence, Toro looked toward the sweat lodge where the camp housed their protective magics. Just then he was knocked back several feet by an invisible force and blood trickled out of his nose.

Mort was evading missiles with his precision-based flying system with some electronic warfare assistance from Bach when he finally got in optimal range for his missiles. He launched one at the ground anti-air crew and launched another at one of the gunships. The ground crew were incinerated immediately. The gunship turned and soaked a majority of the explosion along its reinforced hull, though the explosion still rocked it about and damaged it significantly. Bach was doing his best to interfere with the missiles lock, but still another explosion buckled the hull of the tank. Mort, safely tucked away in his protective cocoon, began to bled from his head as a headache pounded across his mind.

“I may have to have you take over, Bach.” The tank said out of its computerized mechanical voice. Bach looked up at the grunt with an assault rifle. “Peachy.”

Toro had been tossed around a few times and had broken several ribs in the process from an assailant he couldn’t see. He was getting upset. Finally he lifted his head, his eyes glowing a yellow color as he looked past the physical realm, trying to find his mage’s astral signature. He did, and a man with a green aura stood on top of the sweat lodge, preparing another spell. Toro ran at the man with incredible speed, a bolt of green energy smashing into his chest and ripping part of his shoulder away. Toro didn’t care. With a leap, he landed on the lodge and sliced across the man’s stomach with his swords, causing the invisible threat to bend over in pain. Quickly, Toro sidestepped and came down upon his neck with one of his swords, the blow cleanly chopping the mage’s head off. With a grunt, Toro kicked in the roof of the sweat lodge and landed inside, looking at the two meditating and unconscious mages. He almost smiled.

The Thunderbird shuddered as Mort fired his cannon at the last remaining gunship. His missile banks had been depleted on the first ship, though it had finally destroyed the offending ship. Holes peppered the tank and Bach was convinced that one more solid hit would either crash the vehicle or knock out Mort, he wasn’t sure which was worse. The gunship turned to the side to fly away from the tank, and Mort smiled even while comatose.

His cannon trained on the missile bays of the gunship and fired, the Thunderbird shuddering once again. With a resounding boom, the bay dropped from the ship and crashed to the ground, burning on the ground. The gunship turned to fire its front-loaded machine gun at the Thunderbird, but Mort fired the cannon at the gunship again. Though he intended to hit the cockpit, he ended up blowing off the machine-gun, leaving the helicopter defenseless. “Good enough! Alright Bach, you’re good to go!”

Bach and the Crusader jumped out of the tank and ran towards the main server, encountering no resistance. Inside was a single hacker linked up to the server. Bach would’ve killed the man immediately. de Victoria just unplugged him from the network and loaded Helios into the mainframe.

“Wha… where, oh shit!” The hacker looked at Bach as his gun was trained on him. “I don’t suggest moving. I don’t want to kill you, but I will.”

“Mr. de Victoria, I have located the central command for sending out the virus. I need you to destroy the power source to the mainframe and quarantine the area permanently, so that this server will never be activated again.” Bach looked up at the server with a grimace.

“Helios, don’t be ridiculous, you’ll be trapped. We can—”

“I have already been infected with the virus. If I leave the server, I will infect other nodes and our mission will have failed. Please, carry out my commands.” Bach looked at the server for a few more seconds with an upset look on his face. Then he walked over to the main power grid and shut off the server, trapping Helios inside.

As Mort landed the Thunderbird, Toro limped over to the tank, looking around for any more threats. Bach walked out escorting his hacker. Toro looked at Bach hopefully.

“Did it work?”

“Yes, the mission was successful.”

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Job's Over, the Conspiracy part IV

Bach walked into Reeves’ church with a headache and deactivated internal comlink. It made life strange for him, but the information gathered from Reeves’ inside source was worth it. He found Toro still pacing around the religious hackers, questioning them on the location of the children (and the hackers looked understandably annoyed), and Mort continued to tinker with his drones. When Bach arrived, Reeves gather them together and had some information.

“We’ve received a tip from our sources that Wolfe is headed to London.”

“So the kids are in London?” Toro sounded frantic and Bach passively looked at Reeves, displaying neither regret nor sympathy. “No… Wolfe is there.”

“Okay… well, I’m not going until we find the children.” Bach turned to Toro and looked at him pensively. “Toro, if we find Wolfe, we can get the children back.” It took some convincing, but Toro finally agreed. Reeves nodded and spoke to one of his subordinates for a minute.

“All right, we’ve got you scheduled for a sub-orbital plane. Remember, no weapons, no matrix activity, no drones. You’ll have to find it when you get to London. Good luck.” Toro stowed his swords and listed them as ‘merchandise’ while Bach and Mort went without any support. Bach figured this would be interesting.


After landing in London and seeing a cheap armsdealer, they were headed off to a Echelon training facility that Bach felt would be where Wolfe went. Unfortunately for him, his comlink was still inactive, but at least Mort had managed to procure some drones and a few low quality firearms for them. They got to the base and went close to some seemingly unused building. Bach had Mort stop the car. “I got this.”

Five minutes later, Bach returned looking confused. “So… okay, I couldn’t get them to let us in. Should we just kill them? I… I don’t know, I’m confused.” Toro rolled his eyes and muttered something about Bach never doing anything useful. Bach kind of had to agree. As if by fate, the guard’s eyes glazed over and then he ushered them through. Bach shrugged, too focused on Wolfe and annoyed by his own ineptitude to considered what happened to the guard.

Almost as if fate decided to punish Bach, a sniper bullet shattered the windshield and slammed into his chest, causing minimal damage but surprising the hell out of him. Almost immediately, Bach and Toro were out of the car as Toro dashed across the way to the building. Bach took a quick shot at the sniper and saw a spray of blood from his face, adrenaline pumping. Guess we found the right place.

As some guards came around the side and started to square off against Mort’s drones, Toro climbed up the side of the building and Bach ran across, trying to figure out where Wolfe or any of his relevant subordinates might be. Gunfire crackled out in waves as Mort’s drones shot up the guards with significantly reduced dangerous efficiency than normal.

“de Victoria! I didn’t expect to see you here so soon, especially after I told you exactly where those orphans were! I guess you really don’t care about kids, eh?” Wolfe’s voice blared out over the speaker and everyone heard it, even over the gunfire. Toro was perched on the roof, ready to eviscerate the guards from above. In a few seconds, Toro connected the name de Victoria with Bach, who had already previously stated his name as such. In a rage, Toro threw the dead sniper’s soup cup at the guards and screamed “Bach!” as he lept down, wanted to kill something. Brutally.

“Well shit,” said Bach. As the sound of a jet flying overhead roared out, Bach looked at Mort and saw his rental car getting sprayed with bullets from the jet-drone. He seems all right. Quickly he looked over at Toro and saw three dead guards and a strange ninja-person on the roof, throwing a knife right into Toro’s neck. He’s taking it well.

“Yep, time to find Wolfe.” Bach abandoned his companions and ran to the building, throwing the door open and ducking away from a man with a shock-glove. Quickly, Bach cast a thought-control spell and convinced the man that he was a friend and needed to be taken to Wolfe.

“This way, please.” Bach walked away from his friends and off to find an old partner, wondering what the future would have in store. He just hoped Toro and Mort would be injured enough to not kill him, but also survive the fight. Unlikely.

In the upper floor of the office building were several guards, Richard Wolfe, and three unconscious hackers. As the main doors opened and Wolfe was ready to insult de Victoria some more, he looked over to see his old friend standing beside one of his lackeys, hatred in his eyes. Bach raised his gun to the lackey and exploded his head across the wall as Wolfe’s face transformed from amusement to rage.

“You’re a dead man, de Victoria, you—” Just then, Mort’s drones burst through the windows, pumping bullets into the inert form of one of the hackers without mercy. Wolfe’s men began firing at Bach relentlessly, and even with Dr. Kratchen’s improved skin, bullets ripped open his skin and blood flew from his arms and dripped from his chest. Bach mentally slammed the button that injected Kamikaze into his veins, the combat drug causing an immediate increase in adrenaline. Bach turned around and fired bullets at Wolfe without concern for personal safety.

“Die you fucking, DIE DIE DIE!” Bach’s voice cracked and sputtered. He barely noticed Toro appearing from the rooftop, eviscerating one of the armed guards and moving on to another with brutal efficiency. The firefight continued with bullets flying in almost every direction and Wolfe surrounded on all sides. Bach spun around a desk and fired a bullet straight into Wolfe’s thigh, bone cracking and blood spurting out.

“Even if you kill me, de Victoria, nothing will stop what I’ve done! You’re too late!”

“I don’t fucking care!”

A burst-fire slammed into Toro chest and several bullets ripped out the other side, causing him to grunt in pain and drop to his knees for a second. With a definite concern for his life, Toro attacked quickly and erratically, hoping to not soak another shot like that. Mort, meanwhile, told his drones to fire indiscriminately at enemy targets while he tried to figure something out.

The first text message to Mort said “I am A.G.I. Helios. Time to impact from satellite HIB137: 23 minutes. Kill switch Y/N?” Mort was flustered, first at why an AI would be contacting him, and second as to what satellite HIB137 was. He tried messaging Bach about this, especially after the next message that read “de Victoria’s expertise needed; Bach=Tomás de Victoria.” Bach’s response was customarily curt: “Helios related to Shamash, unsure of intentions.”

As Bach fired at the last guard and Toro eviscerated him, Bach took the opportunity to charge at Wolfe, the Kamikaze making him faster and stronger and scream significantly louder. He talked Wolfe and grabbed onto the hand holding his gun, trying to pry the gun out of his fingers while also hitting him with his own.

