The job they took had been a simple in and out at a local museum. They had a week to scout this place's defenses and security measures. They, while nowhere near the best at what they did, were considered quite good by the sorts of people that had reason to call on people with their kind of skills. None of this, unfortunately, was any comfort to the three members of this group that were being fired on by a dozen different guards, chased by three different elementals that had just been summoned, and at least one Magi coordinating.

They were outnumbered, out-gunned, and knew it. The only people surprised when they attempted to flee were the police called on the scene, for none of the three involved wanted to spend any amount of time in prison. Not that running did them much good in the end.

Post-Operations Report

Supervising Officer: David Sharp

Date Filed: 09 09 1878

Initial Call: Disturbance at Northridge Museum of Computers and Electronics

Summery: Patrol Vehicle #2267B preformed drive-by where suspect 1 as well

as escape vehicle were found parked by rear loading entrance. Suspect 1 was asked what he was doing parked after museum was closed to general public where suspect 1 attempted to explain to officer Wilks (Badge #6582P) that he was waiting for out of town friends that were due to arrive inside of a half hour. Officer Wilks accepted suspect 1's story and asked if there would be any problems if they waited there with them for their own safety. At this point suspect 1 became "uneasy and distracted" but agreed to officer Wilks's request. Ten minutes later Suspect's 2 and 3 exited building while being assaulted by Museum Security. Encounter ended with Suspect 1 running over the hood of Patrol Vehicle. At this point Wilks requested backup as well as medical assistance for two wounded guards.

Suspect 1's vehicle was located by Officer Watchdog moving at roughly 120mph down Leaf headed towards H-24. Three roadblocks were set at likeliest points between suspect's then current position and likeliest destination. Two of the three roadblocks were not in suspect's path and the third stopped suspect vehicle only after brief firefight between officer's on scene and all three suspects once their vehicle was disabled by Officer Watchdog (Badge #6682S) via summoned 'tar' elemental.

Suspect 2 was knocked unconscious after attempting to bite arresting officers. Once Suspect 2 was restrained both remaining suspects surrendered. Noteworthy is that all three suspects were armed with either inherently nonlethal weapons, or had used non-lethal gel rounds where guns were used. Museum uncooperative in inventory of what suspects attempted to steal. Artifacts found in Suspect 1's vehicle were returned. Judging by how suspects act there may be items that have been overlooked.

Suspect 1

Name: Unknown

Aliases: Justine Kristoff, Allen B. Shepherd, Richard T. Manning, Drake Carter

Race: Human Caucasian

Gender: Male

Hair: Bald, presumed brown judging by facial hair

Eyes: Green, Class S optical implants. Registration #451CQC99

Identifying marks: Scarring on left wrist (presume inflicted by bladed weapon). Bullet wounds in right pectoral region, right calf, and left hand. Tattoo of a three pointed symbol on left pectoral. Size and coloration of tattoo possibly indicates gang affiliation, but matches nothing in local or regional databases. Aura, when photographed, is almost non-existent. When questioned on the matter subject is both aware of atypical aura and stated that he is 'dead' magically. Detailed transcription of conversation can be found on page ten.

Charges: Vehicular Assault, Speeding, Resisting arrest, Destruction of Public Property, Public Endangerment, Possession of Unlicensed Weapons.

Notes: Subject appears calm, though uncooperative. Repeatedly asked after accomplices condition, apparently has connection with the lamia we took into custody. Getaway vehicle is a heavily modified Xai-Pan, more commonly referred to as an 'urban assault vehicle'. Full inventory of getaway vehicle can be found on page seven. Attempts at matching genetic and aura resulted in being contacted by a CNS Col. Elly Starbride. Discussion was brief and one sided with Starbride informing me that subject has immunity and will be dealt with once he has been deported.

Suspect 2

Name: Shelly Windsong

Aliases: Stormwalker, Crystal Scales.

