Shadowrun: Richmond, Virginia, CAS

Breaking news... which story was it?

Dana and Kirah sat at the bar having drinks in their favorite establishment, Mugsy’s. Mugsy was actually working for a change. The various patrons looked at various screens showing a terrorist attack in Taiwan, smoke billowing from about midway down the entire height of the towering skyscraper. Everyone watched silently as the displays showed the entire tower eventually collapsing from the damage.

Dana and Kirah looked at each other. They both knew Kane lived in the tower and wondered if he made it out alive, without even really needing to say anything to each other.

“What the hell was the motivation with that shit?” asked the stocky, red bearded dwarf called Mugsy.

Again Dana and Kirah thought through a pretty long list of possible reasons, some of which impacted them personally.

Outside, a delivery truck pulled up with the driver bringing in a large box. Instantly, Dana and Kirah reach for their weapons under their jackets.

“Hey Mugsy! You seein’ this weird shit?” says the delivery driver nonchalantly as he walks in with the box.

Dana and Kirah draw weapons. Dana shouts, “Put the box down now!”

“Or you’ll be eating through a tube for the rest of your short life!” Kirah adds.

“Hey, Jerry’s cool!” says Mugsy quickly.

Jerry, not accustomed to seeing guns, let alone having them pointed at him, wets himself. “No, please! I’ve got kids!”

The deafening explosion could be heard for miles in all directions, though buried under the rubble Dana and Kira both realize it wasn’t from the box. Their more immediate concerns were around how to remove tons of debris off of them…

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Until I was rudely interrupted...

Kane, sitting in bed clicking through the vid channels stops on an old movie from the twentieth century. Something about the scene catches his bored eyes, giving his listless brain something new to focus on. Mei was in the other room preparing breakfast. Ugh, this boring shit needs to go, Kane thinks to himself. It might have been dangerous, but it was lucrative and gave a purpose to otherwise dull days. How could nearly dying seem to be somehow better than living this dream-worthy life? Maybe I could take on some work on the side?

Dialog echoes into Kane’s melancholy doldrums. “If you steal $600, you can just disappear. You steal six hundred million dollars, they will find you-”

Everything goes white in Kane’s vision as a deafening noise overwhelms his ability to determine what just happened. The instantaneous bright flash is replaced with blinding smoke and dust. Pieces of the ceiling fall in large chunks, crushing whatever is below. Sparks cause brief flashes of light, interrupting the dust and darkness. One flash from what would be the kitchen illuminates briefly the large concrete slab that crushed Mei’s body from below her chest, her blank stare looking into Kane’s soul.

Feeling the heat from fires nearby, the wind outside the sixtieth floor blows into the residence, clearing the dust just enough to see outside.

“Oh shit,” Kane mutters as he sees the outline of two aircraft, their racks of rockets being the most visible part given the second salvo of missiles and their trailing smoke streak towards him. Kane quickly cast a spell opening a portal below him, leading to someplace far from what will be the remnants of the building.

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A Year Later... part II

Somewhere in Africa

Jeremy leaned against the brick and mortar wall pockmarked with bullet holes. Bits of brick would shower down as the continuous assault rifle rounds tore away at the wall. Even in the heavy combat armor, Jeremy didn’t feel safe. In the din of the battle, Jeremy thinks back on the year to the point where his life changed forever. Tempered by Grummish and given purpose by the Maiden, Jeremy was one of the first to join her mercenary company, along with the survivors of the Battle of Nepal, as those orks and trolls of the company refer to it. They helped to save the world. No small feat and something to feel honorable about. Now he wore the badge of the Cursed: a stylized circle for a metahuman head with pointed ears and a dagger pointing downward over the center line of the face. Jeremy peeked around the corner, ducking backward as rounds hit the wall and debris hit his helmet. He clutched his assault rifle tightly.

“Ma’am,” Jeremy yells over the the din, “we can’t stay here! We’re gonna get pinned down!”

