2075: Stormy Waters
All - Al Guthrie
Age 48 Sex M Height 5’3" Weight 150lbs
|Street Cred||126||Notoriety||0||Public Awareness||0|
Reaction 5 (8)
Logic 6 (8)
Intuition 6 (8)
Initiate Grade 9
Initiative 16 + 4d6
Active Skills (specialization)
Clubs (gun butts) 6
Longarms (shotguns) (sniper rifles) 7
Palming (legerdemain) 4
Unarmed Combat (vs. reptiles) (boxing [brawler style]) 6
Maneuver: Full Offense
Pilot Aircraft (rotor) 4
Pilot Ground Craft (heavy equipment) (wheeled) 4
Pilot Water Craft 4
First Aid 4
Animal Handling (camels) (dogs) 3
Escape Artist 3
Heavy Weapons 1
Throwing Weapons 1
Electronic Warfare 1
Knowledge/Language Skills (specialization) [type]
English [L] N
Tamasheq [L] 3
Arabic [L] 3
Khmer [L] 4
French [L] 4
Japanese [L] 3
Chong [L] 2
Russian [L] 3
Engineering (mining) [P] 1
Zoology (snakes) [A] 1
Seattle Bars (seedy waterfront dives) [S] 2
Seattle Dockyards (dockworkers) [S] 2
Puyallup Barrens [S] 3
Seattle International District [S] 1
Seattle Mafia [S] 2
Vory v Zakone [S] 1
Killer Karate [I] 1
Card Tricks [I] 2
West African Pirates [S] 1
Lagos Buka [S] 1
Lagos Tribal Factions [S} 1
Tripoli Hot Zone [S] 1
North African Caravan Routes [S] 1
Arabian Peninsula Oases [S] 1
Cairo Backstreets [S] 1
Teheran (ways in and out) [S] 1
Karavan [S] 1
Islam (hadith) [A] 1
Offshore Oil Rigs [P] 1
Miami Bars [S] 1
New Orleans Voudoun Scene [S] 1
New Orleans French Quarter [S] 1
Voodoo Mutterin’ [I] 1
London Docks [S] 1
London Pubs [S] 1
London Underworld [S] 1
London Below [S] 3
Paris Rive Gauche [S] 1
North Sea Smugglers [S] 1
Northern European Toxic Zones [S] 1
Hamburg Free Port Trade Zone [S] 1
Hong Kong Sprawl [S] 1
Bangkok Underworld [S] 1
Phnom Penh Underworld [S] 1
Southeast Asian Drug Lords [S] 1
Angkor [S] 1
Nagas [A] 1
Cardamom Mountains [S] 1
20 Spirit Hunter 1
2 Gifted Healer (Treatment)
5 Perfect Time
5 Mentor Spirit – Dog
6 Water Sprite
X More Charming Than He Knows
3 Animal Empathy
20 Tough as Nails (2P, 2S)
8 Grease Monkey
4 Natural Immunity ([unawakened] snake venom)
2 Steely-eyed Wheelman
7 Vehicle Empathy
4 Stunt Driver
3 Speed Demon
4 School of Hard Knocks
2 Jack of All Trades Master of None
3 Dealer Connection (aircraft)
-7 Aged – phys atts capped at 5 (8)
-9 Moderate Addiction (alcohol)
-5 Simsense Vertigo
Improved Reflexes 3
Combat Sense 5
Critical Strike (clubs)
Critical Strike (unarmed)
Indomitable Will 4
Iron Will 5
Light Touch 4
Danger Sense 1
Enhanced Accuracy – Longarms
Enhanced Accuracy – Clubs
Natural Immunity 6
Spell Resistance 5
Metamagic – Adept Centering (Voodoo Mutterin’)
R5 Qi focus – Animal Empathy 5
R3 Qi focus – Flexibility 3
R1 Qi focus – Spirit Claw
Silk – female changeling (Global)
C4 L??(PC, so maybe NPC-style values not appropriate)
Capable and multi-talented runner/fixer
Al’s fixer in Seattle
Al has a close working relationship with Silk, the unlikely pair having met….
Torrent – male ork (Europe)
Well established fixer in Europe, making a start in Seattle shadows. Rep for dealing well with runners.
Hun Sen – human male (Seattle)
“Fixer”/dockworker – His connection rating is only 3 – rather low for a fixer – because he is basically just a sort of the fixer for the local Khmer community in Renton – pretty small potatoes. Since being driven out of the docks by the mafia, he has set up and runs a home renovation business that works for cash under the table. He also gets to be a community leader in exchange for arranging fake SINs (for people like Al), getting SINless people (like Al) off-the-books work at the shadier docks, and getting people (like Al) crappy squats in his crappy building. Besides interpreting for him a lot (Hun speaks only Khmer), Al used to fix his car, and they usually rode together down to the docks to work (although as non-union, their hours are very irregular). But he doesn’t really like Al, finding him presumptuous, tasteless, and loud.
Hun always wears a white shirt and tie, even working on renovations. He is constantly reading self-help, get-rich-quick books on the image link of his contacts. He still believes the American dream is possible, and he is determined to live it. He won’t use a chip to speak English because he knows if he does, he’ll never learn it properly.
He resisted paying protection to the dockyard mobsters, and they were none too happy with him. Eventually Al sorted that out.
Mordecai Sparks – human male (Seattle)
Bartender – Regular night barkeep at Humpty’s Dump, little more than a plastic-siding shack serving liquor to off-the-books dockworkers on a dilapidated, mostly abandoned pier at the fringe of the more properly industrialized port terminal. Al simply knows him from frequenting the place after (or before, or during) every shift. Gets free beers for ejecting troublemakers.
He is very tall, with gray muttonchop sideburns crawling down his face from a thin head of salt-and-pepper hair. He is missing more than one tooth in the front, and who knows how many in the back. A good Southern boy who hit the Emerald City back in ‘56 as a roadie for some no-name opening act. Band had folded and he had stayed.
