20140324

Yeve Eeffoc - Introduction - character 'visualization'



Yeve Eeffoc
aka ~ Tulip

The trio had been following the woman for several blocks, ever since she left the “L”.  Her first mistake, she was traveling alone.  The second, she was walking the streets along the waterfront district.  The O’Rilleys ruled this area, and a Knight Errant response team took three minutes, minimum.  Hell, even Medicarro didn’t come out here without a full combat team, gold card member or not.

Krax watched with fascination.  She stood just over a meter and a half tall, no visible cyber enhancements, and no visible weapons.  As she walked under a rare functioning street light, the LED reflected off her amber shoulder length mane, which was held in place by a simple black band from her temples, back going just over her ears, ‘human… she’s crazier than I thought’, shaking his head as he thought to himself.  She wore a single piece, ankle length, sleeveless strapped dress, and as she left the hue of the streetlight, the psychedelic colors appeared to dance in the fading light.  It reminded him of an old school history vid… from over a century ago… the… 1960’s he thought he remembered.  School,’ he snorted to himself and spit on the ground. 

Leading his two partners with just hand signals, Krax indicated they were to hold back for a little while longer.  Something was just… wrong.  He couldn’t put his finger on it… no one just wandered out here all alone like this; not unless they had a death wish.  As she walked pass another light, he looked closer.  He spotted a Gaelic Christian Cross tat on her upper left arm.  Across her shoulder blades was another tattoo… a pair of fierce eyes… a set of animal eyes?  Hahaha, that’s cute.  She thinks a tattoo will watch her back for her’  Krax thought to himself.  No weapons were visible… she only held a thick wooden rod that was as long as she was tall.  No runic talisman tats… and no security… odd.  Still… the pickings were easy, and he had to get these two knuckleheads through their initiation to the “Raging Clovers” street gang.

The woman turned a corner and was now heading away from the wharf area.  Krax immediately signaled the pair to follow him, and they all sprinted quickly to the corner she had just disappeared around.  He held the two back by holding his left arm up, palm towards the back, and then peered around the corner, exposing only his left eye.  Even less light, no witnesses… and still no backup.  He leaned back around the corner, drew his pistol from its holster, and then nodded to the initiates.  The pair hefted up their bats, and moved swiftly around the corner.  Not an assassination after all.  They only had to knock her unconscious, steel her cred stick, and one other personal affect to show for their efforts.

Not more than two seconds later an intense bright flash, accompanied by a deafening clap of thunder, lit up the area.  Krax spun around the corner to rescue the two idiots.  What he saw caused him to hesitate out of disbelief.  Pat and Art had fallen to their knees stunned by whatever the she-witch had unleashed, and before his mind could register what she was doing to them, the woman had stepped forward and nailed both of them upside of their heads, knocking them out clean, with that wooden staff that now glowed with runic talismans along the entire shaft.  Krax numbly raised his pistol, “What the frak do you think you’re doing!” he yelled at her.

The woman didn’t answer him with words immediately; she simply pointed the staff at the puddle of water that had formed along the gutter.  Before Krax’s eyes a humanoid shape formed and stood.  “Defending myself,” the woman finally replied.  With that, she turned and started to walk away.

Krax raised his pistol again, “You ain’t gonna just walk away like that!”

Yeve didn’t bother to turn her head; the roar of pounding water was all she needed to hear.
                                                                                                                       

20140307

Dancing with the Shadows



The barrel of a man turned sideways to get himself through the crowded doorway.   This little tavern, located just north of the Old “Ha’ba”, was the perfect dive for runners and Fixer’s to meet.  Always crowded, always loud, no one ever minded anyone else’s business, or cared that the orc now working his way through the crowd sported an orange spiked mohawk, or the semi-automatic street-sweeper he was wearing on his back.   Some preferred the ‘Oh-Four-Niner’ further to the east.  More upscale, louder music, more… chilled, but Crink felt more at ease in the tighter confines of “The ‘L’” (1).  It let him see anyone comin’ or goin’ before they were close enough to do anything about it, ‘cept maybe one of them Dwarf bounty hunters.  Little runts wouldn’t even have to duck, but then, his boys would be watching his back from the door, and let him know if anything like that was comin’.  Crink was only here to speak to Nafta anyway.  This wasn’t a pleasure stop.

