Lug's Magical Whatsis

STOP! This is a work of fiction. None of the names have anything to do with anybody who exists in the real world or any other fictional world. The author's lack of imagination should not be viewed as any sort of thinly veiled desire to see any real people killed in nasty ways. Honest.

Hey, Lug, ya got a minute? The young ork decker asked the dwarf razor.

Lug looked up from his seat among the bins of ammo, disassembled firearms and gun cleaning supplies.

Sure, Mouse. Grab a seat. Ya can help me sort ammo while we talk.

Thanks. the decker said as he sat down. Why ya gotta sort all this stuff anyway?

Mouse, Lug replied, Ya wanna live ta be a old shadowrunner, ya learn ta load yer own clips. The mercs who 'donated' this stuff may have been pros, or they may not have been pros. You wanna bet yer life one way or the other?

As Mouse thoughtfully shook his head, Lug continued, Neither do I. So I not only break the weapon down, clean it and make sure it's in good working order, but I unload the clips and reload them myself. I also test every clip to make sure some careless slot hasn't buggered the end. Believe me, there's no worse feeling in the world than being in a firefight and finding yer last clip of ammo won't load. Ya see this? The dwarf asked holding up a pair of clips taped together at the bottom. Smart idea right? Ya just take out the empty, turn it over and slip in a loaded clip. Fast and easy, right? Wrong. You'll never see any real military do it that way because 1/2 the time that downward facing second clip gets dirt in it and jams the weapon, or the end gets dinged and it won't load. This is a short cut than can cut short yer life.

After a moment of thought as he unloaded a clip of explosive SMG rounds into the proper bin, Mouse asked Where'd you learn all dis stuff, Lug?

Ah, ya pick it up over time, Mouse. That's why ya got a golden opportunity here. I figure between the five of us, the lost boys have seen more frag ups and made more errors than 80% of da teams out dere. Secret ta stayin alive in da shadows is, ya learn from dose goofs and ya avoid dem in da future. Yer just startin out, but if ya keep yer eyes and ears open ya can maybe avoid some of da worst situations without waking up in da clinic or havin ta make da trips to da cemetery.

The two worked in silence for a few minutes until Lug asked What's everybody else up to?

Doc's watchin some flat screen vid and laughin his hoop off. He keeps singing Hail, Hail Freedonia . I watched a couple a minutes but it's all grainy and black and white and 2D and I didn't get it. Itami's taken apart da chopper engine at the same time he's pounding the back of the truck inta shape so he's runnin back and forth and humming to himself and the boss and Hamon are banging wooden swords together.

So ya couldn't get a chess game, eh? the dwarf asked with a grin.

Nah, but it's not just that. I...... I kinda feel outta place. I mean, I'm real grateful to be part of the team, and I already got a wiz deck and all but..... well, it's just that I feel...... stupid. You guys know so much stuff without talkin about it. Yer all just like confident and professional, and I'm still trying to figure which way is up. It's depressing.

And you figure, what, that Doc stepped out of the womb an initiate? That Itami started rebuilding engines as soon as he could hold a wrench? C'mon, Mouse. Ya got a phenomenal brain or ya wouldn't be here. Use it. We all followed a long road ta get here an yer just startin out. The only reason we seem confident is that we've survived drek we had no right to survive and know the great secret.

What's the great secret?

I'll tell ya, but it won't mean a thing to ya until you've lived through a couple of ungodly drekstorms. The great secret is that ya do everything ya can and then ya roll the dice.

After a moment of perplexed thought as Mouse was about to ask for an explanation, Lug said Ya roll the dice. You can be wearing powered armor carrying a laser in one hand and an autocanon in the other, be covered with fetishes and charms, ambushing an unarmed, unprepared, unmagical courier, trip and fall into a puddle which shorts out yer armor so ya drown in 6 inches of water.

When Mouse's expression became even more perplexed, Lug sighed and said There's never a guarantee kid. Confidence comes from understanding that in your bones, not just in your head. Ya work yer butt off ta become the best. Ya anticipate everything ya can, ya avoid the mistakes ya made in the past, ya figure what the other guy might do, will do, can do and then ya take yer chances, knowing that if everything goes right, ya could still get cacked and if everything goes wrong, I mean if ya totally screw it, ya could still walk away without a scratch.

