Penumbra

Back in the City, part 2
What's happening back in Seattle while the team is away.

< part 1

The Patrol One pulled to a stop a hundred feet up the street from the warehouse, and Reardon already knew something was up. Parked on the curb next to the big loading doors was a black van with tinted windows, a favorite with the local narcomob for moving their cargoes around town. The troll shoehorned into the driver’s seat and the goonish-looking orc lurking nearby were just icing on the cake. But then, if his trained eyes saw them, theirs were undoubted drawn to the very police-like lines of his Patrol One.

Reardon knew he’d need some kind of advantage over these two, even a momentary distraction. He briefly considered a ruse of some kind—flash one of his fake badges and make up a story, “Federal warehouse inspector, I’m here to check if you have the requisite number of rats”—but nah, no time. If these two thugs were out here on watch, then there were more inside. If they had ahold of Cheech, there was no time to spare. Calling Marlowe for backup would take too long, so Reardon was on his own.

Instead, he tapped a few override commands into the car’s controls and checked that his Colt Manhunter was tucked firmly in the underarm holster hidden under the jacket of his armored suit. Stepping out of the car, he strode confidently and purposefully toward the van. If his car had pinged their radar, his demeanor should be setting off alarms. And just as he suspected, the orc tensed up and took a couple hesitant steps in his direction, and the troll’s hands disappeared from the wheel, out of view in his lap, undoubtedly preparing a gun.

When Reardon was about fifty feet away from the van, the orc held up a hand to halt him. “Hey, man. You gotta clear out of here. Private property.” His other hand was at his hip, revealing a pistol tucked into his waistband.

“Nah, I’m just walking to where I parked my car.” In his head, Reardon was counting: 24, 25, 26…

The orc looked understandably confused. “But your car is over—”

When Reardon’s count got to 30, tires squealed as the Patrol One suddenly accelerated. Both of the thugs turned their eyes on the car as it rushed forward, and Reardon jumped out of the way just in time as the car slammed its front left corner into the driver’s side door of the van.

The troll was partially stunned, but with one hand he was struggling to open the wrecked door while the other hand aimed a Streetsweeper at Reardon, so the private eye put two slugs into his head. The Manhunter had an internal suppressor that quieted the shots to the level of a loud cough, and given how loud the warehouse district was, Reardon hoped the thugs inside wouldn’t hear.

With the troll dealt with, Reardon looked for the orc, but he was no longer standing where he had been. Instead, he was in cover behind the van and announced his presence to Reardon by whizzing a throwing knife past the private eye’s head, grazing his jaw and drawing a bit of blood. Hitting the dirt, Reardon had a clear view under the van and blew apart the orc’s ankle with a round from the Manhunter. The thug hit the ground and Reardon ended his screams with a second shot.

“Well, that was quiet, relatively speaking.” Reardon said, addressing the orc’s corpse. He inspected the damage to his Patrol One. “Not too bad. Front left quarter is a bit mangled, smashed headlight, but it’s still plenty driveable.”

He went around to the back and popped the trunk. He shucked his suit jacket and tossed it in, reloaded the Manhunter and put it back in the shoulder holster. Pulling out an armored vest, he shrugged into it, then grabbed the Enfield AS-7 off the rack on the trunk lid and checked that the mag was full of shells.

Reardon nudged the body of the orc with his toe. “I’m gonna go visit the warehouse, see if any of your friends are inside. Hold down the fort out here, huh?”

< part 1

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Back in the City, part 1
What's happening back in Seattle while the team is away.

“part 2 >”:http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/sr-penumbra/adventure-log/city-02

Reardon was almost home, riding comfortably in his Patrol One, when he got the call from Marlowe. “I think the boss is skipping town. I saw him board a helicopter just a minute ago. The pilot lifted off and hit top speed like he was trying to outrun his own shadow.”

The ‘boss’ was, of course, their client who had been monopolizing their time for the past several days. He was a mystery man who didn’t exist prior to a couple months ago, and either he had a secret to hide and was a good liar or else he was a genuine amnesiac. Either way, he had money to burn and questions that needed answers, perfect combination for a private investigator like Reardon.

Reardon leaned forward, frowning. Skipping town wasn’t a good sign. “What were you doing following the boss?”

“Nothin’. I was checking into his rigger friend, ‘Porthos’, like you told me.” said Marlowe, using the nickname that had been suggested by Reardon. “Still nothing much there, but he was on the chopper too.”

“Porthos was on the chopper with Athos? Was that razorboy there, Aramis?”

“Yeah, him too. The three stooges all got on the same chopper.”

“Don’t mix metaphors.” said Reardon, leaning back a bit more at ease. “If all three were there, I think we’re good. I doubt they’re skipping town.” He lit a cigarette, one of those cheap, dry, tasteless things made not from real tobacco but rather from sheets of dried seaweed soaked in nicotex, probably, or some other equally unappetizing tobacco substitute.

“How do you figure?”

“Because if Athos was skipping town, I don’t think he’d take the other two with him. Remember a couple years ago, that ‘cheating husband’ case where no cheating actually occurred and the wife was fed bad information? Well, when the other woman, Desdemona, turned out to be the daughter of a mob boss, and Cassio and Bianca were both found murdered in their apartment, we had to get out of town for a few weeks. But we didn’t leave town together, and we didn’t both go to the same place.”

