The Genesis Concept

The Safe House Run, or A Bounty Gone Bad
Safe House

Logan had been trying to get his Bail Bondsman business up and running. In fact, he had had some initial success as he had actually been able to cash in, so-to-speak, on the apprehension of several minor criminals. He had used his legal SIN to set up his business and then through that was able to “hire” bounty hunters in the form of Gemini, Diesel, Sam and Manu. Logan even was able to participate -thereby honing his shadow skills in the process. This had been in July and August of 2053 and he wanted to replicate his early success by trying to acquire a larger bounty job with its requisite larger pay outs.

On the 2nd of September, Logan succeeded in acquiring the information on a large double contract. To rogue mages, a Jefferson Daniels and his partner, Gretchen Catron, were playing havoc in the shadow scene within the Elevated Core and the O’Hara Subsprawl. So much so that the Chicago Outfit, aka, “the two major Mafia families, one mid-size family, and a half-dozen smaller families”, wanted them eliminated but so far, had not been successful in doing so. Therefore, word had it that the Capone family leaned on the respective aldermen for both the Elevated Core and the O’Hara Subsprawl who in turn pressured Eagle Security to place a ¥40,000 bounty on each one. Logan contacted the team but only Diesel, Sam and a friend of Diesel, an elf whiz boy by the name of Stanley Ganish were available. Both Nitro and Gemini were on other jobs and couldn’t break free.

By the 4th, through legwork, Logan and the others were able to locate a hideout in the Noose that was used by both the wanted mages. This hideout was most likely their main safe house. It’s location was very near the Shattergraves which offered it anonymity and a measure of magical and physical security -so much so that both Stanley and Sam very very reluctant to astrally project in the area of its suspected entrance. The entrance seemed to be a cave made out of collapsed rubbled and ferrocrete and Logan seemed sure that this was the site, no astral projection was needed. Logan asked all to enter into the cave structure. Manu protested saying that his skills were better used in remote support but the the team elected for Manu to physically enter the cave as well in direct support of the team as this was an arcane location and the bounty required the capture of two mages and the, possible, elimination of the mages’ four person security detail. Logan ascertained that the direct support of all participants was necessary.

The team had negotiated about 100 meters of tunnel when they came across the safe house’s entrance. They ran afoul of a fake grenade boob trap which created a situation where they were not expecting the real grenade trap. Manu to the brunt of the blast and, while injured, did not fare too badly. He did however, lose one of his foci which degraded his ability to magically support the others. It took a few minutes for the team to force entry into the safe house and then they hit a corridor designed for defense. It was over in mere seconds with gunfire and, unfortunately, another grenade blast. Sam, who was invisible, was taken down and Manu got hit again. The team did take down the four guards in combat but was unable to penetrate the safe house any farther do to the fact that they had lost two arcane members and were in no position to confront two mages directly, if they were still present in the safe house as the fighting had broken out. Logan made the hard decision to call off the bounty attempt and he, along with Diesel and Stanley were able to recover both Manu and Sam as they retreated back into the tunnel.

The night of September the 4th descended and found a despondent Logan drinking heavily. A few hours prior he had found out from the street doc attending Sam that Sam had died. Manu had been injured and was going to be down for at least the rest of the week. Logan had felt compelled to pay the Diesel, Manu, and Stanley a grand to compensate for their troubles but that still did not assuage the pain of Sam’s death and the fact that the bounty attempt had been a failure. Logan could, at least, pass out in a drunken stupor with the knowledge that he had given the information about the Safe House run to his Eagle Security contact. At least, Logan felt assured, that the contact was able to celebrate a job well done.

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Ant Lion
A Prologue

Here in this silent. alien world, far from the streets of Chicago, the trap was shutting around him. He had felt it ever since the start of the run,and now his mounting sense of danger seemed to have reached some critical point.

He sensed that, here in this damned jungle, he was going to die.

The calm of the jungle made the foreboding the more unbearable. Dorin could live with the idea of death by a sudden bullet because the touch-and-go business of the streets might turn against him, but in this infinitely patient jungle, the wait was agonizing. What was he doing here? The city was where he belonged, the streets, whose staccato rhythm matched that of his own body, spirit, and magic.

He stared down through the cockpit window at the ocean of jungle vegetation rolling as far as the eye could see. As his hired pilot skimmed the Federated Boeing tilt-wing just over that ocean of green, the hypnotic, dull buzz of the rotors sent his mind drifting back over the past several days.