The Maiden stood like a statue, unphased by the bullets whistling through the air. A loud explosion on the other side of the crumbling wall threw dirt and debris over them. She wore a helmet of a style from a older era, like a Viking’s, complete with horns, but obviously updated with communication gear and a clear plasteel visor covering her visible face. Her chainmail armor, a complete anachronism, covered most of her body, untarnished in spite of its heavy use. A magical gift from a bygone world continued to serve its purpose even here.

“Patience, captain,” she says evenly, “we need follow plan.” Her halting English has improved over the year, but still gives the impression of someone uneducated and unintelligent. An impression the belies just how experienced and dangerous she is.

Jeremy has no idea what the plan is. He seldom does. The Maiden’s confidence and calm steadies his nerves… and the nerves of everyone else in the company. “Ma’am,” Jeremy shouts, “if you go down, we all go down! Fall back for cover!”

Jeremy sees the smile through the vertical visor slit of her carbon fiber helmet. “That is not my way. Anvil, ready?”

Over the radio another soldier is heard, “Anvil ready!”

The Maiden draws her odd shaped, angular sword and places her gauntlet on Jeremy’s shoulder. “Time to be hammer.” Somehow I knew she was going to say that, Jeremy thinks.

Jeremy turns to the heavily armed men and women entrenched behind him. “First platoon,” he shouts into his radio, “on me!” In a few deft movements, the Maiden clears the top of the ten foot high wall. How does she do that? Jeremy asks himself as the rest of his unit takes the long way around the wall instead of over it.

Beyond the wall, Jeremy sees the Maiden leading the charge into the enemy, who are distracted by the flanking attack of the anvil team. Jeremy follows closely behind with the rest of the unit down the wide street, taking cover in doors ways and abandoned vehicles. Seeing a woman and two small children, Jeremy commands over the radio, “Savage, break off and get those kids off this street!” An armored figure points to two others and the three change direction to cover the civilians, the soldiers using their own bodies as shields if nothing more is available. One of the three takes several shots to the chest and falls, but the other two continue on, leaving their comrade until the civilians enter a building. “Janet’s down,” calls one of them over the radio.

“Stick with her Savage,” Jeremy orders. “Everyone else, let’s move! We’re falling behind!” The Maiden entered hand to hand combat, and even after two shots to her chest, she fights on due to the stout protection her armor affords. Her axe-like blade cleaves through armor, muscle, and bone, dismembering or disemboweling her enemies. No one beats her in hand to hand, Jeremy thinks. No one.

Joining the battle, Jeremy and his soldiers use their ranged weapons and start to chew through the enemy. Knowing they are about to be shattered, the enemy sound a retreat. Even in their heavy armor, it is clear that the anvil team are a group of large trolls all using assault cannons, except for one who uses a bow. The five foot long “arrow” pierces through the chest, armor and all, of one of the enemy and before he has fallen, the bow wielding troll has already prepared another.

“Hold,” the Maiden calls. “Let them go.” She walks over to the troll with the huge bow. Taking her helmet off, the familiar face of Big Girl, the ex-cop turned shadow runner turned mercenary, is seen. The much smaller Maiden reaches up and pats Big Girl’s shoulder. “Thank you for help,” the Maiden says.

“Hey, what about me,” says another of the trolls. Standing with his arms outstretched with his trusty Panther Assault Cannon, his speech is slightly slurred by the plastic straw sticking out of his mouth from under the visor.

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A Year Later... Part I

T’aipei, Taiwan

Kane reclined back in his poolside lounge chair within his T.M Tower’s private residence in T’aipei, Taiwan. The sun warmed his lightly tanned skin and the din of the traffic some sixty stories beneath him softened to a melodious whisper. He watched Mei going through her daily routine of swimming laps, never really losing the desire to watch her athletic form cut gracefully through the water. Love that she skinny dips for these, Kane thinks. Damn, life’s good. His mind wanders in spite of his fixed gaze of Mei. No bullets. No weird magic shit. No attempts on my life. Just the comfortable, wealthy life. My share of that pot of gold from the Nepalese leprechaun and my personal hoard. With Mei as my cherry on top. Well, not really a cherry. Kane’s lips curl into a slight smile. But I helped SAVE THE WORLD,… not that anyone knows about it. I damn well deserve what I got!

