ShadowRun: Live to Rise

Samantha Todd's Back Story: Part I

This night belonged to me. I had just arrived in a limousine at Canlis, a luxury restaurant in Seattle, to meet up with my family. I was to be the guest of honor, and after eight years of tireless perfection in medical science school I than deserved it. My hair had been styled neatly in a fancy, fashionable bun, and my wine purple dress that hugged my lean figure and displayed shoulders had me feeling confident and sexy; I was invincible.

“Good evening miss, are you on tonight’s guest list?”

“Yes, I am Samantha with the Todd family,” I replied courteously with a nod. I did my best to look casual and bored as I waited for the hostess to run my SIN in the system and verify that I hadn’t shown up under false claims. I could hardly wait to head inside to be the center of attention. Everything in me wanted to dance about like a little girl at her own birthday party.

“Right this way then,” the hostess finally beckoned as she smiled before leading me through the foyer and into the reserved room where my family and their friends filled a handful of tables.

“Sam! We’d begun to wonder if you were going to show up,” my mother, Katherine, exclaimed. There were smiles, handshakes, and many congratulations. I happily accepted each one before finally sitting down between my parents as the various guests similarly took their seats once more.

“So,” remarked Jason Todd, my father, “how was the final exam? I presume all went well as usual?”

“Of course it did. Did you expect anything else,” I asked with a triumphant smile.

“Not at all,” he replied casually. My father was more than used to my condescending tendencies. “Is everything for graduation in order then?”

“Almost. Mr. Everette wants me to come in later tomorrow evening to sign a few documents so he can clear things on his end. It shouldn’t take long.”

“Brilliant,” Mr. Todd smiled and stood from his chair to address the other guests. “Absolutely brilliant, my girl. Before we begin dinning this fine evening, I’d like to say a few words,” dad announced as he chimed his glass of champagne. The room immediately fell quiet as all eyes turned to listen to the speaker. “All of you are, to some degree or another, familiar with my daughter Samantha and what she has accomplished over the last eight years. Perhaps as her father, I am speaking in bias when I say that I seem to have raised a little genius. I still recall my speechlessness when I got the phone call from her mother while at work that she’d graduated from high-school two years early. Soon after that she began to exhibit some unusual supernatural talents and was officially registered as one of the rarest and most versatile types of Awakened known to man. I mean, I had my hopes when my daughter was born like every father does, but I was thrilled to see her rise above her fellow students and prove to the school that she was already above everything they had to offer. Of course, no one in their right mind was going to contain a bright young girl with so much potential. Either that, or they couldn’t stand that fiery attitude of hers anymore.”

The joke earned a quiet laugh from everyone who was present. I gave the crowd a cheesy grin as their eyes fell upon me and I basked in the momentary spotlight.

“Seriously though, I am very proud of you Samantha,” he continued after the room was quiet once more. “Not only did little Sammie finish high school two years early as a valedictorian, but in her eight years of attending SEVOUM, not one point was marked down from any of her assignments or examinations, which is no easy task at such a rigorous university. That’s ten years of ruthless study and careful determination. Sam has always been the top student, and now she is on track to be the leading expert in the most cutting edge biological technology at EVO, just like her father. In honor of such long and hard years of dedication, I propose a toast to Samantha Todd.” He raised his glass and everyone else followed suit. “To Samantha, the world’s next great mind.”

“To me,” I proclaimed proudly as I stood next to my father and raised my glass. Once again the room filled with laughter and shortly after my father took an exaggerated drink from his glass to signal the rest to do the same. I similarly partook of the champagne in my glass before sitting down and watching the servants bring about the food.

After several hours of music, socializing, and having a little too much to drink, it was finally time to go home. I said my goodbyes to my family before being dropped of and crashing in my bed after a hot shower. For the first time in too long, I’d finally have a day to myself. The first part of my morning was spent trying to get rid of the hangover from the previous night with a hearty breakfast followed by several glasses of water.

Next up on the agenda was my daily cleaning routine. School or not, I wasn’t about to live like a slob. I’ve always been what many call a “neat freak,” but I personally considered my habits to be anything but unhealthy. My apartment was nice, but small and humble. I found it to be far easier to clean a small space than to live in something spacious and luxurious. Of course my mother insisted I get a full sized bedroom instead of a small studio apartment. “In case you ever get a boyfriend,” she’d told me with no regard for my opinion.

Though really, I found the entire thing to be silly. I wasn’t going to get tangled up with another boyfriend for a while after my first two relationships flopped in less than a year. Both of them explained that they thought I was too arrogant and “sort of a bitch,” but the fact that they’d had similar issues with me was just coincidence. Probably. I certainly couldn’t be the one to blame for turning the relationship sour.

I passed the day with study and a couple of classic romance films. I knew that even I would become rusty if I didn’t revisit the information regularly. Of course, it wasn’t all old stuff either. I had my own projects I’d been working on for some time, and I would require new information to break new ground on the development.

After a long day of hard work, I rewarded myself with another hot shower. One hour of preparation later, I made my way back to my university campus. I stepped out of my little car and into the heavy Seattle rain. Seeing as I wasn’t terribly keen on having my image ruined before I even made it out of the parking lot, I quickly deployed my umbrella above my head for cover. I’d chosen to dress professionally for this particular occasion with a white button-shirt and a pinstriped matching coat and short skirt. Of course, to compliment my sharp looking attire, I made use of a neat bun to top off my competent look. While I could have selected something casual, I wasn’t about to pass up making an impression on any surprise guests that Mr. Everettee had decided to have along.

As I approached the glass fancy double doors to the lobby, a fully expected message displayed on my glasses lens in my favorite pink text for me to see: “8:00PM Appointment with Sterling Everettee in 5 minutes!” I still had more than enough time to get through reception. I refolded my umbrella and stepped up to the front desk to be greeted by the middle-aged woman behind it.

“Good evening, Sam. I didn’t expect to see you at all today.”

“Well, I shouldn’t be too long,” I explained somewhat hastily, “Mr. Everettee apparently has some papers for me that need signing.”

“That’s peculiar,” the woman remarked as she paused to view her records. “But sure enough, I can see your appointment right here. I won’t keep you any longer. You know where the office is.”

“Thanks,” I nodded quickly before walking to he back hallway to the staff offices. All the way down to the end, I could see Mr. Everettee’s office which sat perpendicular to those of the rest of the staff. He always loved talking about the design of the building whenever the subject came up, boasting about how it was his idea to place the staff offices like a committee table. All of the standard offices were parallel and facing in with the big man at the end looking down the entire way. His office resembled something close to a room in a mansion. It had a semicircular back wall made of glass to allow a full view of the large hedge garden outside. I knocked on the open door as I stepped inside the massive office andMr. Everettee looked up to me from his desk in front of his terminal.

“Mr. Everettee? I hope I’m not intruding. I’m here for my eight o’clock appointment.”

“Of course,” he smiled as he gestured to one of the chairs along the wall, “go ahead and close the door then pull up a chair in front of my desk.” I did as I was told and eased the door shut before quietly sitting down.

“Let’s see,” Everette muttered to himself as he flipped through his drawer, “here it is. I wanted to give this to you. I spent quite a bit of time on it.” The man set a letter down in front of me.

“A letter of recommendation?”

“I’m sure a young woman of your reputation doesn’t need it to find a spot in EVO labs, but it’s the least I could do.”

“I’m honored, thank you.”

“Yes, of course. Let’s start with the real business then, hmm?” Everette placed a small stack of pages down where the letter had been only moments ago. “These are a collection of personal research grants. I’m sure you’ll be wanting to conduct your own studies aside from what you’re assigned. Each one was given to me from one of several contributors who insisted I see to it that you apply. Clearly everyone can see just how brilliant you are. Perhaps I can interest you in a drink while you fill them out?”

“Of course.” Everette stood with a smile and turned to grab one of the many bottles than sat on a self. “Do you have a taste for good wine?”