But that......

Doesn't make sense? That's why it's the great secret, Mouse. Look, when your team got ambushed and wiped out, were you the strongest? The fastest? The deadliest? The most experienced? Yet you survived and the others didn't.........Now, don't go all somber about runnin, I'm trying to teach ya somethin. The strongest, fastest, deadliest, most experienced, best prepared, smartest, most powerful isn't always the one who walks away. You do what you can to be as good as you can be so that you can take advantage of every opportunity to walk away, but sometimes it doesn't happen in spite of everything you do and sometimes you can do nothing but screw up and still come out without a scratch. When ya learn that well enough ya stop worrying. That's what makes everybody on this team look so professional and confident. We've all survived absolute unmitigated frag ups when we shouldn't have and we've all seen the most meticulously planned milk runs kill massively powerful friends and team mates. Ya do what ya can, but after a certain point it isn't worth worrying about because yer really not in control.

As he saw the confusion on the young ork's face, Lug sighed and said Let me tell ya how Hamon and I first became partners. Maybe that will clarify it.

This was about 6 years ago. I was called Merrill in those days and my crew was named Merrill's Marauders. This was before I had this indicating his cyberhand or these tapping his silver eye covers. We were a mixed bag. Bort was this huge troll sam. Lotsa muscles and size. Used ta bellow 'BORT SMASH' all the time. Iron Horse was our rigger. Amerind with a real flair for explosives. Lynn was an Owl shaman. Real pretty norm lady, always knew the right thing to say. Iron horse and Lynn were an item, but I...uh.... I always wished I'd met her first. Mavis was our decker. Black ork woman who was considered one of Cleveland's hottest matrix heads before she joined the team. Walter was.....well Walter was a piece of work. He had been a mage before he burned out. Got himself bits of cyber to keep the edge but he could still toss the odd fireball. Been around fer a long time so I used him as a sounding board when I had ideas. Until I met Sensei, he was the best man I ever saw with a knife. Anyway, our fixer gives us this job. Not a real tough run. Extraction. Some corp's kid has gotten mixed up with the Temple of Self-Actualization. Cult that told weak people they had the power inside if they could learn ta tap it. Along the way they 'relieve' the faithful of most of the worldly goods which would otherwise prevent them from realizing their inner power.

Anyway, it looks pretty straight forward. Simple extraction. What we don't know is that we're working for the Mom who is a corporate wheel with Mitsuhama. Seems that she and Dad, also an exec at Mitsu, are divorced and hate each other like poison. Mom rubs Dad's nose in the fact that she's hired a team to get junior back. Dad doesn't like this. He hires another team to eliminate Mom's team and bring the prize back to him. Now, a lot of teams hesitate to take a job that requires icing other runners, but Dad's fixer sells the other team a story that our team is after the kid for some horrible genetic experiments. Real science fiction drek, and it don't matter that none of it is true, in the shadows a lot of the time ya don't know the real reason for what yer doing anyway.

So we start planning. Mavis digs the building plans out of the matrix, we do some legwork and figure out what kind of armament we're facing, we put together an escape plan, get all of the equipment we need and put together a timetable. Ya see where this is goin, dontcha? We're doing everything right. Research, logistics, tactics, timetable. Everything we need to do. What we don't know is that the other team is putting together the same plan and then figuring out how to beat it.

By the numbers, status.

Six, Gurth and Dvixen, in position

Five, Tinner and Bull, ready

Four, Barbie and Hamon, check

Three, LJ and Shifter, roger, wilco, a-ok, 10-4

Two, Mongoose and Decker, check

This is one, Nightrain and Guardian, check. Opposition is approaching location. Remember, we want to get them after they have moved into the building. Just the way we planned it. We take the kid to safety and leave these bastards in the dust.

