Stealth Mission 18: The Lodge

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As Stealth made his way out of the sordid soykaf shop his nostrils were filled with the dingy night air. It was cold and enough to shock him out of his indignant mood. The majority of the people on the streets of the kreuzbasar paid little attention to him, but the young girls with pink hair, a servant of one of the most influential information brokers in Kiez was rapt at attention, so much so that she barely caught herself staring. Her eyes shifted from him to her PDA. Calmly she ran one hand through her multicolored locks and smiled as the dim light from her device illuminated her face. It was a good trick. It might have worked on another runner. Probably Blitz, but the elf rigger knew that the jig was up and by this time tomorrow all of the players looking to hire him would know. He was pissed. If it wasn’t for the heated conversation that he had had with Luca Derr had probably alerted every patron within the establishment of his displeasure. People had died in a well put together run and a well-known person of interest was caught in a heated conversation with another person of intrigue. Rumors would start soon, but Stealth didn’t care about that anymore. Calmly he smoothed out the finer edges of the dark blue ballistic cloth suit he had purchased during the run and fixed his demeanor. The mask of anger that had consumed the elves face was replaced by another. One of disinterest. Something he’d learned during his training in Ares and hadn’t really gotten rid of until this very day. In much the same way the informant had tried to hide her motives, Stealth did the same. One hand slid through his long brown hair and turned his control rig on. In mere seconds his vision doubled. The drone that hovered none too far from him became another set of eyes.

The process was always jarring. His consciousness had split, but that mask of disinterest didn’t crack. He had the machine hold a flight pattern, similar to how it usually does. The key difference was that every so often it angled itself so it’s cameras could catch errant reflections as he began his lonely trip back to the place the team called home. He appeared as a normal man walking amongst the others, hardly aware of the tens of eyes that glanced at him as he passed. The young woman from before had followed him for ways. The Strato drone had angled itself just enough to catch her reflection in the very soykaf shop she no doubt would scurry back into to relay her findings. Others paid attention but didn’t go to the lengths of tailing him like the human waif who attempted to stay just out of sight. Stealth took stock of their expressions. Some seemed to regard him with respect as others had a slight drek eating grin on their faces. No doubt knowing that whatever mission he had taken he’d received no pay. The situation around the deal didn’t matter, but soon word would be out that he was emotional. That was what bothered him. Monika got emotional and look where it got her. Not that he’d missed out on a substantial sum and guaranteed jobs, but the circumstances around it. Luca said that he and Stealth were just the hands and eyes of a larger collective. That had the greater good in mind. It was a bunch of Bull Drek. The same shit Ares told you after a security guard got smeared against a wall following one of their actions. The same thing that they said when an asset was killed due to their possible treachery. Same shit different people. No matter where you are you’ll be used, the only question is whether you’re fine with it. The mega corps made the rules and if you chose to do anything contrary to their plans, you were as disposable as a soykaf filter. The elf chuckled for a second.

Standing there in the middle of the street, dressed as impeccably as he was, the man drew quite a bit of attention. The strato showed the faces of those around him. The girl stood eyed him from Malit’s shop, politely browsing the wares, but sneaking up a few glances towards the rigger. Others just glared, some seemed to want to approach him, but all of them stayed far away from the chuckling shadowrunner. With a heavy sigh, he continued on his way back to Amsel’s curio shop. At some point, his stalker disappeared down an alleyway most likely not wanting to get caught on whatever security system Paul had installed. Just before he entered the building the strato drone caught his reflection in the window of his home and the image gave him pause. That mask that he had thought he’d covered had reared its ugly face yet again. His eyes had narrowed. His lips were locked in a deep frown, and everything else about his posture seemed to express a man on the edge. With considerably more effort than last time, he forced his anger and resentment down until his face was in its normal state. Neither happy nor sad, impassive and entered the establishment.

As soon as his boots hit the fake wood floors his nostrils were filled with another scent. As opposed to the pungent scent of soykaf that filled him with disgust, or the smell of the kiez that had sharpened his senses, this smell was warm. Even comforting. It was a mix of the cigarettes that Blitz chain smoked as he tapped away on his deck. It was the smell of synthol, that told him that the punk rock shaman had been partying a bit. And the smell of gunpowder that reminded him of the former special ops soldier who slept here. With control, Stealth walked past Blitz who stopped his coding slash smoking binge to call out to him.

“Hey Stealth”, he shouted in that annoying voice of his that sounded far too comforting to the rigger at this point and time. “When’s the next job? Hope you haven’t been running solo without us!”

And just like that, the idiot had stumbled his way onto a nerve that almost elicited a passionate response from his leader. Calmly the rigger replied not even bothering to turn around.

“Soon Blitz”.

“Great Boss. You know the situation.”

With that, he resumed his activities. If Blitz was that hard to get past, the elf dreaded his other teammates. Paul sat at his computer typing away as Glory lounged on the couch. Glory looked up at him and silently nodded. While Paul politely welcomed the runner back.

