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 4: The Fate of a Decker

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(Youtube link down below)

The melodic ringing of a vidphone was the only thing that could be heard from within the dingy, cluttered apartment. The four people in the room just let it ring. All of their focus was on the graying man in the center of the room. Green Winters. The man who had arranged the Shadowrun that had cost Monika her life and had nearly cost the rest of the team theirs was dead. It wasn’t the fact of the death that had left the veterans in stunned silence, but the method of which he had died. Winters’s body was frozen in an unnatural position. Despite the goggles on his face, the way the man’s facial muscles had contorted were enough. His cheeks permanently concave, while his lips had been drawn into an abnormal position. The right side slightly raised, but the bottom was pulled into a bizarrely lowered position. So much so that Stealth could see his filings amid a sea of yellow enamel. Dietrich stood next to the elven rigger as he too took in the site.

Dietrich took stock of the situation his face a mix of inquisitiveness and outright fear.

“What the hell does this”, was what he asked out loud as much a question to his companions as it was him trying to make sense of the body in front of them. Winter’s blue Hawaiian shirt had been ripped, undoubtedly by the hands that were stock still. The right hand had all of its fingers elongated, but the left was clutching a piece of blue fabric so hard that the nails had dug into flesh, a few blood drops had found their way out of his now pale body.

“Seizure.” Was what glory said to break the silence. She had adopted a slightly different approach from the other runners. The medic had crouched near the body taking in all of the symptoms. The razor girl’s long metallic fingers hovered over the most shocking part of the scene in front of them. His convulsions had been so severe that he had broken his own spine. His gut bulged out long since popping the buttons of his shirt off. It wasn’t a straight break, however. It looked slightly like he had been trying to pull his body to the left, but his spine had moved right. The human woman moved from one obvious injury to another. The still smoking datajack linked to the man’s head. The scent of ozone and burnt plastic slightly hid the smell of the decaying body and pyramid of half eaten take out food.

With her analysis finished the medic got up and turned to face her team. Looking directly into Stealth’s eyes she gave her report with the emotionless tone one would expect from a street samurai with too much cyberware.

“It’s the same way that Monika died. We pulled the datajack out which I think aided in lessening the severity of her seizure.”

Dietrich seemed like he had had enough. One tattooed hand reached into his jacket and pulled out his flask.

“Good to know love, but that still doesn’t answer the question. Something’s fragging deckers and I’d like to know what it is.”

He took a long drink before he continued. “Is it a program. Monika talked about Black Ice like it was the devil itself. His gaze fell upon Stealth as he offered a swig to the rigger. The de facto leader gently waved it off before speaking.

“I’m not a decker, but I know tech. To my knowledge, there is no Black Ice that could cause this. Bleeding, minor spasms and headaches are normal, but that..” His slender hand pointed towards the body and continued. “Whatever it is is bleeding edge….Eiger”, the Elf switched the focus of his speech the former KSK soldier. He spoke with the candor of a drill instructor and, sure enough, the troll’s training betrayed her. Her already stiff posture stiffened. “What’s your opinion on this? Military technology?”

By the time Eiger had realized that she had given Stealth a modicum of respect it had already been too late. A slight sigh or perhaps a grunt of frustration issued from her, but she dutifully reported her opinion.

“There is nothing like this in the KSK or other armies. There was a decker who had programmed a Black Hammer. The results were deadly, but nothing like this. If a group that had the backing of a government I’d expect a few of the other deckers in the Kiez to get hit. But, that’s the military…” Just as she was about to continue Stealth cut in.

“However, a corporation would make use of new matrix defense or a new version of Black Hammer. ”

“A dragon, a scientist, a corp, and a new cyber weapon,” Dietrich said before he drained the rest of his flask. Stealth just sighed.