Though, I suppose life can get a little boring. Technically, I’m Mei’s bodyguard and chief of security, but that isn’t anything like running. Briefings, planning trips, logistics… no matter how much I delegate, always seems to be something. Worth it, though,… well, I suppose it’s worth it. At least I’m not brat wrangling like Sunder is with his kids. When was the last time I saw him? Could it have been that long ago? I remember him building a new compound for Gina and the rest of his family, though can’t say exactly where that is. He never said where. Paranoid guy, that Sunder.

Come to think of it, I’ve not seen any of the old crew lately, though that bitch Big Girl always seems to find me every so often. Pain in the ass, but then I do hear bits and pieces of information from her. Kane chuckles to himself. Man, Katai never changes though. Still chewing straws and putting the “over” in overkill. Still haunts Richmond, though seems to take a lot of jobs beneath his skill level. What’d he say? Just keeping in practice?

Richmond’s become a weird place for sure. Not too many places where magical spirits left such a strong magical residual and that on top of where Goldstein died. Between researchers and all those tourists wanting tours of the Petersburg Barrens, Quest actually patrols the godforsaken place. Well, at least near the attractions. A lot of the seedy elements moved east to Hopewell.

“Jeeves,” Kane calls, holding his glass in the air above him, “another drink.”

A sharply dressed young man promptly enters the patio to fetch Kane’s drink. “Sir,” the butler says, “again, my name isn’t Jeeves, its-“

“Not important,” Kane interrupts. “I like Jeeves. Now, my drink?” Mei climbed out of the pool. “And make it quick. Something more important to do just showed up.”

In the Den of a Mansion in a Compound in an Undisclosed Location

“Damn it!” Sunder curses. “Get that one! Ja-, er… Le-,..! Just come here! Come here, come here, come here!” Sunder chases the rambunctious toddler toddling quickly and out of reach. Arthur, a tall, lanky young man with a bit of a scruffy appearance contradicting his fine attire, steps in the way of the child who then dives underneath the couch. Sunder, exasperated, shouts, “You’re getting in the tub and that’s IT!”

“Just ‘cause I’m part of your magical group doesn’t mean I get baby sitting duty!” Arthur says in disgust. Surveying the room while the other twin runs down a hallway. “You know, kids this unruly deserves only one thing.”

Sunder looks at Arthur, echoing Arthur’s words, “A nanny!”

Somewhere in Rural Asia

The cold of the early morning did not appear to bother the herd of caribou grazing on the summer’s grass in the vast field dotted with patches of flowers in various colors. The mountain range behind them provided the perfect back drop for a would be painter… would one be around. In spite of the soft patter of hooves on the soft earth, all was still and near silent.

Except for a slight click of a weapon having a round chambered. Even in the near silence, the tiny noise startled the caribou, with the herd looking in the general direction of the noise, standing motionless. By the time they notice the pistol barrel seeming to float in mid air, the weapon fires putting a large entry wound on the left side of the head of one of the caribou, the right side of its head exploding into bits of bone, muscle, and brain, the poor creature’s right eye being pushed out of its socket.

Immediately, all the caribou run away from the noise, scattering in all directions since most do not know exactly from where the shot originated. Once the caribou fled, the armored figure becomes visible and moves to the kill. Removing his helmet, Alex holsters the Ares Predator heavy pistol. One of three blades from his right hand extends which promptly cleans the animal. Throwing the huge, heavy animal over a shoulder, the ork walks a short distance to a nearby four wheel drive, all terrain vehicle to prep it for the trip home.

We will eat well tonight, Alex thinks to himself. This kill with the others should mean plenty of meat for the winter. Life is so peaceful here. I wish I had the inclination to do this years ago.

Washington, D.C.

Kirah slows her heart rate and breathing through skills learned in her line of work.

“Focus Kirah,” she says to herself. Looking through the scope of the 50 caliber sniper rifle, she sees Dana sitting with the target on a terrace of swanky restaurant, laughing as if she had no care in the world. Dana’s slight build and flawless features belies just how dangerous she is. The target, an elf wearing a slick suit and the jewelry to match, clearly wants the world to see just how important he is. Too bad for him, Kirah thinks. Probably would be better for him had he not actually be important. The wind is calm, she thinks. I have the range just need the signal. Dana said she’d flip her hair away from her shoulders. Stay steady. There it is!

