The Den Games Network Forum RPG
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Game Masters:
virtualoctopus, CKW, Wesforce

RPG Chapter 2: Blues From A Gun
"Chance sighed and stared into the sky, breathing the cool clean air of the evening breeze."


Captain Jinjiro Shibata stood, his face inches from the ballistic composite glass of his watchtower.
Mere metres from this pre-fabricated tower, the roiling energies of The Vortex that was eating at the heart of Geneva swirled.
Shibata stared into the heart of The Vortex.
It was compelling.
Beautiful, yet deadly, like so many (or so few) things in the awakened world.
Shibata put his gloved hand on the glass. Even behind this shield, and in his radiation suit, he felt completely naked to the energies being constrained here.
Beyond the watchtower, a belt of razor and mono-wire, steel hedgehogs, concrete teeth, zapper strips and other barricades kept anyone from reaching the vortex.

Should be the other way around, He thought. Stop that thing getting at us... filthy bloody magic...

Completely mundane, Shibata had never had any personal use for magic. Yet now, although he didn't realise it, the magic from The Vortex was affecting him.
He felt the intense emotion, the energy, the voices seeping out from The Vortex.
Voices... Intense voices.
Voices of grief, anger,
His fist clenched. He pounded at the armaglas.
Why? Why, damn you? Why did we all have to die like this?
Shibata felt drawn ever closer.
He wanted to jump from the watchtower, jump the barricades, embrace the energy...

"Captain Shibata?"
The speaker had to shout several times to get his attention.
The owner of the voice, a man Shibata could never like, an Elven Mage from the Oxford Royal College of Magicians, a member of the Global Institute for Magical Research sent to investigate The Vortex finally got Shibata to turn around.

"Who wants me?" Shibata grunted, annoyed.

"Professor Darren McGowan." The newcomer said. "That's me. Actually, I was sent by your CO. We're all having a chat. I thought you could use a walk, eh?"

Shibata already hated this Elf. He wore a fancy saville-row suit, adorned with silver pins and fetishes, but no Rad-suit. Something in his tone of voice, his nasal accent, his condescending attitude grated Shibata's nerves to the very bone.
Reluctantly, Shibata followed him out of the tower, pulling his eyes away from The Vortex.
It almost had him.

McGowan led Shibata through a column of assorted Daisaka, IWS, AET and other Corporate troops in rad-suits that made up the MUNDI security force. APCs, attack helicopters, combat drones and even the odd Panzer sat on the tarmac, ready for action.

"No rad-suit, McGowan?" Shibata sneered. He was disappointed. The Mage touched a small silver brooch on his blazer.

"Rad-shield spell-lock, my good man. I may not need it yet. No actual confirmed radiation eh?"
Shibata just grunted in distaste.

Eventually they reached the building that had been commandeered for the HQ for the 'security force'. Apparently, it had been one of the main universities in Geneva, though it was - had been - owned by Aztechnology for some time. This made it exceptionally useful for the GIMR people, because like most universities in the modern world, it had a fully-stocked thaumaturgy department. Pushing through waves of uniformed men with trays data-chips and communicators, McGowan and Shibata went up to the Thaumaturgy dept.'s conference room. There, Shibata met his CO, Daisaka Colonel Xiao Renwu, and a whole host of other characters.

"Welcome, Shibata. Please take a seat." Colonel Xiao Renwu said. His face was hidden by his helmet's polarized faceplate. Shibata understood the man's name was a cipher - A slag from intelligence division.

"Yes sir." Shibata said, dutifully. "Can I ask what this is about sir?" He asked politely.

"In time. First, allow me to properly introduce the representatives from the GIMR - You've already met McGowan. From the UCAS' Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Thaumaturgy, Bennifer Lonsdale. Shaman Danny Five-Heathers from the Sioux nation, Houngan Belvedene Deschamps from the CAS, Germanic Shaman Heidi Weissmuller, Shinto Miko Jun Watanabe and from the Elven Tirs, Eoghain McHugh and his aide, who wishes only to be known as Ery."

"Charmed, I'm sure." Ery grinned. Shibata refused to look at him.

"I regret to inform you that the Aztlan representative was refused access to the team on security grounds. Hated that fragger anyway. Okay Shibata." Xiao Renwu said, "I can see you're not impressed with probably the finest (meta)human magical minds on the planet. Straight to business eh? That's what I like about you, Shibata."

"I just follow orders, sir."

