Shadowrun: On The Hunt
It took all my willpower not to roar with laughter. Ive dealt with Shapechangers for decades, but never driven with one. It was honestly the most hilarious thing I had seen since that horrendous day when my wife died. Here I was, in a hot ride, with a Wolf Shapechanger who was hard as ferrocrete, sticking his head out the window, tongue hanging out the side, happier than a puppy with a new chew toy and a tummy rub. In Wolf form, it wouldnt have attracted any attention, but he was Furless at the moment, so we got the occasional look. He did growl at a few of the gangers, however, and no one shot at us. They didnt want to deal with the crazy passenger, I guess.
Over an hour passed getting to the orphanage. I was checking for tails, paranoia gripping me as I was on duty in the Shadows now, and had to take a detour when a bridge was declared Off Limits when something big, mean, and nasty came out of the water, ate a few Ford Americars, and went back into the river. Just another day in Seattle of 2070.
The orphanage was about as expected: Decrepit, dark and dreary. A place where nightmares were created, and childhoods lost to the system. It was in a residential area of Tacoma, an area usually dedicated to factories, but factories needed people to work them, and thus, needed a place to live close by. Debbie had spent the last few years of her life here, trying to make a good go of it, and then disappeared. We had to find her, and Felix would be a good start; hed at least tell me which direction she went, and what vehicle to track when the trail went cold. I just hoped the rain hadnt washed away too much.
Jet was outside waiting for me, the rain having the grace not to fall upon her, but around her in cascades, like an invisible umbrella. Magic, it must come in handy at times. Id never know. In her hands was a cheap carryall with the Seattle Seadogs logo, a parody of the Seattle Mariners Baseball team, on it. It was most likely second-hand, or a donation after a lousy day of selling when the Mariners were playing well. She approached the car when I rolled down the mirrored window. I got a few items, but we cant track her magically. I already tried that, you know. She stated matter-of-factly as Felix and I got out of the car.
Magically, we may not be able to track, but there are more things on Earth than Magic and the Matrix, my dear. We are on the hunt, and for that, I got a hound! Felix bristled at being called a hound, but moved towards the bag. Jets eyes went wide as she looked into the soul of Felix and saw the beast within, and then looked at me in surprise. Its debatable on how old Spirits are, but Jet always seemed older than when she had been Summoned, and it wasnt often she was surprised. The fact that she was showing emotions again told me that she was relieved I was on the task at hand. Good, I hate to see a chummer suffer.
Nasty. Cheap soap. Hard to get her real scent. Felix said, scrunching up his nose in distaste. But I can get it. Actually
He smelled the bag hard, This is her bag, had it for years? Jet nodded. OK, good. I have her scent now. And, with that, he started to run off down the street. Shrugging, I followed him as quickly as I could.
Ive hunted a lot of strange game in my life. Its a hobby of mine. Snowmoose outside Winnipeg and New Boar outside Calgary are particular favorites of mine, good meat and great hides. I even hunted Panzer Rhino once, in Africa, at the behest of my Sister, who is a Nun doing missionary work in that area. Now that was a hunt! This barely paled in comparison. It was simple, really, and complex at the same time. Felix getting the scent so quickly was a good sign.
He ran for eight blocks when I started lamenting leaving the car behind. I should have driven after him, as he was now going on all fours, and moving quicker than I ever could. Finally, he stopped at a corner, squatting down, looking confused.
She was picked up here by a car or truck. Electric-powered, midsize. With an oil leak. He said, as I finally caught up. I let the shock I felt go to my face.
You can tell that by scent? I asked, honestly amazed.
Yes. Theres no stink of Petrol here, just Diesel from big trucks. But the oil is used by midsized vehicles. It could be a compact with someone putting in the wrong oil, but I doubt it. More expensive. I cant scent through traffic, however.
Jet appeared next to us at that, and looked unhappy, Then we cant continue to track further?
Jet, my dear girl, we have yet to begin! One step at a time. Now, find us a convenient alleyway. I have to go someplace that doesnt exist. I said, to their bewildered looks.
The first thing you notice about the Matrix is that its black as night, and filled with stars, in all directions. There was no Ground or Sky unless you visualized it. Some people had to, but I enjoyed the feeling of flying, which is what my Persona, the icon representation of Me in the shared-hallucination of the Matrix, was doing right now. The icon was a generic one, or, rather, it would if not having been build by my Grandfather. It was the old Sariariman or Salary Man icon, a simple man in a chrome suit, but the resolution was jacked way up, and, in this incarnation, heavily damaged, dripping molten steel from seeping wounds. My flesh body was back at my car, laid out in the back seat while Felix drove us around. I didnt like someone else driving, but what I was doing was semi-illegal, so keeping on the move would be a good idea if I somehow started to be tracked.
