Shadowrun: The Gang Wars Log

   Here’s an account of an old SR II campaign – from about ten years ago now: It didn’t run all that long – which was something of a disappointment, since it was one of the few that I got to play in, rather than running. Still, there are several useful ideas to be found in it, so… Most of it’s from Douglas’s viewpoint, but it does try to at least describe what everyone else was up to.

Prequel: Douglas Parente’

   Douglas has a few vague memories of somewhere else before he came to live with Lehlan Parente’ – but the scattered images of his very early childhood tell him very little. He’s not even sure of just how long ago that was; even a “photographic memory” starts getting unreliable about early childhood. He thinks he’s 19 – but he could easily be a year or two off. Lehlan was unwilling to talk about how Douglas came to live with her – or about where he’d lived before.

   Perhaps she didn’t know.

   Lehlan’s little scams and connections supplemented the subsistence-level freebies that supported most of the barrens-dwellers a bit, but Douglas still spent a lot of time running the streets and scrounging for extra supplies. The local gangers took him in young; he had a talent for hacking vending machines and dispensers, low-security warehouse doors, and similar systems, with a cheap pocket cyberterminal. It wasn’t a big income in absolute terms – but it meant plentiful food, warm clothing, and a few extra NY. Not enough to draw the notice of the real heavy hitters, but it made a big difference on the street.

   He didn’t get in on the fights much. He was young and small – and his talents were handy otherwise.

   Over the years Douglas acquired a series of better terminals, a few bits of the cheaper, hacking-related, cyberware (but not much; it made him feel pretty odd), and a powerful loyalty to his gang. They’d taken him in and protected him when he needed help. Lehlan’s relatives were family as well, but they were a lot more distant – and a lot less plentiful.

   Douglas was in his teens, and adolescent, when his magical abilities began to unfold. He’d always had a superb memory, a remarkable ability to concentrate on things, and a vivid imagination, but he wasn’t really prepared for summoning spirits or casting spells.

   He did the same thing he always did when he wanted to know about something; he got on the matrix and began rummaging around.

   It was pretty confusing. Like most untutored mages he started off relying pretty heavily on fetishes and concentration (especially for the utility spells that helped support his relatives and gang), but he was clever enough to realize that he needed a teacher. Some more searching turned one up; “Lo Sung Wang”, an eccentric hermetic mage of Chinese extraction.

   Master Sung had gathered several adepts and lesser talents under his tutelage (His reasons for gathering a private magical group remain unknown), but was more then happy to recruit another full-powered mage. They were hard to find. Most of them left the barrens soon after coming into their power.

   Lehlan died when Douglas was around 16 (by his count anyway). There simply came a day when she didn’t wake up. If she had known anything more about Douglas’s past, she took it with her. Her relatives certainly didn’t; as far as they knew she’d simply picked him up somewhere and then decided to keep him.

   By then Douglas was a fairly advanced young mage – and one of the Wraith Masque’s major resources. He’s never tried to get beyond “lieutenant”; he feels that any gang leader needs both formidable physical combat and intimidation skills – neither his forte.

   Douglas has never really added up just how much the Wraith Masque relies on his powers. He heals their wounds and diseases, changes faces on those who get too hot, provides a sizable chunk of the drugs they sell, acts as magical backup in maintaining their territory, can swiftly locate valuables during break-ins, does their hacking, has watcher spirits keep an eye on the rival gangs, enhances their abilities – and makes sure that they have enough to eat.

   While it is possible that Lehlan really did “just pick up” a stray kid off the streets, it’s really far more likely that she had some ulterior motive to take care of him at first. She probably got attached to him pretty quickly – his innate charisma, minor psychic talents, and the natural adhesiveness of a small child would make that a foregone conclusion – but it’d still take time. The fact that she was never willing to discuss the matter pretty much implies that there was something a bit odd about her motive; she might’ve been making up for something in her past, or doing someone a “favor” out of friendship – but, knowing her, a bribe to keep a kid safely out of sight for a while seems likely.

   So; was he kidnaped? A hostage? Part of a study on the development of clones in various environments? Child of some mysterious occult entity? A genetically engineered experiment? An embarrassing bastard? Hidden from enemies? Why hasn’t anyone ever come to get him? Did someone die? Do they think he died? Did someone lose track of him? Will they be coming later – or if something happens? Would there be competitors? Would his life suddenly change drastically? Would there be more then one “claimant”? Were some of the minor odd encounters he’s had more meaningful then he felt they were? What will the GM elect to do with a young mage with a mysterious past? For answers to these and other questions, we must refer you to the actual game.

 

Episode One : Deathbringer Versus The UPS.

   Douglas was rummaging around on the matrix looking at spell formulas – the online temples of Bast and Loki offered some for free that looked pretty entertaining – when a massive, armored, monstrosity of a cyber-troll came stomping up and banged on his door.

   Douglas nearly bailed out the back then and there; the damn thing was carrying around enough weapons and explosives to level the building. The only thing that kept him from doing so was that the – the whatever it was – was claiming (loudly) that Master Sung had sent it.

   It was too big to get in the door anyway. He left it on the lawn – with a masking spell, god alone knew what kind of trouble something like THAT would draw – and called Master Sung.

   Master Sung HAD sent it. He had an errand that he wanted Douglas and Seriv to run and had thought that it “might be useful”. He never did explain where it’d come from in the first place. The “errand” was simple enough; it seemed that he’d had a crate full of herbs – some sort of ritual component – shipped from China, and some miserable bureaucrat had refused to turn it over to him. He wasn’t too clear as to why. It might’ve simply been that he’d upset the guy somehow (He often seemed to have something of a talent for that) – but, knowing Master Sung, it was probably simply that he’d neglected to get all the paperwork filled out. There was probably some inspection, or permit, or something required to bring vegetation into the country.

   As for why he hadn’t simply taken it – the offices were just across from the local Lone Star station. It wouldn’t have been a good idea. By now it would have been shipped back to the warehouse. He wanted Douglas and Seriv to drop by the place and swipe it for him.

   Fortunately, the shipping and storage depot was down near the docks instead of next to Lone Star. “Armed” with a description of the crate, their magical skills – and a an eleven-foot tall golemesque monstrosity with assorted heavy weapons under a mask spell – Douglas and Seriv headed down to check out the warehouse.

   It was pretty basic. A low-power electrical fence behind a light security fence, a warehouse, a vehicle shed for the forklifts and trucks, and a yard full of shipping containers. A few security types keeping an eye on the trucks that went in and out.

   Douglas and Seriv were trying to figure out how they could sneak in when the troll-thing announced that it had detected enemies, stomped in through the gateway, and blew away the security guard who tried to intercept it’s advance. Douglas and Seriv pulled back under the cover of one of Douglas’s minor air elementals. This wasn’t what they’d had in mind. Douglas dropped the masking as well – hopefully the guards would join the rout just as soon as they saw what they were actually up against.

   They never got the chance. Deathbringer had it’s machine gun out, and was spraying the entire area. This was hard on the guards and those employees who hadn’t managed to hide in time.

   Douglas wiped the “signature” of his magic off the lunatic thing; he didn’t want to risk being connected to THIS. Everybody was out of sight, or dead, and cops with heavy weapons were likely to be showing up in the next few minutes. There wasn’t any hope of survival for the troll-thing now.

   That was probably a good thing. Those poor buggers on security detail had only been doing their jobs.

   Still, after this the security would tighten up, and Lone Star would be all over the place. They wouldn’t have a chance this good again for weeks. Douglas and Seric used levitation and invisibility to hop the fence and get in while the getting was good.

