[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]
I fraggin knew something was up once I walked through the door. It was in the middle of the day, the shop should have been open and busy. Star Flower never really closes during the day unless there was something wrong. Furthermore, she is just sitting there … waiting … for me? I subconsciously rub my wrist where the datajack was. I could feel her eyes burn as she glared at the implant. “Drek …” I said as she motioned for me to sit. I kept asking what the hell was going on, but she just kept sitting there insisting that I have a seat. I sat down and she proceeded to tell me how disappointed she was with me. How disappointed Raccoon is with me. “I will always support you, Jenessa, but you need to think about your life choices. I do this because I care about you.” She said as I sat down. She stood and lit some candles and incense. As the incense started to take hold of me, I could hear another voice. “Meet the Dweller”
I was floating in nothingness. But then the giant face of Raccoon appeared. He wasn’t the same as I normally see the furry trash panda. His face was stern … unmoving … disappointed? He was saying that I needed to reconnect to my roots. “I don’t think it can be done … GIVE UP“. His words pounded in my head and still do. Was he abandoning me? “I don’t understand?” I kept saying.
The visage then turned to Wolf. “You choose to be in this life, but you want people like Walker, ‘Uncle E’, and everyone else around you to do the dirty work. You want all the glory and none of the dirt. You claim to want to learn the truth about your parents. Why they were killed. But you just want to take the easy road. Let that trust fund pay for everything. Let others kill for you. Anything so you don’t have to sacrifice. You shouldn’t be here.” “What??? I don’t understand? I have sacrificed plenty! I have killed people doing this!” I screamed.
After finishing that, the visage turned to the Yakuza person that I killed. I can never forget his face … ever. Only this time it was dead and withered. “You don’t even really want to be here. You’re only interested in the next way to destroy yourself.” He said, pointing to my wrist where the datajack was installed. “All because you had to bloody your hand … And to freak out over killing me. Foolish girl doesn’t belong in the shadows. If you knew how many people I’ve killed … tortured.” A smile starts to spread on his face. “My favorite job was that family in Mt Vernon. There’s an art to the order in which you kill a whole family…” He trails off before snapping, “You might have killed me, but I knew what I was and embraced it. I died doing my duty. You’re pretending to be something you’re not, and *it* will kill you. Go live the coward’s life you so desire.”
Tears started to well up again. Raccoon and Wolf were … abandoning me and now the face of the dead Yakuza that I see every time I see a reflection is berating me for killing him. “I dont understand what you all are asking of me? What is it you want?” I screamed.
Then it switched to … mom? There she was, right in front of me. She looked sad … disappointed. The tears burst out “MOMMY???” I kept saying over and over again. “But now you’d rather play with chips. All because it got hard and you had to take some burden on yourself. Maybe you’re not strong enough … maybe you should turn back and give it all up … go back home to Rabbit, stick to going to the clubs, and let those with the will to run do it.” The disappointed, sad look on her face was too much. The tears just kept coming. “MOMMY!” I screamed as she started to fade away. “Don’t go … don’t abandon me too.” I screamed. Then she was gone. Star Flower, Raccoon, Wolf and … Mommy have all abandoned me. “Why did they leave me?” I softly asked myself, looking at the datajack.
Raccoon was there again. He asked me simply if I wanted to continue down this path. The tears stopped. The crying stopped. Matching the intensity in the look of Raccoon. “Yes” I stated.
“Then help!” He said as I flew through Astral space. Everything was such a blur. There were seas of fire, a whirling vortex, crystalline structures, trees … wait, that is ONE tree … The sounds blended together. Buzzing, clacking, talking, screaming, whispers, squirming, all of them at once. It was almost sensory overload, then it all stopped. I woke up in a field beneath a tree. Overhead is a thick forest canopy that blocks out most of the sun. A cool breeze wafted over me as I see a furry creature running towards me. It took me a moment to realize it was Raccoon and he was frantic. Almost immediately, seeing him took me back to the stern look he gave me and how I should just give up. I shook the feeling loose as he runs up to me, holding a twisted bloated stick. I took a look at the stick and recognized the magic from my time with Havoc Squad. “A corruption has taken hold, help me to cleanse it.” I hear Raccoon tell me.
Without hesitation, I stood up and followed Raccoon deeper into the woods. “Damn your furry little ass can run.” I shouted out to him. We came upon a small clearing in the woods. Above was a horror that I have never imagined before. The creature seemed to be pulling an oil like substance from the ground, even though it was high in the sky. Then the stench hit me. The smell of decay and corruption permeated my senses. The area around the oil was blighted and corrupted.
There were corrupted water spirits that were being confronted by some beast spirits. They were battling while I protected and assisted Raccoon. I took a shot with my manabolt at one of the corrupted spirits, but figured my skills would be best used assisting Raccoon. I noticed the horror was also trying to turn the beast spirits. My mind thought of when the toxic spirit caused my raccoon beast spirit to turn on me. I couldn’t let that happen again. I attempted to disrupt these attempts when I could. However, I failed and it turned a fox spirit corrupt.
The other spirits were able to fend off the corrupted spirits, but the corrupted fox spirit sprang on me. I wasn’t expecting it since I was helping Raccoon with the clean up. Luckily it was enough for Raccoon to finally cleanse the area. The corrupted spirits dissipated. The horror took a lasting look at me and then disappeared back to where it came from. Raccoon was overexcited and ran around me in circles. I dropped to my knees and let the furball nuzzle me . I scratched behind his ear and under his chin. Our eyes met and he thanked me for helping him.
I found myself within the talismonger shop again. The incense and candles were still burning. As I found my bearings, Star Flower also came out of her meditative state. “Raccoon and I have a stronger bond than ever.” I stated. Star Flower simply smiled. I got up to leave and as I walked out, I realized how cold that sounded. Star Flower has also always been there and supported me. She even supported me with running the shadows even though nobody else really did. Frank would drek a brick if he knew the kinds of stuff I was doing. The trips to San Francisco, which I generally just played off as following a band or something. If he knew it was to run the shadows, he would be pissed!
The walk home, I felt a calmness that I have never felt before. The itching in my wrist where the datajack was installed was no longer there. However, one thing from the experience stuck with me. Raccoon telling me to give up. Wolf telling me to stop taking the easy road. To stop having one foot in the shadows and one foot out. The Yakuza telling me to embrace my job. My mom saying that I wasn’t strong enough. All of these kept flowing through my head. By the time I got home, I had just one thought on my mind. I needed to be stronger. I needed to embrace my path. I could no longer be Jenessa Greenley, the party going, trust fund brat. I looked in the mirror in the bathroom and seen my reflection. “I am Duchess …” I said. “I am DUCHESS …” I said louder. The faces of Raccoon, of Wolf, of my mom, of Walker, of Soren, of Kira, of Eternal, of Freecoil, of Betat, of Tatters, of the Yakuza man … of Acorn. A sharp pain hits me when I think of her. I couldn’t protect my love when she needed me. My eyes came to a sharp focus. Never again will I let that happen. “I AM DUCHESS!” I screamed. A smile came across my face. Gone was the girl … Here is the shadowrunner.