“You took my life away, you took my fucking memories, my family! I’m going to rip out your eyes and shove them down your mouth, you God damn—” Bach couldn’t stop Wolfe from putting the gun to his forehead. With a maniacal smile, Wolfe pulled the trigger and sprayed blood all over Bach’s face.

Toro walked up to Bach holding his swords, wanting to kill Bach but also not sure what to do. He waited for Bach to stand up, which took about one minute, before he said “where are the children Bach?” Bach looked up and closed his eyes, breathing deeply through the adrenaline and combat drugs. He sent Reeves several messages detailing the location of the children and investigated this satellite. The information made him nervous.

“Mount Rainier. They’ve been there for a few hours, but I doubt they are dead. Wolfe wanted to use them as bait for me, nothing more. Also, we need to leave. A satellite is headed here, aimed at our location.” Toro mentally contacted his Sensai as he and Bach ran out of the building. Bach, feeling a new found concern for the populace, immediately alerted the military base, and the London EMA about the impending crash. This, however, caused two military-grade trucks to roll up to the area and train their guns on anything that moved in the area. Fortunately, Mort was on it, and launched two armored cars into the military trucks, causing enough distraction for them to escape.

As they drove the blood-stained, bullet-ridden, scorched rental car back to the airport, Bach bandaged Toro and removed the knife from his arm without causing more damage.

“I thought you were going to kill me,” Bach said calmly.

“I haven’t decided yet.” Toro sounded like he had decided, and Bach knew it. Bach wrapped up one of Toro bullet wounds.

“We’ll talk about this later. But for now, I think we can agree to let Bach die.” Bach took out a pair of scissors and cut dangerously close around Toro’s midsection. Toro was tense.

“What?”

“My name is Tomás de Victoria. A pleasure to meet you.” Tomás looked bloodied, shot-up, blood trickled from his nose, his veins pulsed like he was having a seizure, his eyes were bloodshot and pupils dilated, and he kept half-closing one eye compulsively, but he smiled at Toro with a kind look. It was something Toro had never seen from Bach.

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Bach: "The Butterfly Room/The Sin Vault"

Bach got out of the cab at the address Freegrass had given him. It was a big house in one of the moderately nice neighborhoods in Seattle, right on the line between a residential area and a block of businesses and storefronts. The sign in the front yard confirmed that he was at the right place, “The Butterfly Room”. Bach raised an eyebrow at the odd name yet again, the second time he had seen it, but he hadn’t had time to question Freegrass about it.

He traversed the short concrete walk across the front yard, walked across the big rambling porch, and entered the front door. Looking around, he found himself in a parlor of sorts, immediately did a double-take, and then checked the info he had from Freegrass once more. “153 Holly Street; tell the receptionist you’re looking for Thibodeaux”. This was definitely the place, but…

There was a receptionist desk, if you wanted to call it that, and behind it a waiting room with big, overstuffed couches and chairs, and a bar on the back wall stocked with moderately expensive liquors. A wrought-iron spiral stair lead up to the open second floor, where Bach could see a dozen doors. The color scheme was largely pink and pastels, and the walls were adorned with lacy curtains. Draped over the couches, lounging lasciviously, were a half dozen girls of all varieties, and all in the bare minimum amount of clothes that could still be considered “dressed”.

This is a fucking bordello. thought Bach, fuming on the inside. When I see Freegrass next, he and I are going to have a little talk.

“Welcome to the Butterfly Room!” the woman at the receptionist desk said brightly, standing to reveal exactly how little she was wearing. “I’m Madame Viv—” she began, gesturing at a placard listing rates, before Bach cut her off.

“I’m looking for Thibodeaux.”

The receptionist’s demeanor changed instantly, from one of sultry welcome to a more resentful tolerance. The expressions of all the girls in the room similarly changed as they all dropped the act of being pretty and available and went back to their conversations or reading matrix zines. Bach couldn’t be sure, but he thought one of the girls might look just slightly crestfallen…

The receptionist jerked a thumb. “End of the hall, down the stairs. They’re in the vault.”

Bach tried to make it look like he wasn’t hurrying as he walked out of the room. At the bottom of the stairs, it was easy enough to find the door the woman had meant. A gaudy, hand-painted sign said “The Sin Vault” in stylized letters, and just below it was a heavy steel door with a big bank vault style wheel handle. Pulling it open, Bach stepped into a room whose decor was heavily themed around black leather and red velvet. There was a big, metal-framed bed in one corner with all kinds of cuffs and restraints attached to it, and some kind of apparatus of nylon webbing and harnesses dangled from the ceiling in another corner. A St. Andrew’s cross was against one wall with an umbrella stand nearby that was filled with whips and crops and switches.

A piece of furniture that looked a lot like a gymnast’s pommel horse had been moved out of the way to make room for a large circle to be drawn on the floor in temporary paint, with geometric shapes and flowery arcane figures filling the circle. Nearby, three men and a woman were sitting in beanbags, smoking a hookah that filled the air with an acrid haze.

Thankfully none of them were wearing a particular overabundance of leather. The first 20-something man was wearing a cheap business suit, and the second simply jeans and a t-shirt. The third man looked to be about forty and was dressed like somebody’s dad, with slacks, a windbreaker, ugly glasses, and a bad comb-over. The woman was maybe in her late thirties and wore a simple dress, round-lensed glasses, and a frizzy head of hair. Magic users are such weird people, thought Bach, either unaware of or simply ignoring the irony.

“You Bach?” asked the cheap suit. He thrust out a hand. “Thibodeaux.” Bach noticed a slight southern Louisiana accent and half expected the guy to start talking about gators and jumbalaya. “I’ll be your ritual leader.”

“I don’t need to know your names.” said Bach flatly.

“The message we got from you through your fixer said you’re pressed for time,” said somebody’s dad, “but do you mind explaining a bit more what this ritual is? I mean, there was some gibberish in the message about magical theory this and the matrix that, but it was all pretty beyond us.”

Bach sighed. “Look, as far as you four are concerned, it’s just like any other ritual spellcasting. You guys prepare the spell and push it through the astral link onto the target. I’ll handle the targeting, since I’m the one who understands the matrix ‘gibberish’. You needn’t worry about it, and in fact, I’ll give you an extra thousand not to worry about it. Fair?”

Thibodeaux had a look of amused satisfaction. He exchanged glances with his three teammates; no one had any objections. T-shirt and jeans spoke up, “Let’s get started.”

The four took their places sitting or kneeling regularly spaced around the magic circle, leaving a fifth spot for Bach to sit awkwardly. He had never taken part in a ritual casting, at least not that he remembered. Some of the others took out fetishes (Ha! thought Bach) or lit incense or did other arcane preparations, while Bach just sat there unsure what to do with his hands.

The ritual began. To Bach, watching the seconds tick away on the countdown clock in the corner of his HUD, the process seemed interminable. Then there was chanting; if these guys thought his matrix ritual thesis (suitably summarized and paraphrased, of course) was gibberish, Bach wondered if they considered their own lorem ipsum made-up chant language any less nonsensical. Whatever, play the part, Bach chided himself. After a few repetitions to get the hang of each chant, Bach joined in, trying not to sound halfhearted about it. Most of his focus went to weaving the spell into the virus he had already prepared, a psychotropic worm designed to infect the victim’s cerebral cortex.

Finally, three and a half hours in, Thibodeaux turned to Bach. “The spell is nearly ready. We’ll need the target soon.” Bach nodded and then, with eyes half-lidded, slipped into the Matrix. The chanting was still there, just at the edge of hearing, and the acrid smell of the hookah smoke and incense still burned his nostrils, but they were minor distractions. Slightly worse, he could subconsciously feel the inquisitive eyes of the other four on him. They’re probably wondering if this whole matrix ritual thing is just the ravings of a madman. Maybe they are, but that doesn’t make them any less real. If they had seen the things I have seen, the earthquake, the storm, the flooding, they wouldn’t be so skeptical. Whatever, they can be skeptical, I’m paying them to do the job regardless.

Bach used the commcode he had hacked from Rasmussen Reeves’ commlink to find his target: Reeves’ inside man in O.R.S. Locating him within the matrix took only a few moments. From that alone he could get a rough fix on his geographic location; using the matrix routing, he could get an idea of at least what city or neighborhood the target was in. Bach tried it, just in case, but got back a curious result: “remote uplink: SKAir F1350 – Seatac:Heathrow – GenDyn SV250”. That caught his attention, and he started a background search to see what location that routing might indicate. Meanwhile, he began the process of worming his way into the target’s commlink, deploying his hacking utilities to force access.

Moments later there was a chime. It wasn’t easy, but he was in. Pausing momentarily to check his stealth utility, it didn’t look like there were any alarms triggered. There were a few pieces of ICE, but all were still passively scanning the PAN. There was something unusual here; those ICE weren’t standard programs, they were sprites! Shit, this guy isn’t just a normal hacker, he’s a technomancer. Will the plans till work? Do worms even work on technomancers? Nothing else for it but to try. He set about deploying the psychotropic worm when there was a second chime in his ear.

The search results had come back. “Saeder-Krupp Airways flight 1350, departing Seattle Tacoma Int’l, arriving London Heathrow Int’l; vehicle, General Dynamics SV-250 suborbital”. According to the readout, the flight was currently in-transit and would be reaching red zone in a few minutes. Suborbitals… Isn’t there something about suborbitals and casting? Then Bach remembered.

“He’s on a suborbital!” Bach was still in the matrix, but he spoke aloud. “Get ready…” Still watching his worm do its thing, Bach heard the others conversing in agitated tones. At least the worm was working, though.

“Suborbital? Shit. That means a mana warp a few minutes before and after zenith, the ‘red zone’. If we get the timing wrong, all our brains will be jello.” said the voice of somebody’s dad.

“We can just wait. It’ll pass through the mana warp in about twenty minutes.” replied t-shirt and jeans.