“Ah, I got you. If all three of them are together, they’re probably not running from something.”

“Yeah, I suspect they’ll be back in a day, if not a few hours.” He took a drag off the cigarette, then remembered something and angrily stubbed it out. “Damn, I just realized I gotta get over to the warehouse, check in on what Cheech is up to. Later, Marlowe.” Reardon ended the call, then addressed the pilot computer of his car. “Summersby, new destination. Take me to 3521 Chelan Ave Southwest.”

“part 2 >”:http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/sr-penumbra/adventure-log/city-02

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The Fourth Job

“Got another job for you!”

Bach’s head was pounding as the text message came through, ringing in his mind like shattered glass. He felt broken and fractured and everything in his body begged him to say no, to walk away and reject everything that might be dredged out of Freegrass’ inane drug-addled mind, and how he hated everything right now. Instead he sent a text to Toro and Mort telling them they had got another gig and pulled himself off the mold-covered floor of his cheap room, pushing himself up by smashing his gun into the floor and using it as a crutch for as long as he could. When he stood erect, the world spun and he looked down to see the imprint of a barrel on the floor. Thank God I didn’t pull the trigger. On second thought, maybe I just need to shoot somebody…

Bach arrived at a large grungy warehouse whereupon Mort popped his head out of the shell of a tank, computerized goggles on his face that allowed him to overlay schematics on top of a monitoring system and still protect his eyes from blow-torches. He looked like a gobliny mess; grease stains on his arms, soot on his forehead, oil slicking his hair in different directions. Bach lit up a cigarette. Mort just looked at him with annoyance.

“Okay, yeah, great! So, we have a client that needs you to just go steal this guy’s comlink. Sounds easy, right!” Freegrass hit a golf ball down the length of the garage, smiling. Bach wondered if Freegrass knew he was using a putter. “Any place in particular you want to meet the Johnson?” All Bach said was “yes.”

Bach, Toro and Mort walked into The Artful Yarn, a quaint knitting store filled with old ladies who knitted for their cats. As Bach looked around, his head still pounding as he tried to cover the nasty looking scar on the back of his head, he saw a man dressed well but not too well, sitting next to an older lady and knitting a small hat.

“Well Gladis, I think that is a great point! Thanks for the tip!” The Johnson looked over at the misplaced group of shadowrunners and smiled, waving them over to a room he had reserved for them in the shop. The Johnson began explaining that they had to steal a comlink from a company they had previously worked for, and Mort and Toro got into some debate about money. Bach held his head, wanting to die and get it over with. Finally he stood up, said “we’ll take the job,” and walked outside to go smoke.

Mort, Toro and Bach all got into the van and started to drive near to the location, hoping to snag the comlink nice and early. Bach was about to fall asleep when Toro pointed at the revealed back of his neck and asked “What happened there Bach?” Bach looked at Toro passively, his eyes faded from his reduced color dilation settings and said “nothing.”

Bach awoke rudely when Toro shook him and said “All right, so, how are we getting this comlink?” Bach shook his head, his mind cluttered with images of his spinal chord he kept trying to forget.

“Well, I can send a drone in to try and take the comlink from his desk. But, you know, it will be in his pocket.” Bach sighed, trying to think of something. “I can…jam his comlink I guess to make it look like it’s malfunctioning.” He sounded skeptical. Every one looked almost just as skeptical.

“What if you use that countdown virus thingy? Can’t that… do something awesome?” Toro sounded like the smartest one in the van, which made Bach even more depressed. He thought about locating the most vulnerable spot on his cranium and putting his pistol to it.

“Yeah. I can do that. Then the drone can pick it up, and we leave.” They all agreed on the plan and Bach fell into the Matrix grudgingly. Even the soft white borders of the electronic world looked piercing and invasive. He found his copy of the program and modified it to rapidly replicate itself and then searched for the comlink. It wasn’t hard to find. He executed the program to upload the virus and then was about to jack out when he saw the virus appear in his inbox. Then on his screen. Then again, on his screen. Well shit.

Bach had about thirty seconds (he knew because the propagation rate was such that it would crash his comlink in that time or less) to think of a solution. Quickly, he copied the program that was populating his comlink and direct uploaded it into their mark’s comlink just before his crashed, forcing him rather violently out of the Matrix.

The world looked very bright and dull to Bach. Every color was less intense, every surface less robust, and he couldn’t get any information from things around him except visually. For a moment, he didn’t even know what he was seeing, he vision was so tunneled. Then it dawned on him, his comlink had crashed and with it, his electronic cyberware shut down. He was seeing the world exclusively through what was left of his eyes. And he didn’t like what he saw.

Bach tapped Mort on the shoulder and nodded, saying “Sorry, I won’t be of much use now. Comlink’s down.” Mort shrugged and launched a squad of his dragonfly drones right past a security guard, who began to freak out and ran into the building. After several minutes of nothing happening, Bach decided things weren’t going well.

“Toro, I think you need to go in there and just take the damn comlink.” Toro looked at Bach like he was crazy. “Dressed like this? Everyone will recognize me!” Bach blinked at Toro and said “Did you really buy yarn at the knitting store?” Toro nodded and smiled. Bach had an idea.

