Campaign of the Month: November 2014

Shadowrun - The Rat's Nest

Fleurs du Mal
Neil's Journal
December 18th 2070, Friday

I almost forgot. Whistler has been keeping it a secret, but he’s got himself a girlfriend. Not that I’ve seen her, but he was less discreet than he obviously thought. It was probably not very mature of me, but when he asked me if it was okay for him to leave for the night, I told him yes, of course, she probably already misses you. The look of total amazement on his face lasted only a second, but from Whistler that’s more than enough.

Is anyone surprised that I didn’t get a full night’s sleep? No, I didn’t think so. Sometime in the early hours I was woken by Splash who was screaming her head off in the street and when I ran outside, I found Claire unconscious next to her. Splash didn’t make much sense, but she seemed to think that she was responsible. Did I mention she was completely naked? So I gave her my coat and brought Claire into the pub. Liz brought Splash inside.

Claire came around fairly quickly, screaming about getting shot at. Liz calmed her down while I talked to Splash. She was holding onto something and I finally got the idea of taking a look at her with AR: she was holding an old rifle and she wore threadbare clothes. Both rifle and clothes looked amazingly real, more real than pretty much anything I’ve seen in AR before. She told me that she had had trouble sleeping and when she went online, she had a feeling of being watched. When it didn’t stop, she went to Liz to get something to sleep. Liz gave her a Prozac and I have no idea what Liz was thinking. Not much apparently. I’m almost sure she didn’t ask one single question before handing out that pill. I’ll talk to her tomorrow, we’re both not at our best right now and it would only end in a shouting match. It still may.

Anyway, Splash took the Prozac and went on a really bad trip. Glitzy has given her an EVO seed a while ago. EVO is a program bordering on AI that evolves into a sort of miniature jungle with all kinds of animals and plants. Pretty impressive and pretty invasive. Splash imagined some ants from EVO talking to her and followed them only to be swallowed by one of the black flowers her EVO produced.

She ended up in a tunnel with a little boy who gave her the rifle and told her that they had to fight for their lives. People were kicking down the door behind them, so they ran and came to an abandoned house. A glance outside showed tanks and soldier, all wearing the MCT logo. Splash was hit in the head by something, lost consciousness and woke up again, only to discover that she was still wearing the clothes and holding the rifle. The clothes had a Star of David sewn to them, by the way.

I called Glitzy because I thought that she might know a bit more about this, especially about the EVO part. Splash stalled for a while, but she finally admitted to us that she is a Technomancer. She also told us that she had lost her, hm, spirit guide for want of a better word. She called him to take a look at the rifle and when he touched it, he simply vanished. I can only imagine how that feels – I’ve only encountered Mr Snautz a couple of times, but he certainly is a part of me and losing him would be a catastrophe. The spirit guide at least could tell her that the rifle is a sort of combat program.

Splash said that she has made some changes to her EVO that resulted in weird black flowers and climbing plants that have already migrated outside of her container. We went to take a look at the plants and discovered Snake, Splash’s boyfriend, unconscious and entangled in the plants. I tried to pull him away and the plants let go, but left bleeding wounds. I’d rather not risk hurting him, so I left him where he was, who knows what the plants and the wounds symbolize. The really weird thing is that Snake is hooked up to the Matrix without a comlink or any other device that would allow him to access it, not even cyberware of any kind. We suspect that the Matrix Surgeon may have something to do with all this, but we’re not sure at all.

Fuck. I just realized that no-one has seen our cyberwhores for a while. They were working to earn money to rebuild the Nest and one of them came to get food and stuff a few times, but not recently. I should check on them, they had been a target for the Surgeon last time.
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Aftermath
Neil's Journal
December 18th 2070, Friday
The first night back at the Nest passed quietly until one of the Squatters had an accident with a mine left behind by the Picas, but he’ll live.
In the morning repairs were at full swing, people were doing their best to rebuild their homes. The clinic is mostly burned out and I’ve lost much of my equipment, but I got a tip that there was an abandoned street clinic where we just had to walk in and take what was left. I should have known that this was too good to be true.

