Campaign of the Month: November 2014

Shadowrun - The Rat's Nest

A Rat, a Dog and Some Bugs
Neil's Journal

When you invite people over for dinner, you usually get some good company and maybe a bottle of wine or something. I got seven years worth of immortality.

I wanted to know how Lao was doing. People are a bit creeped out by her presence, but on the whole it works out well and the Chinese community is quite proud of having an actual free spirit. Jasper has taken to her as well and has decided that she’s worthy of the quacking duck toy (Glitzy gets a piggy, I get a well-chewed dog plushy).

Lao worried about the fact that we have her spirit formula and that anyone can use it. I can understand that, but, as much as I like her, I am not going to destroy the formula just yet. So we came up with another plan, a pact. I will be the only person who can use that particular copy of her formula and it cannot be copied. In case of my death, anyone will be able to use the copy again. And while the pact lasts, I will not age. I’m not quite ready to enter this pact indefinitely, but seven years sounded like a reasonable time. Maybe we won’t need to renew it after that time. I admit, the thought of living for another hundred years or so is tempting. On the other hand, it would mean losing pretty much everyone I now consider a friend, not to mention Angus, Ciara and Fynn. But for now it’s done and I’ll think about it again in seven years.

To affirm the pact, Lao and I went on a metaquest to look for the sword of her first conjurer, a monk named Fei. He died, as far as Lao could remember, on a metaplane, fighting against insect spirits. The sword was his focus and we thought we could reforge it, so to speak, for our purposes. Entry to the metaplace was fairly easy, but it decided to chain us together in a very literal sense. Lao panicked for a moment, it hasn’t been so long since she shed her chains only to wear them again in this place. But we didn’t have much of a choice. We had an added bonus: I had brought Gihli, my dog homunkulus, along and the metaplane made him into a big, real dog…still made from wood, though. The landscape we found ourselves in were vast fields of high grass, some hills in the distance and a road. We both wore traditional Chinese clothes and my medkit had turned into a mixture of Chinese and Western medicinal supplies.

We didn’t meet anyone for hours and the sun had already started to set when another traveller crossed our path. He was a moth spirit, although I think he used to be something else. He advised us to make haste and ask for shelter in a nearby village. The night was dangerous, he said. I paid with my blood for some more information and he told us that the night was haunted by spirits here. Across the river was a city, a place he told us to avoid, and the palace of the Queen. According to the spirit, she was no longer a danger for us because she had been given peace long ago.

The village was inhabited by more moth spirits. They, too, were not aggressive at all and welcomed us. We took a room at the local inn and some tea in the common room. Here, I traded the story of how the Milky Way was created for a story of how the people of this land fought the moths until they were only save in their city. A monk and a rat arrived to fight the moth spirits, to save their own home from the Queen, until the monk sent the rat away and went to meet the Queen of the moths all alone. Whatever happened between them, no-one knows, but it ended the war and the Queen no longer sought to conquer other worlds.

So Fei, in a way, was still here, but he had made some kind of pact with the Queen and neither Lao nor I were eager to trust him. We spent the night at the inn, talking a bit more about Fei until the conversation drifted to ourselves. I find Lao very easy to talk to and very comfortable to be with, as strange as that sounds given our first meeting. In the morning, we traded some food and fire wood for a favor: bring some tea and incense sticks to a friend of the inn’s landlady. Which we did and at the place she had described, we found a cemetery. We also found the cemetery’s guard who did her best to kill me until Lao overpowered her. She was an adept and after some explanations, she agreed to take the gifts we brought to the grave they were intended for. Emma, it turned out, was trapped on the metaplane and we quickly realized that we probably were not from the same world. That, or Emma is seriously mentally ill. In any case, I agreed to take a ring to London, to St Olave Hart Street to be precise – Emma says that someone there should know what to do with it or at least can pass on a message. I’m not so sure of that, but I can try.

Crossing the river involved several ferrymen, their guards and a crowd of people trying to cross. The only ferryman actually willing to take on passengers had a guard who would hear nothing of it, fearing the crowd would sink the boat. I tried to reason with her, to find a safe way across for everyone until Lao reminded me that we had been warned at the inn that it was a trial. The people were not real, whatever that meant here. So we agreed with the guard that they would take only us across the river. We reached the other side safely, but left the others, maybe to die when the dark came.

After an uncomfortable night, both physically and mentally, we walked on and found the city, its walls crumbling. We kept away from it for now and instead climbed up the nearby hill to the Queen’s Palace. There we found Fei or what was left from him. He did look human and he recognized Lao, but she didn’t trust him and neither did I. He suggested that we help with the hunt for the shadows who are what is left of the people who used to live here. The moth spirits take over their body and, as Fei explained, it would do only good for the land. In return, he would give us his sword.