Well, at least these slots know how to make an approach, Guardian thought as he watched the Marauders surround the large Victorian house that served as the Temple for Self Actualization's Headquarters. Their getaway vehicle was well placed, near enough to be gotten to quickly but not so close as to be obvious. The team was maintaining radio silence, but leapfrogging up to the building, always watching for unexpected surprises. The Narcojets used to eliminate the stationary guard and the roving patrols did not make a sound. Very Professional. Just a shame that Merrill's Marauders weren't more careful about choosing to work for some sleazy gene lab. Last mistake they'll ever make. Guardian then gave the two click signal for the Masters to begin their approach.

As Merrill picked the lock on the front door, Iron Horse was picking the lock on the back. The team was outfitted in dark gear, but avoided the hooded black ninja suits as being entirely too unsubtle for this job. Everyone was well armed with both nonlethal and lethal armament so they could affect the extraction without fatalities, but if gunplay became necessary they were prepared. Only Lynn, the shaman, continued to have reservations about the job, based primarily on the fact that the house seemed situated in an astrally strange area which the Shaman could not penetrate. Her hesitation was so great that Iron Horse broke radio silence before entering the house.

Bravo to Alpha click

Alpha, go click

L negative rec, anticipates problems. Suggests resched. click

Bravo, has L found something or are you asking for a resched because she hasn't found anything? click

Alpha, she hasn't found anything because she can't get in astrally. Too much static. Possible to wait and study? click

Negative, Negative two guard teams already tranqued. Move in. click

Understood click

Shaking his head at the last minute whispered conference the dwarf sam eased the front door open and he, Walter and Mavis began searching the first floor. Bort, Iron horse and Lynn came in through the back. When the first floor was clear, the beta team worked their way downstairs while alpha moved up to the second floor.

Quietly climbing the darkened stairway, Merrill spotted a monitor making his rounds. When the truncheon bearing norm turned to investigate the creaking stair that Mavis had caused with a poorly placed tread, Merrill darted him before he could make a sound. The trio froze while waiting to see if the sound of a body dropping would cause further investigation. After a long 60 seconds, the three began to breathe again and moved up onto the second floor.

The plan had been for Mavis to deck into whatever computer they found in the house in the hopes of finding some kind of room list to help them find their target. Failing that, they would have to go room to room darting everybody and comparing faces to the holo that each carried. Beta team would check the basement against the possibility that the corp's kid was living or being held downstairs.

Merrill, Mavis and Walter had arranged themselves around the door to the first room and were reaching for the door when their earpieces were filled with:


MERRILL, come quick we need sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

The three exchanged a look of alarm at the hiss of static and started down the stairs. Because they were more concerned with speed than they were with stealth their rapid charge surprised the camouflaged nightstalkers coming in the front door. The Masters expected their opponents to be occupied on the second floor, not charging down to meet them. Surprising absolutely everyone, including possibly himself, Walter threw his glue spell, holding the second team of invaders in their place. When Bull's answer to the inability to take cover was to open fire, the gun battle that insued was loud and bloody.

Bull's opening shotgun blast tore a large chunk from the left side of Walter's torso. Mavis' AK97 stitched a line of holes up Bull's torso in reply, killing him with a head shot and then continuing to chop a hole in LJ. Merrill had meanwhile opened up with his scattergun and was emptying the Remmington Roomsweeper as fast as he could work the pump. Mavis was hit in the left arm hard enough to spin her around, which presented her with a new set of targets in the cultists who had been awakened by the noise and were coming to investigate. In spite of the pain of the wound, she could see that none of the cultists were armed and so began to fire above the group at the top of the stairs to keep them back while Merrill continued to handle the group at the bottom.

Merrill repaid Gurth for Mavis' wound by blowing a chicken pot pie sized hole through his right thigh. As the ork sam went into shock, his severed femoral artery quickly pumped his life away onto the entry way floor. The boom of Dvixen's Super Warhawk was short lived as the next round from Merrill's shotgun ripped through the elf woman's delicate neck. Tinner had just completed cutting the laces on his size 16 combat boots, as a means of moving in spite of the spell when the round from Merrill's shotgun ripped through the top of his skull. As his corpse fell forwards, Shifter's Ingram shattered Merrill's hip. The dwarf began tumbling down the stairs and lost his shotgun, but Mavis emptied the last rounds in her AK97 into shifter's torso. The fact that the decker always made sure that the last round of every clip was APDS made all of the difference, as it punched through Shifter's body armor, lung and spine, killing him.