Race: Lamia South Asian, possibly Western Pacific Hair: Green, cut short at shoulders

Eyes: Green

Coloration: Dark blue with green diamonds along back

Identifying Marks: None

Charges: Assault, Assaulting an Officer, Theft, Resisting Arrest, Destruction of privet property, Destruction of public property.

Notes: Suspect turned violently hostile during restraint. Appears to be claustrophobic, or possibly just reacts worse than the other two at being confined. Was injured during arrest and was attended to by Healer Gerald Finch (#4417H). Judging by reaction from Suspect 1 there is likely an ongoing relationship between the two. Was contacted shortly after identity was confirmed by Windsong's family requesting her name and images be kept out of any official reports to media. Personal opinion is that their requests should be ignored. Fits description of 'Golden Serpent' jewelry thefts in late ‘77

Suspect 3

Name: Unknown

Aliases: Jenny, Shifter, ‘The Scarved One’

Race: Human Oriental

Eyes: Brown

Hair: Black, thin braid extending to waist

Skin: light brown

Identifying Marks: Aura unusually active and consistent with multidimensional teleportation capabilities. To prevent subject from escaping she has been placed inside a multi-layered 'onion' ward.

Charges: Resisting Arrest, Assault, Assaulting an officer.

Notes: Suspects genetic and aura prints turned up no matches on local and regional databases. Clothing is custom, though appears manufactured rather than tailored. None of the identifying tags match known brands or sizing conventions. Suggest we keep her lack of identity from media in initial reports in case, like with suspect 1, she turns out to be military.

Accident Report

Supervising Officer: Alex Goldeyes

Date Filed: 16 09 1878

Summery: Following orders from Capt. Kamio prisoners were kept separated until transferred from local holding facilities to Mudloa till trial. Police Magi assisting in transfer were instructed to maintain active warding around suspects for fear that suspect #3 would be able to affect an escape, or gain access to means of escape through weapon, tools, or other summoned items. Transport vehicle left at 0800 without incident and followed pre-planned route until approx. 1042. At that point radio and empathic contact was lost for two minutes. When contact was reestablished all three prisoners were missing and escorting magi found unconscious but otherwise unharmed.

Roadblocks were called for at approx. 1100 as well as sweeps of astral space intersecting scene of the accident. At 1400 it was determined by Sarah Avery (#4426M) suspects fled this dimension, but the exact path is not known, and attempts to recreate the bridge used have so far ended unsuccessfully.

The odds of the trick working had been slim. Jenny laughed the moment that they exited between space and landed. Drake was too busy throwing up to notice anything, leaving Shelly as the sole member of their group staring at their surroundings. She had only found out their newest companion was a world jumper just before they made their move, else she would have pressed the woman to putting her more unusual talents to use in their raid. The end of her tail flicked in irritation. Want in one hand... They had escaped, that was the important thing for the moment.

"Drake?" Shelly knelt by her companion while eying him with concern. She knew a little of healing, so worked small magics, it was all she dare risk working in her condition. They had all been treated badly in one way or another, so all she could manage were small things without risking harm. He smiled at her tiredly before squeezing her hand with his.

Jenny eyed the two of them, then their surroundings. They were in a city of some sort, that was plain. It was modern enough to have electric street lamps and automobiles. Judging by their standards they landed in an upscale section of this place. It wouldn't do to have to answer questions right then, so with a sigh she put a hand on each of her companions.


Guns pointed at them. Men, dazed at their sudden appearance aimed at them. Wouldn't do at all.


They were in the midst of an inferno.



Safe and


Please, somewhere


Lizard-men charging...

...Beggars half-mad swarmed over them with hunger in their eyes

...Elves drew swords when they interrupted their coronation ceremony

...Shelly's laughter at swiping the crowns of the Elvin Monarchs died when they saw hundred foot tall metal creatures striding towards them. "Jenny. Now would be a good time to get out of here."

Jenny's eyes were unfocused. Shelly could hear her chanting something under her breath in a low whisper. Drake tried to shake her senses loose, but she continued to focus on nothing at all.