We excused ourselves and climbed down again to talk about the offer. Neither of us liked it very much and we were not very eager to base our pact on the killing of these shadows. To find out some more, we sought out one of them and talked to it. It told us that the city bound them all and they were enslaved to it, fighting in a war that was only kept going by the few inhabitants of the city. But still, we did not want to become tools for the Queen. Instead, we decided to try and give peace to the shadows. It would mean that the city was left defenseless, but in the end, it would give the land some kind of peace. I’m still not sure it was our decision to make, but it felt right.

Lao studied the memories of the city and we took a stone from its walls, then we waited for the night. I sent a watcher and Gihli across the river to Emma, warning her of our plan. When night came, we made our auras as bright as possible and ran, with just some torches to keep the shadows at bay. Our plan worked well, they started to hunt us and we only just made it in time to the cemetery. There, Emma has lit a huge fire and with the help of a spirit pact, started to read out all the names from the stone we brought with us. Lao and I wrote them down on a tree and one by one, the shadows faded. It took hours, but when dawn came, we had written out the last of the names and all the shadows were gone.

We shared a drink and Emma told us a bit more about how she was stranded on the metaplane. She very much does not come from our time, I have no idea how I am supposed to find someone who knows what to do with her ring. She could show us where Fei’s grave was, however and Lao read the memories of the gravestone, that at least gave her some closure. Fei had also buried his prayer beads there and those we took to turn into a focus to seal out pact.

I left Gihli with Emma. I don’t know how long he will last there, but I hope he will keep her company until we can bring them home. Lao and I went home – only a few hours had passed. We brought back Emmas ring, the beads and in my case, a few broken ribs from a fall I took during our chase with the shadows. But it was nothing serious, Lao helped with patching me up and she once again ended up watching me sleep on my couch. Luckily, the contents of my fridge kept her company.

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Music for Evenings

[Recording Session, Session ID SEA#0008]

The camera sits on top of a wooden handrail and after some exposure adjustments focuses on Frettchen, sitting on a porch that has seen better days. Bright curtains of sunlight fall through the holes in a decaying awning and brawling dust particles, stopped and reflected in flaring patches by the elf’s bare chrome legs.
She has specks of paint on her face and hands, her hair is a tousled mess of green, but she smiles and absently strums on an old electric guitar.
“Good morning, Miss Aidee. Would you… like to put on some pants before we start the session?”, her shrink greets Frettchen.
“Huh? Oh, hey Doc. bootin’ fast toda. Nah, I mean, it’s not as if these get cold or anything, right?”, she answers, flicking against the metal legs with a soft ‘Ping’. Both, she and the doctor take some notes, the old fashioned way, on paper. She looks up first. “What’s a good rhyme for Flak?”, she asks and the psychiatrist ponders.
“How about…”, he starts but gets interrupted.
“No, wait, I got it…”
She scribbles down more notes on the worn out paper, takes one more look at it, then hammers away with some simple chords.
“Like slag, we’re a little bit of everything,
like flak, we’re a little bit of everything,
Can’t count the shots, just make them count,
We’ll yell it out with every single round,
But yell it out, before it kills you now,
take my word, it may sound absurd,
we’re both fucked up and iiiit works!"
Frettchen grimaces and puts the guitar away, gently resting it against the wall. “Whaddaya think, Doc?”
The projection stares at her for a few seconds. “Well, it’s good to see that you have picked up a hobby.”
“Hey, fuck you, I’ve made music for decades… Sorry, language, I know…”
Reassessing the quality of what he just heard, the doctor seems bewildered. “Really? That is… surprising.” He takes down some more notes.
“I’m a drummer, okay? Anyway, it’s a lovesong… For my husband. Look what he did to me… Turned me into a friggin songwriter!”, she sighs, happiness carried by her breath. “He got us this house here, you know? A few patches here and there, some furniture and it’ll be pretty comfy. We had a house like this before, but for some reason it burned down…”
“Do you consider settling down in Seattle?”
“Yeah… I mean, that’s what he asked too. Was a weird moment, with all the possibilities speeding through my head and all the implications. Thing is, usually I’d be terrified to get bored after a few months. A year, tops. But with him? Can’t even imagine a lack of fun. Life has rarely been so good and exciting!”
The doctor puts his notepad away and takes off his glasses, cleaning them with the sleeve of his tweed jacket. “I am very glad to hear that, Miss Aidee. Frankly, ever since you chose to go to Seattle, your condition has vastly improved, give or take a few complications, but we will iron those out in time. My most honest, sincere advice: keep that man close and do not let go off him ever again. I have the feeling he will keep the both of us reasonably sane.”
“Heh, maybe you’re right… Oh, speaking of which… My car tried to kill me! She’s some sort of fuckin’ nanotech, I think and really came at me a few days ago.”, Frettchen says casually and pats a few new dents on her armored limbs. “We talked it out, though. She really is a vindictive bitch…”
“Doesn’t that… Worry you? I hope my advice was not the cause for your… Inconvenience.” In the distance, the sound of a motorcycle draws closer.
“Nah, I screwed that one up myself, wasn’t your fault!”
She waves at someone behind the camera and shouts “Awww, my hero!” with a happy smirk on her face. “Sorry, Doc, Gotta run, there comes my handsome husband with bagels!”