It wouldn’t be until later that Bach would realize how atrocious a ‘disguise’ he had made for Toro. His head was wrapped in yarn that made him look like an insane scarecrow owned by an old seamstress, he wore a makeshift kilt they had made, and in general he looked more like a failed comic book villain than anything else definable. But Toro ran with it and dashed off at an alarming rate to the building, kicking in a window and leaping in like a crazy person. Bach leaned back and felt he had done something right for once in the day.

After about ten minutes, a rent-a-cop walked up to the van, ready to give it a ticket for parking in the lot without a permit. Mort had, however, had enough of rent-a-cops and unleashed his steel lynx—a dangerous drone armed with a minigun. The cop back up and almost wet himself right as Toro ran up, knocked him unconscious, leapt into the van, and screamed “Drive, you god damn idiots!”

As they drove off, Toro threw a headset at Bach and put the comlink near him, still fuming. “Bach, you fucking idiot! You just sit there, mess up your stupid program, get crippled by your own suckingness, and then dress me up like a crazed Scottish crazy person! What do you even do for me! And you, Mort, sending in some tiny fucking spider to pick up a comlink the size of it? It looked more like it was just trying to have sex with it. Humans! I don’t know why I bother running with humans!” Toro wasn’t happy. Bach might’ve been more upset if he was cogent. Instead he just looked at him blankly.

“Are you done being a jackass Toro?” Asked Bach, emotionless and tired. Toro calmed down and sat back, looking awkwardly around. “Look,” he said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you two. I just had some fight in me, and my adrenaline was pumping and… I’m sorry guys, I know you two do a lot. It was just an off-day for you two. I apologize.”

Bach ignored Toro and looked at the headset. His comlink had finally reboot itself and wiped the virus off it, so he plugged into the device and saw it was running a program that induced a catatonic state, using a sleep-enhancing song program as it base. Interesting. He’d investigate this later. For now, he sat back and wondered when he’d get well-enough to not be yelled at by Toro.

At least the job was done.

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Third Job

“Got a job for you, but… you might want to pass on this one.”

Bach knew this job would be interesting. He was already concerned about the Johnson due to his sketchy and dubious ‘jobs.’ So far Bach had gotten paid for doing almost nothing. Johnson’s don’t do that. Bach was in a Matrix node researching when the text popped up in front of him, the innocuous little mail icon flashing twice before he poked it open. He replied “Why?”

“Well… it’s wetwork.” Freegrass’ apprehension at the nature of the job was evident even over the written form. Bach called Toro and Mort and went to meet Freegrass. He wasn’t a fan of murdering someone, even if it had happened before, but the opportunity to know who could upset the Johnson so greatly that a price was on their head interested Bach. Could be a flaw on my part.

In person, Freegrass was much the same as Bach assumed his text was: nervous and reluctant. “I mean, you guys aren’t actually okay with assassination are you?” Mort and Toro looked passive and shrugged. Bach looked skeptical. “Are you?”

“I’m sure there’s another way Freegrass. But we won’t know until we do the damn job.” Freegrass looked disappointed to fulfill his function as a fixer and gave them the Johnson’s meeting place. As they left, Freegrass stopped Bach and said “hey, I’ll give you half my cut if you can do this without killing the guy.” Bach nodded, but made no promises.

The Johnson smiled at the group. “I figured you all would be interested in this job. Good money.” He gave them the specifics of the job. Killing a young man in the ICU of a hospital? Something’s up. Everything else was understandably vague. Bach was equally as non-communicative. Toro and Mort were interested enough in getting paid, and as the Johnson left, they all got to work planning out how to break into a hospital.

It was as they were coming up with a plan to simply bomb the room when Toro walked up. “So… I just got a call from someone saying they’d pay us a lot of money to not kill the kid, but make it look like he was killed. So, we’d get paid twice.” Bach looked at him suspiciously as Mort raised his eyebrows, credit sticks floating around his pupils. “I mean, that’s a sweet deal, right?”

Toro was excited. Bach was not. He tried to find out more about the mysterious benefactors, but couldn’t get much else, aside from they were quite elusive. Finally, they all agreed to try and get the kid out, even though it’d be harder. “But, hard work pays better,” said Toro wisely. Bach rolled his eyes.

It was late at night that they put their plan in motion. Bach waltzed in with a corpse, generously donated by the group that wanted the kid alive, and a doctor’s outfit, trying to look as confidently doctorish as he could. Meanwhile, Mort flew a drone with a grenade into the building, waiting the ducts above the ICU, and hacked into the hospitals security and monitoring system. Toro, demonstrating his physical prowess, scaled the building’s darkly lit walls. All three acted in concert as best they could. Bach was stopped once by some doctors and questioned, his answers sounding fairly un-medical, but Mort covered with a fake heart attack alert in a nearby room.

Inside the ICU, Bach quickly closed the door, opened the window for Toro and looked at the kid. He was in his early twenties, still looked like a college, but was gazing at them passively. Bach walked up to him and examined him quickly. He seemed fine, though he was hooked up to a heart monitor. “Listen to me. Your life is in danger. If you don’t tell me why someone wants you dead, things could get bad very quickly.” The kid didn’t respond. “Tell me why someone wants you dead!”

“REGERE INFIRMA, MUNDATA PER IGNUM, FINEM MUNDI.” The kid began chanting this loud enough to spook Bach and Toro. “Shut up!” Bach took out his gun and grabbed a pillow, concerned he might have to silence the kid quickly. After a few more chants, the kid stopped. Bach pointed at their mark and started to wire the heart monitor up to the corpse, hacking it to let the pattern repeat for a few minutes before checking the heart rate. Toro, meanwhile, put the kid in a wheelchair and walked out towards the elevator.

