More Story: The Secret Door

Back in the same campaign that spawned ‘Dead Bum Acquisition Squad’, my friend Adam was playing a troll. This troll was, like many trolls in the ShadowRun universe, not the brightest. He was, in fact, down right dim. And Adam had the worst time rolling for this character (who’s name I’ve forgotten - he’s getting retroactively renamed Thog).

So the Squad was tasked with tracking down a Geomancer who’d gone into hiding. We went to their address of residence, just to get a starting point. Dude was good enough at his job to live in the penthouse. Of a forty floor apartment building. So he was doing well. Probably why he was the target of a corporate ‘do the job or die’ offer.

We take the elevator up to the Penthouse and step out into the vestibule. Everyone looks around for anything unusual (i.e. check the room for traps/hidden doors/etc.) and Thog critically glitches his roll.

“There’s a secret door guys, it’s right here!”

The rest of the party manages to convince Thog not to try the “secret door” and we all head into the apartment. Fifteen minutes of searching, observing, and (fruitless) clue-gathering later, we all troop back out into the vestibule. Everyone makes a perception test again, and Thog critically glitches again.

“No really, it’s right here!” ::punches wall:: ::fist goes through wall into the electrics and pipes in the wall::

Pause around the table.

GM: “Roll a d6 to see if that was a load-bearing wall.”

The dice skitter across the table…

“Is that a one?”

“Good thing we’re on the top floor…”

Dead Bum Acquisition Squad

Back during my first Shadow Run campaign, shortly after graduating college, I made a mistake. During a planning session for our latest job, I told the story of Operation Mincemeat during World War 2.

For those without a stupid high level of WW2 trivia knowledge, Operation Mincemeat was a false information operation pulled off by British Intelligence in the run up to D-Day. The Allies were going to be invading continental Europe and boy, did Intelligence know it was going to be bloody. But if they could get the German command to believe they were coming from somewhere other than the beaches at Normandy, it'd be ... less bloody.

So British Intelligence created the man who never was. They found an unclaimed body of someone who'd died of pneumonia (so it'd look like he drowned), made up a name, put materials in his pockets to support the legend they built for him, chained a briefcase full of papers (some relevant, some not) to his wrist, set the body adrift toward the Spanish shores, and (if I recall correctly) put an announcement in their own papers about a ship having gone down in the area they set the body adrift. Spain, although nominally neutral, was known to let German intelligence in on information.

British Intelligence was so thorough about creating this legend for the man who never was that the photograph of his supposed girlfriend in his wallet had been folded and unfolded for hours, to look like it was frequently handled.

Having told the shorter version of this bit of history at the gaming table, my teammates promptly sent their characters to acquire the body of a homeless person, still on the streets of future Seattle. Once acquire, he was cleaned-up and propped up in the car our Rigger promptly crashed into the target building.

And the third time we use this trick in the campaign, our hacker said it was time to dispatch the Dead Bum Acquisition Squad. And thus, we were forever named.

Including in Rock Band.

Gaming while sick

Last Sunday I woke up at 6am with a migraine. Let me correct that: I woke up at 6am because I had a migraine. Migraines are something I get on occasion, usually if I eat something I shouldn't have (it's a longish list of 'shouldn't have', so sometimes I mess up), meaning I am familiar with how they feel and usually which type I have (ate something, not enough water, or sick) based on what the pain feels like. Now, normally I'd just do what I needed to in order to get through it and get back to sleep. Best method for me is to try and sleep through migraines. But whatever I did, I wasn't getting back to sleep this time, and I had gaming later that day.

1) I don't like canceling on people at the last minute and
2) We've been playing Shadow Run for about a year now and have had 19 sessions. Scheduling has been difficult.

So I wanted to go. But on the other hand, I was also making sure I knew where the trashcan was at all times, just in case I needed to vomit from this thing. But I really did want to go.

What eventually decided me was that this was going to be a combat session. We'd left off last time at the start of combat and most of the session was going to have to deal with that. My role-playing wasn't going to be up to my own standards, but I needed to be doing tactical thinking more than role-playing so I'd be able to get away with that. 

Also, the ibuprofen started kicking in.