“Welcome back Stealth I’ve met with another party who is interested in procuring our services. A full transcript is available on your computer.”

“Thank You Paul” was the response. For a second the savvy fixer noticed something but quickly returned his to his work. Dietrich was the next person to great Stealth. He had a bottle of synthol in one hand a plate of something in the other. Nachos Maybe?

“Hey Boss”, He smiled still evidently celebrating his nephew’s rescue from Humanis.

“Thanks again for Alex, he’s a good kid just…” for a second his features darkened. “He’s had a rough life and got thrown in with the wrong crowd. Woulda has been better if he’d fallen in with the rock scene, hell even neo jazz. At least we’d have something in common. But, humanis. That. That’s something I didn’t know how to handle. I just knew I had to get him out of there. Thanks again boss. If there’s anything I can do just tell me.”

Stealth pointed to the bottle that Dietrich clasped within his tattooed fingers and held out his hand. For A second the Shaman just looked confused, but then he understood. Without a word he passed his boss the bottle and went to rest on the couch next to Glory. The doors in front of Stealth opened and he was regarded by the figure that had given him so much peace of mind as he came back home, but now he regarded her with dread. The easily eight-foot tall troll covered in the latest in frag bullets gear was standing right in front of him. She looked down at him and before she could even speak, Stealth held up his free hand telling her wordlessly to shut up.

“I’m going to need the room for a few alone. It won’t take long I just need to work on a few things alone.”

She looked down at the elf. He wasn’t as physically imposing, but the look in his eyes was different from the last time the two were in this position. It was just after Monika had died and he was full of doubt. His eyes were determined and the drone that had carefully made its way behind her hadn’t given her time to think. Whatever it was it had to be important, and she’d seen what he could do with that drone. So, she wordlessly left the room and joined Dietrich and Glory tilting the couch slightly to her side. As the door closed behind him and the locks engaged. Stealth unscrewed the top of the Synthol bottle and took a swig. The smell of synthol burned his nostrils as it burned his throat, but that’s in part what he wanted.

“Fuck!” he yelled after taking another swig that seemed to go on for ever. On the opposite side of the door. Even Glory perked up at the sound of hearing their leader scream. The team exchanged glances as the string of profanities hit their ears. Blitz ran into the room submachine gun in hand and deck slung over his shoulder.

“We under attack?” The frenzied decker managed to ask before another word could audibly be heard from the other room. Dumbfounded Blitz raised an eyebrow quizzically.

“Boss bring a chick home?”

“No Blitz”, Paul managed to say without sounding condescending. “I think the stress of his new position has finally gotten to Mr. Stealth.”

With a sigh, the decker calmed down. He rested his smg on on top of the table next to the small television in the common room and snagged a nacho or two off of Dietrich’s plate as he lounged on the couch across from the rest of his team.

“You know”, the words somehow made it out between crunches. “If he needed to get rid of stress there’s this new novahot sim I” He trailed off as he looked around the room, obviously a tad bit embarrassed. The only face in the room that showed any sign of knowing where the man was going with this was Dietrich, whose grin was widening by the millisecond. “A friend could take care of that for him.”

The former punk rocker couldn’t contain his mirth anymore and started laughing. Paul just sighed and went back to his work paying no attention to the no longer audible sounds of Stealth or the growing fracas concerning their team leaders “stress”.

On the other side, the elf had nearly finished off the bottle when he spotted the mission computer. It was a ramshackle monstrosity. Parts and pieces obviously ripped off of machines that were not factory compatible with each other, but that never mattered to Monika. She always used to say that she didn’t care if her deck looked shit, as long as it had the power she needed. Like a moth to a flame, the man found himself sitting in front of the giant contraption. Long, dexterous fingers found themselves tapping away at the keys. First, bringng up the previous logs of Monika, she talked about him and the rest of the team as Stealth finished off the rest of the synthol. If it had helped Monika to talk about this maybe it’d help him he thought after watching her last recording. It was meant to be her message from the grave, and it had served to guide him however oddly.

Those long fingers typed away again, not quite achieving the speed at which Monika had blazed the keys and not even close to the unskilled banging of the team’s newest decker, but there was still a mad fanaticism to them that made every stroke echo in the riggers mind. Soon his reflection played out on the main monitor and Stealth could barely stomach it. It was him. Although it looked like he’d been on a week long binge. Alcohol. Drugs. Chips. Something like that. His hair was mussed and his eyes were red. Had he shed tears? With the same measure, he had had on the streets. The man was put back on again. His hair was moved back into place and he adopted a posture the exact opposite of the sad state that he’d been in for the last twenty minutes.

