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Being Nosferatu

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Dal Thrax

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« on: (18:04:18/05-27-15) »
Being Nosferatu.

I died at sixteen and escaped to Hell.  VITAS, virally induced toxic allergy syndrome, it killed a good portion of the worlds population around the turn of the century.  About once a decade, a new strain pops up.  VITAS can kill you fast, or it can cause slow suffocation as you struggle to draw breath.  In my case it was a slow death.  As they say, there is no treatment, there is no cure.  That's not exactly correct.  There is a retrovirus that will kill VITAS, and anything else that ails you.  The only catch, it changes you in way that might make you wish that you were dead.

Human Metahuman Vampiric Virus or HMHVV.  It popped up when magic came back into the world.  Depending on strain it can turn you into a brain damaged, infectious, shambling corpse – don't tell my ghoul friends that I said that – or Dracula.  When Daddy's little girl got sick, he used his connections at the corporate research lab to turn her into one of the infected.  In my case it was strain Ia.  Have you ever seen a still from the old flatvid Nosferatu?  I look something like that.  No body hair, white skin, pointy ears, don't age – ever.  On the bright side, I look better than Count Orlok – he's just ugly.   Down side, I have to permanently rip out a portion of someones life essence every couple of months not to die.  Oh yeah, and sunlight can be bad too.

Nothing lasts forever.  The company made all kinds of promises about finding a “cure” for my new condition.  I suspect a board member just wanted to have his or her little ticket to immortality tucked away somewhere.  Eventually, the corp learned all it thought it could from me – or maybe the big suit just decided that they wanted to find a vampire, it's a related strain, and go through eternity with a full head of hair.  The infected see the astral all the time.  That includes auras.  When you have not much to do but look at auras all day, you become good at reading them.  An aura won't reveal what you are thinking, but it will reflect your feeling.  I knew about the kill order when the scientist and suits were still debating whether or not to put a bullet into my brain.  I made it out before they could put their decision into practice.  My father wasn't so lucky.

That brings me to today and the back of an immobile van in an abandoned underground parking garage.  Oh yeah, and a pack of ghouls.  They call the garage, Tartarus, it's been a home for the infected since the 40s.  If I have the 1920s vampire movie strain of HMHVV then ghouls have the 1970s zombie movie package.  Well maybe, old vid zombies don't stop in to talk about their personal life. 

Remember I said it's hard to keep a secret from the infected, well trying living in a place where everyone can see every shift in your aura.  Oh, and walls have to really thick to block auras.  If you want some privacy, you have to find a place that is warded – like the back of my van.  My little home is also a mystic lodge.  The wards are too weak to keep anyone out, or in, but they do stop others from “overhearing” your aura.  It's one of the few places in Tartarus, the slang name for the garage, with some actually privacy.  Kelly is a ghoul, and my best friend.  She's nineteen, and wanted to talk without everyone seeing her motions.  We were gossiping away when the hunters showed up.

“So I saw Tamara and Alex together and . . . uh oh.”

“Kelly, what where they doing?!”

“Drek! Somebody just disrupted Charlie.”  Kelly is a mystic adept.  A mystic adept is a kind of combat magician that scares even your normal magicians.  There are some things I can do that she can't, but I wouldn't want to try to take her in a fight.  Charlie is a ghost that Kelly bound last Halloween to help protect Tartarus.

“Get everyone ready, I'm going out.”

Astral space is the living reflection of the world.  Screaming “incoming” at the top of my astral lungs – there are some benefit to living in a home where everyone  sees, and hears, the astral – I headed for the first level to find what had just put the hurt on our guard

Three hunters: elf, human and troll.  Elf is a mage.  All heavily armed and armored and with drones.  The drones didn't really show up in the astral. I hoped the ghouls could see them if it came down to it.  I caught the hunter that took out Charlie sword focus in hand, still perceiving the astral.  What the hell.  I took a risk and strafed the bastard before he could switch back to the mundane.

Quick pointer on the astral from the dual natured, your mind powers your astral body.  A bookworm mage can be he-man when he steps out of his meat body.  Or a mage can simply look into the astral, becoming dual natured like the infected.  Peeking into the astral is a great way to find a spirit you want to poke with a sword focus – except your armor doesn't come with you and you don't get to be he-man.

In the mundane world my fangs have all the menace of sharpened paper clips.  Five foot two former plague victims are not known for being great in a brawl.  In the astral, the Nosferatu virus gives you the strength and speed of an Olympic athlete – in the augmented games.  Instead of just taking a nip at the elf's neck, I ripped his astral throat out.  That was . . . unexpected.  The sudden darkening of his aura confirmed a fatal hit.         
     
