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 ……

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 …

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 …

The Duchess Goes to an R&D Facility …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

So when we last left off, people, our little squad was about to get into it with the research facility guards. As the guard moved to detail Kira, I readied myself to hit the guard in the booth with a stunbolt if Soren failed. She used one of her mind spells to convince the the guard that the the scanner was malfunctioning. I took the queue from her and distracted the guard while she cast the spell. It seemed to work as we made our way to the secure part of the basement where the prototype was kept. The smoke from the smoke grenade was still billowing out of the HVAC system. I tried to convince them that the fumes may be toxic, but they had spare gas masks down here and they grabbed them.

“drek …” I thought to myself.

When we all got into the room, we decided to take the guards out. Kira and Freecoil go to take them out, but it wasnt enought to take them both out. I hit the remaining one with stunbolt and knocked him unconscious. BetaTest did his matrix mumbo jumbo and got us in. While he was hacking in to get the research notes, Freecoil and I searched around to find the actual prototype. After a few moments, he was able to decipher the pattern and get the prototype. While BetaTest was digging around, the Raccoon in me got the urge dig around, but sadly all the doors and drawers were closed. After the spell casting, I also took some time to erase my signature, in case anyone did some digging anytime soon.

So we have our prototype and our research notes and decided we would exit the place in a hurry. Soren conjured up a trid phantasm to look like the gaurds as we exited the room and through the first checkpoint. The guard there said something to one of the fake guards and I almost hit him with a spell, but it seems like he was fooled. The same with the sleepy gaurd that was at the entrance where we came in. We quickly exited the building, met up with BetaTest’s car and dumped the stolen van. We set up the meet and got paid.

So now I have a little spending nuyen in my pocket, now what to do with it. Not quite enough for a Jeep, but enough. I went back home where I have the fluffy white cat that was a part of this whole scheme. He jumped up in my lap as I sat on the couch. As I was petting him, I decided that I would keep him. I decided to change his name though and think will call him … Rabbit.  He’s soft, white and likes to jump on everything. Yep, I thought to myself, your name is Rabbit. I brought up my commlink and started doing some research on various formula for foci or alchemical items. Figured it might be time to look into making some myself.

The Duchess Gets A Mustache …

[Present Day — Baltimore, UCAS — 2075]

So lets get back to the job that I am currently on.  As a recap, we were hired to steal a set of prototype cybereyes from a research facility.  We found a couple of engineers that were working on the project.  The first, we stole the lady’s cat and threatened her into leaving town for awhile.  Hopefully, BetaTest was able to get her some vacation time so she doesn’t lose her job.  I would definitely hate for that to happen.

During the time before the concert, I had to work a few days at the shop working with some foci.  I brought the cat with me so that I can keep an eye on it.  Star Feather gave me a curious look at first, but the cat seemed to like it there.  He would just lay around there, but didn’t seem nervous at all and kinda took over the place within a few hours.  After work, I didnt know if the cat would like it, but I took him to the park and all he did was just lay around and eat the grass.  I am sure that it looked weird to people that I had a cat on a lease, but drek, I have seen people walking pigs around on leashes, so why not a cat?  I stopped and picked up some his favorite food, along with some takeout, on the way home.

But anyways, back to the job.  We decided to go to the concert to see what we can gleam from that guy.  However, BetaTest was able to get more info for us.  Based on that, we planned on stealing a van and the gear from the HVAC contractor and that was going to be our way in.  So on Saturday, we went to the concert.  I tell you what, Electric Hazard turned out a pretty wicked show.  When they started to play Wageslave Ghoul, the crowd lost their fraggin minds!  I spotted our mark and met up with him on his way to the bar.  I tried smoozing him with a little flirting, but he didn’t seem to take the bait.  Times like this remind me just how young I look.  Kind of a bummer really, but Soren was able to get some information from him when he went out to smoke.  We didn’t learn all that much more from the mark, so we decided to proceed with the current plan. I stayed for the rest of the show and closed out the club. Sadly though, I wasn’t able to get to the afterparty.

The work order that BetaTest got has us posing as HVAC repairmen, complete with mustaches … which I didn’t totally understand how that would be included in a work order, but I went along with it anyways.  I didn’t sense any deception or anything and he hasn’t led us astray at all.  The work order was scheduled for midnight on Sunday, so we decided to break into the place around 9.  We needed to grab the necessary gear and steal one of the vans, but we needed to do that and get to the facility before it could be reported as stolen.  BetaTest easily enough made sure Kira, Freecoil and I could get into the place.  We grabbed some jumpsuits, air filtration masks and a box of air filters.  Kira grabbed a set of keys from a locked desk and headed out to get the van. Now that we have our way in, we needed to get to the facility and get in.