So off we went to gaming. I may not have gotten as much fun out of gaming that day as usual, or gotten as excited as usual by pulling of awesome rolls or tactical maneuvers, and I may not have contributed a lot to the other player's fun. Coming out of the last session, because of a couple setting pieces, we thought this session was going to be focused on my character and the other primarily physical (as opposed to magically) combat focused character. But the other one got mind controlled into a murderous, berserker rage and I was not as present as I wanted to be, so the session ended up focusing on our magic user (who's been the focus due to being team leader, excellent role-playing, and having given the GM a lot of plot hooks to use). So being not a hundred percent probably altered the narrative just a bit.

But I didn't prevent everyone's fun by forcing a reschedule. And some days, that's enough.

So my Shadow Run Game Master gave us homework...

Basically he was giving out in-game rewards for writing backstory (one karma point per 150 words, for you Shadow Run players). And, since I'm a dork, I did it. So here's a short (short) story... eh, okay, it's really some flash fan fiction I wrote in about 40 minutes Sunday morning. And then I'm going to pick apart everything wrong with it, you know, for when I clean it up for a second draft.

Ms. Dressler?” Gabbi asked, shifting a bit on her feet in front of her teacher’s desk. It was still 10 minutes before class was supposed to start this morning.

Ms. Dressler looked up from her handheld with a small sigh. “Yes, Liesel?”

Gabbi bit her tongue, just a little. Her name was Gabbi. Stupid school rules about first names only, no nicknames. “Um. The project due today? I um, never heard from the rest of my teammates. I tried contacting them, I swear, in school and after, but no one would talk to me. Um. I made a text file of all the times I tried. But, um. I couldn’t talk to them. Or find out what they wanted me to do on the project. So, um. Here’s my copy of the project,” Gabbi said, shooting a project file over to Ms. Dressler’s inbox via her open Matrix connection. “I um. I didn’t want to take up the team’s slot in the classroom… thingie.” Gabbi dropped her eyes back down and shuffled her feet again. She wasn’t sure but that might have been the most she’d said to anyone in one go all week.

The handheld made a small clunk against the desk. “Liesel, please look at me.”

Gabbi looked back up.

“Are you telling me that you did the entire team project by yourself?”

“Yes? I’m sure the rest of the team did the work too...”

“Liesel, that project was designed to take a team of four students two months to complete.”

“Oh.” Gabbi looked back down again and shrugged. “Maybe it’s not very good then…?”

“I’ll take a look. But Liesel, the next time you’re having trouble with your team, come to me and I’ll talk to them.”

Gabbi cringed, hunching her shoulders, and muttered “Yes ma’am.”

“You find that an unsatisfactory solution?”

“Um… That usually gets me hit.” A lock of white hair fell forward into Gabbi’s eyes and she tucked it back behind her ear “And they complain to the teachers I don’t do any work. And I get hit again if I protest… I’d rather just do the work…”

Ms. Dressler pinched the bridge of her nose and didn’t say anything for a moment. “Well, are you ready to present today?”

“Yes ma’am,” Gabbi said, swallowing hard. Presentations in meat space were the worst.

Ms. Dressler’s computer pinged Gabbi’s with an invite into the classroom Matrix node. “We have some time before class starts. Show me what you’ve got.”

Oh, in the Matrix. She could do that. Gabbi flashed Ms. Dressler a grateful smile and slipped into the Matrix space.

As a first draft, that's got more description and less talking-heads dialogue than usual for me, so that's an improvement. It's still very talking-heads though, not going to lie – still need to keep working on that.  For instance, Ms. Dressler needs some description. Like at all. And I need to look up the correct terminology around the Matrix in Shadow Run – I was stuck in the Eclipse Phase setting so words were not coming. (In my defense, all the SR books are at the GM's house.) I've gotten across that my main character, Gabbi, is bullied, but not that part of the reason is her albinism. And for all the description I've given, she could be anywhere from a middle school student up through college. And anywhere in the world. I can probably skip trying to place the story in location, but really do need to put in an age for the poor kid. And more physical description. Also, there's nothing truly specific to the Shadow Run setting here, which I suppose could be a good thing or bad thing depending on your point of view. The term Matrix, while used in the setting, is used in plenty of other worlds too, so that at least could convey what's going on with the computer systems to folks not versed in the setting. Maybe want to get into the story that there are other intelligent species, like elves, orcs, and dwarves, in this world. Maybe.

For flash fiction, I'm reasonably happy how it's come out. Honestly happier that I could write a) something short and b) how long it took. Once I sat down to write that is. Pretty sure this one percolated in my brain for a week, in that space between when I lie down for sleep and when I actually fall asleep.