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Interim 1

Wild Child's Funeral (16JAN2058)

Hound, Piker, Ajax, and Val huddle in the freezing rain as a simple casket is lowered into a simple grave, containing Wild Child's remains. Very few others know of the ex-ganger's demise. The team knew next to nothing about him. The group is somber and quiet, lost in thoughts of their own mortality.

Angus Invites Piker to Join Kamibudo Clan (30JAN2058)

Piker has stopped by the Gargoyle's Roost early in the day before the other regulars have come in. The bar is not open this early, but the manager always lets Angus and her come in early like this whenever they like. Angus is eating lunch and drinking a tall glass of orange juice. Contrary to his public persona, he does not generally drink a lot outside of bar hours. Piker actually tends to drink a little more than he does and he has made that point before. Angus drops his usual happy-go-lucky boozer facade and Piker knows something serious is about to happen. Maybe it's the "You should drink less" talk, she thinks to herself.

Angus does not look up from his food as he talks and his words are slightly muffled by chewing as he talks, "Scrapper, I've got something serious to discuss with you." He pauses to take a drink and Piker sits there stiff and silent, bracing herself.

He takes another bite of what looks like shepherd's pie and continues, "You've come a long way from the punk kid you used to be. Yuir growin' up into quite a dangerous punk adult." He stops and smiles wryly. Piker smiles slightly and relaxes a little bit. No interventions today.

"You've learned to harness yuir gifts and use them effectively, and you've started down a road in your life that will test you thoroughly. You have almost been killed and you have killed to survive. It's time I was honest with you lass." Piker get a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach as if knowing what he is about to say.

He sighs and says, "I am not who I pretend to be." He waits for a moment to let that sink in but continues before Piker interrupts, "I was part of an elite special forces team in the UCAS military. The details are immaterial now, though at one time they meant a lot to me. I was transferred to a black ops unit in the UCAS government and became an assassin. A rogue cell leader tried to have me off an innocent target to help him get in bed with a megacorp but I caught wind of it in the nick of time. She lived and I became a hunted man. I eventually took him out, along with his cell. I was the assassin after all, and they were just the support crew. After that, the division pleaded ignorance and asked me to stay in, everything forgiven, and all that shite." Piker notices the edge of his accent has faded.

"I told thank you very much but no. I came to Seattle and became a shadowrunner myself. I went on a lot of runs with all manner of people, detectives, crazy gangers, dysfunctional shamans, deadly serious combat mages, and a whole host of others. I have killed so many people with these hands that I lost count long ago." He holds up his hands and stares at them.

"Anyway, the violence of the job was consuming me. Then I found a group of folks who had the same gifts and they wanted to help guide me on my path before I came a blood-soaked burnout. It worked. They taught me to live with the violence and how to forge my body into a weapon without succumbing to blood rage. They taught me how to expand my abilities. I would be dead right now if it wasn't for them. I left the group a while ago and moved on, they are only a stepping stone for the likes of us, the keepers of the gates to higher mysteries." He shrugs and his accent returns as he says, "Wull, thair ya have it lass, do ya want to go learn how to be even more of a badass and have some like-minded folks that will back you up in a pinch or not?" He goes back to eating as he waits for a reply.

Piker thinks for a moment, shrugs, and then says, "Sure."

Ajax Is Contacted by the Order of the Steel Lodge (06FEB2058)

06FEB2058 (W): Another unchallenging day of political maneuvering and self-promotion at Global Technologies draws to a close and you check your e-mail one last time before heading out. A strange little message simply reads,

"Clockwerx, 7 PM, blue eyes, red dress, blond hair."

You don't know what it is but it sounds good so far. Maybe that's just what you need to get your mind off the monotony of work. Maybe it's finally another shadowrun. The money in the bank is holding up fine, but the excitement level leaves a lot to be desired.

You head home, workout a little, freshen up, and throw on some casual, but not too casual, clothes. Clockwerx is a strange little place where being overdressed is worse than being dressed like a squatter.


Ajax arrives at Clockwerx. Slow, trip hop music undulates through speakers and dancers respond in kind with their bodies on the large round dance floor after which the club is named. The floor is actually a clear polymer disc which covers a huge, 15 meter diameter mechanical clock. Two outer rings make up the rest of the club which serves a decent array of light foods and exotic caffeinated and alcoholic drinks. The inner ring revolves around the dance floor once an hour and the outer ring revolves one every twelve hours. It is a strangely subtle effect, but the walls of the club are display cases for art and plants, so at least the scenery slowly changes.

