20 years ago, I created a Shadowrun Character. – Shadowrun is an RPG owned by Catalyst Games (originally FASA and then Wizkids) – It takes place in 2059 and beyond where cyberpunk meets magic. The world is run by corporations and people in the shadows do their less than legal bidding. The game I was playing fell through, but the character survived to star in her own story – a story told in Journal format over the period of a year (where the entries were posted daily) The following is the original story I wrote to get inside Jess’ head…
Long Dark Night
How do I get myself into these messes? I know, if I manage to survive this, I’ll never hear the end of it from my mother.
“Jessica Ann Miller,” she’ll say. “None of this would ever have happened if you had stayed in school!”
That’s her answer for everything. Everything’s so cut and dry with mom. Dad’ll at least listen to me before he goes into his lecture about responsibility and taking risks. And it’s not like I chose to be here.
Okay, it was my decision to come out here and take a job as a paramedic. And it was my decision to take this ‘extra gig.’ But it was that or sit back in my safe little apartment in Baltimore and do nothing while three of my brothers are missing in this godforsaken hole.
Amy and Dad, they said I should let the police handle it, but they haven’t done a thing. For all I know the police are part of the problem. For all I know my brothers are dead, and I’m not too far behind them.
I don’t see Jenny, Mitchell or Mark doing anything. What do they care anyway? They stayed with mom when things fell apart. Alan, Matthew, and Andrew, they’re all I’ve really ever had when it came to family. Yeah, dad was there, but he was so busy, and now he’s got, Amy. Jenny’s got two beautiful kids and I’m happy for her, but they made it clear, they had their lives, and Al, Mat, and Andy just don’t fit into their happy little world.
Now I’m staring down the barrel of a gun being pointed at me by a kid no older than twelve and there’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to use it. I smile at him. There’s not much else to say.
“What you smilin’ ‘bout,”he growls at me.
“Nothin’ really,”I answer with a shrug. “Just my luck I guess.”
My luck. It seems to run hot or cold, never just one way or the other. Right now it looks like its run dry. This whole job seems to be in the frost-bite column when it comes to luck.
I got the job because of some of my ‘odd talents.’ ‘Demo’ as Nick’d called it. And Decking from the master himself PushCiti. Oh, if they could see the mess I’ve gotten myself into. Again, I’d never hear the end of it, but with them around, at least there’d be a long time of not hearing the end of it.
I need to learn to ask more questions. I need to learn to never trust a grinning fixer. I need to pay attention.
I hear it now, gunfire. We were dumped in the middle of what Nick would call ‘a situation.’ Damn the man, I wish he were here. He’d know what to do. A bullet ricochets by and my ‘big sister mode kicks into overdrive.
“Will you get down,”I plead with the kid. “Bullets don’t care who they hit and standing up there like that, you make too big of a target.”
He stares at me like I’m crazy and maybe I am. He kind of reminds me of Andy when he was twelve. So concerned about proving that he was as tough as his older brothers, tougher than his sister, he was always getting hurt.
My pleading has no effect on the kid. He’s got the advantage and he’s not about to give it up. A bullet takes it from him. One minute I’m about to die, the next I’m working overtime to keep a kid breathing, just another night in the shadows.
Now I’m wishing I have my full kit with me. But again, I wasn’t planning on playing ‘doc’ tonight. That’s my day job. Three days on, three days off. Guess the shooter didn’t check my time card.
His pulse is thready and weak. Kid needs a mast suit and all I’ve got is a handful of trauma patches. I grab one and check the dose. He’s too small for the full hit so I tear it in half. I’m applying pressure with one hand and trying to administer the patch with the other when his friends come back.
They’ve got the rest of my ‘team’ at gunpoint.
“Move away from him,”their leader orders.
“Not until you get an ambulance here now,”I tell him. I know that if I let up on the bandage the kid’ll bleed to death and I tell him as much.
“You shot Dar?” the man demands as he draws a bead on me.
“I don’t know who the hell shot the kid,”I yell. “He got shot: he needs a doc.”
He looks down at us and shakes his head. “Can’t afford no doc,”he tells me. “No ambulance gonna come here for one a’ us.”
“They will tonight,”I tell him. “Get me a phone.”
I’m pissed now. I haven’t been able to do a thing for Andy and the others, I’m not going to lose this kid too. He gasps for air, so much like Andy…
He looks at me. I don’t know what he sees, but he lets Fritz, our illustrious leader make the call. He hands me his wrist link and before I know it I’m talking to dispatch. I get them to patch me through to Ray. If anybody can pull this off its Ray. I tell him I’m in the barrens, that we’ve got a kid who’s just this side of pneumothorasic. He says he’ll be there in ten minutes.
The leader is staring at us. “Why are you doing this?” he finally asks.
I point to the stylized caducous on my jacket and then I look back at the kid. “He reminds me of my brother.”
He nods. All our problems are put on hold. All that matters is the kid. He’s family and I’m protecting him. As far as they know, they’ve got my family and we can work something out. Fritz gives me a nod. This whole thing wasn’t what any of us expected. Again, we’ll deal with that later.
It all comes down to a heartbeat.
Copyright 1998 – M.T. Decker
A Year in Seattle
Conspiracy of Ravens
I grew up in and around Baltimore. Most of the time it was just my brothers and me. Dad was perpetually busy at the University and Mom had remarried and moved off to Boston with the rest of the brood. That’s us Millers, dysfunctional to the core.
It was my last day on the east coast for a while, perhaps forever. So, of course, I headed for the city.