“Hello”, he addressed the camera. “I’m Stealth A Shadowrunner, who is between a rock and a proverbial hard place. I don’t know if this will reach Eiger or Dietrich, hell if this all goes to drek Blitz might be leading the team. If it’s Paul. I vote for Eiger to take lead on the team. She’s calculating and efficient, but she still has some emotions. It means she still has some morals.” He paused trying to collect himself. A lump began forming in his throat as the images of tonight’s events blended in with the horrors of working security at Ares. All those years ago he had been a puppet, that was as disposable as A soykaf filter. Undertaking the now gargantuan task of keeping all of his emotions in check, the Elf forced down whatever had tried to bubble up and continue.

On the other side of the door, a heated conversation had sparked up between Blitz and Dietrich.

“So you think he’s into robots”, Dietrich roared in laughter as Blitz stumbled trying to find the right words.

“Look, man, I’m just saying I haven’t seen him check out any chicks on our runs.”

Dietrich arched an eyebrow slightly distorting the tattoos on his forehead. “So you think he’s gay.”

“Or just a professional.” Eiger chimed in from across the room, lightly blowing on a fresh cup of tea, that looked like it was a child’s toy in her hands.

Dietrich just threw his hands up in annoyance. “I’m just saying I’ve never seen him check out anyone maybe he’s into bots.”

Dietrich just laughed and the troll sat down on the couch with him trying not to spill her drink.

“Remember Silky. He seemed to like her.”

Glory came into the conversation from out of nowhere despite her position next to Blitz on another coach. During the deep discussion about their team leader’s sexuality, she seemed aloof. But she had apparently been paying attention the entire time.

The three sat dumbfounded by the team medic’s words.

“I think it prudent to divulge the reasons that pertain to my message. Today I participated in A Shadowrun that upon completion would have resulted in A series of lucrative opportunities to our team. I trust that I need not explain to you the gravity of our current situation there is a dragon known for ruthlessly incinerating her enemies, some insipid program within the matrix that was capable of killing multiple highly skilled deckers, and a security contingent of unknown size that may worship said dragon.” There was a deep audible sigh that filled the room. With another exhale fingers became interlocked.

“We would be fragged if it weren’t for the hope of finding Dr. Vauclair, the dragonslayer. But, that is not the focus of this message. Whether you are a shadowrunner or apparently an electrician, you will have to make certain inevitable choices compounded by the cold hard realities of life. Time is of the essence and with an opportunity to make more than our standard endeavors, I let myself be used. This Black Lodge hired me, threw me into the fire with a team of runners unsuited to delivering a package, let alone to conduct a complicated infiltration mission. I got it done, just like I’ve done for other less than reputable organizations. But, there was always an air of professional courtesy between us. Make no mistake I’m a murderer, A Thief, and A fairly deplorable person. But, I am not a mindless drone!” For a brief second then came facade disappeared and the true anger that Stealth had come out again. This time it didn’t go back down.

“Back at Ares I disposable and I knew it! I was something that would receive a certain amount of pay and in return give the corporation myself in exchange. It’s for the best of the company. They say. It’s for the best! Just like Luca said in the shop. We are expected to allow the Lodge to exploit us for a fee. Never to question the higher ups, because they knew what they were doing. If they really gave a damn, why would they put a bigot on the team, knowing my race and that of the other members? For the same purpose, they included a man who couldn’t speak German. They didn’t care. Only that their task was accomplished. The collateral damage, pain, and loss of talent would be considered a net gain, not a loss. But, then again the test was more than that. It was to ensure my docility. To make sure that I would always follow their rules. I was desperate and they used that. Monika was a heavy proponent of the flux state and that was used against her. Monika once told me that freedom was having choice. And in this line of work you have the choice to accept a job or to not. Once you give up that option, once you lie down for the money or some hypothetical greater good. You’ll lose that choice and just become another drone in the shadows.”

At that Stealth hastily ended his recording and left the room. The file was left in a folder that was labeled “in case I die”. As soon as the door that separated him from the rest of the team opened with a pneumatic hiss, his nostrils were filled with the smell of soy cheese and herbal tea. Not wholly unpleasant, but the looks on the faces of his allies were slightly disconcerting. All of the people in the room save from Paul regarded him with wild looks. Even Glory was slightly off. She was blushing slightly. They hastily excused themselves from the room each, in turn, measuring him with their eyes. Blitz handed him a note when he passed. As the room cleared Stealth finally felt like he could relax. The weight of the world was on his shoulders, but he felt refreshed. Until he opened Blitz note. There were several dubious sites that offered hot elf on ork action. Silky number and contact information, the burned out girl from the club. Also, A list of sims that included said elf on ork action with an offer to alter the sim to resemble Silky.

For the first time in what felt like years, the elf laughed. It wasn’t a chuckle but a full on gut busting laugh.

“Paul”, he asked. “What the hell went on out here?”

“I’d rather not say”, was the response.