"Shibata, I want this city evacuated, within seven days. We have already lifted the travel restrictions, but it is imperative we get everyone out before that time. If they won't leave, they won't leave. Period. Do you understand, Shibata?"

"Yes sir."

"Good. I know I can trust you not to be too obvious in your methods. I know I can trust you not to run your mouth off. Take command of the 3rd Airborne Squadron and use any means at your disposal. Dismissed."

Dutifully, Shibata left the room.

"So, is your man up to it?" Bennifer Lonsdale said, voice full of disdain.
"Yes. He's what you might call a sociopath, our Shibata. I would imagine its quite liberating for him. He isn't held back by petty human emotions." Renwu answered.

"Hope he doesn't mind too much when IT devours him." Said McGowan.

"He'll follow his orders." Renwu said.

"Gentlemen, the hour draws near. The Vortex will have expanded to encompass this whole city by the end of the week. Our work here is done." Danny Five-Feathers spoke with strident tones. He stood to leave.

"Very well. Thank for your time, my honoured comrades. Let us leave, a job well done."

As everyone filed out to leave the city, Renwu muttered:

"And all this over some fragging poncy bloody dragon. Tsk."


NewsEye! The News you never had the guts to listen to before!

Our main story - Texas Ceasefire!
Cut to images of idle Panzers and infantry fighting vehicles in desolate Texas.
"News has come in overnight of a cessation in hostilities between Aztlan and CAS forces from the Warzone in Texas. Aztlan forces, who advanced as far as San Antonio and Austin are apparently consolidating their position. It is not known as yet who ordered the ceasefire, but locals are said to be grateful for the momentary peace."

Cut to slack-jawed, skinny goblin a baseball cap.
"Ahh, man! It was fr(censored) crazzeee! All'a tanks'n' guns' flyin' stuff... And then BLAMMO! And like, they all stopped... And stuff, y'know?"

Cut to CAS capitol - 'The Grey House'
"High-ranking Aztlan and Aztechnology officials are said to be in talks - unofficially, of course - with the CAS government, right now. Insiders say there is a distinct possibility of peace for the coming year, although Confederate Die-hards are pushing for renewed hostilities in order to expel the Aztlan army from Texas."

Cut to scenes of the Geneva Vortex, and refugee columns
"The Council for the Geneva Free-Enterprize zone today lifted all restrictions on its citizens leaving the afflicted area, amid reports of violent rioting and looting in the sprawl. Daisaka and corporate troops are using military vehicles to keep the access routes open, and airports are said to be still functioning, including those serving Sub-orbital and Semi-ballistic aircraft. Unconfirmed rumours point to the mysterious Geneva vortex actually increasing in size, although our reporter sent to investigate this has not reported back. Good luck Dave!"

Cut to snowy Scotsprawl - The towering, three-pronged Transys Arcology
"Transys Neuronet have suffered yet another setback amid claims that automated defences on the roof of their 300-story arcology building fired a missile, downing a passenger helicopter with the loss of over thirty lives. Their spokesman was defiant, however, refusing to even contemplate paying compensation to the families of the deceased, as they were in corporate aerospace."
Cut to furious Transys PR man:
"Ah'm not gonna say it again, ye wee shites! That chopper was full of hostiles bastards sent to damage our arcology! Ah know, ah cannae prove it. Ye'll just have tae kiss me arse, aye!"

Cut to scenes of big budget horror-simflick:
"And finally, today saw the long awaited release of 'Dearly Beloved', the new 800 million-nuyen simsense movie, starring nova-hot British Elven Actor, Sir Anthony Taylor as an obsessive mage who comes back from the grave to menace the clone of his ex-girlfriend, played by young actress Fumiko Tachihara. Speaking at the premiere, Sir Anthony spoke of the experience of sim-recording with her. He also furiously denied the rumours that Miss Tachihara is in fact a BTL junkie, pulled off the streets by Grexon corporation - who financed the production - and given a personality re-write chip."


Cylinder Head, Crystal, Chance, Ash, Mary, Crash, Firearm, Tank, Xecktos, Silvia and Raven were all in The Downturn, drowning their sorrows. With them in the crowded pub were the three members of Identity Zero that didn't include Lady Zero herself.

"So where'd you say she was again?" Crash slurred. He had had one narcobeer and was already feeling the effects.

"Like I said," Dex Flange was saying, "The record company got the jitters and pulled her in. She's at Grexon in London Sprawl right now. The corp didn't trust her out here, but they left us three behind, bastards." He spat.