There are three places I love to go when I’m visiting the old Inner Harbor Area, and since this was my farewell excursion, I had to hit all three. The first stop was Fort McHenry, which somehow the city has managed to keep in fairly good repair. I looked at the cannons and wondered what it would have been like to live there; to see the battle that inspired Sir Francis Scott Key; to be inspired. Inspiration is running low these days.
Next site was Poe’s grave. Edgar Allen Poe, and odd man if ever there was one. I’ve read some of his works, I guess growing up in the area it’s almost required reading. I bought a small bottle of brandy and left it there: a toast to his memory and the Raven.
Ravens have always been considered to be messengers and far too smart to do ‘normal’ bird-like things. Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked them. They just don’t fit the mold. Even when you refer to a group of them its something ominous. You may have a pride of lions, a pack of wolves, but when it comes to Ravens, you have a conspiracy.
Sometimes it feels as if the fates have conspired against me… if I believed that. These days I’m believing very little. The three people I care the most about are missing, on the other side of the continent. Tomorrow, I’m heading out from BWI. My gear is already packed, and all that’s left are the goodbyes.
My final stop was an empty pier near the Aquarium. The pier is kind of a sad place to some. It was the final docking place of the USS Constellation.
She was the sister ship to the USS Constitution and had a rather impressive career of her own, but she always lived in the shadow of her sister. I saw her once when I was very young before a fire took her. Now, all that’s left are the pictures and a scarred old pier with a decaying visitor’s center. Kinda makes me think of my family.
Seven kids, 2 sets of parents and it seems I’m the only one who’s worried enough about the boys to do anything about it: something that should be preserved that’s just been left to rot. Memories are all that seems to exist now, a faded photograph and some burn marks from all the fighting.
Well, since I was due to head out in the morning and I don’t like being downtown by myself I turned to leave. Besides, I was getting way too maudlin for my liking. As I turned, I saw an all too familiar brooding face: Aaron. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up as he smiled at me.
“Jess… I heard you were leaving, figured I’d find you here,” he said.
His expression was too normal, his words held just the right edge of socialness that if you didn’t know us, didn’t know our history you’d think we were old friends.
“Aaron,” I said, fighting to keep an air of civility between us.
“So, you were just going to leave without saying good-bye?” he asked, his tone almost sounded hurt.
Now let me tell you something about Aaron and me. I’ve dated a lot of guys, a lot. For the most part it just never seems to work out: I’m not what they’re looking for or we’re too good of friends for them to chance to ruin it. Not that I really mind, because in almost every case, we usually end up as friends and that’s fine with me.
Aaron was one of the few that I had to break up with and he did not take it well at all.
“I’m not the one with the restraining order,” I told him. I probably shouldn’t have been so curt, but the last time I saw him, the boys were with me and I’m trying really hard not to think about them.
“It’s your brothers isn’t it?” he asked, that hurt tone coming through loud and clear. “It’s always your brothers. I’m so tired of them coming between us.’
I froze, a chill running up my spine. “Aaron, the only time they came between us was when you were coming after me with a baseball bat.”
He smiled at that. The little bastard actually smiled.
“And they aren’t here anymore…” Aaron told me as he moved slightly closer. That’s when I saw the Louisville Slugger he’d hidden behind him.
Now I work for Citywide Ambulance service as a paramedic and one of the things they issue is a panic button. It’s supposed to sound an alarm and bring in back-up. It’s not anything near as fancy as the DocWagon folks provide, but we do try and look after our own.
As I backed away from Aaron, I hit the button and nothing happened. I’d forgotten: I no longer worked for Citywide – Baltimore, and my job with Citywide – Seattle was on the opposite coast and two weeks away.
I could tell by Aaron’s smile, he’d already taken that into consideration.
As I backed away, I could hear the ravens.
Aaron smiled: I was running out of pier. My heart was racing as I tried to remember everything the boys had taught me.
“Get inside his swing and he can’t use his weapon against you,” Matt’s voice was calm as I remembered the fighting lessons he’d given me.
“Go for the weak points, the nerve centers,” I could hear Alan’s voice now. He didn’t have to teach me the areas to strike, I’d learned that in anatomy.
I drew a deep breath, but I couldn’t keep the tremble out of it as he pulled back to strike. As he swung I hit the dirt and tried to come up under his swing, but he’d managed to bring the bat down. I gasped as it connected with my shoulder. Without thinking I changed from ducking to tackling. Where Matt’s tactics failed, Nick’s took over.
Nick was yet another failed romance. He’d ended up being almost another member of the family, another brother, who taught me how to take care of myself.
The fighting style he taught me was one he called ‘Gator Rock’. From the outside, it looked like nothing by mindless thrashing, but from the inside, it was a careful exercise in trying to match up all your hard bony parts to all your opponent’s soft fleshy ones. Or as Alan had said, ‘go for the weak points and nerve centers.’
I knew I must have hit something, cause he went slack and stopped screaming. Gasping for air, I rolled out from under him. I could tell he was having trouble breathing, but so help me, for once in my life, I didn’t care. I went to the call box and waited for the police to arrive. The paramedics glowered at me when they arrived because I’d done nothing to help the ‘victim.’
It was the second time the man had tried to kill me, and so help me, I was not going to give him another opportunity.
The Star wasn’t too happy with my performance either until they ran the background checks on both of us. One look at the restraining order and their attitude changed. They told me I could file the report in the morning, but I’d be gone by then, so I went downtown and filed the report. It was nice to know that by the time he was released, I’d be long gone.
As I followed the police to the station, I could see the ravens circling overhead: a conspiracy is in the air…
Copyright 1999 – M.T. Decker