“No, Bach said now. We push the spell as soon as he gives the sign.” stated Thibodeaux firmly.

A progress bar crept across Bach’s HUD, indicating the progress of the worm as it forced its way into the victim’s mind. 58%… 67%… 75%… It was an excruciating crawl towards the 100% mark, almost there, but Bach couldn’t wait. “Go, go! It has to be now!”

Bach felt the spell channeled through him, a sensation beyond words but somewhat like a cross between an orgasm and an electric chair. Then it was gone, moving from him to his commlink, through the matrix, through the worm, and into the target. It had connected!

He heard a voice, the victim’s, speaking to Bach through his commlink. The control thoughts spell had worked, he was going to speak aloud and reveal the secret headquarters of O.R.S. But Bach was expecting a city, a street; he didn’t even understand the words at first, because they all ran together.

“the dead-grey elder men with hills for hands will dance on all our graves”

Then the world went black.


Bach came to with the four members of Thibodeaux’s team looming in his field of view. He was flat on his back, and plain dress was muttering a healing spell with her hands on his head. He heard t-shirt and jeans ask “Think it was the magic drain? That spell wasn’t all that bad, but I guess he’s not as strong a caster as we are.”

“Or what is it that hackers get, shockdump? No, dumpshock?” asked somebody’s dad.

“It’s both.” said Bach, brushing them all aside to sit upright. There was a trickle of blood at his nostril, but it was already stopping and the splitting headache he had was fading, likely the work of plain dress’s spell. He tapped at his temple. His cyber eyes were working, or at least he could still see, but there was no heads up display and no response from his commlink. He ignored it for the moment.

“Does ‘the dead-grey elder men with hills for hands will dance on all our graves’ mean anything to any of you?” The four magic users cast unsure, questioning looks at one another. “Alright, nevermind. Look, uh, my commlink seems to be fried. Can I borrow one of yours to transfer the funds to your account?”

Thibodeaux helped him to his feet. “I’m not certain what happened here today, but I’ve never seen anything like it. Except for you getting brain-blasted, it was fun as hell. I trust you to pay it off when you can, or at least, you can owe me a favor.”

With that, there was little left for Bach to do but flee these strange people and this strange place as swiftly and politely as possible. In front of the bordello, out in the fresh air again, he hailed a taxi and jumped in.


Meanwhile, in the cramped bathroom cabin of S-K Airways flight 1350 to Heathrow, a man splashed water in on his face, unsure what had just happened to him. A few minutes ago, his antivirus sprites had suddenly gone wild with alarms and red-flag popups, and then he found himself whispering words in the back of his mind, speaking through his complex form with words he hadn’t intentionally formulated nor completely understood.

Unbeknownst to him, Bach had been there; the hacker was too stealthy to be detected even by the technomancer’s sprites. But there were things still stealthier than Bach, things that had also been there inside the technomancer’s skull. Things that had watched Bach with curious, intelligent eyes.

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Job's Over, the Conspiracy part III

Bach, Toro, Mort, and Reeves all stood in the garage, contemplating the disaster that just ripped up the crime mall. Toro still shook his head at Bach, amazed he had executed two civilians for seemingly no reason. Bach was still curious how Wolfe managed to perfect hitting multiple users with a single virus and then jacking out; quite impressive.

“We need to find Wolfe. He’s the key to all of this.” Bach sounded obsessed. Mort shrugged and said “Well, there was that Canadian mercenary group. Do we think he’s in Canada?”

“I’ve got a man on the inside and he seemed to indicate he could find Wolfe, but I fear it would cost him his life. I’d rather not use him unless things are truly bad.” Reeves sounded calm, or at least as calm as his grizzled, grating voice could sound. Bach looked at him incredulously. “And just how much worse do things have to get?” As they started arguing, Toro put his fingers to his temple and shut his eyes hard.

After what looked like a possible aneurism, Toro said “I think I got it!” and everyone’s comlinks pinged with a new message from “Sensai.” It was simply a map.

“Ok, so, I was talking to my Sensai,”

“No, you were pressing your fingers against your temple.

“Shh, Bach, grownups are talking. Now, he showed me a map of the world and areas that were dampened or something, and there was a particularly large area near Ontario. So, yeah. Awesome, right? Cause I’ve got magic powers.” Everyone looked at each other and then at Bach.

“Ok.”


Mort drove his Thunderbird into the cargo plane arranged by Reeves, Knight Errant chasing after him and blaring on the radio about some insane madman driving a “god damn fucking Thunderbird like a jackass” around Seattle. The plane ride was slow, though Toro was watching Bach and saw him grimace significantly.

“You okay Bach?”

“When am I ever, Toro?”

They touched down in Canada and got on Mort’s Thunderbird, launching out of the airport and flying over the forests. As they approached the lake where Toro had seen a particularly black area, Toro nodded and said “we just passed a magical barrier.” Caution being the better part of valor, Bach and Toro both left Mort’s tank and headed to the encampment on foot. Satellite imagery showed a small commune of some sort in the forest (a clear violation of National Forest laws) and they figured Wolfe might have a cultist fortification there.

Bach approached the commune on the main road, his gun drawn and Toro stalking among the bushes. Eventually a robed woman walked up to Bach, her arms in greeting and her face smiling.

“Welcome! Have you come to join our salvation?” Bach looked understandably confused. All other cultists attacked him previously. “Uh. No, I’ve come looking for Richard Wolfe. My name is de Victoria. He’s a friend of mine.”

“Ah, our leader is away right now, but he will be back before the reckoning. I can show you to his room, if you wish.” Bach nodded.

For the next thirty minutes, Bach wandered around the camp while Toro met with his Sensai (with no small amount of surprise). “Sensai? Why are you here?”

“Well, because you wanted me to be here. Now, I should tell you, I can’t leave without alerting everyone that I was here. Because of that barrier.” Toro scratched his head and nodded. He looked off at a piece of meteorite that seemed to emanate some magical energies, and by it was a sweat tent. He had an idea.

Bach, meanwhile, was done exploring. He wrote down a note to Wolfe and asked the cultist to send the message to Wolfe posthaste. Then he left, having gained little information but some interesting tidbits about Wolfe’s cultists. Mort seemed to indicate that a helicopter might be headed in their direction. Bach quickly headed over to where he and Toro separated. Instead of seeing Toro in the bushes, he saw Toro walking out of a tent pulling his pants up and shirtless.

“Toro… what the hell?” Toro looked over at Bach and smiled. “Hey! Find anything interesting? Cause I found—”

“I don’t want to hear about it. Mort, come pick us up.” After a few gun shots and explosions, Mort drove the Thunderbird up and picked up Bach and Toro. saying “don’t think we need to worry about that helicopter any more.” Great.

On the plane ride back, Bach revealed that the cultists were awaiting the arrival of Shamash, a god of fire from the sun. “So yeah, they’re crazy.”

“So what now?” Asked Reeves. “We need to see Freegrass.” Bach didn’t sound happy. No one was surprised.


Back in Seattle, Toro insisted on going to the orphanage to check on the kids, which Bach attempted to dissuade. Failing that, Bach went to see Freegrass almost immediately, looking about the garage pensively. Freegrass was by himself and waved Bach and Mort over. Bach took out his gun and looked at Freegrass.

“Give me your comlink, Freegrass. Now.” At first, Mort and Freegrass almost laughed and said “Oh Bach.” But he looked unusually threatening. Mort started to train his Lynx’s gun on Bach while Freegrass handed Bach his comlink.

“What’s?”

“Don’t speak unless I tell you to Freegrass. Now, where is Ted?”

“He left. Something about a school bus. Why?”


Toro ran around the empty orphanage, screaming the names of his kids while he tried desperately to find them. Reeves’ people couldn’t find any trace of them, and all the volunteers supposed to watch the kids were missing. Toro finally stopped and called Bach.

“Bach, the kids are missing! Find them!”

“I know, Toro. I need you here immediately, we might be able to find them, but I need you here.” Toro hated that Bach always seemed to know everything, but after a few minutes of hyperventilating and screaming, Toro finally agreed to head over to the garage. He and Reeves got in their car and started to drive off when the orphanage exploded. Toro’s eyes widened and his heart sunk.

“Anyone hurt, Reeves?”

“No, thank God. Who would do this?” Reeves’ voice grated as Toro watched his life’s work fall to pieces.


“Bach, put the gun down.” Toro was trying to reason with Bach and stop him from killing their fixer. Bach would not relent.

“Freegrass, now that we’re all here, you’re going to tell us everything you know about Ted. Because Ted’s full name is Richard Theodore Wolfe. The man we’re all chasing.” Bach gripped his gun harder, his voice emotionless and dangerous.

“You sure?” Toro sounded incredulous in spite of his belief in Bach’s ability to simply know things.

“I got a picture of Wolfe and it was Ted. I’m sure.” Immediately Toro’s swords were drawn and he picked Freegrass up off the ground. “Where are the children?!

“Toro, don’t kill him yet, he may know something.”

“Oh God, I don’t know anything! I swear, I thought his name was Ted! I mean, it is Ted. Oh Jesus, please, please stop!” After several minutes of shouting, Freegrass was let go and given to Reeves for his protection. All they got out of him was that he took Mort’s van (“He took my van? Ok, that man is going to die. Painfully.”) and he went to get a school bus.

“I’ll try and find the bus, find your van quickly Mort.” Bach sat down and jumped into the Matrix, finding the bus almost immediately due to prior knowledge. When Mort sent him an email saying “found it, let’s go,” Bach jacked out and stood up.

“Anything?” Toro was desperate.

“Sorry Toro, I couldn’t find anything. We’ll keep looking.”