At least, that was the original idea. I had a better one after I hit the Trix. I often tell the Shadowrunners that I work with that You are your contacts. I was now taking my own advice. Dropping downwards, I moved past the glowing buildings and personas that made up the digital cityscape of Seattle. The Emerald City that was Seattles nickname was apparent in the Matrix, the city offices a glowing green and designed out of a storybook. The generic personas for public users at Data Terminals all over the city is a Green Golem. But not everything was green in the virtual landscape, the Lone Star building was an ancient adobe fortress with the iconic star above the gates, the Aztechnology pyramid was there in all its glory (And secrets), and then there was the Dark Emerald, the underground community of Seattles Matrix, ShadowSea. Descended from the infamous ShadowLand BBS, it was the premier Hacker Hangout, filled with dirty secrets that people didnt want to be let out, there for the reading, and, occasionally, commenting by the peanut gallery, people like myself. It also had the Matrixs version of a few bars in it.
There was no access codes issued, no permissions given, except what you can take yourself. In order to get in, you have to hack it. Cant break in, you shouldnt be in there in the first place. The security isnt exactly tight, but its not a cake-walk either. If it werent for my Uncle Jack, it would have taken some effort. He often gives me a copy of one of his older masking programs that allow me to slip by a lot of medium security items, often better than the Drek Hot programs the rest of the Hackers were using as well. Contacts come from the strangest sources, especially when you grow up with an Uncle that lives in a computer.
ShadowSea, like ShadowLand before it, was run by Neo-Anarchists, and it showed in its design. The place was sculpted and designed by extremely ingenious people, but they followed no set design idea, things firing off left, right, and center. It was chaos incarnate. I loved this place. Looking at all the icons denoting all the documents here, paydata from runs gone bad, articles written by residents explaining things that Shadowrunners were expected to need to know, as well as items that were just interesting. And, sometimes, information that couldnt be trusted to anyone else to ensure that it got out, such as the giant dragon icon that was Dunkelzhans Will, designed by the Presidential Dragon, and put into its read-only place by the infamous Captain Chaos himself. The Will had survived even the latest Matrix Crash a handful of years ago, and a few items still hadnt been fulfilled, despite over a decade passing.
Much as I had wanted to peruse the articles, I was on a timetable, and jumped into another node, The Blue Box. Despite the name, it wasnt based on the old Blue Boxers of old, but, rather, the oldest (And still going) science-fiction show in history. The Blue Box was an old British Police Box that was bigger on the inside than it was the outside. A Control Console in the center dispensed drink programs thatd give you the same effect of alcohol, yet allow you to kick off the effects at any time. Ironically enough, the program was based off of Black Intrusion Countermeasures (IC or Ice to use the slang term) technology, the same kind the Corporations used to kill anyone going after sensitive paydata. As usual, it was a hopping place, filled with the Hackers and hangers on that practically lived in the Matrix. I was bound to run into at least one of these professionals that could get what I needed in half the time I would have needed.
I was partly right. I didnt run into one, one ran into me, with a huge Glomp and a cry of MONEY! The Tackle-Hug dropped my Persona in a flash, but not in any kind of attack, it was sheer affection. Speeder was her name, and her icon was a generic Girl icon that was boosted up in the resolution, and vibrated at a fast speed. A lot of people thought this was homage to her hero, the infamous FastJack, but I personally think its just how fast her brain worked. And the only thing faster than her brain was her fingers and her mouth after that. I didnt even try to understand the blather coming out of her, catching only one word in five, if that. I think it was about her latest shopping trip and the wonderful dress she got that matched her Commlink. Or perhaps about some new shoes. Or a wiz new program she just made. Or a hack she just completed. Or all of the above at the same time.
Speeder was a good kid, making as good a life as she could in this world. Her mother had been a JoyGirl, and Dear Old Moms Pimp had decided that Speeder would make a good one as well. Starting at ten, Speeder had been jacked full of hormones to make her grow up fast, physically at least, in the areas that mattered. Realizing what had happened, shed run away, and was in rather dire straights when she was found on the streets by Sensei, an older hacker, breaking into a vending machine using nothing but the keypad. That was three years ago, and she now had a solid rep in the Shadow community, if considered a bit strange. I had hired her for a few runs, and, aside from being as hyper as humanly possible, she was as good a hacker as one could ask. In any other community, thered be outrage with letting one so young do such dangerous things, but the Shadow Community had an old saying, Old enough to be shot at, old enough to shoot back. Not many Shadowrunners had children, but those few kids learned to shoot as soon as their wrists could handle the recoil.
Sowhatbringsyouhere? she finally got out, slowing down enough to finally allow me to understand her. She didnt get much slower.
I need someone to do a simple hack, Traffic Control cameras. Id do it myself, but am on a timetable and
OKgreatIcandoit! Wherewhen? I gave her the location and the estimated time, and she ran off without any further discussion. I had just gotten a Beer 2.0 from the console (After giving it a good, traditional whack with a hammer) when she came back, file in hand. OKhereyougo!
We didnt negotiate a
ThatsOK! Easynothingtoit! She explained, throwing the packet at me. It was the camera recording, GridGuide records, and schedule of cleaning from the automated street sweepers. My persona looked at her with wide eyes. Silly! She said to me, smiling, and then ran off.
I quickly downed my Beer 2.0, and zoomed back to my own CommLink that I was interfacing the Matrix with, and jacked out. I owed her a whole box of pixie sticks for this, but owed myself a great amount of distance when she got them. Maybe it was time for another hunting trip in Africa again