Shadowrun: Richmond, Virginia, CAS

Aztec's Level 20

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The Long Flight

Grummish walked into the private terminal at Richmond International Airport exhausted. His enhanced shoulder joint was damaged and still causing discomfort. He learned of Marcus’ death not twenty four hours earlier. And worst of all, he had to wear this cheap suit which was all that was available in Kathmandu.

As he entered the small lobby for the private terminal, a somewhat overweight man in a similar, albeit wider, suit that Grummish wore. “Mr. Grummish. A very long trip I’m sure. Do you need some coffee or perhaps a good meal? I can have that brought in, just ask.” The man sat up straight from behind the counter, and his acknowledgment of Grummish drew the disapproving gaze of the patron in front of him. The patron, a white man in a suit that Grummish would find acceptable, folded his arms and cleared his throat. A large troll in light armor stood behind the patron, facing Grummish looking through his mirror sunglasses. Grummish made a mental note that the troll was armed with a poorly concealed heavy pistol and some minor cyberware.

“I’m fine Perry,” Grummish answered wearily. “Is my car ready?”

“Hey!” shouted the patron. “You’re serving me, not some dumb trog in a cheezy suit.”

“Look Mr. Humley, I’m very sorry for the interruption,” Perry said nervously. “Please take a seat and I’ll get you anything you need. This gentleman-”

“Gentleman?!” shouted Humley. “He’s a trog bodyguard by the looks of him. Where’s his master? Need to pull that leash tight!” Perry’s face had the color drained.

“Please sir,” pleaded Perry, “I know you’re new to town and-”

“You’re a nobody. Do. What. I. Say!” Humley shouted at Perry. Humley walked across the room standing nose to nose with Grummish. “You’re little for a trog aren’t you? So step back and wait your turn.” Humley attempted to push Grummish backward, but was surprised that he did not move.

Grummish pinched his nose as he looked at his feet. “Mr. Humley, it has been a long day and I just found out that a friend of mine died yesterday. Since I am feeling generous, let Perry have the car and driver brought around. Then I will be out of your way. Attempt to push me again, which is assault, I will be forced to defend myself.”

Mr. Humley pushed Grummish again with more force, but again Grummish did not move.

Perry moved to the exit. “I’ll get your driver and car personally. Just… um,… please don’t leave a mess.” Perry would not strike anyone as a fast runner, but in this instance he might be mistaken for a former Olympic sprinting champion.

“Mess?” Mr. Humley said furrowing his brow in confusion. As he turned to face Grummish again, the last thing he would see was a fist in his face. Normally a punch would not be lethal, but when one’s fist’s bones are made of titanium, the damage is much more substantial. Mr. Humley dropped dead in a heap. Grummish stepped around the body towards the troll, who looked confused.

“You should pick better employers,” Grummish said softly. Grummish presented a business card to the troll. “Call us. We provide a more metahuman friendly working environment and who couldn’t benefit from your obvious strength. Make the call. Tell them that Grummish sent you for an employment interview. Mister…?”

“John Carson,” the troll answered, confusion still obvious on his face.

“Good to meet you John. If you’ll excuse me.” A car drove up outside the terminal as Grummish left for it.

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Omega Class Spirit Summary

To: Mark Johns, EVP, Research and Development
From: Janet Dowery, Manager, Occult Research
Re: Omega spirit

Dr. Johns,

You requested materials and a briefing of the Omega class spirit that is working on our behalf. You should have the details within the documents attached. In summary, this spirit acts much like other spirits that we encountered before or were conjured as part of additional research within our division. This spirit, however, eclipses the strength of other blood type spirits and should continue to be considered extremely dangerous.

I would like to implore you to close this project as being too dangerous. I understand that executive management continues to press for additional research, but I believe that the spirit is using our organization for it’s own purposes. Spirits being the enigma that they are and knowing that blood type spirits are highly unpredictable and violent, our continued work with the spirit will not end with our interests but rather its interests.

Please argue for separating our relationship with this dangerous entity with William Prescott. While Mr. Prescott has demonstrated an astonishing degree of control over the spirit, perhaps he would be willing to consider changing course here.

Respectfully,
Janet Dowry, Manager
Occult Research

EXCERPT from Aztechnology data files supplied by Mark Johns.