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Kindred Souls

[Start Audio]
….
[no time stamp]

Clear Skies.
A short burst of silent, content laughter
Wonder if she knew about that, or if it’s just one more proof we did the right thing.
It’s a little credo among us zoners, or a greeting if you will. Something like ‘Good luck’, ‘Stay safe’, or ‘Farewell’ up to ‘There’ll be better days.’…
A sigh
There was this idea. Clinged really hard to my brain, wouldn’t let go.
And we pulled it off.
With the bliss of this experience still lingering, it’s difficult to explain.
But I’ll try.
It’s something nobody tried before us. A miracle of will and arcane expertise you rarely find in the Sixth World.
Chris Gregory, you probably know that, but I don’t think you know just how thankful I am.
Despite all documentation and 60 years of research, few people know how adept magic works. We’re not casters in the strictest sense, but we have a way to find balance. Balance between our bodies and the mana around us. We’re conduits, or, at least that’s the best I can come up with. We have a way of attuning to the world and its flow.
There’re techniques ‘specially for that.
Really usually for things dear to us, sometimes animals, companions like Sofia.
But that’s the thing. If it works with guns n’ suits n’ pets… Shouldn’t it be possible to attune to people as well?
It’s a path you gotta tread carefully. Our minds are delicate and easy to fuck up and being so close to somebody has some inherent and pretty sinister temptations.
But still, we did it.
She drives me crazy, ya know, this special girl.
In more than one way.
I think the roadtrip did that to us.
Before that, well… I knew I could count on her, but I think that of all my people when push comes to shove. With her, it was more like handling nitro glycerine in a blender or a jazzed up weasel in a room full of mouse traps…
To be honest, that’s still the case.
But during those days on the road, I got to know her better, learned what drives her, what scares her and what she needs to get a direction.
I know her struggle, or at least part of it.
Kara and I, we ride the same wave, I guess.
If the timing had been better… Now that’s something I actively blocked from my head for a long time, we probably both had.
Running with her feels good, natural. And she’s a pretty, strong girl, so… But…
For the sake of our relationships, we came to terms with that road and we won’t walk it.
We chose something different and now we’re probably closer than ever and closer than anybody but us could understand.
And now, when she sprints face first into danger with me, we can share our thoughts, she’s got my powers to back her up and maybe it helps her find a direction and clearer purpose.
What I’m trying to say here is,to paraphrase the uncrowned Queen of Words of our beloved Barrens:
I’m proud to call you ‘Partner’, Kara.

[End Audio]
attuned.png

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Ready to Rumble
Slicer's Log

Slicer’s waiting in line at the Metroplex Guard checkpoint out of the Barrens. The guards are bored, but they still have enough firepower and backup to really fuck up everyone’s day should anything happen. The people in the car ahead, a family of orks, get out under the watchful eye of the guards and are patted down, with special attention to the teenage daughter. Then they are allowed to continue on their way and the line moves a bit until the guards pick the next target.

Fucking pigs. One of these days someone is gonna snap and then we’ll have a full-scale riot on our hands. And those part-time warriors have no idea how to handle that.

Anyway.

There’s something to be said for married life. Especially when your wife calls you that she’s gonna mess with Aztech and not to wait with dinner. Fuck dinner, you want backup with that?

Someone hired Frettchen and Ruckus to trash as many Minimarts as possible and they did, all while wearing the colors of the Blood Rumblers. That got them fired from the gang, but it’s another great point on Frettchen’s CV. Anyway, there’s this lawyer who wants to sue Aztech and he, with the help of a mage, found Frettchen and wanted to talk.