It had all begun when Solomon Daniels, his Fixer in Chicago had contacted him. Daniels, who supplied Dorin’s talismonger shop with fetishes and other magical supplies, had discovered the source of his own supplier’s fetishes. The corp with whom Daniels did business could not have realized the value of such information or they would have guarded it more closely. With knowledge of sources, a customer could bypass his middleman, even if that middleman were a large corp. What Solomon learned was that two primitive communities in the South American jungles were the source of the fetishes. The local shamans made and sold them to the supply corp for almost nothing. Hey, see a buck, make a buck, Dorin thought. Such was the will of Coyote.

So it was that Solomon hired Dorin to make a run into the jungle to buy up as many fetishes as possible at the low wholesale price. Dorin had jumped at the chance. He liked the thrill of a run, and swiping the fetishes out from under the noses of the corp buyers appealed to his spirit. Though the first premonition of doom had stirred even then, Dorin ignored it as mere jitters. But on every step of the run, the feeling grew more intense until it was almost tangible. He felt like an ant caught in an ant lion’s trap, sliding inexorably down through the sand into the jaws of death.

He tried to shake it off, thinking he must stop taking everything so seriously. Just then, the pilot said something in what could have been either -Spanish or Portuguese, and pointed out across the jungle. It was their destination, the little village of thatched roofs enclosed like an island in the ocean of green.
They’d already made quite a haul at the first village, and Dorin was expecting to totally pack the rotorcraft’s cargo with plunder from this one. But he also hoped there’d be no repeat of his strange reception at the first village.

The pilot had landed the F-B in a clearing near the first village, and Dorin had hopped out to greet the villagers even before the rotors stopped turning. He had been smooth, rehearsed, and prepared with a smattering of the tribe’s dialect. When the shamans appeared, they received him with supreme politeness mixed with caution. But when they thought he wasn’t looking, Dorin caught them giving him odd stares, especially one shriveled husk of a man whose beady eyes never left Dorin. The deal went off without a hitch, the shamans not even attempting to negotiate. At first. he thought it was because they didn’t know he would have paid more, then he suddenly realized that they were afraid of him. They wanted him to leave, and quickly.

While the villagers loaded up the plane, Dorin couldn’t help but look back at the old man with the beady eyes. Wrapped in a faded blanket, the weathered shaman continued to gaze intently at Dorin. But the look was one of sympathy, perhaps pity. Then the man’s eyes filled and a single tear ran down one creased cheek,driving Dorin’s sense of spiritual doom deep into his soul.
Again, he tried to shake it off. The old man had no right to pity him, he thought angrily. Why were they treating him like this? Nothing had happened and nothing would. He wanted to go up to the old shaman and scream, “Stop looking at me like I’m a ghost!And don’t pity me. I don’t want your pity and I don’t need it!” But by then, the villagers had finished loading the cargo, and Dorin didn’t want to risk an outburst that no one would understand anyway.
A cry from his pilot brought him back to the present. What happened next seemed to go in stop motion as though the light from the sky were a dance floor strobe light. What the pilot saw was a sleek silver and blue jet fighter that knifed through the clouds like a bolt of lightning, then whistled down. A missile dropped from under the fighter’s wing, and for one long moment, hung in the sky. Then reality accelerated as the missile fired and blazed toward the rotorcraft. Dorin’s pilot jerked frantically at the craft’s controls, but the missile struck.
The concussion threw Dorin forward against his safety belt and slammed his head into the cockpit window, dazing him.The rotorcraft was completely out of control, spinning in a mad vertigo. He tried to concentrate on a spell, but his head throbbed from the window impact. He could hear the rotorcraft smashing through vegetation in its descent, and he tried to brace for impact. When it came, the pilot’s side of the plane slammed into the ground, buckling the metal. The breath was torn from Dorin’s lungs on impact.

The aircraft slid to a halt. carving a long furrow in the jungle floor. The rotorcraft just lay there on its side, with Dorin buckled in his seat and suspended above the ground. As he gasped painfully for breath, he caught traces of the smell of smoke. Glancing down, Dorin saw the pilot lost in a twisted mangle of sheet metal and flesh. Smoke billowed around him as an electrical fire crackled from behind in the remains of the aircraft, but the door above Dorin had buckled on impact and sealed. Concentrating his will, he felt a surge of magic course into his hand, knitting the flesh into tough leather and then into a hard enamel. With a punch, his hardened hand smashed through the cockpit window, shattering the glass in a wave on concentric rings. He hammered on the window several more times until the entire frame of glass popped out, then he dropped the spell. His head already ached with needles of pain from the effort of sustaining magic. Choking on the smoke now pouring through the shattered window, Dorin unbuckled his safety belt and climbed through the window.

