Sympathy, a Shadowrun short story
PART I of III
King's Doughnuts is an all-hours doughnut shop with a full liquor license. That alone would make it a place of note but add to that fact that it is situated in the middle of a haunted junkyard where strange people gather and strange things happen on a regular basis and you have a local legend.
Those who know the street know King’s is a safe zone, a place where local freelance police look for work mixing in with factions of all kinds both legal and illegal and no one seems to say boo about it. For those that know magic, Kings is situated at the crossroads of two very active ley lines and the less that balance is interfered with the better.
As such the local government, law enforcement and even the gangs give Kings owner and main bartender The Chancellor a wide berth even though he has manifested no martial or magical ability beyond an uncanny ability to know someone favorite doughnut and when they need it adorned with his (literally) patented ChromaSprinkles™.
The players had gathered at this iconic setting (at 2AM) for various reasons.
- “Casper” had been called by his “Mr. Johnson” Vicky O’Malley
- “Sparky”, also called by the same “Mr. Johnson”, just happened to be there escorting his friend and connection “Reza”
- “Reza” was there to meet his connection Shouts at the Sun – a tribal leader who arrived personally, without the stash, to tell deliver an enigmatic warning to “watch his back” from his Shaman.
- “Cutter”, who knows The Chancellor well, was there seeking work.
While the Shadowrunners are gathering at Kings for different reasons, a car is pulled from the waters of Lake Washington, a car filled with the bodies of six Orks, all young, all gang members and all missing their hearts. Sam “The Sham” has been tied to the team of beat cops investigating the murders which were discovered mere yards away from Kings, at the same time the other players are gathering.
At King's, Vicky O’Malley is gathering a group of Shadwrunners for a hyper quick run (with the money to match). The players are drawn into the scheme including Sam who substitutes for Neil Tyrel who Vicky originally called. The gig is explained as a simple B&E breaking into a “Local Government” facility on behalf of a client who’s name is Roger Bacon.
Having accepted the job which included a ¥10,000 fee up front (just for listening) and ¥80,000 for completion the party uses it’s contacts to gather materials, a ride and lightly investigate Roger Bacon. The latter turns out to be a former VP of research for Stoner Ares Weapon Systems and also a mage with a particular genius for sympathetic magic, Roger was also caught in the middle of a four-way, sustained firefight in a parking lot between a group of shadow runners, Lone Star, a gang and Ares Security. The fight lasted seven minutes and cost him the lives of his wife and his young son whom he failed to protect.
After that he disappeared from the public eye, re-emerging recently in Seattle where his sister lives in Capital Hill. Roger settled in the Barrens – a decidedly unlikely place for a human (non-ork) to pick to live.
While the players secure, a ride and some information, Reza travels down to help the investigation. His astral projection reveals the ghosts of the 6 Orks, floating 100 yards off shore above where the car was found. Further astral-investigation reveals what looks like magically impregnated wood in the wounds of the victims.
At the same time the other player’s contacts confirm that the dead Orks are members of the Coffin Chasers – an all-Ork gang out of the Barrens, the same area where they are to meet their contact. The party sets off and, after a brief interaction with the 405 Hellhounds, enter the section of the Barrens known as The Cave – a neighborhood that is 94% Ork and controlled/protected by the 'Chasers.
It takes almost no time for the combat van full of Humans to attract the attention of the gang and here the players almost fall afoul of the very jumpy CC gangers, Pretty Boy, Johny Sausage and FUBAR a monstrous cyber-enhanced Sasquatch. Some quick talking gives the players a chance to meet 4Stroke, n older grizzled Ork who is the leader, and potentially, progenitor of some if not most of the ‘Chasers.
Calmer heads prevail and he agrees to give the players passage to see Roger Bacon on two conditions 1) they help him investigate the murders of his men (a plot the players already seem embroiled in) and 2) no harm comes to Roger Bacon who seems to be helping the local Ork populace and is, perhaps the one Human the Chasers trust. 4Stroke’s calm-headedness is only in contrast to the hot-headedness of his rank and file as anyone with an ounce of street knowledge knows his reputation for pure, remorseless menace is well earned.