   The offices were none too impressive – it was just a warehouse after all – and the secretary was huddled under the desk. A quick mindprobe courtesy of Seric got them the access code to the computer. Sadly, the place had nothing that was really worth stealing and it looked like the Masters herbs had already been transshipped. Seriv’s nature spirit couldn’t find the crate either, and the shipping code explanations were encrypted.

   The blast of an assault cannon shot, followed by a sudden drop in the gunfire, pretty much told them the fate of the cybertroll. Douglas sent an elemental to check; he was dead alright. How had he ever survived long enough to grow up and collect all that gear with that kind of mentality?

   The secretary didn’t have the encryption key. They tried the computer in the administrator’s office, but it actually had some active security programs on it – more then Douglas felt like sticking around to tinker with while the cops closed in. They considered simply lifting the damned thing – there wasn’t anything else around the warehouse light enough and valuable enough to snatch – but they didn’t want to attract attention to their intrusion with that many cops about. Douglas settled for copying the files over to his terminal; the system didn’t really object to running the backup subroutine.

   They skipped out just ahead of the cops. Between Seric’s spirit “concealment”, Douglas’s invisibility spell, levitation, and the confusion – and bomb disposal team – surrounding the troll’s corpse, no one noticed them leaving.

   Master Sung was not pleased to hear that his herbs had been shipped with no forwarding address. Douglas offered to try to get him more herbs by sending a few elementals to China, but Sung wanted HIS crate; it’d been sent by a friend of his.

   Douglas settled down to cracking the encryption. His cyberterminal wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t like the lousy warehouse was going to have heavy security. After all – the system hadn’t made any fuss about him simply backing up everything on it.

   It took some fumbling, and a fair chunk of the night and morning, but he got it deciphered eventually; The box had been shipped to some sort of magical security group – “Federated Company Enterprises”, specializing in bodyguards and magical aides. It looked like they only had 6 people – and no offices – but it was still dismaying. Their edge was magic; they weren’t really up to dealing with magical security specialists.

   Douglas let the Master know about it. He seemed pretty – amused? He said that there was actually only one guy in the “company” – and that he was incompetent. He’d encountered him awhile back. He just liked to use multiple ID’s, so that the amount of failure that “stuck to” any one of them would be limited. His real name was Vetari.

   The Master faded off into grinning memories. He still wanted his herbs though – although he was up to offering a specific (5000 NY) fee for them though.

   Douglas settled down to trying to trace Mr Vetari. It wasn’t hard to locate his real address. Evidently he really wasn’t all that competent, at least when it came to dealing with the Matrix. Mr Vetari lived over in Renton.

   Seriv elected to simply call him – and to try to set up a meet under “cover” of trying to hire on. He told him about some horrendous things he’d supposedly been up to (Douglas listened in a bit. Wasn’t that from episode 217 of “Rampage The Mage”? Still, he told it really convincingly). The guy didn’t even want to turn on his video pickup – much less meet him. It might’ve – OK, almost certainly had been – a mistake for Seriv to go on so about his raw destructive power.

   Douglas had to check in with the gang a bit. The lookout was so looped out on Bliss that an army could have wandered by him. Douglas telepathically fed him a horrendous little nightmare about “What happened to the last guy who zoned out on guard duty” to make the point. Pretty much left him quivering. Still, there didn’t seem to be anything up at the moment. They had some time.

 

Episode Two : In which there are yet more dead guys.

   They went to check out the physical address. It turned out to be a small southwestern style home with a tiny patch of lawn, a conventionally-dull exterior, and a fairly high-powered set of wards – but no signs of physical security beyond the usual cameras.

   There wasn’t supposed to be anything illegal, odd, or even really valuable, about Master Sung’s package. They weren’t here to get into a war. Douglas and Seriv decided to simply ring the doorbell and ask about it.

   Nobody answered and the door was open. Seriv stepped in and asked a minor hearth spirit to look around; it reported that there were several dead people – but no live ones – around. Not so good, but if anyone wanted to set them up it was already too late.

   The dead guys were in the kitchen. Two in business suits, one in regular street clothes. He had a bullet through the head. The suits had apparently suffocated; it looked like something had clamped across their noses and mouths hard enough to squeeze the blood out. they’d all been around a table and had fallen back. No ID’s, no apparently magical traces – although they could’ve been “Silenced” or “Cleansed” – no obvious clues, and no herb package – although there was an impression on the bedroom rug which would’ve been about the correct size. One of the dead guys had some red marks around his wrists; could’ve been cuffs, but it could’ve been a lot of other things too.

   Douglas tried Cataloging the place. Maybe there would be something worthwhile about – and the spell was a lot faster then a physical search.

   All that turned up was a newly-arrived package out on the porch – and some sort of communications setup in the attic/crawlspace. Seriv had his hearth spirit get the gear while Douglas checked the package.

   The “gear” was a secure comlink setup. The package was a series of photographs demonstrating that they’d been under surveillance for hours now – and a computer- enhanced photographic threat, depicting Master Sung’s boarding house exploding with a time stamp indicating 45 minutes from now.

   Douglas sent a lesser spirit – which was apparently banished along the way – called (no answer), tried to get one of the other students to go over (no luck), and headed out with Seriv. They had to park the bikes – rush hour was holding them up too much – but a bit of elemental help boosted Seriv’s “Flight” spell nicely.

   They sounded the alarm – and sent spirits to hurry everyone out – as soon as they arrived. Douglas ran down to Master Sung’s suite and found it locked. No one answered either – but he could sense someone alive in there.

   He had Centaurous “manifest” inside to let him in. The door was jammed shut – so they just kicked a hole in the plasterboard.

   Master Sung was there all right. He’d been shot, poisoned, and otherwise abused. If it hadn’t been for his enhancement spells, he’d have been dead. Douglas could heal him enough to stabilize him – but he still needed hospitalization.

   Douglas had Centaurous manifest around Master Sung to stop the bleeding and levitate him out of the building. They made it out a minute or two ahead of the explosion. It took out the entire building. Must’ve hit a major support pillar. Either excellent planning – or really bad luck. Either way, there were no survivors, and very little to salvage – at least according to the spirits they sent to look.

   As they found out later, someone blew up the bikes they’d parked at about the same time. So much for the fancy communications gear.

   They airlifted Master Sung to the public hospital.

   The emergency room took him, but wouldn’t let them in at all; too dirty. There wasn’t much they could do for him anyway.

   “Cutter”, leader of the Wraith Masque, called them about then. It seemed that the Kinsmen were pushing the turf borders, and there was about to be a rumble. Douglas swore to himself; he’d barely be able to make it there in time. He wouldn’t be able to get any real preparations in.

   The contingent from the Kinsmen was mostly dwarves and trolls. Fortunately, the rumble was still at the insult-trading stage when Douglas and Seriv arrived. It gave them time to get a few spells and spirits ready. They sent a couple around to try to chase away “stray witnesses” – since keeping your resources quiet was always a tactical plus – and stayed back to provide fire support.

   The spirits ran off a few observers, and things were just getting serious when somebody threw some sort of linear (?) area-effect elemental flame blast thru the middle of the Masquers. Most of the ones who took the full blast were incinerated instantly.

   The Kinsmen hadn’t been expecting THAT. They began falling back in a panic; they didn’t want to get into any major magical confrontations. Unfortunately for them, falling back didn’t help them a bit. Cutter had gone berserk, while Douglas and Seriv had just seen a dozen friends burned to death. Seriv uncorked his own fireballs, while Douglas sent lesser elementals to kill whoever’d thrown that spell and went to work with his own arcane weaponry.

