April 29, 2011

Billie's Journal - Stand off

Kimano, Tsimshian, 26 December 2050

With the toxic air spirit dealt with, there is a long moment of silence. Then the rain starts falling in cold, wet tears as if the Lord himself was mourning the death of the padre. The rain rattles on the tin roof of the guard tower, a roar of divine loss and anger.

I find myself wiping warm, salty tears from my own eyes as I cover the elevator. Gabriel was one of only a very few men that I felt comfortable to be around since...well since a long time. Hell, he'd even seen me naked, although that was after a drunken card game.

He'd also patched me up with his healing mojo more times than I cared to remember. I feel Billie wrapping herself around me, taking away the pain with a steely stare and frag you attitude. I hear myself asking the rest of team in a low Texan drawl, "What now pardners? We got no magic cover and a toxic mage floating about in the astral." Looks like the fake cowgirl is back in charge.

Finlay tells me Cleo is on her way from the village and that he is 'making a few calls'. Zero is checking the matrix through her satellite uplink and Sharon reports back that she is scouting the area for any other ways in or out. She turns up a couple of air vents but they look pretty tight for a body to climb down. Still, they are plenty big enough to drop a grenade or two down if it comes to that.

Zero is muttering in French, a sure sign that her matrix search isn't going well. Seems like there are no records of this place existing at all. It's not even on the recent maps of the area. Smells like a cover up. Sharon says she remembers something about an old US bioweapons research program and eventually Zero turns up the dirt. It's a bioweapon facility alright. One that was supposedly decommisioned with a fuel-air bomb long before I was born. Someone ain't telling the truth.

In the meantime, Finlay has got a hold of Osprey and Russell. Osprey can bring in supplies, Russell is offering some tactical support. We take a vote. None of us particularly fancy going up against magically-active terrorists with bioweapons so he calls in the support. Russell's got some contacts with the Salish chiefs and he tells us they will send up a squad of Wildcats. I've heard of them. Injun special forces and usually got a mage or two amongst them.

Speaking of mages, our Cat shaman is taking her time to get here. Just then, I feel a prickle of hairs rising on the back of my neck and turn slowly to see a big injun just floating in the air right behind me. He ain't real as I can see the rain go through him. I raise an eyebrow questioningly. He tells me if we want to see the padre alive, we need to agree to move out. My heart leaps in my chest but given the number of rounds I heard fired into the elevator I don't hold out much hope. He gives me ten minutes to discuss it with the team then simply blinks out of existence.

I leg it back to Finlay as he is the only one of us currently capable of dealing with spirits or whatever the hell that was. I explain the deal, but I ain't letting these fraggers out with the some plague virus even if the padre is still alive. The rest agree and Finlay tells the spirit as much when it pops back up. It just shrugs and shortly after there is a single gunshot from below. Sorry padre, I can't mourn your death a second time. But I will avenge it.

Cleo finally shows her face. She looks more like a drowned cat and ain't too happy to be out here. We fill her in and she takes a peek onto the astral. She starts flailing around with her arms and gives a short shriek as something cuts into her arm. It's a shallow cut, but shocks the hell out of me. Seems if you get hurt on the astral, it comes over into the real world, just like what happens to Zero if things go bad for her in the matrix. Cleo seems pretty shaken up about it too, claiming some owl spirits and a big old injun took offence to her checking in on them. Yep, the same big old injun chief as popped up behind me.

Ain't nothing to do but wait. Frag me if that ain't the hardest thing. Sharon drops some smoke down the air shafts with no result and then takes a look at the elevator shaft but decides it's too risky. The padre's heroic charge is still too raw to try that.

Zero cannibalizes our cellphones to whip up a couple of motion detectors, which we put on the furthest air vents just in case. Good thing too, as it gets dark mighty early round these parts and the rain ain't helping. Cleo gets antsy and tries to break the ward around the shaft, only to get her ass handed to her by the chief. She makes it back to her body coughing up blood as I try to stop the bleeding from a bad cut on her neck. Our catgirl ain't the smartest mage I ever met.

I stay with her in the building housing the generator. It's a bit more sheltered from the elements than the guard tower. Sharon stay with me although I think she's more interested in Cleo than me. Finlay and Zero take over watch in the tower. Only a couple more hours till Osprey gets here with the Wildcats.

Then I hear Zero over the commlink. Someone moving by the elevator. I hear Finlay's assault rifle open up as I move to the door. Then small arms fire opens up to my left. Sharon curses and then there's the scarily recognizable whump of a grenade launcher going off. Fortunately it's Sharon doing the shooting and the grenade takes out the hostiles shooting at us. Good shooting that girl.

My cybereyes ain't as good as real elven eyes in the dark, but they still pick out the dude Zero spotted legging it away from the elevator. I aint too bothered about shooting these fraggers in the back. The Winchester kicks hard and down he goes.

