Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Nervous Part of Writing in Someone Else's IP

I've been working on a series of short stories recently.  More correctly, I've resumed writing on a series of short stories.  I wrote the first short story and half the second in 2009 as part of NaNoWriMo that year and set it aside when I got to a point where I didn't know where the plot went next.  It was a good writing experiment, starting with the characters and a setting and seeing where things went as I wrote, but around 32,000 words I lost plot focus and never came back to it.  In the intervening time, I wrote a full sci-fi novel [which needs a revision so it is a story and not a sequence of events] and I started writing this blog, which kept the writing juices flowing.

A friend of mine [who was also a reader on my sci-fi novel] reads a lot of material online that is sold through Amazon Prime Reading.  Last month, he asked when I was going to finish my novel as it was as good if not better than what he was reading there, even without revisions.  That was going to take some time [plus the source files died in a hard drive crash, so I'd have to rebuild it from a PDF], so I showed him the first chapter of my 2009 short story.  He liked it and had to share it with his wife who was curious what had him laughing so much.  Now he's clamoring for chapter 2, so I'm working on that because a series of short stories feels less daunting than a re-write of a full novel.

The tricksey part is that the short stories are set in someone else's IP [not Shadowrun, because I know someone will wonder].  Today I used their online system to ask "Hey, I'd like to do this cool thing that is set in your IP, how can I get this to happen without receiving a Cease and Desist or stripping out the cool background?"  Now I have to wait to see if they respond and if they respond with anything more than "No."  I'm hoping they'll at least ask to see a writing sample as I think I can make a case from that.  The writing is good, but some spots need to be tightened up/built out to smooth some plot points out.  We'll see.  In the mean time, I'm nervous.

The Shadowrun game is still running.  One of the players asked to take a crack at running and put together the current run.  She's piling on a ton of complications and we're pretty sure the Johnson lied to us about a few important things, but we are still a "Go!" for the mission.  I'm not certain how I'm going to write it up as there has been tons of planning, which is boring, but this is one of the toughest nuts we've had to crack.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Session Report – Woodchipper – Job Six: Ludovic’s Hell, Part 5

[This job happened March 21st, May 2nd, May 9th, May 23rd, June 6th, June 20th, June 27th, July 18th, July 25th, August 8th, and August 22nd.  This part covers events related to this run during (in-game) April 7th and 8th (and two weeks beyond), 2076.  This is the final part of this run and the end of the Woodchipper arc.]

PCs Involved
The Fin – female human con artist and gambler from India, by way of Russia, posh and elegant
Killroy – male human street samurai, specializes in hand-to-hand combat (and apparently machineguns)
Seul-ki – androgynous human from Korea, a laconic expert with swords
Bookie – male elf alcoholic hacker, favors whiskey with a whiskey chaser

Ash – male human car shaman/rigger, speaks in the third person and follows The Spirit of The Road

Tuesday, 7 April 2076
4:00 PM
Bookie, looking to use some of Vic’s expense account to cover a side project, used the backdoor he put into Vic’s commlink to access it.  He discovered that all of the attached corporate accounts were shut down.  Checking around on the commlink, Bookie realized it was active and so opened the feed so he could listen in.  He immediately started recording the conversation.

Vic was in the middle of an argument with his boss and a HR representative of Chaney Paragon Technology [Vic’s employer].  Vic is in the process of being fired due to misappropriation of funds [all the unexplained charges on his expense account, made by Bookie] and apparently prepping to be extracted to a company in Japan [the one-way ticket to Hiroshima and the funeral wreath sent to Vic’s boss saying “Sorry for your loss”, both also purchased by Bookie in Vic’s name].  The HR rep also brought up that, for someone supposedly being hunted by shadowrunners, he seems suspiciously alive after a dozen “attempts” on his life.  Vic really had no coherent response for any of the accusations other than “It’s not my fault” and “I’m not doing this”.  The conversation ended with Vic being fired and and the HR person advising him to not return to the office – the forms and his personal belongings would be mailed to him.