We pulled into the maintenance entrance and headed in.  At first the security guard was a little suspicious, and sleepy, of us but I quickly threw together a cover story about there being an office party for Steve’s birthday.  He called for an escort to stay with us through our work.  We already expected this, so we waited.  When he got there, we went into one of the HVAC rooms.  I convinced the guard to wait outside due to possible hazard debris.  There was not a way to get into the basement from here so BetaTest jacked into the system and caused some alarms to go off.   The guard knocked on the door and was a little curious due to the timing of the alarm and us going into the room.  I dont think he accepted my story, since he called in for some assistance.

When the other guard got there, we decided to take a little more drastic action.  The mention of using a grenade in the HVAC system made me think back to my time with Havoc Squad and Uncle Eternal’s love of high ex grenades.  I shook the thought from my head as we decided to drop a smoke grenade down.  It made a little bit more noise than I expected so I told the guard that he was distracting us and that if a tool fell down there, it could ruin the HVAC system.  A few seconds later, smoke started billowing out of the vents.  We said we needed to get to the basement to find out what is causing the issues there.  When a general alarm was raised, due to the smoke, the guard called it off momentarily.

As we were escorted down to the basement, we came to another security checkpoint.  Again, we knew this was here and expected it.  I got the sense that they were doing some scans and was relieved to remember that I did not have any weapons on me.  However, as one of the three guards moves in to detain Kira, I realized that the others on the team did smuggle weapons in.  The jig was up and our cover was blown at this point.  There was one guard in the area with us, another at the entrance and a third in a side area behind glass. Raccoon help us, I whispered to myself, as I got a spell readied.

The Duchess Gets Down and Dirty …

[San Francisco — 2074]

So in continuation with what I was saying previously. Calypso set me up with meeting the teams’s decker, Tatters, to get the data off of the other teams commlinks.  I think I may have caught him off guard a bit, but he was able to get some data off of them.  There was just some procedural info, but nothing really on the Johnson.  Later that day, I had the team meet up with me at the club to plan out the warehouse raid.  It was within walking distance, so we walked to it.  I felt like I was in one of those old western trids from the 5th age that Frank always talks about.  I must admit that I got a little rush out of it.

When we got to the area around the warehouse, we scouted the buildings and posted up on a rooftop.  Eternal scouted ahead and posted up just outside the warehouse, Bowjack used his flyspy drone to scout inside the warehouse and Walker scouted it out Astrally.  It appeared that the warehouse itself was empty, but they found a passageway that led down into a network of tunnels underneath.  It was warded so there has to be a spellcaster involved.  Eternal left to get some bigger gear and while we waited, the dwarf was caught on the flyspy coming up from deeper in the tunnels.  It appears that there is very little, if any, Matrix signal down there.

When Eternal arrived with his gear, there was a new person there.  They called in assistance from another teammate of theirs.  A troll that goes by Viking.  I made him an offer for him to join in on the run and it was accepted.  I still have a little in the remainder for what I wanted to do still.  You see, Walker risked his life for me the previous night with the drone an I wanted to repay him.  I had Calypso get me a wolf pup for him.  Hopefully she was able to get one on such short notice.

But anyways, now that the team is together, we proceeded into the warehouse and down the tunnel.  It was dark and dusty down there, but we cautiously moved down there.  I slipped a little on the way down and my outfit got even dirtier.  To make matters worse, another behind me slipped and kicked a bunch of dirt and mud in my fraggin’ HAIR.  What the frag, this will take FOREVER to get out.  Apparently speaking out my disgust was a bad thing since Eternal looked at me with that look that Frank gives me when he was disappointed in me.

We moved further down the tunnels and came upon a room.  Eternal started poking around at some mounds and some giant ass ants came up to attack.  So not only is my outfit dirty, I have dirt and mud in my hair, but now I have do deal with some damn bugs!  However, before I knew it, Eternal had the bugs slain.  For some reason, the troll Viking swept me up along with Bowjack and carried us into there.  Now this is starting to piss me off.  I scratched and hit him, but he just simply carried me in and put me down.  But there was more serious issues now.  There were a couple of tunnels leading from here and there were clanking noises, and alot of them, headed this way.  Eternal used some grenades to close down all the tunnels but one to limit their access to us.

