Shadowrun: Richmond, Virginia, CAS

Arctic Village, part 3
Bear,... Big Bear,... Big Bear Chase ME...

Just as things are quieting down, there’s a crackle over the radio.

“Hey, its Bob,” says a timid sounding voice, “anybody out there?”

Ballsy Bob? I thought he and his gang-mates were out of the picture. I walk casually his direction. “Ballsy Bob! How you doing?”

“I’m okay,” Bob says, " but got separated during the battle. Looks like I get a bigger piece of the pay, I guess." His voice trails off. I guess he’s thinking about his dead companions. I think about killing him quietly so I don’t have to pay him. Nobody would know, and 75k nuyen is still 75k.

Before long, I see Bob in his combat armor walking towards me. His armor seems to be in good order, but then I see it.

“Bob!” I yell. “Look out behind you!”

Bob spins around with his assault rifle, but doesn’t get time to fire. A huge bear, or at least, I think it is. With one swipe from its clawed paw, Bob is flung 20 feet, the deep bloody scars across his armor’s chest, and his innards spilling out of them, means my monetary and moral dilemma is resolved.

But it looks like I have a new problem. The bear, must be 20 feet long, with armored plates across it’s body, with white fur hanging out all over. Before it decides to do to me what it did to Bob, I figure I should kill it. I draw both of my submachine guns, and empty two long burst of fire into it as it approaches. Then it roars. Loudly. Pretty much anyone in the valley where this village is could hear it. But, it appears I didn’t do anything but piss it off.

“Hey guys,” I call over the radio,“I’ve got a bit of a situation here. There’s, uh, a big bear over here.”

“Laz, you losin’ it out there?” called Jazz incredulously. “You’re worried about a bear? Hold on, I’ll spin up the chopper!” Sarcasm. Really? Why do I hang out with these guys?

I figure I had a few seconds before it could close with me, but I was wrong. I’m engulfed in fire. I smell plastic melting, hair burning, and unfortunately hear extra rounds of ammunition cooking off. Sounds like a fighting withdrawal is in order.

“And it breathes FIRE!” I yell.

“Aw sugah,” Spitfire replies, “see what you get for shooting first? Apparently, your momma didn’t raise you right.”

I hear the deep voice of Katai laughing. I begin running back to the group. “Glad I’m a source of entertainment, but we need to do something about this thing!”

I see Runs with Caribou run in front of Spitfire and Katai who are running towards me. “Stop,” I hear her yell, “you can’t attack it!”

“The hell I can’t!” says Katai with a bit of swagger in his voice.

“Let’s hear the little lady out,” says Spitfire with a chuckle, “Lazarus ain’t going anywhere.”

“It’s a Nahkhii Shih Tthoo,” says the diminutive shaman through her various furs covering much of her face. “They have been attacking more and more as modern devices and equipment make their way into the wilderness. I believe it was your battle and encroachment into our peaceful community that drew it here. Killing it will likely only draw more, and I will not do anything to stop it.”

As I get next to Spitfire, Katai, and Runs with Caribou, the beast is right behind me, snuffling around my back and body, but doesn’t roast and eat me. I’m already messed up from the burning, and not wanting a fight. Why its not attacking me is anyone’s guess. Perhaps, Runs with Caribou’s presence. I glance over my shoulder and see a mouth full of pointed teeth, big, black nose, and two dark soulless eyes. The white fur covers much of its body, including its face, but there are clearly bony plates just under the fur, giving it a bit of a rhinoceros feel. To say its worrisome would be a terrible understatement.

Arctic Village, part 2
Killin' is my business, ladies, and business is good!

“Aw… crap…,” says Jazz over the radio in my ear, “Incoming!”

Suddenly the dark skies are taken over from the white flash of an explosion. I didn’t see immediately where it lands, and am tossed aside like a leaf on the wind. Just faster. And with a semi hard stop at the end. At least packed snow isn’t concrete. I spring back to my feet, noticing immediately that one of the Ares Dragon cargo helicopters is an inferno. Damn. There goes the gas to go home. “Hey Jazz,” I call out over the radio, “how about more than a two second warning next time?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she grumbles back.

“Hey Crazies,” I call to the gang, " do something about those visitors south."

A bunch of chatter suddenly floods the radio, with calls like “What was that?”, “Where’s those troops”, “I got somethin’ for y’all,” but most is nonsense.

“If you see anybody, and it ain’t us, kill ‘em. It’s what we’re paying you for!” I shout over the radio. I know they aren’t making it out, but they don’t know that yet. Expenses are getting cheaper by the body. “Spitfire, get those guys some orders. I’m on my way.”

“The Gwich’en Alaskans have no part of this fight,” Runs with Caribou says coldly. “You hit my town or it’s civilians, and we might have some problems!”