I hit my meat body again just as Tartarus' alarms started to sound.  Hopefully the jammers coming online would take out the drones.  I looked around for Jim.  In his first life, Jim was an accountant in a small town in Illinois.  Also was an Army reservist.  Now he's the guy that keeps this place running. 

Catching sight of Jim handing out AKs I hustled over.  I suppose other Nosferatu might have glided with inhuman speed but um, plague victim.  You do what you can do.

“Went astral.  Three hunters plus drones, one down.  Already cleared the second barricade.  Heavily armed.  No magic unless they can get the mage up.  Lot of nasty resonance on their weapons, and their armor was showing in the astral.  Looked like riot gear or something.  Bunch of hate.  These chummers have done this before.”

A crashing sound announced that the attackers had found the marble buckets upstairs.  Hey we have children down here sometimes, and I don't mean as lunch.  Deathtraps are nice, but not if a six year old is going to set it off.  (The ghoul strain of HMHVV is highly contagious, doesn't stop aging and is not effective birth control.  Flip all of that for vampires and nosferatu.  The highly contagious bit is pure downside for ghouls, the rest is a matter of opinion).

Jim hit a switch starting the bugout siren only to have everything go quite seconds later.  “Drek, decker took out the siren.” Looking at me, “feel like giving us another shriek?”

Ok, so maybe my astral voice can be a bit loud at times.  Kelly caught my body as I headed out.  “Get to the bolt hole! Gunners on the third barricade!”  The UCAS still offers bounties on dead ghou, and they've been going up lately.  Tartarus hold fire drills for this situation.  Things run a lot smoother when there isn't somebody on the other side trying to screwup your plans.

Tartarus is a three level underground parking garage.  On top of it are there burnt out remains of a condo complex that got torched back in '11.  The layout if pretty simple.  There is a single ramp that runs through the middle that goes up and down.  Each level has two long, straight bays running parallel to the ramp.  When you come down the ramp from the outside you see a masonry wall ahead of you and a wall of debris to the left.  There is a barricade made on concrete roadway dividers at the street entrance and a second barricade angled to cover the first.  From there you go down a long, empty, bay with another barricade at the end.  Reaching the end give you the choice of either going down to the next level or keep going left into the next bay, where the portable toilets are. 

The second level is much the same as the first.  A wall blocking the left bay funneling everyone to the right.  Nothing in the right bay but a long expanse clear of cover with a barricade at the end.  The barricades on the first floor are all made from those concrete lane divider things the use in highways.  We might want to move them to let a car in or out.  The second floor barricade is more dug in.  Think four foot high concrete wall with a meter of sandbags in front of it and covered firing positions.  A zig zaging gate gets you through are little version of a trench line.  The living area is in the right bay.  Mostly, people sleep on cots or in tents.  There are a couple old cars and the office, an old single wide, pushed against the far wall. I'd be lying if I said I get to sleep in a van because I'm an awesome mage. The fifth world gave rise to a host of supernaturally enhanced allergies, gold, sunlight, you name it.  It's not just peanuts you have to worry about anymore.  Regular people, and people that were once regular people like ghouls, get these randomly.  Ghouls don't like UV-A rays, aka sunlight.  Nosferatu have potentially deadly allergies to UV-A and, I drek you not, wood.  If you have an allergy to something you might bump into on accident, you can sleep in a car.

The third level – the basement – well the basement is a place nobody much likes going.  Remember I said that ghouls have been living in Tartarus since the 40s.  Ghouls can only eat raw meat, and require about a pound of metahuman flesh every week.  There wasn't a black market in human flesh in 40s and most people didn't know as much about the astral back then as they do now.  The old enclosed parking bays are on the third level.  They used them as cells for the victims the ghoul pack brought back for dinner.  Thirty years later and the pain and fear in those cells can still be felt in the astral.  It must have been nearly overwhelming when they were operating.  Ghouls, as well as the rest of the infected, are dual natured.  We can't turn off the astral and block it out.  Constant exposure to high astral background counts, the technical term for places of pain and fear, can drive you mad.  Modern infected are no sim-sense heroes, but we know better than to drek where we sleep.  We'd have blocked the third level off, but it also has a steel door that doesn't appear on any plans.  The door leads to a tunnel to a neighboring building. 

I hit my meat body again just as a drone came around the corner.  Then the thing turned on it's speakers.  “Haley, honey, are you here?”  Oh drek, that was my mothers voice.  “It's, Mom.  While your out here, you're hurting people.  These people are here to help you.  Please go with them.”