"Oh, righty... Gotta go and see her then." Crash told himself.

Xecktos wasn't feeling at all well. His obscene level of cyber-modification was affecting him badly - His skin had a grey cast. He was always depressed. He smelled of death, and decay - The mark of the cyber-zombie, those who have had too much cyberware implanted.
He knew he had only weeks to live.
But all he could think of was Lora...

"Tough break about Billy and Jimmy, eh?" Cy said. Jovis and Mary Chain songs were blaring away in the background at highly unsafe noise-levels - "Head of Nails" and "Blues from a Gun". The bartender would have turned it down, only... Only the very large number of murderous Shadowrunner's packing out his small pub would have made him pay for that.

"Billy and Jimmy, yeah..." Crystal said. "They never could have bettered their first album, and even that wasn't too good. Now they're dead."

"A toast to Billy and Jimmy!" Raven shouted. Everyone downed his or her drinks, apart from Mary, who was drinking a soy-coke. The synth-caffeine was making her nervous. She kept twitching and looking off into the corners, then at the creepy guy on his own in the corner - The same guy in fact, she thought she recognised from the night Lady Zero got kidnapped. He had helped her escape from the rent-a-cops...
"And that guy... Mac, Dragon, something. Dunno what the hell was up with him, but man... what a way to go." Crash put in. Chance strode up to the bar. He towered a good three feet over the Dwarf bartender.

"Another round, stunty old mate." He grinned. "On the house, right?"

The poor Dwarf wasn't about to argue with the potentially crazy obvious-combat-veteran and his literally fiery girlfriend.

"S-s-s-s-sure... A round of drinks, right..."

Meanwhile, Mary spoke up.

"Curim. Curim died. He died saving us. And all we have left of him is his staff. The least we could do is return it to his wife."

"Sounds good, but do you know where the hell we could find the slag?" Cylinder Head said, maybe a little harshly. Without waiting for an answer, he carried on: "I don't. All I can think of right now is getting out of this gruddamn hell-town before things get even more fragged-up. They say that fragging vortex thing is getting bigger, everyday. We have to leave. Frag, if any of you have ¥1,000, I'll take you with me on my Aerobus, once its fixed."

Dex Flange and the rest of Identity Zero made it clear where they were going:

"We need to get the band together again. We're gonna blag some sub-orbital plane tickets from the corp. One of those will get us to London in about half an hour. Tickets are about ¥2,500 though."

"Well, my van's not getting on any planes. I'm gonna have to drive it. Anyone wanna come with me?" Raven said. He was thinking about the journey from there to London: The North Sea was a toxic sludge pool - He would have to drive through dangerous Northern France, then through the Channel Tunnel - Guarded my ultra-paranoid military forces on both ends. Not good.


While the 'runners were deciding what to do next, a new song came on over the jukebox: Identity Zero's 'Atlantic'. An apocalyptic cyber-ballad with amazing programming, enough raw emotion to bring a troll to breakdown and Lady Zero screaming for a good three minutes solid, yelling out on every vocal range. It was pretty intense...

As the song finished, everyone turned around - A newcomer had entered the bar.
The guy had big blue eyes and brown hair.
Everyone stared at him, but it was Crash who recognised him first:
"It's the guy who kidnapped Lady Zero!?"


Shadow entered 'The Downturn'. He remembered getting a contact number from the bartender here, and thought he could get a job from the guy before he skipped town - Geneva was a dead city. It just didn't realise it yet...

Imagine his surprise when he went in... The kid who had been with Lady Zero when he kidnapped her, as well as his ex-partner-in-crime, all sitting at the same table with about twelve other shifty-looking weirdos...


In the blink of an eye Cylinder Head had his Browning Ultra-Power out and levelled at Shadow's face. He scrambled over the table, spilling drinks, shouting.

"You've got a lot of nerve showing your face around here man!"

Because he was only here for a drink, Cy wasn't wearing nhis armour jacket, nor was anyone else. But that didn't stop him rounding on Shadow, with Firearm and Crash behind him...


Guns were everywhere! The metallic sound of bullets being chambered and firing pins ominously drawing back. Now silence. The entire pub had suddenly lost its capacity for sound. Only Cylinder Head's challenge echoed throughout the room. Shadow didn't make any movement or sound for a tense few moments.

"Stand down fraghead."