Gilettes, Slicer and Eric left to get the stuff and returned a short while later. They did have all the equipment we needed, but they also had a run-in with a ghoul. Slicer and Gilettes are pretty much unhurt, but Eric has deep clawmarks. At least there are no bites. All three are now in quarantine and I’m doing my best to prevent the virus from infecting them. I do think that they have a chance, but apart from Growler and Liz, no-one knows what exactly happened to them or we might well have a mob on our hands.

Speaking of ghouls, John has recovered from the pneumonia, but when I drove out to check on him, I ran into ghoul hunters. I managed to get away after a short shootout and drove back to the Nest. There was no way I was going to search for John in that situation.
I reached him on his comlink and he told me that he had killed the two hunters I had injured. Glitzy and I decided to move him to another location, it was much too dangerous for him to stay there, one of the hunters had escaped and they would be back.

We loaded his belongings into the van and John got in at the back, closing the doors behind him, allowing us to keep our distance. Glitzy drove us to another abandoned factory where the smell of chemicals will mask John’s own smell. He also has access to the sewers there. On our way back to the Nest we passed John’s old hiding place and a group of hunters had gathered there, at least thirty people, surely enough to kill any ghoul they might have found.

Most of the Picas, former Picas I should probably say, have now left the Nest. Maggie threw most of them out in the afternoon, as a demonstration that she now belongs to the Scrappers and that the Picas no longer exist. That went pretty well, all things considered. We’ll see how she fits in with us. There are now only six Picas left who are injured too badly to walk, the rest only had minor injuries.

I’m going to spend the night at the Cow to keep an eye on Eric. It will be at least two days until the infection sets in, if it does, but I still feel better not leaving him alone.

Oh, and Liz actually assumed that I would leave the Nest and my patients for a roll in the hay with Glitzy when I told her that I had to leave for an hour. I couldn’t tell her that I would be relocating this ghoul I know, but even so I’d thought she’d know me better than that. Yes, okay, it can’t be easy for her seeing me with Glitzy, but damn it, she didn’t manage to tell me how she felt for three years. I hope she gets a grip on herself and soon.
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Home Again
Neil's Journal
December 17th 2070, Thursday

We have recaptured the Rat’s Nest. I’m too tired to sleep, so I can just as well write it all down.

During the Radio shack run, we got our hands on toy drones. Those things are pretty agile and big enough to carry a payload. After some trial and error, people got quite good at piloting the drones, so we loaded them up with flashbangs and rigged them to explode.

With rush hour traffic in the Barrens at full swing, we managed to get close to the Nest undetected and hid in the hills of garbage. The Picas had turned a fifty yard stretch around the Nest into a death zone with no cover at all, so an open attack would have been suicide. The drones could get into the Nest unseen we hoped and so an army of Hello Kittys, garden gnomes, bunnies, little doggies and teddy bears made its way over the open ground and reached the containers, coming from several different directions.

My drone was attacked by a dog and I had to explode it. At the time, the group that entered the Nest via the main street was already hidden under the wooden sidewalk and took that as a cue to explode as well. Others made their way further into the Nest. All in all, we created chaos and confusion among the Picas and like we had hoped, many of them took a dose of Kamikaze to get ready for our attack.

Now we sat back and waited for an hour, I estimated that the drug would by then have worn off with almost all the Picas and then they would crash, become incapacitated or at least seriously handicapped. Splash came up with the idea to play a high frequency tone over the loudspeakers of the Nest and even at a distance of a hundred yards, it grated on the nerves. It must have had quite an effect on the Picas, high on drugs and awaiting an attack at every moment.

I took the time to conjure up a couple of Watchers and a ghost and asked them to find and confuse the Picas during our attack. I chose the ghost of one of the Picas I killed, with the hope that the sight alone of someone they know to be dead would at least startle them.

Under cover of darkness and with a couple of our people laying down suppressive fire to keep the Picas from shooting at us, we crossed the death zone and attacked, again in several small groups and from different directions. The Picas had gone into hiding, the Nest was silent and empty, even the squatters had disappeared.

I went with Blaster and Cameron, who went up on the containers as our spotter. Blaster ran into a trap and almost got shot by a Pica who had hidden in some trash. After a short fire fight, the kid went down and we continued, further into the Nest. The containers are only a couple of yards apart and we already knew that there would be traps, so turning a corner and even walking down the small alleys was nerve-wracking. We discovered a wire across our way just in time and Cameron spotted some movement in a second storey container. He shot an explosives dart through the window and the Pica who had been hiding there caught fire, crashed through the window in panic and landed right in front of us. We took the time to roll him over to extinguish the flames, but not more. It’s probably going to haunt me, but this was not the time for compassion.

