The Duchess Has A Nightmare …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

Its been a week since the incident on the ship occurred, yet it still feels like its that morning. I haven’t gotten much sleep this last week. I constantly toss and turn in bed and wake up screaming in a cold sweat. The last few nights have been the worst. I was caught in a dream where I relived the event over and over and over again, the same as it has been the previous nights. The dreams always end the same way, me slumped next to the body of the Yakuza sobbing uncontrollably. But the body stood up and leered over me, the katana still buried in his chest … and laughing at me. Laughing at me for killing him, laughing at me for crying, laughing at me for deeds that I have done and yet to do. In the last one, the dream replayed me flinging the katana in his chest again and again. Each time, he stood up and laughed at me. It startled me awake and I found myself flinging the katana into the wall. Rabbit was sleeping on the bed by my feet and barely notice the fact that I flew out of bed.

I cant go back to sleep … not now. I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water and stood in front of the floor to ceiling windows, in just an oversized t-shirt, overlooking Baltimore and the harbor. As I stand there drinking from the glass, it occurred to me. Good thing the building has mirrored windows … Then theres the face that appears. The light toned skin with a slightly unkept beard. The brown eyes … The spiky hair … His smile All of it, its all there. Its like he is laughing at me because of my actions. What shadowrunner has ever just dropped to her knees and started crying because she … killed someone. A wince of pain shoots through me as the fight replays through my head again. Rabbit decided to get up apparently and I felt him rub up against my leg. I reached down to pet him. Wait … thats not Rabbit, he isn’t that big. I looked down and there was a wolf there. I didn’t feel any fear when looking at it, but a sense of … understanding? I ran my fingers through the rough fur of the wolf and thought of Walker, the wolf shaman from Havoc Squad, again. I turned back to the table by the couch and grabbed my commlink. When I turned back, the wolf was gone.  Its late, but I decide to give him a call anyways. I punched in his commcode and he answered after a few rings.

Walker groggily picks up his commlink, sighing as he sits up in the bed. “ergjff, hello?

Walker? its Duchess. Do you have time to talk?

What? Oh, yeah. Yeah. I got time to talk, kid. You doing alright?

no” she somberly says as she is close to coming to tears

I was on a run and …. how …. I dont know how to deal what what I have done

“Hey, hey, hey.” Walker lowers his voice a bit, calmer and gentle. “Just breathe kid. It’s alright. Just tell me what happened.

A moment or two and a few deep breaths pass. “We were on a run to get a crate off of a van that was on a cargo ship. While we were planning it, we caught sight of another team shadowing us Figured we were after the same thing, so we moved on it faster. It ends up they were a Yakuza hit squad, but they were after the crate as well. We got into it with them and stuff, but ….. I killed a few of them. Its not the death of them that bothers me, I have seen that before, nor the fight itself.  But when Kira went down during a sword fight with one of them, I flung her sword into the chest of her attacker and then into another one of the Yakuza. Moments later the fight was over and I went to Kira to check on her. ” Sobs are now becoming more noticeable “and I saw his face.
I literally had to be carried off the ship to complete the run
I know you have killed people while you were a merc and a runner, how do you deal with it?

How do I deal with it…?” Walker went silent for a moment in thought.

…Honestly? It’s a bit of a pick and choose. There are some deaths I can never get over, Duchess. Some that still follow me around even now. Others, I tend to forget them. Wolf guides his warriors, and a warrior can’t dwell on every man killed in battle. So, for me, I suppose Wolf is my comfort or even Black Cat.  Someone to speak to.

I saw Wolf just before I called you. I haven’t been able to sleep really in the week since it happened. I woke up earlier and found myself flinging a katana into the wall … still not really sure where or how I got that. My dreams are filled with replaying everything over and over in my mind and all I see is his face and he is smiling at me. I talked to Raccoon and he helped to comfort me, but the furry little trash panda kept on about how I need to accept this and move on. Only, I don’t know how to accept it. I took his life. Yeah, he was a Yakuza, yeah I am sure that he knew death was a part of his job, just like us, but he was still a person. He was the son of a mother and father. He may have been someones brother or someones …. father. What if I created another orphan just like me. ” Sobs turn to crying …

Duchess. Duchess. Don’t do that to yourself. You can cry over the fact you took a life. But don’t do it over these ‘what-if’ scenarios. Do you think someone like that would have felt bad for killing you? A teenage mage on the middle of a run that went against them? The way to acceptance is that you have to realize that they made their choice. Everyone is someone’s child or parent or brother or blood. But everyone has a choice. You chose to save your friend, despite the consequences. Was that wrong?