“I did grow up in a sophisticated family.”

“Brilliant. I am certain that you will like this then. It’s the finest bourbon to my tongue has ever tasted.” I got to work on the applications as Everette poured the drinks. Everette set the glass down in front of me, and I took a sip after tapping my glass to the rim of his.

“Wow, this is really good.”

“I’m glad you think so. This stuff is a real gem, not easy to come by. But, when I see something I want, I pursue it. That really is the key to my success.”

“I think I can relate,” I nodded as I took a second sample from the glass. I talked about my experiences at school, and Everette gave some history on how he’d managed his own position in the university. We both had our laughs and a couple of drinks. After about an hour and a half, I was finally finished.

“I can’t believe there are so many organizations pushing for me to succeed,” I chuckled as I looked over the entirety of the stack of papers. Everette set the glass down in front of me, and I took a sip after tapping my glass to the rim of his.

“You really are a bright girl, Samantha. I admire you as much as any of the individuals who sent over those grants, if not more. It would please me if you’d have dinner with me tonight. What do you think of that?” My heart felt as if it had come to a dead halt. The wine, the dimly lit office, all of it after hours; how could I have been so stupid? This pervy old man just wanted to get in my pants.

“No, absolutely not,” I stated bluntly. I wasn’t going to beat around the bush. “Is that why you brought me here?”

“Of course it was. You’re sure I couldn’t convince you otherwise? We could have a fine meal amongst some candles, partake in some more delicious wine, and perhaps even head back to my place when the whole thing is over?”

“I think I should go,” I said as I stood from my chair.

“I don’t think you want to do that,” he interrupted. “I always get what I want Sam, and tonight I want you. You’re a smart girl, you must realize what kind of position you’re in. You don’t get a degree, or any of these grants unless I say you do.” Everette had hit a nerve; I stood from my chair and leaned in closely with a glare of hatred in my eyes.

“You can’t do this, I earned that degree!”

“Oh, but I can. So what’s it going to be? Do you want to keep your precious dignity, or make a small sacrifice for the opportunity to continue down the road of success? What are you really losing here? If you come home with me now, I can give you the best night you’ve ever had in your life. We can still see about that candlelight dinner if that’s what it takes to get you wet.”

“You’re disgusting,” I told him with repulsion before turning to leave.

“Sam, I swear to God, if you walk out that door, I will ruin you. You know I can.” I paused with my hand on the doorknob. What this what I really wanted? Was denying this man the pleasure of my flesh worth all the years of stress and hard work that I would be throwing away?

“Go to hell.” I slammed the door closed and hastily strode down the hallway as tears began to pour down my cheeks and sobs to escaped my lips. I could only hope I’d made the right choice.

I ignored the receptionist as she called out to me in concern as I flew by and rushed to my car through the rain. I sat down behind the wheel and took several deep breaths to help compose myself. Was it really all over just like that? Like being shot in the knees five feet from the finish line of a marathon, it seemed I’d been permanently incapacitated in the field I’d worked my whole life to get to. I started the car and headed home. I wasn’t going down like this. My tears quickly evaporated under the flames of determination that burned within me and fueled my ambition.

A small part of me wanted to go back and give Sterling Everette a piece of my mind, but for now I needed sleep. I was well aware of how powerful a good night’s rest was in decision making, and it was a tool I would need yet again. As soon as I got home, I undressed into a tank top and cotton shorts. I settled down to another movie to take my mind off of this evening’s events before finally drifting off to sleep near midnight.

I was awakened by a knock on the door. I groaned groggily as a sat up from my sofa; it was still too early.

“Samantha Todd,” called a voice from the other side of the door, “this is the Seattle Police Department, open the door.” What business could the police have with me at this hour? I slowly forced myself to my feet and trudged toward the front door. “SPD, Ma’am, open the door or we’ll make a forced entry!”

“Hold on,” I called out, only a few paces away. When I finally opened the door, a man in a suit stood before me. Behind him where five SWAT team members all of which held a sophisticated assault rifles pointed in my direction. I instinctively took a step back and timidly put my hands in the air. I wanted to run back inside, but I knew I needed to face these men directly to avoid trouble. “Can I help you,” I asked nervously.

“Samantha Todd? We have a warrant for your immediate arrest.” Arrest? Was this Mr. Everette’s doing?

“Pardon me?”

“I’m going to have to ask that you come with me, Ms. Todd.”

The Moment I Wondered If I Was In A Soap Opera...
...Because My Father Might Be The Villain

One Year Ago


After you wrote me expressing your concern for me, I wanted you to know that I’m doing fairly good here in Kansas City, and that I’m quite happy. I’m currently working as a secretary for a small private dentist while I determine a course of action for my future. Finding something new after spending so much of my life in school has been difficult. Still, life treats me well. I’ve fallen madly in love with a man by the name of Sean Mire. He and I met eight months ago, and I think I want to marry him. You’re not a Grandpa yet, but I’m sure that time is coming!

Don’t worry, my new man has steady work and makes plenty of money to fuel a new family. Sean has also been very supportive of me through difficult times, helping me both with working through my claustrophobia and keeping me clean when I’m feeling depressed. I can say that I am truly happy here and eagerly await the future. I hope things are going well in Seattle for you. Perhaps some day I’ll be less of a disappointment and find success in EVO over there with you.

May you sleep peacefully knowing your daughter is safe,

Samantha Todd

Present Time

“Welcome home, Sam,” my father said. I almost felt my heart stop when I saw his face. My mind raced to the letter I’d written him just over a year ago. Many parts of it had been a lie, namely the fact that I had a steady, legal, job. If he hadn’t figured things out before, he certainly knew now. Though, “welcome home” implied my presence had been anticipated. Had my father been watching me? For how long? I had a lot of questions, but so few answers. I had a funny feeling in my stomach that I was going to get was more questions.

The Adventures of Jack Snipe
Two Years of "honest" living

The Adventures of Jack Snipe

Two Years of “honest” living

This is a little bit of what Jack Snipe has been up to during the 2-year time skip…

Though Jim had been true to his word and removed my SIN, life was far from easy. Now SINless, getting a legit, sanctioned job above the plate was out of the question, so I was forced to take up less desirable jobs, where they didn’t care if you were SINless and had a past. Waste disposal, part-time construction, delivery, and low-end janitorial services, I’d done them all. Two miserable years of scraping out a living amongst and I hadn’t really made much progress towards living independently. Still, I’d stayed out of trouble, the work was mostly honest, and it didn’t involve getting shot at or sent to prison.

I preferred delivery over the rest of the jobs, as it was more sanitary, though sometimes more dangerous. Good delivery jobs never lasted long, but I always had a place in the disposal crew if I wanted it.

I’d stashed most of my Shadowrunning gear in various places throughout Kansas City. I had little need of it in my current life and I didn’t need it getting stolen from my flat. More importantly I wanted to give no reason for the cops to cause me any trouble. Every now and then, I’d get the Remington and hike a good bit out of the city to practice shooting. Most of the time though, I only kept the Yamaha on me.

I always took a roundabout way home from work to my flat, varying my steps from day to day so as not to get followed. I often lost myself in thought as I walked, hands shoved in my pockets and head down. I found myself getting lost in thought more and more on the walk home.

There were three of them, muggers looking to make some quick cash. The first two were waiting in the alley, looking like a pair of homeless guys standing at a trash barrel with filthy brown and dark gray clothes. I almost didn’t notice the third step behind me, but an unnatural flicker of shadow gave it all away. I immediately pulled out my Yamaha and spun. The electric dart discharged right into the thug’s chest and he went down, twitching. The pounding of footsteps came from behind as the first two guys ditched their setup and charged. I sidestepped most of it, though I got a nasty mouthful of wall as I pressed myself against the brick and steel, aided by one of their clutching hands. One of the muggers completely missed me, and the other only managed to get a handful of shirt before I pumped two darts into his thigh. I held the Yamaha in my left hand and grabbed the man’s free arm with my right, maintaining the hold as his friend wheeled and doubled back. The gambit worked, charging at me with all the adrenaline, he didn’t seem to notice that his buddy wasn’t fighting me back. As the mugger approached, I threw his buddy right into his arms, arms splayed almost like embracing a lover.