Mort’s van was parked by an apartment complex that housed Ted. Mort, Bach, and Toro all drove there together in Reeves’ car and Bach’s heartbeat was higher than it should be, even considering the Long Haul. The garage was empty as Mort activated his drones, nothing in sight and no indication that a trap had been laid. Toro climbed over to Ted’s room while Bach went towards a conference room directly below Ted’s room that had been rented out for a month.

Ted’s room was a mess. Papers, pads of documents, notes, and plans covered the whole area. Toro gathered some and then messaged Bach. “Nothing up here but science-y stuff.” He heard Bach tell him to get to the room below and then heard a gun shot. Shaking his head, Toro ran to a room with a hole in it, going down to the conference room.

Bach kicked open the door with his gun still smoking and saw a room full of people lying on medical beds with computers hooked up to them. Ritual spell casting using my programs. Bastards. Then he heard beep…beep..beep. and ran to the wall, hoping the bomb wasn’t too big. The resulting explosion smashed the doors apart and Bach was hit with the door. He shook off the disorientation and dealt with the pain while he walked in, loading his gun with flechette round. Nothing appeared to be in the room, so he unplugged a computer. Gunfire flew past Bach and slammed into his flak jacket, so he dropped one of the medical beds to the ground and used the patient as a body shield.

“Toro, get down here!” Toro dropped down the hole and met with gunfire as well, dodging around the area and hiding behind a cabinet. tink… tink… Told Toro that a grenade had been launched in his area and he ran around the cabinet, soaking most of the concussive blast, but not all. Annoyed, Toro took out his swords and sliced a steel lynx to pieces, stopping the gunfire at him. Bach, meanwhile, fired two well placed armor piercing bullets into the other lynx. He smiled.

Bach’s smiled faded when a new beep started up and he saw three massive drums right in the center of the room. Bach’s eyes went wide and he grabbed a computer, running out of the room and into gunfire from the security guards from the mall.

“Toro, get the fuck out of here!” Toro, his head a little clearer, ran up the hole in the ceiling to Ted’s room as the drums burst open, flaming liquid quickly spreading across the room and spilling out into the mall. Bach ran outside the mall, firing his gun into the air and screaming at everyone to get away. It didn’t help when Mort drove up in his unmarked white van, one side soaked in blood, and Bach jumped in.

“What the hell happened to you?” Bach said, his entire right side covered in blood and a few bullet holes. Mort looked at him and smiled. “Nothing too severe. Back to the garage?”

“Absolutely not, it isn’t safe. We should go to Reeves’ church.” Toro remember his orphanage blowing to pieces and didn’t want to have to dodge that bullet twice. Back let blood drip from him as he help the computer close, hoping it might contain some important information.

I’ve got to find Wolfe…at any cost.

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Message to Bach

About an hour before you arrive back in Seattle, Bach’s commlink chirps to alert him that a new message has arrived.

de Victoria-

My Faithful have informed me that you have paid a visit to the Sanctuary. It seems you’re beginning to piece some of it together. Too much. My psychosurgeons claimed they did the job right and only I hold a copy of the key… so how is it that you have come back?

Regardless, I have more work to do in the scant hours that remain, and I cannot allow you to get in the way. The good news is, I have arranged a little field trip for the children of the Sanchez Institute. I’m sure they’ll all be thrilled to learn about volcanoes close-up; it’s just too bad this isn’t The Magic Schoolbus. I know your metagenetic freak friend cares for them, but do you? I’ve noticed you’re a much colder man than before.

-Wolfe

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Job's Over, the Conspiracy part II

“Straight to voicemail… that isn’t good.” Bach was concerned about the Johnson. For him to not accept a call invariably meant trouble, especially considering everything that was going on. Bach wanted to tell him about the Cascade Mountain Range; he believed that would be the focal point for an earthquake in Seattle. There were other points throughout the world, perhaps, but for now Bach was concerned about his city. Hoping everything was fine, Bach couldn’t take any chances and hired a cab to go to the Johnson’s church.

“Do you know where he went?” Bach asked with increasing irritation. He didn’t want the pastor to try and convert him; religion was a thing of the past for Bach. The pastor looked understandably irked, and mumbled something about how he was checking up on previous leads. Bach loaded up a list of the known associates for ORS and decided to hack into the security cameras for each location. “Fine, I’m going to go pray for guidance then.” Bach irreverently walked to a pew and sat down, launching himself into the Matrix.

Finding Matrix trails was a specialty of Bach’s, and each time he smiled whenever he was successful. The Johnson’s trail lead several places, but one was a pet store. Bach tapped into the security feed and watched as the Johnson walked into the store, chatting someone up. In a flurry of commotion, two men came out and dragged the Johnson into the back room. Bach nodded and jumped out of the Matrix. He looked up at the statue of Jesus and shook his head. “You’ve failed too many people,” he said, much to the anger of the pastor. With that, he left.

“Meet me at this pet store,” Bach said to Toro and Mort. “Why?” Toro asked, but the call had already been cut. Annoyed, Mort and Toro both arrived at the store before Bach did. The doors were locked, the lights off, and Toro kept knocking on the window, saying “Mr. Johnson? You there?” Toro had seen the Johnson’s astral signal, but was confused as to where he was now. Finally, Mort called Bach.

“Look, I’m sorry, this god damn INDIAN cab driver is taking forever. You aren’t getting tipped, Jackass!” Mort hung up the phone, amazed Bach hadn’t been killed by someone yet. Finally, Bach arrived and walked up to the door, hacking it open and walked in.

Everything was dark, the building was noisy from all the animals, and Bach kept his pistol drawn. He walked over to the back of the building as Mort watched through Bach’s livestream feed. Bach opened the back door, not expecting to see anything significant. Inside, the room was largely empty except for a knocked chair, a pool of blood, and a dog staring at Bach. Curious, Bach trained his gun on the dog, which started to growl and slowly walk towards him. Bach hacked the garage door open, and the dog started to leap at him.

Toro walked into the blood-covered room to see Bach double-tapping a dog. Memories of Bach executing their captive came back and Toro wondered if Bach had some weird murder fetish. “What the hell Bach?” Just then a cat launched itself at Toro and tore his skin up, its claws unnaturally strong and its skin obviously coated in some dermal sheath. Mort suspected something was wrong, so he looked for drone signals; the animals had slight drone commands coming from a truck in the back. Mort smiled as he let loose his LEBD drone, frag grenades rattling in anticipation.

Toro tried to catch the cat in a cage when he saw three small grenades roll to his feet. In a flash, Toro kicked the grenades back towards where they came from, but the bounced under a small table and incinerated it and smashed up Toro’s cage. He wasn’t happy, so he took out his swords and stabbed at a figure in the corner that seemed to have launched the grenades. Whatever it was, it squealed, but seemed all right. Toro launched into a rage, slashing the thing to ribbons, making sure it wouldn’t be launching explosives any more. Bach trained his pistol on the cat as explosions from outside rocked the area.

The van which held a few riggers was blown open by Mort’s LEBD, the drone cackling maniacally as it shot grenade after grenade. Finally, one landed right inside the van and exploded in a flash of blood-splattered destruction. Bach, meanwhile, executed the cat while Toro had it pinned down, then looked to the smoking van.

“Hey guys, we need to leave. Now.” Mort drove off quickly as police sirens sounded in the distance. Bach felt a rising anger.

“God damnit, Mort, your sociopathic tendencies have finally screwed us all!” Bach hated not getting information from his enemies, and it was to get anything from a smoking corpse. Over the comlink, Bach heard a loud scoff. Even Toro laughed at Bach.

Toro followed an astral signature to a dumpster as Bach hacked a car to escape. “Damnit Toro, get in the car! We’re leaving!” Toro was holding the dead dog, cat, and the pieces of the rabbit he had shredded in the corner, but he dropped them all as he reached into the dumpster. In a minute, he pulled out the Johnson’s beaten corpse and ran back to the car with that and the exploded dog, throwing them both into the trunk of the car.

Back at the garage, Mort looked into the dog and the files gathered from the dead riggers computers, while Bach linked into the Johnson’s cyber-eyes. Bach played the files and watched through the Johnson’s eyes as he was interrogated, beaten, and killed. It was a shaking experience, but Bach just silently watched and downloaded the information.

“Find anything?” Toro asked.

“Maybe.”

Bach stood up and reviewed the locations the Johnson had been too. Something has to be there, he thought to himself. He called for a cab and was about to ask Toro if he wanted to go investigating when Toro spoke up.

“So, what do we do with the body?”

“What body?”

“The Johnson’s body.” Toro sounded amazed that Bach even had to ask and he quickly looked around to ensure that dead bodies weren’t secretly lying everywhere on the ground. He couldn’t be too sure with Bach these days.

“Nothing, he’s dead.” Bach sounded fairly callous, but something told Toro to leave it alone. At first, Toro thought about explaining how ascending to the astral plane and joining the many creatures in the great beyond was important, especially for humans that managed to surpass their Earthly trappings (for Toro thought much of this Johnson) but getting into an argument with Bach was low on his list, and Toro suspected Bach felt more than he let on anyway.

“Okay, see ya!” Toro grabbed the body and walked outside, hoping to catch a cab on his walk to the Johnson’s old stomping ground. Bach, meanwhile looked into the previous visits the Johnson made. Everything was empty, all the ORS buildings cleaned out.

Bach received a call from Toro, which he reluctantly picked up. “Bach, we’re headed to the crime mall. This awesome crazy priest guy says that there’s a demonstration or something, so come on.”

“All right, well, I need you to pick me up. I’m at an abandoned building on first and second.” Silence followed Bach’s request. “First… and second? I… what?”

Bach, Mort, and Toro were all on the way to the crime mall with their new ‘Johnson;’ a strange looking man in a full priest get up, an eye patch, and a grey beard hiding a chiseled old jaw. He briefed them quickly about the demonstration, but really they had no information. Bach felt agitated.

