It’s always surprising to me how much a change in my husbands routine can change what’s going on in mine when the two don’t really cross over each other that much.
We have no car/pick up shenanigans to orchestrate, whether he is here or not each day doesn’t affect what I choose to do with my time, beyond of course enjoying his company immensely.
And yet, the expectations of my productivity still go haywire when things aren’t ‘normal’.
This is all a great preamble, naturally, to the fact that I have not added to my Compendium this weekend, and didn’t on Friday either. Bad me.
I have been working on pulling together notes from my Sunday Shadowrun game though to write a ‘story’ for the players for what they have done so far, and will continue to do.
I posted the prologue to this a while ago, but I shall repost it here today to go alongside the opening explanation of the first job the poor fools picked up.
Before I do so though, some notes on this game and its write up:
I favor story over mechanics and catering to the interests of my players over ‘written canon’. This means some things might not be ‘correct’ by the rules or written fluff for some parts of Shadowrun’s immense setting, but I am not apologetic for putting the fun of my players ahead of other concerns.
Additionally, as this is a story driven by the players’ actions and choices, the flow of the tale is unlikely to follow quite the same snappy pace a pre-planned book might, and may occasionally go a little into the weeds. I will be doing my best not to let this happen, and taking some liberties with the characters where I must, but in general, this is simply not quite a usual book process.
So! On with the words!
Shadowrun: Deniable Assets
The title block on his desk said he was a Junior Assistant (Archivist Division). Once, he had thought the role would be a mostly clerical one, with some minor implants to help with filing faster. As he watched one of a trio of Junior Assistants (R&D Division) undergoing an ‘entirely voluntary’ cranial implant to join the internal Combat League, however, he could only find amusement in the innocence of his younger self.
“I want results,” said the Overseer behind him. She didn’t raise her voice, she didn’t sneer, she just said the words as flatly and concisely as possible.
“Normally, I wouldn’t be looking at your division to handle this, but I have received favorable reports of your competence. The Board will be making a choice soon enough, and it would be to the benefit of us both if my name sat at the top of their choices.”
“Thank you, ma’am. I will see this mess gets untangled as quietly as possible. It should be no major issue to, ah, file the details away out of sight.”
“I want more than that. Clean it up… and get me what these idiots failed to. History has more than enough examples of what happens to companies that do not seize the competitive edge. And what happens to inept employees.”
He turned away from watching the medical drone implanting persona fixes into his hapless colleagues and smiled softly up at his boss as the edges of her crisp suit started to flicker.
“I make a point to learn from the mistakes of others, ma’am. Please, leave it with me.”
“I’m curious… what makes you think you will succeed where they did not?” she asked, lifting her gaze from a data slate.
“Simple, ma’am. While the view from the tower is beautiful… I still remember what the ground floor looks like.”
“From tiny acorns, a mighty oak will grow?” she smiled with a roll of her eyes.
“If nothing else, one at least ensures a supply of wood, neh?”
“See to it. I look forward to your reports.”
The hologram snapped off, the radiance of the Overseer’s display turning dead along with the feed of his colleagues elsewhere in the Tower. His office again sat in the muted browns and greys he preferred, only softly lit from his own desk.
He flicked on his central console and sat for a moment drumming his fingers. Then he plugged a cord into the back of his skull, flicked his fingers and spoke a single sentence.
“The Chronicler seeks No-one.”
The Matrix sped away in front of him. In his business, time was valuable, and the devil made off with idle hands.
Chapter One – The Milk Run
‘What you don’t know, WILL kill you.’ – Street Proverb
The back of his eyes itched. And there was a ringing in his ears.
Kar’Morg groaned and sat up, blinking hard several times to get the motors in his eyes to realign themselves and focus. Around him, the drab grays and olives of the flophouse pinwheeled for a few seconds before his tech took great pleasure in letting him take in every grimy stain, blood smear and run of crude graffiti in his surroundings, whether he wanted to notice it or not.
“Ah. Evenin’ Poet.”
The voice, cracked and rough as if the speaker had been smoking a pack a day for the last two decades, came from the brighter area of the room. Kar rolled off the creaking mattress that had been his nights’ bed and nodded to the troll who had spoken to him, accepting a tin cup of soykaf as it was proffered.
“Evenin’ Shambles,” he muttered, clearing a dry and sleepy throat. “I miss anything while I was out?”
“Nah, chummer. Little Lon swung by for an hour whiles you wes snorin, said he’d catch you on the up and up. Left this for you, though. Wager that’d be for smashin up old man Jerrik’s shop.”
KAr’Morg, street name ‘Poet’, had known Shambles most of his adult life, and while the hunched over troll seemed unassuming and a little dim, he, like everyone else on the streets, had a certain degree of smarts. Not a muscle on the trolls’ face changed with his insinuation, and habit let Kar keep his own expression entirely neutral as he took the small bag offered his way, recognizing the clink of bullets inside.
“No clue what yer referencing, Sham,” Kar said, sniffing. “Lon jes owed me is all.”