The momentum of the unconscious body wasn’t enough to send the brown-clad man to the ground, but it took a second for him to free himself from the entangling limbs. In that second, I stepped back, and the man looked up right as I settled into a two-handed grip on the Yamaha, perfect firing stance, feet spread, and back straight.

“Hey man, we didn’t mean nothin’, we just needed some Nuyen, s’all. Don’t kill me.”

I looked at the punk, cowering in fear and pleading for his life, and had a realization. That would’ve probably been me, on the ground begging for my life, if his buddy had been better at sneaking.

No. I’m not going to die like this, working a shitty job, low pay, only to eventually let my guard down and get mugged on my way home for a few dozen Nuyen. I’m going to die for something more.

In disgust, I lowered my Yamaha and stalked out of the ally. I didn’t want any of them trying to follow me, so I turned invisible right before I hit the streets. I didn’t think they would, but who knows. I wiped my mouth with the corner of a sleeve, it was a little bloody, and I had bruises, but nothing worse.

My guns were still there in their hiding spot when I got there. The first stash I had was behind a pair of loose bricks obscured behind a rusty trash barrel and a foot-high pile of broken pieces of concrete. Not visible from the street, the entire thing was in just the right place to be shadowed over by the neighboring buildings. Even if someone came to sift through the trash or remove the concrete, they’d have to know exactly where to look or else they’d miss it. I removed the Remington first and, making sure it was still carefully wrapped, slung it over a shoulder.

The second cache was ammunition and other odds and ends. I’d hidden my bullets in a few cheap waterproof containers and dumped them in a sewage overflow tunnel. A few months in waste disposal had taught me that the sewage tunnels were almost never dredged. In fact, the only time they were ever disturbed was if they needed to be replaced, which happened around once every fifty years. A few very short-range magnetic clamps secured the canisters to the inside of the tunnel. One at a time, I retrieved my supplies. I first deactivated the clamps with a wireless command from my commlink and then fished the canisters out with an iron pipe and some disposable plastic gloves.

They smelled horrible on the outside, but it was only the inside that I cared about. I popped the seals, and everything was just as I’d left it. Airtight and watertight as it was, it even smelled like machine oil. I put the empty canisters back, submerged in the waste, and walked away.

“Now what’s a hood like you doing in a shop like this?”

The clerk eyed me over the register, one hand on the countertop, and the other someplace beneath. Despite the slightest bit of honey in her greeting, she was doubtless ready to pull up some sort of gun to deter thieves. At least that’s what she wanted a thief to think.

“You don’t look much like a mage either.” I remarked, as I wound my way through the tight confines of the dimly-lit store. It was true too; she looked nothing like the media stereotype of a tattooed mystic with a sleek outfit and shiny focus. The register was all the way at the back, and the place was jam-packed full of “magical” paraphernalia. Most of it was junk; the trendy kind of trinkets designed to appeal to a teenage spell-slinging street sammi wannabe. Posters, racks of clothing, imitation foci, jewelry, tattooing supplies, this was the place to get everything you needed if you wanted to look like an awakened.

I came up to the counter, and got a better look at the woman. She was a little overweight, mid-thirties. A bit too much makeup, but other than that she didn’t really look like she belonged in this store. No more than three piercings even.

“I’ve heard about your society, and want to join.”

She snorted and immediately relaxed, pulling up the hand from below the counter to fold her arms over her chest.

“Everyone wants to. You need to have magic for that.”

I remained silent. She paused, looked me up and down, and then raised an eyebrow.

“Well! You do have magic. Like you’re new to it too. Of course you can join, what are you interested in learning?”

I narrowed my eyes. The ability to sense an awakened gave me the creeps, and was foreign to me. It was also one of my biggest concerns to keeping a low profile, in both a Shadowrunning life, and a mundane one.

“That. How can I do that?”

The can of soda stood still and motionless. The wind picked up; normally enough to push it over, but I’d weighted the empty can down by pouring a handful of gravel into it before starting.

I lay prone in the grass, aiming the Remington at the can. As the wind changed, I put down the rifle, being careful to keep the muzzle on the medium-sized blanket and out of the dirt. The blanket was small, maybe seven feet by five feet, but enough for what I needed to do. I reached to my right and made a note in my commlink of the wind speed, calculating its effect on the shot. In my time in prison, I’d read historical accounts of snipers doing this stuff on paper, even operating in small teams in order to spot targets and gauge distances. The modern age of gps technology and instant calculations made paper seem old fashioned to me. A spotter would be useful, but paper was just a hindrance to me. I reached left, into the small bag, and pulled out a tool to calibrate the sights. The accuracy in most firefights was fine, but as I’d been learning out here in my practices, not good for longer distances. I was also learning that not only did sights have to be regularly calibrated; they also had to be sighted in at different distances to ensure optimal accuracy.

Holomovies always romanticized this stuff. The sniper would often recalibrate and sight in during a crowded firefight. Bullets whirred all around, explosions, trick hip shots while tightening a bolt on the sights, fisticuffs with the butt of the gun, all while recalibrating a very, very delicate scope. The sniper would then go on to use their updated sights to make an impossibly long shot on the very first try.

In real life, nothing could be more boring1. Recalibrating and sighting in a gun took time, patience, time, several shots, and more time. I’d been at it for an hour at least, not counting the walk out of Kansas City.

I finished my commlink calculations, and picked up the rifle. The can hadn’t moved a micron. I relaxed, slowed my breathing, and fired.

The can jumped off its perch on the rock, gravel spraying everywhere.

It was a lot of work, this practice. I had to get all my equipment together, drag it out into the wilderness, find and set it all up in a sniper perch. I had to do hard work, I had to do math, or at least punch numbers into a calculator. I had to be patient, I had to relax. Then I had to tear everything down and hike back.

But it felt good. A lot better than working day in and out to barely make ends meet.

1: Epic Jack Snipe gun pun!!

No Time to Breathe

My body gave one last heave as I leaned over the toilet in my apartment. Gross. I grimaced and shuddered at the unpleasant taste of the strange slime I’d just purged from my stomach. Having just spent most of the last week and a half completely submerged and breathing in whatever the stuff was, there had been no avoiding a gut full of gunk.

Trish had done her best to get most of what she could off of me, but my hair remained coated and heavy However, now that the worst of my vomiting fit was over, It was time to take a nice, long, hot shower. I supposed I was technically really clean, but oh man, did I need it. The smell of artificial sterilization stuck to me like spray from a skunk.

I peeled off the sticky leather jacket that had been several sizes too large. I wasn’t a far of baggy clothing, but since it had been my only article of clothing on the way home, I was certainly willing to make an exception. I turned the shower knob and the water streamed down, soon causing steam to begin to rise from the floor. Goosebumps flowed up my chest and across my limbs as my skin anticipated its much needed pampering. The water felt every bit as good as I’d hoped, making the knots in my aching muscles melt away.

At this rate, I was certainly better than I was only hours ago. Spending most of my time in a void with no sensory input had been surprisingly unpleasant, maybe even something of a nightmare. It hadn’t done my claustrophobic tendencies any favors either. My brain had begged to feel anything at all, creating strange and unsettling hallucinations with a variety that spanned all five of my senses. With the death of Sean Mire still weighing heavily on me, my time in the float tank had been simply painful. If I hadn’t known any better, I could almost still swear I’d heard the sound of his voice in there. Hardly what I would call good circumstance to grieve.

I felt broken, like a piece of me was missing. Time almost seemed to stand still and I had no idea how I was going to make it without the one I’d once called “Soul-Mate.” He was always there when I needed a shoulder, and always piping up with his stupid, inappropriate jokes. I once hated his heckling, now I wished I could have heard it one last time. While my other half has been severed, I can’t allow what’s left to fray. I have to try to stay strong and intact, if for not for myself, then for Sean.