They arrived and walked around the mall looking for clues, but no one looked suspicious or out of place. Bach, however, looked at the public hacking cafe with a curious look and walked over, logging into the general network. Nothing seemed suspicious. The priest sat on a bench, looking around with his giant Ruger pistol resting peacefully on his lap. Toro walked around pensively and Mort scanned the area. Nothing.

Bach was about to suggest leaving when newORleans_Saint logged into the chat room and hit everyone with a virus. Bach quickly jacked out and found himself chanting, a peculiar sensation that he shook away after a minute. Immediately, he looked to his side and saw a man jacked into the Matrix, his eyes closed and he muttered one of the ORS chants.

“The demonstration is to make civilians chant and cause an earthquake!” Bach said, taking out his pistol and putting it to the head of the hacker, his adrenaline pumping from almost losing his mind and being controlled by ORS again. With a quick pull, he splashed the man’s head all over the nearby computer and turned to another, kicking him through the window as he scattered his brains across the mall.

“Attention Crime Mall Shoppers; the Mall has been attacked. Execute all citizens that are chanting before they cause an unbelievably powerful earthquake.” Bach announced over the loudspeaker with much more technobable, but that was the basic gist that no one really cared about. Toro looked over at the priest, who pistol whipped a talking civilian unconscious and then loaded up rubber bullets in his gun. Toro nodded in approval. Then he looked at Bach, saw he was covered blood, and three heavily armed guards were approaching him. Great.

Quickly, Toro ran at Bach as he said to the guards “trust me, anyone chanting is really the enemy,” his eyes glowing more than usually. Toro tackled Bach to safety as one of the guards screamed and pumped AK bullets into an unarmored chanting civilian, screaming “All chanters must die!” Toro looked at Bach and said “We’re leaving! NOW!”

Outside, Mort watched the barometer twitch and spasm impossibly, the outside temperature dropping thirty degrees in a matter of minutes as dark clouds formed overhead. “Guys,” he said over the com, “we need to leave.” Unfortunately, all anyone heard was “REGERE INFIRMA, MUNDATA PER IGNEM, FINEM MUNDI,” as Mort chanted without his knowledge.

The winds outside picked up, and large hail smashed into the roof of the mall, hurting anyone outside and cracking old cars with real glass windows. Toro led Bach out of the mall via an employee entrance, dodging bullets and security measures and chastising Bach about his rash and destructive actions. Bach was curiously silent, inwardly upset with his overreaction to the psychotropic ICE.

As they all got in the van, the priest still looking at Mort with his gun raised and his hand over Mort’s mouth (Mort had managed to control the chanting after a few threatening minutes with the priest), they drove off like the devil was behind them. A massive tornado funnel appeared overhead and touched down on the mall, ripping the roof off and tossing cars about indiscriminately.

All Bach could think is how proud he was of his creation. And how much it needed to stop.

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Job's Over, The Conspiracy part I

Bach stood in front of the ORS Johnson, holding his guts in and coughing blood onto the floor of Mort’s submarine basement. He was trying to ask the Johnson a question, but kept coughing up lung tissue instead. Toro walked up with a blow torch while Bach nearly coughed himself to death.

“So, you feel like talking Mr. Johnson?” Asked Toro as he tested the blow torch.

“Not really.” Toro responded to the Johnson’s indifference by burning off one of his nipples. The Johnson screamed in pain, but didn’t say much else. Upstairs, Mort was talking to the priestly Johnson and explained about how they had captured him from the previous heist.

“So, let me get this straight,” said the priest, “you cut off his hand—”

“Toro did and he had a big gun, so, yeah. Basically.”

“Okay, sure, you cut off his hand, beat him unconscious, took him here, and now you’re torturing him for information? Are you aware that torture isn’t effective, first of all, and isn’t something I condone, second of all?” Mort nodded and the priest looked increasingly uncomfortable as the Johnson screamed from below. After a few minutes, Toro and Bach came upstairs, Bach staggering and holding his stomach.

“I don’t want you torturing him.” Said the priest to Toro. Toro shrugged. “Sure, he didn’t have anything good to say anyway.” The priest was about to ask Bach something when he took a look at him.

“Oh Jesus! Bach, you need a doctor!” The priest didn’t seem to mind the blasphemy. It felt appropriate. After significant argumentation, deliberation, and coercion, Bach was sent to his doctor while everyone tried to figure out what to do with their now captured Johnson.


“So, I don’t know how anyone got in here, but yeah. He’s dead now.” Toro looked down at the body of the Johnson, a large knife protruding from his chest. There was no other sign of disturbance in the room. Bach, now fixed and looking strange, just shook his head. “Perfect.”

Upstairs Mort and the Priestly Johnson were discussing what to do. “Well, there’s still the CEO.” Mort nodded and started preparing his drones for the next mission. Toro and Bach walked upstairs and admitted to finding nothing on the Johnson. Everyone was silent for a moment. Bach, his mind racing furiously from the Long Haul in his system, spoke up.

“Well, nothing to it. Let’s go try and get the CEO. They’ll be expecting us, but with the Johnson dead, hopefully they won’t have the firepower they previously would. I’ll get us some extra muscle.” Mort prepped his drones, Toro practiced Spanish, and Bach talked to Freegrass, snagging a group of three highly qualified shadowrunners.

“Simple plan. We’ve got three minutes to get across the parking lot, infiltrate, snag the CEO, and get out. Toro will stealth across quickly, Mort will send in his drones and try to take out the sniper. Soon as the sniper is alerted, we move like hell and get back. No heroics, no chances taken; just an easy clean job. Understood?” Bach spoke on a conference call to his team: Mort, Toro, and three shadowrunners. Everyone nodded and agreed, though the shadowrunners were a little confused why their Johnson was going in with them, but money is money. Toro dashed through the shade and got close to the building as one of Mort’s flying drones popped up by the sniper’s position. Unfortunately, the sniper was well aware of the drone and a sniper shot rang through the air, the drone crashing into a bush. “Let’s move.”

The team ran across the parking lot while the sniper focused on Toro, who was trying to crash through a window into the ORS building. The sniper had taken some of a grenade, but was still functioning, though he failed to notice the elf runner climb up the building with his SMG in hand. Burstfire rang and the sniper was no longer a threat. Toro crashed through the window and in a minute, the team followed up.

The building was dark and there weren’t any walls left standing. Only the girders supporting the roof were in the area. Everyone looked around, switching cyber-eyes into low-light. At first, they couldn’t see anything, so Toro and Bach ran into the building while the runners stayed back, feeling nervous and saying “this isn’t what you hired us for, man.”

Cultists appeared out of the shadows, some with guns, some with bombs, chanting and running at Toro and Bach. Bach responded by running faster towards the back, where the CEO’s desk should be. Toro, however, jumped away from a grenade and ran at a pair of cultists taking grenades out of a box. In a flash, Toro ripped the pins out of two grenades and lept over some rubble, the blast booming across the empty building. As Bach shot up a cultist carrying daggers seriously, daggers? he could hear the whirring noise of Mort’s steel lynx’s machine gun and the burst fire of the elf’s SMG. As he got near the desk, Bach saw it was laden with gasoline and a small incendiary bomb rolling towards it.

TORO!” Bach screamed. Toro ran up to Bach and grabbed him to get him away, but Bach wanted Toro to get the bomb and throw it away from the gasoline. Unfortunately, they struggled instead of agreed on what to do, and the bomb detonated. Bach, with his new bone-lacing and dermal sheath, soaked the explosion (thank you Dr. Kratchen), but Toro yelled in agony.

IDIOT! All right, we’re leaving everyone, NOW!” Bach yelled into his comlink and turned, running to the exit. Bullets flew everywhere as the building caught on fire and started to burn to the ground. A minute later and everyone was out, Toro still extinguishing himself.


“So, they knew you were coming?” Asked the priest. Everyone nodded. “Find out anything?” Everyone shook their heads. Toro, feeling a little better after smoking one of Bach’s “magic healing sticks,” then said “Well I took the dead guard with us.”

Everyone looked down at the corpse. He was a guard, some nobody that died in the firefight. Bach started looking up some of the companies in the plaza they had attacked, hoping to find some more information. It took a while, but he found out that one of the Lawyer companies was a front. It instead seemed to be known for kidnapping jobs, which peaked his interest. Cross-referencing that with ORS, he found some tenuous correlations that didn’t excite him until he found the name of the dead guard connected with the lawyer company. Bach smiled.

SWEET! I knew we would need his body! Man, I’m so AMAZINGLY smart!” Toro cheered and fist-pumped. Bach regretted mentioning anything to Toro, but they now had a lead to the conspiracy. And Bach looked forward to rooting it out.


Bach walked over to Mort after several hours of reviewing old ShadowSEA news clippings. He looked hyped up, more than normal, and Mort wasn’t sure whether it was the Long Haul or just Bach. In either case, Mort quietly activated his steel Lynx. Can’t be too safe.

“All right, I’ve been looking at some old news, and I think we’ve been looking at ORS with too much of a narrow lens. What about all the stuff that’s been happening around the world? Look at the weird things happening in Australia! And we’ve only been looking at tech, what about awakened? You with me?” Mort nodded and said some platitude, watching Bach’s gun hand carefully. Bach thought Mort was acting suspicious, but didn’t care enough to investigate. Without further ado, he took a seat, and fell into the Matrix. Mort told the Lynx to keep her gun trained on and gave the machine a quick pat on the head. “That’s a good girl.”