Then came in the grotesque bugs that look more humanoid than the ants previously.  To prepare for the onslaught, I summoned a spirit in the form of Raccoon for assistance.  When I noticed that they were wearing armor, so I cast a spell that would affect them.  Unfortunately, the next wave wasn’t really affected by it.  Good thing that Sledge, Raccoon and Viking were there to hold them off.  I also seem to recall a pretty well placed lightning bolt from Walker as well.  After the waves were done, we moved further down the tunnel.  I had to remind the team that their job was to find out what happened to the kidnapped victims AND stop the threat.

It took some hiking around in the tunnels, thankfully Eternal marked the way down, we came across a large cavern.  There were a couple of people strung up that look to be in pain.  Walker pointed out that this is a lodge and that we needed to disrupt it.  The others started moving rocks and stuff around and I summoned an earth spirit to assist us.  Once the boulder materialized and started moving around, the whole place started shaking. When it stopped a few moments later, Walker confirmed that the Insect Shaman’s lodge was destroyed.  Eternal and Viking freed the captives and luckily they were still alive!

There were way too many tunnels to further explore and chances are the shaman has already escaped.  As we prepared to leave, I asked Eternal to use the remainder of his explosives to bring down the cavern and the tunnels.  I told him that I would reimburse him for the grenades and he happily obliged. So as we escaped back through the tunnels, he planted explosives with the help of Sledge and his construction knowledge.  Apparently, Bowjack had already left and met up outside the tunnels.  I wonder if the bit of shaking that we experienced frightened him.

So with the job done, I took the team out to dinner and paid them.  I was happy to hear that Calypso was able to get the puppy.  I also had her grab me some high ex grenades to give to Eternal and she would have them when I get the puppy.  I picked them up and met them at a diner in San Francisco proper, paid them, gave Walker and Eternal their gifts and provided dinner.  For some reason, Bowjack starts spouting off about the puppy and novacoke.  Walker and I left, along with Eternal, and apparently there was some commotion back at the diner with Bowjack and Sledge.  What happened next still haunts me ….

I must admit that for my first excursion into the shadows, this was a pretty good team, with a few exceptions of course.  I spent a few days more in San Francisco with Calypso and then caught a flight back to Baltimore.


The Duchess Gets to be a Johnson ….

[San Francisco, CFS — 2074]

I was not expecting a call from Calypso today, but here we are talking for about a half hour about some issues at the Cerebus Club in San Francisco. She wanted to bring me out to assist with the job and be her Johnson. Of course, I would go. Its a club and its Calypso asking. So yeah, booked a ticket and flew out that night. Never doing that again, red-eye flights are the WORST! We went over the missing people from the club and recognized one of them right off the bat. Laura was a bartender there and the two of us hit it off right from the bat. She introduced me to a few new groups and some nova-hot tracks. Most of which are still on my regular playlist. A few of the others are familiar, but all are either from the club or live in the neighborhood.

She set me up with her runner team. A fresh team to the Bay Area that relocated from the Tir. They were called the Havoc Squad. Their decker wouldnt be there since Calypso has him working on another project, but the others should be. She set the meet and all but a few showed up. There was Eternal, which was a scary ass street sam that never took off his mask. He seemed to be the enforcer in the group. There was Bowjack, their rigger. Seemed normal enough at first. Then there was Walker. I recognized the Wolf totem he carried so I knew he was Awakened. Apparently one of them, one called Ajax, met an unfortunate end and his replacement was an Ork named Sledge. We negotiated the pay and they accepted the job, even with the caviat that I would be along as well.

The club had a show that night and the following one, so the team only had a few hours before they needed to get to work. Holy drek, that was a wicked awesome DJ there. His name was DJ Thor Shot and his drek was hot! I also added some of his tracks to my regular playlist. But anyways, they team was going to be providing security for the club and keeping an eye on things. Eternal posted up on a nearby rooftop to keep an eye on the outside. Sledge was watching the door, Bowjack watching the bar and Walker watching Astrally. There was a little commotion as Bowjack and Sledge were hassling one of the patrons. Something about novacoke, but I pulled them both aside and had to tell them to pay attention to the job at hand. I dont think that they were taking me seriously. It seemed all they see is a girl that was dancing on the floor. Well yeah, its a club so of course I was dancing. I set them straight, but I still didnt think that my authority as the Johnson really kicked in. That or they were not used to working with the Johnson.

After a few hours, a few individuals were looking suspicious. I had Walker and Sledge keep an eye on them and Bowjack stay at the bar. Eternal found a drone scouting around outside and took it out. After that, a person started to leave. Walker and I quickly moved to intercept and question him while Bowjack and Sledge remained at the club. Even before I could get out there, the guy was already unconscious with Walker standing over the top of him. He wasnt dead, just out cold. As I looked him over, all of a sudden, Walker grabbed me from behind at my waist and pulled himself over me. “What the frag ???” I thought to myself. Until the hail of bullets sprayed us from another drone. Walker had pulled me away and shielded me from the bullets. I dont think any of them hit, but he won points in my book.