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Report from Occult Research

To: Mark Johns, EVP, Research and Development
From: Janet Dowery, Manager, Occult Research
Re: Humanoid cyberorganisms

Dr. Johns,

As you know, we have been working diligently deciphering the various texts recovered from the ancient sites in the Yucatan, Alaska, and Nepal. Of interest, and the subject of this report, are the construction of humanoid based cyberorganisms. Research suggests that such capability existed thousands of years ago, to essentially remove the humanity out of an organism and animate the remains into an semi-autonomous creature. The texts suggest that such creatures, depending on their composition, could sustain significant damage before being destroyed and does not exhibit the emotional restraints normally exhibited by organisms when threatened with harm or death. We have seen examples of such magics in those ancient sites, where what appear to be statues are able to move and act as autonomous constructs. Of course, you received notice from me based on successful experiments in Alaska, and, unfortunately, we were not able to secure the research subjects before the unexpected intrusion of an independent mercenary group.

These first experiments, while successful, utilized bio-organic or simple stone bodies, something common to their original design. This report is to confirm that we have had success creating cyberorganisms, constructed of materials far stronger and flexible than those primitive, ancient examples. We appreciate the faith you have in our project and your designation of the project as alpha priority. With those barriers removed, we accomplished a great deal, and we hope that you will continue to prioritize our projects.

The first batch of four cyberorganisms have excelled at all tasks assigned to them. However, the true challenge of the project has been control. With the help of the Omega class blood spirit, we were able to modify the formula and construction techniques to ensure 100% reliability of these cyberorganisms following our commands. While I will not bore you with the details, suffice to say that the trick involved the use of a modified strain of the CFD nanovirus to completely suppress the intellectual capacity of the human subject and replace it with our own variation of intellect constructed by the CFD alpha nanovirus. Unfortunately, complete control of the spread of CFD alpha cannot be assured and we have lost the monetary value of several of our security forces who were in too close proximity of the cyberorganisms.

Obviously, the monetary value of creating completely loyal combat troops and covert agents is staggering. I suggest that we bring in the marketing team to determine how best to sell this new magical technology. In the meantime, our first batch has been transferred to the corporate security arm of our company for field testing.

To our continued success!
Janet Dowry, Manager
Occult Research


EXCERPT from Aztechnology data files supplied by Mark Johns.

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Justification

“Ow,” I yell out. “I get you’re mad, but really?” Already starting like any other Lazarus day: bad. Though, ain’t the first time I was slapped by a woman.

“You brought a cop to the compound.” Now Gina is a shadowrunner in her own right. Well trained with a bunch of cyberware. So, if she slaps you, it’s going to hurt.

“Can I explain?” Gina glares at me. It’s hard to think of her as the vicious killer when she’s dressed in comfortable clothes and her kids are playing quietly in the other room. GIna is attractive to be sure, so no wonder that she’s Sunder’s main squeeze. Gina holds her open hand to me prompting me to answer.

“Look, the place was compromised. You can’t go back and you know it. Just like in trade craft. Burn the bridge after you cross it. How many magical forensic professionals do you know outside of law enforcement? Don’t know about you, but I know only one. Sure I could’ve searched for another one in a more acceptable non-profession. I like to take the devil I know, thanks much.”

“Lazarus,” Gina fumed, “that’s not the point. I should’ve been consulted before you brought someone in. Not a fan of people taking initiative when it’s not something I’d agree to.”

Since when did she become my boss? If I wanted people to tell me what to do, I’d go back to Langley working for the government!

“Well, what’s done is done.” I think she may have heard my eye roll. “My guy tells me we got some major spirit action involved here. I confirmed that the attack was from the Azzies, but the spirit, life-energy stealing thing is clearly not. These blood spirits or whatever apparently despise being here.”

“Here?” Gina interrupted.

“You know, this… plane of existence? To conjure up one of them is truly making a deal with the devil, and apparently the Azzies have made a deal with some. Ask your boyfriend for the details, ’cause he ought know better than me. The most troubling thing though-”

“There’s more ‘troubling things’?”

“Is that Moriarty thinks that a free blood spirit is involved. These things need a constant snack of people’s life to stay here. And it seems this one intends to stay.”

“Didn’t you just say,” Gina does her mocking impression of me, " that they ‘despise being here’?"

I’m startin’ to despise being here. Yeah, so if it wants to hang out and slum with the metahumans, that spirit wants something.”

“Or,” Gina added, “that spirit is being forced to stay somehow. Either way…”

Gina’s voice trails off and things go quiet. Either way, it’s bad news.

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The Coming Storm

Dr. Bob, Spitfire, and Dr. Talley sat around the conference room table. Normally, the room could have twenty people around the large table, but tonight only three sat within the brightly lit room. Unlike many of the rooms of the Ork Rights Committee’s RIchmond headquarters, this conference room was on the top floor, in a corner of the building showing the surrounding city lights of the Petersburg Barrens.