The other groups reported that the Picas were using Molotov cocktails and jury-rigged flamethrowers, we could easily hear the screams, the gunfire and the occasional explosion. Five Picas ran through the alley across from us and before the could react, both Cameron and I had shot one of them. The others hid behind the corner, just like we did. One of them spotted Cameron and fired at him, but missed. Blaster cut the fight short with a hand grenade, none of them survived that. By the time we reached the main street, the fight was pretty much over.

Most of the Picas died, they fought hard to keep the Nest and very few of them surrendered or ran. Only about twenty are still alive and most of them are badly hurt. We lost none of our people, mainly thanks to the armor we were wearing. But we have people who are badly hurt, with gunshot wounds or severe burns. I set up a makeshift field hospital in Growler’s pub and got to work, luckily I got help from Cameron, Liz and Glitzy. Still, it took hours to treat everybody, especially since the Picas had abused the squatters who stayed behind when we left the Nest in every way imaginable.

Whistler had a shrapnel wound in his leg and lost a lot of blood, but he’ll be fine. I’m worried about Gargle who took a bullet to the foot and I’m not sure I can keep the wound from becoming infected. Rusty has been hit by both a shotgun and a Molotov cocktail, he has third degree burns and, at least for now, he’s blind. When they brought him in, he was in shock, but by the time I got to him, he had started to freak. I had to drug him to keep him from going into a total panic and right now, I’m waiting for him to wake up again so I can tell him that the blindness will not be permanent, as far as I can see. I’ll try to get some sleep while I wait, it’s already three in the morning.
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Close Call
Neil's Journal
December 14th 2070, Monday

I forgot: after John had been in such bad shape last time, I went back to see him and to give him some stuff that would make surviving the winter easier for him.

He looked even worse this time, but from a distance, I couldn’t really tell what exactly was wrong. I had to get close to be even reasonably sure what to treat him for. None of us were very happy with that idea and I’m not in a hurry to do that again. It was a close call, John almost lost it and only just kept himself from attacking me. I prefer not to think about my chances against him.

He suffers from pneumonia. I gave him antibiotics, but to be honest I have no idea if they will actually work for him. We’ll know more in a few days. If they don’t work, I’m afraid I will need to come up with something and that won’t be possible without examining him again. It might be possible to put him under with a couple of tranq patches, but who knows if he’ll agree to that. It’s a lot to ask from him and I hope I won’t have to.
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Radio Shack
Neil's Journal
December 14th 2070, Monday

So. I helped Glitzy pack up her things and we moved to a house she had ‘acquired’ in Snohomish. As soon as I saw it, I felt at home there. It’s not all that big, but more than enough for one or two persons and deep in the woods. I didn’t even know how much I had missed nature until then.
There’s a ton of work to be done and the first thing we did was to fumigate the house, the mattress seemed capable of walking away and I don’t even want to know what was hiding in the woodwork. While the bug bombs did their work, we drove to the warehouse where the Rat’s Nest people would be holding their council of war. Since Growler so elegantly dropped the job of leading into my lap, I would be the one to chair the meeting and I had a serious case of stage fright.

It went fairly well, all things considered. We came up with a good amount of money that will pay the debts we have and will help with rebuilding the nest, but it’s nowhere near enough. So we need money and that’s where the new Radio Shack that was to be opened today came in. Saphira had contact to someone willing to pay a fair amount of money for us to rob the store and what made the offer even more attractive was that we could get a lot of things we would be needing at the Nest.

Splash hacked into the security system, rerouted all the alarms and opened the doors for us. There also was a night-watchman, but he proved even less of a problem than we’d thought. When Splash changed the door codes, he got locked into the security room and since she looped the cameras, he never even noticed anything wrong.

With four trucks and twenty people, we were in and out of there in under half an hour and as far as I know, we never triggered an alarm. But when we left, we could hear sirens coming towards us, so something or someone had tipped Hard Corps off. Before we could panic too much, there was a huge explosion and gunfire, someone was clearly attacking the cops. We took that as our cue to leave quietly and drive, well within speed limits, to the storage facilities we had arranged earlier.

