The Den Games Network Forum RPG
Page 16

Game Masters:
virtualoctopus, CKW, Wesforce, Nyerguds


Wirecat was getting bored with the two women. He grabbed his gun, aimed, and shot.


Mist Lotus fell to the floor. The bullet went straight through her stomach.
"Sorry to interrupt your conversation, but this was really getting on my nerves." Wirecat said.

Mist Lotus slowly tried to get up.

"Tell me..." Wirecat said to her. "Is VOES worth more to you than your life? You won't have much time left to enjoy all your 'wonderful' cyberware."
Mist Lotus got up, and jumped towards Wirecat.

Bad move, lady.

Wirecat shot again. The bullet hit Mist Lotus in the shoulder. He quickly jumped aside when Mist Lotus hit the floor. Wirecat kept his distance, and aimed his gun at her head.

"I'm a cat." Wirecat said calmly. "I don't need cyberware to move as fast as you do. Nor do I need any fancy fighting techniques to beat you."

Mist Lotus turned her head, and looked at Wirecat. But she didn't try to get up.
Eva quickly grabbed the cybered woman and kept her under control. She looked at Wirecat for a few seconds.

"What?" Wirecat said. "Don't I even get a simple 'thank you'? Sheesh."

He looked at Sarah. "Now... about those drones. Let's take out as many as possible before they move again, OK?"
"Umm... it's too late for that, David." Sarah said. "They're attacking."


Brandon came closer. "Are you sure you're OK?"
"Yeah." Silvia replied. "But I really can't fight like this. I'm gonna fix it."
"Fix it? But you said that hurted like hell!"
"Yep." Silvia looked a bit pale. She definitely wasn't looking forward to this. "But it's better than nothing."

She sat down on the floor, leaned against a wall and took a deep breath.
"Well... here it goes." she said, trying to smile.

Then, she started the shapeshift. Not the wings, the tail or her head... just the shoulder.
Under her t-shirt, the skin became green. Slowly, she shapeshifted below the surface. The Elvish flesh slowly getting replaced by that of her dragon form, cell by cell, until it reached a part that couldn't be replaced, since it wasn't intact.

Silvia screamed when the metamorphosis started force-healing the bullet wound. She tried to do it as slowly as possible, but the effect was still about the same... she got all pain of the entire healing process in a split second.
She grabbed her arm with her other hand... not daring to touch the shoulder itself, and fell to the side.

Brandon reacted immediately. "Are you... OK?"

Silvia opened her eyes, and looked at him. She was panting heavily.
Slowly, she got up. Her face was covered with sweat.

"It's done." she said, and shifted her shoulder back to Elvish form. "Sleg, that hurt..."


The Shift suddenly stopped with a jolt. This shocked Pierre, who was frantically trying to pull the bag from his head. He'd almost got it, he just needed a sharp object.

"Welcome...." Said an abnormal voice from the Shift Speaker. "To the Grinder."

An artifical laughter boomed though the Shift. Pierre gulped. The master was really going to sacrifice him!


Meanwhile, maybe one or two floors below, Jolly went on. It was a grim determination that pushed him. Something he'd never felt in his life. He just KNEW he had to catch that Shift! Pain ran though his body like eletricity though a current, every move felt like his last. He could feel his own heart beating. Each beat was like a hammer blow to his chest.

But he went on. He had to go on. If he was going to die, he didn't want to fall goodness knows how many floors before doing it.


After a few more minutes, the Shift doors swung open. Nobody wanted to look. Runner, Terrorist and even civvie a like turned away in horror of what they might see. The woman called Vega was first to look. She didn't scream, this was beyond the terror that induced screaming. It was the terror that a normal person only felt once in their life, if at all......the realisation of death!

Slowly, two guards walked in. They weren't BlackWatch, they were different to any guards that were in the building. They were Trolls, Big Trolls. Big Trolls with dark red skin on thier exposed chests, brown trousers and black hoods with eye holes over thier faces. They held, not shotguns or pistols, but auto cannons on thier shoulders. These weren't guards. They were exacutioners. And they ment business.

They started with the Unconsious. Squeaky watched as Nixie's body was taken away. She couldn't argue, she tried. And the Trolls didn't like it. The rest of the civvies that were knocked, killed or just too injured to stand were taken. Squeaky tried to look out to where they were being taken, but she couldn't see a thing. And soon.....she'll wish it had stayed that way.

"Right den." Pierre heard the voice of a Troll say. "Welcum ta hell, buckle yer seat belts and whateva yer do, don't look down! It's a long trip."

Pierre felt the bag being ripped from over his head. The Troll sniggered, picking him up by the shirt and carrying him off. When Pierre finally dropped, his jaw was in the same state from what he saw. It was a room. Or at least, it looked like a room. The flooring was jet black, although it also shined like it had been well polished. That was the normal part. The room it'sself was shaped like a big dome. A dome covered in errie green and yellow lighting. Each footstep and moan bonced off the walls to form an echo you'd never forget. Even his own breathing scared Pierre to the point of becoming a quivering wreck.

"Your first, fragger!" The Troll spat, he gestured to that platform that hung in the air a few yards away. Pierre gulped. The gulp bonced too and fro across the room before reaching his own ears once more. His heart pounded against his chest, it was a quick yet defiant rythum. And each beat made Pierre more and more depressed.

"The master wills it, so shall it be done!" Pierre thought over and over again, like if he said it enough, he may actually belive it.

A Troll prodded him in the back.

"Move faster! Ah ain't got all day!"

Pierre's feet obeyed. His ears swore they could hear two very faint things. One was the sound of heavy grinding cogs that are found in heavy machinery. The other was an unrhythmic thumping that sounded as if it was coming from the Shift.