Laughing to himself, Bookie sent a copy of the conversation to Ash, Killroy, and Seul-ki.  He then opened a new bottle of whiskey and, after a celebratory drink or two, got back to what he’d been doing.

Wednesday, 8 April 2076
5:00 AM
Starting early, Seul-ki used the tracking device to locate Vic.  She was expecting him to either be in Bellevue or back at his apartment in Downtown.  Either area would have an elevated security presence, so she wanted time to plan her pass at Vic.  Instead of either of those places, she located him in the Sea Tac airport.

Seul-ki contacted Bookie and asked him to look through the security cameras and locate Vic.  If Bookie could determine why Vic was there, even better.  Bookie sleazed into the Sea-Tac security host, taking care to stay in the lower security portions of the host to delay being spotted.  He made use of the camera system’s facial recognition software to locate Vic in the JAL VIP Lounge, along with two bodyguards.  Vic was also obviously drunk.  Cross-referencing Vic’s SIN with the ticketing system for JAL, Bookie discovered that Vic had moved the date on the one-way ticket to Hiroshima forward one day and appeared ready to fly out this morning.  Bookie related this information back to Seul-ki and quietly jacked out.  Running hosts made him sweat.  And thirsty.  And, hey, here’s a bottle of good whiskey that isn’t entirely empty!

Seul-ki accessed the public information about the flight Vic would take in approximately three hours and then called Ash.  This was going to require some assistance to pull off.

7:55 AM
Ash pulled the delivery truck he was remotely driving to the side of the road to wait [physically, Ash was just under five kilometers to the northeast, just inside Tacoma and adjacent to the 518].  The road in question was a block from the perimeter fence to Sea-Tac.  The delivery truck had a padded “bumper” welded to the back of it, the kind used to avoid damaging a loading dock.  An experienced delivery man would have commented on how low the padding went and then shrugged it off as amateurs.

Inside the delivery truck, Seul-ki was attaching banner mounts to the rear frame of a high-speed motorcycle the two had stolen an hour ago.  Seul-ki would initially hold the long banner pole like a lance once she deployed from the truck, but would insert it into the banner mounts once on Sea-Tac property.  An additional package was stored in one of the motorcycle’s saddle bags.  Bookie monitored Vic’s movements inside the airport and the status of the JAL flight Vic was taking.  Finally, Sin had been called in and navigated a FlySpy drone through the airport and into Vic’s vicinity.  [That last would have taken a while to play out, so I just allowed it at the cost of an Edge.  Sin has the skills but it would have killed too much game time for a run his player was only incidentally involved in.]

8:00 AM
Bookie announced over the commlinks that Vic was in motion, heading to the gate for his flight.

8:10 AM
Bookie confirmed Vic was on the flight.  He also reported that Vic’s two bodyguards left him at the gate once he started boarding.

8:30 AM
Bookie announced that the plane was finally backing away from the gate.

8:35 AM
Bookie announced that the plane was taxiing to the end of the runway and was 4th in line to take off.

8:43 AM
Bookie announced that the plane was next to take off.  This launched Ash into action, if not motion.  He gunned the delivery truck’s engine and drove at the Sea-Tac perimeter at high speed.  Once close, he warned Seul-ki to hang on and whipped the truck around into a sliding reversal of direction [bootlegger reverse for players of Car Wars], using the left over momentum to bring the back of the truck right up to the concrete wall surrounding Sea-Tac.  He then backed up the truck until the “bumpers” contacted with the wall, the pressure triggers inside them detonating the over-sized breaching charges also concealed within the “bumpers”.

The breaching charges did their job and blasted a hole through the concrete security wall.  Ash triggered the auto-retract on the delivery trucks back door, exposing Seul-ki on the motorcycle to the newly blasted entrance to the Sea-Tac grounds.  Seul-ki started the motorcycle, revved its engine to the red line, and jumped it out of the truck, through the breach, and across the grounds towards the runway.  Once Ash was certain Seul-ki was out of the truck, he auto-closed the back door and set Grid Guide to drive the truck to Fort Lewis.  He then jumped out and let it go.