Kirah squeezes the trigger and the round nearly rips the head off of the hapless corporate V.P. as it travels on tearing off the right arm and chest of a woman just behind him at another table before finally stopping in the concrete floor. “Ooh, a two-fer!” she says after assessing the damage. Hundreds of feet away, Dana has already pulled her concealed monowhip, cutting the two stunned bodyguards into a few, large but disconnected bits. Before the patrons can react, Dana is over the decorative fence surrounding the patio, disappearing into the night.

“It’s like printing money,” says Dana over the radio.

Quest Headquarters, Richmond, VA

Moriarty sits at his desk in a cheap suit from twenty years ago and an old, wide, 20th century tie he must have picked up at a homeless shelter. Partially buried under actual paper was his name plate: “Captain James Moriarty.” Clearly not having shaved, and perhaps not even showered, Moriarty dug through the paper files and documents clearly looking for something.

“Damn it,” Moriarity curses under his breath, “where the hell is that file.”

Forget the file, he thinks. Where the hell did Katherine go? This is her gig, not mine. This just isn’t my thing at all, but she ensured that I would replace her when she left… somehow. I didn’t realize she hated me so much to take me off the street, promote me, and make me in charge of our magical group.

Exasperated, Moriarty throws himself backward in his desk chair, looking at the ceiling and pushing his fingers through his hair. Moriarty’s loss of sanity would have to wait as an officer knocks on his open door.

“Sir,” the officer says, “the press is waiting for your statement about that serial killer.”

“Yeah,” Moriarty responds without looking at him. “The Dwarf Tosser, as the media calls him. Alright, I’ll be there in a minute.” This job sucks, thinks Moriarty. Damn that Katherine. She knew I’d stick it out to keep some ethics in the police force.

Moriarty gets up, disheveled and crooked tie in all. “Let’s get this over with.”

A Buddhist Sangha, Richmond, VA

Zee sat crossed legs, perfectly straight back, and eyes closed. I don’t get this, she thinks to herself. Timber really likes this, saying it’s comforting and helps to clear your head. Well, there’s too much stuff in THIS head that makes this whole thing difficult. All these monks and nuns here don’t say much. It’s so quiet it’s hard to believe we’re in the city.

Timber sat the same as Zee, facing her. His breath was rhythmic and steady. Zee’s breathing matched his, though her mind wandered.

Timber and I have gone through a couple of good scraps over the past year after all that save the world shit. I guess he’s a good guy and we make a pretty good team, so if he wants me to waste some time hanging around here, I suppose it’s okay. That whole non-violent shadow running thing is next to impossible to do. Sometimes you just can’t stun everybody. Though, the bean bag gun is a lot of fun. Zee smiles slightly. Which run was it where I used that and hit some poor guy in the head?

He’s had my back when it counted and a couple of times saved me from being in a pine box. He says it’s no big deal and something he’s just supposed to do. And I’ve made sure he didn’t die on a couple of other occasions. It’s getting to the point where we can almost guess what the other is doing.

I need to see the girls. It’s been a couple of weeks. Timber doesn’t really get along with them, but they’re cool to hang with. Can’t wait until Kirah and Dana get back from D.C.

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Arise

Alex, the Ork also known as “Grummish”, sits behind his desk in his corner office overlooking the Petersburg Barrens, his oasis in desolation. He sits in silence as he reads the briefing documents from Dr. Talley and Dr. Chamberlain, covering the pending action against Bill and more mundane facets of overall operations. Alex is distracted, a worry he had not felt for some time. A worry of losing someone important. Melissa’s death was unexpected and not “worried” over, painful as it was. In this case, he knew people were going to die. The only question was “who?”

A knock at the door interrupts Alex’s anxiety fueled musings.

“Come,” Alex says sternly. A tone underlying his feelings.

Jeremy opens the door slowly, sheepishly poking just his head in. “Sir, thanks for talking with me.”