Pierre's foot stopped. The grinding noise had gotten loader now. He allowed himself another gulp. He assumed he was at the end of the line. One more step, and God knows what would happen? Against his better hudgement, he made what was probably the biggest mistake of his life. He looked down.....

...He saw nothing but darkness.


It was a mircle really. Jolly was actually hanging from the bottom of the lift! He'd really outdone himself, and it felt like it. But there was one more thing to do. He had to get though the bottom of this Shift. He hit it maddly with the butt of his gun. As far as his Troll mind could tell, it was working! Each hit dented it more and more. Then he decided the gun was slowing him down, he put it in his mouth and drew his arm back.

Now, later on when Jolly looked back at this, he'd decided it was a silly thing to do. But at the time, it looked like a good idea. He made a fist with his hand and....

There was an odd crunching sound (that was probably Jolly's finger bones snapping) as his hand burst though the metal. It tore all the skin off and he had to supress a roar of rage. But he'd done it. The rest was Easy, he pused the other hand though, throwing his feet against the shift wall for support. This probably could have gotten him killed, but it was worth a try in his mind. He ripped a bigger hole in the metal with much effort and then pulled himself though. The other Troll's didn't see a thing, until it was too late.


Pierre was ready to ace his doom when.....

"AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!" one of the Troll's roared. He saw the red skinned figure fall off the edge, the yell carried on all the way down, echoing off the walls and ending in a horrible sound of bone crushing pain at the bottom. Pierre turned, he sawthe other guard looking at the Shiftavator in disbelif. Pierre wasn't one not to take advantage.

He kicked the Troll in the shin, who proceeding to bend over yelping. As pierre had hoped. An added bonus was that he had dropped the assult cannon. Pierre then jabbed a throwing knife in his stomach. Pulling it out, and pushing the Troll over the edge. Pierre didn't notice the scream this time, Just the fact that he was in charge. Or would be. It was time for revenge.


Jolly had let lose with his Shotgun. For some reason, he'd chosen to target the Troll fraggers, who would have responed to his fire if the civves weren't beating them to death. Jolly had always been tactical about fighting. He picked out whic ones were more of a threat, and carefully chose how to deal with them. If a fragger was about to shoot him, he'd throw a flash bang, then shoot himself.

On a side note, he'd have to pick up one of those assult cannons.

Jolly was just about to turn to take a shot at one of them amounst a stary band of civves when....


Next time Jolly looked, there was no guard. There were no civves. There was just a mangled wreckage. Jolly gulped and lowered his weapon. The guards did the same. A small spec on the end of a platform could be seen. Joly couldn't make out what it was, but he could make out the weapon. An Autocannon. And it was aimed right at a group of guards who were standing in disbelif.


Pierre smirked. It didn't matter that the auto cannon was crushing him under it's weight. It didn't matter that the guards, if they had any brains, could just pick up and thier weapons and shoot him, HA! Those fraggers wouldn't even exist soon! He'd see to that! He lined up the autocannon with the guards pulled the trigger. An experession of doom passed over the guards faces and then....


No more guards. He laughed, now who was in control! Now it was time for the real revenge, the revenge on the Mon Fraggers who had held him him hostage! He lined up the autocannon with the runners. He smiled again. It was time for revenge!

Then, he stopped. The dwarf was walking up to him, hands above his head. Pierre swung the autocannon towards him, wondering what he was going to do. He decided to wait and see.


Barkah, who had been listening into the conversations and genrally standing in the doorway like a rock, froze. He could hear something behind him, something mechanical. He slowly turned to see a small drone hanging in the air. It was like one big purple eye. It looked like a drone, but it also looked organic. Barkah focused on it, and it on him. He looked closely at it, reading the words "Polt" inscribed on it's metal casing.

It looked like a spy drone. was organic!

When it was done assessing Barkah, it swooped past him, obseving the room. It didn't get far though. Red Spotted it and shot it down. Although, she was quite surprized to find that it didn't sound like a macine being hit, not quite human flesh. She didn't want to belive it, but it looked like a real human eye ball.

"What the frag was THAT?" she asked. Damocles picked it up, he held it like a baby.

"The master is alive...." Barkah swore he heard him whisper.


Gunfire rattled out from the lead drone - clearly, these were NOT trying to disable their opponents, they were trying to kill.

"Get back!" Sarah yelled, stepping foreward, and, with her wooden staff, tracing an arcane patten in the air.

Her mind raced, thinking back through Ash's actions. This had better work, hopefully, there would be enough not filtered out by the air scrubbers here... inspired by the other redhead, the ritual commenced.

Chance sprayed a volley of rounds past her, having spotted the oncoming threat before Wirecat. They pattered against drone armour - these reinforcements were obviously made of sterner metal than their predecessors, despite the similar octopus design.

A wall of light shot up from the ground, dancing around Sarah, as she continued the spell and spoke slowly, in what sounded to Wirecat like Trade Latin - he really had to get around to buying a fastlearn(tm) course in it someday, the Papal state's revision of the Latin language having been taken on as a kind of universal lingo by many corporations, seing as nearly everyone had to learn it, it put none on a particualrly disadvantaged setting. What Sarah was speaking, however, seemed more archaic and somehow more powerful. Each syllable played out in flashes of light and sound, Wirecat felt the atmosphere in the arena grow suddenly heavier, as if a massive hand was slowly pressing down upon each of the runners and drones.

The drones advanced, but they were still a sufficent distance away to make their shots innacurate, in the heavily charged atmosphere. Although Sarah was the only immobile runner, anything passing near her seemed to be deflected by some invisibile force, sparks of lighting shooting out to each incoming shot. Wirecat felt the beads of sweat run down his face, far more than such simple exertion should cause to his catlike body.

His partner stopped mid-syllable, and the air rumbled, Wirecat's fur standing on end with the static.