Back on the Sea-Tac grounds, Seul-ki stuck the banner pole in the banner mounts and sped towards the JAL flight Vic was on.  The pilot on that flight, alerted by the tower, throttled forward, and started take-off.  In the distance, security vehicles scrambled onto the tarmac by the same alarms, vectored towards Seul-ki, who was now driving the motorcycle parallel to the accelerating jumbo jet.

Inside the jet, Sin had placed his drone in a spot to observe Vic on the plane [Edge was spent to make it happen].  Some of the passengers in the cabin noticed the person on the motorcycle riding next to the plane and started talking about it.  Vic ignored them until Seul-ki unfurled the banner.  Painted on the banner in big block letters was the message:


When someone on the plane asked, “Who’s Vic?” Vic sat bolt upright and looked around.  He pushed another passenger out of the way to see out the window, just in time to see Seul-ki pull a 10 pound kettleball out of the saddlebag and fling it up and over her shoulder…

…and directly into the Number 4 engine intake!

Several things happened at once: 

  • Vic screamed in a high-pitched voice, “They found me!”;
  • Seul-ki peeled away from the jet before it sucked in the banner (and her along with it); and
  • The 10 pound kettleball pounded through the jet engine, shattering the turbine and killing the engine, which spat out blade fragments, smoke, and flames.

The jet was already past the go/no go point and starting to lift off, so the pilot pushed the remaining engines past their capacities for a little extra lift to avoid crashing immediately back to the ground and threw the control stick to the side to lean on engines 1 and 2.  Inside the passenger cabin people were screaming and trying to stay in their seats in the steeply tilting aircraft, none screaming louder or more hysterically than Vic.  Sin captured it on through his FlySpy.

Seul-ki had reversed course, driving the stolen motorcycle as fast as she could, aiming at the breach in the wall.  Behind her, every security vehicle the Metroplex Guard had available pursued her.  Outside the grounds, every Lone Star patrol vehicle in the area was scrambling to get to the west side of the airport to box “the terrorist” in.  [Due to this being an airport, no aerial drones were aloft per Federal Law.]

Seul-ki hit a convenient drainage ditch just right and caught enough air to pass through the breach in the wall [Edge was spent to make the roll and Seul-ki’s player rolled very well].  Seul-ki then called The Fin, asking for immediate passage out of the UCAS and back to Korea, no questions asked and leaving within the next 30 minutes.  When The Fin asked why, Seul-ki replied, “No questions!  Just get it paid for soonest and don’t check the news until it’s done!”  With a sinking feeling, The Fin made quick calls while Seul-ki dodged and avoided the closing Lone Star and Knight Errant patrol cars and drones, slowly heading north towards the docks.  [This is where the last of Seul-ki's Edge was spent.]

Meanwhile, the JAL jumbo jet was heading north-northwest and losing altitude, trailing smoke and flaming engine parts.  The pilot called a priority emergency landing on state highway 509.  Grid Guide [part of the emergency response network] immediately cleared the 509 of all automated traffic.  Those few vehicles being manually driven quickly noticed they were the only vehicles on the rapidly emptying road and followed suit.

As the jet approached the ground, the pilot struggled to level the craft some to avoid dragging the port wing and crashing into any of the buildings or tumbling the plane.  With a heroic effort [the GM used Edge for the NPC and rolled well in front of the players], the pilot was able to slam the plane down on its landing gear near the center of the highway and reversed its engines.  The wings immediately started clipping light poles and signage, either knocking them down or losing parts of the wings in the process, streaming jet fuel behind the craft.

After one overpass inspired hop, the plane came to a stop.  The pilot activated all emergency escape devices and ordered the passengers off the plane immediately.  Wisely, he did not mention the highly likely chance the plane was about to erupt into a huge fireball, preventing further panic and slowing escape even further.  [Sin flew his FlySpy out during the chaos.]  By a miracle, all the passengers were off the plane [and mostly under some cover] when the fuel finally ignited and exploded the plane.  The explosion was spectacular and caught on camera by every local news drone and VTOL in the city.