Crash was getting worked up. This man had threatened the life of Lady Zero! Here the scummer was again showing his ugly mug in public as if nothing had ever happened! Crash's nerve broke.

"I'll kill you! Fraggin' Kidnapper!"

A burst of pistol fire accompanied Crash's battlecry and then silence filled the room again. Three distinct 'plinks' were heard by all as shell cases hit the floor. Nobody moved or spoke, everyone was watching the prone figure on the floor. Crash's panting seemed to be amplified across the room. A voice was heard:

"Still a terrible shot I see, kid. You couldn't hit me at point blanc, wow you're bad."

Crash looked down at the man, Shadow appeared completely unhurt! Shadow got up while dusting himself off and looked directly into Crash's eyes. Face to face the two stared at each other, Crash in disbelief and Shadow without emotion.

"Don't mess with me you hacker-wannabe. One day you might actually piss me off."

Firearm lowered his own weapon and relaxed.

"Calm down Crash, this guy ain't go no beef with you. If he wanted to kill you, or any of us, you would never have gotten the chance to pull out your gun. So whatcha want chummer?"

Shadow looked over the various runners. 'Would they believe me? Would they even trust me? Which one is the leader? I have to pick out the leader and make friends with them, only way to win the trust of all of them.' Was it the ex-serviceman Chance? Or possibly one of the women.....

Cylinder Head was impatient.

"Well Fragnuts, what's it going to be?"


Chance wasn't in a very good mood.

Sure, he understood the neccessity of playing the obscene music in the background... Like it or not, fallen heroes deserved to be honoured accordingly. Thankfully, the "Jovis and Mary Chain" music had given way to ID0's. At least it gave him the capacity to think again.

"Let's see you put down that weapon, comrade. I'm sure you know how to count rifles... You might drop one or two of us, but the odds are against you." Chance said.

"Yeah? And what if you miss?" Shadow asked easily, his pistol still raised and ready to shoot.

"I don't. Sides, my friend here..." Chance indicated Ash with his eyes, "is aiming a flamerthrower in a place chock-full of flammable spirits. Including that little rack of hard liquor right behind you." In the background, the dwarf barkeeper gave a look of pure horror and took a second glance at Ash's gun.

Shadow gave an unexpected smile. "Ok." he let his weapon whirl on its trigger guard and eased it back into his holster. "I'm all yours."

Chance lowered his assault rifle, glad to see Ash bringing her big gun down as well... He wasn't so sure if letting her rip with the flamer was a very good idea in such confined areas stocked full with liquor. He spotted Tank easing off on his massive assault cannon in the background, Crystal gently pushing its huge barrel down as she attempted to cool the situation.

Cylinder Head had likewise lowered his weapon, but was still reluctant to return it to his holster. Xecktos beside him had sheathed his blade... the elf's sense of honour demanded that he not show a weapon if his opponent had disarmed himself. Still, his throwing hand hovered near deadly throwing-knifes. The others around them had likewise eased off on their guns.

Behind them, there was a thud as the barkeeper fainted in relief.

Cy was the next to speak.

"Talk, fraghead. What the frag were you thinking when you kidnapped Lady Zero?"

"Ask Xecktos. We're all mercenaries here. Sorry to offend your sensibilities, but like it or not, its the credstick that rules our lives. I was on a job, and I'll carry it out to the best of my ability. I'm sure that the rest of you would have to concede that point." Shadow replied.

Chance ignored the barbed insult... To imply that a Shadowrunner was putting personal feelings over his mercenary work was a serious slur. Still, Shadow's words had truth in them.

"Let's just forget old grudges... Afterall, Lady Zero's safe, you guys have gotten off quite fine, and I have gotten my pay..."

"Silence! If Ash had not pulled through her injuries because of that kidnapping stunt you pulled, you'll be lacking half a skull by now."

"Mea Culpa... But her injuries were not of my doing. Sides, you got your man. Jimmy Lefixit's dead. And both you and I know just who fired the final bullet."


Shadow picked his way through the crowd. He knew that he better not to run now, and would have to talk his way out of this one. Besides, he'd been doing ok up 'til now, hadn't he? He could see the grey face of Xecktos, as well as many others he didn't recognise. The runners watched him, and Shadow particularly watched the decker kid who'd been with his last target. The decker was scowling, so Shadow mage a three-finger up and him. The decker shook with anger.