Dazed and damaged, but still functional, Merrill picked himself up and retrieved his Roomsweeper. An experienced shotgunner, he immediately began reloading the 12 gauge as he checked on his team mates. Walter's armor had not proven effective against the nearly point blank blast of the shotgun. The dwarf shook his head sadly and slapped a trauma patch on Mavis. He began wrapping a compression bandage around the decker's left arm while she attempted to reload and cock her AK with one hand.

Looks like we stepped in it, boss. She said as the dwarf slapped a bandage on the bleeding hole in his hip.

No! Ya think? gritted the diminutive team leader. I still can't raise the others. We better get down stairs.

Just a sec, the decker said. She scrambled back up the steps, pushed the door to the second floor closed and jammed a wedge in to keep the cultists from coming down after them. Merrill, meanwhile was checking the bodies at the bottom of the stairs. When Mavis came back down he was about to compliment her on her quick thinking when they heard Lynn's scream.

Decker, the wolf shaman, was the first to smell the magic. As the other half of Masters team made it's way through the back door he smelled the spells being cast in the basement. Using Seminole hand signals he alerted Barbie, the hermetic mage and Guardian, the leader of the expedition that there was magic in the basement. The leader immediately signaled that his team should go down to investigate.

With his totem's guidance, the shaman led the team to the rear of the basement where a bookcase stuck out from the wall at an odd angle. Pulling this aside, Decker discovered a opening leading down into the darkness. A warm, cloying smell drifted up as, weapons at the ready, the team made their way down.

The yeast smell grew stronger as the team descended with other familiar smells. The cordite smell of expended ammo and beneath that, the smell of freshly spilled blood. The quiet also gave way to a sort of buzzing sound as the team entered a large chamber. When the first of the insect soldier stepped out, before the horrified shadowrunners could even get a clear view of what it was, Barbie's mana-blast had blown it back into a wall. There was a general intake of breath as the buzzing sound became louder. Decker's low voiced growl added to the background noise as the team moved forward to examine Barbie's kill.

Ugh, said Nightrain. Looks like a fraggin fly-man. What the frag is it?

A fraggin fly-man, Mongoose responded.

Well, thanks for that clarification , Guardian broke in. Let's assume that it's not alone and stay on our toes. I want urk....

Somehow the humanoid insects had gotten behind the group and with patience and intelligence had waited for the group's leader to reveal himself. For all his power and ability, Guardian was helpless as the fly-man's claw spike had struck the juncture of the spine and skull and pithed the samurai. The team's horror at the sight of their leader, ironically, on his toes, shuddering, slack-jawed as his eyes rolled back into his head, translated into instant action. Hamon's M22A2 assault rifle roared as it sent slugs ripping through the creature's multi-facetted eyes. Barbie's second mana-blast caught both of the flies that had launched themselves at Hamon from the tunnel the team had just entered through. Mongoose repeatedly fired his CMDT into an approaching group of the bug men from a second tunnel screaming GET SOME, GET SOME, GET SOME while Nightrain finished the survivors with bursts from his MP5-TX. Decker's fireball, tossed at a group of Fly warriors approaching from the third and largest tunnel not only destroyed the attackers but illuminated the chamber enough for the team to see the grisly remains of a previous firefight. There were fully a dozen bug men corpses surrounding the corpse of a huge Troll sam, who apparently had been ripping his opponents to pieces with his hands. The Masters were catching their breaths, reloading and grasping these sights when Lynn began screaming.