While this was happening, Mort was giggling while security was stopped on every floor in the hospital before getting to the ICU. He was having fun messing with security and continued to do that until Bach was out of the ICU. Timing everything precisely, Bach was in the stairwell, running down the stairs, Toro leaving the only functioning elevator, and security leaving the elevator just as the grenade was released from Mort’s drone. The drone quickly flew down the duct, escaping just before the room erupted in a ball of fire, incinerating the corpse proxy and blowing the security off their feet. Quickly, Toro and Bach left and put the kid in Mort’s van, driving off before the police arrived to conduct an investigation.

Bach wondered what all he had learned from this, and there was only one answer he came to: not as much as I wanted.

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Secret Secrets

Secrets, secrets, are no fun.
Secrets are for everyone!

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ShadowSea "News You Can Use" #02

System time 3239678852
2072-08-28 23:47:32PDT/06:47:32UTC

Connecting VPN. . .
. . . Matrix Access ID Spoofed
. . . Encryption Keys Generated
. . . Routing Connection Through Anonymizer
Login:
> **********
Password:
> ***************
Connected to <ERROR: UNKNOWN NODE>

?unknown node? >> ShadowSea >> News You Can Use >> In Brief

I hope everybody is safe and sound and has a steady matrix connection after the quake this morning. Remember that there are plenty of people out there without power or matrix access, so if you’ve got a rebroadcaster, turn that thing up to full power!

Because of the quake, today’s News You Can Use is all about ongoing natural disasters and the scientists who try to predict them. Let’s get to it.

  • If you are like the majority of ShadowSEA users, you were probably rumbled out of bed bright and early this morning by the earthquake at 9:03am PST. It’s already being called the “Downtown Seattle Earthquake of 2072”, due to the epicenter being located right downtown. Seismologists reported no significant forewarning, but that’s not uncommon with earthquakes. Initially measured at a Mercali II by Ranier Seismology Institute, further measurements closer to the source have bumped it all the way up to a Mercali VI or VII. That’s a 5.3 for you grandpas who still use the Richter scale. The earthquake has left power out in some neighborhoods, and particularly hard hit areas are reporting collapsed or damaged buildngs, while some neighborhoods close to Puget Sound are flooded.
  • Speaking of the earthquake, St. Helens’ Watchdogs and Ranier Seismology Institute are both reporting increased activity on their volcanoes, but that is to be expected after an earthquake in the region. Both groups will give as much warning as possible if there is to be an eruption, and a representative wants to remind all citizens in the affected area to be aware that while aftershocks will decline in frequency and intensity, they are largely unpredictable and might even hit with a higher amplitude than the main shock. Download our Cascadia Seismo-lert v2.3 app for up to the minute news on the seismology of the Cascade Volcanic Arc and Cascadia subduction zone.
  • Getting out of our region, an unusually warm and dry summer in Siberia has set the stage for a series of wildfires on the Russia/Yakut border. The largest ongoing wildfire, near Yekaterinburg, is reported as 37% contained by wilderness firefighters. Russian officials have had to recall their drop planes, as they had been using chemical fire suppressants, but this was met with a severely negative reaction from the awakened residents of Yakut. Meanwhile, Yakut officials have reached out to accept an offer of aid from Athabaskan and Tsimshian raindancers and are arranging travel to bring them over from North America.
  • Even further out of the region, off the planet in fact, solar researchers are reporting that Solar Cycle 30 will be reaching its peak soon. Sun spot activity has been steadily on the rise, as measured by the Koronas-Foton 3 and SOHO VI satellites. We’ve already had 203 sun spots here in August, narrowly edging out the previous record in March 1958 during solar cycle 19, and we’re expecting even more in September. Computer scientists report that there is no cause for alarm with the matrix, as all major nodes are heavily shielded and should not experience disruption, but private citizens should be careful using personal devices that might not be fully shielded.
  • Our final news item is not a natural disaster, but rather a computer virus, the new “Countdown” virus that has been popping up everywhere. Normally a virus this small and innocuous would be beyond notice and pass below our radar, but there are some interesting features here. First of all, the virus does nothing really disruptive. It only starts a small countdown clock for some point about two weeks from now. It’s becoming increasingly annoying, forcing its way into our HUDs as an ARO or appearing on our commlink interface and even in the comments on some places on the matrix. The interesting bits start when you hear that the countdown started when the earthquake hit, to the second. Computer security experts at NeoNET and Horizon first recorded the virus in the wild a few days before the earthquake, but it didn’t start actively infecting until the countdown started. The fact that it was out and about before the earthquake goes towards disproving the theory that it is merely a scare tactic from some hacker kids, trying to make people think there will be a second earthquake in two weeks. Those security experts advise that an antivirus solution should be ready in a few days; until then you are welcome to delete the virus if you can, but its harmless and will likely just reinfect your systems until the antivirus is ready.
> G’day, northerners! Sorry to hear about all your troubles up top, but down here it’s quite nice. Sunny late winter days, and a record low number of mana storms in the Outback. Come down to Australia for a visit if it gets to be too much. Oh, and I thought I’d mention, this countdown virus started at the exact moment of an earthquake for you in the Pacific Northwest, but down here we were enjoying the total lunar eclipse at that exact time.
> 9thStreetWallaby
> “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.” – Rev. 12:4
> TheReverend
> Cheery as always, padre.
> Tumbler
> 14 days 4 hours 11 minutes 48 seconds
> COUNTDOWN
> Gah, sorry folks. I know that damn countdown virus has been caught by our filters a few times, but I didn’t expect it to get through and post in the comments. I’ll work on cleaning it out.
> Phage
>
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The First Job

“Got a job for you”

Bach hated getting texts like this. Even after tracing the message back no real information would be garnered and the idea that fixers can simply contact him without notice or explanation unnerved him. Granted, that was what a fixer was for.