Tank watched silently, gripping his assault cannon tightly, half concealed under the table. Crash's face began to contort with rage - he was obviously vexed at the insult, and, under the influence of the alcohol, wanted revenge. And fast. Mary, and the other runners, followed the new arrival as he moved towards them, mixes of apprehension and distrust on their faces.

Crash leapt up, knocking the table over in a cascade of alcohol and glass, despite his lack of an arm. The narcobeer filled his body, taking over his often slightly timid character, and causing an uncharacteristic violent reaction (although possibly influenced by his infatuation with Lady Zero). The hacker stepped over the wreckage, in the shocked silence.

The other runner's eyes followed him, furtive and expectant. In the sudden silence, even the words of Lady Zero and blaring music seemed to fade into the background. Crash pushed his way foreward, his face slowly reddening with anger.

Tank's chair grated as the Ork stood up, ready to diffuse any situation, his wounds healed due to his robust Orkish physique.
Ash picked herself up from under the wreckage of the table, which the decker had knocked down over her. The spilt narcobeers around her burst into flame as her shock ignited them, and Chance moved quickly and silently to prevent any more violent flares. Grabbing an can of expanso-foam from his pocket, obviously kept for an occasion such as this, he sprayed the blue flames in realms of rapidly expanding foam. Ash looked annoyed, but managed to control her temper.

Crash was almost upon the other runner now, his face twisted into a grimace of malice. Locking onto Shadow's eye's, his oe arms suddenly flicked into life, a punch sending the other sprawling to the ground, Shadow being strangely caught off guard - perhaps he didn't expect any threat from this puny decker.

"You slagger!" The influence of the narcobeer had wound Crash up into a machine for avenging Lady Zero's kidnap. The decker moved in like a shark, and began to pound the prone and relatively helpless Shadow, running off slews of run-together swear words, most of them concerning the legitimacy of Shadow's parentage. Several runners moved to intervene, and the crowd of patrons formed a wide open circle around the fight.

Tank stepped up quickly, outpacing anyone else by his sheer size, and grabbed both smaller beings by the neck in huge, green muscled arms. In the face of the astonished crowd, he dragged both back across the bar, the intoxicated Crash protesting wildly. Tank tossed both against the wall next to the tables the runners had been sitting at with a crash of breaking glass as a bottle perched on the sideboard topped off.

Crash moaned, and sank to the ground, but the still-concious Shadow's eyes, already large, grew wide with fear, surrounded by vengeful runners. No amount of luck or skill could save him if the dozen-or-so decided to take out their anger on him - he was lucky that the cursed decker had been removed by the hulking Ork - he'd never have guessed the skinny, one armed runt would be capable of knocking him down.

"Well, wot does we 'ave 'ere?" Tank's deep voice rumbled. "If Crash 'ere 'ad any sense in attacking vous, then you 'ave sum explainin' to do".


Ery stalked the pitch-dark streets of Geneva once more. The light from the street-lamps was mediocre at best.
Gunshots and screams could be heard intermittently.

Fewer and fewer people were on the streets these days. Most of the residents by now had either left or gone into hiding from fear.
That fragging psycho Shibata and his clear-team will be busy, hunting them down...But at least IT won't get them. Ery shrugged.
But then, he had another job now, and it didn't involve any of the run of the mill lowlifes left in the city.

"The Downturn, you say?" He asked Badjimmy, walking nervously next to him.

"Yeah, thats where I saw 'em all last. Can I have my money now?" The fellow Elf responded.

Ery grimaced, but reluctantly flicked a ¥1,000 credstick to the so-called Detective.
Cheap mercenary scum... If he weren't an Elf I'd probably kill him myself. Mind you, seeing a fellow Elf reduced to such desperation, maybe I should...

As the reached 'The Downturn', sounds of a scuffle could be heard from inside. Ery entered, as Badjimmy made his excuses and left.
Ery immediately picked out, Crystal, Chance, Mary and the others. The fight seemed to have died down now.

A Female Elf with Blonde hair was hovering around, waiting to talk to someone. Ery decided he'd bide his time and hear what she said before he put his own piece in - It was obviously a tense situation.
Not like I'm trying to kill them...Not THIS time, anyway. I was just going to warn them of Daisaka's plans...And see if I can get that damn Troll's staff...


Mary suddenly noticed a flashing icon on her wristphone's screen: A Matrix-Mail had been received.
She frowned - Yet more complications?
She accessed the file. It was from her senior at Cambridge University.