“Null persp, Poet. You get that down ya, take yer time.” Shambles offered a toothy grin and a pat on the shoulder, then lumbered off toward the curtain into the building beyond.
Kar yawned and scratched himself. Jerrik had put up a bit of a fight, especially for a man pushing sixty, and the ork knew his shoulder was going to be bothering him for a few days yet. Still, a little bruiser work on the downlow for his kin sick of having their creds rejected was cathartic in its own way, and fresh rounds to tuck in his bag besides his used and abused Predator V was payment enough. Which only left the matter of the ringing in his ears.
Grimacing at the twin logos on his HUD after he switched his perception to pick up AR, he flicked a finger across the brilliant red biker helmet screaming at him until it turned into the full avatar of the decker he knew as Gremlin. In the flesh, Gremlin wasn’t much to look at – scrawny pale human, usually hidden behind the crested red helmet he used on both his bike, and to run his computer shenanigans through. The kind of guy with mental energy like a squirrel on crack, but could also have his spine broken by a strong hug. On the Trix, though, Gremlin came into his own. He favored an image that was half ‘devil in a bondage store’ and half ‘pre-awakening biker thug’, though right now his image was a cartoon pastiche of itself and headache inducing.
“Bout time, big fella,” smirked the cherub, whizzing around his ‘head’ on its little metal wings. “Where ya been?”
“Sleeping, jagoff,” Kar grunted, swatting the icon out of the air so it stayed still. “Didn’t need to wake up to your ugly mush.”
“Oh come on, it ain’t even my real face. You checked your mail yet?”
“No. Something good?” The second icon had indeed been his message service, and Gremlin’s query meant this wasn’t just a social call. It more than likely meant work.
“Job offer from the Keeb,” Gremlin confirmed. “No idea what the score is, she didn’t specify, but we’re all heading that way now. You comin?”
“Whose ‘we’?” The ‘keeb’ would be his local fixer, an elf who went by ‘D.A’, but while he trusted her to put decent pay and sound jobs his way, old habits died hard. “Don’t feel like working with anyone new this week.”
“Nah. Usual suspects. Gorgon and I, Ghosty boy.”
Kar found himself nodding as Gremlin reeled the couple of names off. “So, the pansy brigade then.” It was the usual small crew – Gorgon for medical and droner work, Gremlin for the Trix stuff and GhostDive was their resident spell-slinger. He, naturally, was the muscle. “Sure, I’m on my way. Meet you there in an hour.”
“First rounds’on you my bud,” Gremlin managed to get out before Kar flicked off his HUD to go wash up. It wouldn’t do for Poet, violence maestro extraordinaire, to turn up stinking of last nights’ booze after all. Not if nuyen was on the table.
The meet was the usual place – a little dive bar in the middle of the Barrens known as Twenten’s. True, there was a restaurant portion attached, and apparently, ol Jenny Twenten herself was some kind of mover and shaker to the magic folk, but Kar only ever drank when he went there. Drank, and got paid.
By the time he arrived, Gremlin and Gorgon were already inside, Gorgon’s Americar sitting innocuously in a corner of the lot. Passing it and the subtle not-quite-a-bouncer keeping an eye on the door to the place, Kar dipped his head to Jenny as he passed the register by the door and glanced around for his compatriots.
A few families and couples sat at tables toward the front, with the usual mess of shadow men and slummers arraigned along the bar. Several tables along the back wall marked the ‘business’ section of the building, but he couldn’t see hide nor hair of D.A, even as he headed toward the back to join his friends.
“What up big guy.”
“Nothing much Gorgon. How’s the kids?” Kar slid his butt onto the stool next door to the elf. Gorgon was the only member of the little team that matched him for height, but like all dandelion eaters, the man was slender as a twig. It was the kind of thin, though, that made him good with his hands, especially on the mechanical toys he doted on like a mother hen with her chicks.
“Eh, about the usual. Got a new battery on my littlest, so mebbe we’ll take her out for a spin on this one.”
“Depending on what trouble the boss wants us to get in this time,” Kar grinned. “Where’s Ghost?”
“On his way, should be about… well. Speak of the devil.” Gremlin pointed back toward the door where the last of their gaggle emerged from the shadows. Like Gorgon, Ghost was slender in the way only elves could be, but his had that tinge of otherworldliness that came with messing with the astral.
“Hoi chummers. Hope I didn’t hold things up?”
“Nah, D.A hasn’t shown herself yet. Drink?”
“Sure, but not that swill you like,” Ghost answered, wrinkling his nose at the pint glass set down in front of Kar. “And I think you’ll find the darling lady is waiting for us.”
Kar turned to look, and sure enough, D.A stepped ‘out’ from behind a pillar, fading into reality like a picture coming into focus. As uninitiated as he was, the ork could still almost taste the magic on the air as the shaman limped her way across the floor without looking at any of them.
“Hate it when she does that. Freaks me out,” he muttered.
“Come on. Let’s find out what the biz is.”
“So, let me get this straight… it’s a bag and tag, so far as the Corp will know.” Fifteen minutes later, after the customary round of greetings and setting of jammers to keep their business private, Kar found himself grinning as Ghost summed up everything D.A had just told them.