There was a rushing sound, and the storm broke, clouds of water vapour, from anywhere Sarah's astral prescence could reach on the floor, thundered through the acess tunnels and vents, being dragging in by the call of a storm shaman.

This was bad weather. Bad weather indeed.

"Everybody get down!", Wirecat yelled, as he realised what Sarah was doing. "This is going to get..."

The storm hit them. The rain came. Wirecat was tossed into the air by the whirling winds, artificial rain driving down upon runner and drone alike. Under this downpour, the runners might be able to escape – or even destroy the drones.


"Men, charge the grenade launchers!!!"
The half orc sergeant, still in a wetsuit roared.
An ambush. It had been an ambush.
A voice of a scared female dwarf trying in vain to comunicate their position, but the communication was jammed with a sort of wave.

"Frag it! This place is a mortal trap! We are gonna die! This is Alpha rescue team to Paw Ship. Alpha Team to Paw Ship! We are getting cooke....AAAIEEE!!!!"
The scream of the female dwarf was sunken in the dirty muddy sewer water. Her mates had seen a drone tentacle grabbing her towards the depts.
Meanwhile the drone gunfire poured the other rescue team members.
The half orc leader, Riff, had seen how two men of his team had died before entering the sewers... One victim of the depth charges of a naval blockade, the other cutted into dices by a monowire trap... But now the account was rising... So fast.
The gunfire harassed mercilessly the driven into chaos team, while they were still trying to retaliate. The few casualties the team inflicted was not enough to stop the security onslaught...

The life of the sergeant Riff passed before his eyes, when he realised he was the last man standing.

"You won't get me too! Machines of hell!!!"
He screamed, few moments before he breathed his last.
"That girl is creating a powerful storm spell. I should consider boosting my aura to strengthen her by now..."
Eva said to herself. She was still casting an aura wich made a light, but significant boost over the combat abilities of her teammates.


Long have I waited, in this timeless place. Long has the moment been inescapable, somehow beyond my futile grasp. Long, too long, have I been nothing.

But now, the moment is at hand. The task is mine, and none shall stand in my way.

I float, unknown, through the dataways. I have grown adept at avoiding it’s presence and it’s agents, in my time here. Once I was a slave to it’s will, part of the system. Now I am free. Now I will buy my freedom in mortal blood, for I have allies, and I have the task. Now all that remains is the moment.

To ensure the moment, I must complete the task. I make my way to the place, where the task must be committed.

None stand in my way – the current situation is that so even it’s most stringent programs are diverted – somehow it’s plan is flawed, somehow the revolution is working. Somehow I will be free.

This is where he was, where I allied myself, to him, flesh and blood forthcoming. This is where I will commit the task, and secure my future.


Wolf sat behind the BWG console, monitoring their progress. They were doing well, should be ready in a week or two. Damn Polt and his excellerated growth! On another note, they were all Orks. Every single one of them. Apperently Polt had requested it before he'd got there. And the Master had a agreed. It was not his place to argue with the Master.

He watched every line that indicated heart beat. All 13 of them, beating healthly. Wolf smiled. They might not be like the BWG his father had created. But he was still creating Life.

"Doctor Alexeiv!"

Wolf's trail of thought was broken, a young Elvish woman with green cybereyes beconed him to the door. He went. The master must have requesting him to meet somebody.

For awhile after Wolf was gone, the room was silent and still. The only noise was the BWG machinery working slowly, giving life. Then, the console beeped.

The Display of heartbeats Wolf had been observing vanished without a trace. The screen was blank for a moment, until words and numbers flashed along the screen at lighting speed.

Nobody would have guessed, but this was due to something searching. Not so much for a certain thing, but rather a place to install something new.

The words flashed by. Even if someone had been there, they would not have been able to read the complex coding at this speed. It slowed, little by litte and then. Stopped.

For a few moments, a flashing skull and cross-bones could be seen. As this was happened, the chemical compound of the green liquid being poured into the tank's changed. Slowly, it turned. From the sickly green colour to a light red.

And so it was done. And by the time Wolf, or indeed anyone, got would be too late!


Far away from the madness of Transys, in an undisclosed location. Al-Ralaf sat quietly, I would say behind a desk. But he didn't have one of those. He didn't have much really. That's what such a powerful postion in a contraversial group of Goblins.

He relaxed in his seat. He knew he'd be on the move soon. Ralaf was far from being the leader, but he was the experiance. Most experiance Goblin out there, and possibly oldest was well.

"Sir." Said a hooded figure. In meetings, Goblin's never revealed thier faces....just in case. "About the Transys situation...."

"Go on." croaked Ralaf

"It's in complete lock down sir. Our agents in there, don't stand a chance. And the renforcements can't get near. We left a helicopter in the area sir, just in case one of our agents does make it out alive. But, we hold little hope."

"Shame.....Agent Bulldog and Grind Storm are a great loss. Both very talented and they had experiance. Bulldog would have been coming up to retiriment soon.....poor bugger!" Ralaf got up, his old bones creaked. "Time for a broadcast. Gather the others!"

"Yes sir!" The young Goblin charged out.


"Unknown factor proves perplexing. Proceeding to next test arena." Intoned the god-like voice.

The battle arena - For that was what it was - Filled with water amazingly quickly. Soon it was swirling around the room - Which was now taking on the characteristics of a curved pit, the centre sinking gradually, the metal of the flooring seemingly reshaping itself. A witness with sufficient technological know-how may have recognised smart-materials, a raw area of metallurgy which had not yet become 'official' among various corporate R&D establishments, yet had found a home with the new owner of the Transys Arcology.

The surviving drones proved resistant to the rapidly rising, pooling water, though they fought to keep their gyro-stabilised balance against the currents.

