Welcome to the Data Haven

•December 2, 2008 • 13 Comments

Hello chummers.  ;)

My name is J, but I also answer to Insomniac.  This blog will soon be the home of all my Shadowrun stuff that I have scattered around the Net.  Primarily a place to grab run notes, I plan on reviewing sourcebooks, posting fan fiction and perhaps even commenting on the game itself.

If you’re not familiar with Shadowrun (in the P&P RPG style, rather than the video games), it is a near-future, dystopian, cybernetic future game where fantasy elements have been re-introduced to the world causing an interesting blend of magic and machine.  The storyline is in-depth and there are so many things going on at once that Game Masters should have no shortage of material.  However, if you find yourself short on material, hopefully some of the future posts on this blog will help with that.  :)

While I will occasionally pipe up like this, the bulk of my posts will likely be “in-character” as my grumpy, sleep-deprived sysop alter-ego, Insomniac.  He runs a board in the Seattle Matrix where shadowrunners can look for work.  He’s a no nonsense kind of guy, but he does welcome some discussion.  So if you’d like to comment on run notes, feel free to do so in character and become part of the dialogue.

Well, I think that’s it for now.  Hopefully, you’ll check back from time to time.

J.

>>Oi!  Who’s grumpy?  Anyways, I figured I’d step up and introduce myself.  The handle’s Insomniac and I run my own little corner of ShadowSea.  If you need work, I’m your guy…assuming legality ain’t a scruple you tend to have.  If you think the shadows might be the place for you, then loiter for a bit and see what’s around.  Who knows…maybe you’ll be the next best thing round here.  Or maybe you’ll end up as the next red stain on the asphalt.  Either way, these should be interestin’ times, omae.  Perhaps I’ll see ya round.
>> Insomniac
“The shadows never sleep, so why should I?”

Trojan Horse – Relics of Paranoia (Shadowrun)

•April 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is the final chapter of the Trojan Horse mini-campaign.  It took a long time to get here, especially for something that was only six parts, but I hope that I can take away from this to put together other intertwined storylines and get away from the one-offs to some degree…

The runners are contacted by Mr. Johnson from the past several campaign events who asks the team to meet him at his usual spot at the Barn Burner in Auburn for 8PM.

Scene 1 – The Light at the End of the Tunnel

The Barn Burner is a Southwestern style restaurant that still insists on real meat in their dishes, despite the higher price point given the later hour, the restaurant isn’t as busy as it might usually be and Mr. Johnson has reserved a large portion of the restaurant, sectioning off the same table they met him at previously. Mr. Johnson shows up half an hour before the meet and he seems on edge. At a glance, it might seem nervous, but those skilled at reading social cues can see that he is excited, but potentially in a time crunch.

Once everyone has gathered, he allows the runners to order from the menu before they get down to business.

All right… the end is in sight. Our man on the inside in Europe used his connections to track down the technomancer responsible for the development of this psychotropic IC. You guys destroyed the master copy, but without getting rid of the mind behind it, the project isn’t truly dead. The bad news is that his cover was blown in the process of learning the intelligence. While he is an expert in getting out of these sorts of situations, it means we no longer have an insight into Evo’s network. I can give you a geographic location, but the ultimate location will fall to you to track down. From what Daniel unearthed, the operation is fairly well entrenched, so they can’t simply pull up stakes and move on, so you probably have some time before they realize what we’ve discovered and pull out of the area. We need you to go to the location, track down this technomancer and end this, once and for all. We are offering 15,000¥ apiece for you to see this through.”

At this stage, the runners will hopefully accept the job just be rid of this IC program, but Mr. Johnson is willing to negotiate some in order to keep the team on board.

Once the runners have accepted the terms, Mr. Johnson tells them that the facility is in central Arkansas in the CAS, but an exact location is unknown. The location will be rural and intentionally low key. They will be flown into Little Rock where they can start their legwork. Since they are under a slight time crunch, Mr. Johnson is flying them out by private charter the moment they’re ready to go. Bringing personal gear (within reason) is an option.

He provides the team a commcode for them to reach him once they require an exit from the Confederation.

Mr. Johnson (Brad Smyth)
Thresholds: Matrix (1), Corporate (2), Shadow Community (2)

1 – Mr. Johnson is Brad Smyth, a ten year employee of Ares.
2 – Mr. Johnson has built up a very positive reputation in the shadows as a good man to work for. In one instance where a runner team was double crossed by Ares, Mr. J logged onto Jackpoint and explained why the team had screwed up and told the other runner teams in the area to avoid making the same mistakes.
3 – Never married or had kids. Has had several dates, but seems to go out of his way to avoid attachments. Leading rumours are that he wants to avoid having another person being used as leverage against him.
4 – Has survived three assassination attempts and Ares watches him closely, as he is a strong shadow asset for the UCAS branch.

Daniel Wills
Thresholds: Matrix (1), Corporate (2), Law Enforcement (2)

1 – Daniel is a veteran of Knight Errant, who has been in Intelligence for seven years.
2 – Efficient and studious, Daniel is known for his precision and sense of duty to Ares. Expert in reconnaissance and a solid fighter.
3 – Married to his career and seems to spend every third month in a new city, often studying a new target or on the occasional deep cover assignment.
4 – Was recently spotted in Western Europe, but suddenly disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. Rumours are circulating that he may either be on another undercover assignment or one of his marks caught up with him.

Scene 2 – Forgotten Titans

When the runners arrive in Arkansas, the weather is a pleasant change from Seattle, being milder and drier, but the area is not exactly known for its tolerance. Orks and trolls will not be looked on kindly and non Confederates will be looked at with suspicion (some more than others… if the character can be mistaken for Aztec, they may even be driven out of town). If characters are well versed in Etiquette, they can latch on to the insular nature of the area (especially in the areas outside Little Rock) and learn about new activity from corporate outsiders.

Rumours point north of the city to the area around Greenbriar and Damascus. The small communities are more judgmental to minorities, but at the same time, great centres of gossip. The farming communities talk about private buyers of local produce and meat in large quantities. All sales are large but handled privately to avoid a paper trail. Both towns are along highway 65, but the Damascus farmers always see the trucks head south, while Greenbriar sees the trucks head North. The main route in between is Route 25, a two-lane strip of black top that weaves through farmland. If the runners head down route 25, they reach Quitman, which tells a similar tale of trucks buying up all the fresh produce and heading west (which is the way they just came). Knowing that something is in the middle of the three towns, the runners can hammer down the area.

Searching the area on the Matrix, they can unearth a piece of history: there were several Titan missile silos in the area, built during the Cold War. While they’ve all been decommissioned long ago, it was too large a financial undertaking to dismantle the structure, so they were sealed up and buried. In the area the runners are searching, there were two silos, but the one along highway 65 is a frequented area with traffic and is labeled as a historic site. The other location, silo 374-8 was sealed and forgotten, the farmland it sits on falling into disrepair.

If the runners check it out, they find a farm field stripped bare of overgrowth and a worn road of tire ruts heading into the middle of the farm field. The silo is not so abandoned as initially thought.

Scene 3 – Buried Death

The Titan complex consists of three subterranean structures, connected by corridors. The main entrance enters the central hub by elevator (which has been returned to service with a few upgrades), but the other buildings also have surface access as well. The silo naturally has a hatch, but it has been welded closed from when the silo was decommissioned. North and South buildings both have air vents, but they are narrow and claustrophobic. Characters with Body over 3 simply cannot squeeze into the tiny opening, but small drones could navigate the tunnel system to gain access to the complex below.

The grounds on the surface are designed to retain that feeling of desertion. Aside from the fresh tire tracks and the occasional presence of a truck, the area looks derelict. A sensor network has been installed in the area to observe people who near the facility (there are tourist plaques in regards to the Titan project, that house sensor packages that look, scan and listen to anyone nearby). The local bird population are biodrones that do flyovers to observe the perimeter. The Elevator won’t come to the surface without an Evo bioscan (the call button is a thumb print scanner, disguised to look like the old button) and the stairwell hatch is locked with a maglock. The runners may be hard pressed to gain access undetected. If they alert Evo to their attempt to gain entrance, they will be met with a security team bunkered in ready to fire. The entire complex was designed to withstand missile strikes, so the building is insulated from the outside Matrix and gaining access to the internal Matrix is not easily accomplished from the outside (hotwiring any of the devices that are on the outside will see the external security node severed from the network).