“Promise me that if I come with them nobody else gets hurt.'

“Yes dear, I promise.”

I watched as I stepped out from behind the barricade only to see the Troll emerge from behind a corner and put an assault cannon round through my head.  Didn't think they would disrupt the spirit when I hung the illusion spell on it.  Going to need to do some apologizing for that, spirits hate when they get vaped.  Beats a funeral though. 

No sooner did spirit me go splat than I found myself on the ground choking and burning at the same time.  The next thing I knew I was looking up at Kelly surrounded by light.  Alleviate allergy spells, got to love them. 

Things were not looking good.  Besides the drone with UV-A flood lamps, the trolls assault cannon looked to make short work of the barricade.  Sandbags are great, but they can't stop man portable light tank rounds.  Making matters worse the human had something throwing a lot of lead.  Maybe a machine gun?  If we were scoring any hits, they weren't getting through the full body armor the hunters had.  A sudden quite followed by a boom and burning sensation in my hand as I caught a piece of shrapnel added grenades to the mix.

Darkness and a shower of sparks showed that somebody had gotten the drone.

Kelly yelled “mindscrew the troll” at me before starting whatever she was gong to cast.

Ok, thought control spell time.  Can see the trolls aura, check.  Time to go for it.

“Drop the gun and run away.” “NO!”  Drek, just my luck, trollboy wasn't going to be a pushover in the willpower department. 

“Drop the gun.” “No!” “The gun, drop it.” “No.” “Drop it.””N....o.””Drop the gun NOW!””Ok.”

The cannon hit the ground just as his friend went down from whatever Kelly did to him.  Faster than I thought possible, Kelly raced forward and tackled the troll before he could get his bearings.  A rush of other ghouls followed.  I tried join the surge, just to find myself already panting and out of breath.  Control thoughts takes a lot out of you.

Looked like the pile had some of the Trolls armor off, none too gently either.  Wonder if he would live long enough to join Ghouldom.  A sudden greening of the trolls aura, followed by darkness, argued not.   Must have been a cyanide pill or something.  Idiot.

Warning: most likely posting from a tablet.

Dal Thrax

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« Reply #1 on: (18:04:33/05-27-15) »
* * *

Kelly looked down at the bound human.

“Ok, lets start with why you were here and who was controlling those drones.”

“Go to hell Ghoul girl.”

“Hum, uneducated or ignorant.  Doesn't really matter.  Look if you talk things will go easier on you.”

“You're going to kill me, or turn me, anyway.”

“Actually we were thinking kill, that bomb you rigged on the door in the basement killed a couple of kids.  Wouldn't want you hanging around after that.  The question is how quickly you go down.”

“I'm not telling you anything.”

“So what do Jen, I mean Haley's folks have to do with all of this?”

“What's the matter, your ears not working.  I'm not telling you anything.”

“How did you scout out around here?  Are there any more of you?”

No reply.

“Well I think we're about done here.  Anything else you don't want us to know?”

Kelly looked over our prisoner at me.  “You got everything you need Jen?”

“Yep our friend here has been very informative, thanks.”

Kelly gave our captive a malicious grin. “Mind probe spells.  Thanks for thinking loudly.”

“Jen, I believe you draining our friend would be a suitably unpleasant way to go.”

Oh Frag.  I felt everyone watching me. I'm not sure I could intentionally drain somebody all the way, especially not with an audiance. 

“On second thought, leave him breathing.”

Thank you!

* * *

We sat around the office waiting for Jim to come in. A dim light glowing over the old kitchen table in what served for a conference room.  Ghouls are blind, their infection destroys the areas of the brain that process sight.  Fortunately, the part of the brain responsible for astral sight is . . . elsewhere.  One of the things I do around here is provide a pair of working, mundane, eyes.

“Sorry Jen.  I've had like five people bitch me out for what I made you do to that guy.”

“I urked in front of everyone didn't I?”  An urk is the astral equivalent of your aura going eek.

“And how.”

“Good afternoon ladies.  Jen, are you all right?”

“Yeah, fragger liked being drained.”

“If you feel like you need to talk, I'm here.  As soon as Hansen shows up we can start.  Ah, Hansen so nice of you to join us.”

“Guys dead, no shortage of volunteers for the firing squad.  Jen, what the Frag is going on?  Why did they know your name?  Why didn't you geek that guy when you had a chance?”

“As Jen has told us, out friends scouted Tartarus with micro-drones.  As you no doubt know, the government in its infinite wisdom has decided that a dead Nosferatu is worth about three dead ghouls.  It didn't help that we were all willing to believe that somebody might send a team to extract our friend here.  Classic psyop, gave them time to get their drones in place.  So Jen what do we have?”