   Most of the Kinsmen contingent didn’t make it very far. Those who got away had watcher spirits on their tales, so as to lead Douglas and Seriv to anyone else who might be in the gang.

   Douglas had some problems of his own however. A heavily armed operative of some sort had a very heavy pistol pointed at his head. He was going on about how much trouble it had been to keep Douglas out of some operation – and how it was now time for Douglas to die.

   Douglas had his fire elementals try to set fire to the bastard, but he had some sort of protection.

   At least two mages and a heavily-cybered operative type? What the hell was going on? Why Him?

   It was at about that time that Centaurous told him that someone had just stripped away the man’s magical protections. Douglas’s street reflexes kicked in; the man’s guard was down; hit him now, ask questions later.

   Douglas’s sphere of lightning took him out – along with anyone else who might have been lurking about to back him up. In fact, the electrical pulse messed up the power grid – what there is of it in Redmond – for several blocks. It didn’t leave much to investigate, or to salvage. The mage’s dead body – the elementals had found him unconscious from the drain of his spell – didn’t yield much either. A phony ID, and a few NY worth of ordinary gear.

   No sign of whatever had persuaded him to take that kind of drain for a strike against some gangers.

   Douglas and Seriv joined the hunt. Between their occult talents, knockout drugs, and Cutter’s rampage, they captured or killed the remaining Kinsmen and their hangers-on – claiming everything they’d had along the way.

   It wasn’t much compared to the cost, but every little bit was a help.

   Douglas spent a couple of days working on the ones he’d captured. Four were suited to join the Masque’s string of prostitutes. He prepared the rest for sale; that fate would be a fitting vengeance for their part in the deaths of his friends. Drugs and magic would leave them docile and healthy, he hadn’t time for the extensive alterations that would have increased their value. He barely had time to kick them around a bit.

   They brought a decent price, although the Komun’Go claimed their usual share. Most of the rest of the loot, along with a boost to the Masque’s supply of drugs, went to building up the gang again. They’d taken part of the Kinsmen’s old territory – but were undermanned enough that they’d lost several blocks to other gangs.

   Meanwhile Douglas moved, went on some minor astral quests, joined a health club, and visited Master Sung (Who was pretty cross. He felt abused and that all of this had been aimed at Douglas. It was not the place of the student to get the master into such trouble!!! Besides, he was very tired of hospital food). Douglas was pleased he’d made it anyway.

   Whisper got into touch despite the move. He/She/It had a message for Douglas; He should expect a letter from a potential patron.

   It arrived the next day.

 

Episode III : Plumbing The Depths.

   With the gang seriously undermanned it looked like they needed some better weapons. Holdout pistols were all very well, and were usually enough, but the heavy ones had more authority and intimidation value.

   They also cost money.

   That was a small problem; they didn’t have much in the way of cash. Still, with magic there was always a way.

   Douglas and Seriv dropped by the “working” side of town with some binoculars. With Centaurous to help, it wasn’t too hard to probe the minds of some factory workers. Bachelors with a little bit of spare cash were the best for the purpose.

   Good candidates got mind-controlled and steered into weapons shops – where they bought a few heavy pistols and whatever random accessories they had the spare cash for and the salesman was pushing today. They then left the package in a nearby alleyway (Where a city spirit collected it as soon as their backs were turned), got told to “Forget”, and had the magical signature wiped away – all at long range.

   Just for caution’s sake, Douglas and Seriv kept up some concealment effects, and skipped to another part of town every few victims.

   It didn’t take them long to acquire a fair pile of guns. Making them untraceable took a bit longer, but everyone on the street knew how to do that. Not a bad haul for a few hours work.

   That made it almost time for the meeting with “Mr. Johnson”. They’d been a bit paranoid about that, but there were easier methods to set up a trap. Hell, a sniper could probably take out any one of them easily enough.

   “Mr. Johnson” turned out to be a short and lightly built human by the name of Janus. He was a go-between for some people who wanted to remain anonymous, at least for the moment. He also liked art, which was why he’d set up the meet at the Almarin Gallery; they had a fairly decent exhibit on “Sketches Of The Great Naturalists” this week (reproductions, but good ones) – and he didn’t like to negotiate. He approached Seriv first – and tried to just hand them the “job” without any mention of payment. Seriv and Douglas, on the other hand, felt that that was missing an important middle step… What was wanted was fairly simple; a minor Wuxing office was going to be getting an important EMail in about two hours. Their would-be employers wanted it. They were supposed to get into the appropriate third-floor offices, download it from the recipients’s system, and get out. In exchange they’d each get a modest payment – 3000NY – and learn who it was that was trying to kill them and/or their friends.

   They took the job.

   There was no time for anything too elaborate. It’d take close to fifteen minutes just to get there.

   At least the building didn’t look to have all that much in the way of security. Presumably there wasn’t much call for it normally – and any business hated to spend unnecessary money. Hmmm.

   It took about thirty minutes to get a battered toolbox full of old wrenches and such. Magically changing their clothes to damp stained overalls, ragged work gloves, and soggy shoes – without their gang colors – only took another couple of minutes.

   On their way through the door, Serivsent a hearth spirit up to make a mess of the third-floor plumbing. Some fast talk, grease on the secretary’s desk, water trickling down the stairs (courtesy of a little water elemental), and some debate with the building manager got them sent up with a guard to repair things before too much water damage was done. Ok, they were being accompanied by a guard – but they could probably deal with him without much trouble. There was less then an hour to go now.

   Douglas kept claiming that he had a feel for these things (An almost reasonable claim for a minor talent these days). He got the guard to hold a wrench while Seriv “went to shut off the main valve”. Seriv actually sent the hearth spirit to do that – while he looked for the office they wanted. Some pesky minor executive was using it.

   Seriv had his hearth spirit spill his (hot) coffee in the man’s lap. He headed for the bathroom, where Douglas doused him with water. (Don’t yell like that! It’ll stop the burning and keep the stain from setting! Keep calm, here, just step into the stall and give me your pants and coat, I’ll dry `em out with the blow drier.)

   The executive promptly drafted their guard to keep everybody else OUT of that third-floor bathroom until he had his clothes back. Douglas had to soothe him a bit with mind control once – but it kept him out of the way.

   Some mending spells, some cleaning – and some help from a “great form” water elemental behind the guards back – got the plumbing repaired and the mess cleared up in short order.

   Seriv got the file and the all-clear from Douglas, and had the hearth spirit turn on the water on again.

   They then headed down to the front desk to present their bill. OK, it was 3000NY for less then two hours work – but they HAD fixed the plumbing and it was still cheaper then most plumbers.

   Nothing like getting the victim to pay for burglarizing his place.

 

Episode IV : ARRRGH MATIES! We Be Spelljamming!

   Being incurably nosy, Douglas made a spare copy of the Email. It was encrypted of course – but you never knew; people hardly every used high-order encryptions on their Email. After that, it was time to head for the meet. It was at a nearby “Golden Archers” – part of a major sloppy soy chain, famous for it’s “Archburgers”.

   This was not going to be a good experience.

   The service was awful. The guy behind the counter was an idiot. The food was HORRENDOUS. If it hadn’t been for the fact that it would probably have sparked a massive surge in business due to the improvement in taste, they might’ve given into the urge to shove the guy behind the counter thru the french-fry strainer and deep-fry him.

   Douglas and Seriv managed to restrain themselves – although it wasn’t easy. Still, if the “you are what you eat” routine was accurate, most of the customer’s should have been oozing out the door. Maybe it was an invasion scheme by the “Slimes From Saturn”. At least new coke VI wasn’t THAT bad – compared to the food.

