Project Aphelion Solo Play #048: Matters of Heart and Soul

As the battle for independence comes to a close, it’s time to close a couple of threads we’ve been running for months now. There can’t be a real happily ever after with the emergent gameplay – but it’s not going to stop us from enjoying the moment.


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Meanwhile, in the Spirit World

Last we’ve seen her, Tonight was assisting Tomorrow and Wheeler in their move for independence, but this is definitely not what the spirit wants to do with her life. She’s a free spirit now, and while it doesn’t make any real difference mechanically for us (other than her becoming a magician as well, because all free spirits are free to learn spells and access magic), it does make a massive difference narratively. No longer an ally spirit, Tonight is free to pursue her own interests – she’s still a member of our Faction, but she will have more agency now.

We’ve used her in Wheeler’s Scenario on 27th July, and she already had all her free days for the month, which leaves us with 24th-26th and 28th-31st of July to account for.

On 24th, we’ll send her on the standard Income 2 Scenario, which is, as always connected to the Shadowmarket, because Tonight really likes making deals. However, this time, she gets to do it in person – not pretending to be Tomorrow anymore. This makes a perfect opportunity for her to get officially acquainted with all the people who will be soon working for her – as soon as we take over the market. The Scenario brings us +2 Cash, +2 Rep for Tonight, +1 tick in Negotiation, +1 project with BBs (2/3). Consequences: BBs gift us a beneficial project (trade route), bringing 3 more Cash payouts and adding +1 project, bringing Fam to 9.

On 25th, we’ll have her investigate the first Anomaly, the one we’ve found weeks ago (May 11th, exactly). The project of Payout 3 Scenario takes us only 1 day, and on July 26th we can run it – and we’ll succeed with 5 net, bringing +3 Karma, +3 Rep, +1 Arcana, with positive consequences of magnitude 5 – a contact asks for help in a Scenario with a Payout 5; if successful, gets a Rating promotion.

Tonight has 6 contacts, but I’ve never bothered to flesh them out, because she was just an ally spirit. However, over the six months of her existence, she has definitely met multiple people, spirits, and animals, and there’s no reason for her to not have her contacts now. The dice have decided the Scenario comes from a R1 Traveler, and months ago I’ve decided those are other spirits, so… 50/50 Crowley vs a new one – it’s somebody new! The Scenario will be of Scientific/Creative nature and the contact is motivated by money. Strange, but sure, we can run with it! For a spirit to be motivated by money, in Shadowrun rules, it means we’re meeting another anima/animus – one of the spirits that get so interested in metahumanity, they prefer it to the astral space. Like Tonight, for example.

I’ll let the game algorithm decide who this spirit is.

  • Focuses: Creative/Investigative (Performer)
  • Motivation: Selfishness
  • Familiarity: 3
  • Belongs to a Faction: new vs existing -> existing one. Roll 1d28=24. The Jammers.

Huh. I mean, cool and awesome. It’s a selfish, money-motivated free spirit connected to a group of smugglers that Tonight has been working with for the last month, coming into the game right after Tonight has become a free spirit and a player on the local trade scene. And it wants us to do a Scientific/Creative Scenario for them. Well, that’s an interesting set-up, especially right after investigating a magical anomaly in the Warrens.


July 26th, 2056

It has been delightful to finally walk around with her own face, to not pretend to be somebody else. Not that she particularly minded – Tomorrow is her, and she is Tomorrow – but they are different people, more with each passing day. Every time she tries to explain it, people just get confused, but it’s not that complicated: at one point in material-plane time continuum, months ago, they were the same. Since then, many things have happened to them both, and it naturally forced them onto two separate paths.

Only one of them wears the scars of a willing blood sacrifice. Only one of them knows the absolute freedom of being one with the wind.

One day, there will be nothing left of their bond but the memories. Not yet, though.

Funny as it was to be re-introduced to the owners and traders of the Shadowmarket, they have decided it will be easier and smoother than ambushing everybody with the ‘it was I all along’ reveal. For some reason, metahumans despise being conned like that and find the impersonation insulting, not hilarious. Also, it is better to not show all cards at once – who knows when the doppelgänger act will be needed again.

Nobody but Bunny has questioned the details of the familial relationship between Tonight and Tomorrow – however, as his only answer were two identical smiles on near-identical faces, even he has resigned himself to vague grumbling about Tomorrow and her usual shenanigans. Most people have assumed they’re sisters or cousins, and left it at that.

Most people.

Some of them had the audacity to take one look at her and wink. Obnoxiously. 

‘Tonight.’

‘Foxtrot.’

‘It’s a pleasure to see you again.’

‘Likewise.’

Neither of them even tries to control their auras, it’s enough that their words and smiles are pleasant for the general audience. Tonight eyes the man before her, the politely smiling Aztlaner with a perfectly trimmed beard, shiny hair, and carefully nonchalant clothes – oh, his black shirt might look like he woke up in it, but she knows it’s by design. After all, everything he chose to present to the material world is by design. 

His astral form doesn’t even fit. The golden energy glows bright like the sun, warm, confident, overwhelming, surrounding a pitch-black diamond-shaped center. It’s all much too big for the physical form he’s wearing, and it’s just so rude to walk around like that, letting other people just pass through his astral form, mixing with their auras, mingling, influencing them. 

And he freaking winked at her. She’s the one who’s supposed to do these things. 

