The Duchess Leaves Baltimore

So I haven’t been posting in awhile, there has been some new developments in my life. Baltimore is getting pretty thick with bug spirits and I think I have been able to trace it to the nest. Sadly, I will not be around to destroy the nest. I am getting packed and ready to move to San Francisco … Baltimore just isn’t safe for me anymore.

A few weeks ago, the talismonger shop where I work was hit by gangers, but these weren’t normal gangers, nor were they Yakuza. They were bug spirit hosts that were looking for me. They tore up the shop, destroyed everything and murdered my mentor, Star Flower. That is one of many new images that I cant get out of my head. The first was the Yakuza that I killed, the second was Acorn and the … incident, now seeing Star Flower laying dead on the floor in the shop. Her body was ripped and torn. The store was looted and all of her foci was stolen. The police say that it was a robbery gone bad, but I know better. She was tortured and murdered in an attempt to either get to me or to make me stop my search. Well it worked … I am leaving town.

A couple of days ago, I was over in my other apartment, which was attached to my fake SIN, and was attacked in the same manner as the Talismonger shop. They must not have expected me to be here since there was just a couple. I have been having spirits keep an eye on me since Star Flower was murdered and the fire spirit warned me that they were coming. I summoned Raccoon for some help and ambushed them as they came in. They were stronger than I expected, but I was able to kill them. I suffered some pretty bad wounds though and, what really pisses me off, is they killed Rabbit. I mean, for frag sake, what the hell was the reason for killing my cat!

I was mostly packed when that happened, so it was time to just get the hell out of town. I threw a healing spell on me to stop the bleeding and cleaned off the katana. Just before I left, I took a last look at the apartment and seen an old photograph of my parents. Kicking myself in the ass for not remembering to grab it, I stuffed in my bag and headed for the Jeep. I had made the arrangements with Frank to be able to access my trust fund from San Francisco. I still need to get an apartment there, but I can stay with Acorn or at the warehouse until I can find something. Frank also arranged for the Jeep to get shipped back to San Francisco as well. I told him to be careful and to take care, then closed the door and went to board the flight. Maybe some day he will understand why I went to the shadows, but for now, the less he knows the better. The shadows are fighting back. I cant do it all myself. I need help. I need people I trust. I need Havoc Squad.

The Duchess Gets A Phone Call

Glancing down at the ringing commlink, “Walker?” I say to myself. “Drek, what happened?” I slid myself behind some storage crates. The warehouse was empty from what she could tell, but you never know. Doing another quick look around the warehouse, she answers “Walker??? Whats going on? Is Acorn OK?

Yeah. She’s fine, kid. She’s fine. Just was a little bruised up today. Some mage put an ice sheet on the road as we were coming back from our meet.

Ok, good. What do you need me for? Kinda wrapped up in a few things here right now.” I peer up as the sound of a falling pipe hit the concrete floor.

I was just making sure you were fine now, kid. I wanted to check up on you. Things have been kind of crazy around the city at the moment.

Its seems to be crazy everywhere. I finally got a chance to just sit in my apartment overlooking the harbor the other day, then the drek hit the fan. Cant go into much details right now, but its definately getting crazier by the day.” Has it been that long since I have been there? I thought to myself.

I’m sure you could always come down to San Fran if you need to get away. I’m sure Acorn misses you and all. Wolf has grown up over the last few months into something healthy and strong, thanks again for him. He’s been a good companion…” The man gives an audible sigh on the end of the line, pressing his head against the wall.

I do plan on coming there soon, but it wont be for a little while. Like I said, the drek is getting thick here, but if I have to bug out, that is the only other place I would feel safe.

That’s good. Let’s hope the mage flinging all the ice is gone by the time you get here then. If something like that happens again, we’ll probably just has to hope we came out of it as fine as we did this time. Alright… I suppose I should let you take care if you got some drek on your plate.

Wait … what do you mean a mage flinging ice? Whats going on there?” I quickly asked. The sounds of clanking and crawling seemed to be getting closer, but I cant let on to Walker the trouble I am in. It sounds like he has his hands full there and it wont be able to do much right now anyways, even with access to the Archangel.

I mentioned it when I called you that Acorn got in an accident cause some mage flung an ice sheet out in front of us. Bastard sent us into a pile up, but the roadmaster took most of it.

Well thats different than what I assumed you were talking about. I thought you fought a mage that struck first, but it sounds like its more than that. What aren’t you telling me?

Sorry. I guess I misspoke. It seems some cowardly mage is going about the city and throwing ice sheets in the streets. Lotta cars and people have been crashing all over the city it seems. We didn’t see him, but it was obviously a spell.