He slid down the nose of the aircraft and staggered several meters away, where he slumped down against a tree. Panting heavily as his muscles quivered with remaining adrenalin, he touched his aching head and felt his hair wet with something warm and sticky. When Dorin took his hand away, his fingertips were smeared with crimson. He was certain he must have some kind of concussion.

Through his dazed state, Dorin tried to evaluate the situation. The jet that had shot him down must certainly belong to the corp he’d been sent to undercut, and they would certainly come looking for the wreckage of his rotorcraft. They must have discovered Dorin’s visit to the first village and mobilized to catch him at the second. The situation looked bleak. They couldn’t be far off,and he had no food and only his urban survival skills in the middle of a jungle. He had a probable concussion, too, with no spell to cure it.

But Thomas Dorin laughed. Hadn’t he cheated death? A presentiment of spiritual doom had screamed death from the start of this run,and he had cheated it. For once,his Coyote spirit was wrong. This, ironically, gave him strength. He was a survivor. He would continue to face the challenges before him and survive. He considered conjuring a spirit to conceal the wreckage, but it would take too much out of him to call up a spirit powerful enough to conceal the crash site. Instead, he stood up and prepared to set off east toward the ocean. In a brief flash, the sense of foreboding returned stronger than ever, but Dorin dismissed it fearlessly and began to walk.

Delirium soon replaced any other thoughts as physical exertion made his head injury worse. One day passing into the next, he could barely distinguish between hallucination and reality. Stumbling through the heavy vegetation, it was as though he moved through a surreal world of dreams. He had lost any desire for food or water and any conscious sense of direction, yet he felt drawn toward some goal. And all the while, his Coyote spirit warned him of death. Now he was sure it was his totem, not just some sixth sense. At times, he would follow phantom coyotes through the jungle only to end up walking In circles, or worse yet, continue to plod on toward his nameless goal.

After the eighth day, Dorin’s physical and spiritual re- sources gave out and he collapsed. He was passing through an area overgrown with vines, but it felt as though his body were touching something made from stone. Before he could wonder about that. he slipped or was pushed into the astral plane. His astral form , so different from Dorin’s ripped muscular physique, dressed in the flashy clothes he favored, was naked and emaciated. And yet, he seemed to perceive everything so clearly and consciously. The stone monument before him had a clear astral image that radiated strong magic. The monument was an unmarked pyramid four meters high and just as wide. A phantom coyote identical to those he had chased through the jungle appeared alongside him. As Dorin watched, the coyote’s fur began to move, almost to writhe. Peering closer at the astral form, he saw that the coyote was swarming with large warrior ants, each one the size of one of Dorin’s thumbs, and with square heads and thick mandibles. As the coyote looked sadly at him, for an instant Dorin saw its face replaced by that of the old shaman with the beady eyes and tears of pity. Then the phantom uttered a long and lonesome howl. As the mournful sound died away, the coyote collapsed . Immediately, the ants devoured its body, and the phantom corpse soon disappeared under the writhing mass of insects. All the while, Dorin experienced the scene as though through time-elapsed photography. When the body was gone, Dorin felt empty inside and knew that he had not escaped. The trap had shut around him.

And then the ants began to pour over him, burrowing into his skin and rooting out great chunks of his astral flesh. But he was like a spectator, watching it all happen, his consciousness removed from the destruction of his astral body. The ants carried the bits and pieces of his astral form up Into the pyramid, with several carrying each rib and a swarm carrying his bare skull. As the procession reached the top of the monument, it began to disappear down through a hole into the pyramid. At that point, Dorin’s clarity of vision seemed to dim. He wasn’t sure exactly, but perhaps it was that the ants were rebuilding his astral body in the murky interior of the pyramid.

Then he understood. Power. They offered him power. Real power, not just the freedom of that stupid Coyote. The possibilities danced before him, dark sparks glowing with energy. A figure danced before him. Young and beautiful, she was everything he had ever wanted. With this new power, he would have her. She would be his, she would be his Queen.

Thomas Dorin threw back his head and laughed as the sparks danced around him.

She would be his Queen.

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My...How Time Flies.....
Time Progression

It is Sunday September the 1st of 2053. Fifteen months have gone by since the conclusion of the Global Technology run. Each ‘runner who ran that run has seen time flyby.

