Running with the Shadows

directorsCutKeyArt1920I’m a Rigger.

Drones? Yep! Submachine gun? I got it. Grenades? Of course. Slap on a few implants for enhanced deadliness and I’m a dimmer, an almost human killing machine. It’s a perfect blend of practicality and death. It’s a dark world out there, filled with mostly shadows that me and my crew slink beneath. Shadow doesn’t even begin to describe my dystopic existence.

Human includes all the races – trolls, elves and orcs. But there’s “normal” culture and all the rest are some variation of almost-human, monster culture.Funny how that works out because we all look like monsters down here, but what passes for normal is particularly gruesome. In the shadows we call the Others meta-humans. But in deep reality we’re all human in the only ways that matter. Shadowrunning makes a very strong point of that.

dwarfWe live in the service of faith which we call hope. For each other. For our whims and independence. For the sanctity of individuality. For the corporations who created the ashes that surround us, their decadent skyscrapers literally lording over the scraps of Earth we call free. Anarchy. We never knew that this is what freedom meant.

My days are spent hiding underground and my nights spent dusting, duping, or dodging, whatever it takes.I’m an equal opportunity killer. Take from me, I’ll take from you. Cross me and get creased. It never takes much to get that close to death and I do it almost everyday. Suspicion is the same as proof. Fear is my faith, because out here you can’t afford to take a chance. I’m packing a sure thing, always.

When someone asks me what I believe in, I don’t say “killing people”. I say …self preservation. I say freedom,but I really mean free from anything that I don’t approve of or understand – and of course not for everybody. If everyone had freedom then no one could deserve it. Freedom is for some of us, not all of us so the SINners get the warmth of Renraku while the SINless get coffins each night if they’re lucky, squatting in squalor or straight up lying on the pavement each night. Guess there’s not enough nuyen to go around.

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There’s a hierarchy of humans fighting for rights and here in the shadows might is rights. From the Yakuza to the Valkeries, the Tong to the Azzies, flexing is a way of life, he with the most gets the most. In the fight against monsters, we often become them. Somewhere along the line we get too afraid to live. Don’t go here, because this may happen and not there because that may happen. Don’t trust anyone, don’t step on a crack or split poles. Prisoners in our own brain case.

How did it get this bad? When did the world become the rubble we sleep on? Very slowly, like  the creep of ghettos. It always starts with a few missing trash bins, then the few that are left get kicked and vandalized because the locals are pissed that it’s over-flowing and there doesn’t seem to be a city service that’ll pick up the drek. Creeps love creep. It gives them a place to hide, since badges don’t like visiting these parts. Soon, the neighborhood is two trash bags from a city dump and one dead body from a mass grave. Then communities form their own …associations. Order to check the disorder, make it safe enough to get by while they plead for real help. But in Seattle, it never came. In Berlin, we were alone. Soon the Azzies swoop in buying up the acreage one square mile at a time for a few fraggin’ nuyen. They’ll call it a project or Berlin Heights or something else progressive. The flats will cost more than any local can afford, which is a not too subtle way of them saying “get out.” That’s why we’re packing steal and worshiping dragons. Our commitment to keeping our homes runs hot like blood and deep like guts.

There was a time when people believed profit was truth, that everyone deserved what they had especially if they had nothing.

dragonAnd now, here we are. The filthy rich and the filthy. A world of anarchy and fascism, some parts “free”, some made in the image of unbridled capitalism which looks like a golden dragon with a toothy-smile and whose shine makes it appear much larger than it really is. The kind of dragon the rich can tell their babies is named Puff and it’s magical, bringing prosperity to all it soars above. They’ll believe in that dragon, like we all did …until the day they grow up and see the ashes left in the dragon’s wake. Some of them will blame the ashes for their fate, others’ll get chipped to flee from the horrors of the present and some will end up like me. Shadowrunning. Some will even become the dragon’s spawn.

Shadowrunning is the truth that’s all around us but that we cannot see. It’s named for the gargantuan shade of the dragon that we live in.

But …there’s always hope. Hope is for those who see the drek of everyday life and delude ourselves that this’ll get better. Everyone has faith in something. For me, it’s people – orcs, elves, trolls, all of them humans. Humans can change the way we live. We can change when and how we die. We can create the world in our image, even though the current picture ain’t all that flattering. I’m carving my square mile in the dirt one bullet at a time and one day I’ll lay in it. I fight because I believe we can change things. I believe that whatever happens tomorrow, it’ll be because of the action of some human somewhere – not a company, a dragon, a nuyen. Shadowrunning isn’t for the faint of heart. But if any one of us is worth sacrificing in the name of survival, then none of us is worth saving.

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When it’s time to step out of the shadows, let’s hope we don’t emerge monsters.