I shut the water off and wrapped myself in a dry towel before stepping out of the shower. That was quite enough pondering for my taste. My father had always taught me that action and initiative were one of the key to success, and frankly I was beginning to feel that excessively dwelling on the matter was become self-destructive.

After getting dressed, I prowled into my kitchen to sate my next desire: a juicy steak with a side of eggs. I felt like I’d die of hunger as I watched the meat sizzle and steam on the pan which, given my extreme hunger, created an unusually attractive aroma. It seemed my body was painfully aware that I’d been fed primarily off of an IV tube, and it was going to make certain that the smell of the fat and protein rich meat felt irresistible.

Finally, my steak and eggs were before me. It had seemed like an eternity had passed before the outside browned properly. I had every intention of slowly savoring the sweet taste of the juicy meet, and no one could change my mind. Despite having barely been freed from captivity, Jim had already thrown me into the fire with another assignment with no time for physical or emotional recovery. I was hardly pleased, but such was the nature of mercenary work, and I needed the money.

When I was done, I sighed with satisfaction and turned my attention to my next course of action. I didn’t really have time for any reading, nor was I going to get away with sitting down and watching a romance for over an hour. With nothing else to do in my short window of time before I would be expected to return, I dressed myself in sweat pants and a tank-top. I couldn’t really be bothered to care about my appearance in my depressed state of mind. If nothing else I could take the edge off of my grim thoughts with some booze from the bar before getting to work. The duration was dissatisfying, but I did love the sheer kick of that Pixy Dust. I’d need plenty of it to get through the long day ahead of me.

The Good Times Are Gone

“Sean!” I scolded my lover with an embarrassed giggle as he surprised me with a passionate kiss on the neck. There is a time and a place for romance; Sitting on a log in front of a night-time campfire in the Mexican desert might have been a fantastic place if there hadn’t been four other mercenaries awkwardly watching.

“That’s enough out of you two love-birds. You’ve got a tent, so use it. Try not to keep us up this time,” Trish grumbled. Deciding it would be best to behave, Sean pulled himself off of me.

I’d been with the Red Devil mercenaries for just under two years now. After my previous companions had gone their separate ways, I found myself alone and once again short on options. Jim wouldn’t send me anywhere by myself, which was understandable. Few others saw any value in my almost unique strength as a dedicated support member. No gun, no job; It was rough. However, the Red Devils saw me for what I was: A genius mage with a limitless well of potential. Though I was still largely unrefined, they’d told me to “consider yourself an investment in the long game.”

With time and lots of convincing, I’d eventually grow comfortable enough to use my mind controlling abilities to kill my enemies. Honestly, forcing someone to turn on their friend and kill them felt worse than the idea of doing it myself. I’ve killed more people than I care to count and I still feel sick to my stomach every time. For me, it was simply a tough means to an end that would some day get me my dream career back.

It had been Trish that had introduced me to the Red Devils in the first place and landed me a permanent position with them. We made good partners on missions when we weren’t busy butting heads for some stupid reason or another, but mutually considered the other a friend. Trish always covered my back, and I was there to pry out the occasional bullet that found it’s way past her armor and patch things up. Having been more experienced than myself, I had actually learned a lot from Trish in my time with her. Not only some arcane wisdom never taught in magic university, but other things about tactics in shadow-running and some tricks to ease the mission into success.

As for Sean Mire, my boyfriend, you wouldn’t think finding your soul mate in your own mercenary group would be a good idea. “Don’t shit where you eat.” That is a phrase I’ve heard more times than I can count. I still hear it whenever one of the other Red Devils gets bitter or irritated by the bond I share with Sean. It wasn’t as if I’d consciously defied the advice; I’d always found myself a little distracted by Sean’s good looks and confidence, but we hadn’t really clicked until a few weeks after I’d joined. At first I did my best to keep my feelings to myself and quietly admire him from afar like a good girl. It was sort of a “look but don’t touch” policy that I’d promised to myself that I would adhere to for the sake of the team’s integrity. That wouldn’t stop Trish from reading me like a book and teasing me about my girlish crush.

However, one night things went terribly wrong. I was with the Red Devils on a mission, and things were running pretty smoothly. However, there was once catch: We would go on to find that not only was our intel faulty, but that our arrival was leaked and therefore anticipated by security. Whoever had hired us clearly wanted us dead. Long story short, when the time came to run, I fell behind. I was more a volleyball girl in high school and less of a track athlete. There’s an old saying that the Red Devils put a twist on to tease me with after we’d gotten home safely by some miracle: “You don’t have to outrun security, you only have to outrun your medic.” Although it was meant as a joke, it had been true.

Apprehended and seemingly abandoned as the one sacrifice to benefit the many, I was interrogated on the site of my capture. Unwilling to betray my brothers and sisters, I soon found myself with a gun in my mouth as my would-be executioner gave his little monologue to explain how I could have lived if I’d just cooperated. Only moments from my death, Sean suddenly swept in like an old western cowboy and gunned down half a dozen men to save my sorry butt.

I felt lost in a mixture of strong emotions; I was thrilled and relieved to be alive, but still shaking from the remnants of terror and dread. I couldn’t decide if I should be sobbing, panicking, or prancing around like a little girl. So I did exactly what my heart told me to do; I embraced my knight in shining armor and planted a passionate kiss right on his lips. I still have no idea to this day what exactly I had been thinking. Thanks? I love you? Both? I quickly pulled away as I realized the reality of my actions set in. Mortified, my face went flush and turned hot. All I wanted to do was hide some where under a rock and never come out. As it turned out, even though he was surprised, Sean was quite receptive to the gesture. His confused expression shifted to a romantic smile and he returned the favor by pulling me back in for a second serving.

Neither of us were apparently professional enough to ignore how we felt about the other from then on. Time eventually eroded our judgment as we both quietly entertained the desire we mutually held for the other. One quiet night when most of the other Red Devils were away on a mission, things finally escalated from fantasy to reality; We were in love and no one in the world could stop us. Ever since then things have been, for lack of a less explicit term, really… fiery.

“Well, it’s getting late,” Beef interrupted the casual conversation eventually, “I want you all functioning tomorrow, and I expect that you will actually sleep instead of fooling around all night,” the orc stated sternly as he purposefully directed the last half in my direction. I looked away with a scowl of shame on my face. Beef was the closest thing we had to a team leader when Harley wasn’t on comms giving orders from back home. I didn’t mind him so much when he was laid back like an ugly teddy bears, but he was blunt, rude, and harsh on the job. Ever since getting together with Sean, Beef seemed to target me with his scoldings and criticisms. He certainly did a good job making me feel like trash some days.

“Yes, sir,” I agreed with a humiliated mumble before standing and walking away from the fire and toward my tent. The others similarly stood as I left and went off their own way as ordered. Even if I’d wanted to stay up, my social flame had been snuffed out by Beef. I didn’t much want anything to do with anyone for the time being. I took off my boots and grumpily settled down into my sleeping bag. It wasn’t long before Sean followed me inside. He was likely having his last few words with the others for the night before hitting the hay.

“Are you alright, Kitten,” Sean asked. “Kitten” was a nickname some of the others had given me while I was still green. For Sean, the name had become a term of endearment.

“I’m fine.”

“Sure you are,” Sean shrugged and plopped down in his own sleeping bag before rolling over with his back to me in disinterest. “If you don’t want to talk, that’s fine.” I hated that I was so readable. He could have at least taken my pity lure and shown some sympathy.

“I don’t know, I just feel sick with shame. I’m not even sure what I was thinking by letting you bait me into sex last night.”

“Bait you? You were all over me,” Sean teased as he turned back toward me with a smirk. I shot him a frustrated glare for the comment even though there was a degree of truth to it. Shrugging me off, he continued. “In any case, I wouldn’t worry about it. Give it another day and no one will remember a thing.” I disagreed with his theory.