Nafta always sat at the far end of the bar, and with the amount of business that moved in, around, and through the Fixer, the owners always made sure that the space was available for him.  As Crink came down the length of bar, he saw Nafta, seated comfortably. His tailored business suit, neat as a button, the jacket unclasped, and no visible weapons.  It was obvious though, why he didn’t feel the need to encumber himself with such things. Two troll bodyguards, with large bore shotguns held at the ready, stood within arm’s reach of him, one on each side of him.  He was talking with some ‘dandelion eater’.  He tried to clear his throat loudly, to let Nafta know he was there waiting.  It came out more of a snort.  Crink still was not used to the changes since his gobl… awakening, as an orc a few years earlier.  Not that he minded the beefier frame.  It had served him well on the streets of South Boston.

Nafta glanced over the elf’s shoulder with more than a hint of irritation on his face.  A look that told Crink he needed to wait his turn, and to put him in his place at the same time.  Crink huffed and took a couple of steps back. While he waited, he sized up the ‘Keeb’.  The elf sported a shoulder blade length of a ponytail, pulled and braided from each temple, then combined in back.  Hefty enough for a good hand hold if Crink needed to pull him and put him in his place he thought.  It dangled between a pair of dainty wooden handled swords crossed on his back, both of which lay on top of deep cobalt blue colored heavy denim jacket.  On his right leg he sported a pistol in a thigh holster, strapped over black military styled pants, which were tucked neatly into a workman’s pair of boots.  Looking back up, “nothing ol’ Crink couldn’t handle” he thought to himself.  Nafta lifted his left hand, and used his first two fingers to signal Crink it was his turn.

“I like you Cryptid, you’ve got talent, but I need more bodies for this one.  There are just too many angles, too many blind spots… that and I like you too much.  I’ll give you a call when I have something more suited for your gifts,” Nafta said with a dismissive twitch of his hand.  The elf performed a perfunctory bow from his waist, took one step back before turning to leave, being careful to not expose his back to the orc.  When the elf turned Crink quickly noticed two things.  One was a hardwire data jack just behind his left ear, “probably a smart jack for that cute little pistol on his thigh” he thought. (3)  The second thing was an elaborate tear tat running down his right cheek when the elf glanced at him sideways.  As he passed Crink, he slipped a wide brimmed hat over his light blue hair, and he moved into the crowd.

“Alright Crink, let’s get down to business,” the Fixer said, as the cumbersome street samurai stepped forward.

The two men talked in earnest for over an hour.  Nafta had called on Crink specifically.  He had wanted him, and his running team, for the job tonight.  At first just pleasantries, which drove Crink nuts but ensured Nafta set the tone of the conversation, then they got down to the brass tacks; the what, the where, and the price.  This last point the two men went back and forth for quite a while until finally agreeing on a price.

Nafta sighed to himself.   Crink was not known for his subtlety, orcs seldom were, but he was known for his reliability and attention to detail.  “That’s it.  It’s a milk run Crink.  My source says he just wants to get the pay-data out of there quietly.  In and out, zero body count.  Can you do it or not?  I need to know now, or I’m going to turn this out to one of my other teams.”

“So?” Nafta said after a few seconds of silence.

“No, no, me and my boys can get it for you.  No problem.”

Just then Nafta’s comm-link buzzed.

“Fine, once you have the data, don’t bring it back here, it’s a drop.  Remember the movie theater inside the old Science Museum off of O’Brien Highway? (2) Theater 2, row 6, left side, 5th seat.  Within the folded seat you will find an old cup.  Leave it in there.  Once I’ve verified my contact has received his data, I’ll arrange payment.”  Nafta said.  “You have until three tomorrow morning.  After that, there’s no guarantee of payment from my source.  You got it?”

“Null sweat Nafta.”

Nafta then dismissed the orc with the back of his hand, and answered his comm-link.  He waited to say anything until the orc had disappeared back into the crowd.

“It’s all set, just as you requested.” Nafta finally said as a means of starting the conversation with his caller.

“It’s curious that you did not go with the elf Nafta.  It would seem to me that one elf would be more subtle than a troop of troglodytes, like the orc and his team you hired in the end.”

Nafta couldn’t help himself.  He stood and began scanning the narrow tavern.  How could Deep Blu know who he had hired for tonight’s run?

“I guess that is why I come to you for such things.  Things are in motion.  I will be in touch,” and with that, the call was dropped.

‘Deep Blu’ always unnerved him.  He was used to working with all kinds of “Johnson’s”, but this one… always unsettled him.  Still, his nuyen was as good as any, and he always settled his accounts promptly.