In the Matrix, Bach started looking into Australia and found an Overseas Relief Service base in Australia, as well as lots of suspicious ORS activity in a city called Pine Glen. He also found four other relevant ORS bases across the world. The conspiracy started to take a global form, but it still confused him. Curious, he looked into Online Reuplink Systems, and all the businesses they took over. All there businesses had to do with satellite connectivity, a concept that floated around for a while on keeping a stable matrix, but grounded matrix connections were simply faster. An idea occurred to Bach; what if there was a disaster on land so large it knocked out the matrix, and the only way to get access was through satellite? Then ORS would have the cornerstone on the matrix. Bach smiled. Clever.

The priest Johnson received a call from Bach, who frantically related the conspiracy to him in an almost unintelligible string of paranoia. After thinking about it, the Johnson agreed such a thing looked fairly accurate. “So we need to find where a vulnerable spot would be, where would an Earthly disaster be placed to knock out the matrix?” The Johnson contemplated and said he’d look into it. Meanwhile, Bach started looking into Awakened activity, but nothing fruitful came of it.

“Hey Bach,” Mort said on the phone, even though they were physically three feet apart, “I need to go to the crime mall. Want to come with?”

“Sure, that sounds good. I need to pick up some flechette rounds anyway. Easier to kill robed targets with flechette…” Mort nodded and muttered “okay Bach…”

They were on the road when Bach started to look more into the lawyer firm that seemed to have connections to ORS. At first, it just looked like a shady company, so Bach sent a quick message to Reardon, asking him to investigate the place as well. Snoops can pick up things Bach missed. But Bach had a particular specialty; hacking into business financial accounts. It didn’t take long to get basic access.

The firm had made no money in the past months, and was hemorrhaging creds across its main subsidiaries; the ORS companies. Bach smiled. “That’s a Bingo.” Hoping to garner more information, Bach upped his security rating and look a gander, but found nothing enlightening. ICE was starting to mill around the node, so Bach discreetly transferred about fifty thousand creds to his account (why not make a little money, eh?) and started to jack out. As he left the node, he noticed a small glowing button following him, some strangely inactive piece of ICE. Curious.


Mort was driving along elevated highway, having a great time envisioning the missiles he was going to purchase, when his van’s proximity alert pinged. Mort took a quick look; nothing. Then the flat tire alarm went off. Then the back door light went off, indicating it was open. Mort wondered what was going on, when he noticed all the cars on the road were swerving and pulling off, the elevated highway undulating and waving as a small earthquake built up around the area. Mort pushed the van faster, needing to get off the highway before it collapsed, but the earthquake seemed to be all along the highway. He launched off the highway, hoping the event passed soon. The highway settled down, cracks along the foundation and some parts of it destroyed, but nothing too severe, all things considered. Problem was the ground below the van continued to rumble.


Bach looked at the ICE with some interest. It looked familiar to him, like a memory he had forgotten. First he wanted to get it off of him, so he found some other person’s signal and tried to switch matrix identities with them. Bach’s persona flickered and all of a sudden he was a short fat bald man, while that guy’s persona grew in size and a large black coat was draped on his shoulders. The ICE was not fooled. Bach flickered again and felt annoyed. Perhaps it’s harmelss? He gave it a quick examination and found that it was a psychotropic ICE, and it was doing something to his brainwaves. Wonderful.


Mort drove through the seismic tremors with increasing concern. He decided that maybe Bach could find out something and turned around to see Bach was unconscious, but muttering something. As Mort got closer, he heard the cultists chant whispered from Bach’s lips. Mort tried calling Bach, but his comlink was locked and no response came. As the van drove on, and Bach continued to chant, the earthquake continued. “Bach?”


Bach finally decided enough was enough. In the matrix, he pulled out a gun and fire a shot into the ICE, his attack program shattering the tether between them. But he was still too curious. Quickly, Bach made a matrix cage program and entrapped the ICE entirely, nowhere for it to go and no one for it attach to. Unfortunately, this caught the attention of other, more aggressive ICE programs in the node, so Bach worked quickly to disassemble the psychotropic ICE and find its code. After that, he jacked out and opened his eyes.

Mort was staring at him. “You okay?” Bach nodded and asked “why?”

“Well, you were chanting and the ground was rumbling like a minor earthquake.” Bach nodded, nothing really making sense to him, but he pretended like it did. “Oh yeah, don’t worry I fixed that. Won’t happen again.” Mort shrugged and said “all right, well, let’s just get to the crime mall.”

Bach agreed and couldn’t wait to further examine the ICE code, hoping to understand what piece of tech could make earthquakes follow you around.

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The Seventh Job

“Got a job for you.”

The Johnson wanted to speak with Bach, Toro, and Mort somewhat specifically and Bach wondered what was going on. He hated being a puppet and wanted to know more about the Johnson’s plans and motivations, but asking someone so secretive to openly share their schemes never really works in anyone’s favor. Bach wanted to meet in a comic book shop; yet another unvisited location and, therefore, safe.

Naturally the Johnson was already at the shop, looking somewhat out of place and significantly less knowledgeable about the going’s-on of teenagers. Bach smiled and put that knowledge in the back of his mind. The three of them walked up and waited by the Johnson, all of them looking imposing and somewhat odd in the store, no doubt drawing the eyes of impressionable kids. Toro, fortunately, didn’t seem to angry at Bach for exposing children to the ostentation of Shadowrunning, even if they weren’t advertising their profession, it hung on Bach like a shroud. They all went into a private room to talk.

“All right, so, I’m going to just lay my cards out on the table. I work for an organization dedicated to disrupting a cult by the name of Ordo Retinae Spinae, or ORS, and we’ve hit a wall. You all helped us quite a bit gathering equipment and information, but now we aren’t sure what to do, as we just don’t know enough.” The Johnson paused and Mort and Toro waited apprehensively, the new information filtering through their minds. Bach remained silent and looked away, the Johnson looking at him with a moment of anticipation before he continued on.

“You all worked for the organization before, the Johnson that hired you to deliver a box and assassinate that young man works for their organization. Our problem is that we need more information, but we aren’t sure what exactly we can do. I’m wondering what your thoughts are.” The three shadowrunners stood silently for a moment, processing. Toro, unsurprisingly, was the first to break the silence.

“So… that Johnson is probably mad at us?” Bach closed his eyes with practiced patience. “Yes Toro. That Johnson wants us dead.” Toro nodded, looking worried. “Oh.”

“Well, what if we go back to their headquarters? Those offices we attacked before?” Said Mort, the Johnson nodding in agreement. “Yes, those were our thoughts as well. The CEO should be there and perhaps we can get information out of him.”

“The security on their offices would be increased after our last visit,” said Bach, speaking quietly and hoping no one asks him any questions. Toro chuckled.

“Well, that won’t be a problem, the guards there were pretty terrible before. I’m sure we’d be fine.” While they spoke, the Johnson pulled up a schematic of the building and was preparing to show the layout of the offices and entry points and other such things when Bach decided to make his argument.

“We should get the Johnson.” It wasn’t a very persuasive argument. Toro and Mort both immediately disagreed, talking about the CEO being more knowledgeable or something that Bach didn’t really care about. He waited for a moment while they protested.

“So, you believe that if we make a surprise attack against the CEO, the Johnson won’t lever his formidable contacts and lists of wetwork agents against us? We’ll have to deal with the Johnson at some point. Now is better than later, when he’s prepared to eliminate us.” Everyone stood silently, processing the thought of a Johnson actively interested in their demise. It wasn’t long before they all agreed to kidnap the Johnson. Since interrogation was part of the plan, Mort called up Jim the Elf, since he is known for his ability to talk people into secrets best kept quiet.

The Johnson lived in a high-class apartment complex on the sixth floor, the entire floor purchased by the company and being rented out to an indeterminate number of workers. They all agreed on a plan and set to work. Bach went to Freegrass to hire a few shadowrunners to monitor the building for anyone trying to leave through the windows, but all Freegrass got was a small gang of skaterkids. Bach shrugged and hired them for a small amount, giving the a few handguns with blanks. It was then that he realized he had made a grave mistake.

“Hey Toro? Yeah, got some bad news. I hired some kids and gave them firearms.” A dial tone answered his statement and Bach figured Toro was on his way to the garage to eviscerate him for handing Kids firearms. Still, all the things for which Toro would kill him, this was hardly the worst. After a few minutes, Bach called again and Toro picked up.

“So, Bach. Where are you?” Toro said super suspiciously. “Look, Toro, I know you want to tear my arms off, but these were the only contacts I found at such short notice, and I’m not happy about it,” lies, “but this is where we are. They have stun rounds so they won’t hurt each other and I expect you to take the firearms back after the job, so…” Toro sighed and said fine. Bach figured that was the worst thing he’d have to deal with. He was wrong.

It was early in the morning, Toro’s chameleon suit was finished (stealthed infiltration integral to getting a giant and strange looking Orc into a high-class apartment building), and Bach and Jim waltzed into the building with Mort’s steel lynx at their side. Jim convinced the security guard with some fast speaking that the lynx and Bach were his body guards. Before long they were in the elevator and riding up to the sixth floor, Bach feeling jittery. Just a few hours ago, sleep deprivation started to hit him, so he popped a Long Haul into his system, convinced that in four days when the drug wore off he’d already be dead. Now, the drug was making him ready to act, his fingers wrapping around the Ares Predator grip like an addictive vice.

The elevator opened right as Toro silently slid down a rope dangling down the atrium, stepping onto the floor and looking around at the dimly lit doors, his body fading out of existence from the chameleon suit. Bach no longer wanted to wait, so he hacked into the lights and flipped all the lights in the floor on, saying to Mort via livestream “What do we see Mort?”