Talk was okay, but Frettchen wasn’t really at home to going all witness of the prosecution for him. And there was something really fucking fishy about that guy anyway. So we got ourselves a camera drone and went snooping at the Minimart headquarters. Well, headquarters…more of a dingy office with two people. They had never heard of that lawyer. The secretary did recognize Frettchen, though, and we got out of there before the cops showed up.

Slicer’s at the front of the line and the guard takes one look at him and decides that there are easier people to mess with. He just gives Slicer’s SIN a quick check and then waves him through. He drives past the clinic and turns left towards the still rural part of Snohomish.

Some digging later, with the help of the mage and his little street girl gone private eye-elf who didn’t appreciate being lied to, we had a name for the laywer. We also had three runners on our tails, really hardcore guys at least judging from the guns they waved around. But still, if you want to take down Frettchen and me, you better come out shooting and not waving around a fucking katana. Jeez. Street sams, believing their own hype. That one ran right into my bullet, into Christine and into another one of my bullets. Having a living car gives you an edge in a fight, I’ll admit that.

Frettchen nailed the troll they had, right into the nuts. And I got their rigger, with a blind shot into the car. The troll told us everything he knew, in exchange for us not killing his dog (who takes a DOG to a run like this, even if it’s a Tibetan mastiff?) and for taking him to a clinic. Wasn’t all that much, though, but they were supposed to take Frettchen alive to find Ruckus. Someone is trying to clean up loose ends, I guess.

At the end of the day, we had a shiny new GMC Bulldog, only slightly dented, a case of Cuban cigars, a couple of fake SINs and guns, lots of guns. Including a machine gun. Frettchen wanted to install that one in her van, but we decided to put it in the house. You never know when the local rednecks will decide that they don’t want us around.

Next up: shooting that Aztech guy into the knee until he tells us what exactly is going on. I really doubt that the Minimart run was anything Aztech really wanted, that smells more like some corporate drone trying to impress his bosses. Didn’t really work out that way.

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The Lady in Red and Chrome

[Recording Session, Session ID SEA#0007]

The camera activates in a large room, dimly light by weak orange light bouncing off walls painted in sickly green and tasteless beige, slow bluegrass music is playing in the background of the bar. The air is heavy with smoke and humid with the spectre of sweat. Even the volatile vapors of booze don’t seem enough to kindle the damp and empty hearts coming to this place, as few as they may be.
“Glad you could stop by, Doc.”, Frettchen says slowly, her voice raspy and ravaged from the grey bite of nicotine and burned tobacco. “Say, won’t you lend your lungs to me?”
The virtual doctor looks puzzled, but regains his posture after a few seconds. “Greetings, Miss Aidee… What… What can I do for you today?And why are you wearing a suit?”
“Just call me Valerie, Doc. No need for formalities today…”, she says, killing the cigarette, lighting another in fluent movement of her hands, letting go of the tumbler of bourbon for a second. “There’s this case I’m working on, and I need an expert opinion. An opinion on a sharp lady, dressed in chrome and red.”
“Case… Valerie.”, the projection repeats with a slow nod. “Are you intoxicated?”
“You ask the wrong questions, doctor.” she mutters and then, leaning in closer, adds “For fuck’s sake Doc, don’t be such a bore, just play along! I had a great day posing as a police officer and I’d like a nice conclusion, so…”
“Excuse me, you did what?!”, he seems startled. “You do not need a psychiatrist, I am afraid you need a priest!”
Frettchen sighs. “You’d rather have me talk about those two junkies and how I beat the shit out of them and cut their arms off or what?”, she sincerely protests, crossing her arms.
He gives her a long, silent stare, then points at the bottle of bourbon, resting on the table. “I’ll have one of those, ‘Detective’.
“That’s my boy.” A few quick comlink commands later he has a virtual version of bourbon and promptly takes a sip.
“I… Look, Val. The cases you take? That’s above my paygrade. You remember this time, when you got out the jumper cables to get your answers? That is not my world. I have a family to take care of!”
The elf flashes a quick, delighted smile. “Wow, you’re fucking amazing, man!”, then slips back into role.
“Nothing of that sort. I’ll only take your time and opinion, then you can crawl back to your domestic life and enjoy your feast of grass with the other sheeple.”, she jabs at him amicably as his forehead curls in worryful frown.
“Can it, Detective Federal Slave. You’re just lucky your superiors gave you a longer leash than mine. That aside, tell me about her. Is she a client, or a suspect?”
“Aren’t we all a bit of both?”, the elf asks through the curtain of smoke woven by her own breath. “She has a real vengeance problem. Is haunted by old grudges. Killed or scarred most of her former husbands over the last 20 odd years. She’s a sly one, no one ever got anything on her. I need a profile. Something to work with. You are the only guy I know with enough brains to figure that shit out.”
The shrink’s hands make nervous steps along his glass before he picks it up and buys time by savoring digital flavor. “Do you have any lead why she does what she does?”, he asks. “Psychopathic tendencies are rarely default.”
“My partner and I did some digging, but most things we found are unreliable or vague. Her behavior seems often the result of general malevolence, a fear of being left alone, replaced or simply boredom. Surprisingly human notions, for someone like her.”
“Are you sure we’re talking about your client here, Val?”
Frettchen lets out a short laugh, more of a snort and lights another cigarette, after the last took a dive head first into the ashtray. “Don’t sass me, Doc. Just help me out on this one.”
“My advice would be, stay away from her. People like that are hard to read, and even harder to treat. If you must, make a slow and cautious approach, do not dig in too old graves or you’ll end up in a rather fresh one, Detective.”, the doctor suggests, driving the ghosts of the pasts away from his face with a gulp of the cheap but efficient booze in front of him.
“So, how’s the husband?”, he changes the subject and Frettchen gives him a content smirk.
“He still puts up with me and all my bullshit. So yeah, things are fine. Never regretted marrying him, never will.”
The wailing guitar at the bar’s small stage grows silent, as a new song is about to begin, though the hunched alcoholics in this place don’t pay much attention to the tunes creeping through these walls.
The elf kills the last smoke and her face lightens up in a flash of genuine joy, before she’s rocked by ample wet coughing.
“Ugh, Jesus Fucking Christ, these things are horrible… I had to smoke half a pack to fuck up my voice like that…”
She tries to soothe her sore throat with the rest of the cheap booze in her tumbler and her grimace becomes a silent, but convincing witness to the quality of that idea.
“Anyway, thanks Doc, that was fun!”
“I am glad to deliver, Miss Aidee, basic role play is part of my service.”, he responds kindly and a bit proud of himself. “Do you want to conclude this session?”
“Yeah, I really need some mouth bleach and a steak sandwich. Gotta catch some sleep, too, morning shift and stuff. See ya later, Doc!”