The original blueprint for a Titan missile silo

The original blueprint for a Titan missile silo

Central Building

The central building is likely to be the point of entry the runners are forced to take. The main portion of the complex is designed to weather the wash from launching rockets and dissipate the damaging effects. The cableway that connects the silo to the central building is now the primary access point to the silo, now that the silo hatch has been sealed. With the old 20th century hardware removed and modern equipment installed, the amount of room required for cables was greatly diminished and made the cableway into a traversable conduit. At the bottom of the stairs/shaft is a doorway that leads into the western part of the building, which is sealed by a heavy iron door.

The area beyond used to be a radioactive ward and to serve as a buffer for any blast that still managed to move this far into the complex. The area has been repurposed into a medical center, cafeteria and holding cell (the old decontamination showers are now a glorified gas chamber). Evo security maintains minimal security in the area, but the back-and-forth flow of security helps improve coverage.

South Building

The southern building, which used to be a residence complex for the crew managing the missiles, is now Evo Security. The armory, barracks and most of the garrison station here reside in this building. Resistance will be heavy is the runners choose to breach the building, but the option of using the blast doors to lock security away is a viable one for a time, until the manual overrides are engaged.

This building also serves as a observation station for everything that goes on in the silo. If the runners access the silo first, security will seal the exits and move to contain and execute the intruders. If security ever loses control of their Matrix security they will quickly move to shut down the system and resort to the manual lockdowns the old Cold War architecture provides. Security typically carries SMGs due to the tight quarters. If an alarm is raised, they will use APDS ammo, unless the runners are in a sensitive area, in which case they use Frangible rounds (Run & Gun).

Silo

The silo is a strange mix of urban decay and impressive reclamation. The old components of the silo pertaining to launching rockets have decayed, but the core structural elements have been reinforced and improved with current age electronics. The center of the silo, where the Titan rocket used to stand is a vast open hollow. All the areas below level 4 have full of stagnant water after years of seepage from above. The stairs that ring the northern circumference grant access down from levels 1 through 4, where the stairs further down are submerged. The landing of level 5 have been walled off and have been converted to a holding tank, where the water is purified so it is drinkable for the personnel stationed here.

The old components that used to form the digital spine of the silo have been removed and replaced with modern manufactory hardware. Level 2 and 3 have been converted to assemble common household and personal appliances. Each of these are being assembled with the intention to install the psychotropic IC into it before hitting the market. The employees in this area are not trained combatants, but will run for help if they see the runners moving through the area.

Level 4 is where the IC will ultimately be implanted, but for now, is a quality assurance department, where the assembled drones and appliances are tested to ensure they function within standard parameters. On the south side of level 4 is the abandoned elevator shaft that went down to level 9. The shaft has been pumped out and a freight elevator installed. The shaft goes down to level 9 at which point the user requires a retinal scan to gain access to the basement level.

The room beyond the elevator is a large manufacturing floor, with robotic equipment and no personnel. The room is cut off digitally from everything above. As the runners enter all the equipment freezes and seems to wait for their next move. As the runners cross the room, lights overhead flood the room in bright light. The ceiling in the space is thick glass and the lights shine down through the ceiling from the water above. Shooting out the lights is impossible without rupturing the glass ceiling. The room activates four Duelist drones who engage the runners, powered each by a Machine Sprite.

If the runners get past the Duelists and the machinery which will attempt to thwart their advance, they can get into the chamber beyond, which is a large medical room, full of computers designed to keep someone alive, despite nature’s efforts to the contrary. In the center of the room is a thin man, strapped to a gurney. He is pumped full of stimulants, his skull is open so his brain is constantly being analyzed and an IV full of nutrients keeps him from starvation and dehydration. When the runners draw close, he looks them but lacks the strength to speak. Instead, he breaches their commcode and sends them a simple message: “Kill me”.

The runners have little choice… whether they kill him directly or disconnect him from his medical rigging, he will die. Upon leaving the room, the robotics floor is quiet until they hear a thump from overhead. A depth charge has been thrown into the water and once it settles onto the ceiling of the lab, it detonates. The glass cracks and water begins filling the room. After a short time the pressure on the cracked glass gives way and the water begins flooding the room. The runners will need to escape before the room fills with water and they drown.

Soldiers await at the top of the elevator shaft for any survivors to emerge. The runners will need to get out past the security guards and escape the silo to call for an evacuation. The runners will likely wish to renegotiate the price tag… but the job is at last over.

>> Hoo boy, we’re going to the heart of the Confederation.  I’m sure they’d welcome me… with pitch forks, no doubt…
>> Burn

>> Maybe if you learn some people skills, they’d show you some Southern hospitality.  I’ve never had any issues.
>> Bandit

>> Yeah, because you’re a good looking woman with the right accent.  You may be a halfer, but you don’t scare the kids.
>> Burn

>> Wow, did Burn just give a compliment?  Just keep in mind folks that there’s a lot of Cold War stuff buried in that neck of the woods.  The Army says it was all cleaned up, but I wouldn’t put it past any of the locals to do a little bit of salvaging before the clean up crews arrived…
>> Wraith

Trojan Horse – Freefall (Shadowrun)

•March 31, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is the fifth part of the Trojan Horse campaign, plus a variant of this was used for the Spring Phantasm convention in 2015.  If you’re interested in what changes were made for the convention variant, please let me know.

The runners are contacted directly by Mr. Johnson (the same Johnson they’ve been hired by for the past couple installments). He tells them that he has some information from his source within Evo on their mutual interests and wants to meet with them to discuss business. He asks them to meet him at the Barn Burner in Auburn, as per last time at 8PM.

Scene 1 – Reach to the Sky

The Barn Burner is a Southwestern style restaurant that still insists on real meat in their dishes, despite the higher price point given the later hour, the restaurant isn’t as busy as it might usually be and Mr. Johnson has reserved a large portion of the restaurant, sectioning off the same table they met him at previously. When they arrive, Mr. Johnson is already at the table, reading the local news feed. If the runners join him early, he makes small talk as if they were old friends.

Once everyone has gathered, he allows the runners to order from the menu before they get down to business.

Thanks for coming. I hope the new accommodations we paid for are working out to your satisfaction. As you’ll recall, your team helped to insert Daniel Wills, an operative of ours into Evo in Europort, posing as Shimura Ito. His replacement has gone unnoticed and while it has taken some time, Agent Wills has finally given us some intelligence that will allow us to cripple Evo’s project severely. While Evo is keeping a very tight seal on the technomancer responsible for the psychotropic IC, we now know where the master copy of the program is being stored. It’s no wonder we were unable to pinpoint it’s location, as the data is being stored off-world, aboard Evo’s Shibanokuji Freefall Resort.

Therefore, we can offer you two possible approaches to this mission. The first option is to break into the launch control center in Svobodniy, Russia. If you can gain direct access to the orbital uplink within the compound, you can send a virus up to the mainframe and corrupt the data warehouse. Once the master copy is corrupted, it will refresh any child copies and render the entire program useless. The compound is heavily guarded with both government and corporate security, as Evo and Russia have joint ownership of the launch site. The second option means less pay and presents some unique challenges. Ares will sponsor your team and pay for a week’s vacation aboard the Freefall station. There will be no means of early extraction, weapons are expressly forbidden aboard the station and all people are heavily screened before being permitted to board the station. You would have from the moment you arrive to the moment you disembark to locate the mainframe, destroy the program and remain concealed. You are on Evo’s turf, so there’s no restrictions to how they choose to deal with you if you were caught.

Which option sounds more your speed?”

Neither option probably appeals to the runners, but it could give the runners to experience a job in space. Both jobs are high risk, so it depends on whether the runners wish to risk being captured aboard the space station, where they can’t escape, or deal with the heavily armed security in the spaceport.