--> From: Dr Max Hackle
       Subject: Favour
Hello Mary, My dear. Long time no hear. Is everything okay? I haven't heard from you since you went to Geneva on assignment. I trust you haven't been 'distracted'. They say the city is quiet cosmopolitan. Of course, with all that Buclear nonsense, I think now may be a good time to leave. Your thesis will not write itself, you know!
Anyway, I have arranged - through the university - A Sub-Orbital ticket back here. Aren't you lucky?
All I ask in return is a small file, stored in the DGC London Mainframe, 'Special Research' Sup-Processor, named 'Otaku'. You'll be a good girl and get this for me, won't you?
Goodbye - Max. <--

Mary frowned again - More deeply this time.
What her mentor had asked her to do was obviously illegal. Was he just using her for some nefarious misdeed he didn't want to risk his own arse for? And he had asked her to come straight back to London.
But Curim's staff...


Crash, too, had a call on his wristphone. Embarrassingly, it was his Aunt Britney. He took the call. His Aunt's chubby, bright face filled the small screen.

"Christ, Aunty, You couldn't have picked a worse time to call. What the frag do you want?" He snarled, not adding: I was just about to get into a fistfight with trained murderer before the fragging eight-foot Ork slammed me into the damn wall...

"How's my little snugglepuss? How'd you like to pay a visit to good old Auntie, Bertram?" She said, as if not hearing him.

"Uh, fine. But what do you want?"

"How's my little snugglepuss? How'd you like to pay a visit to good old Auntie, Bertram?" She said again.

Crash blinked - Hadn't she just said that?

"I'd, uh, love to visit you, Auntie. Where the frag are you?"

Firearm looked at Crash questioningly. Crash gave him a menacing stare. The veteran 'runner turned away.

"I'm in Scotland, my dear boy! Come and visit me at the Transys Neuronet arcology in Ed-inburgh!"

Scotland? It can't be! She's never left her Minnesota house once in thirty years... Crash thought.

"Uh, sure, Auntie. I'll go there. Just..I'm having a few problems right now..."

"Oh darling so glad you are coming!"

And then the connection went dead.

Now what the frag was all that about? Crash wondered.
All of a sudden he felt a great longing for The Matrix - to get back in there, into Cyberspace. He'd always, in a way, thought the Matrix to be more real than the real world. He felt he belonged there. In fact he wanted to jack in right now...
Crash got up and walked over to the telecom point on the wall.

"Wait," He stopped himself. I can't jack in without my cyberdeck "It's impossible!"

"What's impossible?" Firearm said.

"How bad your BO is. Shut the hell up drek-head."

Firearm did as he was told.


After the assembled group had finished their discussion, they had three choices of action:

They could travel with Mary - To war-torn Orkistonia, Eastern Europe, to try and find Curim's wife. The road would be hard, and the pay low, but Mary couldn't help thinking there had to be more to it...
They would need some form of transport - Maybe Ery or Raven would know where to get a car? Or maybe Mary could steal one by decking its on-board computer...

They could travel with Cylinder Head, to the huge, polluted, intrigue-filled London sprawl. Maybe he could fix up some jobs with his old network of Fixers there...And plus, Identity Zero would be there too...

Or they could take the mysterious 'Mist Lotus' up on her offer, though no-one was sure exactly what they'd owe her for getting them out of Geneva

Each 'runner had to make their choice.

Crystal chose to go with Cylinder Head, her old gang comrade, although she would consider going with Raven. She wished Mary were coming with her.

Badjimmy - Waiting outside the door - came back in and told Mary he would be willing to come with her. He had a small car he could use, and had skillchips of Ork-'language' that would be useful.


Raven looked at Crystal, then turned his gaze to Mary. 'Which one do I go with?' He wondered. 'Do I keep my promise to Curim or stay close to Crystal?' He made up his mind:

"Sorry Crystal baby but I owe it to Curim to go with Mary."

Raven couldn't tell if Crystal looked relieved or disappointed.


"Null sweat, Raven. Let me know when you get any more explosive toys for me." Crystal winked.


Chance and Ash had moved off to a corner to discuss their future plans. They came back with a decision. While Chance had a nagging feeling that he should go to the widow of a fallen comrade like a true officer and deliver the news, he knew that both him and Curim were not that well-aquainted when the latter was alive.

Besides, that staff troubled him... It just wasn't natural for the "spirit" or whatever of Curim to end up in an inanimate object after death. You lived life once... after that, you end up dead. No if's, but's and therefore's about it.