Ahhh, ok … just seems kinda odd that an ice mage strikes and now your calling me. Are you sure that everything is fine … that Autu … erm … Acorn is fine?

The man chuckles a bit, giving a bit of a tight smile on his end. “Yeah. Yeah. She’s fine. I don’t know, I haven’t checked up on you, and you haven’t called yet. This is the first time in a bit, besides that bomb, that we’ve been injured out of a run. Seems like luck is shitting out all over, kid.

Indeed …. damn, now I am starting to sound like you … I was telling Acorn that I will try to make it out there in a few weeks. Hopefully by then things should be calmer

That’s good to hear, kid. You just try and be careful with whatever you are doing. Call me if you need any help alright? I’ve been worrying about those around me recently, so I just hope you’re alright.

Thanks, Walker. I should be able to handle this, but if anything is needed or if I have to flee, I will let you know.

Thanks, Duchess. Alright, I’ll leave you be then. Just take care.

I disconnected the call just as a the warehouse erupted in activity. “Drek!” I thought to myself. The way to the exit was clear so I dashed for it. The invisibility spell was hiding me, or so I thought. Just as I was about to crash through the open door, a spirit appeared. The grotesque form of a hybrid formed bug spirit stepped in between the opening and me. I quickly flung the katana at it and buried it deep in his chest, but it didn’t seemed to do much. The creature pulled it out and threw it down. I hit it again with a manabolt. I put all I had into the spell, as if my life depended on it, since well it did. The spell hit true and dropped the creature. I grabbed the katana and fled the warehouse. “Bugs … why the frag did it have to be BUGS!”

The Duchess Makes Breakfast Burritos …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

So as it turns out, my breakfast burritos are starting to become legendary with both Havoc Squad in San Francisco and for my team in Baltimore. Both Soren and BetaTest really like them. They were one of the first things that I learned to cook. Frank found an old recipe card from my mom for it and gave it to me. I memorized it and havent really changed it much. The only changes I really made was for the soysage. I cant really stand it so I use real sausage and chorizo instead. A bit more expensive, but makes for a better burrito. The other change I made was using fire roasting the peppers. Getting that char on them helps bring out the yum on them. So here is the recipe for them.

6 eggs
3 to 5 fire-roasted jalepenos
2 fire-roasted green peppers
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 large ripe red tomato, diced
3 to 4 small fresh mushrooms, sliced (I prefer white button or portobello)
1 lb pork breakfast sausage (fully cooked)
1 bag (1 lb 4 oz) refrigerated shredded hash brown potatoes
6 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded monterey jack / pepperjack cheese blend

1 medium avocado, sliced (optional)

First you want to fully cook the sausage and eggs. Now there are two ways to make these. I prefer to keep all the ingredients separate and then add individually to the burrito, but you can mix it all in the pan and just scoop the mixture into the tortilla and enjoy! Either way, you can top it with the fresh sliced avocado, but these go extremely well with some homemade guacamole as well!

The Duchess Meets a Raccoon …

[Baltimore, UCAS]

From what I can remember, Raccoon has always been with me. My earliest memory is shortly after my parents died. Frank, Star Flower and a few other adults were around talking about me and my parents like I wasn’t there. Like I didn’t matter. Like I was insignificant in this fragged up world. I was sitting in this room with all these adults when a furry little trash panda showed up. He skulked around the adults and came to play with me. He chased around the ball I had, curled around me, let me scratch behind his ears and under his chin. He likes that. I felt safe with him. I felt … like I mattered.

There wasn’t much that I remember with the discussions except that it was about my parents. It seemed whenever something important was mentioned, they switched to hushed tones. Again, they looked at me as if I was a by-product of some significant event … but was insignificant still. I looked around and tried to pay attention to what was going on, but Raccoon kept distracting me. Looking back, I can now tell that he was protecting me.

Years later, Star Flower took me under her wings and taught me the ways of being a magician. Frag, I must have been 10 or so then. Started out as basic stuff, but then we started exploring the Astral space around Baltimore. It was here that I started to feel the same fear as I did when I was in the living room as a kid. Fear of the unknown, I would say. While she was teaching me about auras and how to read them, a powerful fire spirit attacked us. I did my best to stay out of the way while Star Flower handled it, but there was little I could do. The spirit landed a direct blow on me. I could feel my body burn with the pain. I closed my eyes was back in the living room again, hearing the adults talk about adult stuff. The same burning pain coursed through my body then as it does now. When I opened my eyes up again, Raccoon stood between the fire spirit and my crumpled body. Star Flower stood next to him, a look of shock at the giant beast spirit that came to my aid. The fire spirit didnt stand a chance.