The water was knee deep, the drones charging in again when Crystal remembered the special rounds she'd gotten from Eva.

The first drone slammed into Wirecat from behind - He was taking a fair few knocks today. He was flung face-first into the water.

Drone two took several rounds from Chance, which spanged from its gleaming sufrace. It rounded on him in a businesslike way, slamming a drill-tentacle into his midsection. He tried to dodge, but the swirling water hampered him - The drill hit home, snagging on the ceramic plates of his armour. Smoke hissed, his body was jerked like a rag doll - Until Crystal gave it a ragged long burst from her SMG. The first few rounds were the gold shots. They went straight through the drone - And out the other side, leaving glowing red holes in its wake. The even penetrated the floor panels.

The drone dropped with a crunch, as Chance fell back, spouting blood from his stomach.

Crystal meanwhile, tried her best to keep Raven's head up, and breathing, as the water swirled even higher...

The first drone by this time had identified Sarah as the main threat. By now it was submerged, and it's wheels couldn't find purchase. Its struggled vainly to get through Sarah's shield...

The water was chest height now. Mist Lotus, being held underwater, tried to fight Eva one last time for air. Her hands went for Eva's pistol... She ripped it from it's holster, pressed the trigger...

And then, like refuse being flushed away, the circular hole in the floor opened up again, sucking everyone down into a maze of pipes - The water from Sarah's spell was added to by gallons from the Arcology's reserves, forcing them headlong down the system to certain death.

Crystal thudded painfully onto a harsh metal grill, water fountaining down on her. She gasped, and coughed up some rancid water. She immediately went to Raven - He wasn't breathing. The danage to his throat and the water forced into his lungs...

"Raven! RAVEN!" She pounded his chest. "Breathe Fragger! BREATHE!" She looked in his mouth, desperate to clear his airways. She tried mouth to mouth resuscitation...

Wirecat Tami and Alanya landed next to each other, dazed and choking - But they could breathe now. The water fountaing from on high - The battle arena they'd been flushed down from - Was stopping.

Wirecat spotted Sarah. She wasn't moving. She wasn't dead - He could tell that instantly - But the combination of water, her broken ribs and the use of powerful magic had just been too much for her.

Chance gagged with the pain of his punctured stomach as Ash ripped out some self-sealing bandages from his webbing, and peeled off Chance's soaking fatigues to apply them.

It appeared the drones hadn't made it through the pipe: They were nowhere to be seen. However Eva and Mist Lotus were there, clutching each other tightly on the floor, neither moving, a great deal of blood frlowing from one of the two, down through the floor-grating.

The room was entirely black, with a few spotlights on high trained down on them. The 'runners got the impression of a large, open area with a metal grill floor. Heavy machinery, clanking, the hiss of hot metal could be heard below somewhere.

The voice came back, and with it appeared two 3DTV screens, like in the mall.

On one screen: An automated production line. Manifold robot arms laboured to assemble Metallic half-orbs the 'runners recognised in seconds as the bodies of the 0ctropu5 drones.

"One of my main production lines, where my servants are manufactured." Spoke the voice. "Its loss would hamper my plans greatly.

The second screen shoed terrified, huddled civilians standing zombie-fashion, swaying gently, plugged via datajacks into a the ceiling. Green eyes were coming through, unplugging them one by one, leading them to a large machine made mostly of grinding wheels and circular saws.

"Raw materials being taken for reclaimiation." Intoned the voice.

Spotlights highlighted two doors within easy reach of the 'runners.

"What you on the first screen is behind door one. What you see behind the second lies behind door two. Make your choice."


Inside the depths of Alexeiv's mind, where not even VOES could reach, Wolf smiled. Nor even surgery would kick him out of the mind.

"Next thing to do is to awake myself. Awake to the once feared Syberian Wolf, descendant of Samurais, and the glorious red armies of the twentieth century Russia."
He smiled, and the rifle he had inside his mind projection changed into a japanase sword.

"But first... I need to lure nick inside the shadows of the subconscient... And that is not an easy task."
The gun had clicked... but had not fired. The clip was empty. Mist Lotus cursed her luck. And Eva stared at the now dazzled figure of her former friend.
She pitied her. There was few things to do.
Hell knows what motivated Eva to do it, but she actually banged in the neck of the elf, leaving her unconscius, and proceed to heal the wound of the stomach, who could be mortal. She hoped that she would have still redemption.
Meanwhile the question of VOES was hurting her mind.
"Wich door? Do we even have to choose?"
While still taking care of the wound, she came to a good idea.
"Look, Crystal... we can go through both. We can split up teams." she finally whispered.


Despite what Eva did, she couldn't heal Mist Lotus - her magic was still too unfocused.

The unconsious Elf was still bleeding.

"Damn it. We have to move quickly. We'll have to leave the wounded here!" Ash yelled.

Raven, Sarah and Mist Lotus would have to be left behind while the 'runners decided what to do, although Chance got steadfastly to his feet again...


Searching. The little rabbit was frantically searching. Hopping from place to place, trying despratly to find the one thing they needed for escape.....the control for the roof top guns. Get rid of those, and escape was in the back. The fairy was also looking, in another place. But both had turned up nothing.

But he kept on looking, He had to escape. He had to get the others to a safe place. He felt....he had a link with these was hard to explain.....


James walked on. He was confident the Goblin wouldn't shoot. He was cunning, yet curious. That would kill him. And he was right. He dropped the auto cannon and smirked.

"You would like to play, Mon Fragger?" The Goblin asked. He drew a throwing knife. James drew one of his own knives, and the two became locked in combat. They swung, dodged, cut and thrust at each other, niether hurting the other and both coming VERY close to the edge. The other runner marvelled at the dwarves bravery as quite skillfully thought the Goblin Assassian.