Stealth Mission Log 3: Addicts in the past

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(Youtube link down below)

The pounding music, blaring lights, and “activities” reminded Stealth of Monika as he walked into the hotel/dance club’s elevator. Attempting to leave the cacophony behind he hastily pressed the first button that he could reach on the patchwork console. With a slight tilt of his head, he noticed that the rest of the elevator was surprisingly unoccupied. Behind him Dietrich, Glory, and even more importantly Eiger with her fist held up to signal the team to stop stood sizing up the lift. There were obvious marks that would suggest that the hostile takeover of the only decent part of DrogenKippe. Bullet holes dotted the closed off section of the elevator enough to see a bit of the shaft. A look up would reveal severe damage. The place where someone would escape in case of emergency was hammered quite rudimentarily into place. Scorch marks that couldn’t be buffed out formed an outline around the hatch. “A grenade, perhaps?”, was what he thought.

“If we have to get the fuck outta here, I’d go with the stairs” Dietrich spoke as he pointed to the carpeted floor below Stealth’s boots. Among the plethora of stains and years of dust was a fresh new blemish. It was a dark brown, the color of oxidized blood.

Dietrich was observant, Stealth had to give him that. In his discomfort, he had hastily rewired the elevator and got on. It wasn’t going to collapse, he could tell that, but the rest of the team couldn’t. Combined with the obvious signs of struggle, they were a tad hesitant. Instead of asking Stealth about the unsafe conditions, he merely stated a question, not to discredit their new leader, but to draw attention to his concerns. The surprising social graces of the tattooed shaman was what was surprising. The elf took immediate action to alleviate his team’s worries.

With the grace of a trained engineer, the shadowrunner pulled out a small tool box from his pocket.Gloved fingers deftly opened the case and gently lifted out a small screwdriver. In seconds it was buried just behind the elevator panel. With a pop, the plate slid out to expose the horrific wiring. It looked far worse than it really was. Despite the veritable rat’s nest of crisscrossed wires, exposed copper, and general clutter it was functional. But, the team didn’t know that. Another tool appeared within his hands. The silver rod issued a small red flame from its tip, that quickly began cutting through wiring. Dietrich looked upon the elf inquisitively, Eiger with a slight disgust that hadn’t left her face since Dante barked at her, and Glory just started. Disarmingly Stealth smiled as the elevator panel slid back into place. The buttons came aglow clearly showing the floors that were available.

“That’s fixed. Now Eiger could you help me with something?” The troll frowned at the question, but she stepped into the elevator slightly ducking down as not to hit her head on the metallic ceiling. “Could you open that”, he requested. The troll just rolled her eyes, while bringing the butt of her shotgun to bear against the already dented metal. Despite her size, the force that was used was perfect. Enough, to knock it upwards, but not enough to cause a disturbance. Behind them, Dietrich and Glory formed a bit of a wall in an attempt to hide what was going on from the club’s patrons and more importantly it’s owners.

After the soldier was done with her work, she regarded her commanding officer. Stealth made eye contact with her and pointed upwards. Her face scrunched up even more severely. Before there was an air of annoyance even anger, but now there was only contempt on her face. But, she again followed orders. She dropped down to one knee and interlocked her fingers to give the elf a boost. Silently her leader climbed up through the now open path to the top of the elevator, flashlight in hand. He shined it this way and that, not really expecting to see anything, but it was more to establish knowledge. After a few seconds, he climbed down and beckoned his team to step in. This time, there was no hesitancy. The now glowing one was pressed and the doors behind the team with a standard bing. Dietrich broke the silence with a question.

“So, what was that check for anyway?” Stealth waited a second before immediately answering. Sure enough, Eiger answered for him. “A standard tactic used to protect corporate installations and military facilities where a rigger will take control of a building’s elevators and other mechanical components. Not standard for gangs running a business out of old factories.”

“First thing I’d install”, was the elf’s comment. Almost immediately he could feel the soldier’s angry eyes bore a hole in the back of his head, but that wasn’t where his mind was. The ork Silkie had brought back memories. Her sunken in eyes reminded him of Monika, back in the day.