‘Would you care for some coffee, Tonight?’ The rippling of the golden glow shows clearly that he’s about as happy seeing her as she she is at his sight. They are yet to establish who exactly is infringing on whose turf and business, but it’s obvious that the lines will have to be properly drawn at some point. So far, ever since they were introduced to each other by Bill Harrison – seemingly unaware that his local business partner is a free spirit – they’ve been both keeping their distance. Until today, it seems.

‘I’d love to,’ she answers cheerfully, as neither of them wants to draw any attention to their less than friendly relationship.

Five minutes later, trapped in a friendly staring and smiling contest in Shadowmarket’s local bar, Tonight can barely control her curiosity. It’s obvious that Foxtrot did not invite her for a coffee in a public place for an idle chat. Which can mean only one thing: business.

‘I have found myself in need of assistance,’ he says finally, his voice low and pleasant, clearly pitched to create a positive reaction in metahumans. ‘My usual crew became unavailable due to unfortunate circumstances, and the supply of people with similar abilities is rather limited around these parts of the town.’

‘I’m flattered to know you’d go literally to anybody else if given the option,’ she laughs and rests her chin on her hands in a perfect pose of an active, sympathetic listener. ‘And I understand. How may I be of assistance?’

‘I’m giving a concert the day after tomorrow and the mage whom I always hire to provide the visual components when I play has found himself busy exploring the realm of the dead. I need somebody to plan and cast the illusions to keep the mortals entertained. Can you do that?’

‘I can. What makes me want to?’

‘The pleasure of working with a virtuoso pianist and the fuzzy feeling the applause is going to give you?’

Tonight looks at Foxtrot expectantly, her smile not changing even a bit.

‘Thirty percent of profits from the ticket sales?’ he corrects, his aura undulating in obvious annoyance. ‘We’re already sold out.’

‘Make it fifty – the supply is very limited, especially on the timeline you’re running.’

‘I’m not going to give you half of my income,’ snarls Foxtrot, losing some of his cool. ‘Forty and I’ll take you to a dinner afterwards.’

Well, that’s unexpected. Tonight is sure that the surprise showed in her aura, but there’s little she can do about it. It might be the time to learn masking, especially if Foxtrot is staying around. ‘What for?’

‘I’m not leaving this place. Neither are you, I assume. Which means we can either keep avoiding each other, or we can learn to co-operate. I find good food and wine more conducive to a pleasant conversation than whatever this is.’ He drinks his tepid soycaf, scowling at the acrid taste.

‘Deal. Forty percent and a dinner. Now, what is it exactly that you need…?’


The Virtuoso

I admit I’ve moved almost completely to running the game on the Faction layer, at least for now – I have a plan to test a different mode soon, but this will come after we’re done with the current leg of the adventure. That being said, we’re short-handing this Scenario as well. It’s a Payout 5 Scenario: 2 Payouts of cash + 3 Payouts of Karma, as it will mostly require drafting complex rituals and keeping up illusions for a prolonged time.

R5 (1) Crew: 5 dice, 5 skill, 3 Resistance, 3 Clout, 2 soak, 2 automarks. +1 automarks for 1 Actor
Scenario Payout 5

Legwork: Skipping to not waste a day
Threat Rating: 5v8 = 2 (-2 soak) = 0.
TR 0-0 = 0
Challenge: Payout + 0 = 5.

R5 (1) Crew needs to score 5 marks. Tonight is rolling 5 v 6 – 5 (skill) + 5 (Payout Resistance) – 3 (Clout) = 5v3, and starts with 2 automarks, plus scores +1 in each roll. Scenario rolls 5 v 6 – 1 (number of Actors) + 3 (Resistance) = 5v8, and gets hit with 2 points of Soak each interval.

T1: Offense: 5v3=3 +3 = 6. MT 6/5. Defense: 5v8=3 (-2 soak) = 1. MT 5/5  -> Offense wins, 0 net.

We score our Payout, Tonight gets +5 Rep (and we +1 Influence), +1 learning tick in Spellcasting, +1 beneficial project with Foxtrot (1/2 needed to raise Fam to 4), Foxtrot becomes a R2 contact. Rolled a 5 for the consequences, so there is no immediate follow-up. Other than the dinner – I’m thinking, Valencia. What’s the point of being a free spirit if one cannot grab a dinner on the other side of the globe at a whim?


It’s High Time

No, we’re not building a drug lab. It’s high time to finish off our takeover of the Shadowmarket. The Shadowmarket is a R3 Social Facility (Trading Post), currently held by BBs. Taking over it requires running a Scenario set-up project with Challenge 15, which means Tonight finish it in 4 days, by August 1st, ready to run the Scenario by August 2nd. But before we get there, there’s still some things that need to be resolved. We’ll get back to this.


July 31st, 2056

‘You don’t have to do it. They don’t control your life anymore.’

Sarah raises her head, peeling her eyes away from her father’s LTG number. ‘I know I don’t. Only… I gotta.’

‘It’s your decision.’ Adam’s face clearly shows that if it were his, nobody would find the bodies. ‘Only you can know if it will help you.’

‘It will probably just make me sad. But it’s okay. It has to be done, sooner or later.’

‘Do you want me in it?’

She shakes her head. ‘You’re free to stay if you want, but don’t feel forced to. I’m a big girl. But… Shouldn’t you talk to your dad too?’

‘I should. I’m just not yet ready to face the disappointment. I haven’t seen him in over five years, and I’m not keen on having a tense silence over the phone, right before getting disowned.’

‘Adam…’ Sarah grabs his hand and holds it tightly. ‘Is this really what would happen? You’re still working with the feds. Other than you leaving the military, nothing else has changed as far as your father is concerned. Right? Or am I missing something?’