"JENNY!" Shelly shrieked. The metal beings were almost on top of them. Guns drawn and speaking something that hurt Shelly and Drake's ears. She slapped Jenny. Hard. "We have to go!" One of these Titans fired at them...


Jenny collapsed in a bed of flowers. Never mind that they were now in the proverbial Middle of Nowhere rather than back home. Nothing was exploding, on fire, trying to mob them, eat them, kill them, or jail them. Shelly, wide eyed and fearful, grabbed both her companions roughly and slithered towards a nearby cluster of trees.. It was hard on her because she rarely participated when hard labor was involved, but her kind had a natural amount of strength that surpassed most normal humans. That was the only reason they moved the way she wanted rather than stay out in the open.

It was their good fortune that they had moved, because something large, winged, and apparently predatory, landed a dozen paces where they had landed. Drake's eyes widened. He knew this creature. They all knew. Roc. Think of a large pterodactyl, or if you do not know what that is think of a dragon without scales, and with only as much intelligence as a hawk or other bird of prey. Now visualize that thing as being the size of a draft horse and give it a taste for meat. That is what Drake saw.

It sniffed the air and screamed defiantly at them. They stood perfectly still. It might smell where they had been, but they did not move, so it couldn't see them. It would have followed into the trees, but they were too close together for it to enter and not suffer claustrophobia. Every instinct in it's brain would scream that it was vulnerable with the trees so close that it could not take to the air at a moment's notice. It might wound or kill them, but it would be a target, and possibly fall prey to something on the ground. That made chasing them not worth the risk in it's animal mind. With another scream it launched itself into the air with powerful legs.

With the Roc gone they took a moment to consider risking another shift, or letting Jenny rest. It wasn't a hard choice to make really. Each shift took as much out of the Shifter as a full workout would Drake or Shelly. They sat, talked, congratulated themselves for getting out without having to hurt anyone too badly. Drake and Shelly did that, to be more accurate. Jenny slept.

"Shelly?" Drake had managed to find a limb that could serve as either a walking stick, or possibly a weapon, and started doing what he could to remove the unneeded branches, bark, and rough places with a sharp stone he had broken. "Do we even want to go back? I mean sure there's professionalism on the line. We said we'd deliver, and I'm not talking about cheating our client out of what he'd already paid us for." His companion was busy looking up through the trees at the green sky and pink clouds of their temporary refuge. What could have made those colors in an environment fit for life to thrive in?

"You're wanting to change venue after telling Jenny you would rather die a hunted man in the place you were born than to always run?" She smiled to give lie to her otherwise admonishing tone. "I knew I'd rub off on you boy." She frowned at the sky. "How long are we giving Jenny?" It hadn't been ten minutes since their companion fell asleep, trusting that they would keep her safe, or wake her if they needed to run.

"Give her a couple hours Shelly." He picked up another stone and started smoothing the spots where he had roughly cut branches away from his stick. "Don't give me that look, please. You know doing this is hard on her. We'll leave as soon as she's ready. Boredom never killed anyone." Well not if you weren't some creature out of Greek myth that supposedly heard a story so boring that they died. At least that's how he thought the story went, but it'd been awhile since he took history classes, and he always liked the mythics of the 'new' world better than the old.

Well, most anyway. He smiled at Shelly in spite of her continued muttering over being stuck to one place. She was willful, wild, and never ever boring. Sure she would probably tire of him in a few months, but beneath the hyperactive selfish exterior she was loyal to her friends, and he was glad to have decided to work with her on a regular basis.

Time passed. A few creatures moved through their field of view. None seemed to pay them much mind, not that they knew to be afraid of them. Jenny made small frightened noises in her sleep. Her companions worried, fretted, fumed, and stalked about in their own ways, but they kept watch. She was their ticket out of here, and her friend besides that.