Bullets soared past him and Monika’s heads as the ducked around a corner. Monika was lacking her trademark data jack and decker gear, though she had an AK slung over a bare shoulder. Clad in a sleeveless white shirt, camo pants, and black boots. She huffed and puffed as her eyes regarded the man next to her. He wore a standard security guards uniform, the “Ares” symbol slashed so many times, that almost no one could recognize the mega corporation’s symbol. They silently communicated. Monika unshouldered her weapon and readied it, while Stealth reached up to turn his control rig on. A scream issued forth from the hallway they had just come from. The woman went to speak to her companion, but he just held up a single finger to his lips, while the other turned on the control rig. Within seconds he could see everything his slightly damaged drone could. A few armed gangers were stalking their prey, a woman with multiple wounds on her body. Through her blue rags, the drone’s camera could clearly see the defined red spots that were growing larger with every passing second. Despite the dire wounds, she was attempting to crawl away.

“What’s the situation”, Monika damn near screamed in his ear. Unfazed Stealth calmly told her the of the situation and that he was readying to “take the shot”.

“At what”, she screamed. A sudden realization came to her as her face became pale.

“Blue?”

The elf nodded and he attempted to move his drone without drawing their attention of the machine gun wielding enemies.

“Why”, Monika asked adjusting her grip on her own weapon.

“She knows where the meet is. If they capture her, they’ll inform their employers who will at best make our mission more difficult.”

“At worst ruin, the run” Monika asked already knowing the answer. The elf just nodded.

“Cover me”, the shadowrunner yelled as she simultaneously slung her AK over her shoulder and dashed down the hallway, with a grenade in hand. The entire scene played out before the elf’s mechanical companion.

With a fury, Monika threw the explosive while running towards Blue. The gangers took aim, but one yelled to take cover. Two managed to take some form of cover, while two were caught within the full blast. With Blue in tow, Monika made a mad dash back towards Stealth, but she wasn’t as fast as she was without the ninety-five pounds of dead weight. The two who hadn’t been injured in the blast fired frantically at the duo.

Frag repeated itself multiple times in Stealth’s head as he tried to realign another shot. The drone had been heavily damaged. Most of its hull had been exposed and multiple wheels were out of commission. He’d only have one shot. An Ork ganger advanced managing to clip Monika in the leg. She stumbled nearly falling, but the familiar sound of a doberman’s mounted gun spurred her on.

The shot was perfect. The Ork’s head exploded. Stealth could swear he saw a tooth bounce off of the machine’s hull before the remaining ork opened fire. Despite having experienced it dozens of times before, the feedback through his control rig was something Stealth was never prepared for. From the tip of his skull to the bottom of his toes, not a single piece of him didn’t feel a shock. Disoriented and in pain the elf managed to get to his feet, just as his companions rounded the corner. Together the duo carried a half conscious mage down the stairwell. “Nice shot ace” was all she could say through hurried gasps and winces of pain.

Just when the two got to the bottom of the staircase Monika began giving first aid to the bullet-ridden mage. Stealth held his pistol up covering the only route the ganger had.

“I’m hurtin Monika. I need it”, Blue spoke in a harsh whisper. She stopped her bandaging to exchange a look with the former security guard who had lost it at this point. “Frag”, he said aloud, not giving a damn who heard him.

He leveled his gun towards Blue, who Monika immediately got up to protect.

“Calm down”, were the best words that she could come up with at the moment.

“She showed up to the OP high! She’s a junkie Monika! What secrets do you think she can keep? You think she won’t rat you out to that Go Gang you stole from? Or me to Ares? It wouldn’t even take nuyen all it’d take is some product at half price.”

Monika just gave the smile again. Her eyes were twinkling as she slowly walked up to her partner and put one hand on his gun.

“A bullet doesn’t solve an addict’s problems. She needs help, that’s all.”

Zap. A lightning bolt flew past the duo as their eyes followed the trajectory, the found the last ganger, fresh smoke issued forth from the hole in his face. With the smell of ozone still fresh, they helped Blue to her feet and made their escape with renewed vigor.

“See”, Monika said grinning from ear to ear. “Even an addict could be useful. All we need to do is get her some help and she’ll be back to running with the best.

“Us?”

“Of course”, was the response.

The ding of the elevator broke Stealth out of his memory, just as Eiger began to step forward. Stealth walked out in front of her and surveyed the area. His thoughts immediately flooded back to his past, but at least he had a troll this time.