The job pays the runners 20,000¥ each if they attack Svobodniy, or 10,000¥ if they go for Freefall (plus they get an orbital vacation). Whichever job they decide upon, Mr. Johnson gives them an optical chip that holds a Resonance based virus that will destroy the core program they are after (he highly recommends not slotting the chip themselves). He instructs them to install the virus, wait a moment and then jack in to ensure the core routines have been fully destroyed.

If the runners opt to go to Freefall, Go to Scene 2. If they decide to assault Svobodniy, go to Scene 3.

Mr. Johnson (Brad Smyth)
Thresholds: Matrix (1), Corporate (2), Shadow Community (2)

1 – Mr. Johnson is Brad Smyth, a ten year employee of Ares.
2 – Mr. Johnson has built up a very positive reputation in the shadows as a good man to work for. In one instance where a runner team was double crossed by Ares, Mr. J logged onto Jackpoint and explained why the team had screwed up and told the other runner teams in the area to avoid making the same mistakes.
3 – Never married or had kids. Has had several dates, but seems to go out of his way to avoid attachments. Leading rumours are that he wants to avoid having another person being used as leverage against him.
4 – Has survived three assassination attempts and Ares watches him closely, as he is a strong shadow asset for the UCAS branch.

Daniel Wills
Thresholds: Matrix (1), Corporate (2), Law Enforcement (2)

1 – Daniel is a veteran of Knight Errant, who has been in Intelligence for seven years.
2 – Efficient and studious, Daniel is known for his precision and sense of duty to Ares. Expert in reconnaissance and a solid fighter.
3 – Married to his career and seems to spend every third month in a new city, often studying a new target or on the occasional deep cover assignment.
4 – Was recently spotted in Western Europe, but suddenly disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. Rumours are circulating that he may either be on another undercover assignment or one of his marks caught up with him.

Scene 2 – Above the Clouds

If the runners opt to go aboard Freefall directly, Mr. Johnson will provide them with tickets to Svobodniy over commercial air and pay for a week’s vacation in the orbital resort. The city of Svobodniy doesn’t offer much to prospective visitors, despite its recent explosive growth, the the runners are only in town for a day before they are strapped into a personal shuttle and launched into orbit.

Freefall’s exterior is decked out with the Evo corporate logo and shows smooth lines and a clean white exterior. The station features a central column where three rings spin to create a sense of artificial gravity. The shuttle docks at the “top” end of the central column, where the rotation of the craft has no bearing. They are escorted from the airlock into an acclimation chamber were they receive a zero-G 101 from one of the local tour guides, before being strapped into an elevator carriage and brought to the ring where they will be staying.

Rings one and three serve as the main living areas. The floor of each ring faces the outermost hull, so the rotation of the ring generates centripetal force enough to mimic 1G of force. Ring two serves as the central draw for the resort, serving as a continuous promenade of shops, restaurants and sign-ups for unique attractions to an orbital environment, such as space walks, low-G acrobatics.

The spokes within each ring are for maintenance and security to use to navigate the ship and every second spoke has an elevator shaft to the central column. The central column has no artificial gravity and is the primary draw of Freefall. With long panoramic rotational windows, the view of the Earth’s horizon or the moon are available any time people wish (so long as the moon is visible from Freefall at the time). The column has a central access shaft, with various sections subdivided out of its length. The spoke hubs to the rings sport security stations, and directional information. Attractions are spaces like Tumble Rooms, Space Walk, the Slingshot and Super Hero Sparring.

The servers that house the data the runners need to destroy are in one of the maintenance spokes of Ring Two. They will need to find a way to access these servers that don’t put them at risk. While there are crawlways through here, due to the rotational force of the rings, the G’s within the spoke are high and pose a significant risk to anyone unsecured in the spokes.

The defences aboard the station are primarily automated, able to lockdown sections of the vessel and if the hull is breached, jettison sections into space. Security staff tends to keep a low profile, but when needed, they arm themselves with SMGs packed with Frangible rounds, so not to damage the ship. There is no on-board magical presence and the manasphere is artificially generated, so all Magic here is vastly weakened.

Scene 3 – Reaching Upward

If the runners opt to keep their feet planted on terrafirma, they can assault the Svobodniy launch center. The area is well defended, as it is the nerve center of the city. The city was on it’s way out, diminished to under 10,000 people before Yamatetsu, now Evo, moved into Vladivostok. In the years since, the city has been revitalized with the Evo purchase of the nearby launch center. The city was a mining and manufacturing town, with the main rail pipeline connecting Vladivostok with the west running through. Now, with the Freefall launch site here, hotels, restaurants and other signs of a tourist trap have been springing up with rapid frequency. The result is a city center with all the glitz of a corporate enclave, with an outer layer showing the city’s origins as a blue collar town. Little by little, the old town is being exterminated and replaced with a showplace with strong Evo loyalties.

The launch center is outside the city a considerable distance, due to the noise generated by orbital launches, but still quite visible, so that those staying in the city can watch each launch and return. Russian police always give Evo matters priority in the city. Out at the launch site, security is not taken lightly. Civilian presence outside the terminal is strictly prohibited and are shot on sight. The moment intrusions are detected, the entire compound is locked down, civilians are removed and elite security is dispatched, comprised of Evo trained security, Russian military personnel, drones and remote magical assistance. If the resistance is significant, a HTR team is dispatched with full military heavy armor (see Run&Gun) and a heavy arsenal designed for eradicating even the largest of threats.

The runners will have to figure out where the servers are kept on the facility and if security has been tripped, they will need to also reactivate the uplink to the station, (which is isolated the moment there is any sign of trouble). If they can corrupt the main copy at the station, when the station goes to validate its copy, the virus will be transmitted up to the station and spread from there.

The launch site at Svobodniy features the launch tower at the eastern edge, with the flame duct jettisoning the thrust from the rocket. The taxiway leads directly away from the launch tower to the hangar, where there is room for two orbital craft. Across the parking lot from the hangar are the administrative, mechanical and launch control buildings. All the central yellow buildings are connected by underground pathways and most of the more powerful computers are stored here. The computer the runners need to find is far below the launch tower.

The grounds are heavily patrolled by drones, sensors and personnel. Spirits are available on command. The runners will need to be extremely thorough in their Con in order to get in without being detected.

>> Going half way around the world to destroy some piece of software?  I don’t think they can afford me…
>> Havik

>> Yes, it’s a long way away, but in a time where we’re dealing with shit like CFD, one less digital threat might be worth making the trip.  Just pack warmly.
>> Wraith

>> Just remember that you’re in Evo’s backyard out there.  One misstep and they’ll make sure you disappear for good.  Especially should you damage their expensive toys they house there.
>> Ronin

Cast of Shadows – Firewall

•March 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is the last piece of character background I have written presently for my coworkers’ characters.  While this character was one of the first concepts to be hammered out by my new coworkers, the character’s history and personality took a while to take full shape.  It was an interesting character, one I didn’t see very often: a troll hacker.  A metatype not known for their intelligence, using a skill set not typically associated with their race.  However, it was that strange contrast and the character’s personality that made the character endearing and a pleasure to witness in game.

+++decoding message+++

The space surrounding him was too perfect. Pristine white walls, modern furniture arranged in immoveable locations and art so evenly spaced that even a person with severe OCD would be at peace here.

It was one of the great equalizers here: perception was subjective. Your reality was shaped how you saw fit. Obviously this particular executive was a little exacting. Here, no one knew Firewall was a massive, lumbering troll. No one judged him by his genetics, but merely on his talents. The Matrix was better than reality in so many ways.

One thing his time on the grid had taught him, is that the more perfect the guise, the easier it was to find the flaws. Launching Baby Monitor, he tossed a small rotating screen into the upper corner of the room. Firewall checked his Overwatch Score to ensure he had time to finish the hack. Seeing that they hadn’t pinpointed him yet, he opened his Toolbox program.

“Find anything hiding here,” he instructed and out of the icon flew several will o wisps; tiny balls of flame, flitting around the node, lighting the perfect walls with a neon glow. One by one, the flames went out until one remained, hovering over the wall between two pieces of artwork. Firewall moved over to the area and placed his hand on the wall and the image dissolved revealing a cube of light recessed into the wall.