Outside the floor at the windows, Mort had positioned spy drones looking in and with all the lights on, he told Bach there were guards in a room to their right, the Johnson across the hall, and other employees in the rooms behind them to their left. Bach yelled at Toro to get the Johnson while the lynx rolled up to the wall, swiveling its gun towards the room filled with guards. Gunfire overtook the hallway as its mini-gun launched into rotation, bullet shells filling the hallway it guarded as it ripped through the wall and sprayed the room blindly with fire. Bach took cover behind a railing to the atrium; not the safest place, but better than nothing. Soon, a few guards ran out of the room, covering their heads and firing at Toro as Toro kicked down the Johnson’s door. Bach responded in kind, firing bullets with a maniacal scream Jim took as the first stage of insanity. However, Jim also turned around and provided covering fire for Toro.

“Damnit, Bach, there’s some hidden door and its locked!” Toro said after about twenty seconds. Bach sat back and launched himself into the matrix, finding the maglock and smiling as he started to decode it. It was significantly more difficult than a normal lock, but nothing he couldn’t handle. He was almost done when pain shot across his mind, eyes, and life seemed to slip away. The Matrix was pulled away from him and everything went dark.

Jim shoved an adrenaline shot into Bach’s heart after patching up some of his exit wounds and Bach woke up, looking around in confusion. His hand reached over and pushed in his intestine, bullet holes scattered across his chest, stomach and arm. Jim helped him stand and brought him to the stairs, but Bach couldn’t see anything but his own blood, delirious from pain and disorientation. Last he knew, he was in the Matrix. Gunfire filled his ears as he fired blindly to the side, mumbling about police and how they all had to leave. Bach didn’t remember how he got to Mort’s van, but he did. So did Toro and the Johnson.

Bach sat back, holding his guts in and bleeding like sweat, his eyes rolling in his head as life started to barely come back into focus. He wondered how long it would last.

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The Sixth Job

“Got a job for you.”

“Remember when life was that simple? Fixer’s called up, told us we got a
job, and that was that? Instead… this.” Bach looked at the corpses lying
in a van parked just outside Mort’s garage. He had gotten a text from
Reardon about how he might need to get to the garage and ‘clean some things
up, I’ll owe you later.’ Bach was not excited about the message, especially
considering they had just returned from their trip to a mercenary-filled
encampment. The garage was quiet, now. Just blood dripping down the van
door from the hole in the orc’s neck.

Inside wasn’t much better. There was a van half-open, stacks of Novacoke
spilling out of it and a few more corpses surrounding the area. Wonderful.
Now we’ve got a mob that wants us dead.

“So… is that coke?” Toro asked. Bach looked over at Toro with some
apprehension. Although he had not made a conscious decision to leave Toro
in the dark, he still felt it was the best option. Now, he had no idea what
strange decisions Toro would make.

“Yes,” Bach said and immediately tried to contact Freegrass. Once he knew
the garage was safe, he knew it needed to be cleaned immediately. Toro
nodded and walked up to the van, examining it with an intentional
nonchalance that betrayed the crazy in his eyes. Mort expressed some
concern at the loss of a large amount of money in drugs, but Bach wasn’t
too concerned about it.

In a flash, Toro jumped into the drivers seat and started the car,
screaming “Car, full speed right ahead into the bay!” Bach looked over with
only a mild amount of alarm. As Freegrass’ phone went right to voicemail,
Bach tapped into the van’s automated security and reinforced the security
protocols, just in case Toro managed to override them (doubtful). Then he
went about trying to contact Jacob for a good, reputable cleaner while
watching the scene.

The van lurched forward and launched into overdrive towards the bay, Mort
turning around and shouting “What are you doing?” incredulously. With a
sudden impact and many a package of coke flying into the front of the van,
it stopped dead and said “proximity alert, adjusting speed appropriately.”
Toro scratched his head. “Van, forward! GO!” Nothing happened. Mort knocked
on the window and Bach watched as they had a discussion, though of what he
couldn’t hear.

“Yeah, Bach, what’s up?”

“Jacob, I need a cleaner at the garage quickly. I can’t get a hold of
Freegrass, so you’re the other person I know who might know a guy. Tell him
I’ll pay him on arrival.” Bach cut the call and walked over to the van.

“Toro, the van has security precautions that prevent things like this.”
Toro looked at Bach. “oh.”

“Look, I don’t know what to do with the coke, but driving it into the bay
is a great way to draw a lot of attention to an already problematic
situation. Just get out and stop acting dumb.” Toro muttered under his
breath, but left the van. After some deliberation, they decided to call
Jim, the elf they worked with what seemed like an age ago. Jim had contacts
and might be able to sell the coke easily. While he drove to the garage,
Bach met the cleaners and paid them for their service, plastic wrap soon
covering most of the garage. It was then that Mort called Bach and Toro
down to the submarine pen, namely to show them the submarine sitting in it.
Could this day get any weirder? Jim arrived and, bigger things to do than
wonder what to do with a sub, they all left to figure out this coke
business.

Turns out the assumption that Jim could sell coke was more than accurate.
Within a few hours, Jim set them up with a mob and the coke was off their
hands entirely. Bach felt some relief, not the least of which is because he
got a ping from Freegrass’ phone that indicated he was back online. Without
much delay, Bach headed back to the garage, where Freegrass’ phone seemed
to be located.

Freegrass and Reardon sat in the garage, talking and just sitting around.
Freegrass looked worse for wear; his eye was swollen and he seemed to have
been beaten in several spots on his body. Bach, Mort, Toro, and Jim walked
up to him. “So, you aren’t dead,” said Bach.

“No, man, not yet. Anyway, Johnson’s got a job for you man. Ima go get
high.” Bach tried to get some information out of him about the attack, but
he wasn’t interested in discussing it further. With a shrug, Bach arranged
to meet the Johnson at an artisanal butcher.

It was without any surprise that Bach walked into the butcher shop and saw
the Johnson with an apron on, cutting up meat with an artistry that might
have shocked almost anyone else. Bach felt a certain amount of annoyance at
the Johnson’s apparent ability to fit in anywhere. The Johnson invited the
four of them in and offered them a pound of ground beef. It looked
delicious. Bach declined, and in an instant Toro picked it up and looked as
pleased as punch.

“Thanks for coming on such short notice. I have a job for you that, well,
it might not be the safest job, but it should be interesting! There’s a
military ship scheduled for decommission tomorrow and they are giving it a
nice farewell by practicing their explosives on it. We would really like to
get the satellite equipment on the ship, so if you could make it look as
though the satellite had already been collected and then get it before the
ship explodes, that would be pretty great.” The Johnson chopped up some
more beef, and considering the proposition he just recommended, it seemed
as ominous as it possibly could.

“So, you want us to sneak on board a military ship set for demolition? That
sounds reasonable to you?” Bach sounded incredulous. Messing with the
military was generally something to be avoided, not sought after. Toro was
far too interested in meat to consider the gravity of the situation. Mort
might have been otherwise nervous about the job, but the thought of using
his brand new (and timely arrived) submarine lit his eyes with a fervor
Bach could only describe as dangerous. Jim seemed largely noncommittal on
the whole situation.

“I understand this job is pretty dangerous, but I’m willing to pay more for
your hazards. So, you up for it?” Toro accepted another pound of meat from
the Johnson, which was as much an affirmative from the group as any. God
damnit, Toro.
Back at the garage, Mort made himself busy with the
submarine, making sure it would be ready to ride in just a few hours. Jim
expressed an interest in finding some of the naval personnel and seeing if
they knew more about the exact time of destruction and found a bar that was
heavily frequented by the military. Bach went with, hacking into their
system and marking the satellite as already removed, hoping that would be
enough to keep it on the ship.

Bach and Jim strolled into the bar and casually listened to the surrounding
talk. Jim, as was his nature, bought a couple drinks and chatted everyone
up until everyone there thought he was as much a navy man as anyone. Jim
got some decent information regarding the approximate location and time and
figured that was good enough and left. Bach, however, had a separate plan
that he enacted on the cab ride home. He doctored up photos of the military
men with photos he had of their stacks of nova coke, mixed them with a few
well trafficked pornography sites, and then linked several key emails to
known gangs and pornography rings, and then sent the information
anonymously to some scandalous news websites. It was like an art designed
to destabilize and corrupt the military gears and Bach hoped it would slow
down the whole demolition event tomorrow, as many of the personnel were
part of the crews working the event. In short, it was beautiful.

The next morning, Bach woke everyone up an hour early, just to be safe.
Mort got up and chugged an energy drink, Toro rolled over into some of the
half-eaten partially cooked beef he had heated up with a blowtorch in the
garage, and Jim snapped open his eyes and calmly got a cab over to the
garage. After a short amount of preparation, they were away. This is when
Bach found out that submarine rides are not enjoyable.

After some ‘piloting’ by Mort, they arrived at the area and waited
patiently for the ship to show up. A tug boat put it into position and as
the boat slowly left the demolition sight, Toro, Jim, and Bach all popped
open the hatch as the sub surfaced and prepared to get onto the ship. Bach
and Mort were busy monitoring for observational drones and shutting them
down (fortunately the drones were old and used incredibly outdated
programming) and Toro started to ‘lead the way.’

“Absolutely not, I’ll lead the way Toro. I have a map, just stop doing
whatever you are doing.” Toro grumbled something about jackasses that Bach
didn’t quite hear and then Bach loaded up a virtual tour program to show
him how to get to the bridge. Unfortunately, the VI for the program
featured a ridiculously dressed sailor who would walk around corners with
tidbits of information and ask if the audience knew which side was the
‘port’ side and which the ‘starboard’ side. It made Bach feel unnerved
every time he rounded a corner and saw some strange man standing there.
Bach fidgeted and looked about with apprehension, much to the consternation
of Toro and Jim.