Logan has diversified and has a legal persona which he uses to negotiate legal life in Chicago. This compliments his hidden shadow identity. He is a fledgling bail bondsman who has just as of late summer of 2053, employed the team, and himself, on a lucrative job. Gemini and Diesel have been busy within the Chicago shadows as have both Sam and Manu. However, both Sam and Manu have not yet ben able to break out of their respective squatter and low lifestyles and rely on the team’s activities as their main sources of income. Manu, however, has lost over 34 kilos in weight and seems to have embraced the concept of getting into shape. Nitro has just returned from a year running in Seattle, with some success, but had to come back to Chicago due to a run that went bad. Black Lightning, Freya’s contact, who had helped out before becoming injured on the Global Tech worked with both Gemini and Diesel on several outings but, unfortunately, was killed on a run eight months ago.

Global Technology has done very well for itself and both Urlan Manes and Roxane Wunter have not forgotten the team’s efforts. Both the Upright Man and the fixer Noggin have fixed runs for several of the team members from time-to-time.

Another Fall season is upon the denizens of Chicago and as the year 2053 enters into the home stretch, Gemini, Diesel, Manu Manu the Slender, Logan, Nitro and Sam all wonder what the coming winter has in store for them…..

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Job Well Done
Job

Evening of 26 April 2052

Gemini, Manu Manu the Slender, Nitro, Sam, Logan and Diesel all were very happy. Well, some as happy as they could be given the circumstances they faced.

They all had a cut in the ¥ and even had acquired a bunch of bearer bonds issued from a very relieved and happy Global Technologies CEO, Urlan Manes. The Global Tech job had benefitted everyone hired by Roxanne and procured by the Upright Man. Everyone’s rep just got a tad bit more shiny. However, the events of the last week had not been without cost. Logan, the adhoc team’s face, needs reconstructive surgery, on, well, his face. The combat mage, Sam, also needs reconstructive work done on his face and even needs a set of cybereyes. The Upright Man’s street doc buddy had counseled Sam that his optic nerve had been irrevocable damaged and that Sam would need cyber replacements if he wanted to continue to have the ability of mundane sight. By the close of the day, Sam has now reluctantly come to terms that his magic ability will be slightly diminished as a trade-off of him being able to see in the ‘meat’. Furthermore, the night before last, Gemini went down hard in the fight at the warehouse but was able to assist in the early hours of today in the dispatching of Griffin, “Jack the Ripper” and thereby help with the concluding of the mission as dictated by Global Tech. The future effects of his injuries are not fully known but at this moment, other than pain, Gemini shows no further ill effects of his brush with death.

The Upright Man made sure to send Gemini, Manu Manu the Slender, Nitro, Sam, Logan and Diesel all a voice message of gratitude and the promise that should he have need of their services in the future that he would certainly call upon them as they have proven that they, together, can get the job done. He wished them well in their future shadow endeavors.

OOC Summary: Each character received ¥15,714 currency and ¥11,428 in the form of Global Technology Bearer Bonds (stock). Global Tech’s meeting was a great success for CEO Urlan Manes and Roxanne Wunter’s star seemed to certainly be rising. Furthermore, the razor guy known as Black Lightning was recovering from surgery where he had Wired Reflexes installed. Poor Jr. Martelli, was indicted for a number of crimes and was looking to spend a great number of years within the United Canadian and American States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. The spring of 2052 seems bright for the ’runners, indeed.

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Sunday and Beyond

Late Afternoon on Sunday, 21st of April 2052

The team, after interrogating the decker Tee Hee, decided to conduct some legwork. The were now minus Diesel and Sam, as a few hours ago Diesel had taken Sam to a street doc as he had need of medical attention after being shot so both of then were unavailable for the legwork which needed to take place. The team had learned that Junior hired a team that stole some unstable personality chips. They had also identified the team that Junior had hired. His team consisted of Cooper, the face; Freya, magical support, Tee Hee was the inside man; Griffin, the razor guy and Val, their rigger. Tee Hee told the team that Freya had been left behind on the job.

The result of the legwork was that Gemini found Freya was hiding out at Quickstitch’s , a shadow clinic in the Westside District run by Dr. Bob Quickstitch. Gemini, Manu Manu and Logan located the clinic and then, after the need for a seemingly strange diversion, met Freya as she convalesced from her wounds after she was betrayed by Cooper. Freya told Logan and Gemini that the group was hired by Booker Pengrave from Hollywood Simsense Entertainment (HSE) and while she wasn’t up to the task of helping the team she did offer a razor guy contact named Black Lightning who she said would meet them at Razor’s Edge.