Grant Deans – human male (UK)
National Police Inspector (Lone Star Detective archetype)
Was a young cop walking a beat in the Docklands 20 years ago. Knew Al was into various things, and harrassed him a lot. But one night, Al stepped in when Grant was in over his head with five Sri Lankan gangers. They became drinking buddies and later good friends. 20 years on, Grant is an inspector with a middle-class life, wife, kids in secondary school. His position in the police makes him both knowledgeable and useful, but of course a suitably antiseptic distance must be kept.
Patricia Kwon – elf female (UK)
Street Doc archetype
Kwon left a comfy GP practice in Finchley just because she couldn’t handle a “normal” life. She loves thrill sports like skydiving, base-jumping and rock climbing, and her taste in men runs strongly toward “bad boys.” So she became a street doc. Under cover of a clinic for the homeless in the Docklands, she also treats criminals for enough cash to keep her in scuba gear for out of the bedroom and new whips for in it. Patched Al up a few times back in the day, and while they never hooked up, she loved his attitude toward life and always wished they would get together. Is very happy to see Al reappear in the Docklands.
Daniel Curtis – ork male (UK)
Hunter-come-scholar (parazoologist archetype)
An Englishman of West Indian descent, he was the leader of the crew of paracritter bounty hunters Al fell in with after his smuggling disaster, and they bagged quite a few nasty specimens together. A few years after Al left London, Daniel decided he was too old for such a life, and with his first-hand knowledge as an ace-in-the-hole, he took his earnings and went back to school. He eventually earned his PhD, and finally ended up a lecturer at Oxford, where he currently resides and teaches. As a fifty-one-year-old ork, he is now extremely old and frail, but mind as sharp as ever.
Horace Gillespie – troll male (UK)
Owner of the Prospect of Whitby, at 57 Wapping Wall (bartender archetype)
Located right on the riverside, the Prospect of Whitby (or just “the Prospect”) dates back to the 16th century and is the roughest dive in the docklands. It attacts all manner of criminal and a fair smattering of shadowrunners. If the surrounding blocks have an E sec rating, the bar itself is a no-cops Z-zone. Anyone or anything from London’s darkest underbelly can be found here, if you can survive the night.
Horace inherited the place from his father Thad, now dead of old age at 42. Al was a regular and good friend of Thad, and spent a lot of time teaching boating skills to Horace when he was a child.
Vicar Fletch – dwarf male (UK)
Vicar of St. Peter’s London Docks Church on Wapping Street, “the holiest and homeliest church in London.”
(Church Pastor archetype)
Firmly on the “bible-believing” side of the CofE schism, Vicar Fletch has spent the last forty years feeding the homeless and saving the godless around London’s docks. He has often tried to extricate Al’s Christian beliefs and roots from his crazed voodoo fixation, but to no avail.
Chastity Alsaints – human female (UK)
Owner of All Saints Pawn (Pawnshop Owner archetype)
Once a respected street thief then cat burglar, the thin, pale, chestnut-bobbed Chastity was Al’s lover during his time in London. Since he’s been gone she became proprietor of a pawn shop, but once a criminal…it is front for an extensive fencing network. She is deeply conflicted about Al’s return to the scene. They meet regularly, and she adores him still, seeing in her heart and mind the vital, robust man he was then. But half of her remains a woman scorned….
Alouicious Harlan Guthrie – History
Alouicious Harlan Guthrie was born 28 January 2028 deep in the Ozark Mountains. One of nine children of Kermit and Ellenora (nee Rickets) Guthrie, a local midwife delivered Al on the dirt floor of the family home 10 miles up a rutted dirt road from Lynch Creek (pop. 372), Arkansas, United States of America.
For generations the Guthries had made their own way in these mountains, scratching out a living as subsistence farmers, hunters, moonshiners, and snakehandlers. They were proud never to have had an SIN in the family, and local folks shooed off ‘gummint revenoors’ post haste.
Snakehandlers, in this context at least, were local Christian lay-clergy that handled poisonous snakes as evidence of divine protection. Kermit Guthrie actually had magical talent – skills totally undeveloped – and cast spells/miracles based on his faith, although if anyone had ever told him he was using ‘magic,’ he would likely have filled their behinds full o’ buckshot for implying he was a devil-worshipper.
Al was obviously born SINless—he never had a Social Security # in the US, and the successive transitions of his home state into UCAS and then CAS took no notice of him and his family. He has never been on any government radar (except Proteus AG and Cambodian ‘government,’ see below). He has always been able to find work ‘off the books’ as he is willing to work under the worst, most dangerous conditions, and will say (and believe) he has whatever qualifications are required. When the Crash happened in 2064, and from then until his arrival in Seattle in 2070, he was in economically undeveloped backwaters where constantly broadcasting an SIN via wireless commlink was unheard of. Upon arrival in Seattle he quickly adjusted and got a crappy commlink, though he hates it in a deep, morally offended way that it took him five years to rustle up a fake SIN. Whole thing makes him feel like a caged animal.
The Guthrie family was extremely loving and supportive, forming the foundation of strong personal self-esteem in all their children. On top of that, Al always seemed gifted somehow – he was always the fastest, strongest, and smartest, and this made him admired in the community and reinforced his strong sense of self-worth. (To the point of being completely – though not clinically – delusional regarding himself and his own limitations, and also regarding how he is perceived by others.) Growing up, Al most admired his two older brothers, Elmo and Cletus, because they had rebuilt an old prop plane and used it to dust crops. They had also salvaged an old Air Force flight simulator, restored the software (they were totally uneducated, but very intelligent and adaptable), and all the boys used it frequently, as they had no trid or sim. In any case, Al always has hated sim and VR – every time he has tried it he felt nauseous and had a terrible headache afterwards. Not to say Al dislikes computers – pre-Crash, he loved messing around with electronics of all types, accessing the Matrix by tortoise.