‘No, you’re not. I’m just…’ Adam sighs, a wistful smile on his face. ‘As far as he is concerned, I’m still going to be the good soldier just doing his job, and you’ll be my amazing, beautiful bride who volunteers to help special forces remove the threats to humanity. He’ll be happy to see us.’

‘Do you want to meet face-to-face? We have more than enough means to sort this out covertly, and I’m sure we can find a moment to fly to Seattle for whatever reason. Nobody is going to question us on literally anything.’

‘Next week. I need to think it through and make sure it’s safe. But yes, thank you. I’d like you to meet him.’

Sarah leans in for a kiss, making her feelings known. ‘I’ll be happy to get to know him, love. Now, let’s get this over with…’ She sighs and presses the button to connect the call. Breathe in, breathe out. He has no control over me and his opinion is irrelevant. Raven, give me strength. The phone rings several times, but before she has the time to second-guess herself, her father picks up. His face fills up the screen, expectant and neutral. 

‘Hi Dad.’ 

‘Hi Sarah.’

Breathe in, breathe out. Outside of the camera’s angle, Adam’s fingers wrap around Sarah’s palm, supporting her quietly, even though her father can’t see him. She figures it will be easier that way. ‘Sorry I haven’t called in a while.’

‘It’s alright.’ The carefully measured tone suggests that it isn’t – but that’s irrelevant too. ‘Nice to see you. Is everything okay?’ 

‘Yes, I’m fine. Chloe is too. We solved the problem with the people who were after her.’

‘I know, we talked to Chloe last month. She said she’s moving in with her friend…’

‘Girlfriend,’ she corrects, knowing that Chloe came out to her parents and was met with a wall of awkwardness and denial.

Harry sighs, his shoulders dropping. ‘Girlfriend,’ he agrees. ‘Sarah, can you tell your sister…’

‘No. If you want to talk to Chloe, talk to Chloe. Start with an apology.’ Sarah can hear the coldness in her voice, and she knows that assuming the battle stance right now is only going to make the rest of the conversation harder – but it’s for Chloe. Her sister has had enough drek thrown her way over the last couple of years, and Sarah won’t stand anybody else making Chloe sad. Especially not their parents.

‘I would if she picked up her damn phone.’

‘Then send her a damn text message. But please don’t make it worse. She’s finally happy and safe. It’s all that should matter to you two.’

‘Your mother…’

‘Dad, no. I don’t give a shit anymore. It’s the twenty-first century. There’s conservative and there’s fucking antediluvian. Tell mom to get over herself if she wants to have any daughters. We don’t need you in our lives. If you want to be in them, stop pulling this crap. Just be happy for us.’

‘I am happy for you.’

‘I’m getting married tomorrow.’

Sarah watches the muscles around her father’s eyes twitch, but he manages to smile. ‘That’s great. Best of luck, Sarah,’ he says after just a second of delay. ‘I wish I could be there for you.’

‘No, you don’t. You don’t approve of my choice, and you’d hate almost everybody at the party. But it’s alright. I just wanted to let you know.’

‘At this point, it really doesn’t matter what I think about your choices. I hope it works out for you.’

‘Thank you. It is working out.’ Sarah decides to throw her father a bone. ‘Everything is okay. I’ve finished the first year of uni, and Adam and I are working with Knight Errant’s Firewatch to clean up the Warrens.’

‘Firewatch? But I thought…’

‘Yes, Dad?’

Harry shakes his head. ‘Nothing. It’s not important.’

‘Exactly. You have thoughts and assumptions about my life. That’s unavoidable. But if you want to know what I’m doing in it, you have to let the past go. I’m not the same person anymore. You don’t have to be either.’

Sarah watches her father fight with himself, struggling to just simply agree. She knows how hard it is for him to let go of the control, of the oversight – but she can’t have it in her life anymore. 

‘Dad? I’m an adult. I’m at uni. I have a prosperous research lab and I work with several big corps as their magical security consultant. I’ve sorted out my life. Whatever you think is happening in it, is probably wrong. Stop being a cop for a second and just be a father.’

‘I am a father,’ he says darkly. ‘A father who doesn’t want you to waste your rebuilt life on entanglements with a gun-smuggling cartel.’

‘Dad…’

‘Sarah, this will not end well for you. Do you want to land in prison again for aiding and abetting a criminal? For being some mafia wife?’ 

‘I won’t.’

‘You can’t possibly know that!’ he exclaims, losing the hold on his emotions, then breathes out slowly. ‘It’s not too late to leave this all behind. Just come home, we’ll figure it out together. If you’re scared of what they will do…’

‘I’m not scared of anything,’ she cuts it quickly and looks away from the screen. ‘Fuck. I won’t convince you, will I? Well, this sucks. I guess you’ll have to just trust me.’

The silence on the other side of the call speaks volumes.

‘Let’s just tell him, Sarah.’

Adam’s steady voice startles both Sarah and her father; she has almost forgotten he’s sitting next to her, holding her hand through all of this. Harry furrows his brows, his expression changing from annoyance to concern to deep worry to cold fury.

‘You can’t even talk to your family without him listening in?’ he growls.

‘Dad, no. It’s not like this…’ Sarah sighs and drags a hand through her hair in a desperate gesture. ‘Wait a second, please.’ She raises a finger and turns away, but she leaves the microphone on; whatever happens, it’s best to let her father listen. Or rather, it would be disastrous to cut him off at this point. ‘Are you sure, babe? I don’t want to cause you trouble.’