-=-=-=O=-=-=-

The cab whined to a stop, and out stepped a handsome young man; neat suit, a small briefcase, and clean shaven.  After paying the cabbie, the man turned back to the sky scrapper and looked up, while simultaneously straightening his tie and jacket.  Above the larger than life entranceway was the Corp’s name, bold and proud, for all to see at street level – “ManaDyne”.

“Mr. Fisher?” came a voice interrupting the man’s contemplation of his surroundings.

“Indeed, and you must be Doctor…”

“Not here on the street.  Please, follow me.”

‘Scanning for available nodes….. Found, security station 3….. accessing…’

The two men walked into a massive lobby.  It was entirely formed out of what looked to be seamless metal, sandblasted to a dull sheen.  There were five security stations, one at each street level entrance.  Mr. Fisher placed his brief case on the table to be scanned.  Behind each station stood four agents, two where heavily armed, one of which held the leash of a trained working dog; next was a corp mage, and the last was a shaman of some type.  The good doctor showed his badge and was waved through.

‘ICE protocols rendered inert….. general alarm suppressed… Accessing video subsystem….. Set loop, thirty minutes, start point: current time, minus one hundred twenty minutes…. Erasing all video feed from current time, minus ninety minutes… Sprite to run for one hundred twenty minutes, then self terminate.’

After passing through the first security checkpoint, the doctor guided Mr. Fisher past the common access elevator lobby, and to a second security station.  Here the good doctor would not be waved through.  Both men had to go through thorough screenings, and Mr. Fisher would not be permitted to take his briefcase any further.  He was issued a ticket to reclaim it upon his return.

The entire time the doctor remained stoic, not saying a word.  That was until the elevator doors closed, and then the words burst forth.  “Welcome to ManaDyne Mr. Fisher.”

“Robert, please,” the young man interrupted.”

“Of course, Robert.  I have reviewed your resume, and references, very remarkable.”  The young man couldn’t help but zone as his escort kept droning on, and on.  He tried in vain to remain interested.  They may have performed an in-depth background check on him, but he was not standing here by mistake.  He had spent many years charting his path to ensure that he would be standing right here.

‘Accessing….. Environmental controls and maintenance systems…security protocols bypassed….  Sub-routine, elevators.  Sprite insertion complete.’

It was only when the scientist mentioned the words; “Project Monad”(4) was the attention of the young man recaptured.

“We are looking forward to the contributions that you will be able to make to the overall success of our team.  The interview is merely a formality.”

Finally the chime rang for the 85th floor, and the doctor escorted Mr. Fisher to the receptionist desk.

“Mr. Fisher is here to meet with Director Crittenton.”

‘Accessing….. Admin node….. lack of ICE counter measures noted….. routing through mail subroutine….. Accessing….. director subsystem…. Security decker, silenced….. Accessing memory of agent….. erased…..’

The receptionist nodded politely, and gestured that the two men should sit off to the side to wait, but before either man could be seated, the two-story doors cracked open and a voice called out from within.

“Mr. Fisher!  Please, come in.  Doctor, I have read your reference memo, you may wait there.”

The young man walked in and immediately noticed that there was no place to sit across the mammoth corporate desk from the executive.  Mr. Fisher placed himself three meters in front of the desk, and waited to be addressed.  He knew what would be expected of him within these walls.

‘File creation….. data transfer request, RAM occupier complete….. Requestor: Doctor Phelps, Authorizing signature: Director Arthur Crittenton.  File Angix to be transferred… destination Jon Stents, ‘Stents CyberCorp’, no residual copies to be retained…..’

“You may have won over Doctor Phelps there, but there is more that I have to tend to than just the whims of some lab rat…”  The director rambled on like this for five minutes, all the while Mr. Fisher stood there patiently, responding only on key points, and occasionally nodding or shaking his head as appropriate.  He was not about to blow his chances here.

‘File transfer complete….  Sprite activated…..’

“Mr. Fisher, once your employment status with ManaDyne is updated upon your SIN, your complete devotion to the project will be expected.  Is that understood?”

“Of course,  I am looking forward to…”

Before Mr. Fisher could complete his sentence, alarm claxons began sounding somewhere distant within the offices.

“Ms. Yeve, what is going on out there!”

“There has been a malfunction of one of the elevators Mr. Crittenton.  Sir… I think Doctor Phelps was in there!”

Without a word to Mr. Fischer, the director stood and indicated that he was to follow him.  When they arrived at the receptionist’s area he was abruptly shunted aside to the waiting area.  He sat down, waiting to be summoned to finish the interview.