No, defending Kira was not wrong and I would not second guess doing that again. Hell its happened numerous times with you guys, but I have always just knocked them out or had a spirit assist us. I never had to take a life and worse, I didnt really even realize that I was doing it. It just … happened. I seen her go down and he stood over her with his sword. Soren already hit him with spells, but it wasnt enough. So I just used Kira’s sword to finish him. Also without a second thought, I flung it over into the other Yakuza. It was like I wasnt myself. I hear of Eternal talking about how Beserker sometimes takes over, but it didnt seem like that either. I knew what I was doing, but seemed sorta out of control.

You’re seeing Wolf now. Maybe… Maybe you got a warrior within you yet, Duchess. Adrenaline in battle can make one do crazy things despite their own coherence. You were protecting one of your own. That comes with it’s own instincts.

So … is this something that should be embraced? It scares the drek out of me. I dont know if I could handle killing someone again, even if it was to protect someone.

…Duchess. All I can say is that if you’re going to continue in the shadows, you’re going to have to make these choices. I wouldn’t say you should embrace it. Few people can really embrace the taking of a life. But, you can learn to accept it. There is nothing that says you should massacre every enemy that you come across. It is up to you to choose how you will continue on.

Accepting it is the hardest part, but its what both you and Raccoon keep telling me. I think I just need to do that in some way … somehow …. I know its late, but I really appreciate taking the call. You were the first person I talked to about this because I knew you would understand. Hopefully, one of these days, I can get a good nights sleep and deal with this somehow. For now I am going to step out of the shadows for some time. Thank you, Walker and I hope the puppy is doing good.

Yeah. He’s doing great kid. Growing. Just like you are… Call me if you need me alright? Maybe I’ll even come down at some point to see you. Take care of yourself, Duchess.

Thank you.” And she hangs up.

Walker returns to bed, rolling over to see Wolf at it’s edge, sitting next to the slightly smaller wolf pup. “Look after her.” Then, he goes to sleep.

The Duchess Gets a New(ish) Sword …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

Everything has a price … I knew that going into this business, but now I know the meaning. I mean, we all know that we all live a violent life and death was nothing new to me. I have seen lots of death during my career, both with this new team and with Havoc Squad in San Francisco, but I have never taken a life … until now.

We were hired to steal some crates from a van, which was still on a cargo ship at sea. It was pulling into the harbor and we needed to get the creates before it docked. After the negotiations, the elephant in the room was how in the hell are we going to get aboard a cargo ship in the harbor … BetaTest called on Ironclad to see if he had a boat we could use and he did. We rented the WaveRunner … note to self, I really should get one of these … and started making the plans. We had a very small window and made the move. We boarded and found the van with the crates.

Then all hell broke loose. A Yakuza hit squad, which we thought was another runner team and was watching them through the Matrix, showed up. We tried to negotiate with them, since they were after the same crates we were, but all attempts failed. They already had a fire spirit, so I called on a beast spirit of my own and engaged them. I focused on the fire spirit while the others focused on the others, but then Kira dropped. She was using her katana and fighting two Yakuzas, and Soren started throwing fire spells, but she still faltered and fell. Without even thinking, I flung her katana into one of the Yakuza. The sword buried deep in his chest, killing him. My rat spirit tore into another one of the attackers and I flung the sword to yet another one. Within seconds, the rat tore apart one attacker and I had killed two of them with Kira’s sword. It all happened so quickly …

After the adrenaline wore off, the rest of the team started to offload the crates. Me and another went to tend to Kira and it was then that I seen what my actions had caused. It was then that I seen the person that I had killed. I dropped in a slump and could not hold back my emotions. I dropped in a slump and cried out. All I could do was look at the body and keep saying that I was sorry. My rat spirit came over to me and nuzzled his head in my shoulder. I absentmindedly petting his blood soaked fur and thanked him for his assistance. He rubbed up on me a few more times then left when I dismissed him. Once the crates were offloaded, Kira literally picked me up and carried me to the evac point. The WaveRunner was waiting below. I half expected just to fall to the water below, but she hooked me up to the rig pretty good and was able to get down to the boat. The ride to the coast was a quite and somber one for me. I dont know if there was anything said or discussed, I wasnt paying attention. All I seen was the face of the dead man back on the cargo ship.