Adam nods, not looking particularly concerned. ‘Some things can’t be helped. I don’t want you to lose your family because of me.’

Sarah looks back at the screen, at her father’s cold eyes and suspicious expression, then adjusts the camera setting to show both her and Adam. The sudden tension in Harry’s jaw is all the greeting Adam gets, but he just smiles politely in response. 

‘Sir?’ he starts without any prompting. ‘I can promise you Sarah is not getting entangled with any cartels. My name is Adam Wheeler, I was a captain in the UCAS Army, and I’ve been working here undercover, infiltrating the Cutters for the CIA for the last five years. We’ve removed any Cutter influence from Denver already, and we are working both with the government and Ares Macrotechnology to clear out the Warrens of insect spirits, so Denver won’t end up like Chicago. For the sake of the federal investigation, we uphold the pretense of a criminal enterprise, but your daughter is not doing anything even remotely illegal.’ He stares down his soon-to-be father-in-law without a shadow of hesitation. ‘I would appreciate it if you treated these details as confidential, as our lives depend on the secrecy.’

The silence stretches uncomfortably. Sarah looks at her father’s face, turned into a mask of frozen, mixed emotions, and she’s thankful for Adam’s fingers still entwined with hers. She waits for any reaction, but ultimately breaks first: ‘I told you to trust me.’

‘Sarah…’ Harry’s voice is quiet and devoid of any anger that was radiating from him just a moment ago. ‘I wish you had told me sooner.’

‘Secrecy,’ she repeats. ‘Duty. Responsibilities. Literally a matter of our safety.’

‘You know you can trust me.’

‘Like you trust me?’ Sarah sighs, feeling her anger – so far kept in check – rear its head. ‘Just so we’re clear – you’re only learning this because you didn’t leave me any choice. I’ve had years of you intruding upon my privacy, especially when not invited. I’ve already had you destroying my life to save me from myself. I can’t have you thinking I’m in some deep criminal shit, so you don’t go white-knighting again and blow our cover. Understood?’

Her father nods without a word.

‘I mean it,’ she presses. ‘No double-checking, no digging, no background checks on people involved. Do not cause any waves that will get me killed. Are we clear, sir?’

‘We’re clear, Sarah.’ By now, Harry looks mostly shell-shocked, and Sarah stifles the nasty smile that threatens to appear on her lips. ‘Can I tell your mother?’

She looks at Adam, who shrugs lightly. ‘I can’t stop you,’ she answers after a while. ‘And I’m not going to force you to keep a secret from her. But remember that every extra person dramatically raises the risk for us. I haven’t even told Chloe. So keep. It. Shut.’

‘I will. Sarah… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed you… I was just really worried about you.’ He finally looks away from his daughter. ‘My apologies, Adam. It’s nice to meet you.’

Adam raises his eyebrow. ‘We’ve met already. I’m the exact same person I was in December.’

Sarah bites the inside of her cheek, trying to keep the straight face. ‘All you had to do was to not go running background checks on my boyfriend, and all of this would have been avoided. You realize that, right, Dad? That trust thing we talked about?’ She knows she’s just kicking her father while he’s down, but damn – it’s fun.

‘I do.’ Oh, he looks so broken. I really shouldn’t enjoy this that much. ‘In that case, just… Welcome to the family. And stay safe, you two. I need… I’m sorry, Sarah. I need to talk to your mother. Stay in touch, please.’

She nods and smiles, then disconnects the call. With a sigh, she leans back, until she falls flat onto the bed. ‘You didn’t have to do it, you know. I appreciate that you did, but I can’t promise you he won’t mess everything up.’

Adam lies down next to her, brings up her hand to his lips, and gently kisses her fingers. ‘I want you to be happy. And you can’t be if you’re constantly worried about your father butting in with his well-meaning and completely misguided help.’

‘It was a perfect mix of truth and omission.’

‘I’m a silver-tongued criminal scum. And I am particularly good at the Annoyed Officer act.’

‘Thank you for lying to my dad for me. I hope it won’t blow up in our faces.’

‘Anytime. He can’t cause enough stir by mistake – and if he does that on purpose… I’m sorry, Sarah, but at some point you’ll have to abandon that reconciliation project.’

‘It’s the last time I’m trying. They’ve been as much of a disappointment to me as I were to them, I think.’ She laughs quietly, grabbing a pillow and hugging it like a plush toy. ‘Not the best family relationships and all.’ 

‘They’re not your only family anymore.’

Sarah looks at him, her smile growing at the same rate as the warm feeling in her chest. Chloe was right, she decides. Every time, it is like a supernova.


Faction Layer, 1 August, 2056

TomorrowTonightWheeler
Necessities130010001100
Gear Maintenance250010001800
Contacts Upkeep2300900400
Luxuries000
Total Monthly6,100c2,900c3,300c
Scenarios / Projects1052
Deployment Costs100% of monthly Upkeep = 6,100c50% of monthly Upkeep = 1,450c20% of monthly Upkeep = 660c
Facility UpkeepR2 Field Lab, R1 Ghostworks, R1 Intelligence Center, R1 Habitat, R1 Command Center, R1 Barracks = 7,000c
Crews UpkeepR3 Warfare Crew = 15,000c. R2 Scientific Crew = 10,000c
Fleet UpkeepR1 Warfare Fleet = 5,000c
Total Faction Expenses47,520c = 9 cash payouts + 2,520c
Cash Left37 cash payouts + 3,180c

Passive Projects Income:

  • R2 Field Lab = 2 Intel Payouts
  • R1 Habitat = 1 Cash Payout

To clear out some of the old things, we’ll also cash in one beneficial project from the CIA as 3 points of intel.
Current Faction Resources, after paying the bills:

  • 38 Payouts worth of cash
  • Extra cash: 3,180c
  • 134 points of intel
  • 61 points of Influence
  • 6 points of Karma
  • Payout 5 Protective Duty project from Wheeler, providing Warfare Focus for a project or Asset
  • 4 Payouts of gear from the CIA for bug-hunting

State of the World, 1 August 2056

  1. Aztechnology – in the background.
  2. Henequen – in the background.
  3. Cutters – we’re about to start running them day-to-day, and they currently don’t have any Assets, so let’s just check if they’ve noticed what we’ve been doing behind their back. With a 3, they’ve failed whatever internal investigation they had, and in effect, they’ve reduced the Fam with an allied Faction by 1. In a roll between us, Hellhounds, and BBs, the dice has decided it’s us – and honestly, it’s only fair. Down to 9, then! They don’t have any proof we’ve stolen their Assets, but they must suspect something.
  4. Hellhounds – are continuing their freelancing / contractors gig, and we’re about to help them out in rebuilding.
  5. Doc Harmon – in the background.
  6. Crowley – continues his metaplanar research.
  7. Phase – busy running her life and training the team.
  8. Ancients – in the background.
  9. ALOHA – in the background.
  10. Yakuza/MCT – in the background.
  11. Green Bishops – in the background.
  12. Zacualtipan – in the background.
  13. BBs – have succeeded at raising their Familiarity with the Jammers (to 2), so it’s no longer open hostility, just strong dislike. As a side effect, they’ve created a new Freelance R4 (2) Social Fleet! I think they not only were working on fixing their relationship with the current group of smugglers, but also tried – and succeeded – to find a brand new bunch of people willing to participate in the trade. Rebuilding the trade is definitely going to be BBs next objective, and getting that Freelance Fleet employed would be a good step forward for them.
  14. Bug spirits – the new ones in the Warrens. They are calmly and quietly trying to take over the world.
  15. Cutters – Hawai’i – in the background.
  16. d’Venescu – out of the game.
  17. Dzitbalchen – out of the game.
  18. Alp Group – in the background.
  19. Irene Woods – in the background.
  20. Delta Group – in the background.
  21. History Colorado – in the background.
  22. Aerico Group – Chloe’s employer has failed at their project (whatever it was), and in effect, they’ve created a new Freelance Crew looking for gigs. A R5 (2) Technical Crew. I think that’s the moment we again say ‘hi’ to Chloe.
  23. CIA – has succeeded at whatever it was they were doing, and they’ve reduced the rating of another Faction’s Asset by 1. As they only have Fam with us and Firewatch, and we’re best friends, that means they’re reducing Firewatch’s Intelligence Center to R2, causing the Familiarity to drop to 4.
  24. Jammers – they have failed at their endeavor and lost an Asset – I think we’ll remove that Warfare Crew, as it has the least reason to be there. Their next move will be to get that new Freelance Fleet on their side, before BBs do it.
  25. Parashield – they’have failed at their project and lowered the Fam with an allied Faction by 1 – it has to be us. I think maybe that hellhound training program that they bought wasn’t really all that great, especially as it was speed-written by Tomorrow and Salazar as a last-minute, deadline-chasing college assignment. A disappointed client? We can’t leave like that! Or, maybe, we can. We’ll see if we have the time for that.
  26. Firewatch – they have also failed (not a lot of luck running around!) and reduced the rating of their Asset by 1. Last time it was their Facility, so this time we’ll hit their Warfare Fleet, getting it down to R1. Not a good month for the Firewatch!
  27. Cyber Robotics – they have succeeded at their project and they’ve reduced the Fam with a chosen Faction through it. The dice have decided this means they’ve ran a hostile project against bug spirits! They probably did not appreciate the bugs trying to harm Sheila from their befriended Alp Group. Good to know, good to know.
  28. Department 16 – CIA’s bug-fighting department keeps bug fighting. Nothing to see here, no secret, immortal experiments being conducted, move along now.

In short:

  • Cutters don’t know exactly what happened, but they’re getting suspicious of us.
  • BBs and Jammers are about to fight over a new freelancing fleet of smugglers/traders.
  • Chloe finds her employment in a corp less than ideal, like any anarchist would, sooner or later.
  • Firewatch is not having a good time: CIA is digging holes under them, and the war on bugs never ends, exhausting their Assets.
  • Parashield is no longer perfectly happy with the services provided.

The Wedding Bells

Don’t judge me. I’m a sucker for romance between people who actually like each other. The last part of the Independence Scenario is a Payout 2 (2 points of Influence) Social Scenario, that will be run by Tomorrow and Wheeler for obvious reasons. They both get +2 Rep, +1 learning tick in hugs and kisses, and they’re both perfectly happy at Familiarity 10. They also score 7 net marks, and end up with a contact giving them a freebie: a Payout 3 Scenario furthering the Campaign Goal. With an 11 rolled on Tomorrow’s contact list, it’s Salazar, and I’m here, chuckling.

Anyway. Let me close a couple of threads.


August 1st, 2056

The weather is perfect: sunny and warm, but not too hot. A breezy and pleasant evening. Ideal. Not by pure chance, of course – Tomorrow didn’t spend the morning summoning and directing water elementals for nothing; as rarely as she uses their weather control powers for her own benefit, some days just deserve messing with the natural meteorological pattern. It’s not like a sunny day is something unexpected in Colorado in August.