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Unexpected Things
Slicer's Log

Slicer‘s busy hacking away at a huge patch of brambles that are threatening to overgrow the side of a small house, standing on a clearing in the woods. In the background is a small barn, it’s red paint still fairly bright against the dark trees.

When Toy told me a while ago that a crazy green-haired elf had messed with her and Zach, I told myself not to get my hopes up. One, there must be more than one green-haired elf in the world and two, even if it was Frettchen, I couldn’t call the Blood Rumblers and ask for her phone number or shit. I did make some drives through Blood Rumblers turf, though, hoping for a chance meeting. There were one or two meetings, but not with Frettchen and I didn’t stay around and ask them.

Yeah, shouldn’t have bothered. Frettchen thought it would be a good idea to ask for a job at the clinic, I was on duty there and yeah. Fuck, this is so cheesy. If anyone did this in a SIM flick, people would laugh. Reunited by chance after seventeen years, cue romantic music. Jeez. We’re not so good at the whole romantic stuff, but we picked up right where we left off. I get a kick out of telling people that, yes, that is my wife. Everyone looks so shocked, it’s awesome.

Speaking of shocked. I stumbled over this abandoned house years ago. Sometimes I come here when the Nest gets on my nerves and I need a few days of quiet. It’s not much, but no one has ever bothered me here. And yeah, it reminded me of the farm we stayed at, back in Florida. I asked Frettchen to move in here with me and for once, she had nothing snarky to say. Actually, it took her a couple of seconds to think of anything to say and man, that was a fucking long wait. I was pretty sure I had made a damn fool of myself, but when she said yes…no drug has ever given me a high like that.

Frettchen had a run-in with a cyber troll, someone who fucked with her by hacking into everything electronic she wanted to use. Suddenly her microwave wanted to kill her, snack machines shot soda cans at her, traffic lights switched to green when she was in the middle of the street, that kind of stuff, ranging from annoying to deadly. She thought it was Zach, after all she had almost killed him, and fucked up his container, but Zach had nothing to do with it. It took a bit to figure out, but Christine, that Ford America Zach drives, is alive in some kind of way and she was pissed that Frettchen has driven a bike through her windshield.