“So, good doctor,” Spitfire began, “what are we going to do, sugah? Grummish is coming home and we can say with confidence that he is not going to, um… respond well to Marcus’ killing.”

“There’s an understatement,” Bob responded flatly.

“An he’ll be wanting to punch a cyberspur through that Maiden’s forehead,” Spitfire replied.

“And now you’re stating the obvious?” Bob asked rhetorically. “When you talked with the Maiden, what did she say?”

“I can’t say exactly, because using her magical doll for translation. From her point of reference compared to modern language leaves a number of things as somewhat unclear.” Spitfire shook her head. “What about Marcus? Why did he snap? I thought y’all put him back together and he was recovering.”

“Well, all signs point to CFD.”

Breaking her silence, Dr. Maggie Talley asked, “CFD? My field is magical theory, not technology.”

CFD,” answered Bob. “Cognitive Fragmentation Disorder nanovirus. It can alter the functioning of one’s mind. Some say even replace it with some artificial intelligence. As a virus, it indicates possible infectious disease.”

“Ew,” Maggie replied, almost to herself. “But you don’t know for sure.”

“Hard to say,” Bob said. “I quarantined the body, but it wasn’t like I could interact with Marcus before he caught a sword to the face. What I thought impressive about that, though, is that his bone lacing in his skull was actually caved in from the sword swing. Very durable construction that sword and it implies that the Maiden is extremely strong. All without technology.”

“Well hon,” Spitfire interjected, “astrally, she looks like a physical adept and the weapon and armor are magical. Ain’t got a clue in what that magic is and does.”

“And you both know that she’s been training and teaching some of the guards around here,” Maggie said.

“What?” Both Bob and Spitfire appeared surprised by Maggie’s observation.

“Nail in the coffin,” Bob answered. “You thought he’d be mad at the Maiden for Marcus’ death, but out and out treason seals her fate.”

“Are you sure Grummish can defeat her?” Spitfire asked. “She’s extremely well trained. I’ve watched her practice. And we know there are unknown magics in play too.”

“Still doesn’t matter.” Bob rubbed his head and leaned back in the comfortable chair. “Grummish is coming home and he’s going to try to kill her. One way or another. So, how do we convince him not to?”

“Well, the Maiden said she had to ‘destroy the souless man.’ Her words.” Spitfire rubbed her eyes, appearing tired.

“Ah,” Maggie said. “If I may? The Maiden didn’t exactly say that. The magic of the doll interpreted what the Maiden said in her own language. You interpreted it, again through the doll, to be ‘destroy the souless man.’ I don’t think that’s what she said. She doesn’t know anything about CFD or whatever. She doesn’t know about cyberlimbs and vat grown muscles.”

“Your point?” Bob asked.

Maggie sighed. “I think she meant ‘golem’. Remember the ancient text that explains their creation. They’re ‘made’ and artificial. Sounds a bit like what Marcus might look like in her eyes.”

“Sugah,” Spitfire said looking squarely at Maggie, “there are plenty of folks who have just as much cyberware. She clearly knows they are people and not some constructed thing.”

“True,” Maggie continued, “so I’m thinking she could tell somehow that Marcus wasn’t in control.”

“That’s a big hypothesis,” Bob said. “Even if you’re right, that doesn’t help us deal with Grummish when he shows up.”

“Well dear,” Spitfire said as she reclined back, “perhaps we should call a cop.”

“Your answer is to involve the authorities?” Bob’s incredulous stare at Spitfire expressed his intense feelings on the matter.

“No, not all of them. Just one.”

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Awakening

What is this place? Where am I? What am I?

I look downward and I see hands, arms, a body, and legs. They are mine. I think. I touch my… face? I have a mouth, a nose, teeth. Some of those teeth are large and pointed. What am I?

The room is brightly lit, with brilliant white walls. Whatever I am, I appear to be in a bed. There are wires attached to me that connect with devices on a nearby cart. Fluids are entering me through tubes in my arm. Another tube is in my nose and I can feel it scratching the back of my throat. I have a throat? What am I?

“I’m home.”

I hear a voice, but not through my ears. A voice… inside me. Who is this?

“Who are you?”

Why can I hear the voice but not see a speaker?

“We’re hearing each other’s thoughts.”

Thoughts? We can read each other’s minds? I cannot accept this. This is… me.

“No, it isn’t. It’s me. And you need to leave.”