“I don’t want to give it another day. Some times I wish we could just be done with all of this.”

“What exactly are you talking about?”

“All of it. Shadowrunning, this madness with the Red Devils where we’ve got bullets flying at us every other week, and all of this blood I’ve got on my hands. I’m so sick of everything, but it’s all I’ve got to make ends meet.” Sean went quiet as he thought carefully about what to say to me. I simply stared at him expectantly until he finally opened his mouth.

“So what do you want to do about it? I’ve got nothing,” he admitted. “Are you sure you’re not just letting your bad mood get to you?”

“My bad mood? Sean, this has been nagging at me for months. What if something happens to you?”

“Then you’ll be there to patch me up, won’t you?” I frowned at Sean as he countered me grin. “Look,” he started when he realized he’d upset me, “we’ll think things through, okay? For now we’d probably better get some sleep. It’s going to be a rough day tomorrow.” I was dissatisfied with Sean’s answer. I rolled onto my back and stared quietly at the ceiling of the tent. I wanted him to explain that we could simply walk off into the moonlight and that everything would turn out just fine. I could certainly get into living a simple life in Mexico.

Maybe settling down to live in a beach house wasn’t want I’d had in mind as a goal when I’d started shadow-running, but maybe it didn’t have to be? I shook my head and cleared away the fantasy. Now was hardly the time to be stressing over such things. Sean was right about one thing, I needed to sleep, and the sooner the better. Naturally, just because I told myself not to worry wouldn’t mean I’d be saved from a long night of restlessness.

“Rise and shine, Devils,” Beef would called out loudly a few hours later. Damn, I thought to myself, it was far too early in the morning for my personal tastes. I opened my exhausted eyes and I felt that same anxiety I grew to know in college: Here comes yet another day of getting up early without enough sleep. It’d felt like hardly any time had passed at all since I’d drifted off to sleep the previous night. “We’ve got a long hike through the heat and we’d best get past the worst of it before high noons hits.” I forced myself up and began to pack my things through the fog that polluted my mental focus. Sean finally got up after several minutes of ignoring Beef’s repeated orders and knelt down to help roll up the tent after taking his morning leak. It would have been easy to pass out on the cool desert sand in my deprived state, but my rational side demanded I stay on task and remain active. With Beef seemingly so bitter toward me, I wouldn’t be getting away with any self-indulging foolishness like Sean had. We neatly folded our gear up before loading the sleeping bags and tent on Sean’s pack since I was hardly strong enough to carry my own supplies. While I wasn’t particularly amazing in the physical department, he was built like a mule.

As Beef had promised, the cool morning quickly melted away under the sun as we trudged forward. With intel suggesting a vehicle would be spotted by satellite patrols, Harley had set us on foot and fully dressed in desert camouflage. Apparently it would be up to a chopper pilot to extract us. With as hot as it was, I know that had I fully understood what the mission entailed, I’d have almost stayed behind. After all, I’d mostly only come to look after Sean and make sure he’d make it out in one piece. These days, due to my increasing disinterest in shadow-running, I was less likely to jump on board if he wasn’t coming along too.

Eventually, we did make it to our destination. I wiped the bullets of sweat off of my head and sipped some water from my canteen as we all ducked into some shrubs to take a look at the facility. Beef and Trish took a good look at the present security as the rest of us sat quietly and awaited instruction.

“Looks good,” Beef stated. “We need to keep a low profile. The security response team clocks at just under six minutes. Any alarms and we’re in for a really tough time.” That wasn’t a lie either. The team had been forced to bring smaller arms and only a small supply of ammunition compared to the arsenal they usually boasted for the three day desert trek to avoid becoming exhausted by the excess weight. “Unless there are any questions or objections, let’s move and enter from the south wall.”

With no words to oppose the order, we moved around the base, swinging wide and remaining distant to avoid being spotted in the evening sun. It required careful timing to avoid being spotted, and Harley was exactly the man for the job. He guided the team, through the present security cameras, up against the wall of the facility where we scaled our way to the top with a grappling hook before dropping to the other side with similar precision and quickly heading through the first door. I sighed with relief as the cool air-conditioned atmosphere kissed my sweating face and chest. I was now not only out of immediate danger, but out of the sun as well. If I’d learned nothing else over the last three days, it was that most of the others were far better adjusted to the heat than myself. As the Devils stopped for a short breather I stripped off my long sleeved desert camo in favor of the sleek black tanktop I wore underneath. We were all exhausted from traveling in the heat, but there was little choice now but to press forward.

The goal of the mission was to extract Ron Wight, an advanced electronics engineer, from the custody of the Pueblo Corporate Council. Officially, he was a “political guest” staying at the facility under a contract. Our intel suggested otherwise; Ron had infact been taken prisoner and was likely being forced to develop something dangerous. Regardless, Wight wasn’t of personal interest to the Red Devils. The man had a massive price tag on his head that was set to see to it that we could all take home a fair pay check.

Finally, Harley signaled over comms that it was time to move; there would be no more time to rest until the job was done. We quickly strode through the hallway unchallenged, leaving a trail of unconscious bodies and corpses that had hardly known what had hit them. It seemed this was going to be a clean run. We arrived at Wight’s quarters, which were locked from the outside. Nothing a little tinkering and Harley’s genius couldn’t solve. With the tech savvy master strategist as his guide, Beef cracked open the lock and began his work.

After obtaining digitally forced access to the cell, we burst into the room ready to secure the prisoner and eliminate any threats inside. It was unexpectedly fancy, filled with pleasant interior decoration, entertainment, and a well stocked kitchen. Ron Wight stood from his couch in front of a display screen, dropping whatever he’d been reading in surprise. He was old, with thinning peppered hair and glasses. I’d guessed he spent a little too much time in a lab given the lack of solid meat on his bones.

“Ron Wight?” Trish automatically stepped in to take charge of the diplomatic end of things. The woman had a well honed silver tongue and she knew it.

“Y-yes?” The man stuttered nervously as he spoke. It seemed he hadn’t been clued in that we would be coming for him.

“We’ve come to release you from incarceration. Come with us. You’re in good hands but we need to move quickly.” The man stared speechlessly for several moments before finally speaking up.

“Thank god,” Wight sighed with relief. “I’m going insane, I haven’t seen the light of day in weeks! Let me grab my things and we can go.” The man immediately turned and strode to a small decorative table with a briefcase on top. “I’ve got to make certain I have my research with me, I can’t leave it here with the PCC.”

“We need to go now, Mr. Wight,” Beef insisted, sensing that something was off. The orc signaled silently to Trish with a quick gesture that he could smell fish.

“No, no, just allow me to verify that I have everything in here.” Wight defiantly opened the briefcase and quickly dug about inside.

“Stop right there,” Trish commanded, raising her weapon. Wight froze as instructed. “Put your hands in the air and stop where you are.” The man slowly raised his arms above his head with his fists closed as he was told before shifting on his feet to slowly turn around. “Open your hands,” Trish barked. Wight once again complied, opening his hands and consequently dropping a small electric device that was now flashing red.

“Unfortunately for you, I’ve come to enjoy things here quite well. I’m not going anywhere,” Wight smiled victoriously. “Think you can make it out of here with top notch security on its way?”

“You sack of shit,” the woman cursed before unloading two rounds of stick and shock ammo into his chest. Wight convulsed and fell over into unconsciousness as the shock from the sticky pellet overpowered his frail body.

“God damn, woman,” Sean playfully scolded as he rushed over to the body to pick it up.

“Cut the shit, Sean, he deserved it. That’s most likely a security alert beacon, it’s time to go.” As if on queue, the overhead speakers blared out their automated announcement: “SECURITY ALERT, THE FACILITY IS NOW GOING INTO LOCKDOWN. PLEASE FOLLOW ALL LOCKDOWN PROCEDURES AND AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTION.” Without another word, we all looked to Beef who immediately signaled the group to move out. I hated when it was time to run. As we made it out into the hallway, large blast doors began to sink down from the ceiling. We sprinted to make it under the door, though Sean soon fell behind with the additional weight of Wight on his back. With an armed security team quickly coming in from behind. Harley was forced into a split second decision.