In the dim light, Ajax makes out a woman in a red dress with blonde hair. She looks quite well built and when she turns around and stares into him with her blue eyes, he sees why; she is an Ork. It's not easy to tell at first, but he knows it somehow. The muscle mass and unusually tall and voluptuous form are beyond human or elven women. She has to go on record as the most attractive Ork woman he has met. Of course, he has not met many that were not housekeepers during the graveyard shift at his company.

She smiles, keenly aware of his Ajax's surprise and seeming to relish it, she waits a moment then speaks, "Ajax I presume?" Ajax didn't know what to expect, perhaps a husky, deep voice, reminiscent of a brain-damaged drag queen; whatever it was, it wasn't the smooth singsong voice she possessed. This was a strange encounter indeed.

She sits down and gestures for Ajax to do the same. He is almost disappointed when he spots another man sitting at the table that seems to know her. He is an unimpressive man, but he is well groomed and his eyes seem to see everything. Normally, Ajax might have dismissed him as another run-of-the-mill sarariman.

She gestures to herself and then the man in kind, "I am Lisa and this is James." The man nods slightly to Ajax. "I'll get to the point quick, because these clothes are killing me, they don't fit my motif. Tawni is a friend of our and we were talking with her about a new recruit for our chantry, you know a magical group. We pool our resources and knowledge and try to figure out more about the Awakened world than we already know. Our members have the money to do what they want and we use that to stay independent of the corps, who would love to have us on their puppet strings. We also have some shadier dealings and we recently lost a member that got geeked doing said shady dealings. He was a good guy, but sometimes things just don't work out. And yes, we were upset, but we are finished mourning and its time to get back into the swing of things." James simply continues to watch Ajax throughout the exchange.

Lisa continues, "We're basically a group of shamans helping each other learn more about magic. In this world, we can't be too public, so that's about all I can tell you at this stage. So, anyway, if you're interested, call this number and let us know." She hands Ajax a card that is blank except for a local LTG number and they both stand up.

07FEB2058 (R): Ajax stops by Viva Serge and picks up the daily special, a complex blend of coffee and other chemicals, some legal, some not so legal, but all very chic, and that's what matters at Viva Serge. He sits down at a table, and calls the number. The line rings three times before the click of connection is heard.

Ajax decides no to provide a video feed, but the person on the other end seems to have no such qualms. "Hello sir, we are glad that you decided to contact us. I will arrange your appointment, is tomorrow good for you?" Ajax slowly processes the words in his mind, distracted by the woman's face on his vid phone. The image catches her from mid torso up. She has the unusual combination of being nubile and buxom at the same time. She is probably nineteen and for a man like Ajax, that and her appearance are all the inspiration he needs to be more interested in talking to her, regardless of the subject. Ajax resists the urge to shoot down Friday, as he might reflexively to keep control of the situation. Instead he decides to be a nice guy. It's not a hard decision with such an attractive young woman on the other line.

Ajax smiles and says, "As long as I get to see you, that will be fine." She smiles and looks away as her face flushes visibly.

Talking through a smile, she says, "OK then, Casanova, will 2:00 PM work? The meeting will probably last an hour. The address is coming through now."

Ajax, "Sure, I'll see you then, and maybe we can see if you can fit me into your. . . schedule."

The woman smiles and shakes her head as she says, "Good bye sir." Ajax smiles and stores the address she sent. It appears to be an address in the heart of downtown.

Thursday evening and Friday pass intolerably slow.

Ajax Joins the Order of the Steel Lodge (08FEB2058)

08FEB2058: The challenges of the day seem pale to the prospect of some grand test of magic or other fantasies Ajax dreams up. During lunch, he even cracks open an old text book on magic as if skimming the book would grant an instant expertise. He heads back home at 1:00 PM and gets cleaned up and changes.

At 1:55 PM he arrives at the building, a towering spire of glass and steel in the heart of Downtown, with a certain hint of gothic in the architecture. The airbus flies up to the roof of the building and sets down gently. Ajax and some other passengers debark. The reception directs him upstairs. The only thing higher than the platform is the penthouse. Ajax decides he likes things so far. The Gargoyle in him likes their choice of location.

The entrance to the penthouse is a small waiting area, not unlike a standard set of offices and in fact on the glass is stenciled Sixth World Services. The lovely receptionist from the phone call is sitting behind the desk and Ajax immediately begins to work his charms on her but he is interrupted. Lisa, the Ork woman from Clockwerx leans out of a door and calls him back to her office.