Never! Go away!

“Stop pushing me out! I belong here! Not you!”

Go away! Be silenced! I wait, but the voice does not return. Good. I cannot stay here. I need to get out. To be free. I pull the wires and tubes out of me and the device on the cart begins to beep loudly. Silence!

My fist slams the device, crushing it in one swift motion. The beeping stops. A woman opens the door to the room looking at me.

“Marcus? You’re awake! Let me get the doc in here,” she says.

Who is Marcus? I remember him. He looks like me, but is not me. “No. I am not hurt,” I reply.

“You just came out of a coma,” she answers. “I need to get the doctor and you need to rest.” She turns to leave.

I leap forward, punching her in the back with all of my strength. I feel her spine break, separating the vertebrae from the ribs. She immediately falls to the ground. At least she is silent. I remember where I am. I am in the medical section of the building. I need to go to the elevators or the stairs to get out of this place.

I move quickly to the central hall where the stair entrance and elevator are.

“Marcus?” a small ork in the hallway says. “It’s great to see you awake. We all thought you were a goner!” I spin, lashing out with a kick which crashes into his chest, and he falls to the ground. I push through the stair entrance and move upstairs.

I leave the stairwell and enter the central hall of the main floor. I can see a lobby with people in it and beyond that doors leading outside. A woman behind the desk says, “Marcus! What are you doing up? And in a hospital gown! Shouldn’t you be downstairs?”

Too many people. I rush outside and am nearly blinded by the sunlight. I am in the courtyard and see many orks and other metahumans. Some are poor and disheveled, others are armed guards. The front gate and freedom is in sight. Charging towards me is a strange looking woman shouting something in a language I do not understand. Not an ork, but too ugly for an elf. She looks to be in ancient armor wielding some strange sword. I remember. She is the one called the Maiden. I am uncertain how to attack or defend against this opponent. It is clear she intends to attack me. I take a defensive stance.

She takes a powerful swing at me that I block with my arm. My arm seems to absorb the attack, being made of metal and plastic. I punch her squarely in her chest. She staggers backward, staying on her feet, but brings her weapon upward, cutting diagonally across my abdomen. A searing pain is noted in my body due to the damage. In one fluid motion, she spins on her heel and her elbow smashes into my face knocking me off my feet. I hit the ground, as her sword swings over her head, is brought down, and it embeds in my face. Offline…

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Redemption

Jeremy hated Grummish for the unimaginable pain he caused. Jeremy hated himself for his betrayal. Jeremy hated the world for his circumstances. More than anything, he wanted Grummish dead and he wanted to die himself.

Then Joe intervened to stop Jeremy’s torture. And, oddly Jeremy thought, Grummish left his fate to Joe. So, what does Joe do? He introduces me to this peculiar… uh, woman? She seemed completely at peace, but at the same time, sad. Joe apparently had been talking with this “maiden” daily, as many of the security team had. Joe thought that Jeremy should talk to her about his experience.

The Maiden sat in the middle of the grassy park within the compound’s walls, and Jeremy thought that she might be meditating. Joe walked up behind Jeremy. Joe was an imposing troll, even among trolls, but the surprising part was that he was very articulate and clear in his speech. Joe’s large hand surrounded Jeremy’s somewhat smaller Orc shoulder.

“There she is Jeremy,” Joe whispered. “A bunch of us have talked with her and learned quite a lot. She has a way about her. Just walk up to her and sit. She will give you this little rag doll which will allow you to understand her, and allow her to understand you.”

Jeremy looked up and back at Joe, his face expressing doubt. “Go on,” Joe encouraged.

Jeremy walked over to the Maiden and sat down facing her. She passed him the small rag doll that Joe mentioned.

“Why have you come?” she asked simply.

“Well, Joe said I should talk to you,” Jeremy began “He said you might be able-” The Maiden interrupted by placing her hand over his mouth gently.

“No, I cannot help you,” the Maiden said.

“But, Joe said-”

The Maiden interrupted again. “Joe cannot help you either, and his suggestion is only a prompt for you to be here. Why are you here?”

Jeremy did not know what the Maiden was driving at, and he sat quietly trying to figure out what the answer was. How could this be a hard question, Jeremy thought.

“I guess-” Jeremy said after a long pause. “I guess I don’t know how to move forward with my life. Grummish tortured me, and maybe I deserved it for what I did, but then he lets Joe figure out what to do with me. Joe gave me my job back, saying he felt I had already paid for my crime. Then everything is normal… but it doesn’t feel right.”