The cries of terror and desperation struck such a cord in Hamon that he drew his paired Katanas and began racing towards the sound into the third and largest opening. With a shrug the other Masters began to follow him. Hamon's flashing dikoted steel made quick work of the first fly warrior who stepped into his path. Moving almost too fast to follow, and certainly too fast for the bug soldier to counter, Hamon left a grisly pile of pieces in his wake. When Nightrain started to shout for the samurai to wait for the rest of the team, he found his yell cut off by the pair of fly men who dropped from the ceiling on top of him. Barbie's attempt to rescue Nightrain was cut off when he was suddenly covered by solid mass of horseflies. The stinging instincts dropped so quickly and covered the mage so completely that to all appearances it looked like the magic user was suddenly made of flies. Unable to speak or concentrate or even breathe, the spellworm was literally stung to death and smothered by the insects. Mongoose meanwhile, seeing that the latest attack was descending from the ceiling of the chamber, dropped onto his back and began shooting upwards. The only problem with this excellent strategy was revealed to him by the fly warrior who approached from ground level and relieved the sam of both shotgun and the arm holding it, literally ripping it out of the socket. Before Mongoose's scream of pain was even complete, two other fly men dropped from the ceiling and proceeded to tear the sam's body apart. Decker, whose back had been torn open in spite of his armor by the swipe of a dropping bug warrior's claw, had scrambled into a small alcove and was emptying the magazine of his Colt M-23 assault rifle as fast as he could pull the trigger.

Merrill and Mavis burst into the chamber and began blasting the bug men to pieces. While Merrill took out one of the flies attempting to eviscerate Nightrain, Mavis added the power of her AK97 to Decker's assault rifle in blasting the other bugs. Both Marauders knew that the metahumans they were aiding had probably entered the building intending to wipe out Merrill's team, but in the face of the inhuman horror of the bug men, an alliance was a necessity. In spite of being badly mauled Nightrain flashed Merrill a grin as he picked up his SMG and began ripping through clips like there was no tomorrow. Mavis had almost reached Decker's alcove a bolt of magical energy tore a hole through her torso. The magic using fly man's victory buzz was cut short when Decker's firebomb blew him and his escort of bug warriors to hell.

Merrill, still rushing to the aid of the screaming Lynn, was drawing even with Nightrain when the sam turned his weapon on the dwarf. Merrill's look of fury over this betrayal was short lived, however, as the blast from the SMG cut down a Fly about to grab Merrill from behind. The dwarf sam's smile of relief was the last thing that Nightrain saw as a fly warrior who had been laying among the slain sprang up behind the sam and tore his head off. The blast from Merrill's Roomsweeper was too late to save, but not too late to avenge, his ally.

Fully a dozen bug warriors had fallen to Hamon's swords as the razor continued his spinning, twisting dance of death. The sam was bleeding from several small gashes and nicks, but he kept fighting towards the screaming shaman. As her cries became weaker, Hamon redoubled his efforts to get to her. Merrill was also fighting towards her, using the empty Roomsweeper as a club, he gotten to an elevated niche overlooking the cavernous room. From that vantage he saw the queen fly's magical blasts twice miss Hamon as the Sam continued his twisting dance of death. When the queen's third blast caught the calf muscle of one of the Razor's legs, he immediately fell to the ground. As the bloated and horrible bug rose gloatingly and prepared to destroy the human, Merrill gave a piercing whistle and gave the bug woman a new target for her magical fury. As she released the spell at the new target, and Merrill began to scream, the incendiary grenade that Hamon had tossed landed on the Fly's thorax and ignited. With a burn temperature of over 2200 degrees centigrade, the white phosphorus obliterated the queen.

The blackening rot that was devouring Merrill's right hand was incredibly painful. Making an instant decision the dwarf drew his cougar fine blade, and lopped off his own hand. Screaming at the pain he fell to his knees which put him at right height for a lunging fly warrior to attempt to eat his face. When the dwarf brought the knife in his left hand forward, he lanced the bug's face like a boil. Unfortunately, also like a boil the bug's viscous fluids spattered across the sam's face, blinding him. Leaving the knife in the bug's head, he wiped his face with his left arm and then despite of terrible pain he wrapped his belt around his right arm at the elbow and created a tourniquet to prevent himself from bleeding to death. Guided by the sobs of the shaman he stumbled from his elevated pedestal and crawled towards the voice.

The chamber had gone completely silent except for the shaman's cries of pain. The dwarf crawled blindly towards the sound.

Lynn, I'll get you out, Lynn The dwarf croaked.

Merrill? Oh God, Merrill end it please. End it.