Anyone sane would have tried to wreck that car. Frettchen asked her to come live with her because: car who wants to kill her = fun. I gotta admit, that worked out okay for now. But that car is fucking creepy. She has some serious issues with jealousy. We did some digging in her past and looks like she killed a lot of her former owners, probably when they were thinking about getting her replaced. It’s like living with a tiger or whatever, something that’s dangerous and not really tame. Shouldn’t have been surprised that Frettchen loves that car.

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She Followed Me Home

[Recording Session, Session ID SEA#0006]

The camera flickers to life and presents a close shot of an Elf’s face exploding with joy.
“Heeey, Doc.”, Frettchen greets the virtual psychiatrist’s projection as she giddily sits on top of a muscle car’s hood. The vehicle radiates with a raw, menacing presence, depsite the fact it’s just a huge red Ford, parked at the seaside. “I’ve got good news, even better news and great news!”
“Good evening. Well… I suppose start with the good news, then, miss Aidee?”
“Alright…”, she says, unable to wipe the grin off her face. “Solved the cybertrolling, so you and all other utilities are in relative safety now. Went to that annoying little shit’s crib and trashed it good. Thought he wanted revenge, ‘cause I stabbed him once or twice…”
“Excuse me, did you just say you stabbed someone?!”, the doctor asks, far less shocked than you would expect.
“Yeah… let’s not dwell on that! I had a talk with that funny little agent of his, and it claimed he’s innocent, so I had this hunch, kinda sorta.”
She pats the car with affection usually reserved for beloved pets. “This one here? I think she’s alive! Aliiiive!”, she almost whispers. “And in a constant state of psychotic urge for action, carnage and vengeance! And she wanted to come back at me for planting a Harley right into her face… Windshield, whatever! Isn’t that awesome?! And now we’re friends!”
The doctor passes on the digital high five and rests his forehand in the palm of his hand instead.
“Miss Aidee, while a remarkable old-timer, it seems to be a perfectly normal Ford Americar. Your… tendency of personifying objects, while a good, stabilizing approach to improve your mental health, begins to worry me…”
“Psh, right, says the personified object…”, Frettchen protests.
“Anyway…”, the software continues, “I must also confess… I’m not trained to be a diary for your accumulative record of crimes. I have little counsel to offer on these matters.”
“Duly noted, Doc. Point is, this roaring beast of a car followed me home, and I’m gonna keep her! Gotta ditch the Honda, I think…”
The doctor clears his throat. “That seems, all things considered, reasonable. Is there anything else you want to talk about?”
His question was sprinkled with hope for a ‘Yes’ and also a silent plea that he didn’t just jump out of the frying pan into the fire.
“Yeah, let’s move on…. I got a new job at the local clinic. I’m a medic again! Off the streets, though. Boss said they don’t have a proper ambulance and I’d be needed most where the butchering happens anyway.”
She sighs contently and lets her cybernetic legs dangle in front of the radiator grill, as if tempting a sleeping beast. “He’s an okay dude, I guess. Bit of stick in the mud when it comes to clinic rules, but it’s all fair enough.”
“So you did enjoy being back in the saddle, so to speak? It could be an important step to come to terms with your past.”
“Eh, Doc, my past… It’s a wave of shit I enjoy riding on. Just have to be careful I don’t fall off the board, you know? But yeah… It’s nice. Yelling at patients, doin’ some stitching and annihilating coffee with the other burnouts. Good counterweight, I guess..
The grin sneaks back into her face as she goes on. “And you know what’s the best part of aaall this?!”
“Please do enlighten me, Miss Aidee.”
“I got my husband back!”
Both of them have to let that sink in for a few seconds.
“Yeah, that’s right, against the odds and with the best french greeting we could pull off we reunited after 17 fucking years. He’s a sheriff here of some sort. It’s weird to see how old he got, but he’s still a well oiled, thoroughly maintained high performance machine, if you get my gist.”
Her thoughts drift off for a few moments as her grin grows even wider and she lets out a dirty laugh.
“Jesus, it’s so good to have him back… And you should see the look on people’s faces when they hear we’re married… Oh wait, you can!”, she says gleefully and shows footage of the doctor’s face, frozen in utter disbelief during the last session.
“I am… Glad that you reclaimed some happiness. You should keep this man close, he seems genuinely good for you. Is there anything else on your mind?”
“Nah, I think that’s it. I want to take my new monster for a ride. Kinda feel in the mood for a BBQ , too…”

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Cleansing

[Start Audio]
….
[no time stamp]