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Stealth Mission Log 10: Humanis and A Predator

Image21(I do not own Shadowrun, but Stealth is my OC. Video down below)

Stealth found himself in a state of irritation he hadn’t felt since his former employment with Ares. A scowl had formed itself on his face and had no doubt impeded his negotiations with Mr. Beckenbauer, who had remained stoic despite the subject matter that they had discussed. The blonde orc’s eyebrow had raised while listening to the normally calm shadowrunner. In years past even Monika had pointed out that at times he could seem languid, but as she also pointed out that even in this state his eyes were always attentive. They would take in all that they could, while his brain processed it all. That was the reason for his apparent shadow running success. When it came to the metrics of the real world. Guns, machines, people, and situations were something he could understand. But, the world of magic, the mystical space of the astral that a mage had once struggled in great detail to make him understand told was something he just couldn’t. Even the man-made neon world of the matrix was something that he could only grasp thanks to Monika’s carefully worded lectures. These places weren’t the actual world as far as the elf thought. They were just Simulacrum of the real world. A decker could see what they wanted of the matrix. With a program, they could change the landscape of a node to best fit them. A Decker named Tarzan could only see a lush jungle full of monsters that only he could defeat, where another could see the world as some black and white noir trideo. Much like Alice herself. The world of spirits was similar. A Shaman could be speaking to a spirit of fire, but be a much darker creature.

The elf preferred to live pragmatically, in the realm of absolutes. A drone would not function without their parts. A job is a job and nothing more. And hatred. Hatred is part of the human condition. That one raised eyebrow was all the tell that Samuel Beckenbauer needed to show. The fury in always observant eyes. The normally languid man becoming more and more enthralled by their conversation let the orc know that he had struck a chord somewhere deep beneath the icy wall the runner had built to hide his emotions. Stealth mentally kicked himself for letting his soon to be employer see that he had a vested interest in this run. The name that had drawn his ire, the “humanis policlub” was synonymous with pain for metahumans and just as was the penchant the “human” condition had for hate and discrimination so too did it have a particular knack for manipulation. With his team’s pay negotiated Stealth left the politician behind. He could feel the orc smiling behind him, the drone helped to confirm this.

He still felt uncomfortable walking down the sordid streets of the Kiez. The night air full of sordid smells. Many didn’t make him feel any more comfortable. Garbage mixed with an array of food stands was slightly sickening but not as bad as a new smell that he truly couldn’t place. It was disgusting, dirty, and slightly rancid. His nose wrinkled as he fixed the belt of his coat. Two hands with long slender fingers unfastened the belt and pulled it tight about his waist once more. As he did so the shadow running businessman took a deep breath. The exhale was long and seemed to pull his body back into its usual place. Back straight, eyes alert, and possessing of an air that screamed apathy; he returned to wandering the dingy streets of the Flux state.

It didn’t take him long before he smelled something comforting and familiar. Gunpowder. The merchant stood there grinning from ear to ear. His wares were on display for the whole world to see. Only an idiot would rob a gun merchant whose wares were obviously ready to be used. The coat that was now like a second skin to the runner had been purchased at the stand and as he drew ever closer, the Romanian man’s grin got wider. Those cold brown eyes began inspecting the assortment of weapons that were on display. There new stock, no doubt procured during his team’s previous run. It didn’t take long to find something worth purchasing. An Ares Predator. A gloved hand reached out to grab it, not before those same eyes that had spotted the treasure regarded the large arms dealer, whose hands rested on a shotgun. With a nod, the seller signaled his silent approval. The gun was hefted up and inspected. No knicks. No scratches. The weight was right and it shined dully in the light of the dusky sun. It brought him back to his training at Ares and his first security job. Hunting ghouls was something that was often contracted to private security firms as not to divert the attentions of a corp or law enforcement. That day his faith and hatred for the metahuman race was affirmed.

Part 2 Next Time!

Stealth Mission Log 8: The reality of the Shadows

Stealth and the gang go on their first mission. It’s a clean up operation, that sheds a little light on how well the team works together and how lucky their new decker is.

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(Video down below)

 

Blood stained the white tiling on the office floor. The workplace was a mess. Bullet holes formed a clear picture of the runners that had came before the team. The burn marks dotting the ceiling and scared door frames marked their methods and the fact that their team was there highlighted the effectiveness of these techniques. They had been offered a job to tie up loose ends and after seeing the aftermath of these runners “stealth” operation it was painfully obvious why. The run didn’t just go south it had dug its way China and back. There was no coming back from something like this. The majority of runners were dead, save for a rigger by the name of Thorvald Enstad. He had been captured and no doubt tortured by now. Whatever information he has has been declared damning by his employers and they would rather have him be eliminated than recovered. As stealth’s consciousness slipped into that of his doberman drones he almost smiled. From the position of the little robotic turret he could see something that he hadn’t seen in far too long. The camera zoomed in on the knight errant officer, hiding behind the large desk of the reception area. Helmeted and covered from head to toe in “state of the art” ares body armor he held his shotgun tight to his chest. He looked to his left and was rewarded with the sight and smell of dried blood, probably left from the last knight that had take cover behind this same desk. From the drone’s point of view Stealth could see the telltale signs of nervousness. The human’s chest was rising and falling a mile a minute, the shaking of his hands seemed to try to be keeping up. “Such a shame” the rigger thought to himself.