A local beauty, Ellenora raised the children on fabulous stories of her experiences when she had spent a few years ‘out in the world with the fancy folk.’ Al’s favorite stories were about Ellenora’s relationship with Tony Franciosa, the legendary Tinseltown producer, whom even the folk of Lynch Creek were well acquainted with. Ellenora’s tales filled young Al with wanderlust, and he especially dreamed of Hollywood. Ellenora encouraged this, always telling Al he had movie star looks, and assuring him that if he dropped her name to Tony, he would have his big break for sure. Al nested this deep in his heart, and from the day he left Lynch Creek, his entire life, all his travels, have been toward getting to Hollywood and starting his career as a big international simsense star. Al absolutely believes this outcome is inevitable. He has no doubt that his name will one day be splashed across posters all over the world. This despite his extreme physical ugliness (he thinks he is ‘masculine looking’), and also the fact that he hates simsense and has no intention of getting the ASSIST implants required to record one’s emotions for the sim-recorder. To him, these are no obstacles to his incontrovertible destiny. (Tony Franciosa is sort of a sixth world Jerry Bruckheimer/Aaron Spelling. He is also very ‘connected.’ Whether Ellenora ever ACTUALLY dated, or even met him, seems extremely unlikely. But Al doesn’t doubt it for a second, and someday he WILL meet the guy!.)
To help put food on the table, Al has been hunting since the age of seven. He mostly stuck to rabbits and other varmints, as he always felt bad when his brothers or Pa took down anything bigger. The larger animals seemed to have more feelings or something. Al raised many dogs, and did some riding when he could, although the family did not own a horse. He is not vegetarian, however, and his rule is basically ‘if it doesn’t have a face anymore, eat it.’ His father recognized his skill with animals and taught him snakehandling.
When he was a teenager, corporate interests (revenoors in fancier shoes) tried to buy the people of Lynch Creek out and otherwise exploit their land. Well, they’d been on it for generations, and they weren’t going anywhere. They finally won, making the whole process too unprofitable for the corps, but during the struggle, the corps hired a toxic shaman as a deniable asset to drive the people off the land. They sent one toxic spirit after another, but didn’t realize how much latent magical power was in the community. For instance, one day the Guthrie home was attacked by three big toxic spirits. The Guthrie men must have unloaded a few pounds of hot lead into those critters, but to absolutely no effect. The only thing that finally effectively hurt them were Al’s dogs. But when the dogs got killed, and Al ran out of ammo, something clicked. He launched into one of the spirits with his bare hands. Damned if those acid-blooded Satanspawn didn’t burn him but good (Al’s hands and forearms are still mottled by acid scars), but he literally ripped that thing apart, while Pa banished the other in the name of the Lord. Al was at first a bit amazed – this was a little beyond even his own fabulous view of himself, but then his sisters showed him a book (which they kept secret from Pa) that explained that the best way to kill spirits was with raw willpower. This explained why the loyal dogs had been so effective, and why Al’s anger had been the critical factor in slaying the spirit.
Al’s wanderlust grew and grew, not to mention regular lust! Lynch Creek was a mighty small little burg. Daughters generally left upon being married off and sons that wanted to find anyone had to leave too, as there was only kinfolk thereabouts – which warn’t no impediment to some, but rubbed others the wrong way, including Al and all his God-fearin’ clan. So at the age of 22, in 2050, Al set out to see the world, get some poon, and become a movie star. Before leaving, Kermit tried to tell him that the last of those three goals was not really in the cards, but Al was having none of it. This led to a slight bit of friction in an otherwise strong father-son relationship, but nothing too serious, and Al still wears the brown leather jacket his father gave him as a going away present.
First stop headed west to LA was the Big Easy. Al hitch-hiked it over a slow couple of weeks, and on arrival quickly got a job in a fish cannery, which gave him enough money and time to enjoy the various very un-Ozark pleasures that New Orleans had to offer. Al got his first tattoo, had his first woman, and drank his first non-moonshine alcohol – BEER – with which he formed a lifelong friendship. These vices were added to his love of tobacco – he had started chain-smoking when he was nine.
Ever unambitious, he stayed at the fish cannery for two years, until 2052. His movie career – why worry? The cannery paid damn good money for a hard day’s work, and the movie star thing was a done deal, just a matter of time. A lot of his coworkers were followers of various voudoun cults. Al thought that was all well and good – for their kind (Al was raised in the Ozarks – of course he had particular views of blacks. However, it was never a hateful or angry kind of thing, just extremely patronizing. And as he spent more time around the world, it just naturally faded into nothing. He is now basically colorblind. Metatype-blind? Well, mostly he just doesn’t have a politically correct bone in his body.) As he got to be better friends with them, they would give him charms and cast spells in his behalf. None at that time had any real power – all the pure superstition variety. He just laughed this off, but it seemed to him (pure luck/superstition) that he really was getting stronger, almost invulnerable. Everything he did he seemed to succeed at. This disturbed him quite a bit, as he equated ‘magic’ with the Devil, but all it took was for someone to explain to him that the Santeria cult of voudoun was largely rooted in a Christian slave tradition, and he was okay with it from that day forward. In any case, as the next year went by, Al became more and more convinced – with plenty of encouragement from his coworkers – that he was actually a full voodoo houngan. He took to practicing their rituals, and is sure he has the ability to cast spells and summon spirits, although he also knows and is a bit puzzled by the fact that he has as yet failed to do the latter even once. Neither would he consider for one second letting a spirit mount him. Sadly, Al’s ‘practice of their rituals’ is a totally unschooled attempt to imitate the chants and hand movements he has seen other more serious practitioners use. At times, when in a crisis he will habitually break into what he thinks of as voodoo mutterin’ – a garbled mess of random vaguely Creole-sounding glossolalia with a few voodoo key words and names jumbled in. He also carries various voodoo charms, but if he loses one, he just makes another and ‘enchants’ it with whatever materials are at hand.
While carousing his nights away in working class N.O. dives, Al got into a LOT of bar fights. Dozens, if not hundreds. He got his ass kicked some, but less and less after the first 30 or so fights. The problem was, he didn’t just kick the crap out of people, he often seriously injured them, and sometimes killed them. Now, for Al, a bar fight is actually sort of a friendly affair, even if the jerks had it comin’, and he was a bit disturbed by this. Fortunately, these were all SINless opponents in near-Barrens working class neighborhoods, so at first he attracted no law enforcement attention.