They arrived at the bridge and began looking for the satellite equipment,
finding it after a few minutes. This coincided, however, with Mort
detecting a helicopter flying towards their position, probably to get a
better vantage point on the detonation. Toro grabbed the satellite and
looked to Bach and Jim. “All right, time to book it.” Bach started running
back to the sub, but Toro took Bach’s phrase to heart and outran them all,
getting lost in the process. A few phone calls later and Toro was back at
the sub. They departed within a few minutes of the ship exploding. Bach’s
breathing took several minutes to level out.

Back in Seattle, they met the Johnson at a church, where he was apparently
a minister. He brought them a more secluded section of the church and
smiled when they informed him of the good news.

“Excellent, I knew you guys would get it done! Very nice, very nice indeed.”

“Yeah, but there is the hazard associated with the job to consider. We
barely got out with our lives. Perhaps we deserve a little more?” Jim
sounded charismatic and suave and Bach immediately stopped paying
attention. Compensation was not entirely relevant to him.

At least the job was done.

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The Fifth Job

“Got a job for you!”

Bach felt relieved to see the message. But I’m getting ahead of myself, for it was several hours before this message arrived that Bach felt stress building. He was sitting in his grungy motel, feeling safer than he would anywhere else, breaking down the encrypted code on a datalink of his. It was well encrypted and it was several hours of work yet Bach wasn’t even sure it was half done when he got a call from Mort. Bach jacked out of the datalink, his work lingering for when he got back to it, and he answered Mort’s call.

“Bach, I need you to come over to my garage.” Suspicion grew in Bach’s mind. “Why?” Perhaps Mort found out about me and wants to collect a bounty. Images of a steel lynx gunning him down entered into Bach’s mind.

“Uh. Well. There’s a door here and I can’t open it, so I need you to come over.” A likely story said with trepidation? Mort’s going to try and kill me. “Yeah?” Said Bach skeptically, “V-link it to me.” Bach doubted there would be a video sent to him and was quite surprised to allow a system link that showed a video of Mort’s garage and a strange heavy metal door. Bach’s interest was peaked.

“There’s a keypad…” Before Mort had finished speaking, Bach lit the keypad up and punched in the code, finding it hidden within the programming. On the other side of the door was an ominous ladder. From his quick research, Bach decided this was probably a storage hideout of a gang that previously housed this garage. While he thought it possible there would be traps, it didn’t seem terribly likely.

A resounding explosion and a flash of light across the vid proved Bach to be wrong in his assumption. Mort got the end of the explosion and didn’t feel too good about Bach saying “Oh yeah, watch out for traps.” Mort was about ready to have his drones kill Bach as he got to the bottom of the ladder. Lights and sensors from Mort showed a few more trip wires that weren’t a big deal. The stacks of novacoke was however. Bach looked at the image through the vid and said “I’ll be right there.”

Bach and Mort stood in the basement looking at what must have been millions of Nuyen in coke, Bach with a sense of impossible foreboding and Mort with mild excitement as retirement played in his head. “There’s also a small submarine bay further down the hall.” Mort’s voice cracked and sparked with anticipation. Bach just shook his head. “Great.”

And then Bach got the message from Freegrass. Relief at working overtook the desperation at this odd discovery, especially since Bach wasn’t sure what they would even do with that kind of merchandise. Freegrass, who was standing in Mort’s garage, told them about how the previous Johnson wanted them for another job. They all agreed to meet at an ice cream truck and headed off to see him immediately.

Mr. Johnson stood at the ice cream truck giving out free ice cream to the homeless. was all Bach could think. “Excellent, good to see you all. What kind of ice cream would you want?” Toro ordered the largest ice cream a person could order while Bach and Mort got normal sized ice creams. It must have looked odd, Bach realized, four grown men all in dark and suspicious clothing buying ice cream.

“So we want you to go to a mercenary base outside of town and retrieve an item for us. There will probably be some resistance and we can hire a helicopter for you to get you in and out quickly, but I’d like this done in a timely manner no matter how you decide.” After some deliberation, the three shadowrunners agreed to the mission and asked for the Johnson to hire them a helicopter. While the Johnson ominously claimed “you’ll know the item I want when you see it,” Toro began vomitting ice cream onto the sidewalk. Bach decided it was time to leave.

Bach spent the next few hours researching the area; topographical maps, information on possible merc groups, he even snagged some photos from an ‘enthusiast’ of the area with heat signatures detailed on the pictures. Bach had made a deal with the man to stream video footage of the ‘government conspiracy’ (much of which had to do with the mercenary groups), but it was an easy price to pay. Doubly so, since Bach intended to jam his own video signal when things got a little more serious.

They landed just at dusk on the military base and ran towards the mercenary encampment under cover of darkness. Mort brought his steel lynx with him, the metal cat rolling over the hills with an imposing nature. As they got near the base, a sniper shot rang out through the night and the ground around Toro exploded. Bach looked over at Toro and figured he would be an excellent distraction, hoping the sniper was focused on Toro and not him. Slinking through the shadows, Bach tried to disrupt the sniper’s smartlink tech, but tried not to draw attention to himself. Several shots continued to ring out and none of them focused on Bach. Good thing Toro stands out. Giving me all the time I… An explosion shook the building Bach stood against and no more than twenty feet above him, a grenade detonated and debris fell down around him. God. Damn. Mort.

Bach edged around the barracks and saw the communications building—his probable goal. Recklessly, he ran out from the building and then looked to his left, two mercenaries preparing their guns and looking right at him. For a moment the three men just looked at each other. Bach acted first by ducking back under the cover of the barracks while gunfire tailed his armor jacket. Bach had no intention of killing two armed soldiers, so instead he turned on all the security precautions of one of the trucks by the soldiers. Around the corner, Bach saw lights flashing and heard the horn blaring and watched as the soldiers looked around in shock. He took the opportunity to dash across the field, opening the security door as fast as he could and slamming it shut, reprogramming the keypad code to give him more time.

Inside the communications array the space was huge and cavernous, massive shelves holding miscellaneous tools and gear of different tech. Girders held the satellite on top in place and ran the length and width of the giant room while pipes and conduits snaked across the ceiling and walls. Bach tapped into the internet and was amazed, an overbearing signal strength almost drowning out the unbelievable amount of information being downloaded to the array. He guessed that between thirty and fifty percent of all the matrix traffic from Seattle was being downloaded to a storage area in the array. It was incredible. And right in the center of the room was a man sitting by a metallic ball hooked up to large pipes and a glowing circle surrounding the two.

Bach took out his gun and walked up to the man who reminded him of the first job with his old Johnson. He knelt and looked at the man. “Step away from the device.” The man didn’t move. Bach moved the gun threateningly. “I said move.” Still nothing. He fired a warning shot at the man’s feet, but the bullet hit the air, a flash of light revealing a sphere where the glowing line was and the bullet dropped the ground. God damnit.

Bach stood and tried to push through the barrier. It was as though he was pushing against a wall. He tried shooting it a couple more times. Nothing. He found a wrench and tore out the pipe from one side and then shot the other several times. No effect. Frustration built as he stared down the passive man. Finally, no other option, he called Toro. “Get over to the array. Now.”

Bach opened the security door and saw a spray of blood along the ground and streaked against the array’s door. Mort’s steel lynx patrolled around the area as Toro ran up, blood splattered on his torso. He seemed fine, so Bach didn’t ask. Toro walked up to the barrier and looked at. “Oh yeah, these things. Totally! I got this!” With an inhumanly fast motion, Toro struck at the monk and smashed his hand into the barrier. Bach watched in amusement, letting Toro hit the barrier before saying “Oh yeah, there’s a barrier there.” Toro tried pushing through the barrier, using his tail, striking it with his sword, and Bach wondered why he asked for Toro at all. “Can’t you, I don’t know, magic it away or something?”
“What do you think I do, Bach? I can’t just do that kind of stuff! Oh, wait a minute!” Toro put his fingers to his head and Bach figured he was just having a stroke. After a minute, Toro’s Sensai appeared from out of the shadows and Bach nearly shot him. “You needed something, Toro?” The Sensai had an impossible tranquil quality about him, even in his speech and Bach had to question what he was doing in the area. Mort’s steel lynx rolled up and trained its smoking machine gun on the passive man.

“Yes, Sensai. I require that… box thing in there.” Toro pointed at the device and without pause, the Sensai walked right through the barrier (“Man, why couldn’t I do that?” whispered Toro. Yes, Toro. Why couldn’t you do that?) and picked up a small briefcase. Immediately, the passive man stood and dropped his barrier, his face turning into rage. Almost immediately, Bach raised his gun and shot the man, the bullet hardly affecting him. Half a clip of a machine gun, however, splashed him across the room. The Sensai calmly turned to Toro and walked around the spray where the man was and gave the briefcase to Toro. “Is this what you needed?” He asked serenely.

“Uh. Yeah!” Mort got a proximity alert and informed of an approaching truck, undoubtedly with more mercenaries. Without hesitation, all three ran back to the helicopter as fast as they could, leaving the Sensai to his own, undoubtedly formidable devices.

Back in Seattle, Bach and Toro agreed to have the device examined before giving it to the Johnson. Assuming it was magic, they took it to a talismonger. “Yep, this ain’t magical. 50 Nuyen please.” Bach looked at the man with a vein in his head growing in size.

“What do you mean it isn’t magical?” The talismonger smiled and opened his hands. “It isn’t magical! 50 Nuyen please.” Bach credited the monger after a few threats and stormed out of the shop, opening the box and popping the technological device open in the process. A snap and a spark afterwards, Bach realized that perhaps he shouldn’t have been so upset, but the damage had been done and they had now just broken the item they had been sent to recover. Fucking great.

They agreed to meet the Johnson and Bach sourly gave him the device. The Johnson was understandably upset, but gave them a portion of their funds anyway, as the job had been ‘successful.’ Bach had never felt worse; not because of the job or the pay, but because he needed to know what that device did.

At least the job was finished.

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