The office is elegant and nicely furnished. Everything is high quality but not gaudy or excessive. "Have a seat," she says, gesturing to a chair as she sits down behind a large desk. Ajax slides off his jacket and lays it gently and casually over another nearby chair and sits down gracefully.

Lisa smiles a business smile and speaks, "OK, are you interested in joining?"

Ajax smiles and quietly says, "Yes."

Lisa replies, "Good. I hate mincing words. Here's the scream sheet rundown for you. I represent a magical group. We would like to have you as a member. Before I tell you anymore, I have to ask that you agree that if you do not want to join this group you will drink this." She holds up a small ampule. "It's the same stuff that the Tir Tairngire Border Police use to erase a few hours of memory of people that they find in places they shouldn't be. It's harmless aside from that, and I promise that we will get you back home safely."

Fear and doubt wells up in Ajax, but something inside calms him and he knows that what Lisa says is true. It's not a spell, it's . . . Gargoyle? Ajax nods silently, unsure if he is willing his body to do it or something else.

Lisa, "Great, this is going well. This is usually where I get into an annoying debate over mutual trust. I like you already." She smiles and seems genuinely relieved.

"OK, so welcome to Sixth World Services, the front for the global headquarters of the Order of the Steel Lodge. Our group is the Seattle Circle. There are other circles in major metroplexes around the world. The organization is thirty years old and it started right her in Seattle, on the roof of this building, about thirty meters that way." She points to what would be the north edge of the building.

"We don't have a lot of rules, but they are all important. Anyone breaks them and we all have to slog back here and form our magical link again, and that is fraggin' annoying. I have much better things to do with my free time than pull an all nighter in here chanting and eating pizza."

"Anyway, the rules. First, we have regular meetings, once a month. Be there or be in drek. You can miss one or two, but don't miss two in a row. Second, we help each other out. If you need your hoop pulled out of the fire, you can call on us and vice versa. Don't abuse this or you'll be looking for another group. Third, we are generally only interested in brining in Shamans and Adepts with Urban Totems, and Mages. So far, the only Totem represented is Gargoyle, but everyone's happy with that. Gator tends to be too fraggin' lazy, Cat is too catty, and Rat is too smelly and self-absorbed."

"As our fearless leader might say, we are a team of individuals. To normal people, that means we do our own thing, but we also pull our weight around here. From what we know of you, that won't be a problem. And yes, we do know quite a bit about you, including the time in prison, your buddy Bagger, and your fondness for women. I'd ask you out, but you probably wouldn't survive the encounter." She laughs a little louder than a corporate suit might and Ajax is reminded of Piker. He thinks to himself that it would be interesting to see how Lisa fared against Piker . . .

"Pay attention Ajax, I gotta rattle all of this drek off and you gotta listen. Fourth, we maintain our secrecy, like most groups. We realize that running a business, being magical, etc. does not require a a Dragon's resources to put two and two together. However, the less people know the safer we are. So we don't blab about the group to other folks. Whether or not you tell someone your in a group doesn't matter to me one way or another, I figure they expect it. However, no blabbing about the name, location, etc. Finally, we all have to give up a little blood to be stored as a material link."

Ajax's eyebrows raise.

"Yes, it's a material link, get over it. Sure it can be used to help us reign you in if you go freaky on us, but more importantly, it allows us to track you down and help you if something fraggin' bad happens and your meatbod is trapped somewhere. Honestly it's a good thing and you get used to the idea pretty quick. It's like mutual insurance."

Again, Ajax feels an otherworldly sense of assurance and quietly listens as Lisa continues.

"Outstanding. This is going way better than I had planned." She looks at her wristphone, "Hmm, it's about time. Let's go meet the others." She stands up and leads Ajax to a well-appointed conference room with a fully stocked bar.

Lisa leads Ajax to one end of the table and beings making introductions.

She gestures to the man at the head of the table and says, "Thomas Smythe is a Shaman of Gargoyle and our fearless leader." The man nods politely. He appears to be in his mid-forties and wears delicate, high quality spectacles that seem to perfectly match his clothing. His medium length brown hair is loosely combed back; combined with his brown eyes, he has an earthy look to him. A bookmarked tome in front of him that looks other than everyone in the room combined.

She gestures to the man at his right and says, "James Roland is a Shaman of Gargoyle and heads up Negotiations." James is corporate from head to toe. He appears to be in his thirties and wears an impeccably fashionable suit. His black eyes match the jet black hair which he keeps in a short, Caesar cut.