Passing by the impromptu check point, the players take their van down the street ending in a peculiar brownstone. The narrow, 3-story building has been separated from the other densely packed buildings by having had it’s closet neighbors demolished, leaving just enough room for the six foliage-overgrown pillars that surround it. The early December air is wet and bitterly cold but the air around the house and the clear area is oppressively hot and sticky — like a tropical green house gone amok. The exterior of the house itself is completely overgrown just like the pillars and a quick check by Reza in astral space confirms Sparky’s suspicions, the house sits on the nexus point of three active ley lines.
Still, the light from the windows and doors is warm and inviting and, when Casper knocks on the door, the players are welcomed cheerfully by a small boy made of wood who introduces himself as Andy and by an equally cheerful (adult) voice further in the house who invites them in.
PART II of III
As Andy welcomes the runners in the narrow hallway they step into is charming if oppressively warm. From floor to ceiling are books, papers, knick knacks and plants, some of whom the runners can see come from dozens of pots and others who’s origins are more mysterious, tendrils vines snaking from the other rooms. The air is thick with insects and as the players brush aside butterflies, moths and dragonflies, the sounds of crickets is ever present and, not altogether unpleasant.
As Andy leads them down the hall, other “Andy’s” can be seen, when the first Andy takes a turn into room another Any takes his place emerging from a side door and continuing the sentence mid-stream as if they were a single creature. The runners emerge into a small sitting room where Roger Bacon, who sits next to past a stack of thaumaturgy books (standard magician tomes) that are particularly overgrown and long since used, greets them warmly. Reza notices that, likewise, the books on the shelves are magician’s tomes in the same state of disrepair. It is unlikely that Roger has performed any traditional magic in years.
Roger himself is an affable man in his late 40s’. He is friendly toward the players and asks Andy to fetch the party some refreshments which he does cheerily. As Andy returns with lemonades Roger explains his plot and the players part in it. As the runners have been able to discover Roger, a genius in sympathetic magic and former VP for Ares, and his family were caught in a fire fight where Roger’s magic was unable to protect his wife and son from the relentless, indiscriminate gunfire of the combatants.
Relocating to Seattle to “start fresh with Andy”, Roger tells the players he is seeking revenge against his former friend and partner Alexander Wolfe, EVP of weapons development for Ares technology — he blames Wolfe for the violent death of his wife and, in payment, seeks to embarrass him by stealing three of his prized possessions:
- A painting entitled “The Death of General Wolfe” depicting one of Wolfe’s ancestors
- The head of a 10th century Chinese “fire lance” which is heralded as the worlds first true gun and
- The SAWS Hachiman IV powered armor a pet project concept developed by Stoner Ares to combine razor’s edge physical augmentation, protection and versatility. For the latter, the helmet contains the full technical specs and is all Edward requires the players to steal.
Bacon lets the party know that the items are currently on display in the Arts of War exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum in fact, the entire collection of paintings, and artifacts around warfare both ancient and modern is owned by Wolfe and protected by the Ghost Matrix, a security system that, the party later learns is a mixture of tech and magic, a way to “project” ghosts into specific areas at specific times. The party has been able to at least roughly map out these areas.
The runners need only bring the items to Bacon before the next night ends to fulfill the contract. Just before the party leaves Sparky offers his condolences on the loss of Bacon’s wife and son. While the mage thanks him for his kind words on his wife he is completely confused by the notion that his son was lost in the onslaught. Andy shows the party out and, as they drive away they see there is an Andy in every window of the old brownstone.
Though a day of research and infiltration, including some light kidnapping of a security guard and the less than light stabbing of a temp receptionist, the party is ready to act. The museum is closing, the ghosts are coming on line and the party is in place with Casper jacked into the net and and physically in the unemployment agency above the museum, Cutter impersonating a guard and Reza and Sparky waiting in a side alley to enter and Edward Bacon waiting for the items to be delivered to him at his brownstone.
PART III of III
The museum closes, the lights go down and the ghosts come on line. Outside the museum the streets are crowded for a parade celebrating the anniversary of the ghost dance which took place on this very night. Inside the museum, a single guard patrols with Cutter who is pretending to be a replacement guard for the one the party kidnapped and left incapacitated in his underwater apartment building.
