The Duchess Camps With Wolf …

[San Francisco, CFS — 2074]

Walker and Duchess head out to Big Sur, south of San Francisco, to go on a camping trip and get back in sync with Wolf and Raccoon. They park the Jeep at a campsite, pull up a log and get camp set up. The sat on the log overlooking the fire, staring at the embers as the fire crackled in the night.

The young mage breaks the silence and looks over to Walker. “So just how was it that you came to know Wolf? I mean, was it by happenstance or did you seek him out?

Walker looks over at the girl as he fiddles with his necklace. “Uhm…” He stops for a moment, sighing a bit. “It definitely wasn’t my intention to bond with Wolf originally. He sort of found me at one of my worst moments.

Duchess looks at him … waiting for you to say more, but not wanting to pry. “It must have been a pretty bad time …

Walker just stares back at her, getting the inkling of what she wants. “Heh. Alright. Yes, it was. I ran in a gang when I was younger. Let’s just say that one day, things finally came to a head. I was looking death straight in the face, and Wolf came in to help me. He gave me the strength I needed.” He starts messing with the necklace again, slowly rolling it around in his hand. “What about you? How did you find Raccoon?

I was getting familiar with the Astral plan with my mentor, Star Flower. We were attacked by some spirits and Raccoon came to my aid … so I guess the same as you.” She pauses for a moment. “But I remember seeing him way before then. I remember first seeing Raccoon when my parents were killed. I was just a little girl and I was sitting in the living room as Frank, Star Flower, and others were discussing adult things. I was sad, but then this furry little Raccoon wrapped itself around me … almost shielding me from what was being discussed. I petted and played with him, rubbed him behind the ears and scratched under his chin.

Walker smiles a bit as the teen recounts her memories of the raccoon, but he frowns as he registers what she said. “Well, I think it’s good your spirit showed up so early for you. I only wish mine had made himself more prevalent when I was coming of age.” He looks at her a moment, as if contemplating his words. “I am… sorry about your parents. I never thought to ask.

A somber look comes across her face. “It’s ok … its been a long time. Frag, I was like six when it happened.” She stops for a moment and goes into her almost trance posture as she summons up a low force Raccoon spirit. “I don’t know what happened, I just know that there was a car accident. It wasn’t up until a few months ago did I start to think there was something more to it. I found a note that simply said ‘Look to the Shadows to shed the Light’ It was then I started being a shadowrunner. Hell, it was Calypso that originally introduced me to it and that is when I met you guys.” She stops to look at you with her intense green emerald eyes that are just barely on the edge of breaking down.

Walker just looked back with his own bright orange eyes, softening his gaze as she seemed to wither a bit. “Hey…” He muttered. “It’s alright.” He wrapped an arm around the girl, trying to soothe Duchess a bit. “I’m sure the more you look into it, the more you are likely to find. You’ve made it this far in the Shadows. The end can’t be too much farther at this rate.” He pulled her just a bit closer with a small smile. “I mean, you’re pretty damn tough as it is. I’m sure you’ll push your way to the info you need.

yeah …” she says with the same somber look. “But what will be the price for that? I mean, everyone keeps on talking about how everything has a price, but what could that price possibly be?” She looks blankly at nothing, then goes into another trance and summons up a low level wolf beast spirit. The two beast spirits play and chase each other around. “I grew up with secrets. I still live with secrets … hell we work in secret. Have you ever just wondered what life would be like with all these damn secrets…

If what? If we discovered all those secrets that had been locked away from us?

More like if all those secrets that we each hold so dear were suddenly no more. How liberating would that be? Granted, we wouldnt have jobs, but the world would be a better place … atleast I like to think it would be

Walker goes silent for a moment, thinking quietly as he just had a hold on her. “I think… I think that’s very positive thinking. But, I also think that it’s impossible. Secrets have their own use in the world.” He sighs quietly. “I think you’re right. Some secrets are burdens. We carry them and all they do is weigh us down. But, some secrets give us comfort. Things that only we know that let us feel the more positive side of life every once in a while. But, I doubt secrets are the main problem for the world, little one.

After a few moments, Duchess straightens up a bit. “So what did it feel like … I mean, to see that Wolf was there at that moment?

Walker looks at her for a moment, trying to judge her. He just sighs a bit, looking away. “To be honest, I didn’t see him. Not at the moment he appeared anyway. I felt him. There was something like a brush of fur and just this… this feral anger, this need to fight that I hadn’t felt before. Afterwards, I saw him when I finally made it back to my home, he was just standing there in the street. I looked at him, and he walked away.