The apartment building arranged by the mysterious fixer was grungy, had poor lighting and some suspicious materials piled in corners and in the cracks on stairs; perfect. Bach saw three men waiting outside the door he was headed towards. One looked outrageous, like a kangaroo; long arms and legs with knees bent the other way, a tail, and a possible predisposition for hopping. Bach couldn’t be sure. The other two were normal, one in a business suit and another in an armor jacket like his own. Shadowrunners, always recognizable, Bach thought. The kangaroo introduced himself as Toro, suit as Jim, and jacket as Mort. Bach nodded, withholding his name for the moment. Jim knocked on the door and a muffled “come on in!” came through.

Inside the apartment, Bach got the impression that he had walked into a college dorm. Food littered the tables, disorder ruled the surroundings, and their ‘fixer’ was a hippie. It wasn’t quite the long, dirty braided hair or the home spun mismatched color sweater he wore, or the old spoiled food on his table, or even the scent of lavender candles; it was all of it that made this man look one hundred years out of time. “Hey guys! Oh, this is great, really, really great. So, like, I’m Freegrass Rainbowbird, and it’s super great that you guys are here! Want some organic drinks or something man? I’ve got this tea that’ll really calm the nerves and, like, pacify and stuff. It’s really great!” Bach immediately began a search for Freegrass on the web. He also considered asking him to be quiet.

“So, you have a job for us?” Jim was a soft-spoken elf who immediately came off as someone you wanted to know. Although he might have been quiet, everyone in the room heard him and Freegrass responded immediately. “Yeah, totally! It’s really quite simple, I’ve got an arrangement with this Johnson if you want man. You sure you don’t want some tea?” The ‘meeting’ went downhill from there. Bach wondered about this Freegrass person as little could be found on him, and as the meeting went on he noticed a significantly more expensive comlink than anyone would have anticipated given Freegrass’ sparse living accommodations. But he arranged a meeting with the Johnson, and every Shadowrunner needs money.

Johnson’s all look the same, Bach thought. And they did. Sleek black suits, dark sunglasses, cool demeanor, an unmarked black car and loads of weapons hidden for their protection characterized the Johnson standing in front of the team. Most smoked; this one didn’t. Bach did.

“It’s a simple B and E job. There’s a storage container we need you to move into the Renraku building, down near one of the fusion reactors. Our man, a gentleman we call the Elder, picks it up at 9am, you leave with money.” The team looked at the Johnson blankly. Most Shadowrunners weren’t really all that good at negotiations, and this Johnson was abnormally concise. Inwardly, each member was wondering what needed to be smuggled to a fusion reactor in the Renraku building. “Well?”

“Yes, that sounds easy enough, but we have a few questions. Like about the payout…” Jim the charismatic elf started in and Bach decided to start looking up Renraku floor plans, maintenance schedules, and dummy RFID numbers. Trivialities like money meant little to Bach so long as he got paid and found out more about who he was working for. And something told him this job would be illuminating.

Some Shadowrunners like adventure, some like money, and some like killing. What Bach liked was planning. He spent a large portion of the evening planning, thinking, and researching. Not just their marked building, but also the Johnson. Something seemed off, so he put in a bit of time trying to figure it out. As with most corporations, it led to a dead end and ambiguous names, but it was worth a try. Bach found something beautiful, almost musical, in the creation of a flawless plan. Arranging transportation, downloading schematics and rosters, timing entrances and exits, preparing cover stories; everything came together in a harmonious way he found exhilarating. Early in the morning, Bach finally slept, his mind full of escape routes and false names and excitement.

Getting in was simple; some fake uniforms, an official sounding title, the name of one of the workers, and a strong voice can get anyone into any building. The three of them loaded the cargo onto a lift and had Mort’s droid tow it into the building, apprehension at being caught palpable but not overwhelming. Jim was a good con artist. They were getting pretty far when a voice from behind said “Can I help you?” Immediately, Bach turned around, his eyes lining up shots to vital organs in case of an emergency.

“Oh hey! Joe right? Remember, we met at the work party, what, three months ago?” Bach walked up to the security guard and slapped him on the shoulder cordially, his words reinforcing the familiarity of the gesture. Oddly enough, Joe bought it. “Really? Man, I’m sorry, I don’t really remember.”

“Wow! Really? Man, I told this funny joke about a troll and an elf, you know the one where they go to get a haircut?” Joe chuckled, not remembering the joke at all but wanting to fit in. Jim took the opportunity to walk up and try to push things along.

“Hate to break up the reunion, but we need to be at the fusion core soon. We were supposed to be penciled in for now.” Joe nodded at Jim and wrote them into the schedule, still looking a little confused but nodding all the while. Bach looked around and saw Toro was missing and he closed his eyes a little. “Sorry, I still can’t remember your name?” Joe sounded embarrassed and Bach couldn’t help but smile.