“Yes,” she affirmed, using a pair of AR gloves to flick notes on everything she had said into the virtual workspace Gremlin had set up. “All you have to do is break a corp doc out of the place he currently works, with his blessing, and transfer him to his new employer. En route, he’ll need to drop off his ID and implant chips on a substitute body another group is acquiring for you. The ‘decoy’ will allow the doc to pass himself off as dead, and we all go home after aiding the thrilling world of corporate management. Nothing too fancy.”
“And scare him along the way,” Kar grinned. At the corner of the workspace, the trideo clip of the employer was still playing, though it was muted with subtitles running along the bottom. The ‘Johnson’ was a dwarf in a DocWagon branded labcoat, but the ork was enjoying the very undoctorly things coming out of his mouth.
‘Gentlemen, I want you to break Doctor Turner out of his compound before his idiot overseers move him out of the city. I want you to stage his death, and if you can make it seem like metahuman violence, so much the better as no one will ask too many questions. Beyond that, we need Doctor Turner to arrive unharmed, but we would prefer it if he were also… unhappy. His services have value to my company, and it would be a poor investment indeed if he was to one day decide to change employers once again under similar circumstances. He will not have met ‘professionals’ such as yourselves before, so perhaps it would beneficial to all concerned if he found you all… terrifying. I have a drop off point arranged, which I will activate for three am on whichever night in the next week you choose to make your move. Your handler and I will confirm this detail once you accept the job. The pay is six thousand five hundred nuyen.’
Admittedly, the numbers at the end of the spiel were even more pleasing to him than the promise of violence upon a naive and foolish blade who probably got all his ideas about runners from trid shows.
“Yes,” D.A said in her most withering tone, “and scare him. Doctor Turner is at the CrashCart Medical Compound where South Meridian meets twenty-third Avenue. The staff live on site, for obvious reasons, and it has some small degree of security, despite being a slums treatment centre. I’ve tagged in Dane, Rot, Null and Giro to handle the acquisition of the decoy body to take the doctors place, but it’s up to you scrags to work out how to get the ‘blade out. From his own mouth, the doc says the best time to smash and grab him is about ten at night when he goes off shift. He and his team of four cross the courtyard around then to get food. You’ll have to brush-up the location yourselves for a little more Know.”
A chorus of groans went around the table, Kar’s among them. It wasn’t the job, that sounded just fine to him, but all of them knew about Dane and his rep. The man, as much of him was still flesh anyway, was a good razor boy, excellent at the violence, but dodgy as a ‘friend’. Even by shadow standards. Still, he, Null, Rot and Giro were always together and thus made an easy team to pick up in a hurry if something needed doing, which was no doubt why D.A. had pulled them in at all… and why she had chosen them for the easiest part of the job, instead of the bag and tag being offered right now. But that didn’t make the prospect of working with the gonk any better. Kar almost opened his mouth to complain, but thought better of it and focused instead on the job itself.
“If this guy thinks he needs a dead body to take his place, I’m guessing CrashCart wants to keep this guy pretty bad… why?” he asked. “He a specialist of some sort, or just good at stitching people back together? I mean, this is a Barrens hospital, he can’t be that important.”
“Does seem a little on the easy side, and a lot of us for just moving a sawbones. There a catch?” Ghost asked the question with the same intent, but D.A. was shaking her head.
“Man’s a diagnostician with specialization in meta-humans. He don’t cut on John’s himself, but I understand he’s aces at working out what’s wrong with someone. He’s definitely worth the creds ‘Wagon is offering, especially if he then goes to, say, one of the military bases in Fort Lewis…” D.A. paused to let the thought sink in, and Kar found himself nodding – it made sense. “I also got no hits across my network on either the client or the Johnson, so it’s on the up and up as best I can tell.”
“So, all we have to do is move some meat around, and make it look like gangs did it,” Ghost summarized. “What night will Dane have the body in place?”
“Whichever night you want,” D.A said, placing a piece of physical paper on the table in front of them all. “This is a burner number for him, I’ve told him to accommodate your plans. He has suggested a drop off in the Waller area, which I think should work.”
“Waller… hmm,” Ghost mused. “The hospital is in Forever Tacoma turf, but depending on where in Waller, that’s Ragers territory… still, those two gangs don’t always get along, so yeah, it could work.”
“I… am not going to ask how you know that,” Gremlin said, wrinkling his nose. “I want to check the place out in person before we finalize plans though.”
“Probably for the best. Still, over a grand a piece for a single nights work? Count me in.”
Murmurs of assent rose from the rest of the table, information flying about the screen in front of Kar as Gremlin began downloading and tweaking maps and plans of the job and overlaying proposed routes of investigation on top. D.A turned her piercing green eyes on him and raised an eyebrow.
“Easy money,” Kar said with a shrug, “I’m in.” But in the back of his mind, he could hear his old man. ‘No such thing as a quick buck, my boy, no such thing as a milk run.’
But then, that was why he carried a big gun.