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Interim 2

2061FEB08 - Meanwhile, at a street clinic in Tacoma...

The soft tone of the wristphone startled Frank. He sat straight up in bed and immediately was reminded of his wounds as pain and nausea wracked his body.

"Oh, drek." He sighed as he laid back down. Again the phone. He rolled over and picked it up. "Caller Unavailable". Right. He clicked the button for voice only with digital masking of his voice, then answered, "Yeah?"

"So I hear things didn't go as planned. Give me the details and I'll see what I can do with this train wreck you slots created." The sarcastic overconfident voice was the distinctive tone of Frank's Fixer, Shep.

"Frag you Shep. Everyone but me is dead. You can kiss my fraggin' hoop if you want me to apologize to your cozy meatbod, hiding behind your deck."

There was a pause. For once, Shep was taken aback. Frank almost felt good, but his pain and the memory of his team dying took care of that.

"Uh hey, omae. Cool down, jack out, relax." Shep's tone was sympathetic and soothing, at least as soothing as two packs a day will allow. "All right take it slow and tell me what happened."

"All right, so we get the case from the Yamatetsu site null sheen. Switch took a few bullets, but she's used to that. We make our way back to the van and Roadkill is splattered all over the windshield. Everything was kinda crazy from there. We fought our way to their facilities area. Solder got geeked en route. Fidget has a brainstorm and gets us into a sewage dump. Switch is barely able to move our prize, so we pull out a bunch of lifejackets, strap them to the case, and jump into the outgoing water flow. By then, the guards had caught up to us and Fidget took a few rounds. Anyway, the three of us jump in, trailing blood and confused as hell.

"It was a rough ride and I thought for a minute I was going to go out drowned in some suit's drek, but finally we pop up in the sewers. Fidget's all proud of himself until the current catches us and starts whipping us down the sewer at about 60 clicks an hour. It was rough, but it was finally looking good. Right up until Fidget caught a rusty pipe in the lung. He got plucked right off the case. I hope the pipe killed him, because there was a trio of Ghouls waiting to clean their trap.

"Anyway, I'm thinking it can't get much worse, then the case suddenly jerks, spins and slams into the wall, crushing Switch's arms, then smashing through a wall. Switch is freaking out, water is rushing past us down the sewer and into through the hole we made, and I'm the only one left with working arms. So I start pulling bricks away from the hole, trying to widen it so we can get through. I'm no jackhammer and all of our hardware was either laying on the floor of Yamatetsu or the bottom of the sewer, so I just went to town with my bare hands. I hear Switch screaming in pain a little louder than before and I move around the chest to check her out.

"There was at least a dozen devil rats on her and they were chowing down big time. I pulled out my pocket knife and went to help her, but then I felt at least another dozen gnawing on me. Switch was done for and I was about to be dessert, so I cut the lines on the preservers, kicked free and let the current take me.

"When I finally got to a manhole, I was in...well, anyway I got to a clinic. Your case is somewhere between here and Yamatetsu in the sewer. As for me, I am done with this one. Good luck." Frank turned the phone off and laid back. The advance money for the run would cover the medical bills. It was time to find another team, but first, a little R&R was in order.

2061FEB18 - Titus's Initiation, "Entrance Exam"

Titus emerged from the gilded elevator of the Mackelby Club, and walked down the hall, curiously noting that he had never actually been this way before. Pulling out his pocket sec, he double-checked the directions and started looking for room 1378. After some time searching the labyrinthine halls, he finally found it at the end of a small side hall, tucked out of the way of the main traffic. He paused a moment to look himself over and then gave light knock to the door, which seemed to echo down the hallway. After a moment, he heard a hushed "Enter" from the other side and the sound of the maglock disengaging.

Turning the knob, Titus walked into this dimly lit room. After the bright lighting of the hallway, it took him some time to adjust to the dim, flickering candlelight enough to make out the five other robed figures in the room. The candles were arranged around a dim shape on the floor and there were actual braziers burning some sort of fragrant incense. Titus's eyes were briefly drawn to Silver's form before he quickly focused again on Drake.

"Greetings, Dr. Dawkins," Drake intoned, almost announcing rather than speaking. "Thank you for joining us this evening. We have reviewed your abilities and merits and have deemed you worthy to join into our initiation group, assisting you in learning the higher magics of our world. However, our decision to accept you and your decision to accept us is only the first step. In order for you to join us, to merge your signature into our circle, the avatar of the circle must accept you. Please join us at the pinnacle of the star."

The figure in the crimson robe, who he now recognized as Drake, gestured to a cleared section of the floor, which contained a hermetic circle based around a six-point star with six chairs which seemed to be carved from a single piece of wood. The other figures, all members of the group, each took a seat at a point of the star, being careful not to disturb the powder defining the figure. Titus sat down and took a moment to investigate the material of the circle.

"Powdered silver?" Titus queried, leaning towards Sasha.

"Yes, that's what we've used before. Jacob insists that we would achieve better results by switching to a platinum-iron blend, but we haven't tried that yet. Now please…"

The group began chanting in unison in Latin. Titus understood the words, but was unfamiliar with the source-it sounded medieval from the style. Titus switched perceptions out of habit to make sure that the coast was clear and saw the mana already beginning to flow between the other five members of the group and into the hermetic circle. Leaning back in the recliner he reached his consciousness out and into astral space. Before him was a large cloaked figure of improbable height and thinness that had not been there a moment ago. Its eyes softly glowed red as it focused on Titus.

"So, you deem yourself worthy to join this group and pursue the higher arts? First you must prove your ability."

Without warning the figure lurched out at Titus, striking at him with his hand. Titus dodged with ease as he felt the comfortable recognition of the astral plane, where movement is based upon the speed of thought, and your ability to handle yourself increases with your understanding of sorcery. Several more times the figure swiped and struck at Titus and each time he evaded the blows, without attempting to counter-attack. Seemingly satisfied, the figure invoked an attack spell and sent it towards Titus's aura. However, having little else to focus on, Titus skillfully dismantled the pattern of the incoming astral energies, dissipating them back into the plane. It tried this one more time with the same result and tried a final swing at the flowing astral form of Titus who eluded the attack.

Suddenly the figure stopped, the folds of its cloak sitting motionless at its sides as if it had never moved. It stared at Titus for what seemed like minutes and finally whispered, "You are worthy. Welcome." It extended a hand and Titus took it… …and blinked in the dim, smoky light as the echo of the abruptly halted chanting rung in the room. He looked around at the others as they stood from their chairs in unison and neatly folded their hands under their crimson robes. He felt some strange connection to them, reminiscent of link formed with co-workers during ritual magic, only barely noticeable, as he rose to join the circle. Drake stepped forward with a neatly folded red robe offered with both hands.

"Take the robe and so it is done," Drake intoned. Then he threw back the hood of his cloak and the others followed his lead. Jonah stepped forward, a large smile on his face, "Excellent performance, Dr. Dawkins. Welcome to our group. We have a small reception waiting in the drawing room downstairs and we can begin discussing your thesis."