Duchess closes her eyes for a few minutes and tries to steer the conversation away from her parents. The memories of when she first met Raccoon and all those adults talking about her and her parents like none of us where there was starting to get to her. She looks at the two beast spirits playing. “Have you ever considered leaving Wolf or looking for another mentor spirit? I mean, I couldn’t imagine my life without Raccoon.

Walker looks at the two beast spirits messing about. Then, he turns his gaze to Duchess. “Duchess… what color are my eyes?

She doesn’t even look up from what she is staring at. “Orange” she answers without hesitation

Walker smiles at her a bit, just out of her gaze. “Good. Now. Do you think they were always like that?”

The question caught her by surprise. Her eyes have always been green, but there are people that get them changed with surgery or implants. “I dont know?”

Walker chuckled a bit. “I would not have really expected you to. Believe it or not, they used to be a dark brown when I was younger. It was a nice offset to the color of my hair.” He ran a hand to push his dark red hair back again. “They changed the day Wolf came to me. When I looked at him on that street and he disappeared, I went back inside to wash my face and nearly drekked myself when I noticed the bright orange staring back at me. Like a Wolf’s eyes in the darkness.” His hand came to the totem again, gripping it now. “To answer your question, I have thought about how I would be if Wolf hadn’t come to me. As far as I’m concerned though, he is now a piece of me. He gives me the strength to protect those around me, and he’s been with me through times even I wish I could forget. My eyes… I believe they’re his mark on me, so I don’t forget.

Duchess looks at the totem … she is familiar with foci from spending so much time at the shop, but this one seems different than others she has seen. “So if Wolf left his mark on you, why hasn’t Raccoon left one on me?” she says as her voice trails off …

Walker pulls up the arm that he has around her to rest a hand on her head. He speaks softly, in a gentle voice.”Maybe he has, kid. It’s possible that you just haven’t noticed it. Maybe it’s how you interact with him. The control you have over spirits and bargaining with them, along with talking to Raccoon. It’s different from me and Wolf.

She thought to herself. “Yeah, maybe … I seemed to always been able to talk to the spirits and they seem more than happy to help when I ask them to.” She pauses for a moment as the Raccoon spirit comes to her side.

Walker just watches it silently for a moment before he speaks. “Well, I think that’s special. A connection with spirits like that. I know I never learned such a thing.

The morning sun broke the horizon to light up the forest. “Wow … it’s already morning?” She turns to the two spirits and pets them both. “Thank you both“. She closes her eyes and dismisses the spirits.

She gets up from the log they were sitting on and she gets some stuff from the back of the Jeep. “I am making breakfast, you hungry?” At the fire, she gets the pan hot and throws in the veggies and sausage. The smell of the sausage was a telltale sign that it was REAL sausage. After it was done, she threw it all in a toasted tortilla, rolled it up and presented it to Walker. “This is going to be the best breakfast burrito of you life!

Walker just smirks at that. “I’m sure you’ll tell me, even if I say otherwise.” He takes the offered food and proceeds to eat. His face comes up with a small smile. “I’ll have to give it to you, kid. It definitely tastes better than Soy.” The man continues to eat until he is finished with the meal.

The pair of mages talked some more as they ate breakfast and enjoyed the fresh air and woods. The time spent there relaxing was rewarding for both of the mages.

The Duchess Gets Some ‘Ware …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

After a few days, I finally decide its time to get out of the house. Theres no food and I need to get some sun. I made up a list and … drek, Rabbit is out of food too … but I needed to finally get the supplies I needed to build up a lodge. The lodge will let me learn the spells I want and give me a place to center myself. It would also protect me while I explore the Astral space in and around Baltimore and San Francisco.