   “Mr Johnson” wasn’t happy with the food either. He also looked exactly like Janus – but claimed that his name was “John”, and that “Jason” was his twin brother. He stuck the downloaded disk into a pocket secretary, looked at it, and handed it to them. They thing was apparently loaded with a decryptor program; the EMail contained a bunch of information about some weird old stone tablets – extremely illegal to export under the antiquities laws alone – and the picture-signature of one “Shin-Chin”, a major figure in Wuxing. It seemed that “John’s” employers had an ongoing feud with him.

   It also seemed that the tablets contained ancient, vastly powerful, and severely illegal (If anyone knew what they were) magical formula – and had been smuggled out of China in Master Sung’s herb crate. Shin-Chin’s counterparts in China had kidnaped and/or eliminated Master Sung’s brother – since they needed his box and it’s magical ambience to conceal the tablets in – and he was one of the few living Wu Yen who might be able to translate the runes or who knew enough spirit lore to defend against those spells. THEIR elimination had apparently been ordered locally as a “minor” security precaution. Mr Shin-Chin was a Wu Jen, a student of both Lao-Tzu’s “The Art Of War” and magical tactics – and was very clever to boot. He believed in “eliminating” potential “difficulties” before they became problems. He was currently working out of Wuxing’s primary west coast facilities – right next to the magical security offices and research labs.

   This was not good. Trying to negotiate would just reveal that they knew who was after them, making them an even BIGGER target. John might be lying of course – but why bother? THEY could’ve been bribed for a lot less then that sloppy “hit” would’ve cost (Whether in money, loyalty, or favors), their little run would’ve sufficed for a trap, and using someone else’s attempt at a hit to manipulate them required a coincidence of knowledge and motive that looked pretty unlikely.

   Wuxing – or some group therin – was trying to kill them using corporate resources – and had already killed a bunch of their friends.

   Weeeelllllll SHIT.

   Douglas and Seriv quietly collected a bit of info on Wuxing, and about their main North American facility. It was, of course, in Seattle. Down by the docks and company warehouses. Evidently keeping everything in one place made it easier to maintain security – which was a fairly typical mid-level corporate setup. After all, it was their main business office. People had to go in and out all the time.

   Security was probably much tighter on the really important areas.

   They did a little brainstorming. They could skip out of course, but that left their friends unavenged, might not work, and took lots more money then they had. Getting the hit order cancelled had the same problems squared and would probably take a run as well. Getting “protected” would leave them so obligated that they’d never get our from under. Ignoring it would be fatal. Well – what you can’t evade, deflect, defend against, or ignore must be confronted.

   At least if they took out Wuxing’s local resources it was pretty likely that the kill order was a purely Seattle-office matter – especially if it’d originated with some internal faction.

   So how could they accomplish that?

   A direct strike looked sort of suicidal. Going up against an experienced mage-tactician and the magical security department of a major corp was not a job for a couple of gangers.

   They thought about indirect methods while going to inform Master Sung about his brother (And to warn the gang to try to keep under cover a while. Poisons and bombs and such were so unfocused. They didn’t have a handy horde of samurai and they didn’t have the time to try to manipulate someone else into attacking. Maybe a water-based attack? There’d be some security there as well, so a ride in would be better. Hmm. A ride. Wuxing did a lot of shipping out of the place. Major ships in and out all the time.

   There was nothing for overcoming tactics and skill – or age and treachery – or numbers and resources – like overwhelming force.

   The plan was simple enough; They’d take one of the Corps major ships, use spirits to multiply it’s speed and crash it straight into the building. If they used a big enough ship (and spirit) there would be nothing left.

   They’d need a rigger. They’d also need some idea of what what kind of security Wuxing had on their big ships. Fortunately, the Komun’Go had access to both, and they could supplement that information with a bit of magical spying.

   Douglas and Seriv did say that they’d consider the Komun’Go’s offer of employment, but that they weren’t quite ready for that yet. They couldn’t abandon their friends in the Masque. Fortunately, the Komun’Go was willing to settle for a shot at Wuxing and their usual share of any loot.

   The ships had pretty good physical security; quite a contingent of guards and heavy weapons traveled on the bigger ships. They had good instruments as well. They didn’t have much in the way of magical security. There might be some minor mystic aboard – but it just wasn’t likely.

   The biggest one leaving in the next few days would be a major cargo carrier headed for China. It would be carrying a selection of manufactured goods, lower-end electronics and computers, and other junk. Valuable in bulk, but not really worth any massive efforts.

   The Komun’Go rigger was a Korean Elf with no lower legs. He – inevitably – went by the name of “Stumpy”. He had a small fast craft of his own – although it wouldn’t be possible to load more than .5% of the 1200 cargo-container capacity of the target ship on it – but the bay was full of similar small craft. Less loot, but it would make it fairly easy to get close.

   Douglas stocked up with chemicals, some plastique, gas masks, and radio detonators – just in case. There was always the chance that something’d go wrong.

   Seric got some heavier guns and, with some help from Douglas, called up a powerful sea spirit and arranged for some basic physical disguises.

   The spirit proved more then strong enough to cloak Stumpy’s boat. Once they were within a few hundred feet of the ship, Douglas had all of his “great form” air elementals “suck up” a supply of contact knockout gas and board while an earth elemental blocked access to the communications gear. Thanks to Seriv’s flight spell they boarded right behind the elementals.

   With the air elementals to take it around and engulf people the gas attack proved extremely effective. It took less then a minute to knock out everyone aboard. Thanks to their ability to engulf small groups, there was no alarm. With no one to oppose him Stumpy easily took over the ships piloting and security systems. It went so nice and clean that Douglas didn’t even have to use any of his contingency plans.

   Sort of disappointing that.

   They stashed the crew, then probed the captain for all the passwords and scheduling data and put him under basic mental control. They needed an excuse to turn around. Fortunately it was easy enough to fake a minor engine problem that would drastically delay the ship without a few hours work in port.

   Meanwhile, Stumpy set the course, and began stealing what he could. His ship could only handle six shipping containers but – thanks to their access to the manifest – they were some of the most valuable. He swiped quite a lot of the ship’s weapons while he was at it – with the help of Douglas’s elementals in moving crates and operating the winches and hoists.

   They dropped a few more shipping containers over the side for possible later salvage, but that was all there was time for.

   Stumpy “disposed of” the Captain and wiped out any computer surveillance records while Douglas and Seriv wiped out the magical traces. Maybe some backup they missed (and which somehow survived the coming catastrophe) would show people with gas masks on, but there would be no other traces for anyone to find.

   They abandoned the ship and went fishing.

   The ship went to full, emergency, speed about half a mile out from Wuxing. With the assistance of a very powerful sea spirit it hit at almost 400 MPH.

   There wasn’t much left, even before the fuel and the armory went up. Douglas didn’t even need to send in a fire elemental to make sure of the destruction.

   Wuxing was out a pile of executives, their primary facility in North America, their security department, and hundreds of millions of NuYen. The North American division was GONE -along with those weird tablets.

   Hopefully the kill order had gone with it – or was at least in the “obsolete” pile. They’d have to sit on the loot for quite a while – but there were enough generic weapons in a couple of the crates to make the Masque one of the best equipped gangs in Seattle.

   Lone Star was besieged by theories (Most of them a lot more likely-sounding then the truth), but brought in a verdict of “Accident”.

 

Episode V : The Gods Must Be Crazy

   Things were quiet in the barrens. The local `Stars were having a major crackdown, the Wuxing disaster in Tacoma had the corps split between rampant paranoia and eager attempts to seize Wuxing’s remaining assets and North American market share, and the politicians were busy posturing between campaigns. Even the Seattle crime syndicates seemed to be between wars.