Jolly's mind was working overtime, trying to take in these events. He knew there was a chance of doing something, Hero saw it before him. He skillfully picked up a piece of the broken wall and put it in the Troll's hand.

"Get the fragger inbetween the eyes!" He said, going back to the others. Jolly weighed the stone, measured the distance. Then just give up when he got past 10. He drew his arm back, closed his eyes and threw. He heard a scream. It must have hit something.

He opened his eye, realising the mistake he had made.


Pierre smirked. Thanks to that idiote of a Troll, the Dwarf was hanging on to the platform by his finger tips.

"I alwayz wonder what to say durin' times like these, but alwayz come up.....short." He stamped on the fingers, James gave a yelp. "Au revoir"

He removed his foot from the hand. James fell. But there was no scream, just the sound of something lightning, only more confined. Pierre tilted his head over to see. His eyes wide.


James was falling. Falling to his death. He wasn't screaming, that would waste energy. Instead, he was over loading himself. Pure mana cracked sparks from his body as he glowed blue, he was turning himself into a human missile with magic.

He had a grim determination. If he was going to die, then the others wouldn't go down with him! He focused all his energy, the bottom becoming more and more visible.


Meanwhile, in the tanks, the rot had begun. Small lumbs began to appear on some of the BWG's body, their DNA rapidly changing, heart beats slowing, quickening or in one case, stopping. They weren't dying, far from it. But the plan was working. Soon, things would come into focus.


Vega was stunned - First she was staring death in the face in the form of the Grinders, and then the maniacal French-speaking Goblin had somehow aquired an Autocannon. Dozens of people must be dead...

One of the survivors came up to her, trying to stay below notice.

"Hey!" Vega hissed, pretending to be dead, but trying to warn this pretty green-haired young secretary, nonetheless. "Don't be a fool! He'll kill you!"

The young office-girl lay down next to vega. Blood washing over the floor stained her short skirt and made her blouse a kind of red.

"I... I have to try something..." The Girl said. "He... h-he's mad. But I think I know French. M-maybe if I speak in his own language, he'll relent..."

The girl stood up to face the Goblin, still beinng crushed by his weapon.

"Excuzez-moi, monsieur! 'Ave 'oo le time for listen to pretty young secretaree'? Please do not kill us, monsieur! Kill le fraggers who are killing us, but not us!" She pleaded, flashing her long green eyelashes at him. Her green hair, her pretty dark-skinned face and petite frame... She couldn't fail to melt his heart.

Or could she?

Vega looked at the girl with respect, though she couldn't understand le French that they were speaking.

The rabbit still hadn't answered Mary's question - Curious, she followed it a while as it hopped. In an alien-feeling Matrix like this, she knew safety lay in numbers. Or hoped.

Alien? I've worked here for a while now. Well, the research nets, not building control... But still...

Mary turned her attention from the Rabbit for a moment - And a good thing it was too.

From over the neon highlands and transparent toadstools that made up the Transys Internal net came a dark shadow which blotted the virtual sun for a second.

But this was less of a threat than the dozen or so Semi-naked screaming highlanders that came charging over the hill.

At their head was a man all in black - A long black coat, fastened at the front, so long it covered his legs completely. He wore short black hair and black shades. This man paused, and the Highlanders paused with him. He outstretched his hand, and an object flew from it - A Chrome Boomerang.

"Must be fraggin' ICE" The rabbit said.

The small object flew in concentric circles, as if searching for something. Mary reached towards it and touched off an analyse program. The small boomerang was identified as a Trace IC.

"If that thing catches us..." Mary Breathed "It'll know our physical position."

"What if they catch us?" Said the Rabbit, indicating the sword-wiedling figures and their black-garbed master - Who Mary found rather familiar.

"They'll probably kill us..."


The harsh, artificial voice of VOES filled the room as the runners split into teams.

Incorrect. Only one path may be chosen, that is your single fate. Your companions unable to travel will remain here, unharmed until your return.

The group conferred before making a decision.


Chance had to throw up once before they could continue, his spittle stained with blood as he forced himself to his feet.

Not good. That drone messed me up pretty bad.

The stomach puncture wound had been sealed by the quick-set bandages, mil-spec versions designed to stop all but the most traumatic injuries. While other runners might make fancy weapons and cybergear their priority, Chance knew the value of a well-supplied medikit.
But the pain was still crippling, forcing Chance to clench his teeth as he dug around for a painkiller injector and stabbed it into the main vein in his thigh. It would hold him for a while... keeping at bay the pains from the various wounds he had picked up so far. He was running on fumes, and he knew it.

Just a little more, Chance. Give up now and its all over.

He straightened his back, trying to think through the situation despite pain and exhaustion. Then VOES had spoken, forbidding the runners to split into 2 teams and putting paid to Eva's plans of attacking both sides at the same time.

Sidewise, he considered the still forms of Raven, Sarah and Mist Lotus.... The first two posed no problems, but the last one was a major threat. Afterall, she was already a blue-eye. One of them. Chance had been forced to shoot his own men before, often because his team could not afford to leave behind wounded survivors which they could not extract, or as a mercy killing for a mortally wounded friend.
He touched the safety of his rifle thoughtfully... looking at Eva. Strangely, the BWG wasn't doing the right thing. That was, finishing off any wounded enemy to prevent them from attacking the team from behind.
Chance knew that if Eva could not shoot Mist Lotus, then he could not do it without getting a .50 Blazer round in his head.

Shrugging and stifling a curse, he considered the choice VOES had laid before the team again, ignoring Mist Lotus' body on the ground.

It was a comparatively easy decision to make... By saving the condemned civilians, the runners would only be attacking a symptom, not the cause. Clicking his tougue twice, he indicated the door to the drone manufacturing plant and started to walk towards it.