Finlay opens up on the shaft, shouting that some are getting away. I head out at a run calling for Sharon to cover me. One gets a couple of shots off at me, but I got long legs just made for running. I pull up next to the wall and then put a round through his chest. As he tumbles backward, I see blood and brains explode from his head as Zero finishes him off in her signature style.

And then I'm moving again, towards the village and the dock. Only too late I realise that I aint protected by Cleo's magic. I duck and roll as the mage spots me but my body is engulfed in magical fire. I roll out of his line of sight and the pain stops, then hits me hard again as the shock wears off. Lucky he doesn't hang around to finish me off. I crawl back to the camp and slump next to Cleo while Sharon tries to patch me up. Unfortunately the medkit seems to know more about first aid than she does, but at least I won't bleed out.

I fade in and out of consciousness for a couple more hours before the Wildcats arrive. Fortunately one of them is a mage and heals Cleo and me up. Unfortunately the mage got away, but not the two that Sharon hit with the concussion grenade. Sure hope they know where there boss went.

April 2, 2011

Billie's Journal - Christmas

Kimano, Tsimshian, 25 December 2050

Christmas day is spent travelling from the shithole that is Kimano, through several hundred kilometers of corporate deforestation to a slightly less shitty fishing village that goes by the name of 'Kitsucky'. Well I aint exactly sure that's how the local braves, I mean native americans, would pronounce it, but it sure fits. Well, the sucky part at least.

We pull up at the local watering hole in our conspicuously clean and shiny corporate vehicle and stroll on in. The natives are all fisherman with the exception of the old lady running the place. While they give us a once over, it doesn't have the glare of the Kimano braves and they don't immediately try to kick us out.

And they have fresh fish on the menu. The vegetables that go with it are unfortunately boiled soy as is the crap they serve for beer, but the fish is fragging delicious. Finlay negotiates with the old lady for a place to stay and she directs us to the local padre, I mean priest.

He's suspicious but lets us crash in the wooden shack that passes for a church hereabouts. Like the rest of the village it aint exactly in good shape, but at least it's dry and warm. Unlike the shower the next morning. It ain't the first time I've washed in cold water in winter, but going by the screams, it is for Cleo. Though to give her credit she does come out shivering but clean.

We're at the docks before it gets light and Finlay offers one of the fisherman a wad of cash to take us out to the island mentioned on the file Zero recovered. Like the rest of the locals, he claims no-one's been living there for a long while. However, if the crazy corp types we're posing as want to play tourist he's happy to take the easy money. I think he gets a hint that we might not be who we claim to be when we load on the duffel bags full of guns, but he keeps quiet.

The dock on the island is about all that's left of the main village. And it's still falling apart. We poke around for a while but looks like the locals are telling the truth. Aint no signs of life in these parts. Gabriel, the padre, sends out a couple of cherubs to look the place over but they don't find anything, so he goes astral and takes a look himself. After an hour or so of freezing our butts off, he wakes up and tells us he found a warded area about an hours or so's walk from the village. At least the walk will warm us up.

Cresting the rise we spot what looks like an internment camp out of them NAN uprising trids. Long abandoned, with only a few buildings still intact. Gabriel points at a squat bunker in the middle of the compound and tells us that's where the ward is. We head down for a closer look. As we get closer, Finlay tells us he smells diesel and soon enough the rest of us can hear the sound of a diesel generator. We find it in the remains of the building closest to the bunker. An armored cable runs from it to a control panel for the bunker's only feature, a pair of heavy elevator doors.

Before we can get a good look at the place, the generator kicks into life and the elevator starts to rise. Finlay and Sharon take up covering positions on the elevator doors, while the rest of us take cover around the corner of the bunker. Gabriel mumbles prayers, while I ready the SMG. I also hear the click-clack of the slide on Zero's pistol.

I hear the doors open and a couple of bursts of assault rifle fire, then Finlay reports all clear. There are two bodies lying in the entrance to the lift, both in hazmat suits. I really don't like the idea of going down there. While we haul the bodies out of sight the padre steps into the lift and hits the button. Sharon tries to stop him and nearly loses a foot as the heavy doors close, only pulling it out at the last minute. Zero mashes the elevator button in a vain attempt to stop it, but down it goes.

The lift dings. There is a faint bang followed by the dull sound of automatic weapons, then silence. There's no chance he could of survived that. The lift starts it's return journey and I break for cover. There's a guard post behind us that will give a good field of fire on the lift. Sharon takes cover as well and Finlay heads for the roof of the building with the generator. Zero heads into that building and there is a mechanical stutter as she shuts down the generator. Smart girl. She then joins Finlay on the roof.

Just as I am about to ask what we should do, Finlay suddenly spins on the roof, his spear glowing with magical energy and thrusts out at empty air. No, not empty I realise as a yellowish mist forms around him. He twists away, swinging and stabbing at the cloud with his spear. I switch aim from the doors and put a round through the cloud, but it doesn't seem to affect on it.

Fortunately, Finlay's spear does and within moments it's all over. The cloud dissipates but Finlay warns that there is another astral presence, possibly our target.