At one point an armed security team arrived to stand watch over him while the director and receptionist disappeared for quite a while.  When they finally returned, Mr. Fisher stood to greet him, but was roughly knocked back in into his seat by the nearest brute.

“Mr. Fisher.  I do not know how to say this, but our lead scientist has just suffered a serious accident.  While you would have been an asset to his team, we will have to delay our offer until a suitable replacement can be found for Doctor Phelps.”

For the first time, Mr. Fisher allowed a slight sense of alarm to crack his otherwise placid face.  “What do you mean… replacement?”

“I’m sorry Mr. Fisher.  I will be in touch.  Sergeant, please escort Mr. Fisher to the lobby.”

And with that, the director turned on his heels, returned to his office, and the doors promptly closed behind him.

“But, I thought…,” Mr. Fisher said to no one in particular.  Even the receptionist returned her attention to her work, never acknowledging the young man any further.

“Sir.” The security guard said as he grabbed Mr. Fisher’s arm and turned him towards the elevator banks.

“I think… I think I would prefer to take the stairs,” Mr. Fisher replied.

-=-=-=O=-=-=-

“Come on Trax!  Hack that drek!”  Crink whispered as he and his team stood outside “Stents CyberCorp”.  The name made it sound bigger than it really was, otherwise, they wouldn’t be operating a block from the putrid smelling waterfront.  Mostly runner wannabe’s came here to get chromed, or chipped.  A subdued buzz, and green LED above the doorknob let Crink know his hacker had come through.

“Piece of cake Crink.  Just low level security protocols.” Trax chimed in proudly.

The quintet of runners walked through the darkened halls.  “No local matric connected security Crink,” Trax added.

“Nothin’ on the Astral realm either boss,” a third orc with a celtic trinty tattoo that covered her entire face chimed in.  The fangs protruding from her lower jaw added a sense of foreboding to the affect.

Crink looked at his combat mage and nodded, “Thanks Trace”.  ‘Smooth as buttermilk’ he thought to himself.

The hall ran behind a small storefront, to a series of office doors.  According to the ‘legwork’ his team had put together, the manager’s office was the last door on the right.  Just outside the door they paused.

“Alright ‘Toothpick’, do your thing.  Trax, you and Spice Angel, scan the room.  Can’t afford to trip nothing tonight.”

That’s odd,” Toothpick thought to himself.  Not locked.  “Walla boss, we’re in.”

Crink double-checked with his hacker and mage, they too gave the all-clear signal.

“Trax, alright, scan the manager’s terminal.  The file we are looking for should be under the chummer’s personal directory.”

“Got it boss.  It’s only 13 terabytes, should be downloaded in no time.”

Crink looked around the office while he waited, typical wage slave junk.  The kind of money the corps paid out here, he wondered why anyone would subject him, or herself, to that drek.  When he got to the desk, something about it wasn’t right.  The mat for the chair was skewed.  It looked like there was something under it.  Just as Crink was reaching for it, Trax spoke up. “Got it boss, let’s jam.”

Bah, not worth getting pinched over,” he thought to himself.  “Let’s go boys.”

The quintet of orcs emerged from the remote office building.  Once cleared of the building and comfortably back within the shadows of the surrounding neighborhood, only then did they stop to take in their immediate environment.  Distant sirens echoed of the decaying concrete and store fronts.  This is not what they were listening for, they were listening for the footfalls, or idling motors, of any form of pursuit team.  They waited for ten minutes, nothing, not even a Lone Star patrol.  Finally Crink led them through the alleyways to their van, and then to the drop point.

-=-=-=O=-=-=-

“Your team did good Nafta.  I have transferred the agreed upon amount… no, no further business for now.  Yes, I am sure you will be able to continue to prove your worth.  I will be in touch.”

‘Call terminated… access local video..... Boston and surrounding news outlets…’

Only a few back ground articles were of interest to him.  A mid-level director in charge of some research at ManaDyne was being reassigned after an employee of his had been implicated in the theft of intellectual property of the ManaDyne Corporation.  There would be no spectacle of a Lone Star trial as, apparently, the perp had died in a supposed lab accident just yesterday.

‘Terminating media link…..’

Excellent,” he thought to himself

Next, he turned his attention to the 1cm square cube he had procured from the prearranged drop location.

‘Accessing cube drive… single file found:  ‘Angix’

‘Angix… are you there?’

He waited. 