"We'll be going to London. Both of us still have the ¥8,000 from our last job and can afford the trip over on the sub-orbs. If you guys want to get out of Europe, now's the time. The prices of public airfare are sure to go up soon." He turned to Cylinder Head.

"Heard that you needed ¥1000 for parts to get your Aerobus working again? Interested in a loan? What if I lend you the money and you take a bunch of us over the water? Saves us a bundle on the sub-orb fees." He braced himself for what would surely be Cy's obscenity-riddled reply.

To Chance, obscenities were best reserved for emergencies... Use them too much, they end up loosing their flavour. Besides, Ash was constantly reminding him to refine his language in front of her.


Cylinder Head, for once, did not disappoint.

"Ah, fragging nice one, Chance! Any fragging old friend of Crystal's is a mate of mine. I only wish that slottin' boner-arse dragon was here, so I could fly the Aerobus up its...Arse."

He gratefully accepted Chance's money, and mumbled something about going to get some parts at the IWS Airport and meeting up at the airfield in the morning, before making for the door.

Chance wondered if he had made the right choice...

Ery looked up to see the group of runners splitting up into two groups, each preparing to leave. He didn't like losing track of some of them, but Mary had the staff. Complicatons, complications he thought. But, whither goest staff, there goest me.

He stepped back into the street and waited in a sleek, black AET Hovercar, preparing to follow Badjimmy when he departed.

Raven moved around the table to stand at Mary's side. The smoke in the bar swirled around his head like filmy dreams. They'd all seemed so much of a team, only minutes before, but now, here they were, half going to soddin' Orkistonia, and the rest heading into grime-choaked Britsprawl. And his conscience, whatever that might be, had elected for him to go to the former, to seek out Curim's wife, instead of heading away with Crystal. He hoped this would be over quickly. Badjimmy sulked by the door.

Mary could see the majority of the other runners begin to drift towards Crystal and Cylinderhead. Ash, and Chance, two of the most rational and realistic characters here, had already sided for Brit-sprawl. Crash, one of the few that she knew reasonably well, was likely to as well - what use would his hacking skills be in a country of peasants and farmsteads? Silvia was very likely to have to go back to Tergannon, and the goblin Dorodo was no-where to be seen - and would anyway probably go with the half-dragon, seing the bond of friendship that had spread. Xecktos would probably dissapear again - his failing health meaning that finding Lora again would have to be done quickly. Firearm - the weapons obsessed half-elf - was one person she didn't really want to go with her - from what she knew of him, his stern, hardened persona was something that set her off-ease.
The only person she hadn't ruled out was Tank, the hulking Ork. She knew him marginally better than the other runners, and his Orkishness would be useful in one of the most Ork-inhabited nations in Europe - heck, even the entire government were Orks (and two Trolls) - and in most other countries, it would be unthinkable to have an Ork even IN government. Mary watched his eyes flick from one party to the other, aways seeming like he wanted to go with Crystal and company. Mary looked at him despairingly - she had two runners with her, both of whom she hardly knew - adn the huge greenskin caught her gaze, before clanking across the bar to join her.

The Binman - The quiet Ork Decker, although he didn't know Mary too well, had always wanted to go to Orkistonia. He wanted to see what kind of a place his fellow greenskins had made for themselves, and maybe pick up some of the old Soviet weapons that were bound to be lying about everywhere.

"May not be many comps there, but I'm an Ork with a gun. S'about all ya need really. Where do we eat?" He said, shambling over to Mary's side.


There was knocking at the door again.
Remini shivered, and stood stone-still in the corner, just out of sight if there had been a window in the door, the centaur and assorted thugs outside would have seen her huge, trollish shadow.

Another knock.

She could hear the grunting outside of several Orks. One of them was muttering about 'smashing da door in'. Another one was absent-mindedly knocking over the ceramic pots outside, and the young troll could hear them break, one after another.

Suddenly, she could smell it.

The fragging thing was using it's pheromones.....

Remini grabbed up the cloth, and held it over her face. She mustn't breathe it in. She mustn't succumb...

She could hear the silky voice of the centaur outside.
"Pretty... Remini. Come outside with Pelgor. Come meet nice Mr. Delori..... Good Remini..... Pretty Remini"

The young troll could feel the hypnotic power of the Centaur's scent begin to overcome her. She was filled with a sudden, terrible desire to reveal herself, run outside to give herself up to the equine being. She fought it down, trying to remember Curim's voice.