   Dull, Dull, Dull.

   Douglas and Seriv were celebrating. Master Sung’s latest “graduate” (a young master conjurer) was ready to go forth and summon. They were even considering forming their own initiatory magical group. It seemed like a good idea. Of course, a magical group needed an avatar spirit to guide it. Normally it took months to summon one – but most groups didn’t have a genuine master summoner who could conjure almost anything.

   The more they drank the more the idea sounded like it’d be worth a try.

   They laid out an uneven circle of couch cushions and embellished it with mystic runes made out of pretzels and the watchtowers of light (two lightsticks, an old flashlight, and a citronella candle). Mage, Conjurer, Shaman, and Allies – variously intoxicated – gathered about a keg to intone their badly-slurred invocation.

   And they were answered. A waiting for promises to be fulfilled. Svaha. The time between the lightning and the thunder.

   The powers spoke. They proclaimed “THE MICHJENSIN MICRO-BREWERY MUST BE KEPT FROM GOING UNDER! THIS IS YOUR PURPOSE MAGES: TO SAVE THE HOLY BEER!”.

   Well – Avatar spirits were supposed to reflect the nature of the group that summoned them. This seemed a bit extreme, but the three were inebriated enough to go along with it.

   It seemed that the brewery had insufficient orders and exposure to the general population. It was having trouble with the “Seattle Temperance Union (Pennfield Independent Delegation)” and had been having some minor equipment problems, which they couldn’t afford to fix until they got more orders.

   The quest lay before them.

   The first thing to do was to get into a few of the local restaurants. It was easy enough to simply “fade into the background” and wait until the places closed… Between invisibility, hearth spirits to conceal them, magical searches for security systems and various other tricks, it wasn’t hard. Douglas really wasn’t up to major hacking, but getting into restaurant inventory and ordering systems wasn’t exactly in that category.

   Ordering massive quantities of Michjensin beer was pretty easy. Setting up some links so that any future beer orders would be automatically shunted there was a bit harder – but he managed. They’d have to restore their entire system, or hire a serious (and expensive) programmer, to get rid of his modifications.

   They pulled the same routine at a bunch of places.

   A few complimentary kegs delivered to local Thrash Metal bands, fraternities, and bars, got the word out fairly quickly.

   They helped out at the brewery by calling up a few hearth Manitou. They could handle minor repairs, help out with minor tasks in the brewing, and otherwise be helpful. With Douglas’s enhancement spells to help them out, they called up some pretty potent spirits.

   Dealing with the people from S.T.U.P.I.D was next. Fortunately the group didn’t contain any magi or even anyone important. They were just a bunch of “normal”, if pretty puritanical, busybodies.

   You’d’ve thought that they could find some genuine issues – BTL’s, the nastier drugs, organlegging, and so on – to get up in arms about. Was it just that booze was traditional or something?

   They attended a meeting – and proceeded to wreak a little havoc. They loaded the punch with Vodka, made sure that enough coffee was served to make wide-awake drunks out of everyone, and made liberal use of mind- control spells to wipe out the groups treasury (investing half of it in a difficult-to-revoke booze stock fund – and using the other half to fund their depredations), set some of the men up with street prostitutes, set women to heaving rocks through liquor-store windows, made a mess which’d cost them their deposit, stopped payment on their advertisements – to ensure that no one would take one from them again – and put “Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer On The Wall” on the sound system on a perpetual high- volume loop.

   The various members had never been so humiliated and embarrassed in their lives.

   They tried not to make it obvious, but the members soon noticed that the newcomers were not suffering as much as they were. They couldn’t prove that most of it was the groups doing without any magic of their own – but they made them really unwelcome.

   The hall manager gave them 5000NY each to go away.

   The beer gods paid well. There was a side benefit as well; it’d be a long time before anyone would give a story that they’d been involved in anything serious any credit at all.

 

Episode VI : A Corpsicle From The Evil Humor Spirit

   In the morning there was an unpleasant surprise in the street – Cad, one of the newbies in the gang, had been stabbed, desiccated, and frozen. Serious overkill; he was really, throughly, dead. There were a few traces of some sort of “cold” astral signature about him, but not much; it was only a few hours old, but it had been pretty throughly erased. They managed to trail it about half a mile before the trace faded out. Either better shields, time, masking from other disturbances, a departed spirit – or whoever had been leaving it had shifted modes of transport.

   No physical clues, no description, no witnesses.

   Well bugger.

   At least the newscasters said pretty much the same thing about the Wuxing disaster.

   Come to think of it they hadn’t seen Jimmy (one of the older gang members) in several days. That wasn’t too unusual, but it might be worth a look.

   Nobody else had seen him either. Jimmy actually had a regular job at a local bar, so he had a SIN – which made it easier to go looking. Douglas checked the arrest filings, the news reports, and various matrix entries. Seriv went around the area and checked with everyone there, while Yohan checked the bar where Jimmie worked, his boss the usual bar patrons, and his route home.

   All they turned up was one drunk, who thought that he might’ve seen somebody go down a dead-end alleyway and not come back.

   Well what the hell. It was the only thing they had that even made a pretense of being a clue.

   The alleyway wasn’t quite a dead end. It has a few locked doors that opened into it (they looked through them astrally and found nothing much), some old fencing sealing the gap between buildings (no big deal to get over), and a lot of scuffed-up trash. Maybe a fight? A quick search turned up some bits of bloody cloth and a knife with blood on it – but not much else. The blood was too old to be a very good link, but it was better then nothing. They used it to provide a “scent” for some searching spirits.

   That was still absurdly difficult, but it led them to Jimmy’s corpse. It was in a sewer just past the edge of their turf. He was in about the same shape as Cad had been – stabbed dozens of times, desiccated, and frozen. The signature had been wiped again, but there were astral traces of some sort of self-sustaining mask that made it hard to locate the body magically, much less find out anything. Now that was something new (and would be a very handy technique if they could figure out how to duplicate it. There didn’t seem to be any robbery-motive involved anyway; all of his stuff still seemed to be on him. Late night in the barrens nobody’d seen a thing. No physical clues, or at least nothing they could sort out from the mess in the sewers. They checked the general area, just in case there was a ritual chamber, cult temple, or some other lead in the vicinity. Hopefully no one would’ve wanted to haul a body too far.

   No clues, no witnesses, no magical traces, nothing on the matrix (including the paranormal critter database), no pattern of disappearances, no references to anything that killed like that, no motive or suspect, and any amount of opportunity. Even the other gangs’d been being quiet recently.

   Well bugger.

   They arranged a funeral of sorts. It wasn’t like he’d had any deep religious convictions or any family that they knew of outside the gang.

   They got a break a little later. Somebody had seen something; A short Ork in a big hurry. “Sort of weird looking”. Not much of a trail, but it did match what little they’d been able to find of the magical one, even if there were no physical traces.

   They got it “narrowed down” to nine square blocks. Even in the barrens that covered a lot of buildings and one hell of a lot of people and places to hide – and they had nothing but a capsule description.

   Worse, even the discription might not mean anything. The guy had, or at least had access to, serious magic. A disguise was pretty easy when you just wanted to change your looks a bit – even without powers – and whatever-it-was had already demonstrated the ability to cloak it’s astral trail beyond their ability to detect it.

   So; One or more persons, who might or might not be Orks – and who might or might not have anything to do with the murders – might or might not be somewhere in any one of nine blocks. He, she, or it might or might not have an “aura” of cold that a mage could assense.

   Well bugger.