“Dan Harmon.” Joe nodded. “Of course, Dan Harmon. All right! Good to see you again man!” As the security guard walked away shaking his head, Bach called up Toro.

“Oh good, here’s my boss. Boss, talk to this man.” Bach heard a man say “You’re with the maintenance crew?” After a quick explanation, which involved several disparaging comments against Toro’s character, the security guard loaded up a map for Toro showing him exactly where to go. Just before Bach cut the line, he heard Toro say “Wow! You can do that! God damn, I never knew that was possible!”

It was four minutes to nine and the door to the reactor was locked shut. Everyone stood around, wondering where their contact was. Mort’s drone hovered ominously, steady even against his inclination to start bombing everything in sight. “Maybe we should just set off a bomb as a signal?” Mort asked through the drone. Jim shook his head and denied Mort his fun for the third time. As they waited, Bach looked over and saw a locker door ajar, a small pool of blood dripping onto the floor below it. Cautiously, Bach walked over and opened it, a dead security guard crumbling to the floor. Immediately, everyone armed their weapons. “Bach, security door. Now.” Mort’s voice indicated that either the door was opening from hacking or explosives. If possible, Bach preferred the former. He opened it in a few seconds.

Inside the reactor was a grisly sight. Three security guards had their chests caved inwards, as though crushed by a great weight. One guard had been impaled on a beam in the upper catwalk, blood steadily dripping onto the ground. Two others had been tossed into guard rails, their skulls crushed like tin cans. “Is that… the Elder?” Jim asked pointing to a small old man away from the violence. He sat passively, meditating. Bach was keen to leave soon but after a few seconds of indecision, Bach’s alarm went off. It was nine.

The old man’s eyes opened and he went from sitting to walking towards them in a fluid motion. Bach’s eyes tracked his brain. No messing around with Mystics “You have my package?” The Shadowrunners parted to reveal the container and a smile stretched across the Elder’s face. “Good. Now, I suggest you leave. You don’t want to be here in three minutes.” He didn’t need to speak twice.

Even before the team had gotten back to the elevator, something felt wrong. Toro started to hear something strange and Mort’s drone picked up an odd feedback signal coming from the reactor. In a moment the world shook and part of the Renraku ceiling began to collapse. Bach almost tripped but maintained his balance somehow, wondering what was going on. The earthquake only lasted a minute but they all looked back on the closed reactor doors, wondering what they had given the old man.

At least the job was done.

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ShadowSea Chatlog Dump #01 - 9:07:13, 08-28-72

System time 3239625571
2072-08-28 08:59:31PDT/15:59:31UTC

Connecting VPN. . .
. . . Matrix Access ID Spoofed
. . . Encryption Keys Generated
. . . Routing Connection Through Anonymizer
Login:
> **********
Password:
> ***************
Connected to <ERROR: UNKNOWN NODE>

