Penumbra

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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