Jayden 5: Enter the Shadows
Enter the Shadows
By Crazy Minh
My friends gave their assent as we sat round the table in my underground lab. As part of Devisor Workshop, I had been assigned a personal lab in the tunnels to work on projects in. Seeing such a space available, I had installed a Replicator cabinet from the Star Trek universe, a workbench with plasma cutter assembly and a toolchest, a large free-standing console, a couch and TV and a large, round table at which me and my friends were currently sitting at. On the table were five bags of polyhedral die, four core rulebooks for Shadowrun: Fifth Edition, three plastic cups, two bottles of Sprite, a pile of Pizza boxes from a pizzeria in Boston, four trays of Tim-Tams, a folding screen, and a assorted collection of character sheets, paper, rule supplements and pens. In essence, all we needed for a late-night session of tabletop gaming.
“Yep. Right, how do we play?? asked Alex, staring at a page of weapons at the back of his rulebook. Next to him sat Ivy, already assigning points to her character (having convinced me to GM this session in the first place). On his other side was Izzy, fiddling with a random six-sided die. On her left was Biskit, who was using his interface wires to hold a die in mid-air. He stared up at the stack of Pizza with awe. Biskit had requested to take part in the session. I had agreed, and downloaded the rulebooks to his hard drive. He was too small to hold a pencil, so I had built a character sheet writing machine for him to use as a replacement. It featured a grouping of manual keys like a typewriter, as well as a articulated arm to write on the sheet with. To avoid cheating, I had made it completely mechanical, so that he could not reprogram it beyond the very basic interface.
“Right. SO, we’re playing Shadowrun. In this game, you control a runner, a criminal who…”
“Sorry, can we skip the fluff, and get to the crunch??” said Biskit. “As Alex said: How. Do. We. Play?”
“Does everyone want to skip the intro???”
Everyone nodded, bar Ivy who was embroiled in her character creation. I took a breath. I had never GM’d a session of Shadowrun with people I knew before. Whenever I was in a suitable dimension, and looking for a game, I would usually just join a existing group for however many weeks or months I was in that particular universe. So far, I had been in the Whateley Universe for a record-breaking time of two months and fifteen days. I was beginning to settle in for the long term, but I still felt like a prisoner sometimes.
“I was going to ease you into it, but OK. So, you want to know how to play…”
An agonizing hour later, I had drummed the basics of gameplay into my friends, and everyone had finished their characters. The lights were dimmed via a remote, a old-timey jukebox (actually a high-definition digital speaker hooked up via bluetooth to my laptop) began to play some ambient music, and I began the story.
“Your group has been bought together by your regular fixer, Maxham. He’s been asked to assemble a team for a mysterious Mr Johnson…”
I looked blankly at Alex. “I explained this literally thirty five seconds ago.”
“…Thank you Biskit,” I cut in. “Alex, how have you forgotten so quickly???”
“Oh…he’s one of those guys who gives the job. So, that’s just slang??? He’s not actually…”
“Called Mr. Johnson, yes,” finished Ivy. “His real name is unknown, Continue Jayden.”
“Ahem. Anyway, your client has requested you meet him in a parking lot outside a run-down theatre on the slummy outskirts of the Seattle Sprawl…”
I detailed the plot for the team. The target was a magical tome currently held within the archives of the Renraku Building in the downtown business district. My friends quickly caught onto the fact that it was in a upmarket section of town, and as such would be very, very well policed. They immediately delegated prep tasks to each member. Alex (who was playing the charismatic ‘Face’ of the group) would scout out the archives, and get info on their day-to-day operations. Ivy (who was playing a Technomancer hacker) would matrix scout the perimeter of their digital defences, and get info on how they would handle the cyberspace portion of the run. Izzy (playing a Mage with specialization in summoning critters) spend her time obtaining the public-domain blueprints for the building. In a fit of kindness as the GM, I allowed this. Don’t get me wrong, she isn’t like, special to me or anything. I think. I hope I think. Whatever, I’ll get on with the story.