She gestures to the man on Thomas's left, "Phil Simms is a Hermetic Mage and heads up Magical Security." Phil wears casual business clothes and parts his sandy blonde hair down the middle. His brown eyes are in the grips of a warm and friendly smile when Ajax meets his gaze.

Lisa gestures to the woman next to James, but is interrupted as the woman introduces herself. "I am Monica Lindo, a Shaman of Gargoyle, and a skilled Negotiator." She smiles wide and playfully and Ajax is immediately convinced that he could be with her within five minutes of this meeting ending. Her eyes are dark brown and she generally winks whenever a man looks at her. Her hair is straight, black, and cut in a bob fashion. Combined with her mannerisms and slinky, formfitting dresses, she is something of a 2058 version of a Flapper, although a real Flapper's habits would probably be too tame for her. Her light chocolate brown complexion and features suggest a Central or South American heritage.

Lisa rolls her eyes and goes on to the next introduction. "George Innis is a Hermetic Mage and works in Magical Security. He is also our resident workaholic." Everyone chuckles slightly at the comment, including George. He dresses in very mainstream corporate clothing. His black hair and blue eyes are remarkably average, as is his demeanor. His slight pallor suggest a man that spends too much time indoors.

Lisa gestures to a beautiful elven woman sitting next to Phil. "Lin Sun is a Gargoyle Shaman of the Shinto Path. She is usually our primary liaison with our Japanese customers." Ajax remembers the Shinto Path. They summons ancestors spirits instead of Nature Spirits. Lin looks like a slim, nubile version of a china doll. Her skin has a light complexion which provides a striking contrast to her straight black hair and piercing emerald green eyes. She is a picture of female Asian beauty and is still unfathomably humble, which may explain why the Ancestors like her so much.

Lisa gestures to the last person in the room. "Fred 'Grey Hawk' Chokota is a Shaman of Gargoyle and head up our VIP Body Guarding services." Fred is an even six feet tall. His long straight black hair is pulled into a pony tail with a silver and turquoise beret. His black eyes seem to see everything. He has a very lean muscular build and a weathered complexion. He seems to have a gift for looking grim and intimidating.

Lisa finishes, "Well, that's it for introductions. Now let's see if you can join our magical link."

The windows turn opaque and the lights dim as Lisa and Ajax sit down. Everyone silently joins hands and Thomas speaks, "Ajax, just close your eyes and reach out. It may take a while, but you should feel it and be able to tap into it. Take your time. There is no pressure and there is no guarantee it will work this first time."

Ajax closes his eyes and slips into a more meditative state. He's no expert at it, but he has spent his fair share of time thinking deep thoughts. He slips into Astral Perception and sees a faint, tangible line connection all of the members seated at the table. It seems to get bolder and clearer as he focuses on it. Slowly, it takes form and appears to be a small stream flowing in midair. Traces of color flow through it, no doubt remnants of the various members influence. Ajax is stunned by the simple beauty and is overwhelmed for a moment with the uniqueness of the moment. He has never been so full of joy at being Awakened. He snaps out of his reverie and realizes that the streams is coursing through him now. It is a strange sensation. He feels a deep kinship with these strangers as if they are brothers and sisters that he had forgotten about. Ajax notices that everyone else is smiling. As if from a great distance, Thomas says, "Well done Nils, we are finished."

Slowly, Ajax is able to return his senses to the mundane world. "Wow, that was pretty incredible." He says.

Lisa answers, "Yeah, it's pretty wiz. Well, you can get to know the others better later on. I have got to get through the other drek. It may not seem like it, but that whole link think took two hours, so we've only got about 45 minutes before the whistle blows and I am outta here."

Ajax gives up the blood and watches as it is stored in a small magical vessel in a safe in Thomas's study, which doubles as a ritual room. Some paperwork is done and Lisa nonchalantly asks for the first months' dues of 2,000 nuyen. Ajax pays it with equal nonchalance although he knows he getting down to a few thousand nuyen.

Thomas briefly talks with Ajax, welcoming him to the group and asking him to return tomorrow to perform a quest. Ajax is a little confused, but agrees and leaves for the day. He almost too tired to even go out, but then he spots Monica watching him from down the corridor with a come hither smile and he finds new reserves of energy.