After the team departed Quickstitch’s, Roxanne Wunter called Gemini and wanted to meet him at the Razor’s Edge so that she could be appraised of the team’s progress on the job. At the Razor’s Edge, Logan, Gemini and Manu Manu were ambushed by Junior and his razor boys. After a hard fight, one in which Freya’s contact Black Lightning, even got involved in, Junior was captured but the team was not without injury as Logan took flechettes from a Defiance T-250 shotgun to the face and Black Lightning, who had come to the aid of the team went down after giving Logan and Gemini supporting fire. Manu Manu went unscathed but worked hard to sustain two Increased Reflexes spells on both Gemini and Logan which proved to be pivotal in the course of the fighting.

Gemini was able to secure Black Lightning, Logan and an unconscious and captive Junior Martelli. He then drove off in Logan’s car and Roxanne was able to depart as well. Two Doc Wagon HTRs intercepted Gemini and took Logan and Lightning. Junior was eventually remanded to Eagle Security custody.

By Monday afternoon, Gemini was deep in legwork and had made contact with Logan as he was trying to recover from his wounds. Logan indicated that he would be available the next day, Tuesday the 23rd. Their new friend, Black Light may take a few days longer so his status for impending action was questionable.

Yet, as Monday came to a close, Gemini contacted Diesel and Sam, who was also recovering, and told them that Tuesday night was showtime as he found out that they had a party to crash.

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Dream Chips
Retrieved Data

The following is a summary of data retrieved by a decker contact of Manu Manu the Slender…..

The following data is relevant as of the 20th / 21st of April, 2052

GLOBAL DREAMCHIPS
The chips developed by Global are a combination of BTL chip technology with skillchip applications. The major problem with skillsofts Is that they require a significant amount of hardwired mermory installed Inside of the user. This limits the effectiveness of the skill to the amount of memory Installed In the user. Global Technologies got around this limitation by imposing a synthetic persona, using BTL techniques, over the personality of the user. This technique allows the installation of high-level skills.

Original tests of the chip involved a complicated neural feedback machine, located In Global’s labs. Original users of the chip plugged into the interface machine, which In turn plugged into the chip. This process protects the user from the negative effects of normal BTL chips, brain damage and personality disorders. A hidden design Haw caused a capacitor discharge directly into the brain when the chip is removed from a standard jacket. The research team had yet to reduce those effects to ‘acceptable levels’ with unfiltered chips.

For testing, Global used Jack the Ripper, Genghis Khan, and Cleopatra as personality models. Global assumed that the military would be interested In a chip that combined the skills of a great leader with that leader’s style. As time went by, Global team members began to call the chips and the people testing them by the personality encoded. Jack, Cleo, and Khan became pseudo people within the organization.

Had they been completely successful, the chips would have created an instant cadre of supersoldiers, spies, and assassins. Any individual with the proper sklllwires could change professions as easily as changing a chip. The chip would replace the user’s lower skill levels, and it would still be able to draw from the user’s individual memories and skills to make the person even better. In application, however, each of the three prototypes met with a different level of success.


Additionally, the following is a summary of general data retrieved by the same decker contact of Manu Manu the Slender….

This data is general information already available on the streets of the early 2050s and via all forms of contemporary media. This data was on a retrieved file which was given to Manu Manu the Slender.

BTLs
Better-Than-Life Chips. or BTLs. or Dreamchips are the drugs of 2050s. Highly addictive, these chips fit into a normal datajack where they begin their single-run sequences. BTLs work by stimulating different centers of the brain. There are many different types of BTLs available on the black market of Chicago.

Dreamchips can induce any of a number of pre-programmed fantasies with direct stlmillation of the pleasure centers of the brain. They are profoundly’addlctive psychologically. though there Is no evidence of physical addiction. The typical chip is timed and usually designed to burn itself out after one play. This prevents undue trauma and keeps addicts coming back for more. Dreamchlps can be plugged into a standard datajack.

In addition to the addiction, frequent use of dreamchips causes cumulative damage to brain cells. making the addict less sensitive to the effect. Users must obtain more frequent doses or increase the amplitude of the signal still further thus increasing brain damage this vicious cycle usually ends with the death of the user. Other effects can be nerve damage, memory loss, or psychotic episodes.