“Gotcha,” he said with a grin, pulling the data parcel free. The outer skin of the cube glowed hot as the code swirled over the surface, showing that the data within was encrypted. Plunging his digital hands into the packet’s skin, he began pulling out pieces and rearranging the icon, anticipating the patterns of the encryption algorithm.

“Access granted…” the node surrendered and the cube opened to reveal the paydata he was here to retrieve.

“Begin download.” The data pixelated and began to be absorbed by Firewall’s icon.

***

“Is everyone ready?” the corporate strike team captain asked over the radio. “The silent trace said the data is presently being downloaded somewhere on the premises. We go in, find the decker make an example of them and we’ll be home within the hour.”

“Do we really need five men to take down a computer geek?” one of the soldiers asked.

“Probably not, but there is the chance that they might have erected some form of defense while they finish the hack. We need to make sure they don’t get away with whatever they’re after. Milner, you take the emergency exit on the south side, Gibbons and Denta, you’re on the loading bay. Falkes, you’re up top. I’m take the main entrance. Keep comms open, but encrypted. Only use the radio if you absolutely need to. No sense giving this guy the heads up. All right, let’s move!”

The strike team fanned out to their assigned positions and the captain sent out a single tone over comms to signal the go ahead. All five men breached the abandoned warehouse simultaneously and swept the area, but found no evidence of any sort of defense. Huddled up against a stack of crates was a humanoid form, huddled up in blankets.

“You there! I want your hands where I can see them. Stand up!”

Firewall slipped his cyberdeck into an old frozen dinner box, raised his hands and stood to his full height. The soldiers all craned their necks to take the man once he was fully upright.

“Where’s the decker?” the captain ordered, stepping in closer with his gun trained on Firewall’s head.

“Ich werde sie in der Hälfte,” Firewall said with a dopey grin on his face. (I will break you in half)

“Shit, does anyone here speak German?” the captain asked. When everyone shook their heads that they didn’t, he scowled and spoke slowly to the massive troll. “What is your name?”

“Name? Gunther!” Firewall said with some enthusiasm and a broad tusky grin.

“Sonuva… all right, everyone fan out. There has to be a relay station here that’s allowing this hacker to get in remotely. Sever the network and his hack fails.”

As the strike team searched the room for a relay hub, Firewall watched the download status of his hack moving slowly but steadily across his field of view.

The captain sneered at the massive metahuman standing in front of him. “Where’s your hacker friend? He must have paid you to watch over the building, right?”

“Ich freue mich darauf zu klopfen Sie,” Firewall said with his dopey grin. (I look forward to pounding you)

The captain muttered under his breath. The progress was nearly complete… 97%.

“Captain, we’ve swept the area for electronics. There are no hubs installed anywhere.”

“How the hell is this guy hacking us? Have you swept the building with a thermal scan?”

98%…

“Yes sir. No one here except us and the troll.”

“None of these crates could be thermally insulated?”

“We don’t have time to search all of these…”

99%…

“Dammit troll, can’t you scrape up your meager mental potential to give up the decker’s location before we have to extract the information from you?”

100%…Download Complete

Firewall grinned in earnest in a malevolent glare that made the captain’s fellow guard take a step back. “You really think you can make me talk? You can barely grasp the obvious solution in the face of your own racism.”

The captain’s jaw dropped open for a minute and called out. “Shit! The troll’s the decker!”

Grabbing the captain by the collar, Firewall lifted the man up with one hand and drove his horned head down for a nasty headbutt. His reinforced skull shattered the man’s forehead, rendering the captain limp and unconscious. Hurling the soldier across the room, the ragdoll commanding officer landed on top of another soldier driving him to the ground.

As the strike team shook off their shock, Firewall reached between two crates and grabbed his trusted troll-reinforced sledgehammer. As the nearest guard went for his gun, Firewall let out a loud, guttural roar that froze the man in his tracks before the hammer came around in a baseball bat swing and connected with the side of his head. With a wet crunch, the soldier’s eyes rolled back in his head and collapsed to the ground.

Firewall felt the impact before he heard the gunshot. One of the strike team was overhead on a catwalk, snapping off shots. The rounds struck his armor jacket but failed to pierce the jacket to do any real damage. Reaching into the pile of blankets he had shrugged off earlier, Firewall came up with a shotgun raised it up and pulled the trigger. The deafening boom of the blast filled the space and the shot tore through the shooter’s shoulder. Reeling back, the soldier hit the railing behind him and with a second shot, Firewall blew the soldier back over the railing and spiraling to the concrete below.

Turning to the last guard standing, Firewall watched as an automatic clip changer swapped out the default ammunition for what he assumed would be armor piercing. Firewall was tough, but even his hide had limits. Snatching his cyberdeck, he dove over the nearest crates and took shelter as the soldier held down the trigger. Feeling the wood splintering overhead, Firewall mentally connected to his cyberdeck and dropped quickly into VR.

He only had a short period of time before his cover completely eroded under the hail of bullets. The green grid of the Emerald City spread out around him, but he quickly zeroed to his current location and launched his will o wisps to pinpoint the address for the shooter’s gun. The second his program isolated the device, he launched his Exploit program, which manifested as a crowbar in the old factory. Throwing himself at the weapon, he smashed through its defenses without concerning himself on whether he was detected.

The gun’s subsystems arrayed before him and he opened the smartlink system. “Assign -20% x-axis arc,” he ordered. He then opened the ammo feed system and inserted a manual command for issuing a purge command.

Jacking out, he tucked his cyberdeck into the small of his back, grabbed his sledgehammer and sprung from cover. He roared as he charged, sledgehammer gripped in one hand and held high. The corporate soldier brought his weapon up and squeezed the trigger. Thanks to Firewall’s corruption of the smartlink computer, the weapon fired too far to the left consistently when the crosshair was properly aligned. After several rounds had been expended and the raging troll was getting close, he opted to aim manually. Firewall reached his empty hand forward to interact with the hologram in his field of vision and swiped his manual trigger, which ejected the clip from the gun. As the clip clattered to the ground, he allowed the weapon to slip from his grip, as the wide swing from the sledgehammer came down.

Cast of Shadows – Gemini

•March 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Of all the characters that have been created at the office, Gemini is one of the oldest (around the same time as X3) and from a player I thought to be one of the least likely to play.  A manager who had never played anything “nerdy” in her life, she took to the game quite well.  Gemini’s evolution has only just begun and I’m interested to see how the character grows.  The character is a middle manager at Renraku that moonlights as a shadowrunner, she is a social adept with a proficiency for throwing weapons.  A refugee of Tir na nOg, her fair skinned beauty lowers her enemy’s defenses long enough for her to get what her team requires, or distract long enough for her to cripple an openly hostile target with ordinary objects.  Renraku is either unaware or uncaring of her extracurricular activities, at least for now…

+++decoding message+++

This was old news. The job had gone well. The paydata was obtained and despite all their careful planning, somehow they were detected. In defiance of the efforts of security, the runners had evaded death or capture and made away with their paycheque. When they contacted their employer, he was leaving it in the hands of a liaison, as he suddenly had pressing business to tend to.

It had been a setup, of course. The runners did their research and found out that Mr. Johnson had worked for the very company he hired them to hit. They had been hired to test out their security and die trying to get out. Instead, Mr. Johnson now found himself in the position of having to buy back his own data.

The methods being used were textbook. Gemini was sure she had read those exact procedures in Renraku’s manual. The standard process was to plug the leak (aka kill the team) or make the prospect of moving the data to get their money so unattractive that the runners would lay low and just wait for the heat to pass. Having escaped from the confines of Tir society, Gemini had never been one to behave the way she was expected.

Mr. Johnson, or as they now knew him as, Michael Bryant, worked for Universal Omnitech as a project manager, the very project he gambled with and that Gemini now had in her custody. Wearing the UniOmni logo, she walked toward the building with a scowl on her face. She hunched her posture, cast her eyes to the ground and concentrated on the image of a cleaning staff member her team had incapacitated two hours ago. She felt her cheekbones shift, the burn in her skin as it changed colour and her throat contort to change her vocal tone. By the time she reached the door, she appeared as a bored Latino woman rather than the fair skinned Irish woman she had been.