“Yeah, got it,” I shout back as I run south.

Gunfire erupts south as I close in. In the darkness, I can’t tell who is who, but the muzzle flashes tell the tale. I can see the short, focused bursts of the assailants in stark contrast to the wild, long bursts from the gangers.

“Hey Spitfire,” I call, “Let’s show ’em your little friend.” This should be good, I think, but then remember something. “Um, and Spitfire, try to avoid any of the town’s buildings and people.” I roll my eyes, though no one can see it.

Suddenly the battlefield to the south is illuminated by a vaguely man shaped living fire. Fire elementals definitely are handy. I can see bodies in the snow, many wearing the combat armor I supplied to the gangers. More importantly, I can clearly see the organized troopers advancing in a standard tactical formation. Predictable. Always handy. I change direction to flank them while the fire elemental has their undivided attention.

“This thing can’t bank worth a damn!” I see the flare countermeasures from the helicopter Jazz is in and a missile tracking towards her. “There’s a second bogey out there fellas,” Jazz says. “Katai, get in the game guy! Oh, I got something for ya…” The familiar whine of Jazz’s rotary autocannon is followed by the flashes of tracers in the dark sky, with the sound and sparks flying off the target it hits.

Don’t have time for Jazz. I’ve got my own problems. I open up with my pair of Guardian submachine guns, downing two of the enemy as I advance. The fire elemental throws flames from it “arms” incinerating two more. The enemy splits up to get more space, but with me on one side, the elemental on the other, and the hapless gang directly in front of them, they have limited options. They spread out, focusing their attentions to me and the elemental. So much the better, I think to myself with a smile.

A rocket takes off from the shoulder launched surface to air missile Katai picked up from the supply chopper. I can see it track into the night sky above me, but better to thin out the heard of security personnel on the ground. I take down two more troopers as the sentry guns begin firing. They’re programmed to attack aircraft in range, though can target individuals on the ground. The familiar boom, boom, boom can be heard followed by the exploding shells as they hit their mark.

“Sounds like the automated Katai’s are in business,” I say into the microphone. An assault cannon shell every half second can wreck anybody’s day, let alone two of them simultaneously.

“Splash one Banshee,” Jazz says. “Good shootin’ down there!”

A ball of flame cast by an opposing mage gains my attention as it engulfs Spitfire, the snow immediately melting around her. As the fire dissipates, I see Spitfire standing on top of a mound of snow with a crackling field of light protecting her and where she stands, all surrounded by wet, semi-frozen, ashen dirt. “Ah, sugah, you gonna have to take me to dinner before you can have your way with me,” Spitfire says calmly.

“Aw, now there’s my bitch,” the deep bass of Katai’s voice sounds almost cheerful.

I figure I should help Spitfire out. With one gun I take down another trooper, as I leap outstretched, holstering the gun in my right hand. I plow into the enemy mage, my right hand around his neck, my gun in his face, and my feet on his chest. But the mage doesn’t crumple as I expect, instead absorbing all of my momentum, leaving me in an awkward position: feet on chest, right hand gripping his throat, which keeps me from touching the ground. “Oops,” I say out loud.

I hear the loud boom of a nearby Panther Assault Cannon and watch the shell blow the lower part of the mage’s left leg completely off leaving a bloody stump and bits of bone and tissue embedded in the melting snow. “Hey Laz,” Katai calls, “look out!” Not surprisingly, the mage falls over, but I catch myself and keep standing.

“Surrender!” I demand of the mage. We need to know who these guys are, and this now legless wage mage would likely have the answers I’m looking for. But before he can answer, his head explodes right in front me, spraying my face with blood, chunks of flesh, and bone fragments. “KATAI!” I shout.

“Woah,” says Katai, “my bad. You needed him, didn’t you?”

“Forget him,” I yell. “You almost blew my leg off!”

“Hey, no worries,” Katai replies, “I can blow the wings off a fly with this thing.”

“Grrr…” I growl.

“Incoming!” Jazz yells again. An air to ground missile impacts and explodes right at Katai’s feet, blowing him backwards and off his feet. He lands in a snow bank, bits of his armor on fire. At that same moment, Spitfire’s magical protection sets off another missile sent her way. The explosion throws her back, shoving her deep into the snow around her.

“Jazz,” I order, “do something about that, will ya?”

“On it,” she replies.

I see the last of the gangers fall, being chopped to bits by a cybernetically enhanced soldier, who is making short work of them with a set of metal blades extending from his forearms. However, his team is fairing no better, with the fire elemental taking its rage out on them. I figure I’ll give the cyberguy someone else to worry about, and shoot him in the back twice from my submachine guns. That definitely catches his attention. He turns and leaps towards me, closing the distance in one long leap. Cyberlegs? Really? Who does that?