?unknown node? >> ShadowSea >> Live Chat >> Main Chatroom

< (8:59:33am PDT) You have joined the chat. >
E11even (8:59:38): So there I am, cornered in a warehouse, a whole squad of Lone Star ninja turtles about to come busting in the doors…
E11even (8:59:43): And all of a sudden, power in the entire building just cuts. Pitch black.
< (8:59:45) User Nightshade has left the chat. >
BatAttitude (8:59:45): I am vengeance. I am the night.
E11even (8:59:47): I figured it was some new SWAT tactics, probably going to come in with NVGs.
< (8:59:48) User Nightshade has joined the chat. >
Buzzball (8:59:51): BatAttitude, shush. Let E11even tell her story.
TheGookSpook (8:59:53): Foolish. A flash grenade would blind them.
Phage (8:59:55): Wouldn’t basic flare comp protect them?
< (8:59:56) User Nightshade has left the chat. >
TheGookSpook (8:59:59): Zhou-Daewoo has released the new 72C flash grenade with “false peaks” that thwart flare compensation.
E11even (9:00:01): So anyway, the LS ninja turtles never did break down the door. The blackout must have caught them off guard, too.
< (9:00:03) User Nightshade has joined the chat. >
Buzzball (9:00:04): How’d you end up getting away?
E11even (9:00:10): Well, I was too afraid to go out the front door, but I’ve got lowlight, so I did some snooping behind the shelves and found a drain big enough to squeeze into.
BatAttitude (9:00:15): I know why you’re afraid to go out at night.
Uplink (9:00:17): Bat, you’ve been warned.
< (9:00:18) User Nightshade has left the chat. >
E11even (9:00:18): Turns out it opened up into the sewers. I had to convince some Ork Underground patrolman that I knew his cousin, but he let me out like a block from my truck.
Buzzball (9:00:22): Nice of ‘em. Nicer than they’ve ever treated me.
BatAttitude (9:00:29): Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.
Buzzball (9:00:36): Bat, that comic hasn’t been cool in like 30 years! Cut it out.
BatAttitude (9:00:40): What are you, dense? Are you retarded or something?
Phage (9:00:48): BatAttitude, this is your final warning. We’ll have to kick you if you don’t stop.
< (9:00:53) User Nightshade has joined the chat. >
BatAttitude (9:01:03): I’m the goddamn Batman.
< (9:01:07) User BatAttitude has been kicked from the channel. >
Phage (9:01:13): Christ, maybe we can get some peace and quiet in here for a while.
Uplink (9:01:20): I find him annoying, too, but he’s like 16. He must have just discovered his granddaddy’s .CBR collection.
< (9:01:22) User Nightshade has left the chat. >
Buzzball (9:01:25): Still, you’d think he could talk about something else once in a while.
Phage (9:01:49): E11even, I did some poking around. Looks like there was a SeaTac Light & Power crew working in that neighborhood last night.
E11even (9:01:54): Are you saying my butt was saved by pure luck and the utility company?
Phage (9:01:59): Hahaha, they’re never there when you call for them, but they’re always there when you need them.
< (9:02:02) User Nightshade has joined the chat. >
E11even (9:02:03): Well, thank the lord for SeaTac L&P!
Rhyme (9:02:31): Good morning all. How’s things in Seattle this morning?
TheGookSpook (9:02:24): I wouldn’t know.
Buzzball (9:02:36): You’re like two minutes late to work, Rhyme. Doesn’t Mitsuhama track employee attendance?
Rhyme (9:02:41): Psh, I installed an agent on my work deck. It logs me in at 8:57am every morning, plus or minus a few seconds up to two minutes.
< (9:02:45) User Nightshade has left the chat. >
Uplink (9:02:47): That’s pretty dumb, Rhyme. Almost as dumb as logging into ShadowSEA from work. You’re going to get your ass caught and fired (or worse) one of these days.
E11even (9:02:52): I gotta get my cyberears serviced. My subsonics must be going, because they’re registering this increasing noise, like something steadily getting louder.
Rhyme (9:02:54): Relax, I use a series of multiple proxies, and my personal commlink is always set to private.
< (9:03:00) User Nightshade has joined the chat. >
Uplink (9:03:00): Alright, fine. I’ve given you my advice, now it’s on you if and when they find you.
Phage (9:03:12): E11even, want to catch a trideo flick tonight?
E11even (9:03:14): Sure.
Rhyme (9:03:17): Aww, how romantic. This’ll be, what, the fifth date?
< (9:02:20) User Nightshade has left the chat. >
Phage (9:03:21): Quiet, Rhyme. Don’t tempt me to kick you.
< * * * Flag inserted at this point. “This is where it starts. -Uplink” (9:05:59) * * * >
Buzzball (9:03:24): Holy shit! Anyone else feeling this?
Uplink (9:03:32): Whatever it is, it’s here too. Buzz, you’re across town from me.
GookTheSpook (9:03:33): I feel nothing here. It must be just in Seattle. Is it a bomb or explosion of some kind?
Phage (9:03:37): I feel it too. Earthquake?
Uplink (9:03:41): Looks like. Ranier Seismology Institute is reporting it as a 3.0+ temblor.
< (9:03:51) User Nightshade has joined the chat. >
< (9:03:57) User Nightshade has left the chat. >
Buzzball (9:03:51): St. Helens’ Watchdogs confirms it.
GookTheSpook (9:03:53): Everyone over there find cover, stay safe.
GookTheSpook (9:04:10): Are you all still alive?
Uplink (9:04:20): I think we’re good, Gook. Lucky Hong Kong bastard. But yeah, if it had been a really bad one, ShadowSEA probably would have gone down.
E11even (9:04:40): Next time there’s an earthquake, remind me to turn off my cyberear subsonics. I just chucked my breakfast on the floor.
Phage (9:04:43): Oh my god! Are you alright?
< (9:04:44) User Nightshade has joined the chat. >
E11even (9:04:47): Yes, Phage, I’m fine.
Buzzball (9:05:08): E11even, you on call today?
E11even (9:05:17): Yeah, looks like we’ve got a call on South 43rd, burst gas line. Forget about the earthquake, at least today I get to drive the big red truck!
Phage (9:05:20): Awesome!
Buzzball (9:05:23): That one just popped up on my screen, but I’ve already got a dozen “I fell and I can’t get up” calls. Platinum contracts first, know what I mean!
E11even (9:05:30): I’ve got to sign off. Rain check on that trid, Phage?
Phage (9:05:36): Sure. Call me later.
< (9:05:39) User E11even has left the chat. >
Buzzball (9:05:43): I’ve gotta be skids up, too. Later, folks.
< (9:05:46) User Buzzball has left the chat. >
Uplink (9:05:52): Just in case we go down, I’m going to dump a log of this to Denver.
< (9:05:53) User Nightshade has left the chat. >
< (9:05:54) Chatlog ends. >

View
ShadowSea "News You Can Use" #01

System time 3239609956
2072-08-28 04:39:16PDT/11:39:16UTC

Connecting VPN. . .
. . . Matrix Access ID Spoofed
. . . Encryption Keys Generated
. . . Routing Connection Through Anonymizer
Login:
> **********
Password:
> ***************
Connected to <ERROR: UNKNOWN NODE>

?unknown node? >> ShadowSea >> News You Can Use >> In Brief

Today’s “News You Can Use” in brief is a special round-the-world edition. Odd goings on, possibly Shadowrun-related, in several places hither and yon. Let’s get started.