I also had a thought about establishing Punky Raccoon LTD. I have been doing some research on the Matrix about seetting up business and decided that I should launch my own AR fashion line. I just need to pick up a few things that will allow me to create what I want. I remember seeing a relatively cheap cyberdeck at the electronics shot awhile back and that should work for what I need. Hopefully its still available …

After I got the list made and ready, I headed out and picked up what I have been wanting. The grocery shopping took a few hours and stocked up on some cat food for Rabbit. I swung by the shop and picked up a couple of spell formulae that I have been wanting to learn. The run with the ship proved I needed to expand my spell skill set to include Levitate. I also went ahead and picked up all the supplies I needed to build the lodge that I keep putting off. I passed by Radio Shack on the way home and the deck I wanted wasnt there anymore. I ended up getting a new fancy commlink that the salesman said would work for what I wanted to use it for. The salesman was also talking about how I should get a datajack to help create a better direct neural connection. This will allow my thoughts to become action immediately, but at a cost for me. For as long as I could remember, Star Flower has always told be the evil of cyberwear and how it eats at your very being. “Frag it” I said and jumped on it. I decided that I wanted to have the jack on my wrist so that I could just pull out the cord and plug it in. It would also be slightly hidden as well. A few hours later, I had the new datajack and a shiny new commlink! I tried it out at the shop and holy drek things were sooo much faster. The datajack was installed in my right wrist and would open up into multiple panels and AR displays at just a thought.

When I got home, I started setting up the lodge and getting some tutorials online done with some fashion design software and read up on current business laws that I needed to know to launch this endeavor. After a few days, the lodge was complete and I spent alot of time in it as I learned the spells I picked up and roaming the Astral plane around Baltimore. I knew there was a price to pay for the datajack, I knew this, but the price was the cost of my magic. I noticed that my connection with the mana was less than before. When I looked at my arm, it was just a dead zone and empty. I shook away the feeling of loss and continued on the projects I was working on.

A call came in about a job, but I declined. I could use the money, but I wasnt ready for it again. I was still dealing with the events that occurred on the last job and was busy with learning these spells to get wrapped up in more work.

When I showed up for my shift at the shop, Star Flower got that look in her eyes when she seen me. I knew this look. This was the look she got when she seen people with cyberware walk into her shop. “drek …” I thought to myself. She pulled me into the back office and went on an hour long tirade about how I was giving away my soul for this and how my parents would be as disappointed in me, just as she was. I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran out of the shop and left. I hopped in the Jeep and just drove. I don’t know what, why or how, but I ended up at Dr. Feelgood’s corner. I hadn’t talked to him in a long time, but somehow I ended up in this drekhole of an apartment.

He answered the door and it looks like he hasnt slept in ages. The normally scrawny human was even more scrawny than normal.

You need to eat a taco or something” I told him as I walked in. My skin began to crawl as I surveyed the filthy apartment.

Shut up you snobby slitch,” he replied. “What the hell do you want.”

I need an escape.

What kind of escape? I got some novacoke, some psyche, bliss. Drek, woman, what is it you want?

The mere mention of novacoke took me back to San Francisco. The thought of Bowjack, the rigger for Havoc Squad, slipped in her mind and how violent his showdown with SFPD was. “No novacoke … ever for me. ¬†Give me some BTLs … dream and moodchips …

The scrawny shell of a man reached into a cabinet and pulled out a handful of chips. Also a sim module that I needed to attach to my commlink to allow it to be used for these. I slipped him some creds for the chips and left.

Your welcome!” I heard him say as I left the apartment. I hopped back in the Jeep and in the rear view mirror, seen the disappointed faces of my parents looking back at me. “Frag it!” I screamed and sped away back home …

The Duchess Gets a Jeep! …

[San Francisco, CFS — 2074]

I got word from Calypso that she had a line on a job, so I hopped a flight to San Francisco. Just before landing, we had a meet with the Johnson through the Matrix. He was a bookish researcher for Stanford University that was investigating condors or something. He was thinking that TerraFirst! was attacking and burning down nearby stations, farms and campsites and wanted them stopped before they endangered his research stations. He was providing transportation as part of the deal, but would let me keep one of the Jeeps … yet anyways. After the deal was made, I had Walker set up a rendezvous at the old church and headed out. There were a few … changes to Havoc Squad since I last ran with them. There is another girl there that was the same age as me with cat ears and skates, but the biggest change was that Eternal had quills! Apparently SURGE has hit him and now he looks like an overgrown porcupine with a ballistic mask and sword. I couldn’t help but to poke him, but the bad thing is that he poked back and dammit those quills hurt.

We piled into the pair of Jeeps and started making our way out of the city. Along the way, we had a run in with some bike gangers, but we were able to easily persuade them to stop pursuing us with an ice sheet and some fireballs from Walker. After we left them in a pile of wrecked bikes, we proceed on to the area where the attacks were taking place.