It’s just a party, she reminds herself, her eyes following the flight of birds outside. No reason to be nervous.

They’ve already sorted out all of the paperwork. As far as the Pueblo and UCAS governments were concerned, it was all done, signed by the witnesses – Chloe and Charlie Parker – and official. She even got to kiss her husband and all. It’s just a party.

‘Hello there, beautiful.’ Adam wraps his arms around her waist, pulling her into an embrace. ‘Are you surveying your kingdom?’

‘Everything the light touches is ours,’ she responds before she can stop herself. ‘And those shadowy places way out there, also ours.’

Adam laughs and kisses her neck, eliciting a sigh of pleasure. ‘Yes. We just need to make sure nobody can take it away from us. But not today. Today, we’re resting and checking how many Godfather quotes I can sneak into normal conversations without people noticing.’

‘Nerd.’

‘And yet, I still got the girl.’

Sarah turns away from the window to face him, but opts for a kiss instead of an answer. They have the rest of their lives for banter. Other things, she muses as her fingers follow the trail up Adam’s chest, playing with the buttons of his shirt, other things require at least a bit of privacy.

‘We have guests waiting downstairs,’ he reminds her quietly. ‘But hold that thought.’

‘Leave the gun, then,’ she sighs. ‘And take the cannoli.’

The guests downstairs aren’t really waiting, if the general state of drunkenness is anything to go by. Adam and Tomorrow are accompanied by cheers and jeers when they join the party, with loud comments speculating about the reasons why it took them so long to show their faces amongst the revelers. Tomorrow flips them all off with a smile and a wave befitting royalty; Adam just laughs. If there ever was a day to show their people they’re all welcome and appreciated under the new management, it is today. It’s not like they’ll lose any respect by entertaining the jokes for an evening. And if somebody crosses the line, they’ll take care of that separately.

But first, there’s work to be done. They split to mix with the crowd, hoping to get the necessary rounds done faster.

‘Dang, you look good,’ comments Fayette, pushing the plate with an unfinished canapé into Chloe’s hands and running her fingers over the skirt of Tomorrow’s emerald green dress. ‘Damn fine silk. I need your tailor’s LTG. For reasons.’

‘You can’t afford my tailor,’ she answers with an easy smile, as if she didn’t spend the last couple of evenings magically reworking the molecular structure of polyester until it became, in all respects that it mattered, pure silk. After days spent with the Firewatch, she had no energy to shop for a perfect dress. To make one… That was just a pure pleasure of weaving the strands of magic. ‘Well, no, you probably can. Just come over one day, we’ll figure something up.’

‘You made it? I am suddenly so happy to have you in my life, all the previous reasons notwithstanding.’ Fayette pulls Tomorrow’s hand, prompting her to turn around and show off the dress. She obliges, laughing – not like her vanity doesn’t appreciate the attention.

‘Don’t – her head’s big enough.’ Chloe calmly finishes her girlfriend’s sandwich, leaning against the table with hors d’œuvre. If the drunken gangers milling around cause her any distress, she shows none of it, perfectly at ease. Nobody will cause her any trouble, of course – everybody knows that Tomorrow treats offenses against her sister extremely personally.

‘I’ll make you a dress, too.’

‘Make it a suit.’

‘Deal. It will be hot pink and you’ll look amazing in it.’

‘I look amazing in everything,’ quips Chloe, and Fayette confirms with an eager nod and a glance full of appreciation. ‘Where’s my brother-in-law?’

‘Talking to the people I don’t want to talk to,’ Tomorrow admits lightly. ‘We have a system.’

‘Does it work both ways? You’re talking to the people he doesn’t want to…?’

Tomorrow grins, leaving her sister’s question unanswered, then puts a finger to her ear, pretending to pick up a call on earbuds she’s not wearing. ‘I’m sorry, looks like I’m needed elsewhere. Have fun, girls!’ She blows them kisses through the air and hides in the crowd, smiling at the sound of her sister’s laughter.

I do need you, actually, says Tonight in her head, their mental bond useful as always. I just didn’t want to interrupt you.

What’s up, my lovely twin?

We’ve ran out of caviar and I want some. I think somebody stole a whole batch.

Ah, let them have it. It’s not like it’s real. I’ll see you in the kitchen.

She waltzes through the crowd, smiling and joking with her guests. She catches the sight of Adam, drinking with a group of his soldiers, and by the looks of it, they are planning to drink him under the table. Joke’s on them, though, because the antidote spell is right there in her mind, ready and waiting for when it’s needed – all the unfair advantage one might want in the situation.

‘You come to my house,’ she can hear him say, ‘on the day I am to be married…’

She shakes her head and pushes open the door to the old kitchen of Best Western’s restaurant. Tonight’s sitting on the table, feet in golden heels dangling above the ground as the spirit refills her wineglass.

‘You look like the saddest bridesmaid.’ Tomorrow sits down next to her, weaving the mana between her fingers until it coalesces into a cracker topped with cream cheese and caviar. Tonight accepts the offering and exchanges it for her half-empty bottle of red wine.

‘Emotions are for mortals,’ she states between bites. ‘I’m just chilling. I’ll get back to the crowd in a moment. I used to have more friends here when I was still you.’

‘You’ll get more friends now that you don’t have to be me.’ Tomorrow takes a swig of wine straight from the bottle. ‘Real friends. You know for me this ship has sailed.’

‘With most of those people, yeah. They can’t be friends with somebody who holds their fates in her hands. And after today, you can no longer pretend to be a neutral, unaffiliated party.’