This is hard to put in words.
Spirits, so much has happened… Metaquests are nothing for light hearts, that much I can tell you.
But let’s do this from the start. One of the very important points on my long to-do list was to clean the old fertilizer plant. I owed it to Glitzy, the little earth spirits, myself…
And by ‘clean’ I mean really clean. Letting the astral space recover, heal spiritual wounds and all that. The Draco Foundation happily threw a dead president’s money at me for doing something good, so the hardware for the job wasn’t a problem.
The mechanical part went as well as expected, but there were two angry toxics who didn’t appreciate our efforts.
Sometimes… Well, sometimes, I think too simple. I was expecting trouble, sure, but when I started this, a dirty camping trip with my friends, some bonding and beating up evil spirits was kinda what I had in mind.
Instead, we had to literally kick ass and take names.
True names are a powerful thing. We found the home plane of Ytong and his big sister and Chris helped us getting there to either turn them, or end them. Well, the plan was to do a practice run on Ytong, mainly because he didn’t seem too far gone.
Pro tip: do a spellcheck when recovering a true name, ‘cause ours wasn’t Ytong’s but that of his older sibling, so we basically showed up on a Vespa to a monster truck race.
I’m tough to break. In body as well as in mind, but I have to give that fairy tale world we got thrown into a lot of credit for trying.
Couldn’t use my powers, had no real plan, and everything, cutesy as it was in appearance, was trying to kill us.
It’s kinda humbling and an enlightening perspective to walk the boots of, well, normal, non-magical, people, using your brain and what limited advantages you have. Guess that’s part of the experience-package when you’re on a metaquest.
We did good. Together and each in our own, might wanna call it unique, way.
Everyone pulled their weight and when one of us stumbled, the others picked them right up.
You’re probably waiting for me to spill the darker stuff. Gimme a few minutes, okay?
I need a drink.

[End Audio]

[Start Audio]
….
[no time stamp]

Alright.
I wouldn’t really call myself an optimist. More like, confident or stoically positive and/or determined..
But at times it’s hard to convince my people that we aren’t going to die, or fail. ‘specially when Zach has another episode, not to mention Nebraska’s “let’s do shit!” attitude that would easily legitimate a redefinition of the phrase “blind actionism”.
Stan and Jet usually just need a little nudge in the right direction to roll with whatever we come up with.
But it’s tough work anyway.
I really wasn’t at my A-game on this one. I tried to keep it together but I’d lie if I said my head was clear. And with my powers stripped I was probably overly cautious and bent on survival.
So here’s a quick summary of the less horrifying shit that went down:
Nebraska almost got lost in the metaplanes when fairies tried to kidnap her. Also, her face almost got eaten by a giant frog mutant. Straight up cut that fucker’s head off.
I faced my worst childhood nightmare, we got strongarmed by a witch (more than once, but I’ll get to that later), got sliced and stabbed by metal bird feathers, I almost choked on a spoon, on purpose, killed myself twice, also on purpose and duked it out with a Cat 8 toxic. There was also this thing when I ate magical apples that let you see the past and future, for a price of course.
Not exactly business as usual, but something I can roll with.
No, the real pain started when I found Rook in one of the many layers of this metaplanar clusterfuck. Maybe she was just a figment of my imagination, or a trick by that other Crow to get me, but having my partner back only to lose her again… It’s like waking up from a vivid dream… This primal, desperate anger when you realize that whatever you had a few seconds ago…well, you never had it to begin with.
We made it, though. Well, obviously.
My people showed what they’re made of, when push came to shove. They cleansed the spirit’s lair and made her vulnerable by being the conduit for some kinda artifact. It drained them, but it also send them home, with some scars, but alive.
And I got to punch a toxic spirit out of existence after giving another one a shot at redemption.
But you know what they say… claiming your victories is just a clever way of forgetting your failures.
And that’s where the true pain continues…
Back on our plane, the first thing, after making sure my crew was okay, was to break it to my girl that for the apples we needed to turn Ytong, I had to play one night of spiritual callboy for Baba Yaga. You know, that witch.
Believe me when I say there are far worse ways to pay a powerful being like her. She even had the decency to shapeshift into a younger, far less creepy version of herself, so, yeah, it wasn’t horrible at all. Also, knowing Kiki’s tradition, I figured it wasn’t something that would strain what we have too much.
Fuck, was I wrong. It hit her hard. Way too hard for something like this.
I mean, I do ridiculously dangerous shit all the time, get stabbed and shot on a regular basis and generally live a life that’d make insurance agents pop an artery if they ever found out.
We patched things up, but the dents and cracks are there.
To add injury to…injury I guess… I got the bill from Baba Yaga for one of those apples I ate by accident. Yeah, just work with me here, okay?
I got cursed with aggressive and negatively charged psychometry or something, or frankly: I relived the really, really bad things peopled experienced simply by touching them.
As an empathic healer, I’m used to that kinda backlash, but Spirits, this was tough stuff. Don’t think I would’ve last a week like that.
So the next hook right into the guts for her was that we wouldn’t be able to even touch each other.
Lotta tears and screaming and despair.
I can relate, but that’s not how I roll.
Get up, dust yourself off, come up with something. There simply is no quit in people like us, as my Dad always said.
Didn’t want to leave everything behind or throw myself into a null-zone, so I used my Crow-nections to meet up with Baba Yaga, trying to soften up this tally a bit.
As the trainee of one of the best diplomats, – by which I mean con-artist – I’ve ever met, I know when I walk into a no-win situation. I was in for a full-force kick to the balls. All I could hope for was that I at least get a cup.
That actually worked. Now I owe seven services to her. She can call them in at any time.
Don’t worry, got some failsafes written into this contract. Can’t hurt my family in any way, won’t straight up murder people… stuff like that.
Isn’t the worst gig, though everybody who knows this seems pretty worried.
But… you know.. Get enough things breathing down your neck and you become kinda numb to those kinds of concerns.