“Sean, drop Wight and get through that door with Sam, pronto,” he ordered. The soldier didn’t hesitate to do as he was told. With little time left, Sean grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me over to the door before throwing me under. After I was through, he dropped prone to roll under the door in the last moments before it was sealed. Gun-fire and the sound of smoke bombs erupted from the other side of the door. Several rounds found their way into the door itself, creating a loud clinking sound as the pellets of metal were crushed by their own momentum upon meeting the reinforced material. As the fire ceased, I waited anxiously with faith that my team had survived while down two people.

“Sam,” Beef inquired finally over comms.

“Loud and clear,” I replied with relief. “Is anyone hurt?”

“We’re all fine. But I need you and Sean to find a way to lift the lockdown. We’re trapped and it’s only a matter of time unti reinforcements arrive.

“We’ll figure something out,” Sean interrupted, “but it seems like we’re as trapped as you are.” The two of us weren’t exactly in a terribly large area either. Another layer of doors beyond the first had left access to only a few rooms. I immediately began to scout around for any way out, checking for computers, keypads, or anything else with little more than a few meeting rooms to show for my efforts.

“Sean,” Harely piped up over the comms, “the blueprints are showing a ventilation shaft in your area, do you see it?” I looked up at the ceiling. There it was, but it was easily twelve feet up. “It looks like you can make your way into the security room from there, but it’ll be a bit of a crawl. Think you can manage?”

“Consider it done,” Sean assured him.

“How are you going to get up there,” I asked without taking my eyes off of it.

“I think I’ve got an idea,” Sean proclaimed proudly with an accomplished look on his face. “Boost me up and I’ll climb in the vent. I can get this no problem.” I simply scowled at him. He knew damn well that I couldn’t support his weight. I never could understand why he always seemed starved to get some kind of reaction out of me.

“You can’t honestly expect me to go in there,” I protested nervously. I already knew the answer even if I didn’t like it.

“Come on Sam, even if I could get up there I don’t think I could fit.”

“You’re not making the situation any better,” I shuddered as I did my best to shake off the idea of getting stuck in there. I could already feel my heart pounding in my chest.

“This is why we practiced this. There will always be situations where you need to face your fears. Now come on,” he gestured with his hands as he squatted down low and created a platform for me to stand on with his hands, “I’ll boost you up so you can climb in.”

“Whatever,” I mumbled. I wasn’t going to argue any further. Even though he was helpless to do otherwise, I was bitter toward Sean for sending me off alone. Sure, we’d practiced fighting my claustrophobia, but always in a safe place where he could scoop me up if I got in too deep and lost control. I stepped on Sean’s hands while careful to maintain my balance as he hoisted me up toward the vent. I grabbed the grating and tossed it onto the floor before jumping up and grabbing the ledge to pull myself in. “Here we go,” I whispered quietly to myself.

Every inch forward into the dark vent was another butterfly in my stomach. It was a tight squeeze that forced me into an army crawl to get around. As the light behind me faded, my mind began to scream at me to escape. “If you don’t go back, you’re going to die,” it told me. Every fiber in my body seemed to agree as the walls seemed to be closing down on me. I couldn’t take it any more. I stopped to catch my breath and focus on regaining control. I needed to remember that my rational mind was still in charge here. It knew that I was okay, and that there was nothing to be afraid of.

“Sam, Sean, I need a status report,” Harley ordered over the radio, “the next wave of security is moving in on Beef’s location.”

“I’m in the vent,” I managed to say with stress practically bleeding out of my voice as I pushed myself forward once more. “I can’t keep this up much longer. How much further to security?”

“Just hurry the hell up, Sam, we’re taking some serious fire over here,” Beef interrupted.

“Enough, Beef. You’re about twenty feet in Sam,” he reported patiently. I’m sure I was driving Harley as crazy as I was Beef, even if he’d handled it better. Still, there was little I could do that I hadn’t already done to improve my state of mind. “You’ve got a ways ahead of you, so keep moving and take a right at the fork. Hang in there.”

“I’ll do my best,” I nodded as I fought off the urge to hyperventilate. “Just breathe,” I whispered to myself to assist in mustering my strength and forced one arm in front of the other while simply focusing on handling each second as it came and passed. As I moved slowly down the vent tunnel, I stayed to the right as instructed. It seemed like forever before I was finally met with the light that rose up from the vent further down. With my goal finally in sight, I scurried over as quickly as possible and pressed my face against the grating to take in the sweet air from the other side.

“Sam, we’re running a little short on time here,” Harley reminded me as he apparently noticed I’d stopped moving. I never could be sure how it was the man seemed to be omniscient. Still, he was right and even though I wanted to plop down and enjoy my sweet relief, I needed to get down there and get those doors open. I quietly popped the vent cover off, and set it down gently in the tunnel. Looking down below me, I saw a security guard monitoring camera footage and providing real time intelligence on the invaders. Apparently he was far too busy to hear me shuffling around in the air duct. I decided to try my luck and drop down onto the floor, hoping that too would go unnoticed. As my feet hit the ground, the man spun around in his chair to see me standing in front of him like a deer in a spot light.

“I got you motherfucker,” he shouted as he quickly drew his pistol to open fire.

“Uh uh, drop the gun and sit,” I commanded as a thin strand of white and black lightning arced up my arm and from my finger to the mans forehead. The man did as he was told and took a seat in his chair. I calmly walked over and picked his pistol up off of the floor before removing the magazine and dumping ammunition in the trash can. “Open the security doors.” The guard turned back to his screen and his fingers began to dance across the console as he performed a manual override on the security. I took an adhesive patch out of my pouch, removing the wrapper and carefully peeling off the wax coating with my teeth as he worked. There was enough juice in this slap patch to put a troll out.

I looked at the console to see how he was coming along and wiped the sweat off of my head that had began to drip down into my eyes. I needed him to be quick, it’d been over a minute and I was starting to get tired. Maintaining a hold on someone for so long quickly took its toll. Finally, the man stopped and simply awaited further orders without even turning around. I watched as the doors began to open and stuck the patch on the back of the guard’s neck. “Good night sweetie,” I told him as I pushed it down firmly to be certain it wouldn’t fall off. He’d be gone in about five seconds.

Time was against me, and I’d already taken too long. I looked at the camera footage to see Beef and the others still fighting the incoming waves of security. It seemed that Sean had regrouped with the other Devils, so heading back through the vent was thankfully no longer an option. However, my team was barely holding on against superior firepower and larger numbers. Deciding I’d have to make my way through the halls and risk confronting a security team, I poked my head out of the office door. I could hear the distant sound of gunfire and the shouting of commands. At least I knew where to go.

Opening with a deep breath, I mustered my courage and bolted down the hall. Time was of the essence, and I was long out wiggle room for skittishness. Even though I was exhausted I was fairly certain I had enough juice to put the fight to an end. It wasn’t long before I came up behind the security team who were slowly overtaking the Devils. More flickering white lightning sprang from my hands and tickled the skulls of my initial target before chaining and arcing around my other enemies; Now they were mine. The other Devils stood in surprise and relief as they watched their opponents gun each other down in a bloody slaughter.

“About time,” Beef berated. “Pick up the pace next time, got it? You need to get your childish fears under control.” I’d hardly thought I deserved a scolding for saving his butt. Some how I doubted that the orc even had the mental capacity to understand the psychology behind a phobia.

“I’m sorry, I did my best,” I panted. After a stunt like that, I was nearly ready to pass out and really not in the mood to argue. With Beef it was best that I just bend over and take it any way if I didn’t want to hear about it for the next week.