No, no, Lynn. I'll get you out......just let me get closer. I can't see......

Merrill, please. They're infesting me! THE PAIN! Just end it. Quickly, before they take my mind! Shoot me, now.

I...I can't see, Lynn! I want to help but I don' I close to you? The echoes....Damn.

Hurry, Merrill. For the love of God! I'm losing.......Urk......Thank you, Merrill, you'


She's gone. A quiet voice said.

Who....the razorguy. You're the sam with the swords. You weren't killed?

Leg doesn't work. Crawled to her. Fifteen feet ahead to your right.

After the Dwarf had crawled close enough to where the voice had directed him he said. You came down here to kill us but ya led yer team in to try ta save Lynn.

Couldn't leave her to the bugs.

Thanks. I owe you.

Even. You distracted queen.

After a minute of silence Hamon asked You ever figure you'd die like this?

Oh yeah. I figured all along I'd die, blind and without my hand in some fraggin hive of alien fly monsters from space.

Hamon chuckled and said stupid question

Ya think? Hey, what's yer name?

Hamon. It's the tempering pattern on a Katana. And yours?

Call me Lug, cause without my eyes that's what yer gonna have to do to get us outta here. Lug me along.

I told you. Leg's no good.

Well then crawl, dammit. I may end up worm food but sure as hell ain't gonna sit here and wait fer the fraggin flies.

So me an Hamon crawled back the way we came in. Lug concluded.

Were all those fly things dead? Mouse asked.

I don't know. We'd crawled back up aways and Hamon found Decker. He was alive but Hamon said his spine was too badly injured to move him. When the shaman found out everybody else was dead, he got this real peaceful sound to his voice and said You two leave as quickly as you can. I will join WOLF soon, but before I go, I will end this. Then Hamon and me started crawling again. We'd gotten out of the basement and slithered into the backyard when there was this huge explosion underground and then the house started caving in to the gigantic hole beneath it. We were crawling for all we were worth when we heard this long lonely howl. I thought it was Decker's way of sayin goodbye.

The pair sat silently sorting ammo for a few minutes.

Wow. So were those bug things like the ones in Chicago?

Yeah. At least I think so. Yer probably to young to remember all the drek with the Universal Brotherhood, aintcha?

Yeah, was that somethin about bugs too?

Well the bugs, like, were hive creatures and people who weren't happy with their lives, had low self esteem, ya know, ended up being victims. The cults 'love bombed' them. Made them feel completely accepted and wanted and then gradually made a hive life seem acceptable. I don't know if dere queen was sick or what made them grab Lynn, but with her being magically active, I guess when she stumbled down there they figured they would just take advantage. Anyway, Hamon and me been partners ever since. The thing is, and now I remember why I started the fraggin story, both teams did exactly what they should have done. They were well prepared, knew the layout, worked together well, everything and because Lynn screamed when she did, we caught the Masters before they could ambush us. Because Walter threw the spell he did, the Masters died and we didn't. There's hundreds of things that change the equation....Hey! I know. It's like chess! You know how every move changes the whole board. How ya can have a perfect strategy, but ya still have to constantly adapt? Ok, now if while you were playing a magical whatsis came along and took a piece or gave ya a piece it would change everything even more, right? Ok, now lets say the the whatsis only shows up sometimes. You can maybe play a hundred games without hearin from it, or it might appear 3 or 4 times in the same game.

That would be totally fragged up. The Decker responded, Ya couldn't plan any decent strategy around it because you wouldn't know when it would operate or whether it would be helpful. You'd just have to ignore it and learn to adapt when it appeared.

That's the secret to the confidence that the pros have, Mouse. They prepare for as much as they can, they become the best they can be, they pretend the whatsis won't bother them, but they know it's out there and they believe they can adapt when it shows up.

Yeah, it makes sense when ya say it like that. Adapting to the whatsis. I'll remember that. Oh, an uh, your story. That was real good too and uh helpful. Thanks.

Yeah, sure kid. Why dontcha go see of Hamon and Sensei are done banging wooden swords together?


Apologies to the SHADOWRN regulars. Just needed some names, guys. Nothin personal :}