On shore, I sent a message to the Johnson letting him know we got the stuff and to get a drop off point. While en route, it was brought up whether or not to mention the Yakuza incident. “Nobody must know what I did …” was all I could muster up to say. Not that it made a difference, they still told the Johnson about them, but atleast they didn’t tell him what I did. We got paid and went on our way. “I cant do this anymore …” I thought to myself.  I apologized to the team for my actions and let them know that I was leaving for some time off and will tell them once I get back. I went on my commlink and went to get a ticket to San Francisco, but then decided against it. I just went home instead.

I walked into the apartment and looked out over the harbor from the window. Again, all I saw were the faces of the two men looking back at me. I sat down and Rabbit jumped in my lap. I started petting him, but then realized i was still covered in blood. I looked down at Rabbit and his white fur was matted with blood. I quickly tore off the blood covered dress that I was wearing and hopped into the shower. I got all cleaned up and stepped out. I went ahead and gave Rabbit a bath as well, which he always hates. After I was all done cleaning up, I caught myself looking in the mirror. I still had blood on my face and hair. I looked at my hands and they were covered in blood again. I washed them in the sink and no matter how much I scrubbed, I could not get the blood off. I looked up again and saw only the Yakuza man’s face in the mirror. I screamed smashed my hand into the mirror, shattering it and cutting up my hand. “FRAG!” I screamed over and over again. Once I calmed down, I used some healing magic on my hand.

I grabbed my commlink and started playing the new Suicide Prophets album. I neoanarchist thrash metal tore into my ears. I hoped that it would drown out my thoughts, but it didn’t. “How do the others do this?” I thought to myself.  “How does Kira or Freecoil deal with these emotions? Do they still see the faces of those they kill? Do Walker or Eternal have these feelings as well?” I turned off the music and placed a call to Walker. I could use his advice on this. However, the wolf mage didn’t answer. “Gah!” I yelled. I walked over to the window overlooking the city and harbor again. The mental playback of the incident on the ship keeps playing over and over again. On the floor was the torn bloody dress and … a katana? “What the frag ???” I hesitated for a few minutes while I wondered if the sword was real or not. “When in the hell did I get that?” The blade of the sword still covered in blood. I finally reached down and grabbed it and it was indeed real. I swung the sword around like I have seen both Eternal and Kira do and nearly cut the table lamp in two.

Raccoon ….” I said out loud. My mentor spirit, though a little mischievous, has always been there for me. “I really should build a lodge,” I thought to myself as I protected myself with a mana barrier. Once I was protected, I projected into the Astral realm and called out to Raccoon for some help. I sat there quietly pondering how he would react to the news. “Drek” I thought as the realization of what could happen if this got out. What would Star Flower think of me, or Calypso, or … Frank … The names of those that I would disappoint kept coming and coming. Just then, the furry little trash panda showed up and nuzzled his muzzle in my arm, then sat in front of me.

My child, you seem … troubled. How can I help?” Raccoon said. At the sound of his words, I burst into tears. He waited patiently as my crying and tears subsided and I relayed everything that happened. We talked back and forth about the incident, about past events and everything that has happened through my career as a shadowrunner. By the end of the conversation, which felt like hours, my spirits were lifted and my resolve steadied. Time on the Astral plane is very different than normal time. Eventhough my conversation lasted hours, it was only a minute or two in normal time. When I was back in my body, Rabbit was laying on my chest, something he started doing recently for some ungodly reason. I picked up the katana off the floor where I dropped it and looked out the window again. The sun was starting to come up over the horizon and I could see the cargo ship that we were on docked. Then I seen the face of the Yakuza looking back at me. This time, though, my resolve steadied. I looked back at it and a smile crossed my face. His face crept into the same smile. “Yes …” I said to myself, “Raccoon was right, I will be fine.” Today is the beginning of a new Duchess …