While Cutters performance is well scripted, his delivery lacks nuance and it isn’t long before the guard realizes the deception. Rather than sound the alarm the M.A.L. (Minimal Assault Logistical) Cop – The lowest paid run in the Lonestar Security Hierarchy merely begs for his life and plausible deniability. Between Cutters intimidation of the quickly departing guard and Casper’s hacking the primary security of the Seattle Art museum, from drones to door locks is soon under the party’s control, leaving only the Ghost Matrix.
While Cutter lets the rest of the party into the museum, Casper is in the net where each node is represented as a floating platform room room housed by icons of art history. The party moves to the second floor where the Arts of War exhibit is housed guarded by the ghosts of long dead soldiers.
Room by room the party the Shadowrunners search for the artifacts they have come to steal aided by stealth, caution and the magical sight of Reza who has discovered that the ghost projectors are only focusing the spectral energy, that each spirit is actually tied to this world by a single magical rune disk attached to objects from the ghosts past. Removing this hockey puck sized magical objects breaks the connection and the ghosts fail to appear.
Thus it is that the party makes it through the exhibit unharmed, having gathered all but the last object– the helmet of the Hachiman armor, on display at the back of the exhibit hall. It looked like smooth sailing until, the armor itself activated and, without a pilot attacked the group.
The armor jet packed into the high ceiling in the hall and let loose a flurry of bullets from it’s Ares asset rifle, knocking Reza out of the fight in a single volley. Meanwhile, in the net, Casper had found out that Alexander Wolfe himself was online and connected to the exhibits servers. With some skillful decking Casper managed to ghost himself into Wolfe’s systems and there learn that, unlike they were told by their employer himself, Roger Bacon was not seeking revenge. In fact he held no ill will toward his former boss at Ares, and forgave him fully for the death of his family — instead feeling it was the weapons themselves the were to blame. After learning this information, the Runners, with a bit of help from Casper who had infiltrated the suit’s systems manage to deactivate the Hachiman IV helmet and escape to their waiting get away van.
Driving to the barrens they see scenes of a neighborhood in terror. Doors and windows barred and locked, no one in the streets save the bodies of of the Coffin Chasers gang. All lay dead, their hearts ripped out of their chests. In the distance light pours into the sky from the the ley line nexus that is Roger Bacon’s house and, as they approach, Sparky is forced to use the windshield wipers to clear the thick cloud of insects that surround the house. Once at the door the Runners are greeted by a host of Andys, all moving independently, all finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences. Many of them quite new, the wood of their constructions still wet and raw.
Inside Roger Bacon has knocked down many walls to make way for a ritual. As the players enter the night is reaching it’s zenith — the same night of the Ghost Dance that changed the history of the world. Inside Roger Bacon, bedraggled, worn, mad with sorrow and pain, manic with laughter, cheerfully accepts the artifacts and casts them all aside all save one, his true goal, the Chinese fire lance — the world’s first gun — the object that originated and defined all firearms after it. As the party tries to leave, the Andys insists that they stay. They love their father and would have an audience for his triumph. Roger, an artist in sympathetic magic, a genius in linking a physical anchor to a magical effect explains his plan. He will use the power of this night, of the ley lines in this place, of the obvious (at least to Reza) Insect spirits that have granted him their shamanic power, that he will use all that, the world’s first gun and his own ancestral ties to the first known maker of modern gunpowder, to quite simply end all firearms, to cast a great work that will keep all guns from functioning– forever.
The party had a choice to make — stand by and see the end of all guns or stop Roger, and a growing mass of insect spirits from completing their own ghost dance.
The fight is brief.
Though the Andy’s swarm the Shadowrunners iin their dozens, they need only put down a single unarmed and unarmored wizard. Reza sets the room (and the Andy’s) on fire and, as Cutter and Casper clear a path Sparky takes a single shot. Roger Bacon, still casting his spell, oblivious to the flames that were already consuming him, falls.
Though the Shaman dies and the spell fails, the Andy’s do not. They stop fighting and silently gather around their father. As the party leaves, the last of the Andy’s silently enter the burning house and close the blinds. The Runners drive away.