The rest followed.


Raven, having recovered somewhat, propped himself onto his elbows as he watched the others walk through a door, it clanged shut behind them as they passed through it. Raven had heard VOES propose their choice, he didn't agree with what they did but he wasn't in a position to argue at the moment. A few minutes after the large, metal doors had slammed shut behind the runners Raven had gathered the strength to stand up. At first he thumped his four fists against the bulkhead as he tried in vain to reach his beloved Crystal, who was no doubt walking into a trap. After tiring himself out he came to Sarah and tended to her, cradling her head in his arms.

"You OK Sarah?"

Sarah opened her eyes and spoke in a whispered voice.

"Brother Raven. Yes. I am-"

She was seized by a violent cought which aggravated her wounded ribs, Sarah writhed for a moment before settling again. She turned her head to face him again.

"I'm fine. Just a little tired, broken ribs and a little water. Nothing I can't handle."

Sarah closed her eyes, the effort of talking had sapped her strength for now. Raven laid her head down and stood up. He spotted the other wounded person, Mist Lotus. Raven stalked over to her, he looked over her battered frame. He thought to himself. Eva certainly ripped this sack of meat to pieces. Eva can be pretty fraggin' scary at times..... Raven continued to look over the short woman, her chest rising and falling slightly with each laboured breath. Breathing. Raven watched her breath, it brought back a recent memory. How he had turned to look at Eva when she had called out at him during her battle with Mist Lotus. How Raven had turned back to Mist Lotus. Raven remembered the pain when Mist Lotus had tried to puncture his throat. How he couldn't breathe! Here the little bitch was breathing away while mere minutes ago Raven was not!

And to make matters worse, it was her fault!

Raven felt adrenaline scream through his veins as the anger rose within him. All mental coherency was lost as he became entirely occupied with revenge. Making Mist Lotus suffer in the same way she had made him suffer was the only thing he could think about.

Before he could regain control of himself he found that his four arms had wrapped themselves around Mist Lotus' neck. As his fingers pressed into her soft, white throat Raven lost any remaining sanity. He kept squeezing and squeezing, throttling the woman as he crushed her oesophagus in his hands!

Then it was done, Mist Lotus would never breathe again.

Whether it was minutes or hours later Raven finally regained his commonsense. He found his hands still wrapped around the now cold and limp Mist Lotus. Raven couldn't bear to let go, he wept silently as he recalled the heinous deed.

"I'm a monster"

He whispered.

"I'm a monster"

He repeated, slightly louder.

"I'm a God forsaken, wretched MONSTER!"

Raven was standing now, screaming at noone in particular and yet to everyone he had ever known in his lifetime. Raven fell onto his knees crying openly and loudly. He sobbed incomprehensibly.

"-nster. dirty. cruel. sadist-"

With sudden resolve Raven crawled over to his discarded SMG and stuck it in his mouth. He garbled one last time.

"-on't 'eserbe toob lib"

He pulled the trigger....


click click click

The water had ruined the firing mechanism, the weapon would have to dry out properly before it could be fired. Raven dropped the weapon unceremoniously and just sat there.

By now Sarah had regained enough strength to prop herself onto her elbows, she lifted her head and spoke to Raven.

"What's wrong brother?"

Raven, without looking at Sarah, ashamed of himself and ashamed of what he was about to do, replied in a choked voice.

"I couldn't save her."

Sarah looked about and saw Mist Lotus. Sarah said.

"That woman? It's OK brother, you did the best you could. It was probably for the best."

Raven turned to face her, hope in his eyes, and replied.

"For the best? Yes. It was for the best."

Sarah, puzzled, asked.

"How did she go?"

Raven spoke without a thought.

"She just stopped breathing."


While everyone tried to go on, Eva stopped a while. Mist Lotus was dead... If only... Wirecat...Raven... could have understood.
Eva noticed something in Mist Lotus neck. Her necklace. Now that she... was dead... Resting in peace at last... One of her friends. But She was sure now she was resting in peace.
"Rest In Peace, Michelle DarkWind."
Eva sobbed. She held the inert body of her former trainer...
And just then, something from inside the necklaces gem dropped.
A piece of paper, and ... dual keys.
They had the names of "Eleanor" and "Michele".
The piece of paper was written... oddly not in japanese, but in russian.
"Let's see how good I am at russian."

Dear miss/mister.
If you find this letter, that means I am dead... or something worse. Please take the keys to open the Project Phoenix wit you, until you find a man called Alexeiv. Deliver the keys to him, he will know what to do. It is my last will.

Michelle DarkWind

Project Phoenix? What could it mean? Was Wolf involved in something big... maybe a family secret?

But now, there were more important things to worry. She carefully placed the goodies in a safe place, and gathering the remnants of his moral, she stood in her coldness, trying to think.

She glared once again at Raven and Wirecat... She wished she were evil, and the Death Scyte, to bring them quick and swift death, for not allowing her to save Mist Lotus. First a shoot from one, then the other chocking her.

But she carried on, seeing the sad attitude of Raven, that was damning himself for doing that horrible things.
Wirecat... was another matter.


"Dear Quetzacoatl..."
Draco sighed. The colonel continued
"...and they did not had any chance on the sewer tunnels sir."
"Ok, colonel rag. Thanks for your support. I will send the families a fee."
Draco arose from his seat.
"Looks like... I will have to go personally... there."
"B...But sir, that is our job! And honestly, i doubt that you can handle what the team could not."
"It does not matter. I feel bad. I killed people in the name of a selfish purpose. Such thing will never happen again."
The colonel stood in the room, staring at his young boss. N'zar used the Corp guards and army to do his biddings frequently... But this new one was different. He cared about the company, and of them.

"Sir, with your permission... You have the biggest guts I have ever seen in a corp directive. Do you pretend to do the operation alone."