Eternal easily took the drone out before I even knew what was going on. In another instance, he noticed a truck that started to pull down the street we are on, then change course. Bowjack pulled his roadmaster, which he strangely calls his “taco tank” for some reason, over to us. Walker and I put the unconscious guy in the back. By this time, Eternal had already shot out the rear tire, repelled down and was chasing the truck. Yes, he was chasing the truck like a stray dog. I summoned an air spirit to assist him with catching up to the wrecked truck. I also had Bowjack drive us there to assist. Sledge was also on foot running after Eternal.

When we all got there, Eternal and Sledge had the wrecked truck covered. A trio of other shadowrunners were out of the back of the truck. “Great” I thought to myself as Walker and I got out. I had them put down their guns and take a seat as we questioned them. Surprisingly, they did as they were told. One of them, an Awakened woman, kept being mouthy, so I had the air spirit engulf her to keep her and the others in line. Soon enough they were telling us what was going on. They were hired by a Johnson to kidnap people in the area and were paid per head. The only description they had of him was that he was a dwarf. I took their commlinks to have them checked. As a show of professional courtesy, I had them cuffed together, stripped of their gear and had my air spirit carry them to a nearby high rooftop.

So here is what we know. A dwarf hired some shadowrunners to kidnap people and take them to a nearby warehouse. So our next step is to check out these commlinks and scout out the warehouse. Hopefully, these people are still alive, but since no ransom was received … well lets just hope they are ok.

The Duchess meets the Caribbean Queen …

[San Francisco, CFS — 2074]

OH!, I thought to myself as I seen the alert for a concert date that is coming up. Forsaken Nexus is coming to town. Last time I seen them was in San Francisco awhile ago. It was at an underground club there. Come to think of it, that may have been one of my first excursions into the Shadows.

I was originally there on a sort of vacation. I took a week or so off and decided to fly out to the Bay Area and check out the club scene there. It had been years since the occupation and things were starting to pick up there again. So I figured why not? I caught a flight and off I go.

When I got there and through airport security, then onto my hotel room, I started checking around to see what was happening. Come to think of it, I was 14 or 15 and nobody had said anything about a teenager flying across the to another nation and staying in a hotel all by themselves. Eh, I thought to myself as I unpacked and started to plan things. I seen that there was this neo-anarchist ork rock band playing at this club. After hearing a few cuts from Forsaken Nexus, I thought it would be a fun concert to go to. So I made the plan to go there.

When I got to the club, holy drek was it nova hot! The band was wicked awesome and I was having a blast out on the dance floor. The band took a break and the DJ took over, but the intensity was still the same. I bumped into another young woman with dark tanned skin , green eyes and short brown hair. She spoke with a caribbean accent and said she was from the Carib League. She introduced herself as “Calypso” and we hit it off from the start.

We danced the night away and talked about all kinds of different things. I knew she was much older than me, but it didnt seem to matter to her and I certainly didnt care. Everyone that she talked to, she would call “my dears” except me. Any reference to me was “her baby girl”. I kinda liked the pet name she had for me.

After we left the club, a couple of ork assholes started to harrass us. That was when we found out that we both were Awakened. She seemed impressed with my abilities and she was certainly someone that I could learn from. Over the next week, we spent alot of time together at various clubs or practicing magic. It was great to have a mentor that was into the same things that I was. I mean, Star Flower is great and all, but she jut didnt understand me. Calypso, on the other hand, did.

When it got towards the end of my stay there, we got into a discussion about my parents. I told her what had happened and about the letter that I received. That was when she told me that she was a fixer, much like Sabot was back in Baltimore. She used to be a shadowrunner herself and now has settled into a new role that she enjoyed. I admitted to her that I was interested in the work and that I was getting set up with Sabot in Baltimore. She was glad to hear that and said that she will keep in touch.

We talked quite a bit since then and even met up a time or two when I would get out there. San Francisco has sorta become a second home for me. After I got settled in as a shadowrunner, there was a standing agreement between us that we would be there for each other if needed. I still called on her from time to time for various reasons, even just to catch up. It still makes me smile when I hear her call me by her pet name.

But anyways, with Forsaken Nexus coming to town, I have got to go see them. I gave Calypso a heads up and invited her to come to Baltimore for the show, but she is to busy there and unable to make it. To bad too, that would have been fun to host her in my neck of the woods for a change. Anyways, I need to get tickets to that show …