The other member of the team, Biskit, was playing the cybernetically enhanced rigger/street samurai. While the others had opted to play pretty narrow characters despite Shadowrun’s lack of a defined class system for characters, Biskit had decided to combine two missing roles from the team into one. His character was delegated the task of preparing the team’s gear, as well as performing drone reconnaissance on the interior of the building. Surprisingly, he was pretty adept at playing the game. This may or may not have been because he was a AI who was smarter than the entire population of the school combined, but it also may have been due to his ability to predict every outcome of every variable affecting the dice rolls, therefore working out the optimal way to throw the die to get the desired outcome each time. While I had my suspicions, I didn’t want to ruin the game by being ‘that guy’, so I kept quiet each time the small dog rolled successful tests and failed very few.
At the end of the first session, the stage was set for the run. Biskit had determined that the security guards of the complex were few, and that most of the security came from dedicated robot patrol units, mainly Doberman combat drones and flying camera drones. The archive itself was a data storage facility that Renraku shared with a number of other companies (as determined by Alex). The security system- while top-notch- was aging and had a number of easily exploited flaws that the building’s owners had not seen fit to fix this late in the building’s lifespan. In fact, the plans stored in the Seattle Mayors Office indicated to Izzy that the building was due for demolishment within the next two years, and was to be replaced by a better building to store the company premises. As such, the owners of the facility were laying off human security, and pulling out the majority of the expensive security equipment, leaving the cheaper and more sturdy electronics in place. This was backed up by Ivy’s shallow exploration of the building’s grid, which revealed significant holes in their digital security. However, before the run could commence, we realised it was coming up on curfew, and lights out would be ten minutes afterwards. We departed for the night, ready to reconvene Saturday evening.
“…What do you mean we can’t use the lab!!!”
I stood in front of the workshop doors and folded my arms. In front of me, my entire team stood in varying states of fury. Alex was the least annoyed, simply looking cross that the game would be delayed. I blocked a attempt by Ivy to step through, instead pointing to the screen I had installed in the wall beside the door. It was showing a biohazard sign.
“I had a botched experiment accidentally coat the inside of the lab with highly radioactive drive plasma. Unless you want your internal organs to start glowing bright blue and your body hair to wither and fall off, I’d advise not going into the lab.”
“Oh god!!!” exclaimed Ivy, stepping back. “Is it dangerous to stand here??”
“If it was, you wouldn’t have been allowed within the vicinity of this tunnel section,” I replied. “When I was assigned this lab, the first thing I did was improve the quality of the shielding. All the tunnel labs are hermetically sealed and equipped with shielding against small levels of radiation. I took the liberty of adding shielding against anything up to a small nuclear explosion, and also a decontamination system. The hazmat robots that form that decon system are currently cleaning up the mess, so it’ll be about sixteen hours before the lab is safe for use. In the mean time, I’ve convinced the librarian to allow us to use the library past curfew, for a longer session. In return for about $40,000 dollars of books from my collection, they’ll turn a blind eye to us staying past when all students should be in their cottages. Anyone want to miss out??”
When we were all settled in a out-of the way corner of the library, we began the session anew. The runner team began the break-in, and soon managed to approach the goal. We exchanged banter, and laughed while the librarians left through the back door. Unknown to us, the campus had some real intruders, and ones who were bent on obtaining a certain item from the very place we were in...
“Spike, is the sensor net down yet??? Hey, Spike!!!”
Spike, a thin man wearing military-grade tactical gear turned from his handheld console to reprimand his larger companion. The larger man was also clad in simular gear, and carried a M16 assault rifle equipped with a suppressor. He spoke with a Texan drawl tinged with a mild European bur. Spike was carrying a smaller weapon, a supressed machine pistol of the Uzi family, and spoke in a mid-western accent.