One day as he was frettin’ ‘bout this, he saw an ad for Grandmaster Dragon Initiate Carl Ryder’s multi-media course guaranteed to instruct the pupil in effective killer karate techniques based on thousands of years of sacred Eastern knowledge incorporating secret death-point strikes and phoenix-dragon-style attacks. These techniques could make you an unstoppable practitioner of KILLER KARATE in just 15 minutes a day! “That must be it,” thought Al, “I have been using KILLER KARATE on those poor jerks.” Al immediately ordered the instructional materials, and to this day he faithfully practices for as much as five or even six minutes at a time whenever he has absolutely nothing else to do. Although he has never met 14th degree red-belt Carl Ryder, he considers him his sensei and mentor. Thanks to Carl’s teachings, Al is now also an accomplished practitioner of KILLER KARATE, or, more formally, Dragon-Phoenix Death Style.
So, although Al has never in his life managed to avoid a constant round of barroom brawls – despite the fact that he is incredibly difficult to offend, this “training” somehow gave his mind an excuse to control his inborn talent to the point where the death toll finally started to slow down. Unfortunately, not before law enforcement finally had to take notice. Al needed to get out of N.O. fast – all the ‘victims’ were SINless losers, so law enforcement wasn’t going to go far looking for him. He got as far as Galveston, where he convinced someone that he knew how to fix helicopters. Always looking for cheap, off-the-books labor, the company (he has no recollection which one, nor can he remember which side of the Aztlan/CAS border Galveston was at the time) put him on an oil rig in the Gulf of Aztlan. Somehow, none of the choppers that ferried people and supplies to the rig ever crashed during the time he was servicing them, and little by little he started getting the pilots to give him a try at the controls. By the spring of 2053 he was a regular pilot, working the circuit of all the rigs along the Gulf Coast. He was also getting pretty familiar with how the actual drilling and pumping systems worked.
Now, with all this relatively unmonitored access to a helicopter, and with constantly making runs between the coast and a bunch of horny, bored guys working for months at a time on offshore oil rigs, it was only natural for Al to start trying to provide for their needs. Booze, drugs, even live girls if the price was right – Al soon became quite well liked by all the crews (especially because they were basically robbing him blind – with no haggling skills whatsoever, Al was lucky when he broke even on these deals, but he certainly enjoyed the sense of himself as a wheeler-dealer). Unfortunately, management was not so forgiving – as his exploits grew more and more bold – including a huge rave held on one of the drilling platforms – they could no longer turn a blind eye to his admittedly useful morale-building efforts. After his dismissal in mid-2054, it was still too hot for him to stay anywhere for long on the Gulf Coast, so he lied about his qualifications and signed on as a machinist on a tramp freighter – it was high time he continued his journey toward fame and fortune in L.A., so he figured he’d make for Panama.
Well, fate had something else in store. Instead of Panama, the ship was rerouted to the West Coast – of Africa. Al stayed on that crate until 2056, rising to First Machinsts’ Mate and learning all aspects of the seaman’s trade, not to mention putting in at all manner of exotic ports. The long weeks at sea were generally whiled away playing cards, and Al became fascinated with the art of manipulating them. Always good with his fingers, he soon preferred trying to learn tricks with them to actually playing the game, although that in itself was not an insignificant source of side income, and would remain so throughout the years. But Hollywood called, and he ended on the docks of London. There he handled forklifts moving freight, or bulldozed scrap. Hanging out, carousing, and brawling in the seediest London sailors’ dives, he soon fell in with some cross-Channel smugglers, and made good money until a really bad day in 2057. An unexpected squall came up and pushed their craft up into the North Sea toxic zone, where the corrosive materials in the water ate the screws right off their outboards. Stranded, and unwilling to call for help, they tried to sit tight and wait for a break. They had food and water for several days. Unfortunately, they didn’t notice until it was too late the slow effects of the toxic fumes they were idled in. Al was spending the most time below, trying to rig something up that would get them going again, so was spared the worst of it. But a few hours after the rest of the crew finally fell asleep, he also lost consciousness as he worked below decks. By the time a hovercraft happened by, everyone but Al was dead, and the acids in the sea were hard at work on the hull. Al woke up in a bunk with a splitting headache (much worse than his perpetual hangovers), and went above decks to find the crew fighting some sort of horrible toxically mutated sea-beast. Fortunately, they were well-equipped for the job – they were bounty hunters specializing in catching mutated/awakened creatures. Not that any government was willing to fork over cash just to reduce the population of these monstrosities, but corp biotech facilities were more than happy to pay top-nuyen, especially Proteus AG. Things had taken a turn for the worse in this particular skirmish, however, and just as the team’s leader was prone on the deck about to be bitten in half, Al leapt to the helm and rammed the thing. The crew rallied, took it down, and had it to the nearest Arkoblock by sundown. Al caught nasty mutants with these blokes for a while, never bothered morally because he certainly didn’t consider any of these devilspawn real animals, until in 2057 a particularly bold hunt onshore into the Northern Germany toxic zone ran into an ambush by a cabal of toxic shamans. The hovercraft was surrounded by toxic spirits, who for some reason all went straight for Al. Ironically, this was probably why a few of the crew survived – while Al was working hard just to stay alive, the rest of the team could really hammer the unsavories – a bad tactical move on the part of the toxics. But with the hunt a bust and most of the guys dead, the group disbanded. Not, however, before Proteus AG offered Al and a couple of other guys spots on a new team it was forming, an outfit called the Troubleshooters. These guys were supposed to go around to Proteus’ more distant offshore outposts doing a variety of tasks – evacuations during storms, security versus both critters and eco-radicals, and dangerous emergency repairs. One of the hardest tasks was effecting repairs below the water line in spaces within the superstructure that were barely large enough for a human to fit into, especially in full protective gear. Physically small, able to twist and bend his body into seemingly impossible spaces, a good mechanic and fearless, Al was perfect. To help with the task, the company fitted him with his first piece of cyberware, an internal air tank.