Swiping the “borrowed” security badge, she walked in the front door and nodded to the receptionist.

“Good morning, Alejandrina,” the receptionist said with a wave.

With her practiced accent, Gemini said “Morning…” before slinking off and making herself obscure. As she found the cleaning closet, she grabbed a few items and a janitorial cart as she connected her commlink.

“Everything in place?”

“I’ve got you covered,” Pascal, her hacker associate, assured her. “Cameras will black out when you reach the executive wing and I’ve sent you Bryant’s office location. As a heads up, he’s got guards with him. I guess his inability to kill you has him a bit nervous.”

“He should be. Nice work. I’ll be in touch again shortly.”

Pushing the cart down the hall, her eyes downcast, no one paid the lowly cleaning lady any mind as they slid by her, going about their daily work routine. She stopped periodically to wipe down a random empty desk, or if it looked like some cheery, morning person was about to strike up a conversation, she would pull out the portable vacuum and run it to drown out any attempt at conversation until they gave up. While she could mimic her appearance and copy her voice, Gemini didn’t know much about Alejandrina Lopez’s personal life, due to time constraints and if she started responding atypically, her cover could be blown.

After what felt like an agonizing pace, she arrived at the office block for the senior management. As she rummaged in the cart for the more portable goods in her kit. She heard the light on the camera overhead click as Pascal powered it down. With eyes off of her, she grabbed an aerosol can and a dust rag. Tucking the dust rag into a pocket to obscure the pens she had tucked away and she reached inside her coveralls to palm a dart from an inner pocket.

She walked over to Michael Bryant’s office where a guard was standing on duty. “Excuse me,” she said in her Latino accent, “I need to dust Mr. Bryant’s desk.”

“Not today, Alejandrina. He’s not taking any visitors.”

“Oh…” she said, offering an air of disappointment. “Maybe I should come back?”

“Give it a day or two. I’m sure whatever is bothering him will blow over by then.”

“OK.”

As Gemini turned to leave, she slid the dart in her hand from the heel of her palm to her fingertips. With a quick flick, the dart sailed across the hall, striking the guard in the chest. The look of shock quickly faded, as the drug took hold and he slumped to the floor. Putting on a winning smile, Gemini slid the door.

Michael Bryant’s office was large and decorated as per company regulation dictated. Despite its large amount of space, it was sparsely furnished. She strode into the middle of the space, as Michael looked up and the guards took on a protective posture.

“Hola senor. I have come to clean your desk.”

She heard the click of a weapon being cocked directly behind her and she froze.

“The cleaning staff in this building is never so brazen. Who the hell are you?”

Gemini smiled and let her re-sculpting slip away, her hair lightening back to blonde and skin becoming pale once more. When she spoke the Gaelic lilt was back that had been ingrained in her from her upbringing. “Is that more to your liking, Mr. Johnson?”

Michael shook his head and wagged his finger at her. “You know, Ms. Gemini, for someone as closely tied to Renraku as you are, one would think they would have whipped more caution into you.”

“They have certainly tried, Mr. Bryant,” she said. The man was resourceful, but not resourceful enough to have learned her real name yet, which meant she still had the advantage. “You’ll find I’m a tough one to break.”

“We will certainly test that, Gemini,” he said, the smile on his lips not reaching his eyes. “I’d be very interested to know where your associates are and where my data is. Anything to say for yourself before we start?”

She shrugged, looked over her shoulder at the soldier standing there his his sidearm leveled at her. “Give me your gun.”

Without the thinking, the soldier gripped the barrel, turned the butt of the weapon toward her, where she lightly took the weapon. “Thank you.”

She flicked her wrist and the aerosol can of dusting solution struck the guard in the skull, rupturing the can and sending the soldier to the floor. As the smile melted from Michael’s face, she ejected the clip with impossibly quick moves and tossed the weapon upward. With time seeming to slow, she looked toward the two guards standing over Mr. Johnson’s shoulders. With meticulous timing, she thumbed the catch that held each bullet in the clip. As the round sprung free of the clip, she caught the bullet and flicked it at one of the guards.

She alternated between the two guards, ejecting and throwing round after round, each throw nearly as deadly as if she had fired the gun, but quiet so not draw attention. The guards recoiled as each metal jacket ricocheted off their faces until both fell to the ground unconscious from the rain of blows.

The empty pistol fell back into her hands and as Mr. Johnson’s hands slid back across the surface of his desk she threw the gun at his fragile appendage. The gun struck the back of his hand, shattering bones and bounced off, landing on the plush carpet behind his desk. His mouth was open in a silent scream of agony and before he came to his senses, Gemini tossed aside the dust rag, grabbed a pen and hurled it, pinning his other hand to the desk.

As tears streamed down his face, he looked up at Gemini about ready to scream, when he spotted three other pens in her thin fingertips. “Let’s not make a sound, or I might have to find interesting locations to bury these, all right?”

Mr. Johnson shook his head that he understood, but his gaze fell to the pen that jutted out between his knuckles in his right hand.

“We both know you were going for a panic button. We also both know that you set my team up. I find both upsetting.”

Gemini sat down in a soft leather chair across from Michael with a pleasant smile on, as if they were old friends talking. She seemed oblivious to his pain and that he couldn’t avert his eyes from the pen in his hand.

“We jumped through your little hoops, tested your security and it failed. This is an opportunity to make further refinements, not to burn your reputation in the shadows to a tiny pile of ash. I will make you an offer, Mr. Bryant. One of those take-it-or-leave-it kind.”

Gemini reached into her jacket and she heard Michael’s breath hold in his throat. She smiled that the appropriate amount of fear was in place. She placed an optical chip on his desk.

“That is the data we stole. I will return it to you. In exchange, you never contact us again, you pay us double the original offer and we won’t tell everyone what an asshole you’ve been. You keep your rep, we are compensated for our inconvenience and nobody needs to be put to death. It’s the only offer you’re going to get. Decide quickly.”

Gemini sat across from him, rolling the pens sequentially across her fingers, his eyes transfixed on their movements. After several seconds, he spoke through gritted teeth. “Deal.”

“Great! I’ll take care of the transaction, seeing as you’re in a bit of a spot…”

Gemini plugged her commlink into Mr. Bryant’s and after a couple seconds, she heard Pascal’s voice in her ear. “We’ve got the money.” She pulled away, leaving the chip on the desk. “Remember, if I even smell one of your cronies nearby, I will be back and I won’t stop at your hands.”

Her features shifting back into those of Alejandrina, she smiled and spoke again in the Latino accent, “Adios, Mr. Johnson,” before heading to the door.

Cast of Shadows – Delta

•February 24, 2015 • 2 Comments

Continuing with the Cast of Shadows series, the next character I wrote a short back story for was a character named Delta.  The character was developed by a brand new gamer, who wanted a character strongly derived from the Jason Bourne books.  The character was a half Maori natural athlete and competent soldier, who grew up within the walls of Aztechnology.  When his father was murdered and his mother accused of being the prime suspect, he sought out his own answers, only to find the company who shielded him his entire life was now obstructing him at every turn.  Trusting his fate to his father’s Maori tribesman, they separated him from Aztech, trained him and offered him a new future in Seattle under the guidance of a Maori mentor named Aberdeen.  He uses the shadows as a means to dig up the information Aztech seemed content to bury.

+++decoding message+++

The streets of Seattle were bustling with a never ending flow of people as everyone single-mindedly milled about to reach their destination. In a form of social camouflage, Delta kept his head down, ballcap obscuring his eyes and head down. He clutched a parcel under his arm and wore a courier’s uniform, fading into the noise of the street.

He turned into a building off of the crowded sidewalk, where Horizon had an advertising company set up for their specific brand of consumer brainwashing. Tipping back his hat and donning his belt smile, he strode up to the receptionist desk.