Watching the news, we found out that there had been a well-planned attack on the security forces, with quite a few casualties. So the stuff we stole is way too hot to sell or keep, we’d be asking for trouble. Fortunately, we came to an agreement with the Johnson to sell him the stuff and we’ll be able to buy what we need at a very low price.

We’ve been pawns in the conflict between Knight Errant and Petrovski Security yet again, I guess. Someone wanted to fuck with Knight Errant at least and a robbery directly under their noses definitely doesn’t make them look too good. Anyway, we need to be careful that we don’t get hurt badly by that game.

And speaking of badly hurt: we tried to get our hands on the Hard Corps guns that people stole from the cops back at the Nest. Seven are accounted for, but three are missing and may well have been sold to the Picas. If that turns out to be true, we may have a problem on our hands when we try to retake the Nest.
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I Hate Fridays
Neil's Journal
December 12th 2070, Saturday

So, let’s see. By noon yesterday, I had operated on Growler and stolen and disposed of a body. A few hours later, the police had raided the apartment next to ours. And a few hours after that, the Russian mob kicked down our door.

Rivet’s memory’s still not any better and he absolutely wanted to talk to Jury. I did some checking and the man’s a boxing promoter, Jury Medwedew. I can’t say I was feeling very comfortable about it, but I had too much on my mind to really think about it and so Rivet made the call from the apartment. Believe me, I wince when I think about it.

Basically, we gave the Russian mob the address of our safe house, it wasn’t that hard for them to trace the comlink. There was enough time to get everyone out and on the roof, Rivet took off out of the window and down the street.
Since the Russians didn’t capture him, I was taken hostage and it was made very clear to me that I would die if Rivet didn’t turn up soon. With Glitzy and the others on the lookout for Rivet, there was nothing to do but wait. That I did tied to some pipe in a backroom of the boxing club where the Russians has brought me.

I can’t say that I was treated badly, apart from getting tethered like some animal. I even managed to sleep a bit. But I was terrified. The helplessness was the worst part, just waiting to see if someone would put a gun to my head. I would have fought, but what chance would I have had?

One of the guards, Dimitrij, talked to me, about books if you can believe it, about Schiller and the old Greek authors. I admit I liked him, but I couldn’t forget for one second that he would shoot me without blinking if the order came.

The whole situation ended fairly undramatically when Rivet walked in. He had decided to surrender and he had come to an agreement with Jury. I’m not at all sure that we have seen the end of this, but I was let go and Rivet and I walked out of there unharmed.

Glitzy and I have spend the night at her place. Well, at the place she’s been allowed to stay by the original owner. But we’ve lost that as well because we both forgot to clean up my comlink after the Russians had hacked it while I was their hostage. It’s not like they will be turning up here now, but still, so when Glitzy wakes up, we’ll move.
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Organ Failure
Neil's Journal
December 11th 2070, Friday

I said I expected trouble from Whistler when he found out about Glitzy and man, it’s sucks being right. He really has an uncomfortable gift of picking out weak spots in someone and then saying just the right thing to hurt. We had it out, in front of everybody no less, at least until Whistler walked out on me yet again and I’m fairly sure that this would have been the last I would have seen of him if I hadn’t followed him. As it is now, we’ve come to a solution we all can live with fairly well. Whistler wants to live on his own when we have the Nest back – something I thought about as well, if I had seen any way of making that offer without making him think I was throwing him out.


I had asked Growler to come see me at the Cow after breakfast last night. What he did was knock on the door at sunrise and one look at him was enough to tell me that he didn’t have any time to waste. His liver had already been in bad shape, but now it was failing completely and rapidly. Dialysis gave me enough time to get my hands on a nephritic screen. Growler tried to squirm out of it, saying that he was already feeling much better. He agreed to let me operate when I told him bluntly that he was dying and would be dead in a few days without the operation.

It was touch and go for a few minutes, but Growler pulled through and the screen is working well. When he found out that he wouldn’t be able to get drunk any more, Growler gave me hell. He knows that he has been ignoring my advice and my warnings for years, though, and he also knows I didn’t have any choice. Won’t stop him from complaining, I guess, but I can live with that.