“Come in Jeremy and have a seat,” Alex says flatly in a tone that could be interpreted as annoyance, but is really driven by concern. Not that Jeremy would know. “I am surprised to see you given the consequences you received, but let me express my appreciation for having the fortitude to face me. What is it that you want?”

Jeremy walks into the room, and Alex’s eye catches the strange, crooked sword at his side. Jeremy’s side arm is in a shoulder holster.

“That is not standard issued equipment,” Alex states. “Why-”

“I’m sorry sir,” Jeremy sputters. “Ms. Spitfire authorized the weapon as an addition for some of us, in her role as acting security chief. I hope she hasn’t overstepped her bounds.”

“Well, that is her prerogative.” Alex says, leaning back in his chair, removing his glasses and tossing them onto the glass of his desk. “I imagine you, like some others, have spent time with the Maiden?”

“Um, yes sir.” Jeremy answers, the trepidation clear in his voice. “Ever since you said she was the ethics officer, Ms. Spitfire felt that the Maiden’s role should have some authority.”

“I see,” Alex says, distracted by his anxious thoughts. “Now, neither the sword nor the Maiden are truly why you are here. Why the visit?”

“I wanted to say I’m sorry for the role I played in Melissa’s death.”

“I imagine you are, given your suffering.”

“But, it’s not just that…” Jeremy’s voice quivers.

“Oh?” Alex’s voice is aloof and distant.

“I just need to get through this…” Jeremy pauses for a few seconds. “This is hard, but she said I had to if I were to find peace.”

“And?” Alex’s posture changes and a sincerity enters his voice as he leans forward with full attention.

“I-,… I forgive you.”

“You think I need your forgiveness?” Alex asks, his brow furrowed, but his tone softening.

“It’s not for you. It’s for me.”

Alex leans forward, resting his head on his hand, staring intently at Jeremy, waiting for Jeremy to explain more.

“Um, that’s all I wanted to say about that.” Jeremy shifts restlessly in his seat, finally rising to his feet. “Sir, me and some of the guys want to go with you and the Maiden. Wherever that is to do whatever we need to do.”

Alex turns his head slightly, casting a sidelong glance at Jeremy. “That may very well get you killed.”

“I know,” Jeremy answers. “But, better to live and maybe die to be part of the world and contribute to it.”

Alex’s thoughts drift away from the office. Away from Jeremy. Away from Bill. Away from everything. Back to his life before being Grummish. He thinks back to his idealism and zeal in helping others through being a doctor. A slight smile reaches the corners of Alex’s lips.

“Indeed. No truer words have I heard spoken.” Alex rises to his feet and extends his hand to Jeremy. “You and any others who feel compelled to join us are welcome to do so. Voluntarily, of course.”

Jeremy grasps his leader’s hand. “Thank you, sir. I’ll let the others know.” Alex motions to Jeremy to leave. Sill standing, Alex thinks, “He’s dead if he goes, but lives well in doing so. Were we all so lucky.”

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A not-so-by-chance meeting among "friends"

The heavy door to the ancient, yet perfectly preserved, temple burst inward framing a man in a gray cloak and fine, expensive garments of antiquity. Striding into the center of the room the man stops and yells, “Where are you!?”

A ghostly shape of a man appears in front of him, hovering a foot from the floor. “You’re going by ‘Bill’ these days, right?” A faint smile appears in wisps of shimmering, golden fog across the ghost’s face.

“Do not play games with me, you… collaborator!” Bill appears furious, his skin even flushed with blood. All of which was simply an illusion hiding Bill’s real form.

“Collaborator?” The ghost chuckles which echoes faintly in the empty hall. “You’re the one who wants to take over this plane. One can only guess at the insanity of that decision.” The ghost’s voice has a rhythmic, almost musical quality. Carefree and peaceful.

“You are weak!”, yells Bill enraged. “I should—”

“End me? But you can’t,” interrupts the spirit softly. “I’m way smarter than you. And intelligence beats strength every time.”

“Care to test me?” Bill seethes.

