Life in the Shadows: Nightmare (Part 1)

(Shadowrun Fiction. I don’t own Shadowrun and it is the property of Catalyst Games. There are violent themes and digital death in this story.)

 

I had a chummer who worked for a small A corp. Had some wiz skills with a deck and I tried to convince him to leave corp life, but I just found out he got geeked. Fried at his office working late. Did some snooping and right around the time of his death he sent me his last message, saying that he wouldn’t be able to buy me that soykaf he owed me. I’d thought him getting hit was bad luck it was just bad luck, but the other two programmers working with him also got a lethal dose of biofeedback. Any clues?                                               – RedFire

One dead wage slave = bad luck. Two dead wage slaves = coincidence. Three dead wage slaves = a run…                                                                                                                                                 -Twilight

Was thinking a runner got caught by a few wiz deckers and just fought his way out, but you think it was a hit?                                                                                                                                             – RedFire

Hate to tell you this chum, but your friend was probably a victim of corp politics. To get the leg up on another person in the company, someone looking to climb the corporate ladder might go out of his or hinder the other managers in the office. Hire a runner to steal their research or destroy it. But, when certain key figures are pillars of a project a runner, with a considerably loose moral code will be hired to dispatch that person(s) permanently. Whether a bullet to the head or lethal biofeedback, a client will pay handsomely to have their competition eliminated.                                                                                                                      – Mr.Smiles

Not proud of it, but I can vouch for what Smiles is talking about. Had my hoop in a real bad place and I needed some yen quick. A chummer of a chummer got me into contact with someone looking to geek a corp decker. Got me the codes and access and I let my Black Hammer do the rest.                                                                                                                                       – Ripper

Also, Soykaf was his dying thought?                                                                                                          – Ripper

I’ll start going through my contacts to see if I could find out who specializes in this. Yeah, Ripper, he’s owed me that soykaf for five fragging years, good guy, great in the trix, but cheap as hell.                                                                                                                                                     -Redfire

———–Finding next instance of “corp” “hit” “RedFire” “dead”——————————————————————————————-

Been a while, but I finally got a lead on this drekhead! Anyone know of a persona icon that looks like a medieval executioner? Decked out in all Red and carrying a single-bladed ax?    – RedFire

Nope, never heard of the guy, could be using a different icon when he’s just hitting the clubs. Feel like he’d get shut down with that look.                                                                              – Ripper

1.Your icon is a shark in a Hawaiian shirt. 2. I’ve seen you get so many digital drinks thrown in you face that I’d wondered if your persona was amphibious.  3. I think I’ve seen the guy. Heard that a corp had weak trix security, so I decided to help myself to any pay data I found. Thought I saw a guy like that from behind as I entered.                                             -Twilight

You would be looking at him from behind!                                                                                              – Ripper

Jealous? All I know is any other man is > You.                                                                                        -Twilight

Get a fragging room you two. Got a lead on the next hit for this guy.                                              -RedFire

Whatever Omae. Good Luck!                                                                                                                        – Ripper

—–Finding next instance of “Executioner” “Red” “RedFire” “dead”“Medieval”——————————————————————————–

Missing 1. RedFire. Owes me yen and if found, please report to Ripper for your reward.        – Twilight

I heard he died. Biofeedback is such a horrible way to go.                                                                 – Executioner

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

     With a Beep and a click the monitor shut off and  a very frustrated man sighed into his hands. One dark extremity almost eclipsing the left side of his face, while the shiny steel color of his other hand had a slight gap between two of his fingers, affording enough room for a brown pupil to scan the paper just in front of the monitor. It was the Executioner, clad in ancient clothing. Something you’d see in a Neil The Ork Barbarian trid. An imposing physique wrapped in chainmail and hood, brandishing an almost impossibly large ax, drek eating grin plastered across his face. Left hand first then right slowly reached out to grab the parchment. He held it in his grip for what seemed like forever until his fingers began digging into it. The grin became distorted larger than it had been for a moment as if it was mocking him.The pressure increased until the telltale sound of ripping paper began to replace the silence of the room.

