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.


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.


“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.


“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.’


(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

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