The ghostly shape outstretches it’s arms and fingers, laying bear its chest. “Give it your best shot.” Its smile does not fade.

“Not here—”

“Of course you want it to be someplace else, you dullard! But you’re not going to get me any place else than here. Remember? I’m smart. You, well,… not so much.”

Bill falls silent.

“Now, the last time you tried this, you were foiled—” The spirit is interrupted.

“By mortals!”

The spirit chuckles again. “I was going to say ‘by a bunch of young women’. But, yes, they were mortals. Including their leader as I recall. Those cursed little ladies kicked your pompous ass.”

“They had that dragon on their side,” Bill’s voice trails off.

The spirit crosses its arms and shakes its ghostly head. “Also technically a mortal. And one nearing the end of his life. So, you’re saying a bunch of girls and an ancient, decrepit dragon kicked your immortal ass.”

“You know they’re going to try this here. In your house.”

The spirit laughs aloud. “My house? Wow, you really are dense. I visit here. It’s not my home. You win and turn this world to a garbage pit, I go home, with no more thought to this place than a fond memory. You are the one that seems anchored here. If this place is home to anyone, even the mortals, well, this is your home.”

A silence hangs in the room for several seconds, finally interrupted by the spirit. “You want some advice? From someone much smarter than you, Bill?”

Bill extends his arm, gesturing that the other spirit continue.

“Go home and forget this place. Those mortals actually worked out a way to kill you off. Not just banishment, but the end all, nothing coming after it, totality of death. Already got your bloody friend. You’re mad, but its rooted in fear. You know, you have a tragic flaw.”

“A tragic flaw?” Bill scoffs.

“Yeah, you know. Like a Shakespearean tragedy? Oh, wait. Strong but stupid, so you probably don’t know. Doesn’t matter. You’re pride is going to get you killed.”

“I know you helped them,” Bill accuses.

“Gave them a box of worthless trinkets. Money. Never quite understood it.”

“They’re coming here—”

“Good!” shouts the spirit. “I’m making popcorn and going to relax watching this spectacle. Win or lose, you’re going to make my millennium!”

Bill, finally disgusted, vanishes.

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Take one for the team

It was late, at least for the two spellcasters who had been up since who remembers when trying to learn the complexities of a spell written eons ago. Sunder looked more bedraggled than his counterpart Kane who takes special care of his appearance. Conversations had ended and now each poured over the written passages from their tablet computers, facets of which were translated by an expert team of magical theorists, both spellcasters and academics alike. Suddenly the silence of the dark conference room with it’s dimmed lights is broken by Sunder slapping his forehead with his hand. Then his body becomes slack, slouching further in his seat, his eyes open and rolling as his head shook left to right.

“Shit!” Sunder exclaims. “I—, wha—-, hm—-, AHHHH!”

Kane looked up, “What the hell?”

Sunder tosses the tablet, sending it skidding in front Kane. Kane looked down at it, reading the content.

“What the fuck!” Kane curses, shaking his head. “This shit just gets better and better…” Kane’s voice trails off.

“So!” Sunder says, “Who’s gonna take one for the team?!”

=============

The spell requires the sacrifice of a magical, sentient being, like a spell caster, who has no essence loss and who gives his/herself willingly for the ritual. The leader of the ritual spell must kill the sacrifice in one stroke using a bladed weapon magical in nature.

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YOU touch it!

The jerky camera movements aside, the image quality of the amateur video played during the evening news still showed with crystal clarity. Three young men from the backwoods of rural Virginia are seen beside what appeared to be a black, featureless wall.

“Touch it man!” yells one of them to the others. “Touch that <bleep>!”

“Nah, man,” answers another angrily. “you <bleep> do it!”

“I ain’t touchin’ that <bleep>,” answers the third, shoving the other two.

“Y’all just don’t got the <bleep> for it!”

“Huh?!” says one man, facing the black wall. “This is weird <bleep>.” He gestures to the wall, and is suddenly shoved toward it, his right arm plunging into the blackness. The man cries out in pain, pulling away from the wall, less the amount of the arm that had entered the darkness. He drops to his knees grasping the stump, the blood spurting from the arteries of the severed limb pixelated so that the gore of the bloodied, but perfectly severed, stump could not be seen.