For Al, it was fun work and great pay, but the constant lifestyle restrictions set by the corp, even for an unregistered, irregular outfit like the Troubleshooters, soon reminded Al that he was long overdue for his meeting with Tony Franciosa. A quick look at the map showed him that from Europe, heading east to L.A. wasn’t much farther than heading back west, so he decided to at least see some new places along the way. But as usual, his plans went awry – he got himself on the crew of a tramper headed through the Mediterranean and on to the Indian Ocean via the Suez, but they got stopped by pirates at Gibraltar. One in the long series of gun battles that peppered Al’s life, he took out four or five of the bastards as they came over the rail. In the end, however, he had to go over the side, making his way to Morocco underwater thanks to his new internal tank.
So it was that Al started his life in North Africa, which was to last three years, until 2061. It was about the longest Al ever stayed in one place, if you can count North Africa as one place. He worked the whole time on caravans, where his roles and responsibilities expanded rapidly. Starting off as a guard, he immediately took to the camels, and they to him. He became valued not only for his skills with rifle and shotgun, but also for his abilities as a camel wrangler, which was almost enough to make some of the locals jealous. Also, for the first time in his travels, Al started to learn foreign languages, which he did with alarming speed. Al actually has no interest in learning ‘furrin tongues’. And in Europe everyone, whatever their native language, had always spoken English or had linguasofts. Neither, however, was the case in the Sahara. Sure, some of the European backers spoke English, but their chipped Arabic made the locals laugh, and they relied on interpreters. Al could see that some of the smarter interpreters were really running the show, and sometimes even struck out for themselves in the caravan business. First was Arabic, which was a sort of common language among the many ethnic groups that ranged across the Sahara. Unfortunately, the one major group that had refused to embrace the common Arabic language was the Tuareg – the most ferocious of the various tribal groups. And in order to avoid the Tripoli Hot Zone, it was necessary to swing south, deep into the desert – and their territory. So bribing or fighting them was always part of the agenda, since few spoke their lingo. But Al was undaunted (whenever he approached them, he was simply oblivious to their hostile attitude; with no perception of threat, he was completely unafraid, wholly unintimidated, and somehow this earned their respect – in spite of his decided lack of a winning personality). By the second year in the desert, he could speak their language, Tamasheq, as well as any non-Tuareg, and had good relations with a number of tribes. Combined with his fighting, camel wrangling, and Arabic skills, he was soon leading caravans himself. He got so friendly with the Tuareg that he started wearing their clothes. Since they always wore distinctive indigo robes with which they completely covered their faces except for the eyes to ward off evil spirits, and because no one else’s Tamasheq was good enough to tell he was not a native speaker, he started passing himself as one. Add in the fact that he always employed a few real Tuareg, and soon no one on his routes was any the wiser. This also served him in later years throughout the Middle East, since no one minded he was not a native Arabic speaker since they could tell he was a Tuareg.
Of course, it is virtually impossible to learn Arabic without learning Islamic doctrine, as the language and the scriptures are intimately intertwined – a huge array of colloquialisms and idioms are taken from the Qu’ran and the Hadith. Even the grammar is somewhat dependent on a certain degree of religious knowledge embedded in the culture. As Al picked up these religious elements, he became especially fascinated with the Hadith, the Words of the Prophet. With a seemingly endless number of volumes of Muhammed’s sayings carefully passed down through the centuries, Al found that if you looked hard enough (Al always learned to read every language he learned to speak), you could find one to fit almost every occasion. Lord knows he wasn’t about to adopt their heathen beliefs, ‘cuz he was a baptized Christian, and a priest of Santeria to boot, but damned if they didn’t just jump to when you could make your point with a quotation from the Prophet.
In any case, one day in 2061, upon pulling a caravan into Cairo from Darfur, the thought of heading back west, away from (or towards, but not in the direction he’d decided upon) his simstar destiny, well, that thought just didn’t set well. Besides, it was the Year of the Comet, and he’d heard (incorrectly) of orichalcum strikes on the Saudi Peninsula. He figured he was just as suited to roughing it there as in the Sahara, and he moved on.
With no orichalcum, Al’s skills and Tuareg identity kept him in plenty of work guiding archaeological and prospecting expeditions into the interior. He soon got to know all the important and many of the less important oases, and how to get from one to the other pretty easily. But the masquerade could only last for so long, and after only one year, in 2062, he was in an oasis cave near enough to Mecca to make it a definite no-man’s-land for unbelievers. Well, some young Bedouin had annoyed him pretty good, and he muttered something like, “Damned persnickety pagan djinni-worshippin’ unbaptised heathens.” Disastrously, one of the young ‘nomads’ was actually on Hajj from Alabama, and the jig was up. Al took them all out in the confined spaces of the cave with his Remington, but as he fled across the sands for the next weeks, he was forced to wonder if his hearing would ever come back. Damned shotguns were loud enough, but he’d never used one in such a narrow, sound-enclosing space before. Well, his hearing did come back, and the first thing he did when he got to Tel Aviv was get a sound damper for his ears.
With the Peninsula now a serious no-fly-zone, Al headed north into Asia Minor. The Persian Empire was far less homogenous than Arabia, and Al no longer needed to disguise himself as a Tuareg. Making his way up to Esfahan, he soon learned that the top-paying job was as a guide into Teheran. Despite the fact that the place had turned into a nightmare labyrinth infested by ghouls, ghosts, uncivilized vampires and some weird new sort of zombie, there was always someone who had some pressing reason they needed to get in and out of there. Al agreed to guide his first expedition into the place having never been there himself. He figured, how bad could it be? Of course he didn’t tell his charges that, but in the spirit of honesty he told them not to pay him until he brought them back alive. Well, suffice to say he never got paid. How was he to know all the scary stories were actually true? Undeterred, he kept on taking new groups in – if he was the only one to make it out, well, at least there would be no one to spread the bad news. Plus, he did always do his level best to get them in and out in one piece, which was more than could be said of a lot of the other ‘guides’ Al came to know, who simply killed their customers and robbed them. That was not for Al, and within about six months, his success rate was near a hundred percent – he quickly learned better ways in and out of the ruined city, little known paths with minimal or bribable denizens.