Afterwards, Star Flower and I had a long discussion about Raccoon. I explained that I have been seeing him ever since my parents died and that he has helped me through the difficult times. It was then that she started teaching me about mentor spirits and how they exist to assist us. She taught me how to accept Raccoon and to ask Raccoon to accept me. I remember thinking that the “quest”, as she called it, was pointless since I already accepted him and he apparently has accepted me.

Star Flower helped me to build a lodge to protect me during my quest. She kept reinterating why I need to make sure that I was protected while projecting or leaving my body. There were some apparently nasty beings out there that would inhabit the bodies of mages while they were unprotected. Once the lodge was completed, I projected into the Astral plane.

Almost immediately, Raccoon was there. We discussed various topics, mostly on how to treat spirits. We mutually understood that magicians, such as myself, needed to respect spirits, ask for thier assistance and thank them when finished. When I respect the spirits, they will be more willing to assist me. However, I didnt no believe in binding them to serve me. I know other mages do it and Raccoon was ok with it, but it seemed barbaric in its “Master – Slave” relationship.

We also discussed me and how I have developed over the years. He took me back to the living room when I was a child. Instantly, the fear and pain came back. I could see myself, as a child, play with Raccoon while everyone else discussed adult topics. Even then, none of the words made sense. When I asked why I was brought back to this place, Raccoon simply sshhhhhed me. “Really, you going to shhh me?” I said. Then the stern look came from the furry creature. Its hard to imagine a scolding look come from a raccoon, but it got the point across. There were … papers??? … being shuffled around. These seemed to be the details of my trust fund and how Frank will be the trustee involved with that. Then there was an old manilla folder and pictures of … the car accident? “Wait a minute …” I thought to myself. The realization of who one of the people in the room was just hit me. He was an investigator of some sort. A single word changed my life forever during that quest. “Murder

After that, Raccoon has been my mentor, friend and sounding board when needed. Shortly after this quest was when I got the note that started my career as a shadowrunner. Still to this day, all I know is that something happened to my parents and it was not an accident. With Raccoon’s help, I WILL find out the truth.

The Duchess Escapes Reality…

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

Duchess sat on her couch in her Baltimore apartment that looks over the harbor. Night has come and she hasnt moved since she picked up the BTLs from Dr. Feelgood. She held one of the chips in her fingers, staring at it … pondering on whether or not to slot it. She picked up a new commlink with an illegal hot sim module that will allow her to get the full experience of the BTL through her datajack. Memories of past events flow through her mind. The violent death of Bowjack … eventhough Walker tried to shield her from most of it. The insect shaman and his … bugs, shuttering at the thought of crawling through those tunnels. The toxic mage and his turning her Raccoon spirit against her. Her continued relationship with Acorn. The disappointment in the face of Star Flower when she got her datajack. The face of the Yakuza that she killed … All of it was too much. She needed to flee … she needed to run away … she needed an escape and the BTL she held in her hand was the ticket out. All she had to do was slot it. Then she remembered her first run in Baltimore and the extraction from the BTL den. All of those trippers there. Most of them have forgotten about the world. They forgot they needed to eat and to sleep. They forgot to remember simple things like brushing their teeths or exercising. They forgot to … live. They forgot to detach from the ride. She didnt want this to happen to her. All she wanted was just to escape for awhile. She slotted the chip and booted it up.

The feeling started out simple enough. She found herself walking along a tropical beach on a warm sunny day. The warm breeze and sun enveloped her. Her skin tingled in the rays of sunshine. It tingled in the salt spray of the waves. It tingled as the warm sand pushes between her toes. She sat in the sand as the warm water started to reach her. How long has she been sitting here, she wondered, as the tide came in. Nobody else was around and she realized she was naked. The salty ocean water sprayed across her body. She could feel, smell and even taste the individual drops of water. The next wave came upon her. Time slowed to a crawl as she watched the water crash into her. The drops of water seemed to crystalize into shining diamonds. The sound of the ocean rush her ears, the smell of the saltwater invaded her nose, the salty taste of the ocean on her lips and the wet feeling of the water enveloped her entire body. The feeling was … indescribable, intense and strangely erotic. Another wave crashed into her naked body, but this time she was waiting for it. She wanted it. She craved it. The intense ecstasy she felt as the water rushed over her topped anything she has ever felt before. She imagined herself with Acorn and even this was better than the time spent with her. She readied herself for the next wave … but it never came.