“G’day miss,” he said. People always mistook his New Zealander accent as Australian, so might as well play up the role. “I have a package for a Mr. Fenten. Do I need his signature for this, or is it something you can help me with?”

The woman looked up in the direct of the accent and saw an attractive Elven man smiling back. “Oh! I-I’m sure I can help you, sir. Just sign here?”

“If you’d be so kind,” Delta said. He smiled broadly and made eye contact with the receptionist, but the moment her eyes shifted to the data pad, he scanned the area. His image link highlighted notable security features in the area, showing him panic buttons and cameras. The receptionist handed him back the pad and smiled. “There you go.”

“Great! Here’s the package…” Delta said, setting a box on the counter, a warm delicious smell wafting from the box.

“What is it? It smells fantastic!”

“Picked it up from the bakery on 5th… thinking it’s a pie. It sure was a hard delivery to make when the truck smelled so good,” Delta said with a smirk. “Hope you don’t mind me asking, but is there a restroom here? Been a busy morning.”

“Oh! Sure, just down the hall on the left.”

“Perfect, thanks!” Delta headed down the mentioned hallway. He had studied the floorplan of this place before coming and his true destination was directly across the hall from the washroom. As he saw the restrooms on the left, the maintenance room was on the right. Scanning for cameras, he confirmed he was in a blind spot. Pulling his autopicker from his uniform, he jammed it into the lock of the maintenance room and cranked the door open, slipping inside.

Looking around the closet, he found several cleaning compounds all marked as flammable. He smirked as he rearranged the bottles to improve coverage and placed several small explosive charges near the flammable bottles. The damage wouldn’t push beyond the closet, but it would certainly get people’s attention.

With his distraction detonation rigged up, he slipped back out of the closet and walked back to the reception desk. “Thanks, miss. I’ll see you later.”

“Sure… oh and , uh… here,” she said, handing a slip of paper.

“What’s this?”

“My number. In case you might like to grab a coffee sometime?”

Delta smiled again. “Sounds great. Call you later.”

Slipping the commcode into his pocket (hey, she was cute and if things went according to plan she would never know what he was about to do), he left the Horizon building and walked up the road a couple blocks to a local mall.

Wading his way through the crowd, he made his way toward one of the restrooms. Removing the ball cap from his head, he balled it up and deposited it in a garbage can before slipping into a men’s room. He stepped into a stall and began stripping out of his courier’s uniform, turning it inside out so that the logos were on the inside and the outside was a plain navy blue. Stepping out of the stall, he slouched slightly, letting his eyes droop, portraying a more fatigued persona. Making his way to the local DIY shop, he bought himself a small toolkit and an assortment of cheap tools.

He checked himself out in the mirror and felt his makeshift disguise would hold for as long as was needed. Navigating the horde in the mall once more, he stepped back out onto the busy street and walked back the way he came. He neared the Horizon building he had been in not long ago and turned into the housing complex across the street from it.

The man watching over the security counter looked up from his paper to see who had entered. “Can I help you?”

“Yeah, the management asked me to do some maintenance on the air conditioning unit before the weather gets too warm. Tune it up before it cuts out…”

The guard gave him an appraising look. “The management, huh?”

“You know? The Trinity Group? The guys who own the building?”

When the technician dropped the name of the company, the guard seemed to relax. “All right. The roof access is between 803 and 804.”

“Thanks,” Delta said in a bored monotone as the guard opened the door from a button under the desk. Once he was through the security door, Delta brought up his commlink, found Aberdeen’s contact information and clicked the connect icon.

Tena koe, Delta,” Aberdeen said in the traditional Maori greeting. “What can I help you with?”

Everything’s set. My gear in place?” he asked, stepping into an elevator, heading for the 8th floor.

Of course it is, my friend. Wouldn’t leave you high and dry.”

Excellent. Tell Mr. Johnson that I will be in contact this evening and he’ll need to uphold his end of the bargain.”

I will pass it on. Good hunting, Delta.”

Hei kona, Aberdeen.”

The door chimed and opened on the eighth floor and Delta made his way to the door between apartments 803 and 804. He looked up at the camera above the door and nodded. The door clicked as the security guard opened the door to the roof and the elf climbed the ladder to the roof slowly while carrying his tool kit.

Throwing back the hatch, he stepped out in to the sun and strode over to a ventilation duct. Opening his toolkit, Delta pulled out a screwdriver and began prying off the grate, while dialing a number on his commlink, disabling video on the call.

Horizon Advertising, how may I direct your call?” the receptionist that had given him her number cheerfully chimed.

Applying a voice filter, Delta didn’t look away from his task at hand. “The Megacorporate influence on society is a cancer. It must be purged from our city.”

The receptionist sighed. “Sir, I don’t know what…”

There are bombs in your building and if you don’t listen to our demands, everyone in that building will die.”

The vent popped away from its housing, revealing a burlap bag inside. Pulling the bag out, Delta opened it up to find his grapple gun with rope tightly secured and his Cavalier Arms Crockett, prepped and ready. Hoisting his sniper rifle, he couldn’t stifle the smile that crossed his lips as he felt its familiar weight.

Sir, we receive bomb threats all the time. Yours are just as hollow as all the rest.”

Is that so?” he said. Delta reached over to his commlink, pressed the disconnect button. Pushing the icons for the phone aside, he brought up his personal network, where a flashing icon reading “Detonate” was glowing. He sent the mental command to extend the bipod on his rifle as his finger pressed the detonate button.

A blast of stone and smoke erupted from the side of the Horizon building as he lay down prone at the building’s edge and took up position over the exit. Might have been a bigger explosion than was required, but he had to ensure people left the building.

As the Horizon building began to exit at a trickle, the corporate security team appeared, escorting people from the building and getting their people out. Finally, the mark appeared.

Morgan Forrester: advertising mogul on the rise and part time sleazeball. Slept with Mr. Johnson’s under age daughter. Mr. Johnson couldn’t afford to take on Horizon’s lawyers, but he could certainly afford making sure than would never touch an innocent girl again.

Turning on his smartlink, the targeting computer calculated the ballistic arc, accounting for the increased windspeeds between the buildings and the fluid nature of the milling crowd, Delta centered the crosshairs on the man’s forehead. He waited patiently and as the security team entered the building to search for the potential other threats or employees still inside, Delta squeezed the trigger.

He pulled back quickly, retracting the bipod. The screams from street level told him that the shot had been successful. Wrapping up the rifle, he grabbed his equipment, tossing the toolkit into the ductwork and pressing the grate back over the hole. Hefting his grapple gun, he fired it against the HVAC system and began scaling down the side of the building.

He lowered himself quickly, knowing that Horizon wouldn’t take long to establish where the shot came from. As soon as his feet touched down on the pavement, he tapped his catalyst stick to the rope, causing the rope to disappear to dust in seconds.

Walking down the alley, away from the chaos he created, Delta sent a message to Aberdeen.

Task complete. Will require security footage to disappear. Tell Mr. Johnson to watch the news and contact me with payment.”

Cast of Shadows – Xiadow Xiok Xiavez aka X3

•February 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Continuing from my last post, the second character I wrote a short about was the team’s cyber ninja, X3.  X3 had been created when I first attempted running Shadowrun at the office and his player was very pleased to be able to bring his character back under Fifth Edition.  In order to showcase the character for the new players, I wrote up this piece.  X3 is a Filipino runner, who was classically trained in the ninja arts by a now shattered clan, who opposed the occupation of the Philippines.  The islands now liberated, X3 seeks vengeance for the treatment of his countrymen at the hands of Mitsuhama and their exploitative policies.

+++decoding message+++

The scent of incense hung heavily in the air, as Carlos Chavez sat cross-legged in the middle off the tatami mat that made up the center of the space. This Shinto-styled shrine in Everett was one of the few places left in the city that felt tranquil and he could feel centered. Whether that would be true after today or not remained to be seen.

As he heard the heavy wooden doors open somewhere behind him, that portion of him known as Carlos slipped away to make room for X3; the shadowrunner. He remained where he sat, determined to enjoy the peace as long as it lasted.