“The logo on the armor says Ghastbusters, extermination and pest control.  One panther assault cannon, an automatic shotgun with everything filed off, three Ares assault rifles, some grenades and a Sony cyberdeck.  About a fifth of a ton of meat, and the same weight in chrome.  Also the foci from the guy upstairs.  The cyber is good stuff,  meaning its hard to see – especially once its users have left the mortal coil behind.  Might be some bio, but it'd be rotten by now.  There's a detailed list of everything they had on them in the brails.  Are we shipping the bodies out for cyber removal?”

Hansen looked livid.  “Look Jen, you're a good person.  Good people get themselves and everyone around them killed.  Stop being squeamish and get with the program.  We're going to rip out the wear and dine on our enemies flesh.”

“Well if you want to try removing, at least, beta-ware don't let me stop you.  Good luck pulling off anything that still works.  Efficient use of resources.  Sell the bodies to a chop shop.”

“Listen, if I had the power you do, I'd be draining every poor slot I could to fuel it.”

“And that, Hansen,” Jim chimed in, “is why we are all glad as hell that Jen a.k.a. Haley is the Nos and you are not.  Seeing who took down the most . . . ghastbusters . . . today, you might want to mediate on your position on that poor slot list.  Cyber removal it is.  We're mounting the guns on the barricade, it'll help improve moral.  What about the rest of the stuff?”

“Give the magic drek to the witches.  Can anyone use the armor.”

“Battle armor is custom fit.  Not without putting nuyen into it, and nobody can use a troll sized suit right now.”

“Ok, so sell everything that isn't a weapon then?”

“And the grenades, unless you want to keep somebody else's wirelessly enabled grenades around.”

“Drek, thanks Jen.  Um where are they right now?”

“In a steal barrel in the meat locker in the basement.”

“Good thinking.”

“Ok, moving on.  It looks like we're going to need to get some single blocking pain and figure out a way to keep jammers up full time . . .”

* * *

A knocking at the door.

“Jen can I come in.”

“Um, just a minute Kelly.”

“Don't have your ex-boyfriend in their do you.”

“Hansen, you've got to be kidding me.  There you go.”

“I came by to see what you wanted to do with the foci.”

“Keep them.  I'm not going to be here long.”

“So that bag is um, packing.  Today wasn't just random, was it?”

“No.”

“So where are you going?”

“Away.”

“Look if you can stay a couple more days, I might be able to line up some work, get some nuyen.”

“Ok, I guess.”

“Here, sustaining foci.  Get up a good allergy relief spell and hang it on it.  It's what I do when I run.  Use some reagents and the sun doesn't hurt anymore.”

“But. . .”

“I already have one.  Don't want to overload.”

* * *

Kelly stepped into the kitchen behind Jim.  This evenings breakfast looked like sushi kabobs.  After yesterday, it was nice of him to pick something that could almost have been normal in another life.

“Thanks for the invite.”

“How's she doing?”

“Darkness overload.  Wants to leave.”

“That bad?  Is she about to going mad dogs and Englishmen on us?”

“I gave her something that can keep a spell going without needing to concentrate on it.  Nos have a strong virus.  Don't think it'll let her greet the sun unprotected if there is any other way.”

“If she leaves, can she survive?”

“Well that depends.  What chances do you think somebody with the magical potential of a small supernova and a virus that makes you smarter, faster, and more powerful; has in the barrens.”

“Hansen is right, she's squeamish.”

“Squeamish doesn't know as much about black magic as Jen does, even if she doesn't use it.  She's rebelling against something.”

“Her mother?”

“I'm not spying on her for you.  I don't know.  Maybe.”

“How does a sixteen year old learn black magic anyway, and enough hermetic magic that she can decide not to use it?  Is she older than she's letting on?”

“No.  An older vampire couldn't hide the physical changes.  As for her age, well you've seen her.”

“Sweat sixteen forever.”

“Don't say that around her, unless you want to see her cry.  Inhuman isn't inhuman.  On the magic, the two traditions are not that different.”

“You have no idea how little comfort that thought gives me.  So any ideas?”

“I'll take her with me the next time I get a shadowrunning job.  Get her some money at least.  Probably safer for everyone than just letting her wander off into the barrens.”

“You know, if she's this powerful now she could be a major asset to Tartarus later.”

“Frag you, she's my friend.  Go get a corp job if you want to turn people into assets.”

“Kelly, if Jen had been on the other side today, could we have stopped her?”

“No.”                                                 
Warning: most likely posting from a tablet.