  • Nǐ hǎo! A group of Uyghur extremists, claiming to be an offshoot of the Turkistan Islamic Party, is claiming responsibility for the firebombing of an office building owned by Xiao-Renraku Computer Systems in downtown Hong Kong Free Enterprise Zone. However, the TIP leadership is disavowing the Uyghur group, claiming no association with them. Even odder, the Yokogawa Fire & Rescue squad that showed up appeared to stand by and let the building burn for up to 15 minutes before taking action and extinguishing the blaze; Yokogawa Fire is known for having links to the Red Dragon Association, a Triad group. Something smells fishy. The FEZ Executive Council is investigating.
  • Fastyr mie! Speaking of smelling fishy, residents of Castletown, Isle of Man, are reporting several appearances of a “sea monster” in the past week. Popular theories range all over the board, from a new kind of Awakened whale to hoax perpetrated by local pranksters.
  • G’day, mate! Curious activity in Alice Springs, NT, AUS. The Central Australian Deserts are plagued by frequent mana storms, but a number of hardy, stubborn, some might say foolish Aussies refuse to move out of Alice Springs, practically in the center of the continent and right in the heart of mana storm territory. Well, we’ve gotten word from a contact who lives in the Alice who says that a convoy of desert-modified, ruggedized military vehicles blew through the town late last night, coming from the north (probably Darwin) and headed southwest towards the old abandoned suburb of Ilparpa. Sounds like mercenary activity, but what are mercs doing way out in the desert where there’s nothing but ’roos and aborigines?
  • Olá! Great Feathered Serpent Hualpa continues his quest against narcosubs and tree poachers. Evidently unable to make any successful landfalls on the north coast of Amazonia, the smuggler captains have started making attempts on the west coast, sneaking into the swamps of Sanquianga and Tumaco. The Amazon Awakened Army recently claimed victory in seizing three docking sites, and Hualpa himself made an appearance to attack and sink a Ahuitzotl just off the coast.
> It wouldn’t be completely ridiculous to think that the Castletown sea monster could be some kind of metaplanar creature summoned by Tír na nÓg mages as a vanguard of a Tír invasion of the Isle of Man.
> Spirit Man
> I’m sorry, Spirit Man, but that would be completely ridiculous.
> Harmstrong
> Phew, a Ahuitzotl minisub? Those things are straight out of this year’s Aztechnology Marine catalog, and top of the line for their price range. The cartels are really stepping up from the old Profit Transports. What’s the range on an Ahuitzotl, anyway? It’s gotta be better than the Profit. They can probably make it all the way to California Free State.
> Inspiral
> CalFree, nothin’! I’m not going to name names, but let’s just say I have a friend of a friend who recently unloaded a cargo of novacoke, fresh from Esmeraldas, right here in Seattle. He said it was a fancy-lookin’ Aztech sub, modified to be a narcosub. Probably one of these Ahuitzotls.
> P-Orky
> Most people believe they’re on the side of angels, but are they?
> TheReverend
>
View
Welcome to your life

Bach looked at a cigarette, wondering if he had had one before. He guessed not. It didn’t look or feel familiar, as he examined it from every angle, turning the cigarette over and twirling it in his fingers gently, careful not to crush the soft paper. If someone had been watching, they might have thought he was a child, the way he looked inquisitively at the object, almost wondering if he dared try it. His eyes had the customary glaze that everyone first noticed about him; as though he saw the world from eyes hidden behind his own. The first thing he had noticed about his eyes were how they were cybernetic. But even cybernetic eyes maintain a light in them; a way of indicating sentience and thought. His looked blank. Not thoughtless, just blank. Finally, having examined the cigarette enough, he took out a lighter and dragged the smoke deep into his lungs.

He’d smoked before.

His body relaxed as the nicotene mixed into his blood and noticably his anxiety decreased. This was a bad sign, he thought, but at least he knew he was a smoker. Such small details are important, even if they left him with more questions. He blew the smoke out in a slow and controlled stream of frustration. Now he’d have to buy more cigarettes. Another expense, he thought.

He walked out of the doorway to his apartment building and onto the neon streets, lit with an eerie glow from lights that never go out, even during the day. He swayed past other pedestrians caught in their own electronic world; HuD glasses that connected them directly to a shopping network or some other triviality that amused them as they walked. Bach’s eyes calibrated distances and targets for him as he moved, identifying safe zones and monitoring other people’s speed, in case he needed to take out his weapon and defend himself. He was always vigilant.

Shops were good places, especially if you’ve never been in one before. Today’s was a coffe shop. He liked to move around, visit different restaraunts and areas so that anyone tracking him couldn’t predict his movements. It made life more interesting that way. He ordered something to drink (he didn’t even look at what it was) and then sat down, plugging into the network, watching as the real world faded into one far more vibrant and evocative than the emotionless faces he saw everyday. Did anyone even notice him, he wondered? Not that he was offended, of course, such anonymity was almost priceless.

Priceless only because he couldn’t remember how much he paid to have his SIN removed. Who removed him from the grid regularly? He didn’t know. He was searching for him (or her, he reminded himself, open to all options), but he didn’t know. Now he listened to the traffic of the wireless, buzzing like an ill-tempered animal as he looked for signals to block, monitor, and investigate. That was his job, after all. Sniffing out the right signals, encoding the wrong ones and decrypting lines that faceless employers paid him for. And always he looked for something else, a handwriting that seemed familiar to him without knowing where or why.

It was the handwriting of the first thing he saw when he woke up, written like the words of creation; Welcome to your new life, Bach.

And he needed to know the name of God.

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