Chips are often modified to play continuously. Timers, self-erase features, and similar safeguards can be overcome. Such chips are called dreamgates on the street. They are usually one-way gates. Subjects hooked into a continuous high-amplitude simsense broadcast normally die within a short time as autonomic systems break down under the high-energy brain stimulation. Death by this means, either as suicide, or as murder by giving someone a ‘loaded’ chip is a staple in cheap adventure fiction.

The most popular type of BTL is an emotion chip. The chip allows the used to feel a certain emotion for a varying amount of time. After the chip’s program has finished. the user crashes, usually feeling the exact opposite emotion for an hour or two. Users of Sunshine Chips, for example, are extremely happy and carefree for two or three hours. After the program finishes. the chip destroys itself and the user crashes. He then becomes despondent and depressed until another chip is inserted or the effect wears off naturally. Habitual users often suffer more violent mood swings upon crashing. with longer recovery times.

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Trashed- A Prologue
Prologue

Trashed: A Prologue
Sometime in the Spring of 2052

The lights of the city spread out below them like glittering diamonds on a thick black cloth. In the eyes of most, these were simple lights. On this night, for those soaring over the city, some of the lights became real diamond gems, there for the taking.

Freya cupped the earpiece with her right hand and held onto the chopper doorframe with her left. The chilling spring night air blew through her long hair as she strained forward to get a closer look at her destination. She didn’t have to be told the rigger up front hadn’t filed a flight plan with the boys at traffic control. She wondered, for the third time in as many minutes, just what this run was supposed to be about. Her silent musing was interrupted when Mr. Face leaned into his mike and keyed his intercom .
“We’re almost there.” The gravelly voice came through with all the warmth of grinding metal.
“I want no slip-ups. Am I understood? You’re here because of your rep, and that’s it. Nothing flashy. Freya and Griffin, you two are simple muscle. Got it?”
“Yea, yea, yea. I hear ya. " Freya could feel her insides roil at the thought of working with Griffin. She glanced at her ‘partner’ as the copter’s sudden swerve bathed his stone face with light.
“I hate razors,” she groused under her breath. She knew this guy was hanging right on the edge. His crystal eyes were locked straight ahead, while his hands were deathly still. Her earpiece crackled .
“We’re after three skill chips,”Face continued.
“They’re being held in the corp’s think tank, on the fourth floor. When we get past the door, Freya and I will head upstairs. Griffin will cover the lobby. I’ll handle everything else. Nothing loud, got me?"
Face turned and looked at Freya and Griffin, but neither would look back.
‘The chips are mine, understand? I’ll get them. You’re both along to provide cover." Face smiled, trying to break the sudden tension .
“It’s a breeze, kids. Nothin’ to this one. " The rigger interrupted Face’s attempts with a hiss of static.
“Down in two, back in eight, assholes. We’re clear to drop. Beginning final approach.”
Time for silent prayers, or chants, or whatever gets you through a run. Freya composed herself, looking for the deep inner calm that would drive her spells. The pitch of the rotors shifted, and her stomach rose to her throat.
‘This is it. campers," the rigger prodded .
“You ’re back on the deck in eight or you’re on your own."
Freya blinked her eyes open and looked out the door. She was impressed with the rigger’s style. Right in the middle of the intersection. Not exactly a quiet entry, but this was supposed to be an easy one.
“That’s it,” Face pointed.
“Blue neon sign with the Armorlite acrylic doors. Let’s go!”