Footsteps echoed behind him in the stone hallway until he heard the soft crunch of shoes on tatami. “What the hell? Who is this? I thought I told you to keep this place clear!”

So… he had come. Tariya Hideyoshi… self-important Yakuza thug, son to a Mitsuhama dynasty that traced back to the atrocities in the Philippines. X3 had done his homework and found this little kingpin left himself open during his meditations. With any luck, the man’s commlink would have something profitable and useful to his own ends on it.

“I…I don’t know, sir. Our men had the place surrounded to keep it clear for you.”

“Well you failed, as usual. Get rid of him, so I can relax.”

X3 listened as he heard people moving around him. His cyberears honed in on the sound of footsteps on the soft mat. Four bodyguards. More than he had anticipated, but still manageable.

“Uh sir, he’s armed…” X3 heard pistols being drawn from holsters and leveled in his direction.

Hideyoshi had venom dripping from his voice when he ordered, “Set your weapon on the floor and stand up slowly.”

Suppressing a smirk, the runner drew his machine pistol from its holster, placed it lightly on the mat and slowly rose to his feet.

“You have some stones coming to a Yakuza building with a weapon,” Hideyoshi said.

“Last I checked, this was a public building,” X3 said, finally breaking his silence.

“Who said you could talk back? Sato, teach this worm some manners.”

Hearing a pistol being cocked to his left, X3 grinned. His cybernetics kicked in and the world seemed to slow down. With a pre-programmed series of finger twitches, he activated his chameleon suit, pulling the hood down over his face with one head, while starting into a hand spring with the other.

As far as the Yakuza saw, one minute the man was there and in a blur of motion, suddenly he turned and vanished. They fired their weapons where the assassin had been standing only to hit nothing but air. X3 bounded up the wall braced his knees between two ceiling beams and hung upside down studying the Yakuza’s movements below.

“Where’d he go?” Sato said, panic creeping into his voice. “You think he’s a mage?”

Hideyoshi looked to one of his guards. Speaking in Japanese, he ordered, “Summon one of your spirits. The rest of you, make yourself useful… fill the place full of holes until something bleeds.”

Springing from his perch, X3 swung from the beams to a wall before bouncing off and securing himself above the now outed mage. Reaching down, he tightly gripped the mage’s head and wrenched it to the side, severing the mage’s spine before he could tap into the astral. With the rest fruitlessly firing into the walls, X3 let the mage drop to the floor, creeping across the mat lightly staying out of the firing arcs of the thugs destroying the temple.

“Kuso! The kannushi is down!”

Hideyoshi wheeled around to see the mage laying on the ground, eyes wide and head at an impossible angle. “Dammit! Find him!”

As the Yakuza were distracted by the death of their magical support, X3 moved in behind another soldier, clamped his hand over their throat to prevent them from crying out and wrenched him back as he brought his knee up. A long blade ejected upward from his shin, slipping between two of the man’s ribs. The man’s cry of agony stifled by X3’s grip, the blade retracted and the ninja went for the wakazashi at the Yakuza’s side. In a fluid motion, X3 hurled the short sword at the next thug, while rolling across the mat.

Hideyoshi and Sato turned in time to see one of their men go down in a silent spurt of blood from his mouth while another saw himself impaled and skewered to the wall by a wakazashi. Coming out of his roll, X3’s chameleon suit disengaged as he scooped up his machine pistol, raised the run and fired a burst in the skull of Sato.

With surprising agility, Hideyoshi moved in and kicked the pistol from X3’s grip. Taking up a ready position, X3 mimicked his opponent’s stance. Standard Hwarang-do posture, offensive style… not sloppy though. Has some training.

“I don’t know who you are, but no one messes with the Yakuza and lives,” Hideyoshi taunted.

“You’re right… you don’t know who I am. Your mistake.”

Hideyoshi opened with a feint, attempting to bring X3’s guard up, but the assassin didn’t take the bait, blocking the initial strike. Delivering a sharp blow to the Yakuza’s forearm, the man recoiled, realizing that his opponent had bone lacing and that each blow would be costly.

Launching into a kata, Hideyoshi launched into the fight with a back fist, a hook kick, a crescent kick and what should have been a flurry of blows. X3 was well versed in this style of fighting; MCT trained their soldiers in Hwarang-do and this guy lacked the brain power to improvise. X3 barely had to think when dodging the kicks and when Hideyoshi when to follow up with the punches, X3 side-stepped, wrist-locked the man and flipped him using the momentum of the strike against him. As the Yakuza man turned in the air, the assassin fired a kick of his own into the defenseless foe, hurling him to the mat and bouncing from the force of the strike.

Staggering to his feet, Hideyoshi looked at the ninja, his confidence faltering somewhat. X3 stared back unwavering, showing no signs of his plan of action. His opponent met X3’s eyes trying to get a read of any kind and his eyes briefly shifted to the wooden doors behind X3 that led to freedom.

X3 grinned behind his mask.

The Yakuza let out a battle cry and charged X3, launching into a flying kick. Knowing that it was a ploy to make X3 step aside to grant freedom, the ninja merely rolled back and sprang to his feet, so that Hideyoshi landed directly in front of him. As the Yakuza lieutenant landed, X3 launched in his own assault. To his credit, Hideyoshi did a respectable job of weathering the barrage. The entire time X3 attacked, the Yakuza was trying to find an opening where he could sidestep his attacker and escape.

Noticing his adversary’s desperation, X3 gave him his opening. Swinging in a wild attack, X3 presented an obvious gap and Hideyoshi went for it. Using his momentum from his misleading move, X3 spun around, sprang off a wall and came down fist first where Hideyoshi’s neck met his shoulder, crushing the collar bone and driving him to the floor.

On shaking legs, the Yakuza struggled to his feet. He clutched his crippled shoulder as tears streaked down his cheek from the pain. “Please… what do you want? What did I do?”

“What do I want? I want those that stole my family and friends from me. I want those who murdered my neighbors and sold their children in slavery to feel the same agony we felt. Your parents are two of those people. What did you do? The same thing we did. Nothing. But my job is to bring suffering to those who deserve it and you are a means to an end.”

Hideyoshi made one last attempt to defend himself with his one good arm, but his defenses were swatted aside and X3 delivered a series of quick blows as his forearm spurs extended. A blur of motion, he delivered critical blows: first the lungs to prevent him from calling for aid, the second to the abdomen to deliver the requisite amount of pain his bloodline was owed and the third a blow to the heart, granting a quick end, as he was not directly responsible for the sins of the past.

Hideyoshi’s eyes went wide as his life faded quickly. X3 guided him down to the kneeling position on the tatami giving him his final moments to find the serenity he sought when he first entered the temple.

“May your spirit find peace. For your family will have none.”

X3 reached down and unclipped the man’s commlink and accessed its memory. As he had hoped, there was information on it he could sell to rival syndicates, but there was information on Mitsuhama, his parents and their family life. He could begin scouting his planned targets in earnest. He would let them grieve over the death of their son before death would visit them again.

Cast of Shadows – Snaketoast

•February 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

When 5th Edition first came out, I blew the dust off an old idea… corrupt my coworkers with the idea of a free-flowing story they could control.  It was a surprisingly easy sell… a couple had played before and were eager to bring their 4th Edition characters back, while most had never played an RPG, or it had been so long, it was as good as new.  We sat down, drew up characters and prepped ourselves for our first game.  While I taught the mechanics of the game (keeping it high level, seeing as they weren’t gamers…yet), in order to paint the picture of what they were getting into, I wrote up stories starring their characters, to showcase the kinds of things they could do in game.  While they’re far from Pulitzer material, I figured I’d post the stories I wrote for people to read and (hopefully) enjoy.

The first character to be developed was the team mage with the nonsensical name of Snaketoast… a Quebecois mage whose family was torn apart by Cross Applied Technologies before the Crash of 64.  He strives to improve himself in order to dig into the now-defunct corporation to find those responsible and punish them.

+++decoding message+++

The rain came down in a slow, cold drizzle as the runner studied the front doorway beneath the large glowing centurion icon. It had taken some money and some time, but he had finally tracked down Gaston Fiore. It was part of a private contracting job, but when he learned that Gaston used to be an employee of CATCo back in Trois-Rivieres, it seemed an ideal opportunity to kill two birds.