“Banshee number two is breaking off and heading north,” Jazz says. “Pursue?”

“No,” I say as I duck the blades thrust at me by cyberguy. “We need to protect our base, and losing air cover ain’t an option.” I grunt as I block one of cyberguy’s arms, but I let loose a burst from one of my submachine guns in a soft spot of his armor, in the arm pit. He screams out in pain. An explosion happens behind him, pushing him into me, but I manage to keep my feet. Apparently, Katai recovered from the missile.

“Look out Laz,” Katai says.

“Warn, THEN shoot,” I yell, “not the other way around!”

Cyberguy’s body goes limp. Damn. Lost another interrogation. I run over to Spitfire while Katai blows the legs off of the remaining troopers. “Stop playing with them Katai,” I say, shaking my head. Katai switches to heads instead of legs.

“Spitfire, you okay?” I ask.

“Hell no!” she yells, then coughs up some blood in her mouth. “Are you stupid or something?” She starts casting a spell, and her wounds begin to heal.

“Hey Spitfire,” Katai says as he walks over to us, “when you’re done with yourself, I could use a little of your attention, if you know what I mean.” Winking, he takes out a drinking straw from his pocket and starts to chew on it. Odd habit, but I suppose it’s better than smoking.

Jazz brings in the chopper for a landing. Everything returns to the silent night.

Arctic Village, part 1
While you were out....

Garrison duty? Really? I may not remember my past, but I know I’m better than all this. Hence my street name of “Lazarus”. May not have returned from the dead, but since I don’t know my old life, I may as well have.

It’s cold. Really cold. I mean freeze your piss instantaneously creating urine-sickles kind of cold. And dark. No sun for almost 22 hours a day. Cold and dark. Great combination. If it weren’t for Kane, I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. And even then, I questioned it. The last time this whole crew got together, a dragon sat on me. Literally. And no, it wasn’t good times. I can’t say that I’m not expecting everything to go to drek and leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere Alaska. I miss the Barrens of Petersburg.

While Kane, Grummish, Dana, and Sunder get dropped off miles north of BFE Alaska, I get to stay here. They even took that newcomer Kira along. For her sake, I hope she knows what she’s getting into. Hell, if she doesn’t work out, she might have to worry about Grummish killing her.

Luckily I’ve got Katai with me. Always good to have a Panther Assault Cannon wielding troll nearby. Spitfire is also a welcome sight. A mage is always handy, but having one that looks like an African Amazonian just provides welcome eye candy. Rounding out the crew is Jazz. She’s a bit of a tom boy, but a rigger tends to be a mechanic too. I made sure we had a crew of “meat shields”. The Crazed Outlaws gang knew they were being paid 25,000 nuyen to come, all expenses paid of course, with 75,000 and keeping the weapons we purchased for them upon our return. A good deal, huh? I don’t expect they’’ll survive to collect. Oh well. Sucks to be them.

In the gathering darkness, I set about securing the Arctic Village, a tiny community. I get the crew to bring out the two sentry guns. We unload the snowmobiles and snow cats, then make sure everyone is armed. Well, everyone other than Katai. I swear he must sleep with that assault cannon of his. Jazz is relaxing in one of the large, cargo carrying Ares Dragon helicopters. She picks the one armed like a gunship. She insisted, and Gummy accommodated the request. I’m not sure who would track us down way out here and attack us, but then its not a question of being paranoid or not. More a question of being paranoid enough. And, then to be on the safe side, assume the worst case scenario, and prepare for something ten times worse.

Jazz notices first. She detects it through the helicopter’s sensors and immediately spins up the rotors. Katai, Spitfire, and I know exactly what to do. Katai, a heavy weapons expert, runs into the rear of the cargo Ares Dragon undoubtedly for an anti vehicular weapon. Shortly after the helicopter’s engines turn on, Runs With Caribou, the tiny town mayor and law enforcement officer comes out of the community’s small municipal building. Manifesting beside her are two nature spirits that look like animated trees.

“Lazarus,” she shouts above the helicopter, “what’s going on?”

“Not sure,” I reply. “Jazz, sit rep.”

“Two fast moving vehicles on the radar,” she says over the radio. “They must be really low for me not seeing ’em. We got a couple of minutes. Tops.”

“I got somethin’ for ’em,” Katai says with a hint of evil mischief in his voice.

“Well, sweethearts,” calls Spitfire over the radio, “there’s more bad news. We got armored troopers approaching from the south. Looks like someone knows how to fight in combined arms.”

“Hm, kind of like Yugoslavia,” I say automatically. But then it hits me. I remember my mission in the Balkans!

The Revelation of Logistics

“Mr. Grummish?” interrupted Dr. Maggie Talley, “I think we need to discuss the logistics of this trip to Alaska.”