Ajax's Astral Quest for Grade 1 (09FEB2058)

09FEB2058 (S): Ajax delicately slides Monica's arm off of his body and slips out of bed. He quickly gets ready and takes an air taxi to the group headquarters. He smiles at the thought of having a group headquarters.

The building is empty except for Thomas. "Hello Ajax, I see that you survived Monica. She is a very friendly person and we all understand and except that as long as she does not impede us with her activities." Thomas stands there silently until Ajax gives a questioning look.

"Hmm? Oh right. Well it's quite simple really. You're in the big leagues now Ajax. I am going to help you navigate the metaplanes themselves. If all goes well, you will see Gargoyle himself before this weekend is through. Now follow me."

Ajax is a little stunned. The notion of seeing Gargoyle is a little overwhelming. Until now, his interactions with his Totem had been superficial and vague at best. More like a fleeting scent or glancing caress. Ajax follows Thomas up a small spiral staircase into a large open room with a glass dome that commands a magnificent view. The room has various gargoyle icons scattered about it. Stone statues with fierce visages, long talons, and piercing stares. The room itself radiates a sense of belonging and well being. This is a powerful Shamanic lodge indeed. Thomas leads him into a central depression and they both kneel on large comfortable cushions.

"Trust me, they won't seem that comfortable after days pass." He smirks as he presses a button on the remote and the door to the room closes and the sounds of heavy bolts sealing can be heard. The dome turns slightly more opaque. Thomas sets the remote aside and lays down on the cushion. "Now lay down, close your eyes, relax, and project yourself."

Ajax projects and sees Thomas doing likewise. The room looks quite different now. The shimmering magical walls of a shamanic lodge glow just inside the perimeter of the glass dome. Virtually every object in the room glows with magical energy. Thomas looks quite different in Astral space. His Astral form is that of a tall, lean, muscular man. His head is bereft of the unruly mop of hair his physical body has, and his eyes are swirling clouds of smoky gray. His ears have a slight point to them and his features are significantly more angular and chiseled than his physical form shows. He wears a black longcoat with the collar turned up. His fingers are longer and more slender, and his nails are also noticeably longer. When he smiles, his mouth is full of sharp canine teeth. Ajax fails to restrain a slight reaction and pulls back slightly.

Thomas answers in a soothing voice, "Fear not Ajax, it is still me. This is the appearance that suits my Astral self. I am close to Gargoyle and I bear his likeness somewhat. I have no mirror handy, but rest assured that your form bears the mark of Gargoyle as well, albeit more appealing than mine. Now come, we have much to cover and time passes so very quickly while we are here.

"We are going to travel to the metaplanes, a place beyond normal Astral space and one that can only be visited by the Initiated, which you are becoming now. To me, the metaplanes are a vast number of different places where magic takes form and substance according to a given paradigm. Others would argue that the metaplanes are simply reflections of the same place, seen and interacted with differently based up on the viewer and his perceptions. Regardless of whence they come, you can see different places here. Each of the elements, Fire, Earth, Water, and Air, have their own planes. Four more conform to the domains of shamanism - the realms of Man, the Sky, the Waters, and the Land. Countless others exist that correspond to other paths and mythologies. Lin Sun, for example, no doubt visits a plane populated with foo dogs, serpentine dragons, oni, and spirits of her ancestors."

Thomas says little after this. For what seem to be hours, Thomas teaches Ajax to access the metaplanes. Much of this time is meditation, as it is very hard at first to have the proper mental state to step sideways into the metaplanes. Thomas forces Ajax to practice it until it is easy. "You must master this before we continue, lest you risk being trapped in the planes. We should move on soon though, it has already been at least a day in the physical world and I want to resolve this before the weekend ends."

Ajax looks puzzled as he asks, "But how can we stay here for so long? Is it not a matter of hours before we can no longer return to our bodies?"

Thomas smiles, a gesture that is not as reassuring or comforting with his current appearance. "You are correct, normally that would be the case, but with Astral Quests like this, it is not. I cannot explain why, it simply is."

Although Ajax has only known Thomas for a short time, it is strange to hear him confess ignorance on a topic without even hazarding a theory.

Thomas steps sideways into the metaplanes, beckoning Ajax to follow. Ajax steps through and Thomas is waiting and smiling. "My task is done here. Now you must seek the citadel yourself. The path you take is between you and Gargoyle. Do not be too upset if you fail. These quests are not always fruitful the first time. Good luck." He reaches forward to shake Ajax's hand and Ajax notices that his own hand is somewhat elongated and slender. Like Thomas, his fingernails are longer as well. He is snapped out of his contemplation as Thomas lets go of his hand and slips back out of the plane.