“All that training gone to waste.”

He felt the treads of the treads of his machine glide across the tiled floor. The rise and fall of the barrel as he took aim and the kick back from the weapon as it fired. It turns out that “high level” of training paid off. Despite the ares operative’s skittishness he had still been on the lookout. He had noticed the drone and through himself from the desk as he heard the telltale sound of a drone drawing nearby. It was just enough to dodge the first shot. But, the second shot nailed him in the shoulder. Through the camera that had become his eyes the shadowrunner could see the man reel back from the shot, but still take aim. The shotgun held as level as his opponent could with his injury and uneasiness. Just as the barrel became level a knife appeared from out of seemingly nowhere followed by a loud german curse. It struck true, burying itself in the fresh would and causing the knight enough pain to illicit an incredibly dangerous response. He stood up, discarding the very cover that had been his only ally in this battle. As soon as his shoulders made their way into full view a loud bang filled the room. In a flash a chunk of body armor was sent hurtling across the room. Blood and lots of it began streaming down from the hole in the agents stomach. Despite this he still stood. A hand frantically trying to dam up the red stream and another lightly grasping his weapon. Bang. The knight errant and his leg were viciously separated. Any doubts the other runners had about Eiger’s sniping ability were silenced.

As the robot wheeled itself into a new position the camera fell upon the corporate security member. His body was painted red, no longer rising and falling a mile a minute, but as still as death itself.

“Frag the knights”, was something that forced itself out of the shadowrunners lips as he continued maneuvering the automaton past the dead body. It was but a whisper, that no one could hear over the sound of Blitz yelling “cover me” as he hastily leapt over a makeshift barrier of chairs the previous group of runners set up as cover. With a stumble and a suppressed chuckle from Dietrich the decker had jacked himself into the corporate system. Any intel he could get would be valuable and the practiced runners couldn’t fault him for his eagerness. He was trying to show his worth to the team to make sure a sniper’s bullet or a well thrown knife didn’t wind up in his back. A good move, but one that soon placed the matrix jockey in hot water.

More knight ares rushed into the room. One almost identical to the previous, but the other was lithe and wore spiritual talismans over her battlegear. Wordlessly Eiger reloaded her weapon, Dietrich summoned lightning that arced around his clasped hands, and Stealth split his consciousness again. The sense of flying filled him as he took over the hovering Strato drone. It sped across the room to try and find cover amongst the overturned tables and chairs. The corporate shaman sniffed the air as she hid near the same desk that her allies had died behind. From the position of the flying machine, Stealth could see her. There was only a few seconds between her actions, but she did look at the body for a few seconds. Her shoulders didn’t rise or fall. She was a professional and from the looks of the other he was prepared as well.Then the Shaman was wreathed in red light. This light shot out from her onto the floor just behind her. Out of the light emerged a smoldering fire. The fire spirit vaguely had human features, but the claws of a beast. It regarded the shadowrunners with contempt as it’s master pointed towards them.

The creature rushed forward leaving a trail of soot where it’s feet had touched the floor. Dietrich shrunk down further behind his barricade of chairs, Eiger lined up a shot, and Stealth began evasive maneuvers with both drones in unison. The only person who didn’t move was Blitz. The red headed hacker was too into his matrix adventures. So into his battle with digital guards, that he hadn’t reacted to the approach of the apparition at all. It held up one hand of fire and began gathering it’s flaming essence. Soon enough a ball of fire formed causing the temperature within the room to raise a few degrees. With a sickening cry it launched the scorching sphere at the human.

“Damn it”, Blitz yelled as he shifted slightly. The ball of fire just missed his head as it sailed into the chair behind him, melting the heavy plastic. It sizzled and burned, releasing a new foul odor into the air before it worked itself out. Dietrich smiled and Eiger huffed. But Stealth just marveled. It reminded him of the first time Monika had jacked in on a mission, and how much it reminded him of their worst job together.

Stealth Mission Log 6: Wyrm Talk

MISSION 7 THUMB

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.