“Oh,” said the six foot tall Ork who seemed only slightly distracted by Maggie. He didn’t look up from the large, embedded touch screen conference table.

While he always treated Maggie quietly and kindly… or at least not hostile, she couldn’t shake her first interaction with him. Drenched in the blood of an assassination “wet work” job, but presenting himself as a snobby aristocrat, stuck with her. His idiosyncrasies, like using glasses when he was packed with cyberware that did who-knows-what, tended only to confuse her. Of course, the consistent monotone of his voice left her unsettled, leaving only the impression of no humanity.

“Um, yes,” she continued, “It seems the remoteness of the coordinates will pose a problem. Anchorage is several hundred miles away, a very long haul for a VTOL. The nearest inhabited place is a small town called Arctic Village –“

“Quaint,” Grummish interrupted, still reviewing documents displayed on the table. While his English was fluent, the slight French accent was prominent.

“Uh, yes, quaint,” Maggie continued, “Well, this small village is inhabited by the Gwitch’en Alaskan natives, and most speak only Gwich’en… no English.”

Grummish stood and straightened his dress shirt and tie. Well, at least it’s not covered in blood this time, Maggie thought.

“Surely there are translators? The village must have some bilingual inhabitants to interact with the Alaskan government.” Grummish’s speech had a nonchalant quality, almost like he had no interest in the conversation, and yet he seemed to hear and remember everything.

“That seems likely, but-“

“We do not know who in the village is bilingual.”

“Yes, and-“

“A trivial matter easily resolved when we arrive.”

“But-,“ Maggie asserted, interrupted by Grummish silently looking over his glasses at her, with an expression reminiscent of her father’s “disappointed” face. She decided that the language conversation was over.

“I assume you have more important logistics to discuss?” Grummish asked condescendingly. Maggie had to catch herself before her automatic eye roll occurred.

“Yes,” Maggie continued. “Given the distance, we’ll need to bring multiple VTOLs to carry equipment and gear, including fuel for use there and a return trip. Arctic Village is 55 miles from Mount Isto, the 9,000 foot mountain at the coordinates we found.”

“8,975 feet,” Grummish said plainly.

“What?” Maggie asked given the interruption of her train of thought.

“Mount Isto. 8,975 feet, not 9,000” Maggie stifled another eye roll.

“Um, thanks? Can I continue?” Maggie asked. Grummish nodded. “So, we have to find a way to traverse 55 miles into some very rugged mountains. We could use snowmobiles or snow cats, but that’s more fuel to carry, and we’d need something large enough to transport them. Regardless, the closest we can get to the coordinates is 3 or 4 miles. Then it’s all climbing. We can carry the gear, but I doubt any of us has real skill in using it. To take the easiest path possible, we may need to travel nearly twice the distance to wind our way to the mountain, instead of a direct path.”

“I believe your meandering is leading to the conclusion that we need a guide, lots of equipment, and additional skilled personnel. Am I correct?”

“That’s a concise summary, yes,” Maggie replied. “Though, what do you mean by ‘skilled personnel’? Obviously, we need a guide or guides, pilots,-“

“Skilled personnel refers to those ready and able to fight and kill any threats to our equipment. While I am sure I would manage, though not sure you would, I do not envy a walk of hundreds of miles in harsh terrain during the late fall in Alaska. A possibility that could occur if our pilots, vehicles, fuel, etcetera were attacked.”

“Well, there’s another point,” Maggie continued. “During this time of year there will be more hours of darkness than light. At that latitude, maybe only a few hours of daylight. If you can call the sun hovering at the southern horizon ‘day time’.”

“Scared of the dark are we?” Grummish teased. “I am sure we can handle some darkness. Anything else?”

“No, I think this is enough.”

“Very well,” Grummish said as he turned his attention to the screen in the table. “We can overcome these hurdles.”

Being ignored for several seconds, Maggie began feeling uncomfortable and assumed their conversation was over. Maggie left the conference room and entered a receptionist area just outside. Sitting at the receptionist’s desk was a young woman reading Cosmopolitan. The name “Melissa” was on the desk’s nameplate, tilted askew because of Melissa’s feet pushing it out of place.

“Infuriating, isn’t he?” Melissa said not looking up from the magazine. Maggie managed a slight smile. “Yeah,” Melissa continued, “sometimes I just have to tell him to shut up.”

“Seriously,” Maggie asked in disbelief. “He won’t get offended and gut me like a freshly caught salmon?” Maggie proudly thought of the Alaskan reference.

“Yes, so you can’t tell him that. But I can.”

Maggie furrowed her brow, the confusion of the inconsistent treatment on her face evident.
Melissa smiled. “It’s why I get paid the big bucks.”


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