We past by a little farm that looked like it was run by Wuxing and there were some armed gaurds patrolling. I pulled over to see how things were going and if there was anything that we should be worried about ahead. The gaurd was talking about how everything was closed due to some eco nutjobs. I directed us back to the freeway, but we continued on. When we arrived at the first campground, there were plenty of notices in AR that said the campground was closed, but we decided to investigate. It looked like a whirlwind blew through the campground. Tents and debris were strung all over and some of the buildings were demolished. Ace and Sledge were attacked by some snake. Not sure why there was so much commotion, it was just a fraggin snake, not like it was bugs or anything. Assensing the campground left me feeling uneasy about it. The mana in this area seemed … off … seemed corrupted in some way. I convinced the team to leave the campground and spend the night just outside of this place. I asked a raccoon spirit to watch over us while we slept in the Jeeps.

The next morning we picked up the trail that lead to the remains of a Ranger station. There was a spirit of man there, but it was unlike any spirit of man that I have seen. It was all twisted and covered in oozing sores. Eternal used his sword to dispatch it with ease before it could attack us, and before I could really get a look at it. There was definately something corrupted about it.

We investigated further, going offroad with the Jeeps and alot of hiking, but ended up at another destroyed logging camp. There were animals here, but they were also corrupted and toxic. It was sad to see these beasts in this state. We easily dispatched these spirits as well. For some god awful reason, Ace wanted the paw of the cougar. We found a survivor of the attack and got some details on it. The attackers were using explosives and seem to attack with a speed that caught the guards sitting on thier asses. They easily mowed over them and the guards fled.

The next day, and some more research and scouting, we narrowed down where the attackers were encamped. I decided to zip there Astrally first so that I could confirm that it was the location we were looking for. I ran into a corrupted spirit there as well, so it was the place. I retreated back to my body and worked to get a plan of attack going. I asked for help from a pair of raccoon spirits and they assisted us. Ace, who apparently IS some sort of mage, tried to summon a spirit as well. From the start, I could tell that his gestures were all wrong. One thing about spirits, if you dont respect them, they will refuse to help you and it can be painful, even deadly. With the furry little trash pandas as support, we snuck into the encampment and engaged them.

The spirits were less effective than I was hoping. I pained me to see one of them get tore up by one of the corrupted wolf spirits and … how could this happen … The enemy mage corrupted my other raccoon. Ace ran and hid his bitch ass behind a rock and the others engaged the mage and toxic spirit. I was distracted by the events with my poor raccoon spirit that I did not see the attack coming. The spirit tore into me and I went down. The last thing I remember was the distorted black mask of the raccoon spirit and a splash of my blood.

I woke up in Walkers embrace some time later. He healed my wounds and kept me safe while the rest of the team finished off the enemy threat. We eliminated the threat and got alot of the research notes that the toxic mage had. Sledge and Ace found a stash of commercial explosives and loaded them up in the Jeep (not mine). When we contacted the Johnson, we were able to secure more money for these notes AND get one of the Jeeps for me! Such a nice guy he was. With the job complete and pay secured, we headed back to the city. Sledge and Eternal were in the Jeep with the explosives and Walker, Acorn, Ace and I were in my Jeep. Just after we entered the city, I spotted an SFPD cruiser behind us. We took the offramp, while the other Jeep kept going. The police car followed me off of the freeway and pulled me over. I quickly switched from my fake SIN to my real SIN. Apparently, they wanted Ace and Walker for questioning or something. They took them into custody and let Acorn and I go. We held hands as we walked back to the Jeep and left, making sure that the Jeep’s pilot system was controlling and not me. Walker shot us a message to let us know that everything was fine, but I am not having it. Need to come up with a plan, but first, I need to get out of these clothes and cleaned up.

I mentioned to Acorn that Calypso and I were headed to a rave in an old warehouse and asked if she wanted to join. She was down, but also needed to change first. I got a hold of the elusive Tatters to help with cleaning the Jeep and making it mine. One of these days, the two of us will be on a run together, but for some reason, he never wants to go on runs that I am involved in. Not sure how I feel about that yet, but he seems pretty solid and Walker trusts him, so I am good with that. After I got cleaned up, I got a cab, picked up Acorn and headed to the party. I pulled Calypso aside before hand and discussed what was going on with Walker. Between her and Tatters, we should have enough to bail (or rescue) Walker from the SFPD. I will work with them, and the rest of Havoc, once we know more, but for now, I need to drown myself in reggae music and the smell of pineapple rum.

P.S. I wonder how I can steampunk out the Jeep ……