It's a clear night, far away from the confines of the Seattle
sprawl. The air is fresh, the moon is almost full, and the
breeze blowing in from the Pacific is waging a silent war
with the campfire for control of the comfort level of the
two individuals in camp. Hound and Michelle are seated around
the fire, enjoying the last of a meal of freshly killed
venison and freshly opened beer.
"Thanks again for taking me along on the hunt, Michelle.
It's doing me a lot of good to get out of the city and back
out into the land. Helps me clear my head."
"No problem," the large woman replies, "you haven't gotten
in the way too much." As usual, Hound isn't quite sure if
Michelle is kidding or not, but he doesn't ask. For now
he just leans back and relaxes. Several minutes pass in
silence, then Michelle speaks up.
"So, Mr. Shadow Runner. Tell me a story to help pass
the time. You ever work with Orcs? Tell me a story with
Orcs in it."
"Well, OK," replies Hound, "but I'm not
sure what you'll think about it."
"Well, I haven't actually worked with an Orc on the team,
although I run with a Troll pretty regularly. But I did
have a run not too long ago that involved a bunch of Orcs.
Me and my team were hired by a fixer I know to hit this
bio research company. Just a simple run to steal some samples,
with a bonus to swap out dummy product if nobody's the wiser.
Looked like it'd be a sweet deal, too, because the fixer
had already set up a great cover story. We were going in
as part of an air conditioner repair team already hired
to go into the building and do some repair work. We had
intel on the floor of the building where our company was
located, general AC repair knowledge chips, maps, the works.
Plus, we were set up as the ones monitoring the air flow,
so we got access to most of the rooms on several floors,
including the lab where the samples were kept. Yep, it was
a sweet deal, but it soured pretty quickly."
"First of all, it's too complicated to explain, but on
the way to the run one of our team disappeared, and was
replaced by another guy I run with who had been missing.
I know, I know, it sounds weird, and it is. But the guy
who had gone missing is a mage, and he got trapped on some
other plane or something. Anyway, the way he got back must
have made him trade places with the guy we were running
with. So there we are in the van on the way to the run when
all of a sudden, bam, one guy disappears and the other one
appears. We didn't have time to think about it, we just
briefed the mage on the run and kept on, figuring we'd look
into the disappearance after the run was completed. It was
that or abort, and none of us wanted to call it off just
because our Sammy had been replaced by a mage. Hell, for
a stealth mission like this, the mage was a better bet anyway."
"So, from there it looked like things would go smoothly,
but of course I wouldn't be telling you this story if it
wasn't more interesteing than that. We get to the site,
and we meet up with the rest of the actual AC repair guys.
I had thought about trying to get a decker friend of mine
to get me a rundown on the repairmen before we got there,
but cash was tight and I decided not to spend it on intel
we probably didn't need. I wish I had now, but you can't
go back in time." Hound sort of stammers a bit at this point,
" I mean, um, well..."
"Anyway, the repair guys are a bunch of Orcs in coveralls,
with big toolboxes and grease stains to match. They say
their hellos and we say ours, then we go our separate ways
into the building, them to the basement and us to the floors
we're supposed to hit. We're supposed to work around 5 floors,
but we've never actually done this before, and it takes
a lot longer on the first floor than we thought. By the
time we finish the second floor we're worried that we'll
run out of time if we don't jump right to the floor where
the samples are kept. So we pretend we hit the wrong button
on the elevator, and when the guard asks what the problem
is, we cover by saying that we'll come back to the floor
we skipped. It's a damn good thing we did that, too, because
if we didn't we'd have been screwed."
"See, we find the right lab and the samples we're supposed
to snatch, but no sooner do we grab the sample than an alarm
goes off. And not just an alarm, but fire suppression systems
kick in, and we're getting drenched. We stashed the target
and slipped the bogus sample in place, then headed out into
the hall to look around. Hell, I think we all thought the
alarm was triggered by us grabbing the sample, but it was
just a coincidence. Of course, we didn't know that, so we
all figured we might have to fight our way out of there.
We did, but not for the reason we thought we might."
"We start making our way to the stairs when we see a group
of Corp bigwigs and their bodyguards. They don't seem to
mind us being alive, so we head down the stairs behind them,
keeping our distance and trying not to look threatening
or suspicious. We're on our way down when the whole damn
building starts to shake, like it's been hit with an earthquake
or something. We all grab the handrail and keep heading
down. Then, a couple floors later the place gets rocked
again, but this time it's worse, and the whole stairway
kind of twists. I think it was a bomb going off , but at
the time we had no idea what it was. Actually, the details
of what happened when are a little sketchy, but the suits
get off on a floor above ground level and their guards are
not letting us follow. So there we are stuck in the stairwell,
when we start to hear shots from below. Masonry is falling
in the stairs, and the drek is starting to really hit the
fan, and we don't know where to go, or whether we should
even go up or down."
"I think we tried to go down some, but the way below was
worse than the way above, so we head back up. Piker, that's
the troll I run with, tried to pull a door open, but she
just ripped the handle off. It would have been funny if
we weren't in such a mess at the time. You see, it turns
out that the trouble was caused by those Orc AC repairmen
in the basement. I don't remember how we found that out;
I think we heard it over a guard's radio or something, but
it turns out that they weren't actual repairmen either.
They were there to hit a Humanis Policlub group on the sixth
floor of the place. Right smack dab between where we were
and the ground. Of course security is now out to get 'the
AC repair team', so we get out of our coveralls immediately,
but that really doesn't make much difference. They had seen
us, and Piker especially doesn't blend into the crowd well."
"I'm not sure what all happened next. We met up with some
security, but we managed to convince them that we weren't
with the Orcs. Still, they weren't letting us wander anywhere
but the stairs, and then they took off. We went back up
to a floor we had access to so we could think somewhere
other than in the stairway. Once we found an office that
looked safe we had our mage go astral and take a look around.
You know, one of these days we're gonna learn not to do
that. As usual, astral security was waiting for him. Damned
Earth Elemental popped out and started swinging. Lucky for
us Piker was around. It was so concerned trying to fight
her that I got up behind it. Between the two of us we took
it out, but those things are never easy. It was alone, though,
so our mage scouted again, only to find a team of serious
security going room to room. We had no desire to face them,
so we snuck back to the elevator. We took out one guard
as we got there, but the others heard us and started toward
us. We only barely managed to get the doors open and get
everyone into the shaft. The guards were opening fire and
chucking grenades, but we got away pretty clean. From there
we made our way down the shaft to the second floor. We found
our way to one of the offices with a big window and started
beating the hell out of it. Eventually Piker made a hole
in it big enough to climb out, and we all got away. We actually
didn't find out that it was a hit on the HP until after
the run was over and we were all safely away."
"So, there you go. A story with Orcs in it, but maybe
not one you expected."
Michelle and Hound are both quiet for a minute after the
story is over, then Michelle speaks again.
"Is that how you see Orcs? As a bunch of terrorists?"
"No, it's just a story. And I wasn't making any moral judgements.
Hell, I'm not even sure what to think about the guys who
did it. I mean, I sure as hell don't support those Humanis
Policlub drekheads. But I'm not sure setting off a bomb
in a building full of innocents is the right way to settle
your grievances either."
"Really?", asks Michelle. "And I suppose that blowing the
tops off volcanoes and crashing airplanes is fair and just?
Don't kid yourself, Hound. When a people are pushed to their
breaking point, something's gotta give."
Hound is about to answer, but then he falls silent. Severall
minutes pass with neither saying a word. Finally, Michelle
breaks the silence again.
"Get some sleep Hound. Morning comes early, and the
hunt only gets tougher from here on out."