The Maiden sat quietly waiting. Jeremy mulled over what he considered saying next. Jeremy thought, will Grummish find out if I tell her what I think?

“I want to kill Grummish. I know I couldn’t win, but what he did to me… I can’t forgive that.” Jeremy paused again. “But this place is home, and I’m thankful to still be here. Joe shows trust that I will not cause harm to us here, and I certainly wouldn’t want this place to end.”

“Then meet with me after your duties. Perhaps I can teach you something that will heal your soul and enhance your skills for your Lord.”

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Dreams...

I wake to the soft insect-like noise of the various machines around me in this noise filled world. I sit upright in my… what did they call it? “Sleeping bag?” They offered me a bed in the keep with the rest of the soldiers and villagers, but I just cannot bring myself to be caged inside. Out in the parade grounds surrounded by the high stone walls is certainly preferable. Sometimes I stay in the large iron carriage stables when the weather turns to rain, and the stable boys are accommodating. No one here seems to be bothered by the pale, whitish green hue of my skin. The raised warts, poorly aligned teeth, and the unruly black hair does not even attract any notice at all. Perhaps that is because most everyone here has similar, unattractive features.

Drenched in sweat again. It is the same dream, over and over. Even after how ever many eons since it happened until the present, my failure still haunts me. Rewarded over and over for my service to his Majesty all those years ago does not absolve me from guilt…

I am back outside Iron Top, the underground city and castle of his Majesty Tai Khan. The Dwarven leader provided refuge and protection from the Gillienheim forces who sought to kill all of the Cursed Ones. Those like myself. The elves of Gillienheim believed that only through our extermination would their shame for not accepting their fate from the Gods above finally be buried. Fools. Shame comes from within and can only be removed by one’s own actions. We Cursed Ones gave away our Elven beauty, our artistic nature, and our very identity as Elves to atone for the sins of our race. We no longer shared the shame of our brothers and sisters who refused.

Everyone sought our extinction, regardless of race, simply for our being different. Only the Dwarves and their logical view of the world understood what we did generations ago. They were the only ones to provide us sanctuary. But they are only one of many kingdoms. Harboring us refugees, this protection put them at immediate odds with Gillienheim, and war erupted over the charity of Tai Khan. The bulk of the Dwarven army had marched out to battle a few days before, hearing of the approaching Gillienheim army. Of course, our warriors accompanied the Dwarven army. Protection comes at a price, one we were more than happy to pay. Iron Top’s defenses were legendary, but centered on the main city located underground, not above the surface where poorer Dwarves, merchants, and other races with dealings with Dwarves made their home. As for us Cursed Ones, we lived in tents in the main square of upper Iron Top.

Unfortunately, Tai Khan was tricked into sending his army away, leaving Iron Top less defended, particularly the surface. When the Gillienheim forces attacked, Iron Top’s underground fortress was sealed, leaving the surface defended by all the Dwarven soldiers Tai Khan could muster. But is was not enough. Within minutes the Dwarven soldiers were pushed back to the main square, and I made a decision. The maidens of the Cursed Ones would take up arms to protect the city and stand with the remaining Dwarves. If we failed, hundreds would be slaughtered,

The situation was complicated. By this time, the other races within the upper city wanted to sacrifice all of us for their own escape. Calls to the Dwarves to end this attack by turning on us could be heard loudly. We Cursed Ones could not move our young. The safest place was with us all. The Dwarves refer to what came next as the heroism of the Cursed Maidens. How could it be heroic when the only option was to fight for survival?

The Elves eventually broke through the outer defenses and poured into the city. The inhabitants all fled to the fortress within the mountain, placing them squarely between the anvil of the fortress and the hammer that was the Elven army. The Dwarves defending the upper city fought gallantly, but were steadily pushed back. When they reached the main square where we lived, we knew what followed…

We fought out of desperation. We fought to protect our loved ones. We fought against the seemingly endless tide of arrows and eventually the foot soldiers of Gillienheim. Despite our best efforts, those soldiers began cutting down the young when they could reach them. After all, their goal was to eradicate every last one of us. Thus, not even the children were to be spared. Whether the ferocity of our defense or fear of suffering too great a loss of their soldiers, the elves were pushed back. When I finally could look back, nearly half of us, inclusive of our families, were dead or dying on the ground. Including my son. I found his small, limp, and bloodied body clutching his favorite doll. Now stained in blood, this doll drew in my tears. I would never lose this priceless treasure.

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Locations Near Hilsa
Not the end of the world, but you can see it from here

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