Ajax floats in a strange gray nothing for some time, but time seems beyond comprehension here. He thinks about getting more magic power, but nothing happens. He thinks about Gargoyle, but nothing happens. He thinks of the faces of the statues in the room, but nothing happens. He sighs and relaxes, uncertain what to ponder and something happens.

Ajax's longcoat whips about him as a sharp cold wind cuts into him and the gray nothing turns into a dark, moonless city landscape. He is standing on the roof of what appears to be a gothic cathedral. About him are gargoyle statues, evenly spaced about the periphery of the roof. They are crouched and leering, motionless except for one. On the far side of the roof, one of the shapes stands up, rolls its shoulders and neck as if waking up from slumber. It looks like an elf in a long coat, about the same height as Ajax. It turns about and Ajax is mildly shocked, but this time maintains his composure. The . . . Elf looks like a roughly hewn version of Ajax. It stride grimly towards the center of the roof, it's face expressionless, and stops. It stands there, staring at Ajax. Ajax strides forth and just as he reaches the center, it crouches into a fighting stance and begins to circle about Ajax.

Ajax's mind races. What should he do? Flee? Strike it down with a spell? Talk to it? Yes talk to it, that makes sense; find out what he's dealing with.

Ajax asks, "What are you?"

"You." It answers in a gravely voice.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean nothing more than what I say. I am you and right now, you are your own worst enemy."

It strikes out at Ajax, it's hands glowing slightly as it does. Ajax dodges back and left to no avail. It is as if the creature tracks the motion precisely and the blow reaches the spot Ajax is moving to as he does. Ajax still manages to roll with it somehow and mitigates the damage.

It half yells, "Those that walk with Gargoyle must be able to glean information where the normal man sees none. Think fool, you're embarrassing me!"

It strikes again, but it is a little too sure of itself this time and the strike is telegraphed. Ajax easily dodges and brings his fist up into the side of it's face. His fist glows slightly when he strikes.

It laughs, and rubs its jaw as it steps back, "We are a little prone to being cocky aren't we? Yet another weakness that does not make us worthy of higher magicks."

It circles about Ajax as it talks and Ajax thinks hard, trying to imagine how he places his feet. It's doing exactly what he would do.

"Perhaps, but I can temper my cockiness with intelligence, whereas you are just a mockery of me." The comment catches it slightly off guard and Ajax feints with what he thinks would be a normal attack for him to make. It dodges out of the way smirking, but the smirk disappears when it sees that it is moving into a second strike. Ajax is not a big fan of kicks, because he can't do them as well, but he lifts his leg and slams the heel of his foot into its chest, knocking it back. The blow almost knocks it out, but a vestige of consciousness clings.

Ajax is feeling the pain where it struck him. He hopes that it is in worse shape, but he can't be sure. "Had enough? I don't think you're really Ajax material, friend, maybe you should move along before you get hurt." Ajax finds the trash talk from his time in prison flowing freely. Aggression fills him with a renewed vigor. "You are constrained by my weaknesses and habits, but I can choose to adapt. You are no threat to me."

It must be feeling the rage too, Ajax thinks, as it bellows and charges him. Ajax ducks low as it reaches him and sweeps it's leg, a maneuver he saw Piker execute. It stumbles and trips as it continues past Ajax. "Bad move, we're not that good at this stuff to be telegraphing our moves that."

It grimaces as it struggles to steady itself. It fails and falls onto the barbed tail of one of the Gargoyle statues. It smiles and sighs deeply, vanishing when the breath ends.

The landscape melts away and is replaced by another. It is night. Ajax is standing before a building that looks like a medieval castle. Gargoyle statues are perched all around the battlements. Ajax walks cautiously towards the main entrance. As he crosses the drawbridge, he notices a slight motion. The Gargoyles on the wall are not statues at all, they are alive.

When he reaches the gate, one of the Gargoyles swoops down, alights a few meters from Ajax, and walks to the door, opening it for him and gesturing for him to enter. Ajax steps in and sees the interior is lit by torches and candles.

It speaks in a gravely voice, "May I ask who are you and why are you here?"

Ajax hesitates, but answers, "Ajax, I am not exactly sure why I am here."

It replies, "You will have to do better than that. I will not know where to lead you."

Ajax says, "I am here to learn about the higher mysteries."