As good as the money was, something kept driving Al toward L.A. In this case, that something was probably what appeared to be the imminent rise of Ibn Eisa to the top of the IUM in 2064. Al knew if that happened he’d never be safe anywhere in the Middle East, and started making preparations to get outta Dodge. By the time it was clear that Ibn Eisa’s plans had been stopped, Al was already packed. He had booked passage on a passenger liner straight to L.A., but the more he heard about all the drek going down around the world, including cataclysms in SoCal, the more he thought he would be best off riding out the next few years in the sort of backwater places that would be relatively unaffected by the crash of the Matrix – places that had never really been wired into the rest of the planet anyway. So he canceled the liner ticket and worked his way on a freighter to Bombay. He got work on the docks operating heavy equipment, but next thing he knew there was a VITAS outbreak in the slums, and he was on the first tramper to Rangoon. There, he heard there were valuable tin deposits in Cambodia, and that some corporate consortium or another was offering top dollar to skilled mining engineers willing to make a go of it in the unstable and horribly uncomfortable conditions there. Al didn’t know a damned thing about mining, but figured he could fake being a demolitions expert well enough, so he signed on for that duty. How hard could it be – light a fuse, run away, right?
Once at the mining camp, Al quickly made friends with the local labor. This was a good thing, because the first time he had to set an explosive charge the detonator (thankfully not the main charge) went off in his face, destroying both retinas. Fortunately, he still had a hefty chunk of his Teheran earnings, and the camp doctor was happy to triple charge him for a pair of cyber eyes As usual, this setback didn’t slow Al down for a second, and in no time he was setting quality charges and joyfully blowing up huge chunks of earth and jungle. In the meantime, he learned everything he could from the real engineers, especially about mining. And again, here he was in a place where most of the regular fellas he was working with had no way to communicate with him in English, and he started learning Khmer.
By 2066, as Al’s Khmer skills improved, so did his opportunities. Some of his coworkers had inside info on the smuggling (as if there was any reason to ‘smuggle’ in anarchic Cambodia) routes used by a number of different Golden Triangle drug lords. They wanted to jack drug shipments, but Al convinced them that drugs would be hard to move, and they should instead try to get an idea when the drug kingpins themselves were on the move, and rip off the warlords themselves. They would doubtless always be carrying tons of personal cash and jewelry, if not some big payment for a supplier or something like that. At first, this seemed unwise to his compatriots, but once he pointed out the relative ease with which feats such as this had been accomplished in a number of famous action trids, they were sold. They took their pay and jumped contract. After nearly six months of scouting and surveillance, their plan was complete. They jacked three different Golden Triangle bigwigs within a few days of each other, two of which were carrying briefcases full of nuyen. Unlikely as it seems, they got away with it, went their separate ways and never saw each other again. Impossible as were the odds against such a spectacular success by total amateurs, the odds against the bad luck that came next were even greater. Hanging out with his cash in Phnom Penh, Al happened to be in a liquor store when it was held up. As the angry confrontation between the desperate bandits and stubborn owner escalated, Al leaned against the back wall, helped himself to a brew from the refrigerated case, and sat back with a cold one to enjoy the action. The whole thing went bad, with the owner getting shot, though not fatally, and the robbers retreating with likely mortal injuries. Moments later police arrived, much to Al’s astonishment since, although he had heard they existed in Cambodia, he had never seen one. The freaked out manager had somehow never turned off his innate anti-shoplifting sense, and the next thing Al knew, all these cops were pointing outdated Uzis at him as the shopkeeper’s frenzied allegations somehow morphed from shoplifting to robbery. Al was beaten senseless and by the time he came to, he had already been convicted of the robbery and was in a Cambodian prison.
Thus began the worst year of Al’s life, the only time that he ever had to actually work to maintain his naturally optimistic disposition and friendly attitude towards all. He just couldn’t abide a bunch of fat lazy guards telling him what to do all the time. Compared to that, the cramped and filthy conditions, maggot infested ‘food’, contaminated water, ever-present disease, and pervasive vermin were a walk in the park. But making the prisoners work would have required too much effort on the part of the guards, so all he was able to do was languish in a cell all day that wasn’t even big enough to keep from having his body piled onto that of his cellmates, or else all stand up. So between that and taking orders, he started making trouble. And that led to the torture. Every time he mouthed off to the guards, they took the cane to him. When his back didn’t have any more hide left on it, they applied it to his ass, and then the backs of his thighs. Then back to the back. Why he never learned his lesson he may never know. Mouthing off to the guards was probably his last hold on independence, his last refusal to submit. Furthermore, the pain of the torture, however horrific, was the only time his idle brain was not twisting itself in knots over the working man/thief dichotomy. Al already was rationalizing plenty of contradictions e.g. voodoo, killer karate, good-looking, simsense star, but this one struck him more deeply. So the whole cycle, rather than close in submission, escalated alarmingly. Soon, he was taking any opportunity to physically attack the guards – only leading to more and more severe confinement in the form of chains and other restraints. It also meant solitary, which was probably a blessing because it was a lot cleaner, and somehow his flayed flesh never got fatally infected. Every time they put him in a cell, he was simultaneously relieved that the torture session had finally ended, but somehow going crazy – the cognitive dissonance would come back and he would have to distract himself. So he made it a game to see how quickly he could work his way out of the restraints. He got pretty good at it, especially with his unnaturally flexible joints. He would promptly throw the chains through the bars out into the corridor, which would only call back the guards for further torture. They soon tired of the cane and started using cigarettes on the soles of his feet. Hard to say where Al’s state of mind might have progressed if this sort of cycle had been allowed to continue, but it ended fairly quickly, as we shall see. The end result was that Al, rather than question his abnormally high self-esteem, came to rely on it more than ever before. His deep knowledge that he was special, a voodoo practitioner, karate master, simsense star, that was the place he could always go. And strengthened by that, his defiance, his determination to be free at all costs, these qualities, which had always been uncontested defaults, were hardened into uncompromising imperatives. When he got out of that hellhole, he was the same old happy-go-lucky Al, but more so – now nothing could touch him, nothing could dull his positive outlook, nothing could sway him from his core beliefs.