Before that footage was seen by the majority of the city, The Fin secured passage for Seul-ki out of the country on a cargo ship out in Puget Sound.  The Fin directed Seul-ki to a spot where Sin’s submarine was waiting.  Seul-ki ran the motorcycle into Elliot Bay and swam over to the waiting submarine.  Once she was inside and the sub was sealed up, Sin carefully drove it to the waiting cargo vessel.  On the side of the ship away from the city, Sin surfaced the submarine and Seul-ki hailed for permission to come aboard.  She ran up the side of the ship, rather than wait for them to throw down a line or a ladder.  Three weeks later she disembarked in Korea.

[Note: per the game system, water blocks a lot of signal (creates noise ratings at 1 per centimeter of salt water), so the submarine has an antennae up along the periscope.  Therefore, as long as the antennae tip is above the surface, a rigger can jump into the sub and control it through their RCC.  Sin was doing this.]

At the same time Seul-ki was throwing the kettleball into the jet engine, Ash was rapidly driving his car across Renton on the 169, heading for the border crossing.  He crossed into the Salish-Sidhe minutes before the border was sealed and kept driving away from the Metroplex, a column of black smoke rising in his rearview mirror.  At the next rest stop, he switched over to his Lakota ID and dry-swallowed a dose of Long Haul.  He then kept driving east, following the Spirit of the Road.

Thursday, 9 April 2076
1:00 PM
The Fin was in a back corner of the mostly empty Ferapont Tea in the Alki neighborhood of Downtown, waiting for the dwarf calling himself “Mr. Johnson” to arrive.  The Fin had left the message for the end-of-job contact yesterday afternoon, while the media blitz over the attack on the JAL flight was just getting started.  She had a small wager with herself that the dwarf wouldn’t show, but at 1:00 PM exactly he stepped into the teashop.

He walked directly over to The Fin’s table, attempting to hide the shakes in his knees.  “He knows the airplane crash is a result of what he paid for,” she thought to herself.  “Good.”  When he got to the table, before he could speak, she politely said to him, “Good afternoon, Mr. Johnson.  Thank you for meeting with me.  Please, have a seat.  Would you like some tea?”

“Uh, no.  No thank you,” he replied as he sat down.  “You indicated the work was done,” he asked hesitantly.

“Yes,” The Fin answered cool and politely.  She slid a disposable viewer across the table to the dwarf.  “If you would activate the file on this viewer, you will see the requested proof of completeness.”

The dwarf took the viewer and activated the file, cradling the viewer to himself so only he could see the display.  As the fearful images of Vic’s face started displaying, the dwarf’s face betrayed some satisfaction at Vic’s obvious fear.  As the images continued to scroll past and Vic’s fear deepened turned to terror, the dwarf’s face shifted to an expression of horrified fascination.  When the final images flashed and disappeared, the dwarf covered his mouth with one hand and quietly set the viewer down, his face a mixture of shame and fear at what he had caused.

“Are you satisfied we have completed the job to your satisfaction,” The Fin asked the dwarf with a gentle but firm voice.  The dwarf was clearly a civilian and had not realized what he had unleashed.  In his defense, The Fin had not realized how badly this job was going to spin out of control either and was scheduled to leave Seattle herself within two hours due to the amount of heat the final act of this job had generated.  The dwarf responded to her by nodding and sliding two silver credsticks across the table to her.

After verifying the contents of the credsticks and putting them away, The Fin spoke again.  “Mr. Johnson,” she asked in the same gentle but firm voice.  He looked at her, the fear and shame still in his eyes.  “A bit of free advice: if you ever consider hiring someone from the shadows again, be careful what you ask for and be more specific in what you want.”  The dwarf nodded, slowly at first and then more emphatically.  “I also recommend a strong drink in your near future.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have other places to be.”  She then got up and left the dwarf sitting alone at the table.