“Oh, <bleep>!” says the other two in unison. “Dude, man, y’all gonna need to see someone ’bout that!” The two frightened men run toward their truck leaving. The fourth man, holding the camera only says, “<bleep>. Aw, man, let me find some bandages or something.”

The man missing the limb falls over unconscious, blood oozing into the Earth as the camera video stops.

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Day 4...

The Petersburg Barrens typically looks like any other blight in a metroplex, far from the shining brick, steel, and glass buildings of downtown Richmond. The people living here lead simple lives sometimes avoiding illegal activities or, perhaps, engaging in such activity. In any event, P-Berg is quiet on Sunday mornings with few venturing out. While a cloudless, beautiful day, the din of the battle could be heard for miles, breaking the calm. Lazarus, Grummish, Katai, the Maiden, Perfect, Detective Moriarty, Jazz, and M_Dragon once again were fighting the forces of… evil? Horrible spirits in contorted bodies with limbs of tentacles, insect-like articulated arms, and unnatural human like appendages surrounded a much larger manifested spirit. A spirit who consumed the life force of others so that he may stay and further degrade this place turning the ruins into breeding grounds of chaos.

Earlier in the day, the great spirit captured Mortis, perhaps one of the deadliest shots in all the world. Taken through the combined firepower of the truly experienced operators of the team. The spirit paid the price, being driven off by the team, but not before Mortis was firmly in the grip of the beast. Now it was only a matter of time before Mortis would be forced to give up any information he knows, including memories he long ago forgot.

Just another day, just another hour, thought Lazarus to himself, trying to steady himself in the face of the horrible abomination of the spirit itself. Lazarus woke in the van enroute to the next safehouse and the supplies of ammunition, weapons, and armor to continue the fight. Magic may have healed him, but he feels certain that a chunk of his skull didn’t come back. Once again, in a similar building and in a similar fight. Please don’t let me relive my namesake again, Lazarus thought. The ringing in his ears cleared, his fear swallowed, and he could focus on the battle on hand.

Through the much enlarged opening in the wall of the building, Lazarus could survey the group. Grummish stood in front of the beast, slicing off portions of the tentacles, but unable to stop the remaining tentacles. Within a split second, Grummish was picked up and thrown 30 feet, impacting in the brick and mortar wall of the row house, creating a man-sized crater in the center. After impacting the wall, Grummish fell thirty feet to the ground.

Three drones buzzed around overhead, focusing their heavy weapons onto the master spirit, the large caliber bullets tore through the spirit’s manifested form. The monster’s response is to grab one of the drones and crushed it within the grip of the beast’s tentacles. Jazz could be heard immediately after the drone’s destruction. “Grr…,” Jazz groaned over the radio, with the two remaining drones moved further away. “Ow that stings… Lost another drone. We’re running out of drones, if anyone cares.”

Moriarty dropped to the ground surrounding both he and Grummish, the faint blue shimmering effect barely noticeable during the day. Having seen this tactic before, the spirit adjusts its attack, and via the use of magic, pulls down the entire brick facing of the front of the row house down onto Moriarty and Grummish, taking them both out of the fight, buried in a ton of bricks and mortar.

Surprising the monster, Katai kicked open the door of a dilapidated row house across the street, unleashing his Panther Assault Cannon on the… back? How can a creature with so many human eyes on stalks sticking out of its body have a back, asked Katai to himself. With loud shrieks, the creature reaches out to a man hiding across the street bringing the hapless victim to the gaping maw, losing a chunk of his shoulder from long, serrated teeth piercing completely through the meat and bone.

“Damn bystanders,” Lazarus curses under his breath. He quickly changes targets and fills the poor man with bullets, killing him. “Can’t let that thing restore his energy by turning the dude to a human raisin,” Lazarus says to himself in an effort to alleviate any guilt at killing some innocent guy just watching the carnage. The spirit roars in anger, and after taking far more damage from the drones and Katai, it vanishes. For now.

“Target has left the area,” Lazarus announces over the radio.