Salvation came six months later, now early 2068. Coup d’etat would be a difficult word to use, as there was scarcely a government to overthrow, but during one such toppling of the powers-that-were, someone released the entire prison population in an attempt to destabilize the capital city. To Al, it was such a farce – they passed everyone through a bunch of offices and filled out a bunch of actual paper, even assigned him a parole officer, whom he knew he would never see or hear from again (although it has always been Al’s private joke to himself to act as though he actually does have a parole officer, and he periodically dials the commcode he was given, though it is invariably out of service. Naturally the Cambodian ‘government’ has long since lost any records it may have kept of this prison. And since Proteus AG wanted to keep the Troubleshooters deniable, they kept no records, either. All Al’s other employment has always been off-the-books sorts of stuff, so he is SINless).
Al headed straight for the bush – he had to get away from the squalor of Phnom Penh. It wasn’t long before he was doing the same thing he had done in northern Europe, poaching awakened (in other words, not real) animals for bounty. This time, these were not toxic mutations for lab experiments, but were more aimed at the exotic pet/rare materials trade. Things went pretty well for a while, and Al had put together a bit of a local crew, when they got greedy. They heard there were a whole passle o’ paracritters camped out up Angkor Wat way and, despite repeated warnings, headed up there. Well, as expected, they walked right into the clutches of the highly intelligent naga clan in charge of the place. Fortunately, the nagas’ magic stopped the whole team dead in its tracks, which might be why they weren’t too pissed. But they weren’t about to let everyone go. Quickly tipping to the fact that the nagas could read his thoughts, Al took a look around the place and saw a number of relatively simple improvements that could be made by some guys endowed with opposable thumbs, and basically convinced the nagas to let them all go once they had completed a few useful projects. It was clear, however, that further hunting expeditions would not be smiled upon.
Making his way overland through the jungle, Al ended up in Bangkok in late 2068. The first job he turned up was gator wrasslin’ at a crocodile farm tourist attraction. He mastered that art in no time and soon graduated to the far more lucrative employment of bare-handed pit fighting versus more serious reptilian opponents – adult, non-domesticated crocs, tropical snakes of all sorts, and finally the big money, awakened crocs and snakes. But as each week’s opponents got bigger, toothier, scalier, and more awakened, Al knew his was pushing his luck, and signed onto an oil rig off the Spratleys. He stayed there about half a year, until mid-2069.
Once Al recouped a bit of savings, it was time for the final leg of his journey – across the Pacific to L.A. He got himself onto the crew of a freighter that would eventually be bound for the City of Angels.
But of course that would be too easy. About half way there, about as far from land as you can get, there was somehow a VITAS outbreak on board. Al came up on deck one morning and everyone had a cold. Immediately suspicious, he made some small talk and learned that the captain was laid up below decks. Already nervous, the men on bridge sensed Al’s reaction. Al had seen VITAS in India and Southeast Asia, and he was having none of that. There was a moment of tension, as the all Chinese crew looked through red, mucous-plugged eyes at the as-yet healthy Al, the only occidental on board. Al may have been a color-blind dude, but at that moment he felt like Marco Polo or some shit. He moved first – activating his internal air tank and walking, then sprinting for his cabin. On the way he grabbed a compressed air container, but the crew was in hot pursuit, although no one was really clear at the time about why he was running. He got to his cabin and without stopping to close the door grabbed his personal medkit – a new Curie-series Vasotech U-doc with the latest Zeta-interferon antivirals. It was far better than any of the crap the Chinese tramper had in its ‘sickbay,’ and when the pursuing men arrived at Al’s doorway and saw it, everyone knew there was no going back. The first two rushed him. Al double-eye gouged the first, blinding him and leaving him helpless on the floor of the cabin. Within a millisecond the second was groaning on the ground, incapacitated with a broken pelvis and shattered kneecap. Al slammed the steel hatch shut and barred it, barricading himself in. By then, the last crew member was trying to get in – one of the injured men was screaming that Al had ‘stolen’ all the medicine. While the last man tried in vain to force the door – Al sat on the bunk and looked at the two men he’d crippled, both very much alive and very sick. He looked at his medkit. They were both good guys. Drinking buddies, card buddies. But he knew they were too far gone with the virus to be saved. In any case, the medkit only had enough for one. So he put on a pair of rubber gloves, broke both their necks, and shot himself full of the medicine. As the last man tried to reach him, he waited, trying to suppress images of the Cambodian prison cell. But even that tiny room had not been shared with two friends he’d just killed. Two friends that were breeding grounds for VITAS and could not be disposed of. For three days he went without food, refilling his internal air tank from the compressed air bottle he’d grabbed, drinking from the sink in his room only on the third day. By then, all attempts to cut through the door had long ceased. And by then, despite all his efforts and precautions, Al knew he had VITAS as well. Leaving the cabin he went through the ghost ship. He wasn’t too weak yet so he dumped all the bodies overboard. There was nothing left in the sick bay, so he set about bracing himself for what lay ahead – a two percent chance of survival. After a few hours things got pretty bad, which was about when he noticed that the ship’s autopilot had been reset for Seattle, a day or so closer from their earlier position than Los Angeles. But he weighed the anchor – he couldn’t risk what would happen if anyone found the infected ship. Now what he had to do was survive.
Somehow he did, but it destroyed him physically. For the first time in his life he was not stronger and faster than most everyone else he met. In fact, he was downright decrepit. It was all he could do to walk after the last bout of fever broke on the fifth day. He put the ship back on course for Seattle.
At some point as the city hove into view, Al realized that this was the first truly civilized city he’d been to since London (he didn’t count Cairo). That would mean inspections, licenses, and worst of all quarantines. So he gathered his strength, jury-rigged an underwater sled, refilled his air tank, and dropped overboard once it was dark. The sled worked – there was nothing wrong with his brain – and he came ashore in Tacoma.
Once he was ashore, he had nothing. A few certified nuyen and the clothes on his back. But he knew that in Seattle everyone would be all wired up with that new wifi crap, broadcasting SINs and so forth. So he couldn’t make for the richer parts of town to find some good marks or at least some rich dumpsters to dive. He headed for the darkest, most forlorn dockyards he could find, places where he knew smaller, independent operations hired off the books workers. Everywhere he went, no luck – a lot of good working Joes, but everyone was afraid of giving a guy they didn’t know work, for fear of the union bosses/Mafia finding out.