‘I never was. Everybody’s business just didn’t align with my goals. But now…’ She shrugs and removes a speck of dust from her dress. ‘Now it’s their problem to make sure their goals align with mine.’

‘And that’s why you have literally three friends outside your family.’ The well-known, dry voice at the door causes them both to look up from the wine. The tall, dark-haired woman in gang leathers crosses her arms in front of her, looking Tomorrow up and down. Her form shimmers gently in the dim light, translucent and obviously magical.

‘I never needed more.’ Tomorrow jumps off the table and quickly moves towards her friend, switching her perception to the astral plane and making her aura magically active. ‘I am so happy you could make it, Lil.’

‘Only for you.’ Friese lets herself be hugged, awkwardly patting Tomorrow’s back. ‘I’ve almost got eaten by some weird spirit over the ocean. Trip of a lifetime, I tell you. But I wouldn’t miss it. I got less than half an hour before I need to head back. Hi Tonight.’ She smiles at the spirit, causing her to stop with a wineglass halfway to her lips. ‘Looking great as always.’

‘We’d normally get so drunk in half an hour. Wait, let me get Adam, he’ll be happy to see you…’

‘You can get him in a moment.’ Friese’s ethereal hand keeps her in place, then the mage demanifests, shifting her presence back into the astral plane. ‘Did I understand you correctly yesterday?’ she asks as soon as nobody but Tomorrow and Tonight can hear her. ‘You ditched the Cutters?’

Tomorrow nods, and Tonight relays her words, silent on the material plane. ‘It’s still work in progress. But yes, Wheeler’s out and everybody here works for him, as far as they’re concerned. You want out?’

‘Duh, I want out. I have only joined because I needed out from Prague, and that was the fastest way. Not my smartest moment, I admit. Is it an open topic or do you keep it canned?’

‘Canned, for now,’ confirms Tonight. ‘Need to dissolve all the ties first. But it’s not entirely a secret either. They’re just trying to not be obnoxious about it.’

Tomorrow grins, hugging her friend again, her dual-natured body able to make contact with the purely astral form. ‘Wanna tell me about Prague now or after I get my husband here?’ 

‘Go, get him. And take this sugary aura out of my face, before my teeth get rotten. You look like a love-struck teenager from here.’

‘You’re just jealous,’ declares Tomorrow and lets her sight return to the material plane, losing the contact with Friese. ‘Be right back.’

She slips out from the kitchen, suddenly swamped with voices and music. Scanning the crowd, she guesses they have about two hours until nobody can stand on their two feet. A security risk, to be sure, but nobody’s going to attack them without the guardian elementals noticing. And even then, Sal and her will be enough to solve most issues.

She finds Adam talking to Bunny, of all people, surrounded by a bunch of Cutters – well, ex-Cutters by now, whether they know it or not. He turns around to meet her when the group notices her approach, and the sight of him makes her agree with Friese. Love-struck she is. 

‘Guys,’ says Adam, taking her hand and pulling her close. His eyes are a bit glassy, but his joy is sincere. ‘Have you met my wife?’ 

‘Your wife needs to borrow you for a moment.’ Tomorrow grins in response to the groans and laughs Adam’s question has caused. ‘Superimportant. I’ll give you back in a sec.’

‘What’s going on?’ he asks quietly as soon as they’re far enough to ignore the suggestions about how much alone time they should take. 

‘All good. Friese is here. Hit you up?’ 

He hesitates just for a second. ‘Hit me up.’ 

The antidote spell flows through their entwined fingers, metabolizing the alcohol in his body. Adam sighs and shakes his head lightly. ‘Damn, this is always weird. Thanks.’

She nods and leads the way to the kitchen. Tonight and Friese both look up when the door opens with a creak, interrupting some in-depth discussion about the metaplanes.

‘Hey boss,’ Friese salutes nonchalantly. ‘Congrats. On everything, from what I hear.’

‘Life’s pretty good lately,’ he agrees with a grin, sitting down next to her. ‘How’s Prague, XO?’ 

‘Pretty. Nice. Intellectual.’ 

‘And the city?’ 

Friese chuckles. ‘The city too, smartass. Damn, I’d kill for a smoke right now. Does your offer still stand?’ she asks with sudden seriousness. ‘If I come back, you’ll find a place for me?’ 

‘That depends whether you are after a job or an escape route… No, wait, it doesn’t anymore,’ he corrects himself immediately, as if he were just waiting to use the line. ‘I’m not guaranteeing it will be same place you’ve left, but at least you’ll be free to drop it when you no longer want it.’

‘Cool. I’m really happy for you, Adam. Yes, for you too,’ adds Friese, seeing Tomorrow’s fake pout. ‘Go be happy together. I have to jump the ocean – again – and I can’t even drink a parting shot.’

‘We’ll catch up when you’re back,’ promises Tomorrow, raising her half-empty bottle in a mock toast. ‘It’s much more fun here these days.’

‘Oh, I bet. I’ve talked to Salazar on the way here, because somebody has replaced my wards and I can no longer fly through. The things I’ve been told, though…’ she teases. ‘Nothing. I have been told nothing. The man is like a grave when it comes to rumors. We’ll have a lot of that catching up. But for now – I have to go. My body is gonna miss me soon, and that’s way worse than you all missing me.’

‘I’ve missed you terribly,’ admits Tomorrow and places a kiss on her friend’s cheek. ‘I have my doubts about the safety of our Matrix connection here at the moment, but even this should be sorted soon. We’ll be able to talk freely, as long as your side’s safe.’