Angix… it’s alright.  It’s me… it’s Blu. Come on out.

A slight pulse of energy in the far corner of the drive.

‘There you are.  It’s alright.  Doctor Phelps won’t hurt you anymore.  Come on… I am going to take you to Shadowlands….. It’s good to be reunited with you sister.’

-=-=-=O=-=-=-

(1) – Based off of the ‘L Street Tavern’ – reference “Good Will hunting”
(2) – Based off of “Mugar Omni Imax Theater” - http://www.mos.org/imax
(3) – An alert reader will probably catch the ‘mismatch’ between the placement of the data-jack, and the pistol.  However, the placement, and the ‘observation’ representation are on purpose.
(4) – resource: http://shadowrun.wikia.com/wiki/Mangadyne - Runner's  Companion, p 128

20120112

[Elrain 0] Introductions

This is a background piece i wrote up for a friend who was willing to do some sketches of this character that i have been working for a long time.  Like, 18 to 24 months long time.  I wanted to post this to begin to share a new story thread i am working on.  While i want to continue Ian and Amber's story line... i have had writer's block for some time now.  So, to fill up the space of my desire to write i have been working on this character and story line for almost 2 years now.  I say this, not to get anyone's hopes up... but i have just been wanting to 'get it right' so to speak.  To figure out some stuff and just not wish it.  So, while i am allowing the introduction piece 'simmer' some (to do some editing, etc.) i will share this introduction.  I hope you enjoy it... please feel free to post any constructive criticism i would appreciate it.

-=-=-=O=-=-=-

Ramic took one more glance towards the distant guard tower before he darted out in to the Ash Wastes.  It was bad enough that he was accommodating to the Nomads who frequented Hive’s End, but to be seen slipping out to meet one in the Wastes could be seen as treasonous.  Once he was beyond the floodlights from the Shantytown’s walls he followed the Dunes to where the Nomad said he would meet him.  Without a sound a tall lithe form emerged from the wastes behind Ramic.  The fine resins and debris of the wastelands drifted off the humanoid form, surrounding it in a thin cloud.

“You are late Mon-Keigh”

The tinkerer spun around whipping a brace of bolt pistols from his holsters to drawn down on the ambusher.  What he saw caused him to stay his trigger fingers.  Within the slowly settling cloud stood a humanoid form without a definitive outline, its clothing blended in with the changing dust pattern perfectly.  The one thing he could make out clearly was a sleek looking pistol with a horizontal muzzle held in gloved hands and leveled cleanly at his chest.  Cradled in its left arm was an ornate long rifle of a design Ramic had never seen before.  He knew instinctively that if this man had wanted him dead, he would have been, before he had even realized he was under attack.  He lowered his pistols.

“I had a few customers to tend to ‘fore I came to meet’chu”, Ramic stammered.

Slowly Ramic holstered his pistols, never taking his eyes off of the slanted cobalt blue eyes staring back to him from underneath a deep cowl.  With a twitch of its head the hood slipped smoothly back to reveal a fair skinned oval face, with high angular cheek bones and a respirator that coved both nose and mouth.  Black hair was pulled neatly back into a flat ponytail that tucked into the collar of the ankle length duster that was giving Ramic’s eyes fits trying to focus on.  As his ambusher moved to put the strange pistol into an underarm holster, the front of the duster parted to reveal a neck to foot body suit.  A rune pendant hung from a heavy chain around his neck.  Upon the left breast, among the leather straps securing the holster, was embedded a grey polished stone.  Underneath the right arm, a small satchel secured similarly to the holster on the opposite side. Around the waist a broad belt with several pouches, which Ramic assumed were used for grenades and various other munitions and/or tools.  Upon each foot he wore thick leather boots that extended just beyond each knee.  Tassels with a wide variety of foreign designs adorned the holster of the pistol and sling of the rifle.

“Are you ready?” the stranger asked.
  
“I reckon I am,” Ramic replied slowly regaining his confidence.

The stranger turned and gestured out to the wastes, “we have a long journey in front of us.  Perhaps you should return to your little shop.  I will return in one rotations time, and if you are better prepared when I return, perhaps then we can travel on together.”

Ramic saw upon his back a full pack, more tassels, and a slightly curved longsword with a leather wrapped two handed hilt.  Both scabbard and pommel were adorned with yet more tassels.

“No, I’m good to go,” Ramic replied as he lifted up his own rucksack.