   Oh well. Whatever-it-was might have left some magical traces if it did “live” around here. They could send out some spirits to look for that. They could do some astral peeking of their own. Yohan consulted spirits and Loa, Seriv went sniffing around for Orks, and Douglas simply went around asking about general weirdness. It was the one thing they knew for sure; whatever-it-was was very dangerous and VERY weird, and barrens-dwellers were soon either very good at spotting that – or were very dead.

   Of course they usually didn’t talk about what they saw, but Douglas was a telepath. Admittedly not much of one, but it helped.

   Yohan and Douglas didn’t have much luck. There did seem to be traces of that “cold” aura about, but they couldn’t pin it down. Seriv’s direct approach proved unexpectedly fruitful; an Ork in a bar tried to shoot them.

   They blasted him unconscious almost as a reflex.

   Well he fit the description. The gun he was using looked a lot like the one they’d given to Jimmy. The aura was a bit “cold”, he had some cash – and he had no credstick or other ID.

   The bartender wanted them to kill him outside. It looked like they didn’t put up with anybody pulling a gun inside.

   The group took him elsewhere.

   They had some elementals stand guard and set about trying to get something out of his mind. They didn’t have much luck – until 10:00, when he abruptly got up and slammed Douglas across the room. Douglas replied with a lightning bolt which virtually incinerated the Ork – and unleashed some weird, skull-like, spirit that let lose a supernatural wail and a subzero tornado. It blasted the elementals as it emerged and hit Douglas hard enough to disrupt his allied spirit. Fortunately Seriv was pretty good at fire magic.

   Of course that left them with a large crater, and no information at all. Douglas put out a report on the incident – he might as well put his name on a strange new form of spirit and hope that it helped screw over any more of them that turned up.

   Seriv was getting nervous. It looked like their concentrated talents were drawing magical creatures and putting their friends in danger. He’d had some dreams that his totem was calling him to spend some time out in the wilderness as well recently.

   Something about too much beer.

   Douglas felt that they needed cash NOW. He turned the loot from the ship over to the Komun’go for a far lower cut then they’d been hoping for.

   Oh well, the money had never been the real point.

 

Episode VII : Departures

   Meanwhile the Komun’Go were getting nervous. It didn’t really look like anyone would be able to trace the destruction at Wuxing back to them easily, but it was still a risk.

   Master Sung didn’t really know what had happened – but he suspected. He was unlikely to tell; Wuxing had murdered his brother and tried to kill him – but even a little knowledge could be deadly. The few surviving Masquers who’d been undrugged enough to know what was going on when Douglas and Seriv warned them that Wuxing had been behind the attack were unlikely to link them to destruction on such a scale. They’d probably think that that was what the guns had been for. They could be memory-wiped at leisure once Douglas and Seriv were out of the way anyway. “John” knew that Douglas and Seric had been targeted by Wuxing, but that wasn’t too uncommon – and what he’d seen of their style had looked a lot softer. The actual Komun’Go members could be managed easily. The lower level ones could get a bit of memory-wiping and the higher-ups were safe enough.

   There wasn’t much physical evidence. Stumpy’d made sure to wipe the security recordings. There’d likely be enough physical evidence to prove that the wreck’d been intentional, but there really wasn’t anything to actually identify anyone.

   They hadn’t stolen much of the cargo – and what they had had been pretty generic. The Komun’Go could dump it totally anonymously with ease.

   It was witnesses that they were worried about. Had some satellite been focusing on the area? Even with a sea spirit hiding Stumpy’s little ship could somebody have seen too much? Those were risks that they had no way to anticipate. They might be small, but there was a lot at stake.

   Seriv was leaving anyway. If they just got Douglas and Yohan out of Seattle it’d break the major links and let them cover up the little ones.

   It should be easy enough. Just appeal to the pairs paranoia and slip them some NY. Their share in the cash from fencing the cargo should cover that.

   It was easy. Douglas and Yohan took the hint – even if Yohan didn’t really know what it was all about.

   They didn’t have any records. They promptly wiped out their physical and mystic traces, changed their appearance and physical characteristics, and skipped out. Some high-powered concealment, a change of clothing and minor items, and some footwork pretty much guaranteed losing any tracers or followers.

   That left them wondering where to go from here. Of course, if they didn’t yet know, they’d be truly hard to anticipate.

   Transport wouldn’t be easy. Most of the routes in and out of Seattle would require major tinkering – or a valid ID.

   Fate presented them with Ken, a talented pickpocket who had a serious fascination with magic. Given a supply of low-level credsticks to tinker with it was easy to usurp some identities. It wouldn’t last for long, but it’d do for a train trip. Keeping the original owners out of circulation for a day was the easy part; there were any number of drugs that would suffice for that – and plenty of coffin motels.

   New York seemed like a decent destination. All the way on the east coast. They had a bit of trouble with getting aboard (they hadn’t had much time to practice jiggering credsticks), but they managed. The trip was fairly uneventful.

   Douglas spent his time composing some spells – but the young pickpocket nearly caused a disaster. He got bored and started “finding” small items that people had “accidently dropped”.

   Douglas and Yohan practically had to sit on him.

   Once they’d arrived they changed their appearance, their clothing, and their minor gear again. That should break the trail pretty throughly.

   Settling in would take a bit. They elected to play tourists for a bit to see the city. Unfortunately, it looked like fate had other ideas again; somebody went and pulled off a bank robbery right in front of them. Yohan tried to crash the getaway vehicle on impulse – but something dispelled his spirit.

   Maybe it’d be wise to get out of town again. Maybe up the coast a bit. Boston was supposed to be nice and very historical.

 

Episode VIII : At Loose Ends

   The “group” – however loosely associated – elected to simply leave the immediate vicinity.

   Being somewhat at loose ends they “played tourist” for a bit, but rapidly began finding it boring. The fact that most of the truly historical stuff had been leveled by the earthquake in `05 (And replaced with a bunch of sanitized corporate buildings) didn’t really improve matters. The outlying regions were more their style anyway. They were used to slums. They seemed homelike and were certainly a lot less conspicuous.

   Finding a place to stay wasn’t hard. There were a lot of coffin motels and such – as well as any number of places to pay minimal rents or simply squat in.

   They spent the next week or two getting acquainted with the area. Yohan wandered off to talk to spirits; it seemed that there were some things the Loa wanted to show him. Douglas passed the time designing a few new spells, downloading some minor stuff, and exploring the New York Public Library. Ken spent his time out picking a few pockets and looking for trouble.

   It wasn’t long before he found some. He tried, and failed, to pick the pockets of a troll ganger and got punched out for his pains. Times square was no longer a “nice” neighborhood – if it ever had been.

   The only bright spot was the Renraku Arcology East (Which had a very nice public shopping level and subway nexus). Unfortunately, it also had heavy security. A good place for legitimate business though.

   Douglas decided to look up a few street Docs. They knew everybody – and they always needed supplies.

   He didn’t have much luck. It looked like it would take time to build up some local contacts. Of course that gave him an idea for a spell. He wandered off to do some more research.

   Of course, if Douglas had ever had any initiative to go with his magical power he would never have settled for being a minor gang lieutenant. He needed someone else to give him some direction.

   Ken occasionally got him out on the streets again. He wanted to see some more magic – and possibly to find a few local contacts of his own.

   He didn’t have much luck either. What they did run across was a young elvish “amazon” (straight out of a dreamsim – save for the fact that her clothing wasn’t being torn off) fighting a bunch of troll gangers. It was really none of their business, but…

   The Trolls abruptly made it their business. One of them spotted Ken and started a chase; it was the same one he’d tried to pickpocket earlier. Ken took off. Fortunately he was fleet of foot. The troll-stampede simply knocked Douglas out of the way however. Still, that didn’t leave too many after the amazon. Douglas decided to help out; a basic masking spell turned her into a towering, flaming, horror from a seriously bad movie.