Duchess found herself in back in the apartment, her body still throbbing from the experience, so much so, she had to go change her clothes. Then it hit her. The extreme loneliness, the despair, the misery of living in this world came crashing down on her. It literally brought her to her knees as she curled up in a fetal position in the bathroom. Her body went cold and chills ran up and down her spine as the crash continued. She screamed out as the excruciating headache came. She thought of things that made her happy. Raccoon, Acorn, Magic, the campout she had with Walker … none of it helped. Magic has betrayed her. Raccoon was turned against her. Acorn and Walker were disappointed, even mad, at her. Everyone was against her. She thought of her parents, of Frank, of Star Flower. They were all disappointed in her. She let them all down. Then there was the Yak. His face returned to her. She grabbed the katana and swung at the image, but nothing was there. “NOOOOO!” She yelled as his face appeared again. She swung down with the sword as in drove into the face of Acorn. She dropped to her knees again, her eyes filled with tears.

I thought these were supposed to take these away. I thought that these were supposed to stop.” She said out loud to the empty apartment. She then noticed the pile of chips that she purchased sitting on the nightstand. This must be why the people in the BTL den kept slotting these. She picked up another chip and stared at it. Pondered on slotting it to take the pain away. “I just want to escape for awhile.” she said softly …

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 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 Goes Grocery Shopping …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

I decided to get out of bed today around 11am, that is after laying in bed for an hour or so checking various news and social media feeds. Its the day after our last run and for a Monday morning, it was relatively boring. I didn’t have any plans today, so I decided to spend the day out and about the town. I closed down the feeds on the commlink and played with Rabbit for a bit. He apparently was hungry due to the incessant meowing and I was as well. When I got out of bed, I slipped on my house slippers, that look like raccoon faces of course, and Rabbit immediately pounced on them. He really likes it when I wear them around the house, he will leap out of nowhere and attack them, then dart back into another hiding plan. “Frag!! Rabbit … damn you” I yelled when his claws went in a little too deep. I strolled out of the bedroom, still wearing my t-shirt and panties, and walked to the kitchen to get some coffee made. While it was brewing, I went ahead and fed Rabbit and decided to check out the city from the window. There were floor to ceiling windows in the living room that looked out over Baltimore and has a decent view of the harbor. The sun was out this morning, but clouds were expected throughout.

I made myself some breakfast and got dressed for the day. I needed to get some shopping done and made a list of what I needed. Now that I decided to keep Rabbit, I needed to get some more cat food and and stuff for him. I headed down to the Stuffer Shack and mostly wandered the aisles grabbing what I needed. I almost forgot to grab a pack of burritos and the food for Rabbit. As I went to the sections of the store, my AR display popped up a coupon for both of them. “SCORE!!” I went through checkout, grabbing a copy of the latest celebrity gossip magazine, and started back home.

I turned off the commlink since it started getting spammed with various celebrity news and some ads for Sir Fluffington line of cat clones by EVO. They looked strangely like Rabbit. I might have to check into if he is one of them. There were additional ads for various magical goods and, of course, upcoming concert events. I didnt feel much like looking to those now, but will at another time. I rounded the a corner and past a little boutique shop that had some antiques. Curious, I stopped in and checked around. I turned my commlink back on and brought up my AR display. There were some various odds and ends and even some 5th world trinkets. A small glass case caught my eye and there was a small silver amulet in it. I did a quick image search on the amulet and it was what I thought it was. A 5th world rendition of a symbol for my Shamanic tradition … and only 200 nuyen!! I got all giddy and bought it. It was a perfect fit.

I kept walking down the street and looking at then amulet. You know what, this would make a perfect telesma for a foci. I stopped in my tracks all of a sudden and looked around. Nothing …

Strange” I said to myself.

I kept walking, but someone … or something was watching me. I didn’t notice anyone around me so I shifted to look in the Astral plane, but nothing was there either. I picked up the pace as I finished the walk back to my apartment. I rounded the last corner and into the doors of the building. I stopped again to look around. Again nothing … I looked Astrally and what I say nearly knocked me off my feet.

What the frag!” I said in shock. “Dammit Raccoon!

Raccoon simply laughed and moseyed on his way. At least I knew that if nobody else was there for me, I could always count on Raccoon to be there. I laughed and went into my apartment. Rabbit was on the chair in front of the window soaking in the sun. I put away the groceries and gave Rabbit a new toy to play with. Of course he just looked at me in shock for disturbing him and went back to sunning himself.

So now that I have that stuff done, I need to get down to the shop and get some supplies for a magical lodge and have Star Feather make a focus for her.  She starts putting another list together.

Looks like today is going to be a shopping list day, Rabbit“. The cat again looks like “how dare you disturb me, woman!” I laughed and said, “one day we would be able to know what you say in your head and we will all live in fear …