It nods and smiles, "Of course, Nils. I almost forgot about you. It took you long enough to get here. I had almost given up hope on you. Your first lesson is simple in concept if not execution. Gargoyle gathers information, but if his prey knows his nature, it is more difficult. Ascend to the top of this place and walk the walls until you can hide yourself from the watchers there. It is an intuitive skill, but let me Mask you once so that you have some notion of what it feels like.

He waves a claw and Ajax feels a subtle, diffuse numbness. It's not a physical numbness, it's something else. Ajax looks down at his body and notices that the glow of his Astral form is gone. "I see."

He shakes his head and retorts, "Actually, no you don't, but you will. Now go, learn, and leave. I have things to investigate."

Ajax ascends to the roof and over the span of hours finally manages to reliably maintain the same Masking effect such that the guardians can not see him. As he finishes the circuit without being detected, the landscape vanishes and he is back in his body, staring at a white circle that reads Royal Worcester. It is a tea cup.

"Hello again!" says Thomas as he proffers the cup. "Have some tea. It's just about dinner time. Let's grab something to eat and then you can head home and consider your experience. It looks like it worked, your aura is stronger than when you first showed up. Well done."

Prelude to Run 2


11FEB2058 (M): Monday seem duller than ever at work, but Ajax is unstoppable. He exudes confidence, the confidence of someone that has joined a very exclusive club with very demanding tastes. He has risen to a higher plane, literally. The petty squabbles are beneath him now and he radiates an aura that tells people he should be CEO. A few date offers are made, but he shrugs them off. There's really only one way he'll get a chance to stretch his magical legs and that's on a run. It's time to stop waiting for runs to come to him and go get them.


Kuma is alone in his apartment, his only companion the glow and noise of his trideo. Monday night passes and the Screamers just barely missed the point spread. What's a few hundred nuyen anyway? Actually, lately, it's quite a bit. Shadowrunning is a little harder to break into than he thought.

His friends tell him basically the same things: it's a hard biz to start in, but after the first run, the work just keeps coming'; he's got the skills, but it's takes a while for the smell of the Yakuza to wash away; and other encouraging phrases. It's all well and good, but he's turning into a couch potato, a bored, poor, and aggravated couch potato. Without money and resources, he will never get his vengeance. Heck, the next rent check is looking pretty steep right now.

And then the phone rings...

The vidphone is unable to call up an ID on the caller, so Kuma answers it voice only, "Hello?"

[Korean] "Hey buddy! How are things going?" Kuma recognizes the voice as that of Kim, a Decker he knows that works with the Pusan Seoulpa Ring. Kim is doing a bad job of hiding some concern.

Kuma answers in Korean, "Yes?"

[Korean] "I have some work for you. I need you to find at least three other people. Make sure one can sling Mojo. Ability with guns as well as close in fighting would be good. A healer might be nice in case there is collateral damage. And don't grab any psychos, this job will call for some control. Try to get some bona fide freelancers for this one, underworld talent is no good, and it goes without saying, no Yakuza people. Call me back when you have some people lined up and I'll set up a meeting. I am not going to be there myself, but you know I don't care much for putting my meatbod in harm's way. I'll give you the details when you call me back. Here's a temporary LTG that you can reach me at this week. Anyway, I need to hustle to set up the rest of this. I look forward to hearing from you. Oh, damn, I almost forgot, do you want the job?" The display lights up with an LTG number, added a tint of green illumination to Kuma's face as if cueing him to talk.

Kuma evenly and quietly answers in Korean, "Yes."

[Korean] "All right, cool, just use the LTG I sent and I'll talk to ya later. Oh yeah, time is of the essence, bigger bucks for faster resolution, if ya know what I mean, so if you could get back to me tonight that would be cool. I have been instructed to call someone new if I don't hear back from ya by 4:00 AM; sorry man, it's not me, you know that. Out." Kim's hyper voice stops filling the room with anxiety and the sounds of the trideo once again dominate.

It's 1:00 AM on Monday morning, but most of the people Kuma knows are not exactly early to bed types. A few calls later and he has no prospects, but he has learned some things he didn't know. Truman is feeling the tension of the Mob War heating up. He almost had a war in his waiting room when a Yak enforcer and Ring soldier crossed paths; only the wonders of stun gas saved him the hassle. Elise is personally escorting some nova hot ware in from Denver and she's in the middle of some big stuff.

It's 2:00 AM on Monday morning. Most places are closing by now. Moon's should still be open, and Kuma knows that most of the people there are just what he's looking for, Shadowrunners. He straps on his street gear and heads out.