   The gangers opted to run away; whether or not this was real, it now involved genuine magic. A bit of fun – or even a serious argument – just wasn’t worth that kind of complication.

   Douglas dropped the spell before Gabrielle noticed it, introduced himself (as originating from Chicago), and waited for Ken to come back. He always tended to loop back if you waited for him. One of these days somebody else was going to figure that out and he was going to turn a corner and run straight into a baseball bat.

   Miss Gabrielle turned out to be more then a little bit crazy. Addicted to hallucinogens and movies, she apparently took the whole “Amazon Warrior” but rather seriously.

   On the other hand she was fairly friendly, and was extremely skilled, if pretty bloodthirsty. She had an “appointment” for a bit of pit-fighting later on, but had no objection to showing Douglas and Ken – Yohan was still out to lunch with his spirits – around the city until then.

   It seemed that the pit-fighting was pretty lethal. Douglas threw a few helpful spells on Gabrielle, just as a precaution. having a local to show them he ropes was just too useful to risk.

   He also did some careful telepathic probing. It looked to be entirely voluntary. He wouldn’t have to rescue anyone at the moment.

   Gabrielle’s first opponent was pretty pathetic. A fool zoned out on “Neil The Ork Barbarian” BTL chips.

   She didn’t really need to smash his skull.

   She promptly demanded another opponent and got Thorn – a hulking troll with a morningstar. He died pretty quickly too. She did get out a sword for him though.

   She tried to do the meditation/vigil bit, but they insisted on cleaning up the ring with a flamethrower. They had another fight to get ready for.

   Ken decided that if he wanted to see some “serious magic” he’d have to get Douglas into serious trouble. Gabrielle knew a fixer – and Douglas was easy to steer. He set up a meeting at “The Hippo” – an Ork and Troll bar – with someone who needed a few shadowrunners.

   Their “Mr Johnson” promptly labeled them; Fingers, The Butcher, and the Imp.

   On the other hand, Runners were always very weird.

 

Episode IX and X: An Infiltration Job

   The job was a simple extraction run – except for the fact that it was a high-security corporate compound, and the target was in a heavily-protected, electronically-isolated, lab in the center of the place.

   It also meant working with Gabrielle and Gav, who whom Mr Johnson had hired to fill out any need for muscle on the run.

   After a great deal of poking around, they managed to list and trace most of the employees that went in and out. Looked like there were a fair number of low-grade contractors going in and out too, as well as the ones that were actually employed there full time… Quietly extracting some information from one or two took a little work (and erasing all memory and traces of their intrusion took a lot of magic), but proved to be quite possible.

   It looked like the contractors were working on renovating a secondary building and had very limited access – but they were still going in and out. Of course, they went through quite a security gauntlet: there re were scans and occasional searches and some paranatural animals. There might even be an active mage too.

   Well that was going to be impossible to get much of anything past: they might be able to cover up some cyberware with spells that were low-powered enough to conceal with more spells and a touch of masking metamagic – but they weren’t going to be able to carry much of any gear. After they voted down Gar’s idea of an open attack, they spent some time designing some special spells and picking a few careful targets: with a little flesh-shaping sorcery, Douglas, Ken, and Yohan could could match a few of the contractors well enough to get in. What little cyberware they had – a bit of headware – could be covered up or tweaked to match what some of the contractors had with some very small and concealable magics.

   So: they’d need some very quick and quiet snatches, last minute tweaks on the impersonations, to strip themselves of all weapons, to get in – and then find some reason to visit the personnel office: that would get them into the main building. They could complain about a credit transfer error or something; people were always messing up their banking forms. From there, they’d have to improvise – but if the could get in without raising the alarm, they could probably escape, if only by turning loose every spirit they could summon.

   Of course, if something went wrong they’d be in serious trouble – but most of them had vast teenage overconfidence anyway.

   Gabrielle and Gar were a bit too conspicuous to sneak through – and Gabrielle was a known local psychotic. So, she could run overwatch and keep an eye on the contractors guys they’d be kidnaping and doping. Gar could… Hmm… Gar could get some fleshsculpting and identity-concealment and come by and apply for work shortly after they went in! He was enough of a monstrosity that – if he could simply keep talking – he should divert a fair chunk of the sites security just by being in the area. He didn’t even need to try to get in for that: just talk to the guards.

   There were some tense moments with the scanners, and with the paranatural animals, and with the limited mage who ran magical security (fortunately he was no match for Douglas and Yohan) – but they eventually managed to get inside.

   From there, the personnel office was an easy jump. Ken ran distraction with the foreman while Yohan and Douglas managed to work themselves a private office with the guy in charge of banking forms.

   They’d pay for this much cosmetic transformation later, but they promptly got the security monitors fooled with an illusion, knocked the fellow out, made him look like Yohan – and BOTH took his form. Yohan could stay in the office, and call up a hearth spirit to help guide Douglas, and set his ally to keeping the apparent-Yohan apparently talking to the apparent-paperwork guy him while he ran any necessary interference.

   Forms… They were here to pick up a short-tempered genius.

   They checked for forms she was behind on filling out, loaded them all up onto a datapad – and Douglas called her, made an appointment on the grounds that not having at least a FEW of the forms filled out would interfere with her equipment orders, and set out with the hearth spirit for guidance and the paperwork specialists ID’s and access codes to try to get her to fill a few things out.

   Getting past the guards took a good deal of doing. It took some fast talk to get her to open up the door too – but the armored lab was VERY private. The local systems were isolated from the outside for absolute data security.

   Dougles ran a remote link into her biomonitor and put in a temporary override to keep it from reporting anything wrong while she was thumbprinting priority requisition forms – it was just a special-purpose microcomputer after all – and took her down with a massive stunbolt before she could even reach for an alarm. So: use her own codes and computers to keep the overrides going on the biomonitor, dope her to make sure she stayed quiet, wrap her in his allied spirits clothing form – it was quite strong enough to easily levitate her – let the hearth spirit conceal her while he ran his own concealment effects on her – exit and leave a minor elemental to seal the doors, reactivate the primary wards, and turn on the “do not disturb” indicators.

   With any luck it would be two days before they started to suspect that she was gone. She had a cot and plenty of snacks in there, and was apparently known for pulling overnighters when she got interested in something. The biomonitor and location tags steady reporting of “all is well” should keep security calm for the first few checks.

   Back past the guards – promising to expedite some of their paperwork on the way, since they had form problems too – and back down to personnel.

   Meanwhile, Yohan had accumulated entirely too many unconscious people and had had to work far too many mind-control and memory-alteration spells for comfort. He hadn’t wanted to run any risk of people seeing the form expert in two places at once – which meant attempting to ensorcell everyone who came by. Fortunately he had several different kinds of spirits to call on, as well as his own witchcraft.

   Douglas frantically went to work fleshsculpting, while Yohan inserted vague memories of time spent gossiping and in the bathroom and such (fortunately, he only had to cover up fifteen minutes or so). A few cleansing spells to make sure they hadn’t left any personal traces, wiping away their signatures, and – oh yes. They gave the forms guy a memory of getting rid of them after fixing a few stupid errors on forms, and them of getting the genius to fill out some forms, and of leaving her working. So: back in their first set of disguises, out into the compound – and let Ken off the diversion-hook for the foreman (he’d managed to produce a modest tangle in the construction proceedings).

