The slightly dusty curio shop’s room was silent as Green Winters, the brother of the man who bested a dragon told us the chip truth. Feuerschwinge, the dragon that had laid waste to Germany was alive! She wasn’t just alive but actively hunting down those who knew too much. Some decker Hellebore had found some matrix crumbs that pointed in the scaled terror’s direction. A corpsec team responded, killing her. Not before she was able to capture her attacker’s face. A large orc with skin grafts, just like the one we’d met in the basement of Harfeld Manor. But, evidence suggests that since Hellebore found the trail leading back to the beast’s den, she had hired some new matrix security. Clockwork, Hellebore, Monika, and even Green Winters were all eliminated within the trix. “Ghosts” of deckers who had disappeared were appearing to others. Apparently not talking, but they had spooked enough people in the digital world that those who frequented the net knew about the rumors. That was something that struck Stealth hard. Whatever was in the matrix was bleeding edge. Be it a decker or a new IC something that could eliminate so many skilled individuals was as dangerous as the dragon that had set her sights on them. You could hide from a dragon. The man who had survived the attack was a slight testament to that, but could you hide from something that held it’s domain in the matrix? All of our communications could be compromised. Winters was destroyed by his reliance on his web of digital contacts. The elf looked over towards Paul Amsel. He was a skilled Johnson. The graying man was old enough to remember when DVD’s were a thing, so he had to know how to handle things face to face. Hopefully.
The look on his face gave the rigger some hope. Despite the news, he didn’t seem as scared as he was angry. You can’t really blame him. Monika was used. Monika loved the F-State. She believed in this anarchistic state form and that was what killed her. Above all else, she would protect it. Stealth smiled a bit at the thought. She was childish, slightly insane, and obsessed with trideos, but her conviction drove her and made her one of the best deckers he’d ever seen and this piece of drek used that to turn her into bait! Then he got his hoop fried!
Blitz fidgeted nervously next to his new boss and who could blame him? He had gone from a former gang decker, to being hunted, to a shadowrunner, and then wound up being hunted again. But, this time by a dragon. By all rights, he should have been catatonic, but he hadn’t freaked out. He hadn’t immediately run out of their base screaming “I’m out of here”, so maybe the human was sure of himself. As if on cue, the former ganger rose his finger up towards his nose and scratched it slightly. He looked to the left to the right and plunged it not so smoothly into his nose. Or maybe, he was just too much of an idiot to grasp the situation.
Stealth let out a loud sigh. The team had gone from a Monika to this guy. As odd as it was his mind wandered away from imminent immolation from dragons fire to Monika.
The tell tale sound of fingers tapping on plastic keys filled a dingy warehouse room. Monika Schafer sat clad in a white t-shirt and camo pants. Her face illuminated by the screen in front of her. An open bag of soy chips to the right of her and an empty soykaf cup next to her. The woman’s eyes were bloodshot. The quickly flitted every few moments trying to give them some type of break. Stealth leaned up against a wall just far enough to avoid the light that the small trideo cast. He was wearing what he wore on most runes, his former Ares gear. All Ares iconography had been removed of course, but it still made him itchy. Not that he couldn’t afford better armor. He and Monika had had a steady stream of runs since the accident. It was the fact that he was so comfortable with it. He didn’t want anything else. The thought was almost enough to make him sick, but if that didn’t do it the smell of those damn incense that Monika burned to “improve the smell”. The place smelled like motor oil, mildew, and possibly devil rat droppings. But, adding cinnamon to the mix hadn’t “improved” drek. It smelled like the world’s worst bakery.
Monika didn’t talk much about the smell after she’d blew out the flaming sticks, just sat down, jacked into the jack point just under the trideo, gulped down her kaf, and began her work. That was two hours ago. Every now and then she would grab a chip out of the bag or wince a bit. Stealth just tried to relax. It was a basic mission, part of a run that they were going to be a part of next week. That hadn’t stopped the ex-corpsec man from having his drone make rounds around the warehouse though. The way that the group of runners was organizing the op was that they got the info on the location of the target and the other two runners were gathering the supplies and running down contacts. They were new didn’t have much of a street reputation. Couldn’t be trusted. Unlike Monika who was currently seizing. In seconds the Elf was halfway to ripping her datajack out of the jack point, but the decker stopped him. Her hand was trembling slightly, but there was enough strength to it to stop the larger man. Her hazel eyes were marred by their condition. If he had thought her eyes were bloodshot before, that was nothing compared to now. Her face as a whole reflected her eyes, red and flushed. Blood trickled down from her nose and her teeth were clenched hard. Despite her pain, the woman just wiped away the blood and smiled. Her grin was enough was bright enough to make what had just happened to seem like a scraped knee.
“Sorry Stealth”, she spoke her voice harried and her breaths labored. “I hit some Black IC, but I’m almost through.”
He responded to the woman’s words by returning to his position. Just as he began turning the trideo perked up, blaring louder than it was previously “Tune into Wyrm Talk where Dunkelzahn will talk about Anarchy the principles behind the F-State.”
For the second time, that grin made its appearance.
“Gotta get this done quick! Can’t miss wyrm talk and Stealth”, there’s something up with this one. Just like that, her eyes began staring at nothing. The man removed his gun from its holster and redoubled his drone’s rounds.
True to her word Monika got done quick. Within the next ten minutes, she had finished her jaunt into the matrix and passed the rigger A data slate with info on the location of the run and as she put it a “secret agent”. It was the other elf who was a part of this run. He acted as a face, but apparently, he was dirty.
As Stealth perused the information the program, that Monika waited for with baited breath began. She waved over her companion, who’s head was too busy memorizing data to mind. They sat next to each other on the cold damp warehouse floor. Monika enraptured with the “riveting” talk on politics and the climate that Berlin was in. Stealth was busy plotting the demise of their mole. Perhaps, he could take over the elevator and have it unceremoniously drop or just shoot him. His ears would pick up something every once in awhile.
“That is why the Flux state will never last. People have a tendency to act in their best interests. At some point, an individual will irrevocably affect the balance of the delicate nature of its anarchy. Which will lead to its demise.” The great dragon spoke strongly and assuredly, but the person sitting next to him was so into the program that she was yelling at the screen.
“That’s why someone has to protect the F-State. If there’s someone there shielding it, protecting it from misuse, then the state will live on.”
“So, what you want is controlled anarchy”, He couldn’t help but chime in.
She thought long and hard about her answer as a supporter of the new state of Berlin began speaking. After a few seconds, the grin returned for the third time.
“Anarchy helps ensure that no one is in charge of everything. These corporations only have competition from themselves. Governments can’t even touch them. It’s suffocating. But constant shifts bring uneasiness. So someone will try and destroy the state, but if enough neutral parties act as guards against control then the state will flourish.”
“So to ensure chaos, you have to actively combat control.”
“To an extent”, she replied as flowery as ever. If the right parties fought together no corp, not even a dragon could control the Flux State.
Now standing amongst a group of runners, being hunted by a Dragon. Stealth could only hope he had the right neutral parties.