Stealth Mission Log 2: Thoughts in the Flux State

Image24(Youtube Video Embedded below)

An average of height elf walked through the brightly lit streets of the Kreuzbasar. His thoughts were full of recent events. It felt like this day would “never end”, he thought to himself. First Monika, then their betrayal, the mysterious Green Winters, and now the politics of the Flux State. Wherever he looked, he saw eyes watching him. The crazy woman on the corner, trying to preach to someone who offered her a few nuyen. Her gaze darted back and forth from her donator to Stealth. For a minute her eyes fixated on him, then she sheepishly broke eye contact. Just as he rounded the corner, he came face to face with a massive troll, wearing sweatpants and a bulky hoodie, that did nothing to hide his obvious cyberware. The elf just nodded and headed the opposite direction. As he made his way down the new street he could feel even more eyes on him. With delicate hand movements, Stealth yawned loudly. His left and right hand went up quickly, his fingers gently moving through his hair and turning on his control rig. The doberman drone, that had been sticking to the man like a faithful dog, immediately jetted into the nearest alleyway. The move lasted only a few seconds, but Stealth hoped that the yawn was enough to at least conceal his true objective. The doberman ran a parallel course to Stealth as he walked down the main street. Soon enough he came upon a weapons vendor. The bald man was dressed like an old office worker. He wore a knit vest, slacks, and a clean shirt, but the way he held the shotgun within his hands gave away his training and willingness to defend his wares. The elf paused and put his hands into his pockets. His movements got more frantic until he managed to find his credstick in his back pocket, just under the gun he kept concealed under his greasy white shirt.

A slight smile crept on his face, that gave the proprietor of the store a slight shock, but he stood still. Stealth looked into the air thinking while the doberman was looking right at two figures trying to act inconspicuous. One of them was a human. He wore a large coat, wide brimmed hat, and had his face concealed by a data slate. His cybered eyes flitted up every few seconds to regard the Elf pondering his decisions. The other one was a large orc. He was all muscle and not much brains it would seem. He just stood watching. The doberman’s electronic eyes stayed trained on the two as Stealth decided it was best to not buy something today. He moved, while his hunters did not. Apparently, they knew they’d been made. “Where there’s one…”, he thought as he briskly headed down the street, only to disappear down another.

“Damn, Monika. What the hell were you doing out here.” Stealth said, not caring who heard him. The park bench was cold enough that he could feel it through his shirt, but not his cargo pants. It was a nice feeling. It kept his mind racing and his consciousness continually checking his doberman’s sights. If anything came from the left, the right, or behind, it would be able to attack from its shadowy perch. First and foremost there was the conversation that the team had. Could they even be called a team? Glory was cold and emotionless, but not suited to corporate spy work. Her cyber was far too noticeable. The guy in the trench coat was better. Nothing too obvious, except for those glinting orbs. Eiger. That got his blood boiling a bit. At first, her damn anger was bearable, but Stealth couldn’t help but wonder if she could back up her talk without her sniper rifle. Idle thought, but in reality, she was least likely in his opinion. She was angry, loud, and too confident in her training. He chuckled a bit. She was so sure she could save Monika, that she could make the difference, but those words of her’s were evidence of her own issues. She believed that Monika acted as if she were invincible. But, what was Eiger if not overconfident in her own abilities? Paul Amsel was the next to come to mind. Another sound issued forth from his lips. Not a chuckle, this time a full-blown laugh. Eiger was good with a rifle, but not with negotiations. The fixer had shut her down, but also provided the context to Monika’s last word. Feuerschwinge “the Firewing” was a dragon, but not any dragon. A dragon that wasn’t in it for money, or power, but destruction. All she did was kill. The look on the old fixers face proved just how dangerous the wyrm was. A dragon. An in military grade armor. And a secret base. Or was it a lair? The singular thought of running across a dragon’s lair damn near made Stealth hop on the next flight out of the Kreuzbasar. With a heavy sigh, the elf adjusted his stance on the bench, spreading out but not really becoming more comfortable. If he ran, they would find him. If it was a dragon a single piece of treasure would send droves of power hungry runners after him. Right now his best bet was with his “team”. They were all in this together. All of them could probably be ID’d. If they separated, they would all be extinguished like a cigarette but, under the heel of a smoker.

We had accomplished the goal of Green Winters and were now used up. Prime targets to be crushed by a large overwhelming force before they could start a fire. Reminded him of his time at Ares. Do your job and if you get shot in the line of duty, we’ll just replace you with another poor sod, prepared to continue the cycle.

“The only difference is choice”, Monika’s voice rang out clear in his minds. The only thing that had been able to stop the elf’s mind from racing at the frantic pace that it had kept since her untimely passing.

“I have a choice.”, He spoke out loud again not caring if someone overheard. His fingertips soon found themselves interlocked in front of his face, chin resting between two pointed thumbs. A small smile turned into a wild grin as he focused on the task at hand. Monika was killed in the matrix, by something in a secret installation, that is involved with a dragon, that would make Lofwyr look like a saint. Green Winters is our target and he’ll tell us what we need and if he doesn’t, there were ways to make him talk. The team was most likely not compromised, even though Dietrich seemed to be more inquisitive than a shaman had any need to be. Magic and the matrix, were two things that he didn’t understand, but if the old shaman was powerful and from the looks of the scars that crisscrossed his face, like a checkerboard, he had seen his fair share of battle. The look he had when Monika died, his shock, his sorrow was something. If it was an act, then he deserved to be a trideo star, not a shadowrunner. “I’ll watch him closely,” Stealth thought. “There’s no better ally than someone who was a master of something you couldn’t grasp, but then again there was no greater enemy either.”