Piker sits in a dim, candlelit room. The weeks of hassle setting her up new condo seem like a pleasant recreation now. She had to buy a fake ID to set up everything without a big hassle. It was a bit expensive

Smoke from incense-filled braziers rises about her in soft, undulating streams. Her arms are at her side and it becomes apparent that she is not actually sitting on the ground per se. Rather, she is suspending herself on the tips of her outstretched fingers. The muscles of her arms and forearms strain with the effort, although for brief instants the muscles seem to relax and a glimmer of calm settles over her face. It is disappears almost as quickly as it appears. The large muscular Troll is clad only in cutoff sweat pants and a sleeveless shirt that exposes her midriff, a mass of heaving muscle. Sweat coats her body, dripping from her nose and coursing down her huge, sinewy arms, collecting in a small puddle beneath her.

Her muscles relax once more, but they stay that way for a few seconds and her expression and body begin to relax. She smiles with satisfaction and promptly falls to the ground, splashing into the puddle of her own sweat, sending it flying in a shower about her. Satisfaction gives way to shock and is immediately turned into rage. "Fraaaaag!" She bellows.

The huge Troll slumps in a cross-legged pose of despair and disgust, sighing heavily. A Korean woman walks in, Piker struggles to remember her name, but fails. Piker has only seen her once, when she shook hands on her way into this room twelve days ago. The whole experience with this "Magical Group" has been a little less interesting than she had thought. Her Dad told her about and she showed up. She was shown to a nice home in Snohomish where she was briefly introduced to Ms. . . Kim! That's it, Ms. Kim!

Ms. Kim steps closer and begins to snuffout the candles and incense. "That is enough training for now. You need time to consider what you have learned."

Piker grunts, "Done. I'm a Troll and I'm fraggin' heavy."

Ms. Kim smiles politely, "Yes, there are more lessons that will reveal themselves. The strength of your physical body will make this challenge much greater for you than it would another. None of are members are Trolls. This test is usually too much for them to endure. You have already lasted longer than many. Your father endured this test as well. We all do. Our kind are the most frequently exploited because of the physical nature of our abilities. We tend to have weaknesses in character, mental prowess, and judgement that lead us into the shackles of servitude to those that would use us as expendable thugs and disposable weapons. We are committed to determine our own destiny, to fight the battles that we choose, and walk our own paths. We cannot afford a person weak in mind, will, or spirit. Such a weak link would endanger us all."

Ms. Kim smiles genuinely, "However, there is no need to break your spirit. Go now and rest. We can resume when you are ready. When you pass this test, you will meet the others and be instructed further. Surely you have seen something so far."

Piker shrugs, "Yeah, but I can't explain it. Sometimes, it just gets a whole lot easier, but den it gets hard again. And there's some sort of weird feeling when that happens, but that's about it."

Ms. Kim nods, "As it should be, good night." She backs out of the room and she can be heard walking briskly up the steps out of this basement level.

Piker stands up out of the cold pool of sweat and ascends the stairs to the bedroom that has been set aside for her. It's dark outside and the clock advertises the time as 2200, 11FEB2058. Plenty of time to get to Moon's and get some liquid relaxation.

Kuma Buys Lots of Small Packages (10FEB2058)

The back room of the warehouse is rather bland and utilitarian. The fireteam stationed around the room remind Kuma that Elise is a business acquaintance and nothing more. The young Elven woman is attractive, but not remarkably so. Her hair is a short androgynous style and she wears very little makeup. The Khakis serve to further conceal her feminine traits. These are working hours and if nothing else, Elise is professional. A cigarette hangs from her mouth as she pulls out some packets and small boxes from a canvas satchel and places them on the worn and scarred table.

Elise looks over the pile and points as she rattles off the list. "Ruger Jotun sound suppressor, TI's latest model of ultrasonic imaging goggles, and a lot of explosives." She looks at the list that Kuma scrawled on the cocktail napkin a week ago. She gestures with her cigarette to each pile in turn. "Ten kilos commercial, ten C4, two C12, five radio detonators, and five timer detonators."

She pushes the piles towards Kuma. "That quantity in that time ran a little bit more expensive than it would have been otherwise. The final cost will be ¥9300. I'm surprised you didn't order any body bags to go with that. You know, starting wars can be unhealthy. "

"Don't worry about me, Elise. I have a lot more time these days to keep a tight scan on my health. Besides, a little war never hurt anyone," grins Kuma as he slots the cred.