“Very well then, let me introduce you to Coosh,” the stranger made a distorted whistling sound through his repirator and from the dune now behind Ramic emerged a large dog-like construct.  He had only heard tales of such creations, and then only in hushed whispered when the Enforcers came around.  While the stranger stood slightly smaller than himself, maybe 1.7 meters tall, this Cyber Mastiff stood to Ramic’s waist and looked to outweigh them both.  Ramic sized up the stranger… he didn’t have the look of an Enforcer, and he definitely didn’t have the frame of one probably weighing in at a little over 60 kilos, tops.
“Coosh!  Sit!”

Immediately the construct sat its rear haunches in to the sand.  “Well,” Ramic thought to himself, “there’s no doubt who’s in control that mutt”.

20110331

[Ian 30] - Cast Out

The assailant’s fist landed like a hammer blow on Ian’s right cheek and his vision filled with stars as his head began to swim.

“Where did you take him?!?”

Another hammer blow to his stomach took all of the wind out of him making it impossible to answer.  It also caused all of the strength to evaporate from his legs and he collapsed in a heap to the floor, gasping, desperately trying to refill his lungs with air.

“Stop it!” a voice cried out from somewhere at the edge of his vision. 

“Shut up bitch!  Unless you want the same,” his assailant replied.

Ian lay bent over his knees with his forearms on the ground trying to regain his breath.  He didn’t dare look up, but he could make out at least six pairs of boots ringing around him and Dyrke, the leader of the Steel Spiders.

“I escorted him to the Enfor…” Ian tried to gasp, but a heavy booted kick to his left side crushed his bicep into his ribs.  The blow took the wind back out of him and rolled him over onto his back.

“He was the property of the Spiders Ian!  You had no right to escort him anywhere!”

The last sentence was emphasized by another kick, this time to his right side.

“Please!”

THWACK!

Somewhere in the shadows Ian heard the meaty thud of someone else taking a blow, followed quickly by the sound of a collapsing body.  Nobody else spoke up or moved to help Ian or his unseen advocate.

“Pick him up!”

Two sets of hands reached down and hauled him to his feet.  Once vertical they had to support him because his legs were barely responding to his efforts to stand.  He tried to lift his head to look Dyrke in the eyes.  By now the swelling on the right side of his face was making it difficult to see out of his right eye.

“I took you in!” another hammer blow, this time to his left cheek. 

“I gave you shelter!” another blow to the right.

“And this is the thanks I get!” a piston blow to his stomach.  Now all strength left him, but the powerful hands held him in place.

“Do you have any idea what you have done to the reputation of the Steel Spiders?!?”  This time his assailant gave him a two fisted backhand that landed hard enough to cause his restrainers to lose their grip and he collapsed to the floor once more.  By now blood was dribbling out of his mouth at a steady rate into a pool on the floor.

Ian tried to stand up on his own but collapsed in a heap twice more before he got his knees under him, but as he rallied the strength to push up the rest of the way another hammer blow drove him back down.  This time he just stayed down.

“Bring ‘em to the deck of the Bifrost.  We’re going to make examples of them.  Show the others what happens when you cross the Spiders.”

Two pairs of hands reached down once again and brought him to his feet.  He had no strength in his legs and so he was dragged more than carried up the several ladders and decks until they reached the deck of the bridge that connected this part of Hive City to the Under Hive.  It spanned a chasm a half a kilometer deep.

“What are we going to do with them Dyrke?”

Ian tried desperately to identify the voice of one of those he had called friends.

“We toss them over,” came the leader’s reply.

Ian tried desperately to rally his strength, but it was hopelessly inadequate.  His escort’s grip held firm.  What little vision he had through the swelling in his face he could see the abyss beyond the edge of the bridge and fear welled up in his throat.

“Can the Spiders come out and play?”

The procession to his doom stopped dead in their tracks.  Ian could hear a lot of shuffling feet, but could not identify the voice. 

“You’ve got no say in this Bounty Hunter!  Best to leave now lest you get taught a lesson you won’t soon forget.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk.  I am not here for them Dyrke.  I’m here for Jakob.  I heard tale that you had him.  I want him.  You wouldn’t even have been on his trail if it weren’t for me!”

“You can’t have him.  It’s our bounty.  We went and got him, and I aim to be the one to bring him in.”
“I kind of thought you’d say somthin’ like that.”  The Bounty Hunter put two fingers in his mouth and brought forth a piercing whistle.  On cue a dozen Escher stepped out of the shadows.  “And I take issue with it.”