Neither Drake nor Shelly knew much about survival in the wild other than try not to get eaten, and if you can't run, then aim for the face because everything supposedly backs off if might lose an eye. Their lack of knowledge made them jumpy. Their lack of weapons made them if not precisely afraid than at least uneasy at every noise that came from around them. However they never moved away from Jenny, or tried waking her to get them out of there before she woke on her own. By the time she did it had started to grow dark.


Considering the hellride they took getting away, the shift back had been a simple matter. Maybe it had to do with the wards that had been set on them, or the tension and fear in the air. Either way, they found themselves in the apartment they had rented while planning for the job. Police had been there, so everything was either strewn about, gone, or in a few cases, broken.

Shelly tsked when she saw the pile her clothes had been thrown in. Her disappointed tsking turned into a low growl of frustration when she discovered her spare tools were missing. Drake shook his head at her, "We're just stopping here for a little rest and a shower. right?" Jenny looked up from where she had fished out a change of clothes for herself. "I don't think orange looks good on any of us."

After doing these things they felt less weary than they had before. The change of clothes helped too. It was unfortunate that the place was probably crisscrossed with wards that would alert those looking for them if anyone showed at that apartment. Thankfully Jenny's trick of slipping from one world to another gave them an exit, although it ended up leaving Jenny tired.

Drake frowned at this. Jenny had never acted this tired in so short a time before they had been caught. She wasn't working herself overly hard, at least not that he had seen. Of course he had no idea what affected what she could do. Maybe he was somehow hurting her just by being around. He dismissed the thought with a shake of his head while looking at the place they settled on.

It was big, it was condemned, and it used to be a Church of Universal Brotherhood. At least it did till the Brotherhood had been found out to be a front group for a group wanting to replace the souls of its members with demon essence. It didn't matter to him or many others that they acted serene and peaceful. Salvation at the cost of even one human life had been viewed as nothing of the sort. He shook his head and laughed. "Good call lady." He patted Jenny on the shoulder before seeing if anyone else had taken the place for shelter. They didn't plan on staying long, but if the resident squatters demanded they leave they would leave. No sense in fighting just yet.

There had been one other that called this place home. He wore tattered and stained robes that marked him as a former priest here. Small chance, in Drake's mind, of anyone stealing those. Most of the homeless, if given the choice between wearing those and freezing would take the robes and use them to make a fire. The fallen priest cowered away from Drake, black eyes wide with terror. "Please!" His voice was a fearful wail. "I ain't ever harmed nobody!"

The priest's voice was enough to carry from the back room that Drake found him cowering to where Shelly and Jenny were seated on a stone bench by the front doors. They started to move when they saw the demon-priest backing away from Drake, stumbling as often as not over his robes. Shelly moved, wrapping herself bodily around the man. He struggled only as Drake approached, and when Drake backed away he eased up.

Shelly loosened, letting the man go. "Nobody wants to hurt you." He glowered at her, "OK. None of us wants to hurt you. We just need to stay here a few hours till we can figure out what to do next. We didn't mean to barge in, and as soon as we can, we're gone. Can we all agree to keep calm and quiet in the meantime?"

He drew a deep breath, "I don't care what you or the other woman do, but keep him away from me." The priest's hands clenched and unclenched. "You might want to keep clear of him too, if you value your lives anyway."

The three companions exchanged glances, none wanted to ask, but Jenny approached. "What do you mean? He's not violent."

The man-demon laughed, "I would have figured you at least might have figured it out Shifter." He smiled at her look of confusion, "You two gather close. You" He pointed at Drake, "Keep where you are. You might not mean anything, but this is something you can't help." He patted Shelly's tail lightly, which caused her to shift slightly to him.

Drake shrugged and went to search the rest of the place as they talked. Part of what it he likely knew, but only part. He didn't want to hear the demon-priest talk anyway, it made his skin crawl.

"I've heard of his kind, and we had one that had gotten as far as the transfiguration." Shelly glowered at him, it was the word the Brotherhood had used when describing the implanting process to outsiders. "When we finally saw through the glamor woven through him we saw the same sickly non-aura your friend there has." Jenny arched an eyebrow but said nothing. "The..." He looked unsure, "My son died in the process. All that he was drained when he made contact."