Adam nods, knowing well enough that there’s no way for him to physically interact with a manifesting astral form. ‘Thanks for coming, Lilian. No matter what, you’re always welcome here. Friendship is everything. It is almost the equal of family.’

‘Okaaay…’ Friese looks at him suspiciously. ‘This is the point where you probably should stop drinking for the evening. Anyway, bye.’

‘Bye.’ Tomorrow hugs her again. ‘Send me a message when you get back to your body, so I know nothing ate you on the way.’

‘Will do, mom.’ With a smirk, Friese’s form fades into the astral plane and disappears through the wall.

‘Nobody appreciates my sense of humor and taste in ancient movies,’ complains Adam, stretching and rubbing at his face. ‘Damn, this day is long. Back to work, partners?’

‘I was told it’s just a party.’ Tonight finishes her wine and floats off the table, landing gracefully on her high heels as if the gravity had no business with her. ‘But yes, I’m going to ambush Bunny and drill him for data. I think we can close the market matters tomorrow if you two are willing to help out.’

‘Sure.’ Tomorrow takes another swig of wine, then pours the rest into a wineglass and puts on a warface of a brilliant smile. ‘In the afternoon, okay? It has been a long day, and it’s not yet ending for us.’

They split again, determined to make sure every guests gets at least a bit of the attention, and that their personal happiness and celebration connects in everybody’s brain with general prosperity, abundance, safety, and peace. That no matter what happens, as long as it’s them at the top, life’s not that bad. It’s not entirely a promise – but it is a goal.

Tomorrow works her way down the mental list, checking off important people and conversations, blitzing through those less important with a professional efficiency. Phase, Crowley, Doc Harmon, Raye, Chucky, Caw-Caw, Ahab, Gargoyle… Finally – finally – she’s left with just one thing on the list.

‘You owe me a dance.’

‘I don’t owe you shit.’ Salazar doesn’t even blink when she appears by his side, just calmly smokes a cigarette. He took his refuge away from the people and noise, leaning against the outer wall of the building and staring at the parking lot between Best Western and the Shadowmarket.

‘You don’t,’ she agrees and joins him at the observation post, taking care to not spill her wine. ‘I’m just bad at small talk.’

‘I’ve talked to Friese. She coming back?’

‘Maybe. But it doesn’t change anything between us.’

Salazar nods, his shoulders dropping a bit into a more relaxed position. ‘Good to know.’

Tomorrow sips the wine, letting herself enjoy the pleasant breeze and the peace of the evening away from the raging party. They pass some time in companionable silence, each occupied with their thoughts.

‘Shit’s gonna change around here now, isn’t it?’ he asks after a long while.

‘Slowly, yeah. It has to, if we want to make any progress. By tomorrow, the market should be ours, too.’

‘And then what?’

‘Whatever we damn please, I think. Adam and Tonight have the personnel and financial sides covered. I’m, thankfully, obsolete for both.’

‘Which leaves us with security and research. Not a bad gig.’

Tomorrow smirks, gently shoving Salazar with her shoulder. ‘No, not a bad one.’

‘I have something for you.’ He drops the end of his burned-out cigarette on the ground, letting it extinguish itself at its own volition.

‘You got us a gift? Sal, you didn’t have to…’ She leaves the wineglass levitating in the air and extends her hands in a grabby, demanding gesture of a child. ‘Gimme.’

‘I got you a gift. Wheeler’s not my family.’ He pulls out a data chip from a pocket and hands it over. ‘Don’t get overexcited. It’s just some research. I’ve figured out what you want to do with the geomancy,’ he adds, watching her slide the chip into her commlink and load the data. ‘So I’ve charted that ley line for you. Well, part of it. Pretty elves, like ravens, are also too good of a snack for whatever lives deep in the Warrens. You still have to perform the actual ritual, but you should have all of the parameters in there already.’

‘This is amazing,’ she breathes, scrolling through pages upon pages of data. ‘Thank you so much, Sal.’

‘It’s nothing,’ he mutters quietly, almost as if embarrassed.

‘It’s time. There’s literally nothing more valuable in the world. Thank you.’

‘Well, you’re welco… You really need to start respecting other people’s personal space,’ he grumbles before returning the hug. ‘Don’t get used to it. There’s no way we’re ever doing it again.’

‘Then I better make the most of this one.’

‘You’re so weird, birdbrain,’ sighs Salazar. ‘But I think the moment has passed.’

Tomorrow lets go of her friend and follows Salazar’s gaze, finding Adam standing in the rectangle of light falling from the open front door to their home. With his hands in the pockets, an undone collar of the dark shirt, and with a happy, relaxed smile on his face, he looks as if he doesn’t have a care in the world. So wildly inaccurate – but hell, after all that happened, we deserve today.

She reaches out towards Adam, beckoning him closer, and pulls him into a long, deep kiss as soon as he’s in range.

‘You already own the whole bloody building,’ scoffs Salazar after a while. ‘Get a room. Literally any room, except ours.’

‘The grumpy designated officer is right,’ says Adam, his eyes sparkling with joy. ‘Sal and Tonight can hold the fort. I’m done with this party. Come on, let’s go home. It’ll be fun, I promise.’

She laughs and steals one more kiss for the road, before pulling her husband towards the fire stairs. Tomorrow, they’ll get back to work. Today, it’s finally just their personal lives that they need to take care of.


Coming Up!

Back to the playtest! There are some strategical points to resolve, and after that… We’ll see.

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