The sign on the door said Global Technology, but Freya doubted that the firm did any business outside Chicago. She slid out of the chopper as the rigger gunned the engine. The craft’s rise nudged Freya forward, pushing her out the door. Face and Griffin were already on the move, covering the 50 feet in a hurried walk. What a sight, the sleek and smooth goon beside the wriggling little fixer.
“Just like the board room, eh, Face?” Freya stabbed.
The fixer snarled something over his shoulder, never slowing his pace.
These chips sure must be important if this guy is willing to come along on the run, Freya mused. I wonder if I’ll ever know what I’m stealing.
By the time Freya arrived at the double doors, the two men were positioned to each side. Face pointed at the guard’s station. The chopper had made a lot of noise, but the Eagle Security uniform hadn’t appeared to notice.
“If you please? It’s time to earn your keep.”
Freya bristled as she pushed back her sleeves. Something subtle, she thought. She began calling on her energy reserves, weaving her hands like feathers in the wind. She began to draw them together, the fingers seemingly tying themselves Into knots. Then, with a final flick of the wrists, her hands shot out, fingers wide, Just as Griffin and Face drew the doors open. She watched as invisible energy raced toward the guard. Her spell took effect Instantly. The guard’s head flopped back, his eyes already closed. Arms limp, he tipped backwards, his head bouncing twice off the polished marble floor. He hadn’t uttered a sound. Face did not seem impressed.
"We’re in," he whispered into his micro-transceiver. Griffin was the first one in, as always. He barreled past the prostrate guard and scanned down the hall. All clear. Face and Freya followed closely behind. Face went straight to the elevator, jabbing the controls with a sweaty finger. The door slid open quickly. Freya and Face slipped in and punched the green number 4. As the elevator began its slow ascent. Freya could feel Face sweating. The odor of fear and anticipation was thick within the enclosed space.
“You’re not used to this, are you, Face?”
“Not your concern, spellworm.” He ran a finger under his collar and checked his watch for the hundredth time since the start of the run.
“Blessed Lady, save us from amateurs,” she intoned to the ceiling, thoughts of her Elven haven suddenly more enticing than the excitement of a run.
Face shot her a quick look, but the doors opened and a young decker stood there waiting.
“You stay here,” Face told Freya.
“Come on, boy.” Face pushed the boy forward. Freya watched as the two hurried down the hall. She leaned against the elevator jamb to prevent the door from closing.
The key to success on a run like this was to be ready for anything at anytime. Anything. So the first gunshot booming down the halls didn’t startle her so much as it jolted her into action. She pulled herself off the jamb as a door at the end of the corridor flew open. The young decker came flying out the door, bounced off the side wall, and started beating feet blindly down the hall.
Though her vision was obscured by the fleeing decker, she could just make out Face, backing into the hall, firing his pistol at some unseen enemy. Freya reached up her sleeve and gripped the L36 she kept for just such situations. It looked like she would earn her nuyen after all.
“Hit the floor!” She jumped out into the hall, crouched slightly, and gripped the pistol with both hands. The decker’s eyes went wide and he dove for the tiles, beginning a slide that Freya knew would carry him into her legs. Face flattened against the far wall without looking at the mage. She snapped off three quick shots before the boy crashed into her legs. Though small, the explosive rounds tore huge pieces of plaster off the wall and gouged a fist-sized hole in the door. Freya tucked and rolled forward as the decker hit her at the shins, coming up in a crouch as Face reached her.
“Three security personnel from Knight Errant,” he puffed.
“I don’t know what they’re doing up here.” He looked accusingly at the boy. Freya glanced at the closed elevator door.
“Take the stairs," she yelled.
“I’ll give you 60 seconds, then follow you down.”
She flattened herself against the elevator doorway, hoping it would offer some protection. She watched Face pick the boy up by the back of his collar and drag him down the hallway. Then Freya began preparing a little magic surprise for her expected visitors. It only took a few seconds before a profile appeared in the doorway. She considered firing once to scare it back, but she was too busy. When the cop saw her motions, his head disappeared just as she completed her spell. A moment passed, and Freya began to consider her options.
Then two security personnel jumped into the hall. One came in low, and the other held tight to the opposite wall. Both guns were up and ready. They were good, and they worked well as a team.
“Hall’s clear, Sarge," the sec-officer on the floor shouted.
Freya continued her soft, whispered chant as she stepped away from the elevator and began to back up.
“Copy, Barnes. Thomas? We got three on the stairwell, coming down hot. Thomas?”
Freya was six feet from the door when the Dwarf sergeant rounded the corner, still speaking into his headset.
“Thom…Mage in the hallway! Fire at will!"
Freya turned and flew for the door, reaching the doorknob as the hail of bullets began to impact around her.
“Damn his thermal eyes,” she cursed to herself, as the door gave way beneath her weight. She shoved through just as the sergeant triggered his only shot.
The 9mm slug tore into her shoulder and threw her into the handrail of the stairs. She could feel her balance begin to go, as her momentum threatened to carry her over the edge. She dropped her Colt and clutched the rail with her good hand. Then the pain rolled over her. She heard the Colt bounce down the metal steps, but her attention was fixed to the slowly closing door The bullets had stopped for the moment, but Freya could hear the Dwarf charging down the hall, his heavy jackboots slapping against the floor.