“Don’t apologize, fix the problem. Let’s move, people.” Without allowing another word, Beef took off back the way we’d come and the rest of the Devils along with myself followed closely behind. We burst out the door and back into the sun before making our way over the wall once more. Sean still had Wight, and the extraction chopper could be seen landing only a few hundred yards in the distance. It was relieving to finally be on the home stretch.

Suddenly, bullets rained into the sand around us; the security personnel had caught up and now had line of sight on a handful of targets running directly away from them. We were all lightly armored to combat the heat from the trek , and no one was eager to take a hit. Beef veered to the right, planning to swing in to the chopper from a wide angle and the rest of us follow suit. Being hard to hit was important, especially now.

Only thirty feet or so from out goal, Sean suddenly fell face first into the sand, taking Wight with him. I felt my gut wrench and my mind immediately raced with concern for the worst. I stopped in my tracks and rushed to his aid.

“Sean,” I shouted as I shook his limp arm urgently, “get up!” It was then that I noticed blood pouring from a hole in his head. The bullet had passed through the back of his skull and come out the other side, killing him before he’d hit the ground. My heart sank and tears welled up in my eyes as my worst fear was realized. “Sean!” I yanked at his arm again in denial as I sobbed.

“Sam, get up!” Beef had turned back to grab Wight. He hoisted the unconscious man onto his shoulder and quickly ran to the chopper. “He’s gone, Sam,” Beef insisted as he watched the security team get too close for comfort.

“I can still save him,” I argued. I did my best to hoist Sean up like I’d just watched Beef do with Wight, but the dead weight was too much and I only managed a slow stagger toward the chopper with his legs dragging in the sand. “Help me, Beef!”

“I can’t get him in time, we have to go now!” I couldn’t leave Sean behind. The security team popped more shots at the chopper, and Beef was forced to close the door after he’d seen than I refused to drop the body to prevent further casualty. As the bird took off, I knew deep inside that I’d hesitated too long. I’d thought some how that if I tried hard enough I could get Sean aboard and everything would be alright. We’d retire after getting paid, hit the coast and laugh everything off over a bottle of hard liquor. I was wrong. Burying my face in my dead lovers chest, I whimpered to myself and prepared to be snuffed out right along with him. Perhaps it would be better than living with the pain.

“Hostile is unarmed,” their leader said as the squad quickly surrounded me. “She’s awakened, get me some mage-cuffs and a mask, now!” A strong arm pulled me off of the corpse before pushing my head against the sand and pulling my arms behind my back. “Even a hint of magic, and I’ll make you wish you had died with your comrade,” he threatened through his helmet.

I fought feebly against his strength, but I was no match especially in my exhausted state. I felt the cuffs wrap around my wrists and lock into place. Finally, the security guard pulled me up by the hair and stuffed my head under the hood before securing it in place with a leather strap around my neck. Yet again, the suffocating feeling of my claustrophobia began to set in, and this time Sean wouldn’t be around to save me.

I was walked back into the facility and down a series of hallways by my captors. I had countless questions, many of them involving my well being in the future, and most of the others involving why I was being kept alive. I got a hint soon enough as I was buckled down to a chair with more leather straps. I was screaming on the inside, and twitching to break free as my breathing spiraled out of control. It was likely that my captors would be all to thrilled to learn about my claustrophobia, but my hopeless situation had acted as a catalyst that was throwing me into a panic.

The room was vacated with only myself and the sounds of my muffled cries remaining. I waited for what seemed like an eternity in a cycle of desperate struggling and resigned fear. Once more, the door to the room opened and the sound of someone pulling up a chair across from me echoed off of the empty walls.

“Samantha Todd,” said the man calmly, “you’re in some very serious trouble.”

“Please let me out,” I begged, unconcerned with how the stranger knew my name, “I can’t breathe!”

“We want to know where your little team of mercs is taking Ron Wight,” he stated, ignoring my pleas. I cried quietly, unwilling to answer the question, but too scared to remain composed. The man stood and approached me slowly. He loosened the strap around my neck and tore the mask off of my face. I breathed in the sweet scent of fresh air; I was still in a bind, but the removal of the mask was a good step forward. “Where is Ron Wight,” the man asked again firmly, hoping that fulfilling my request would make me more cooperative. I silently stared the man in the face with a look of hatred, still sniffling with red cheeks and puffy eyes from crying. “Look,” the man began to explain as he sat down once again, “I’m not the kind of person you want to make your enemy. You tell me what I need to know and I can play nice.”

“Screw you,” I scoffed and spat on the floor.

“Alright. I’m going to go do some paper work then,” he shrugged. “I’ve got all the time in the world.” The man walked over to me once more and picked up the mask off of my lap. “Since you seem to like this so much, I’ll just go ahead and slip this back on.” I fought as best as I could, but with everything except for my neck largely immobilized, there was little could do to prevent its return. The door closed, and once again I was left alone to be consumed by anxiety. They played their game for a couple of days; good cop, bad cop. Mask on, mask off. I gave them nothing. Seemingly fed up, I was finally taken to another room. It was dark, and empty except for what appeared to be some kind of high tech tank in the middle.

I was stripped of my clothing and placed in front of the tank as it opened. I had been uncertain what to expect, but from the looks of the inside, it seemed I was going to be left inside for a long time. Water filled the better part of the tank with restraints floating motionlessly on either side. From the top, several tubes designed to be inserted into a human body to ensure the survival of whoever was left inside draped down.

“You like tight spaces? We’ll see how you do in here for a while. This is a float tank, designed centuries ago to deprive an individual of their senses completely. It’s old tech, but it still works. Most people go nuts in only a few hours without any stimulation of any kind. This is your last chance, Sam. Tell us where to find Wight, or we’ll drug you up and leave you inside. When you pop out your tongue will be so loose you’ll tell us anything we want to know. At least if you tell me now you’ll have some dignity left.” I remained silent. It seemed to be the best tactic with this guy. “Suit yourself,” he shrugged. I felt a needle stick into the side of my neck as I stared into the water with uncertainty. It’d been this long, and no one had come for me. I couldn’t blame them either; this was self inflicted. I took a deep breath and waited for the drug to kick in and rob me of my consciousness. I’d get through this some how.