The nephritic screen was of course second hand and I acquired it together with its former owner, so I had a body on my hands that needed to disappear. I took Glitzy to see John.


I’ve been meaning to do that anyway. I’ve never been able to tell anyone about him, but I had the feeling that Glitzy would be more accepting than other people and I was right. John is in bad shape, he clearly hadn’t eaten for who knows how long. I have to get my hands on some warm clothes and other stuff to make sure he doesn’t simply freeze to death one night. Glitzy also warned me that she had no problems smelling him and that hunters may have even less of a problem.
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Trolling
Neil's Journal
December 10th 2070, Thursday
After our night at the hotel, Glitzy and me were having breakfast when Saphira called and told Glitzy that Splash had been abducted by a troll bounty hunter. Apparently, there is a reward by Petrovski Security on capturing her, which was news to me. But we all have our secrets and this is not something you just tell people.

Splash had managed to call the Hellhounds as well, but they were too far away, Glitzy and me were much nearer and we did find her comlink, so we could follow her. The troll brought her to a warehouse, with some gangers keeping a look-out in front. We found the back door and snuck into the building. Neither of us would have any chance against a troll in an all-out fight, so a surprise attack was our best bet.

He had Splash in a small office divided off the main room and a scream from her made it clear that he was trying to get information, by means of electric shocks as we later found out. We could reach Splash via comlink and she distracted the troll long enough for Glitzy to sneak behind the door of the office.

I made some noise to lure him out of the door and it worked, but only just. Glitzy attacked him with her stun baton and I used my taser on him, it was enough to drop him. I added a tranq patch because I didn’t want him to wake up too soon. We got Splash out of the restrains and left, but not without scavenging what we can use. It’s not something I’d do normally, but with the Rat’s Nest in the hands of the Picas, we need all the weapons and equipment we can get our hands on. I doubt the troll will be very happy about this when he wakes up and I really hope he never finds out who exactly did this.
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Enough of Ghosts
Neil's Journal
December 10th 2070, Thursday
So I found a teacher or rather Saphira found one for me. Glitzy works for her as a courier and I had already met her once when she taught Blaster how to fight with a knife before the duell with the Spikes.

She had caught my eye back then, but when we met at some hotel so that she could teach me about magic, I certainly wasn’t in the mood to do anything about that. That’s what I thought at least, it seems my subconscious had other plans. A ghost materialized and well, let’s just say we both confronted our desire for each other much sooner than we normally would have.

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit more at home with my magic now. I called my first ghost on purpose this morning. My grandmother, which may have not been the best choice considering what we had been doing, but I felt safe with her and it worked fairly well.

And Glitzy…I’ve fallen hard for her. I’ve never been someone to fall in love quickly and I’ve avoided even harmless flings in the last years. Maybe that’s why it has hit me so hard, but whatever it is, I don’t care. I just want to be with her and luckily she feels the same.

I expect trouble when Whistler finds out, but the first real trouble came from a direction I had absolutely not foreseen. When we got back to the safehouse, Liz used her shockhand on Glitzy and walked out, simply stepping over her body as if nothing had happened. At first, I didn’t even get what had happened, but when I did, I was angry enough to bite Liz’s head off. It took me some time to help Glitzy, luckily for Liz probably.

When I went to look for Liz, she was standing on the stairs outside, crying hard. I had an idea why she attacked Glitzy, but I wanted to hear it from her anyway. I feel like an idiot for not seeing it, but Liz has been in love with me all that time now. It just didn’t register with me. But even if it had, it would have changed nothing. She is…or was…a friend, but not more. And being in love with me does not entitle her to decide over my private life, as she seems to think it does.

Liz and Glitzy fought it out amongst themselves not long after that and Glitzy won. I really hope that Liz will be smart enough to leave well alone after that.
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After the Storm
Neil's Journal
December 7th 2070 (continued)
We had moved Rivet to the Cow (clinic on wheels, a converted van), the bathhouse was not really the right place for someone in his condition. This morning, he surprised me by waking up, I would have guessed that this would have taken much longer. Unfortunately, he suffers serious memory loss and thinks he has been injured during a regular boxing match. He also believes that we have 2066, so he has currently no memory of anything concerning the Rat’s Nest. I was less delicate than I could have been in telling him, but he’ll have to face the reality soon enough whatever I tell him.