Starting immediately after the plane crash and continuing over the next several days of intense news coverage, the corporations involved quickly started playing the Blame Game.  JAL blamed Sea-Tac for the incident and filed law suits against the airport management company and the Metroplex.  Sea-Tac claimed it was not their fault as the Metroplex guard allowed a terrorist to get onto the tarmac and attack the plane.  The Metroplex Guard claimed that exterior security was Lone Star’s responsibility and they were to blame for allowing the terrorists access to the exterior wall.  When the target of the attack was identified, Chaney Paragon Technologies was blamed by four corporations for not warning anyone he was the target of terrorists.

Chaney Paragon announced that Ludovic Areceneaux’s employment with them had been terminated the day before the attack on recommendation from Knight Errant, who advised them that the attacks were fake and merely a ploy to cover an illegal attempt to break contract and change employers.  Their PR flak also provided a complete list of events involving Vic, including recordings of Knight Errant representatives downplaying the seriousness of the events.  The media, smelling blood, quickly dug up videos of the listed events, spelling out the link between several recently infamous events.  When the witness statement from the street attack involving a custom assault rifle surfaced, the media tied these attacks to the attacks on the now-defunct Monkey Burger franchises earlier in the year.  JAL, Sea-Tac, the Metroplex Guard, Lone Star, and Chaney Paragon all filed large law suits against Knight Errant for allowing a cell of terrorists to run rampant in the city, questioning their competence.  As more information came to light, there were public calls to cancel Knight Errant’s security contract with the Metroplex.

To counteract all of this seriously damaging press, Knight Errant stripped every spare officer from cities across North America and shipped them to Seattle, massively upping the manpower available in the Metroplex.  Knight Errant then cancelled all leave in the Metroplex and started a massive crackdown on all crime in the city.  Any and every lead was followed, looking for the terrorists.  Anyone even vaguely suspected of criminal activity was arrested and hauled in.

For the next two weeks it was impossible to perform any shadowrunning in the Metroplex without Knight Errant piling all over it and arresting everyone.  The usual bribes were no good as Knight Errant was more concerned with saving its reputation rather than doing any kind of business.  The jails filled up and the court system became clogged to near immobility.  This period became known as The Heat, and every criminal and shadowrunner knew a friend or contact pinched by Knight Errant during this period.

Gradually, the extra Knight Errant personnel were returned to their home posts as crime rates everywhere else rose during The Heat.  The corporate lawsuits were gradually settled in the Corporate Court, with Knight Errant found responsible for three-quarters of the total damages and compensations from the plane attack and Lone Star and the UCAS (as the ultimate backers of the Metroplex Guard) splitting the remaining quarter between them.  Chaney Paragon was excused from paying reparations, but would have to eat the costs from all other events relating to the attacks on Ludovic Areceneaux.  Chaney Paragon considered the corporation to have gotten off lightly.


Knight Errant was never able to locate the “terrorists” who attacked Sea-Tac as those worthies were long gone and laying low far away from Seattle.

End of Run

[That wraps up the Woodchipper arc of runs.  The goal of Woodchipper was to throw as much work at The Fin as I could until she had to start turning jobs down or shuttling work to other fixers.  I got very close to this, but it made it difficult for me as the GM to keep track of things and I started missing meetings that were supposed to happen, and I could not ding the players for missing meetings I forgot about.]

[Additionally, this kind of overlapping series of runs made it difficult to stop so the other GM could take over, so I somewhat arbitrarily cut off the flow of jobs, so it will probably be the last time I run something like this.  Another run like Everybody Needs Somebody, however is very likely.]

[It will be another two weeks before I post another blog entry due to my birthday and events surrounding that cutting into my writing time.  It will most likely be Monkey Burger 3, the next major run after Woodchipper.  Until then, Later!]

[Links will follow, out of time tonight.]

UPDATE: Things changed and time passed.  I skipped Monkey Burger 3 and went to Under the Mountain.  It took me six months to work my way out of my writing slump.  Sorry about that.