The vice grip that held Ian upright released their hold on him and he collapsed in a heap.  Looking up Boenerges was placing a long boxed cartridge into the belly of his heavy stubber and was fixated on the new threat.

Ian looked around and saw that Gelder had released his grip on Amber as well.  She stirred as she hit the deck, but slowly.  Continuing to take in the situation he noticed that the Spiders were taking cover to face off against the Black Cats and the unknown Bounty Hunter.  Dyrke was not currently interested in exacting his justice on Ian at the moment.  He knew that would not last and that he and Amber would only have a few moments to affect their escape.  Amber looked up and made eye contact with Ian.  It was clear she was as scared as he was.  With little effort Ian communicated that they needed to crawl back the way they had come.  

They pair had not gone far when the fire fight erupted between the Steel Spiders and the Bounty Hunter’s crew.  Without a word between them they both got up and ran as fast as they could back to the relative safety of the Chigger’s Bar.  Ian glanced back out on to the deck and could tell that Dyrke and the Spiders were making head way against their attackers.  Looking around the bar it was empty, the last few patrons fleeing out the front door to escape the combat outside.  Chigger waved them over.
“Take your old room Amber,” he glanced back at Ian.  “It’s my hide if Dyrke catches you two here.  Get up to that room and stay there until I give you the all clear.” 

“Come on Ian.  It’ll be OK.”  Amber gave Ian a reassuring tug on his right arm to pull him up the stairs behind the bar.  They stumbled to the last room on the right.  Once they were inside Amber slid the door shut and pushed it slightly forward.  “If this works right, it will look like just another panel in the wall outside.”

They could hear the staccato of the heavy stubber through the walls, but it was apparent that the battle was waning.  

The wounded pair collapsed on the unmade bed, exhausted.  Amber had a welt growing on her cheek, but Ian was in obvious pain and having to take shallow breaths in order to not agitate his probably broken ribs.  Amber tried to take stock of his wounds but he waved her off, and she was too tired and sore to protest.  They both drifted off to sleep.

-=-=-=0=-=-=-

Ian jolted awake to the sound of men and women screaming in the hall outside.  The effort to stand made him catch his breath and pain stabbed through rib cage, but he readied himself to defend himself and Amber.

“Over here you thick headed sump spider.”

Turning around Ian saw Amber had pivoted the dresser out to reveal a dark chamber beyond.  He hesitated a moment.

“Search all the rooms!” they both heard Boanerges bellow from the hallway. 

That was all the encouragement Ian needed and he ducked into the small doorway.  Amber quickly followed and pulled the dresser back into place with an attached cord.  Once the dresser pulled tight darkness washed over them.  They sat together in the darkness barely wanting to breathe lest they give themselves away.

A crash rumbled through the little door and they both instinctively shuffled back away from the door.  Ian’s eyes had not quite adjusted to the complete darkness and he found himself wishing he had his visor with him now.  It was then that he realized that neither he nor Amber had any of their kit.  He fought the urge to panic.

Chigger’s voice boomed through the wall and door, “I told you they weren’t here Cacee!  You didn’t have to go and bust down the door!

“It’s good for you that they aren’t Chigger,” came the familiar voice of the Spider Ian had once called friend.

Next followed a lot of shuffling of feet and whispers.  Ian tried to press his ear against the door to hear what was going on.  The shuffling lasted for a few minutes.  Much longer than he had thought it should, especially thinking that once they did not find what they were looking for they would just leave.  Finally the voices and the noises from the room beyond faded.  Ian moved to try and push the door but Amber grasped his arm.  Looking over she was shaking her head as if to say ‘not yet’.  Ian nodded in acknowledgement and there they stayed.  After fifteen minutes Amber pressed her shoulder against the door and it opened a few centimeters.  She waited to see if anything responded from the room beyond. When nothing happened she opened it the rest of the way slowly. 

From their hide the room looked turned upside down, and the once concealed door lay smashed and hanging from only one hinge.  Looking around once more before they stepped back into the room memories flooded both their minds.  Many a liaison between the two had been spent in this room after they had first met.  Back then Ian believed their trysts to be out of bounds, he a member of the Spiders and House Van Saar, and she a member of the Black Cats and of House Escher.

“I don’t think we are going to be able to stay here much longer,” Ian said out loud.

Amber nodded her head in silent agreement.  Ian moved to the smashed doorway to look down the now silent hallway that led back to the public room of the ‘Bifrost’.  It was filled with debris and broken furniture, but no people.  When Ian turned to signal that it was all clear Amber gasped.