Esmeralda 2 year time lapse

Having completed her first Shadowrun, Esmeralda found herself feeling hopeful for the first time in many years. She completed something for herself and made the veil appear and finally realize that it was time to remove it. After the group disbanded, she continued to move towards her freedom; moving from one location to the next for the next year. She took one job after another outside of mafia work. Even with her accomplishment of completing her fist Shadowrun the mafia continued to chase after Esmeralda claiming that she still had a debt for their generosity of raising her and giving her her “education”.
“All I am is a killer, bathed in the blood of innocence, but killing those who are deserving… maybe I can make amends” Esmeralda thought as she stood over the body of a body. This body belonged to a member of the mafia, one of the killers they keep on the pay roll. “I can’t continue this game of cat and mouse, I need to end this”. Esmeralda began her plans to take the fight straight to the mafia boss and end this. Over the course of the next 6 months Esmeralda made her plans and making sure she was a ghost to the family. Esmeralda continued to train honing her abilities with masters, developing her hands into more lethal weapons. Through all her training she followed the warriors way.
The time finally came for Esmeralda to close the door to her old life and move forward it was time to make her move on the family itself. In the dead of night with only the moon to illuminate her movements, She made her way into the mansion of the family, skulking in the shadows. She found a window that was unlocked on the second floor and made her way into the dimly lite room. The home was strangely deserted and Esmeralda was getting a very bad feeling. As she moved down the hall she saw that the bosses office door was cracked, just enough that someone could peer through. Her curiosity got the best of her, as she peered through the crack she the families three best killers laying in wait. Somehow they knew she was coming and the boss sat in the center. Esmeralda kicked open the door, not single member of the room moved. They only sat in their chairs with smile that only a serpent could make, a sickly smile that made the malice palpable.
“You know why I’m here, I no longer am willing to be part of this horrible world. Consider this my notice and stay away from me” she said. With his hands steepled in front of his face the boss said “My dear, you can not simply leave we invested to much time and you have to much talent in killing for us. No one will simply leave our family”. At that the three killers in the room stood at the ready. Esmeralda knew that she would have to make them understand. “At least the next three people I have to kill have earned death” she thought to herself and made solace that she may never be able to stop killing. She ran towards the boss as all three killers drew their weapons. One had a Bowie drawn; the second a katana, and the third drew his pistol. Esmeralda went for the one with the pistol first, she landed 3 quick jabs to his solar plexus and finished with an upper cut to his jaw. He landed right back into his chair. “Those who rely on guns usually have no stamina for a real fight,” she thought.
The last two posed more of a problem, the one with the bowie was larger and much more muscular, his entire body screamed military and was closing the gape between them quickly. As he began to over shadow her she jumped up, but not quick enough. The Bowie wielder grabbed her by the ankle and threw to the wall behind him hard. As she landed on the floor she quickly got to her feet. As the large man began to close in she positioned herself to sweep his leg, she made her move and he came down hard. Once he hit the ground Esmeralda leapt on top of him and used penetrating strike to as she landed 3 blows to his head, his head cracked like an egg on the floor. She stood glaring at the Family boss, who began tremble. She began to move towards him and with only a second to react the katana user almost took her head off.
She could tell this warrior was much more than he appeared to be. He was able to move with almost no sound being made. Esmeralda watch close as he began to strike, Esmeralda doge his next strike by only a few hairs as the katana sweeped past her head. She landed her next blow with all the strength she could muster and upper-cut him in the abdomen and the samurai sailed into the ceiling. As he fell to the floor, Esmeralda positioned the katana directly beneath him. “He died on his sword, like a true warrior” she said turning to the boss with blood trailing down her face.
She moved to ward the boss and said ”I am done with this life, come after me again and I will take your life. A life for a life, do we understand?” “It seems you are dead set on leaving, but know this you will not be able to run from your past forever and one day it will catch up to you and on that day I will pay quite a lot of money for your head”. “ On that day” she slammed he fist on the desk cracking the solid wood desk “will be a very bad idea”. With that Esmeralda walked out the office, feeling the weight finally lifted.
Over the next six months she continued to try and live her life and finally not feel as if someone was following her. She helped many of the people that came to see her and got a name among those of the street as the “killing saint”.

The Phoenix Arises
Honestly, it sounded better than "Let's give the party a good reason to get back together after 2 years."

Jason Osborne was a very powerful individual in the UCAS. He worked damn hard to get there, too, and not everyone had the president’s ear. It was his job to give advice to the president, to essentially run his cabinet, and make sure that those idiots in congress listened. It’s not often people have the audacity to argue with him, but this was one of those times.

“Now you listen to me, Senator Jurgiliwitz, this bill is going to pass, and you’re going to make sure it does pass. I don’t care what you have to do to get it done, and I don’t care about anyone who makes a fuss over one tiny clause that allows us to monitor a citizen’s SIN more closely, you’ll do it, and if you don’t, you can bet that the president will back another candidate for the party whip, understand?”

He was just about to get an answer to his question when his pager went off. Odd, he was in the office… When he reached for his normal pager… it was fine. This wasn’t for the white house, this was for business. Osborne sighed. “Well, Mr. Jurgiliwitz, I have to take this, I will give you three days to comply. Have a good day.” he hung up and looked at the pager. It was a group of mercenaries he had recently hired for a job. This was either good news or bad news.

He grabbed his keys and knelt to the floor under his desk, opened his floor safe and pulled out a single, clearly outdated piece of technology. He pressed a few buttons on it and sat in his chair, leaned back, and placed the plastic apparatus to his ear. There eventually was a click, in which he knew someone answered his call. “So, how did the operation go?”

“The mission was a success, though the asset turned rogue.”

A curt reply, but a satisfactory one. You can’t always expect much from mercenaries, but there must be more. “Well then,” Osborne said “If that is the case, why are you calling me during one of my busiest times of day? Surely payment is in order through our mutual contact.”

“One of our operatives was captured.”

Osborne frowned. This wasn’t good, if the operative knew it was the UCAS that hired the mercenaries, there could be some serious tension between them and the Mexican government. “Do they know much about the details of the mission?”

“No, but I thought you would like to know that it was someone of special importance to you.”

Osborne’s frown immediately turned into an outright scowl. How this man always seemed to know everything… “Todd.” A pause with no answer gave him all the information that was needed. “And they would be ready for you to extract her, wouldn’t they?”

“Yes. And it’s likely they know our capabilities.”

Osborne did not like snags in carefully laid plans. “I’ll have our mutual contact get a strike force ready.” and he hung up. he sighed, then dialed another number…

Time lapse (Esmeralda)

I’m not sure how I feel about this group that Jim has brought together. I don’t care what he needs us to do though as long as I get my freedom from the those bastards that have kept me imprisoned my entire life. I will never return to them.

I need to take give the my notice with the gang before I get to deep into this new objective. Killing 5 of their mid level members should be significant enough if they decide they want to try and force me to stay, but I will never return.

My freedom is within my reach…. all I must do is survive the shadow run.

I'm Back (Nysos)

I thought my past was behind me but it seems someone has let the street gangs know I’m back in town. I’ve been forced to lay low as even I can’t fight so outnumbered, despite the number of losses they’ve suffered, the gangs only grow more vengeful. Only now that the heat has died down can I communicate with my group and hope I will be forgiven for my long absence. It seems the gangs want blood for blood and I’ll be watching my back more carefully from now on.

Facing Fears (Samantha Todd's Post)

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I whispered under my breath as I stared down the dark, cramped, underground hallway. I looked over to Scrap who was too busy tinkering with the mechanics of the secret door to care that I’d suddenly become quite nervous. I’d been sent here by Frey, a man from Midgar who’d happened to have contact with a witch coven whom could likely provide me work of a magical nature. I’d been politely informed of the address and shown a symbol that would appear only in the astral realm to mark the hidden entry point.

I’d been certain that simply finding the door would be the hard part, but oh boy was I wrong. Unfortunately for me, Frey had neglected to mention the compact hallway required to get there. For anyone else, I suppose, the darkness would be unsettling without a light source. However, as a kid I was diagnosed with claustrophobia; The irrational fear of confined spaces.

It wasn’t always as bad as it was now, but having failed to respond to therapy and other psychological treatment, my condition eventually spiraled into what my doctor had told me was the worst case he’d ever seen in his extensive career. As bad as it might sound, I do okay with my fear for the most part. I quietly avoid seat-belts, subway transport, or any other everyday thing that tends to send my mind racing into a suffocating panic.

Most people don’t quite understand how little control I have in this situations, so I tend to keep it as quiet as possible. Naturally, I was relieved that Scrap seemed completely oblivious to what exactly I was going through as I stood at the entrance trying to muster the courage to go forward. But that wasn’t going to last forever, I needed to move.

Without a word, I headed into the hallway and did my best to act like nothing was wrong. My heart pounded in my chest, and my mind screamed at me to flee from the seemingly fatal threat around me. Every time I have to tough something like this out, I get that overwhelming sense of urgency like diving just a bit too deep in a river for the first time; When it starts getting dark and really cold, soon follows that sick feeling inside you get even though you know you’re alright.

“This had better be worth it,” I thought to myself.

Of course, I would find myself disappointed. In the end, the witches I’d sought for work insulted me with a request to contact my friend so they could hire her instead and I was once again left at square one for reliable income. Just as I’d thought things had gotten as miserable as possible, I was mortified to find myself unable to venture back into the hallway from which I’d come. I looked down into the darkness, and back at the witches who gave me a puzzled look, wondering why I’d yet to leave.

Sensing my fear of the hallway, the lead witch infused me with the mental strength to press forward. I immediately departed, taking with me what little of my bleeding pride I had remaining after two successive blows. I’d have almost taken one of their hexes over their brutal rejection.


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