[End Audio]

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Neil's Journals

I’m tempted to name the new wing of the clinic after Fog. He’s not a regular patient himself, his adept powers see to that, but people in his company end up with us very often. Fog runs into danger in the knowledge or hope that he can handle anything life throws at him and most times, he’s been right. The thing is, people follow him. He inspires loyalty and even though (or maybe because) he doesn’t realize it, he’s a natural born leader. And most people are far less equipped to deal with the stuff Fog takes on. So they get hurt. But they still follow him next time because they see Fog going all in for them and doing his best to protect them. And Fog’s best is usually very good indeed.

This time, Fog’s project was to clean up the fertilizer plant where John lives. He got some money from the Draco Foundation for this and it would have been hard work, but nothing out of the ordinary. Except for the two toxic spirits. So they decided to go on a metaquest and either kill the smaller of the two spirits or turn him. They had his spirit formula or so they thought and would deal with the more powerful spirit later.

Turn out that the spirit formula was for the powerful one. I’m not sure what exactly happened, but in the end they did turn the weaker spirit and killed the powerful one, but not without paying a price. Magic is never for free. Nebraska is at the clinic right now, she suffered a SURGE effect and has patches of snake skin all over her body. As far as I can tell, it’s harmless, but I doubt the reaction of other people will be. She’s taken it pretty well, Nebraska has a talent for bouncing back even from the worst things.

Stanley suffers from a compulsion to wash his hands. Not exactly a problem at work, but when you live on a garbage dump, it’s hard to feel clean at the best of times. Zach has a phobia to water. Showering or even drinking is almost impossible. He solved the drinking problem by using a straw. It hasn’t rain so far, but in Seattle, that’s only a question of time. Jet seems to have some kind of allergy, but we haven’t yet pinned down what causes it.

Fog came out of all this clean. It might be that the price he’s paying is that the others pay for him. He also made a deal with a spirit on the meta plane, who took the form of Baba Yaga. Even if you don’t believe that she is Baba Yaga, the form she chose should make you wary. Fog angered her and a day or so after they all came back from the quest, she cursed him with uncontrollable psychometry – as soon as he touched anyone, he got flashbacks to all the bad things that happened to those people. Not a good thing to have even at the best of times and worse when you are planning on sneaking into Glow City to free your partner. Especially when the plan might involve a lot of hand to hand combat. He made another deal with Baba Yaga and now he owes her seven services. At least he got her to agree to certain terms that should prevent the worst, but, well, deals with spirits are always something to be nervous about. Especially with a spirit you know nothing about except that she’s very powerful.

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Illusions
Rook's Log

I dreamt about Fog. The dream felt so real that, waking up, I was for a moment confused why he wasn’t here. I cannot shake him, however much I want to.

I had almost managed to forget him because hoping that he’d come for me was poison. Then he pops up a couple of weeks ago and leaves me with his voice, telling me that he’s got me. That he won’t leave me behind.

Well.
I’m still here.

I’m not falling for this partner-bullshit anymore. I don’t know why I ever believed it. It’s a comfortable lie, I guess. But when it really counts, I’m on my own. Fog just hasn’t figured it out yet, but he will, sooner or later. He’s always been good at surviving and relying on others is not how you do it. I know that now.

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