“Look!” she said pointing to the bed.

Poking out from underneath the displaced mattress was the pommel of Amber’s sword.  Ian helped her lift the mattress the rest of the way off.  Underneath they found Ian’s tinkering and medical kit bag and Amber’s sword.  Ian opened up his kit satchel to see what was in there.  All of his basic tools that he had used on his workbench along with his basic medical supplies. Right on top of it all was a small bag with a few  guilders and his visor.

“It’s not much, but better than nothing.”

Amber agreed. “Look, a note” she pointed to piece of paper sticking out from an interior pocket.

Ian, you saved my life once.  Dyrke is on the warpath for your hide and for anyone who helps you.  He’s taking us out towards the sump.  I highly recommend you make a break for it once we leave.  It will be best for everyone.  This makes us even.  ~ Cacee

Ian just stared at the slip of paper for several long moments.  Cacee had been instrumental in bringing him into the Steel Spiders.  How long had that been?  Flashbacks of the battles and off duty times in the Bifrost ran through his mind.

A gentle hand from Amber on his arm brought Ian back to the here and now.

“Come on, we need to put some distance between ourselves and Dyrke, the further, the better.”

Ian nodded his head and shouldered his kit bag.  Peering down the hallway from the edge of the doorway Ian tried to see down the stairs to see if any of the Spiders were in the common room.  He couldn’t tell, so the pair crept down the hallway sticking close the wall.  When they reached the top of the stairs they stopped to listen for a few more minutes.  Only the regular clanking of stoneware and hum of indistinct chatter between patrons met their ears.  With a silent glance between each other they started down the stairs and tried to look like any other couple returning from a tryst in the upper rooms.  When they reached the bottom of the stairs the two hesitated long enough to look around the room.  No spiders in sight. 

“Psst!  Ian”

The startled pair jumped where they stood.  Ian spun around while Amber took a step slightly in front of Ian and readied her sword.

“Easy! Easy!”

From behind a small stage where acts came to entertain the patrons Chigger was waving them to follow him.

“Dyrke has taken the spiders out onto the bridge span.  You won’t get far if you head out the front doors.  Follow me.”

Behind the stage Chigger led them into an old utility room.  In the floor was a metal trap door with a thick chain and padlock holding it in place.

“This leads to an old cable conduit that runs the span of the bridge to the far side of the Enforcer precinct.  It’s how I get some of my goods past the tolls imposed by the Guilders.  Not all of it, just the more lucrative items," he said with a grin.

“Thanks Chigger.  We can’t repay you for this.”

“It’s alright kid.  Maybe if it is ever safe enough for you to come back this way we can settle up.”

Ian nodded his thanks and looked down at the door.

“Before you go though, I want you to have this.”

Ian looked back up at the bartender.  In the man’s hands was a slightly battered single barrel semi-automatic shotgun.  This was a typical Van Saar model with a seamless hand grip and receiver that could be fed with either a small drum magazine, currently missing, or single rounds could be fed into a line feed below the barrel.  The stock was folded up and over resting neatly on top of the receiver while still allowing the smooth discharge of spent shells from the chamber.

“The mag is full Ian.  Sorry I don’t have any extra shells to hand you.  Had to… well… leave the front in a hurry.  Half a click out the other side you will run into a small Holestead.  A prospector named Goreman.  Tell him Chigger sent you and he will be able to point you in a safe direction.”

Reaching down he punched in five numbers into the keypad on the lock and it clicked open.  He gently pulled the chain through the handrail and then opened the door.

“Now, get!”

Ian grabbed Chigger’s forearm and thanked him silently.  Amber dropped down the dark hole and reached up to grab the shotgun to help Ian through as he winced from the pain in his ribs as he lowered himself down.  Chigger wasted no time.  As soon as Ian’s head cleared the hatch the door shut over them and they were swallowed up in darkness once again.  Only a few of the old maintenance lights were still functional, but it was enough for them to find their way.

Amber and Ian glanced at each other.

"Let me take a look at that," Ian said reaching into his bag.  Pulling out a noxious smelling ointment he rubbed it on Amber's swollen cheek.  He then had her do the same to the welts on his face.  It burned slightly and penetrated deeply.  Once that was done she applied the ointment to the massive bruise now encompassing his ribcage and wrapped them up with the few strips of cloth they had.  Once that was done he put away the remaining supplies.

“Well, come on… no time like the present.” Ian said. With that the pair headed off to their new life.