We have suffered our first casualty, one of the Scrappers had been knocked unconscious by the water cannons and no-one found him until morning. He froze to death. He had a wife and three children.

I was on my way to tell his wife when shots were fired, four or five, very quickly. The target were the Hard Corps cops and four of them were lying in the middle of the street, dead or dying. My first thought was who in the Rat’s Nest would be stupid enough to do that? And speaking of stupid: Splash actually ran right towards them, whatever she was trying to do. She went down as well, it looked like she had been hit, but there were no shots. I decided that she had probably come to her senses and was playing dead. She later told me that she had been absolutely certain she had been hit twice and died. I don’t know what happened, she’s perfectly fine, although she seemed a bit dazed from the whole experience.

One of the cops, the lieutenant, was still moving. I couldn’t let him bleed to death, so I ventured out to drag him back to cover. He had been hit badly and was bleeding out. I had crossed about half the distance back to the containers when the rest of the cops came running, guns at the ready and shouting at me to drop the lieutenant and to get on the ground.

I put the lieutenant down and knelt next to him, trying to keep at least one hand on the wound, and shouted at the cops not to shoot. Next thing I knew, six cops were on top of me and all I could do was curl up while they beat the shit out of me. I got at least one good blow to the head because I lost consciousness for a while.

When I came round again, the cops were trying to fight off just about all the dogs of the Rat’s Nest plus a mob of people. I did the best I could for the lieutenant so that he wouldn’t die right there and then and I tried to calm the people down, the last thing we needed were more dead cops. It worked – the cops all were beaten badly and people took their guns, pretty much all their stuff, but they’ll all live. Good enough for me.

The lieutenant was not in great shape, but he realized that I had saved his life. We came to an agreement: the cops would keep silent about what exactly had happened and the people of the Nest would get out before Doc Wagon arrived, which would be in about 15 minutes tops. He tried to negotiate for their weapons, but even if I had been willing to get them back, there was no way anyone would have returned them.

So we left the Nest as quickly as possible. We’ll see what will be left when we get back. For now, we’re in a number of hideouts Saphira has come up with. She has also come up with an attorney, Al Goodmann, who she says is well worth the money he asks. He told me that he thinks he can get our people out of jail by tomorrow since there were a number of … irregularities with the raid, the lack of a warrant not being the least. I hope he can deliver.

Oh, and I almost forgot: a couple of our dogs (Rivet’s pug Mr Wrinkles and my Rott Jasper among them) turned up at Splash’s hiding place and pretty much wrecked it. Don’t ask me how they found her, in fact don’t ask me why they suddenly went all Baskerville on the cops who attacked me. I have no idea what’s going on there. Anyway, I took Jasper and the other dogs with me, Blaster kept one of the strays.
I’ll try to get some sleep for now, while I can.

-——————————————

private entry:

There are some things I’m not going to write about for everyone to read. Here’s one of them:
While I was being beaten by the cops, I didn’t lose consciousness as much as I stepped out of my body. It was a freaking near death experience, complete with white light.

I found myself standing next to the cops and I felt pity for the poor guy they were busy beating, but it was all a bit distant. Maybe I was just distracted by the fact that Mr Snautz, Rivet’s Great Dane, who had been shot during the raid, was talking to me. Rip was also there and he wanted me to come with him, he said he had found a way out (through a window under one of the containers that glowed with a bright light).

I was somewhere between taking it all seriously and “you’ve got to be kidding me”. I mean, I never bought into all that spirit stuff even as a kid and now here I was, talking to a dead dog. In any case, Mr Snautz asked me whether I really wanted to go back. I did – following Rip may have been the easy way out, but I wasn’t willing to leave my friends and the people who depend on me. God (or whoever) knows I’ve been thinking about just leaving the Rat’s Nest often enough, but if there ever was a time for making a graceful exit, it’s long gone now.

So back I went. I have no idea what triggered all that, maybe really just a blow to the head. My whole body hurts when I move, but I’m not all that badly injured, nothing life-threatening in any case. Maybe it was just a way for my subconscious to kick my butt, to get me to acknowledge that I had a lot more responsibilities than just myself. If that was the case, it worked, thank you very much. Next time, how about something a bit more subtle?
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