“Quiet Breaker!! I’m almost done. Watchman, you see anything inside?”
The third man was working a drone controller, his face clad in a strange headset with arachnid-like eyes glowing on the front. His weapon was a large Barret .50 BMG sniper, with a longer suppressor attached to the barrel. Unlike the others, he wore gear with tiger stripes, marking him as part of the Syndicate’s elite Sabertooth tactical teams. He looked up, and shook his head. When he spoke, his voice was a unidentifiable international accent.
“I’ve got nothing. The building is heavily insulated, and the insulation’s made of something that’s interfering with my thermal vision. The drone can’t get any intel.”
“Well, keep it orbiting, and keep an eye out for Whateley Security. I’ve disabled the sensor grid up till this point, but we’re really close to a major hub for the sensor systems, so it’s a bit…harder…”
Spike pumped a fist as he successfully hacked into the sensor grid node for the sector of the Whateley campus they were in. “Got it. Right, the sensors should ignore us, and the escape route is already clear. Breaker, take point. Watchman, take the rear. I’ll look for the objective. Remember, if you see a tome marked ‘The Book of Song’ then that’s probably our objective, unless they’ve got two copies in which case, bonus!”
The two other men nodded, and pulled up balaclavas. The shouldered their weapons, and eased open the library door, not noticing the light coming from a window further down the front of the building.
“…right, Biskit, you’re going to have to…”
I froze as the front door of the library creaked open, and a distinct cocking of a automatic weapon was heard. I quickly initiated the team’s subvocal communications network and ordered everyone to duck into the cover of a nearby bookshelf, biskit extinguishing the table lamp that was plonked onto our table. The three men who had just come through the door brandishing weapons froze, and whirled towards the table. They saw nothing, biskit sneaking away underneath the skirting board of the wall.
“I swear I saw a light turn off over there!!!”
“Well, there’s nobody there. So it was probably your imagination,” Spike told Breaker. “Anyway, it’s after curfew. None of the students or staff should be here. Perfect time to come in and..”
“Well, you got that wrong.”
Spike whirled to see a young man wearing a trench coat leaning against a pillar, casually checking his nails. The three men pointed their weapons at him, and walked forwards menacingly.
“Put your hands where I can see them!!!”
“Oh, and why would I do that??? You’re the ones in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Spike laughed. “Kid, you have no idea how deluded you really…”
Before the lanky merc could complete his sentence, the kid had vanished through a portal. Behind them, two figures emerged and proceeded to disarm Breaker and Watchman with quick blows, before vanishing back into the apertures from which they had come from. A Spike tried to turn and aim his weapon, but found something small and black zoom in-between his feet. When he tried to give chase, he found that the shape had tied his shoelaces together, and instead fell over onto his face. The lights turned on, and he found himself and his team surrounded by kids. Breaker and Watchman were both on the floor, pinned by two of the children, while the young man from before was aiming a large revolver at Spike’s head.
“Don’t bother getting up, old man. Security is on their way, and my god!!! You’ve ruined our game for this!!! I mean, a bit more of a fight would of made the struggle worth it, but seriously!!!”
Spike gritted his teeth, and waited for the security team to arrive and take him and his men away into custody. This was not what he thought would happen when he agreed to raid a School!!
“Well, that was truly stuffed.”
The team were now back at Alex & Jayden’s room, after having given their statements to security. While there were some eyebrows raised at how late after curfew they were up and about at, the team had taken their statements and let them go without much fuss. Now, the team was about ready to call the day quits.
“I mean, just as we were about to grab the tome, we get jumped by a group of mercs in real life. That makes me wonder…why were they in the library???”
Alex frowned. “That certainly is a good point. These were pros, and they were apparently hired to attack a school library, and presumably steal something. Why would something in the school library be that important???”
I shrugged. “Hell if I know. But, this means that we have a mystery to solve!!!”
To Be Continued….possibly.