     Rip.  A hole formed through that mocking grin and another tore through the bottom half of his jaw. Rip. Rip. Rip. An index finger made a trilogy of devastating wounds at the figures, shoulders, and abdomen. For a second he admired his work. Then an intense fury overtook him. Both hands went to work. One ripping vertically as the other worked horizontally on the matrix assassin. In the frenzy, he managed to knock over his chair and the small plastic table the monitor rested on.

    I’m James Brown….. Yes like the pre-awakening singer.  I’m former wage slave that escaped a hit, because the guy who was hired to kill me underestimated me. Or rather one of my co-workers and myself. I’m the only person who lived to not tell the tale. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, the only reason I haven’t devolved into a fragging paranoid schizophrenic is because of…..

    The front door to the apartment slammed open just as James started stomping out the piece of paper, in a particularly brutal fashion. A large female troll stepped through the door with bags in hand. Her complexion was fair (if you could call a troll’s complexion fair given the dermal deposits on their skin and such) she had bright blue eyes and two curved horns that shot up out of a mop of blonde hair . The ends of her almost golden locks just brushed the strap of her black sports bra. Arms finely muscled. Midriff exposed revealing an abdomen ruthlessly stripped of fat. Standing well above eight feet, she was a  veritable powerhouse.

“I got…..Dinner.” She managed to utter in a sweet (for a troll) voice before she froze.Both of her blue eyes were locked on James. Her face was blank save for one quizzically raised eyebrow.

     There couldn’t have been a more diametrically opposed metahuman on the planet. James not exactly a physical specimen. He was a former corporate employee ,clad in what would be considered wage slave attire. White, long sleeved, button up shirt, complete with a red tie. Black slacks, ironed to perfection ran down his legs, just stopping a few inches from his loafers. As soon as her words registered he stopped and turned his head to the athletic troll. With the speed of a man about to be sleeping on the couch, he tied back his dreads and straightened up his tie.

“Soy burgers! My favorite!” he said with a face that was just begging to not have to sleep on the couch.

“You’re cleaning that up right?” was her reply. More statement than a question. Immediately he set about picking up the errant pieces of paper.

My…….Girlfriend? Valkyrie or at least that’s what she goes by.

    Once things were clean and a half of James’s fries was given in recompense, they sat at a large table, smack dab in the middle of their home and ate. The conversation was mostly about trivial things, urban brawl, the best food in Seattle, anything but what really mattered. Even while eating she still trained. One hand dwarfing one of the soy burgers, the other with its fingers clenched on one of the massive dumbbells that littered the floor of that side of the flat. The right side of the apartment also contained a bench press with colossal weights, that James could swear were warping the bar with each passing day. Or perhaps, it was the massive pile of clothes on the makeshift clothing rack. Mats, exercise balls, all sorts of equipment littered this side of their abode. Whereas, the left side was the very picture of clean. The couch free of all debris, the rug freshly vacuumed, and not an ounce of dust anywhere to be found.

“You’ve been working out a lot. You gonna be gone for a few days?”, James knew what she was, what she did, and worried. But, as usual, Valkyrie clammed up.

“Not sure,” she said Then the troll acted as if the strain from the weight she had previously curled for what seemed like the thousandth time was now exhausting her.

“Ugh”, she sighed as she gently placed the weight on top of another pile of clothes. “Wanna watch that trid, the one with the monster fragging people in their dreams?”

“Yeah.” He responded, letting his previous question drop like the barbell.

The lights were dimmed, snacks were prepared (for guess who) and the odd couple sat down on the couch, cuddling right in the middle as not to tip it one way or the other. Valkyrie curled up against James as best she could while slotting as much popcorn in her mouth as possible before she decided to feign fear and recoil more, into the strong supportive arms of her boyfriend. James was in a daze for most of the trid. The lighting, the killer hunting people down in an angelic dream gone wrong, even the beautiful woman curled up next to him were but afterthoughts. He was only thinking of the killer that haunted his own dreams.