With that out of the way, he stood up and began his trek back to Altug. A spymaster that had to lead him into a game of cloak and daggers. There was no way that he had been lead to that phone booth and overheard that conversation by accident. Monika loved the flux state. The constant melting part of Anarchy was appealing to her, but to so many others it was just a passing thought as they went about their business. It was evident now, that Monika kept the Flux alive and very soon some people would be reaching out to him to keep it that way. The Flux state was her dream. The dream that she accepted an unverified job for and what she put her team in jeopardy for, and what she ultimately died for. For Stealth it was just a place to do business and if it could be saved, then maybe…just maybe he would.

     

                                                        (YouTube video Please enjoy)

Stealth Mission Log 1: Minigun Boogaloo

Image9(Youtube Let’s Play Campaign Log Video is below)

The sound of van doors being slammed and the screeching of tires were the only noises that we made. Dietrich, Glory, and I sat in the back of the van as Eiger drove. She easily avoided the forces of Harfeld manor. A quick right to avoid a spike strip, running an opposing vehicle into a pristine fountain that soon crumbled under the weight of the black armored van careening right through the naked cherub, ensuring that it’d never spit water from its mouth again. Like a B grade trideo, the security forces managed to close a gate directly in our path. Eiger didn’t yell “Hold on” before she laid her troll sized boot down on the pedal. She didn’t need to tell us. Dietrich tightened his seatbelt, I held onto the seat next to me, and Glory across from us did the same. With a bang, the from of our van hit the fence and smashed through it. That sound signaled our escape. Eiger quickly merged onto the highway and blended in as best she could with the myriad of cars traveling towards the flux state. Dietrich seemed to relax a bit, but his face full of tattoos couldn’t mask his sorrow. Across from us Glory just sat. Her pale face just as emotionless as usual, except for a slight frown. Eiger was in the front, eyes on the road and hands at ten and two, only deviating every few minutes to look in the back. Right. At. Me.

Not surprised. The sound of the fence breaking brought me out of my stupor. It probably had the same effect on her. Monika Schaefer was dead and we were set up. There’s no doubt of it in my mind. We were set up. “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”, that’s what Monika would say.

A slight smile crept up on my face. Long enough for two trollish eyes to focus on me, and the shaman to my right to raise an eyebrow. I just put a sweaty hand up just enough to cover my smile and used two fingers to massage my temples, hopefully, that was enough to keep the soldier in the front from reaching for her shotgun. Here are the facts.

One, Monika Schafer died in the matrix. Two, only myself, Glory, and Dietrich were with her. Three, we found a secret lab or base of some sort.

With a sigh, I removed my fingers from my face and ran them down the hard denim of my pants. A few flecks of blood smeared against my hands, but that was the least of my concern. All eyes would point to Eiger. She was the only one missing from our trip into the manor. But, why would she put Monika or her team into that situation? Maybe the KSK knew what was down there. Or maybe we were there to provide a distraction to that orc. A slight shiver ran down my spine as I thought of him.

Slick mottled skin pulled taught around bone. He’s seen action. Maybe in an army. Or maybe security from a corp. I remember when I was with Ares there was this regional advisor who came to “evaluate” our defenses. He was chromed to the gills. Actually, I think he had gill implants. He walked with the cadence of someone beyond human. Every step shored up and body slightly tight like they were a coiled snake ready to strike. He was emotionless, like Glory.

Leaning my head back against the inside of the van I caught a glimpse of the raven haired street samurai before I closed my eyes. She was clad in a bulky pair of cargo pants, tucked into to black boots, a gray sports bra, and a too large jacket that she tied about her waist. Her stomach was cybered. Bits of metal dotted the sides of her abdomen, maybe some bone reinforcement. Not sure. But, the more obvious cyber was her to enormous cyber arms. They were bolted to her shoulders, wires running to just above her breasts. It was obvious that they were too big for her. It was old tech too. The older the tech, the less you can slap onto your body. Two cyber arms, the adrenal gland that was listed in the charts that Monika sent me and frag knows what else. With her current disposition, there probably wasn’t much else she could add. Maybe some cyber eyes, but why would someone get such obvious old tech? Frankly, my time with Ares made me question that more than anything else. If she was a mole, they wouldn’t send one with ancient chrome. They’d send someone with the right tools, but less showmanship. Then there was Dietrich.

Yeah, no. Something about him seemed genuine. Maybe it was the tattoos or maybe it was how he locked as Monika died in his arms. I just can’t think that he’d set us up. Which then leads us to what the frag Monika stumbled onto.

She was adamant, with the signs of a severe stroke and half her tongue rolling around on the floor she spoke to me. Feuerschwinge. Was that what she ran into in the matrix? A person? A decker? A new black ice program? I’ve seen Monika hit black ice before, or square up against another decker running black hammer, but that was something different.