   They left for lunch.

   Gar had already come and gone – he’d mostly just talked at people, and offered a few demonstrations of his incredible strength when interest seemed to flag, and frustrated the people in charge of personnel interviews with randomly confused explanations. Overall, he’d had an easy time of it. All he’d had to do was talk and be prepared to fall back, send the truck full of explosives crashing into the gate, and bombard the place for a bit before getting the hell out if things went badly wrong.

   Fortunately, the emergency diversion plan hadn’t been necessary. It would have been really hard to cover up that one.

   Gabrielle had had to run off a few people, but had managed to keep anyone from getting in to where they’d stashed the contractors. She’d apparently had a lot of fun posturing and threatening the gangers who’d been by; her reputation as an insanely murderous pit fighter had actually come in handy.

   So: they returned the ID’s and clothing to the contractors their ID’s back, wiped their memories of being assaulted, filled their heads with some slightly-vague memories of the mornings work (and dealing with the forms guy), put them back into their vehicles with some lunch (courtesy of Gabrielle), wiped away their magical signatures, and sent them back to work.

   OK: the security department would be able to trace back to the forms guy in personnel quickly enough, from there, they could trace back to the contractors – and from them they could eventually determine that they’d been knocked out – but there wouldn’t be much of anywhere to go from there: they’d been unconscious when they were stashed, and had never seen anything except some false ID’s. Gar had been fleshshaped – and had never actually gone in to leave any usable traces – and they’d made damn sure not to leave a signature or anything. As soon as they unloaded their kidnaped scientist, they should be fairly well clear.

   That actually proved kind of awkward: since she wasn’t even known to be missing yet, convincing their Mr Johnson that they had the right person was more than a little awkward. Still, once he was convinced, he even threw in a small bonus for the head start on the search. It wasn’t often he had an extracted scientist in his hands even before the alarm went off.

 

Afterword:

   Unfortunately, he game ran down at that point: the game master was having a hard time dealing with both the level of magical power the characters had been constructed with and with the way they swung back and forth between extreme stealth and extreme violence at a moments notice. Of course, the initial decision to ask for young ganger and rising-from-the-street characters – light on resources and skills and virtually all human – meant that the points had to go to either attributes or magic, and most of the players still had plenty of points after buying the attributes they wanted, hence magic.

   The final couple of sessions have been reconstructed from memory: I’m not sure where the original notes are now. If any of the original players, or the original game master, has a correction or note they’d like inserted, please let me know.

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5 Responses

  1. Things just never went right after Deathtroll showed up. Somehow that simply kneecapped the whole game. And then there was the fact that you kept exploding my plots…

  2. Well, Deathtroll was enough to derail virtually anything.

  3. Well, I think I could have managed the insane magical power otherwise, but Deathtroll just threw me off my game. I do remember having a number of plots in the air.

    Oh, for historical notes: The artifact was very, very dangerous, moreso after being blown up.

    Shin-Chin was Sheng Chan, actually. He wanted you dead mostly because (a) he was a jerk and (b) he thought you knew a lot more than you did. He wasn’t acutally working for Wuxing, either. Technically, he was employing them. Heh.

    The mage who pased out actually did so because I botched the character’s Drain Reistance test, and for no other reason. I thought it was amusing, if random, and let it lie. They didn’t really know which gang was which, and simply elected to wipe both.

    The Feds, not Wuxing, found you basically through satellite coverage. It was true they couldn’t see what happened b/c of your spirit, but they did do a lot of searching and noticed that a small motorboat simply vanished off the screen earlier. They followed this up with investigations in the metaplanes to locate the spirit involved, who had a lot of interesting things to say about it. Of course, they thought they were facing a major terrorist threat.

    Really, Gabrielle was the final straw though. There was really no reason to just mash people to death for brawling in the streets.

  4. I suspect that – on being found – we were working on radically different assumptions about the setting. We, as players, were mostly expecting that things might be traced back to the Komun’Go via witnesses, the cargo that was swiped (one reason why I wasn’t too enthusiastic about taking anything at all), and basic waterfront surveillance – but they also expected that the Komun’Go would do a good job of breaking any information connections while the characters were breaking physical ones.

    On satellites, the characters discounted them on the grounds that (1) they’d never heard or anyone on a small-scale mobile operation getting caught that way, and (2) that – outside of having a sky spirit make some clouds and mist (which I think we did, at least locally) – there wasn’t much that could be done about it except to not show any more identifying features than they could help and to go through an illegal group that was used to hiding the identities of their boats.

    Personally, I classified satellite surveillance as an minor risk on physical grounds: Seattle is far enough up the curve of the earth that geosynchronous satellites (and, in fact, all equatorial satellites) are “looking” through far too much atmospheric dust, pollution, clouds, and disturbance – as well as at too low an angle and at too great a distance – for effective surveillance. To take a useable look at Seattle, you really need to be in a relatively close-in ball-of-string orbit – which means that a given satellite will only be in position to take good pictures twice a day. Since obtaining a useful resolution means restricting yourself to a relatively narrow field of view, it tends to be days between shots of any specific location – and (what with cloud cover and pollution) often weeks between usable shots for any given satellite (which is why such maps are constructed as mosaics). Now, there may be lots of satellites, but not everyone shares data: even if there were a thousand or so spy satellites with Seattle on the watch list, the odds against a useful surveillance sequence being available to anyone in particular were very large – and even then it would just lead back to the Komun’Go

    On spirits, we were working on the logic that astral quests for information are quite limited: the sourcebooks note that astral quests can be undertaken to help in developing spell formula, to help develop metamagic, to determine a free spirits true name, to follow magical links, to read masked auras, and so on – all purely generic or current magical information. The material on Watchers, Conjuring Allies, and Free Spirits indicates that spirits without true names are simply masses of magical energy, shaped by their “summoner” and imprinted with a portion of his mentality. Ergo, when they go, they’re gone (despite Douglas’s habit of naming them). The only thing which might be read otherwise is the flaw which causes mistreated elementals to “remember you” and be uncooperative – and that’s a mental flaw on the part of the magician, it doesn’t affect mages who don’t take it.

    Ergo, standard spirits have no continuing existence, and thus no memories, past the point of dismissal. If they did – of if their memories were “banked” by the “mass consciousness of the metaplane” (or some similar effect) – they should both ALL remember if they’re mistreated – rather than it being dependent on a flaw – and it should be possible to discover any information that anyone who has ever summoned a spirit possessed at the time of the latest summoning. There’s no suggestion of this in the game – it would turn the entire setting upside down and eliminate all “ancient mysteries” – ergo our deduction was that no such intelligence-gathering is possible, regardless of the quest rating. That was another reason why we used a nature spirit on the boat instead of an elemental: it would automatically dissipate at sunset or sunrise anyway.

    Of course, those differing assumptions and logic-paths meant that the ideas about what was going on diverged more and more as the game went on.

  5. Actually, the satellite didn’t pick you up directly. But it was enough to notice several very important things, including confirming much of what you stole (which was difficult to work out from the crash site).

    Note that you left well before being caught. You never asked why the Komun’Go warned you, but they’d gotten several investigations starting to point in the general area. Nobody knew it was you – yet. The Komun’Go wanted you to leave (and then they dumped their stolen stuff) in order to stop the trail before it got started.

    As for spirit, whether or not they actually found the same one is irelevant. The spirit’s knowledge was there, although it took several *hundred* metaplanar treks to slim things down to some vague knowledge of what happened. They didn’t know it was you, exactly, but they got a very good impression of your mind, which led them to look at gangs or Seolpa Rings rathre than known terrorists.

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