“We can’t keep this up!” calls Jazz over the radio. “This thing is all over the news. People are calling Richmond another Chicago, which is bringing in so called experts and researchers to gawk at the thing. More people just means more fuel for that thing. Set that aside, stores of weapons, ammunition, drones,… everything, is running low. And, if no one’s counting, this finishes round nine! Mortis is missing, Perfect is unconscious…”

“We will keep this up, using your colloquialism, for as long as we live. If necessary. There is no other choice.” Grummish’s words sounded tired and yet galvanizing. Everyone could tell from his tone he planned to go the distance, whatever it took. “Dragon, how is our progress to the next drop zone for supplies?”

M_Dragon’s voice could be heard over the radio. “We’re out of heavy security armor, so we’re going to have to find some armor of a more legal variety. Panther Assault Cannon rounds are a no go for the next drop, but we do have grenades.”

“That will have to do,” answered Grummish.

“Look, I get the consequences, but I ain’t dying here in the filthy street for the cause,” says Moriarty over the radio with a grunt. The shifting of the bricks from Grummish’s effort to dislodge the two of them was gaining some success.

“You will die,” states Grummish flatly, “if that is what it takes.”

“Nice pep talk, big guy,” scoffs Jazz. “I’ll see what I can dig up in the way of equipment and keep you posted. Good luck guys.”

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The Distraction

The front end of the car smashes its way through the wall of the house, causing the ceiling of the room to collapse. Katai, in heavy armor with his Panther Assault Cannon is pinned under the car. The car’s weight on the dilapidated row house’s floor gives way, sending the car, and Katai, into the basement.

“A car?!” screams Lazarus over the din of the battle. “A fraggin’ car?!”

“I’m going outside.” With his brief statement, Grummish jumps through the new opening. Grummish is almost not recognizable under the heavy armor, heavily damaged by slashing marks which tear open the armor in several places. Blood trickles out of the openings. The Maiden follows, screaming in a thick, guttural accent, “For the King!”

“Why’s the plan always, ‘Get him’?!” Lazarus ducks behind the remains of the brick wall, narrowly avoiding the grasp of a purplish tentacle entering through the window, it’s ivory claws visible in the sucker-like divots.

“Hey,” calls Moriarty with a chuckle, covered in similar heavy armor, scorched from some fire, the plastics of which melted down to the his skin. “At least I’m getting paid!” A column of fire enters through the wall’s remains from outside in the street, but they curve around Moriarty’s body, the shimmering of the small globe of magical protection surrounding him, sparing him from the deadly flames.

“Bite me!” Lazarus grabs his crotch with his left hand, and leans out with his sub machine gun in his right, spraying bullets outside.

“Ugh…” groans Katai over the radio. “Don’t catch cars… I’m gonna need a minute to dig out. Where the hell is my gun?!”

Grummish flies back through the opening in the building, crashing through the plaster and wood of the interior wall behind them.

“Jazz, where the hell’s my air support!” yells Lazarus through the radio. Jazz’s much calmer female voice replies. “I got two drones down, last two coming in hot.”

Another tentacle enters through the wall’s opening, tearing the helmet off of Lazarus, the hooks ripping through his skull, leaving part of his brain exposed underneath. He falls limp, dropping to the floor. Moriarty calls over the radio, “Lazarus is down!” Moriarty leaps across the room, covering Lazarus within the protection of his spell.

“We’ve beat you before,” chants Perfect the shark shaman fighting outside, “we will again!” A strange, high pitched whining, like a siren, can be heard from outside originating with Perfect’s spell. Fire licks through the windows and a screeching of what sounds like a hundred ravens can be heard, all the individual voices overlapping one another. A heavy thud hits the remains of the front wall over and over, causing dust to rain down inside the room. With each thud, Perfect’s groans can be heard over the radio.

Entering from the opening in the back wall, Grummish strides forward, his Ares Predatory heavy pistol in hand, each bullet fired punctuating each step he makes. The blur of a tentacle enters the room, placing Grummish in its crushing grip, pulling the ork outside.

Outside, a series of explosions occur, rattling the old building, causing much of it to finally collapse from the damage…

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