A tear, of loss and deperation, ran down her cheek. She's lost him. Finally. And now the centaurs were after her again, without his protection.

She could hear the Centaur outside again.

"C'mon scum. She's not here. We'll..... find the pretty troll... make her pay."


"Before we go, there's something I want you guys to have."

Chance handed the keys for his motorcycle over to Mary and nodded to Raven and Tank beside her.

"Well Raven, Mary, Tank. I don't think that the bike would fit on Cy's Aerobus, and if I leave it here, that magic bubble's bound to get it sooner or later. She's all yours now. Just attach it to the roof of Raven's van and you'll have good backup vehicle." Chance said.

"Consider it a kind of payment for the mess we left your van in the last time we took a trip in it." Ash added with a apologetic smile. Raven grimaced ruefully at the memory.

"With Tank around, I don't think that anyone's going to try anything foolish with you guys. But then..." Chance lowered his voice.
"I don't trust that Badjimmy guy. I can't say for you, but I'll advice you to watch what he says and does. And take this..." He pressed a piece of paper with his number into Mary's hand and shrugged.
"You can contact me and Ash at this number, in case things really go to hell over here. Like what the Army always says... A little bit of over-preparation is always better than none."


Mary smiled at Chance and Ash, and fished in her pockets. She removed a keyring, and one of her notepads. She scribbled on the notepad, then tore off a page and handed it to Chance.
The ex-soldier looked at her quizzically.

"That's the adress of my flat in London. It's not much, like the one here that the Uni is providing for me, but it may serve as a base of operations for you. You never know, it might help." She then pressed the key into his hand, ontop of the paper.
"That's the key - don't lose it. This is probably all I can repay you with, unless you'd like the cyberdeck as well". She laughed, and Chance shook his head vehemetly.

Ash, who had been watching silently, piped up.
"We'll swap back when we meet up again in Scotsprawl, OK?"
Mary stammered a yes, realising that the others did not know he intentions to return to Oxford after returning Curim's staff. Ash smiled again, and moved away with Chance.

Tank put his hand on Mary's shoulder, the latter beginning to go pale, realising that she was once again being dragged in further than she wanted to. The ork grunted, then, with suprising insight, told her he'd return the bike if she didn't go to Scotland. Maybe there was mroe to the greenskin than everyone thought.


The wind was the only sound that was heard outside the Castle of Dark. Located in the remote mountains of Japan, the composition of the terrain made it a radar deadzone, and it seemed to be invisible even to satellite, hidden by a magic force of unknown nature.

In the very inside of the castle, guards patrolled sistematically, and efficiently. The Black Dragon Ninjas did not make mistakes easily. In the very deep of the castle chambers, two Greater Dragons, and five handpicked ninjas were discussing about the upcoming conflict.
"The wind of the outside brings us smell of war" said one of the ninjas, a bulky orc that strangely was standing up without the characteristic curve of the spine the orcs had. Not also his aspect was unlikely, its fluent speech and intelligence were good even under human standards. A really rare specimen.
"I wonder if the Apprentice is still alive?" replied a dwarf. It was cleaning a golden sceptre, that had an image of a Griphin on it.
One of the Greater Dragons kneeled over the Ninjas, and solemny said. "Dragon, the man you knew, is dead"
"Master Roszondas, why? Why one of our finest members had to die?" replied the Human Medic.
"Wolf" said the dragon "Hammerwing and Behemoth" pointed to the dwarf and the Orc. "Do not worry about Dragon while the fate of millions of lives is on our hands"
A young elf woman, her name was Mist Lotus replied "Master, you said you had a plan".
"No, WE have a plan." The other dragon advanced. "I, Tyarodon and Roszondas will banquish the bastard breed of the Zarites and their ambition for once!"
"Tyarodon, my estimated friend. Let N'zar think you are still dead. I shall go to Terganon, the only dragon city that has not fallen under N'zars evil arts"
"what kind of evil arts, boss" replied the fifth ninja, a small Goblin, with a cyberdeck on his hands.
"OverMind, my loyal minion. You have shattered when you heard the word "bone dragon". Be aware of this: Bone dragons are the peak of the iceberg of coldness and evil planifications N'zar has."
"Why do you know so well the Zarites?" replied the other dragon.
"Zarites were once ones from within our proud Royal Brood, but they lost their links with us when they tried to assasinate me."

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