“Not this time, shorty.” Freya’s pale, white fingers danced toward the corridor, and a sheet of crackling energy reinforced the door.
With a woomph of air, the sergeant hit the door. Expecting little resistance from the door, the dwarf was unprepared when he threw his weight against the spell wall. He flattened himself against the barrier with a sharp crack that Freya imagined was cartilage. The dwarf’s troopers paused for a moment, then began firing into the magical wall. Fatigued by the spell and the bullet wound, Freya continued her chant as she flattened herself against the wall. Bullets were chewing through the door and her magical barrier, but for the moment she was safe. She could feel the churning wave of nausea begin to wash over her. In the back of her mind, she knew the barrier had cost her too dearly. Still chanting, she raised a hand to her shoulder. The whole front of her shirt was already covered with blood. She continued the silent chant, remembering the hours of training she had spent learning such skill. For the first time in her life, she was happy for the extra time she had been forced to study. Easing her way down the steps, she made it to the third-floor landing. Her Colt was waiting for her there. She decided to change clips as she continued on. By the time she reached the second floor, she had to use the wall for support. It left a bright red smear for the cops to follow, but she figured they already knew where she was heading.
Freya slid down the wall to the first-floor landing, where Face was peering through a crack in the door. The decker was quietly bouncing the back of his head into the wall as he waited impatiently.
“Where have you been? What happened?”
Freya stopped her chant and looked at the fixer with disgust.
“Not too bright are you, Face? What do you think happened? Security up on the fourth were having a little target practice. They’re on the way down. Well, two of them are.”
“I think I’m going to get sick.”
The unsolicited observation caught Freya’s attention, and she favored the decker with an annoyed glance. She considered it possible that he looked worse than she did. Of course, she couldn’t prove that without a mirror.
“Griffin got two of them,” Face said, “but one has the hallway and the lobby covered. No chance of breaking for the door with him in the way.”
Freya considered the options, but the sound of heavy footfalls on the way down hastened her decision-making.
“That’s last call, Face. Get your rigger down here fast. I got our hallway creeper."
Freya pushed past Face into the corner of the lobby. She could see Griffin pressed against the wall on the other side of the hallway arch. He was smiling.
"Figures he’d be having the time of his life."She noticed two dead guards near the hallway. “I really hate this guy.” Griffin held up one finger to the elf and wordlessly pointed down the hall. Freya nodded impatiently.
“One last time,” she promised herself. Legs tense, she pushed herself off the wall.
“Now”!!!
Freya thrust her hand in the direction of the hallway. Arcane energy sparked and flew from her hand. Griffin shouldered his way off the wall and ran for the front door. Behind her, she could hear the stairway door spring open as Face and the decker bolted from cover. Energy welled up in the entryway, covering the opening with a sheet of electric fire. Freya took a step for the door, but found her feet would not keep up. She fell heavily, barely catching herself on the edge of the receptionist’s desk. Weakly, she tried another step and found she could barely move. The pressure inside her head was almost unbearable. She fought hard to continue her chant and tried to make it to the door. An eternity later, she crashed through the doors. The fresh air stung her senses as she fought to get her bearings. She gulped in surprise at the intense light coming from the street. In the distance, she could hear the chopper. With tears in her eyes, she staggered toward the light. The rigger swiveled the spotlight aside, and Freya could see again. The Airstar was resting lightly on the ground as Face and the decker climbed aboard, its rotor blades revving up to speed. Griffin was, no doubt, already strapped in. Freya staggered forward, leaning heavily on a van parked on the street. She stopped to catch her breath and looked at the waiting chopper. Her eyes confirmed what her ears had tried to tell her. Face was urging the chopper up into the air. Either the rigger didn’t know Freya was still on the ground, or she didn’t care. Freya lunged for the chopper but realized she would never make it. Mustering strength she didn’t know she had, she broke into a trot. Just when she thought she might make it, the rig eased itself skyward. Freya continued her trot, staring at the door and Face standing there. He smiled down at her and waved. Guards broke out of Global, firing as they came. She ducked low as she ran, dodging between a row of cars.

“It’s not over, Face. You’re mine now. You hear me? You’re mine.” Freya summoned the last of her strength and picked up her pace. Passing directly under the path of the fleeing chopper, she headed for a line of dumpsters in a lot opposite the Global building. Hurriedly, she flopped into the nearest one and pulled the lid over herself. With luck, she thought, the chopper and cars will hide the cops’ view. Then Face, it’s you and me.
She pushed the lid open enough to see across the way. More security personnel were firing at the rapidly departing chopper. None seemed interested in her. Gratefully, she sank back into the garbage.
“Give it a couple of hours,” she whispered to herself. “Let the heat cool off. Get this shoulder looked at. I still got some rep with Dr. Bob’s. Then, Face, I collect my fee. With interest.”


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