    Valkyrie ain’t an angel, or at least that’s what I thought when a  fraggin troll armed with an ax hurtled down to the crete in front of me. WRONG PLACE RIGHT TIME? I could have just hauled off and ran, but something kept my feet planted where they were. Scanned the scene and knew what was up. Troll armed and armored. People yelling from four stories up some dilapidated apartment complex about a package. She was a runner. I was a former wage slave. But, here we were down and out. Figuratively for me. I desperately dragged slash rolled her away from the scene until she could regain consciousness, treated her wounds, and wound up crashing at her place. Never knew what happened to the people that tried to frag her. I just know she went out after she was healed up and brought back a slightly bloodied cyberdeck. Hey. One man’s loss is another’s bloody treasure, I guess.

     With the trid over and an obligatory jump scare ending, they retired to bed. There was some debate as to whether the series would rake in the yen or get a Hollywood exec geeked. Like before they were curled up right in the middle of a bed.   James couldn’t sleep and the woman next to him snoring loud enough to muffle the sound of gunshots wasn’t the cause. It was his mind. It was plagued with the event that started his new life of the past six months ago. The image of the executioner persona still fresh in his mind. The thought of a rematch in the matrix came to mind, he’d gotten sharper in the last few months. Mostly in thanks to his new occupation. There was still the threat of an attack outside cyberspace, however. That terrified James. The only thing that could really give him peace of mind was the thought that if anything did slink in from the shadows, his eight-foot guardian angel would take care of it.

    A lot of humans wouldn’t be interested in her. Hell, those humanis fraggers would call me an outright traitor for living with her, let alone dating, but I’ve felt more at peace next to her than I have for the last eight years. It was a familiarity thing. I think. You see, I had a mother who was anything but ordinary. She was a member of Mothers of Metahumans the only wiz policlub. At least in my mind. She took me in with a few other street kids. Once she found out I was good at programming, the lovely hobgoblin moved heaven and earth to get me a data jack. I can still remember her cursing out the street doc before, after, and from what Sunny told me during my operation. Yeah, mom kept a few of us. A troll, two orcs, an elf, a dwarf, and of course me. She used to joke that she had one of every type. It wasn’t easy for us growing up as diverse as we were, but we all watched each other’s backs. Even if fighting got our hoops in trouble, she was always proud of us for proving that all metahumans could get along. My brother Thorvin is running an auto shop out in New York. The twins are out in Cali free. God knows what trouble there into. Benny is the bodyguard of some big trid star out in the UK. They’re all over, hell last I heard Sunny was in Tir country. Out of all of us, she was the crazy one. Magically adept, raised by a hobgoblin, and nearly six-foot-two, she didn’t take drek from anyone. I still can’t believe she survived that fight with an elf go-gang. Their tried and true recruitment tactic of killing whatever metahuman that was harassing a poor elven woman didn’t work out too well. Benny told me that after they shot him, she damn near burned one alive. Part of me misses the adventures we got into.

He looked down at his metallic  arm, almost concealed by the covers.

But, then again I haven’t lost any more body parts.

 

     Light. Beams of light crisscrossed the scope of the world. Blue lines stretched across the sky, weaving intricate patterns of data, neon green squares formed the pattern of the floor. Little red dots blinked, weaving in and out of every other square. Elegant, simple, and colorful was the coding of this matrix node. At the center of this virtual database was the persona of a man dressed in a suit, his face hidden by a mask, with constantly changing emotions. One of the gloved hands motioned and a sky blue board appeared, with green lines of information scrolling down it. Data. It was the sixth world’s most valuable commodity and yet so very malleable in the hands of a decker.