Standing beneath the awning of a local coffee shop, Snaketoast was distracted from his recon momentarily by the barrista behind the counter. “Excuse me, sir? Your soykaf?”

“Ah, thanks,” he said with a smile. Sipping the closest thing to coffee he could afford, he pulled at the collar of his uniform. It had cost a sum of money, but he had convinced a local tailor to mock up a close facsimile to an Ares uniform. The knowledge of even wearing a corporate logo made his skin crawl, but it was a means to an end.

Taking a drag from his soykaf, he steeled himself against the elements and strode out into the rain. As he neared the Ares compound, he made out the sorry son of a bitch that was on guard duty and before acting, he switched his sight to the astral plane.

A world of colour and emotion super imposed itself over top of reality. The glow of the Earth was muted here, as all but a thin layer of topsoil and grass remained of nature, all of it paved over in concrete and glass. The building was thankfully free of magical protections and there were no signs of spirits on duty. A blessing to be sure. Luckily for him, Mr. Fiore was someone of low import. Turning his attentions to the front door guard, the man was only slightly augmented. Standard headware package. Fighting a cold and really resenting being out in the Seattle rain. His poor disposition would only serve Snaketoast better.

The mage began drawing mana from the local astral space, knitting together a spell as he began a purposeful walk to the front door. He focused on the guard, who had yet to notice his approach and thought “The next person to the door is a man of importance. Let him pass quickly.”

The tendrils of power wove their way into the guard’s mind and when Snaketoast reached the door, he scowled at the guard. “It’s fucking miserable out here. Open the door, will you?”

“Certainly, sir,” the guard said. Typing in the passcode, Snaketoast watched the code as it was entered and quickly stepped out of the rain into the sterile white hallway of the Ares building. He spotted the camera at the end of the hall and quickly stepped into a nearby office. Scanning the office, he found it vacant and using his commlink the workstation showed the employee was off for the day. Tossing his soycaf in the trash, he reached into his satchel, pulled out a handful of crystals and placed them in a symmetrical hexagon on the office floor. Standing in the middle of his makeshift circle, he began chanting softly, shifting his sight to the astral plane. The ambient mana of the room flowed through the crystals and coalesced over his head. After five minutes of concentration, the ball of energy overhead took the form of a serpentine spirit with an eye where the head should be.

“Yes?” his watcher spoke, the ‘s’ drawn out like the stereotypical snake.

“I am searching for a man. A human by the name of Gaston Fiore. Seek him out and report his location to me.”

“As you command.”

The watcher faded into the ether and the crystals used in the ritual shattered to dust with the ritual concluded. Not content to let his spirit do all the work, Snaketoast tapped into the astral once more, casting an Invisibility spell over himself. He watched as he faded from view. Satisfied, he pushed the astral signature of the spell to his focus and stepped out into the hall once more.

Walking lightly, he made his way down the hall. The camera would not see him, but it would not serve him to be heard by a patrolling guard. Thankfully for him, the building was busy. The main portion of the building was a large cube farm, with countless wageslaves slumped over their workstations, doing the megalithic company’s bidding for a handful of nuyen.

“Master, I have located your quarry,” the watcher reported, sending the mage direction by telepathy. Conference room past the cubicles… meeting was wrapping up. Perfect.

Making his way across the space, weaving his way carefully through the Ares citizens who were oblivious to the shadowrunner in their midst. He waited outside the conference room door for the managers to leave before slipping inside.

Gaston Fiore was a middle aged man of mediocre income, receding hairline and poor life choices. Snaketoast couldn’t judge the man for sleeping around on his wife, save for the fact that he was stupid enough to get caught and leave his wife access to his personal bank account, which she was now using to pay the runner. She had no prayer of winning anything in the divorce, going against a corporate lawyer, so she didn’t want him to have anything either. Petty, sure… but it pays the rent.

Gaston was all packed up and heading for the door, when he felt a hand on his shoulder and a gun barrel on the back of his neck.

“Speak and die. Understand?”

The manager nodded lightly, raising his hands in surrender.

“Lower your hands, dammit. Let’s not draw any attention, shall we? Keep your hand away from your commlink.”

As Gaston obeyed, Snaketoast pulled an optical chip from his pocket and slid it into the man’s commlink data port. His old hacker friend had cooked up a dataworm for him and within seconds, the worm weaved through the device’s firewall and began transferring the man’s assets to a separate bank account and noisily transferred company data out onto the Matrix, hopefully destroying the man’s reputation.

Having finished his primary objective, Snaketoast drew in the mana for a spell, glaring at the back of the man’s skull. Energy arced through his fingertips and drilled into the executive’s mind. Gaston’s eyes shot open and his jaw went slack as Snaketoast burrowed into the man’s memories. Going deeper and deeper, he looked for any signs of anything from Cross. The man hadn’t held much station, but even rumours were useful pieces at this point.

Flashes of images and conversations rolled through Snaketoast’s mind, as he shared the man’s memories of the old company from a decade before. He found nothing directly about his family, but rumours of the Serephim and a data breach that occurred that caused a stir within Cross itself. It could be a lead.

As the mage released his hold on the man’s mind, Gaston fell to his knees, coughing and retching from the violation. Without thinking, he sent the mental command to his commlink to raise the alarm. As the sirens went off, Snaketoast cursed under his breath and fired off a Stunbolt that dropped Gaston to the floor.

The door to the conference room locked down and the hiss of a gas release system filled the air. Snaketoast wove another spell and held his breath no longer feeling the need to exhale. Peering through the conference room window, he caught sight of a poor wageslave walking nearby, while the corpsec team was still prepping themselves. Unable to wait for a full hypnotic suggestion, he used Control Thoughts and commanded “Open the door.”

Without thinking about what he was doing, the wageslave walked over and pulled the door open. The gas washed out of the room, dropping the employee and sending the security forces scattering for their respirators.

Starting to feel the drain taking it’s toll, Snaketoast threw caution to the wind and ran from the room. Seeing the break in the gas, a couple of guards fought against the gas’s effects to bring a weapon up, but were forced to keep their heads down as the runner fired his pistol at the guards. Behind him, he heard the guard order “It’s a mage! Switch to ultrasound!”

His invisibility now useless, he dropped both the invisibility and oxygenate as he ran for the door. Knowing he would have to fight his way out, he called to the astral one last time, hoping it wouldn’t be enough to take him out.

As he rounded the last corner, a guard in heavy armour stood between him and the exit. The Ares soldier raised his assault rifle. “Lay down on the ground right now, or die.”

Snaketoast absently wiped the blood from his nose, paying the price for his last act and dropped heavily to his knees. As he lowered himself, he sent the mental command “Take him.”

Snaketoast sprinted toward the guard as the floor seemed to become fluid rising up into a vaguely humanoid form of concrete and marble tile. Two obsidian pits glared down expressionlessly on the guard as the spirit took full form and roared with the sound of stones grinding against one another.

“Aw fu-” the guard said as the spirit drove him through the door and charged outside, hurling the guard into the grounds. The guard the Snaketoast had previously convinced to allow him entry opened fire on the spirit. The bullets chipped against the stone body of the spirit and the spirit vanished in a spray of broken tile.

As Snaketoast crossed the threshold and back into the rain, he heard “Freeze!” beside him. The guard looked puzzled for a moment, as the hypnotic suggestion was still there, though vastly weakened. The hesitation cost him as the Earth spirit burst from the ground at the guards feet, swallowing him up in dirt and stone.

“Once I am free of the grounds, you are free to return to your home, spirit,” Snaketoast said. “You have my thanks.”

Running off of the Ares compound and fading into foot traffic, he opened a channel on his commlink. “Hello, Ms. Johnson? The job is complete. I am sending you a bank account number with your settlement in it. Please leave the amount of my pay in the account and our business is concluded. Enjoy being single.”

Not bad for a days work. The rent was paid, he could afford food and he knew that he now had to track down information on the Seraphim. Answers would come. He had to be patient.

 
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