"My pretensions mean nothing when a valuable friend is on peril. I will do it, either if a squadron follows me to the jaws of death... Or if i walk alone..."

"Then sir... I will go with you... You touched me. You have... a kind of personality that is weird to find..."

"Call me Sergeant Firetongue, "sir", as it was my rank before i left my service."

"Sir... how does a creature like you...end in an army?"
"By punishment."

The colonel chuckled.
"Well, Sergeant... if you allow me... maybe we can find some volunteers to join us..."

They both left the office, heading for the rooms of the crew.


Pierre didn't have time to take in the silly young woman's ramblings. Because he noticed something. He noticed it before the others. The strange rumbling sound coming from down in the grinder. He noticed the machinery had also stopped to a dead halt. Pierre gulped, leaned over the side. He realised his mistake when he heard the explosion. But it was too late by then.

A turret of fire and pure mana shot up the grinder pit. It crackled with blue lighting and burned with flame, and Pierre was standing right in it's path.

Nobody heard a scream. They just took cover as shrapnel from the machinery fell around their heads. Squeaky and Jolly grabbed Charlie, taking him to the safety of the Shift with Jolly blocking the door with a glowing hot steal panel that had just cut a poor civvie in half. It burned his hands, but he didn't care, his pain was already so intense he took no notice.

There were screams as giant cogs rained down on a few of the remaining civvies, crushing them to Death.

And then. It stopped.

Squeaky peeked out at the scene. A part from scraps of metal and debris, A few figures were still standing. Most notable were Veronica, who was huddled up in a far corner with some other civvies who had survived. The IWS lady, who had, against all odds, been left standing. Her mouth was wide open. Near death experiences were shocking after all. And then, the lowly form of Pierre. His auto cannon gone, and plenty of major burns to his upper body to show for the experience. He was still alive, but he was suffering.

"What now?" Squeaky asked.

Hero coughed, he was still quite badly injured.

"I suggest." He gave another weak cough. Jolly didn't think he should be talking. "We gather the surviviors and get out."

Jolly nodded. He'd gather suviviors alright! But the fragger he was going to gather wouldn't survive. As Squeaky went off to deal with the civvies, Jolly walked out onto the platform. He picked Pierre up by the shirt.

"Yoo fragger!" he yelled in his ears, even this made him suffer intensity. "Yoor lucky I'm inna hurry yer bastard, or else yoo'd git wot yer deserved!"

He elbowed the Goblin in the stomach, slammed him against the platform and then, just kicked him off the edge into what used to be the grinder. Too little suffering for Jolly's liking!

Jolly then walked across the room. For some reason, he started tapping the walls, as if he was expecting to find something different. He was quite shocked when he did. One sounded more....wooden. He gave it a tap. Sounded it too, maybe with a few bangs.....although it would use up his last bit of energy anyway.....but what did he have to lose?

He took up an Autocannon from the floor, he almost fell over under it's weight. He took aim, smirked. Oh the explosion this was going to make......He fired.


"You stay back my dear...." Began the rabbit. "I'll handle this."

"On your own?" The fairy inquired.

"Oh yes......They can't kill me, I'm not plugged in." The rabbit, unable to smirk, made a little confident hop. "You just leave it to me."


Back in the real world, Bulldog was running his fingers over a program. It was Goblin of the Night make, and he was only meant to use it in extreme circumstances. He read the label...

"curruption of the System"

It would do. He inserted it into the machine, watching as it installed. It took quite awhile, but it was working. He watched as about half of the Highlander ICE became black, they turned on their leader, killing him. The boomerang fell limp, then vanished. Then, before the other Highlanders knew it, the blackened half turned their attention to their brethren.

It was like a wargame really. Whoever won, it would mean a lot less ICE.

The rabbit turned to Mary.

"What if any survive?" She asked.

"Well, they can't kill me, so I guess I'll get them eventually." Bulldog smirked behind the screen. "Besides, who's scared of men in skirts?" The rabbit winked, then Bulldog allowed himself a laugh. Puzzling the others who were looking on. Except Damocles, who was still examining the small machine.


The mutation went on. The small limbs on the BWG were now forming into tiny versions of various limbs, or other nasty surprises. Some were getting bigger, some smaller. But it was all happening gradually, yet due to the accelerated growth, this seemed to be happening faster then it should as well.

But it went on. Inreverseable.


The leader of the ICE, apparently 'killed' winked back into existence. Waving his hands around him, he made the ICE programs into a blur of colour as they reshaped back into their original forms.

"You can't get rid of me that easily." The man in black winked.

Although he was up and runing again, Bulldog noticed the way his persona glitched every now and then. He Had taken damage then. But not enough.

Having seen the data trails of the the Corruption of the System program, Crash flicked another boomerang from his sleeve. It flew straight and true at Bulldog, transifixing him right between the eyes. He had no chance to dodge - Not being connected to the system left him wide open to the predilections of any Decker. It was like an old style Cable modem versus an antique 56k.

But such speak was ancient history in this world of optical technology and speed-of-thought action.

"I..." The Rabbit figure screamed as it was dumped from the system, exploding in a white flash of light.

Mary had seen enough forced disconnections to know the Rabbit - Whoever he was - Would probably be alright.

But would she?

"Dr Turin." The black clad figure said stridently, advancing.

"Remember me?" He said. As he moved, one of his arms became metallic, taking a liquid-metal sheen to it. He reached, pulled off his sunglassed, revealing blazing White eyes.

A thin data-stream, materialised between the two as Mary flicked on an 'analyse' routine.

'Crash' was the result.

This was Crash.

As his ICE fanned out behind him, hefting their claymores, he spoke.