When Monika first got her jack, she bought a crap deck from this shady dude out in the Redmond Barrens and she ran into black ice on her first run. She bled from her nose. Then her eyes. When we saw blood coming out of her ears, we nearly pulled her data jack out, but I she said: “don’t jack me out unless I message your com.” As security began to pour in and we started taking more fire than we could return, the doors behind us opened and she removed her jack. Her face was leaking blood and she just smiled.

“Come on! Wyrm talk is on tonight and the only way I’m missing it is if I’m….dead.” That what she said as we ran through the building dodging bullets, just barely able to get the package out. With another screech of the tires, the van skidded to a halt. Eiger got out and motioned us to do the same. I got out last, fully aware that there was a troll watching me closely. Whoever killed Monika doesn’t know what they’re in for. I’m not called Stealth for sneaking into facilities. Monika said that “whether I’m surprising them with a drone or a shot in the dark I could take out anyone”. If any of these runners turn on me. They’ll probably find out too late why Monika called me Stealth.  

Indie Darlings: Renowned Explorers: International Society

Hey, people! I know that it’s been a while and I’ve been busy as of late, but I’m back with an Indie Darling! I present to you a fun little strategy game developed by Abbey Games that not only has a surprising level of depth but, a litany of interesting characters. All with their own unique skills and stats that are integral to exploring the world and becoming renowned explorers.

Renowned-Explorers-International-Society

How do you measure the skill of an adventurer? Is it the physical strength that you can use to dominate your foes and take ancient treasures with force. Maybe you’d rather be devious, lying and stealing your way to greatness. Or perhaps, you’d rather make friends with everyone. Here you can do any or all of those options on your way to glory. In fact, I’d recommend a varied approach, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, let’s get into the adventurers that will form your intrepid band of adventurers.

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The screen above is where the tactical depth of the game starts to take shape. Your perspective team members are broken down into four classes scientist, scout, fighter, and speakers. Up above, we have Dolores Garcia in the captain’s role. Here the team gets a bonus from her being a wrestling star. You will gain status tokens from the money tokens you make. So, in later parts of the game where you can increase the worth of certain tokens, or have to chose one over the other you can work towards a goal. Underneath the captain, there is room for two other members. Despite Dolores being a fighter, she also has a devious mindset. Not only do you need to pay attention to the various ways in which a character excels in, you also have to pay attention to their skills. Dolores is an athlete who already comes with a red skill and the quick thinker perk. She can handle physical challenges, but can she fix a steam engine in order to escape a collapsed cave? Not really. Maybe you might need a scientist to take care of that, or a speaker to make nice with those natives.  Once you think you have a good mix for a team, then you can head out into the world.

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You’ll be spending quite a bit of time here on a screen that resembles a board game. Here you can see a number of tokens you have and the two precious resources you need to continue on adventuring. The exclamation is your resolve. You can use it to revive fallen comrades, but when it reaches zero, your team won’t die. They will just give up their adventure.  Across from that is your supplies icon. You really need to focus on this particular resource, due to the fact that for every space you move without food, you will take negative effects which will make it even harder to hold on to your resolve. The good thing is you can see where you need to go, the tokens you will get to moving to a space, and whether or not you’ll face a specific challenge. The bottom right has an encounter. But, there’s gold and campaign tokens. Doesn’t Dolores get a bonus? Off we go then.

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This is where you’ll fight. The hexagonal based grid will have certain spaces that offer benefits, but that’s not the most important thing. You see the top red sign that reads “Hostile” that’s the mood. Our team has gone all out physically and now has a bonus to devious abilities. Each encounter will give you benefits based on what type of mood you’ve used. Here we get bonus campaign token for knocking the blocks off of these Scotsman.  Certain abilities can be used to change the moods of not only enemies but teammates. This can cause you enemies to be susceptible to the damage that your team excels in or, the damage that you currently have a buff too. This is probably the most distinct part of the game, calculating what you can do to change either your team or the opponents moods to best win the encounter.

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That’s not all though. Before I talked about athleticism and the perks that you might want on your side. Well in order to gain certain rewards you will have to pass certain challenges. Above a Saxon, the druid has challenged us to pass a test. We have three options. Push the statue of Tyr. pass the trial in the monastery’s basement, or intimidate the man. Since Dolores has a red ability, she might just excel in the physical.

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Wheel, wheel, wheel, turn turn turn please let Dolores not get burned.  With the trial passed, we receive the gift from the druid. Despite having an advantage in this challenge, there is still a chance of getting a skull and failing. This is what makes Renowned Explorers fun game. You could pass a challenge and gain the treasure you need to become the best or fail and need to pull yourself together and attempt to manage your resources adequately. Hopefully, you enjoyed this little spotlight on an indie darling. Renowned Explorers: International Society is available on Steam for twenty dollars.