Finally, a break – a foreman arguing with a laborer – only the laborer couldn’t speak English…and the foreman couldn’t speak Khmer. Al stepped in and with a few simple translations the whole misunderstanding was easily sorted out.
Hun Sen was neither an altruistic nor even a particularly honorable fellow. But he did see an opportunity in Al to finally have regular access to a free interpreter. Hun, as the leader of his family, had managed to secure a dilapidated apartment building in Seattle’s International District with the help of a local lawyer of Cambodian descent. But the lawyer was far too expensive to always be around for the linguistically challenged Hun. Hun set Al up in the basement (not for free!), and to keep the rent coming in, and Al close by, has gotten Al work on the docks, again operating heavy machinery.
So for a couple of months now Al has been working in Seattle, and of course spending all his time in seedy waterfront dives harassing the broken down waitresses. A shadow of his former self physically, his unique personality is almost entirely intact – having passed through the crucible of the prison, even the experience on the ship left him essentially as optimistic and gregarious as ever, if a bit more cynical, a bit edgier, a bit more wary.
This history ends in 2070.
During 2070, Al was on two shadowruns on Dumpshock. As both games went the way most DS games do, I made up the ends myself. In the first, everyone lost at sea off Tir Taingire coast, but Al washed up on shore. Next thing he knew he was just north of the Tir border with no memory. Found his way back to Seattle.
Second one, half the party was dead by the time the game died out. In my ending, Johnson just called and said keep the up front money, the run was off.
Al quickly wasted all the money, and over the ensuing four years, he has just been working the docks and chilling. His health has recovered somewhat from the VITAS ordeal, but he remains constantly weak, a shadow of his former self physically. Over the past year he has been earning extra beers doing occasional bouncer shifts at crappy dives. He’s also done a bit of leg-breaking for some dockyard mafia types, though he has never bothered to remember their names or even faces (usually drunk when takes the jobs).
His experiences in 2070 almost had him convinced that shadowrunners actually exist outside of the trid. But since both jobs went up in smoke so ignominiously, he decided they must merely have been the whiff of smokey reality from which the fictions are drawn.
But if some deluded slot who’s been doing too many action sims offers him cash to play the game again, well, he always needs beer money…
NEXT FINAL NOTE – 22 months real time later –
In 2075 Al got into some trouble with the Mafia, and Hun’s clan was also swept up in the mess.
That problem took several weeks to work out, and during that time Al hid among some urban tribals in Seattle, paying cash and services for protection.
Also during that time, his path was led to a woman named Honesty, whom Al usually refers to as the Tattoo Witch. She completed a masterpiece on Al’s back, and in the process acted as a sort of Spirit Guide, finally convincing Al of the truth – that his power stems from Dog, his totem. Although Al has accepted this, he has not given up the delusion that he also gains magical power from the voodoo gods.
Al worked things out so that the mafia would leave Hun’s clan alone, but they still pretty much want him dead.
But he hangs out in Seattle a bit longer, doing enough regular shadowrun-type jobs that he is finally convinced that “shadowrunners” are a real thing and not just something on the trid.
When the tribals he lives with relocate deeper into the barrens, he goes with them and helps out for a while.
Then, with the dawn of 2076, the mafia pressure is getting annoying, and he finds out that both Tony Franciosa and Carl Ryder are in London.
So he works his way over there on a series of freighters, reestablishes himself there around March 2076, but then loses his home to a fire that summer.
5’3” 150 lbs
Thin, skin seems a bit loose
Complexion pale, almost yellow.
Bags under eyes.
Facial bone structure even, but nose has obviously been broken a number of times.
At first glance looks mid- to late-60s, but upon closer observation seems more like his own weather-beaten, worse-for-wear 47-year-old self.
Bushy mop of sandy hair, bangs cut above the eyes, around the ears, and roughly at collar-length (no, not a mullet). Appears to have been hacked off with a knife. Probably hasn’t been washed in a while.
Sunken cheeks, prominent chin, moderately heavy brow over bright, deep-set blue eyes.
Side-burns, not bushy
Generally sports a few days’ growth, but usually uneven, as though he missed some spots the last time he shaved.
Teeth hopelessly tobacco-stained. Fingernails, too.
Hands and forearms mottled with terrible burn scars.
Wears beat up brown workmen’s boots. Faded, ripped jeans. Currently they are quite loose, but cinched tight with a brown cracked-leather belt. (Sometimes trades the jeans for olive-drab cargo pants.) Stained yellowish-white T-shirt or, on very hot days, yellowish-white wifebeater. Ancient, weathered brown real-leather jacket – quite bulky on his emaciated frame.
Filterless Lucky Strike omnipresent, usually in corner of mouth, even if speaking.
No visible jewelry of any kind.
Very hairy – extensive hair on chest, shoulders, and upper arms.
Visible tattoos –
Inside right forearm – a good piece of work. Full-color. A gnarly sea serpent crushing and cracking a representation of the Proteus AG logo, its fanged visage striking forward at the viewer, this done in excellent perspective. The image encompassed by a neat circular banner, ‘Troubleshooters’ emblazoned across the top, ‘Proteus AG’ across the bottom. Inscribed neatly but much smaller underneath it all – “No. 1 Bilge Rat”.
From top of left shoulder, extending downward to elbow – a list of names, all in different styles of calligraphy/font/whatever, varying levels of quality, some in Roman letters, a few Arabic, one in Chinese characters. All have neat Xs tattooed through them. Ten total.
Right upper arm – black & white a nude woman who – you guessed it – seems to sway erotically when he flexes his bicep.
Right shoulder – shoulder patch positioning – Confederate stars and bars in color.
Other tattoos “have ta git ta know me better,” but include three Qi foci
Generally no readily visible tech.
Always reeks of cigarette smoke.
If he takes off his jacket one can see a big survival knife, sheathed, stuck into his belt at the small of his back.
Voice is sometimes too loud, and very gravelly/scratchy. Physicality usually very subdued – brash voice from mostly still frame.
Short and gaunt.