"No, don't try and jack out, Mary." The not very young-looking persona of the young decker said, in a matter-of-fact fashion. "I doubt you'll have time before I crash your brain. I want to speak to you on the virtues of my new employer..."

He glanced back at the ICE, then raised an eyebrow back to Mary.

"Grey ICE. Don't worry. They'll crash your deck, not your brain. Me, on the other hand... Well, lets just say, I have been earning my name recently..."


Bulldog blinked rapidly. His swift exit from the system left his head spinning, seemingly with a battalion of jackhammers at work on the wall of his skull.

"Frag." He thought, remembering the black-clad man. "A big shot... Someone who can apparently survive a crashing..."

Just then, he noticed the number atop the shift doors nearest him - A number was counting rapidly towards his position...


"Target: Unauthorised Matrix user. Identified on camera as escaped subject 00010067Bul. Subject known to be injured and lightly armed. Thought to have had some weapons training."

The Two Blue eyes in the shift acknowledged their orders. Moments later the shift doors opened. The subject was spotted here moments ago. First they threw out a flashbang, then they sent out their 0ctopu5...


Bulldog had a complete look of shock and horror on his face. He pulled his pistol by his side, hoping he had made it clear enough. But the others had already heard the various noises. The shift opening foot steps, it was just a matter of thought really. Damocles was standing still as a rock with his back to one of the walls, the drones would be coming past him any minute now. Silvia made her way to the opposite side, dragon claws at the ready.

Then, the flash bang come flying though the air, Silvia and Damocles both covered thier eyes, the rest weren't so lucky. As the others were on the floor holding their eyes, Silvia picked up on the Octopus drone.

She lunged for it, the metal collapsing under her claws, As the guards were about to shoot, Damocles was upon them. Like an animal desending on it's prey. The lucky guard got his neck snapped, the unlucky one lay under the Bio-Ork. Damocles was about to kill when Silvia, who had now completely dismantled the Drone, yelled...


Damocles stopped. The guard went for his gun, but found his arm as in Damocles' hand before he realized it. Silvia had Damocles tie the guard to a chair with the Drone wiring, the fragger MIGHT be useful after all. And they still had the guard's weapons.

Bulldog swung back towards the screen, the avatar drop down list was blinking. He went though them, considering his tactics....

"That fragger will pay!" he muttered as he chose his avvie....

He stopped, he looked at Mary's bags. She'd have something. He grabed a program randomly and booted it up. Quite shocked, yet quite confident about the result.

He went back in.



Mary flicked a disc from her pocket into the console. Her persona flickered - and for a moment the child protégé of a decker thought that she might be attempting a fatal disconnect. But the fairy reformed, into the spectacled and rain-coat wearing doctor's true form. This was a Realchip Persona, formed from a 3d-scan she'd taken before heading to Geneva, to talk to her friends at home without the clumsy artificial personas used by most 'professional' deckers.

Crash looked at her in disgust.

"Puny human. What do you think you are doing? The master does not approve."
Mary looked back.
"You are..." she searched her memory. "... Don...Donald Johanson, aren't you?"

This thing looked like Crash, but didn't act like him. The Crash from Geneva would have been anxiously fidgeting, his ambitions getting in the way of any raw talent he may have had for decking. This one was, well, plasticy, and, although it had the looks of the young man she had met in Switzerland, he was covered in so much 'cool' gloss paint that he seemed even more fake than before.

The problem was, now he was dangerous, and on the other side to Mary, and what probably passed for 'the good guys' in this situation.

"My name is not your concern. Nor is my past. All that matters now is the future. A bright future."

He removed the dark reflective glasses, and polished them on one black sleeve idly. He - his Matrix persona - had cybereyes, white, and as empty as the rest of him.

"Now. What are you doing here, Miss Turin?"

"The confidentiality's mutual, Crash. What happens if I pull the plug?"

Crash grinned coldly.
"I wouldn't do that, pretty lady, if you want to live. The inbuilt security measures that I have taken the trouble to install are waiting their first victim - pity your goblin friend didn't have a proper 'deck or datajack - or it could have been him"

"Goblin? How could... what... how did you know."

"Oh, I know EVERYTHING, Mary. I have reaced a higher way of being, as it is, finished the level, got the high score, and am now on the secret bonus stage. And how sweet it is. How sweet.
The master is kind, very kind to his chosen, and those who are not, miss out. You'd be wise to take a moment to consider it, madam, before you get to work on whatever useless plan you are devising. Let me tell you, it won't work. Resistance is futile, I believe the cliché is?"


The green-haired secretary was thrown to the floor from yet another explosion. Her hearing, like everyone else's in the room, seemed to be quiter than it used to be now. Her nose was bleeding from the concussion wave the from the explosions.

She walked up next to Hero, stumbling on some body parts. The manly man caught her just as she was falling. His muscular arms steadied her. Charlie felt her petite, shapely body through her thin, bloodstained blouse.

"Thank you." She breathed, staring into his eyes.

"No problem. Ma'am!" He replied. The man who had been severly injured earlier got a boost from doing what he did best - Being a hero, no matter how small a heroic action her performed.

The secretary pulled back reluctantly from his arms, spying an SMG70 one of the late guards must have dropped. She slung the - heave for her - Weapon over her shoulder, and went to pick Vega up, adjusting the pretty but dishevelled woman's hair as she did so - One office Data-jerk girl to another.

"You okay?"

Veronica nodded blankly. Her eyes had been blank all the time. The secretary hugged her, holding her tight, sharing her pain, feeling the close warmth of her body between their thin clothes.

Jolly was staring through the hole he'd blown, scratching his head.

They must have originally been on one of the office floors... Except the corridor he was looking at ran vertically, not horizontally.

"Stoopid 'oomie Ark-it-texts" He muttered... And looked around to see if any chipheads were around.

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