    I really have to thank Valkyrie for getting me this gig. Data entree and node management for a family owned business. This part of Seattle was known as a troll community. Good people. Hard working. Mo managed to start an auto repair businesses that had a few locations across the sprawl. Sadly, any small business is a target in this age. Petty deckers, looking to score some records they could fence to buy BTL’s or make rent were a constant threat. They thought a quick dive into the matrix of a troll owned establishment would be a milk run and they were right. Standard Intrusion Countermeasures and no matrix support. After a string of costly raids, Val set me up with Mo. Four months in and not a single…..

     Blue skies suddenly turned red as the streams of data froze.The small red orbs shot up from the ground and morphed into large fantasy like trolls brandishing clubs.  James’s persona sprung up and leaped towards the lines in the sky. As soon as the persona touched a stream of data, he was carried off was carried off towards the problem. Within an instant, James was at the site of trouble. A figure, bold and blue was tussling with two of the nodes defenders. They were zealously protecting a green file cabinet, that had sprung up from the floor. The IC swung with their clubs. At times one would shot a bolt of fire from their weapon, while the other snuck around to catch the persona unawares. It was to no avail. The woman made of water flowed in and out of danger.  A dodge her. A sidestep there. Then she was behind a troll, her arm extended outwards. Her fingers clenched into a fist, that soon began to grow larger and larger, until it seemed like the built up pressure would blow off the icons arm. Boom. The explosion bathed the trolls in blue. The initial impact blew away the trolls. As the digital guardians struggled to their feet, they found that the fluid was clinging to them sizzling as it burned off bits of their bodies.

“Blaster program, with erosive properties,” James asked.

Shocked the persona turned to regard him, looking over her back occasionally, to make sure the trolls weren’t going to attempt to crush her.

“Aye. I take it you’re the caretaker round these parts” A distinct Irish accent came out in her speech.

    James just responded with a flourishing bow.For what seemed like minutes, but what only lasted a few seconds in real time, the pair stared at each other, with the trolls seemingly waiting for instructions. The woman acted first. She pointed her arm out like a gun and a sizzling burst of blue fluid. The gentlemen dodged and threw his mask. It grew mid-flight until it was the size of a person’s torso. Then with an ear piercing scream the smile on the mask opened to shout ribbons of blue and green, that proceeded to snare the watery woman in a neat bow. Immediately the form of the woman tried to ebb and shift, but to no avail. Realizing their opportunity the IC approached the persona and landed a few hits with their clubs. James’s avatar approached menacingly with a nasty looking red knife.

“Who are ye?”, the trapped decker questioned while taking another round of blows.

“No one.” Was the reply.

Then she was gone. Poof. The sky turned blue again, and information began to flow throughout the node. Dutifully the trolls remained on guard. Standing still at attention, while scanning cyberspace for threats. James looked over the file cabinet for any missing information and lo and behold he and his system had successfully repulsed the ninth decker this week. With a wave of his hand, the cabinet collapsed back into the ground.  Just as it disappeared into a sea of green, a screen popped up in front of James. A troll far different from Valkyrie was grinning at him.

His horns were immaculate or so Mo thought. Immaculate to Crazy Mo meant gold tipped horns polished to perfection, matching teeth, loud suits, and drek eating grin a mile wide.

“Hey, kid works over. Love ya and I’d love to have ya watch my data twenty-four seven, but If I lock the doors on ya again Val will nail my hoop to the wall!”

What can I say I love this job and the practice.

“You remember I’m taking off the next few days right?” James said, as he and Mo locked up the shop.

The troll just looked him up and down for a few moments. The words seemed right on the cusp of coming out, but ever the businessman Mo took a moment to refine his question.

“You and Val got biz to take care of?”

“No.” James smiled. “Some family is commin through the sprawl and I thought I’d take em out. You know give em the full Touristville experience.”

The troll just shrugged and reminded him that at Crazy Mo’s custom Cars, there was no such thing as paid leave.

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