"He may wear a different face now, but all of us were given his scent and aura in case who or whatever sent him wanted to repeat the trick." The demon-priest took a deep breath and exhaled slow. "I had taken vows to do no harm once I came here. I cannot kill him, not even out of vengeance, or to defend my kind. I cannot even ask you to do what I can't. I just... please... keep him away from me till you go."

"We won't bother you." Jenny squeezed the priest's hand gently. "I promise."

Drake stayed gone for another hour, popping up only for brief moments after that to assure the rest that everything was fine and they were safe. He didn't like to talk about that job. He had played his part well and survived what none of the other spies had. Even those born of darkness did not deserve to happen to the thing that tried burrowing into him. Still, he meant no harm, and would cause no trouble.

When it came time for them to leave the priest embraced Shelly and commended her 'for doing what I cannot allow myself to,' and offered Jenny advice if she were warded again. Her gift for skipping worlds was different, and wholly unique so far as how she did it, but there were certain rules that governed most spells, rules she might be able to exploit in the future.

They still had the police looking for them, and they had to keep a low profile, but they were free and they had a job to finish. When they exited the church they sought their bearings and found that they hadn't traveled too far from their employer. Between Shelly and Drake getting transportation hadn't been that much of a problem, it had been far more challenging to find something Shelly could fit in without too much discomfort or embarrassment.

With that done Drake took the wheel and promptly shut down the van's link to the global net. Sure there was still the transponder, but that would only be activated after their ride was reported stolen. This gave them a few hours before they would have to ditch, and hopefully in those few hours they would have what they needed.

"Cop sitting behind us." Jenny watched Drake's hands clench and unclench on the wheel. "Lights aren't on." She saw him relax visibly.

When they started moving again Drake grimaced, "I can't punch through government chatter or the local nets without leaving a blazing beacon anyone could see from orbit, sorry."

Jenny laughed while arranging her hair. "Guess we go about it the old fashioned way hm?"

"Guess so." Shelly agreed, though with a touch of resentment. "I liked being able to get in or out anywhere at a whim though."

While he continued driving Drake smirked, "I thought you liked a challenge. Using me to sledgehammer my way through security doesn't seem that hard. Just think of this as a feather in your cap. If they've pegged us as something to keep an eye out for that means they think you're too good at what you do to be left alone."

"Well when you put it that way.." Shelly trailed off, but seemed a little happier for the exchange.

From: Col. Starbride, Elly

To: Pvt. Kamio, Sara

Subject: Smokescreen

Your intelligence and probable movements concerning Subject #45100R since his escape has proven accurate so far. I am having you transferred to my command where your experience with this man will prove better use than the think tanks have. Unfortunately after his escape from local forces by as-yetunknown means he hasn't resurfaced. Under advice that you had given on the subject's habits I have taken a look at the case file they had opened on him concerning stolen items from a local museum. On a hunch I had my own teams search the place and discovered several fakes, all having been placed there the night that our target was caught.

The items we found forgeries of are:

A Mk II Holocube reportedly containing a copy of Chun Lau’s mind.

The last surviving node of the Deep Six super-cluster.

An A34 Centurion interface.

Other than their possible worth on the black market I personally cannot see any connections, however you have proven, repeatedly, your ability at guessing motives and direction. We're running leads to see who might have contracted persons matching our target and the other two suspects. Hopefully, if this is just a way of scarring up money instead of something deeper, we might be able to outflank him.

They had a time getting everything together, but thankfully when they had been caught it had been during the tail end of the run, after the important pieces had been swapped out. Actually they had been caught because of personal greed on Drake's part. Granted Shelly could be considered to have egged him into it she always wanted that extra little bit if she thought they could get away with it.

He didn't blame her for it really, that's just part of how she was wired. Jenny, possibly, could have been the voice of reason, but she was always the one to want to try new things. So that left him as the voice of reason and caution in this little trio. Drake wondered which of the Gods were laughing hardest at that joke. Not that it mattered in the end, not really.

From: Col. Starbride, Elly

To: Gen. Picard, David Stern

Subject: Regarding Project Shifter

I understand your concern, Sir, about my command's ability to keep track of any further experiments done in light of Subject #45100R. I can only stress that had

we been better equipped during the retrieval phase of Mana Burn we would not be in our current situation. Also given that I have been assigned several officers to observe and record as well as several security teams that specialize in containing singular individuals I feel that leaving Project Shifter under my command would not pose any undue risks.

For the record I will point out that other than #45100R my team has produced or enhanced roughly 83% of the armed service's specialist beings, so I have experience in dealing not only with their creation and training, but how to handle instances where they may eventually become a danger, either by mental instability or aggression.

In this light I ask that any and all files concerning the multidimensional being, referred to in civilian police reports forwarded to your desk as 'Jenny'. While the samples we had acquired will provide both a physical and astral duplicate of the subject I feel that the picture my command has of her capabilities is incomplete, and thus continuing with the duplication process could result in another rouge that will need to be neutralized rather than a viable asset.

Col. Elly Starbride

They had many calls to make, favors to call in, people to bribe, and all that. In the end they would have the parts shipped to a somewhat plush hotel room. Granted Drake would have liked to go somewhat cheaper, but as Shelly saw it anyone looking for them would be busy looking through storage containers people used as makeshift homes, cheap motels, and other decidedly dirty and squalled places. "What better place to hide when they're stomping through garbage than in plush comfort?"

Drake couldn't argue with the logic there. As he looked at the things they had been caught, and nearly jailed, for having stolen he considered telling the truth. There was no buyer, and the pay-out that they had already gotten was from reserves he had stolen from a bank account that officially didn't exist. He wasn't supposed to do this, not because he was on any sort of mission or anything, but every time he drew against this near bottomless resource it was logged, and they could make a map of where that money went before it was cashed out in hard currency.

He thought better of that while he was out buying the dozens of little things that would be needed to splice their finds together. He would, eventually, but right now was not the time. It hurt him to lie to either of them, but especially to Shelly. She had taken him in while he was still literally fighting to keep the streets from swallowing him after he had escaped that first time. He owed her the truth once there was a little breathing room, but not now.

Nobody questioned the things he had bought, or why he paid in cash rather than credits. After all anyone that wanted to build, or upgrade, a home media system would have to buy these things. Shelly helped him with the bags when he came back, and together they started hooking everything in. Why they did this here, rather than wait for the fictitious buyer was explained away as wanting to check to make sure they hadn't stolen fakes, and that everything was in good condition.

Soon. Soon I'll see if this dead psychic lady can tell me what the hell they did. Drake plugged himself into the system and went rigid. None would hear or see their conversation. He might not make it out of the system, Deep Six had always been temperamental, but nothing since the System Restriction act would have been capable of rebuilding the lady's memories and personality from the cube they had taken.

Risks always had to be taken where the rewards were worthwhile.

When he woke it was still dark, but the clock in his implants told him that almost a day had passed. Shelly was there when he woke, and she seemed concerned he had been out so long, especially since all he had supposedly done was buzz the system to make sure everything was in good order. Drake waved her off with a complaint that Deep Six had made things difficult, but if it hadn't he would have suspected it was either a fake, or neutered to current accepted system limits

Jenny was out sniffing for news instead of her since she passed for human, no matter what she really might be, and therefore would have attracted less notice than Shelly slithering out and about. True there was a reasonable sized lamia community here, but they were still rare enough that most people took notice when one passed through.

With everything verified it was time to pack up and, once Jenny was back, find safer ground. Drake would spin them a story about hearing whispers through Deep Six of their buyer having been arrested and beyond their help. They would argue, as his thinking went, but they would agree that the best thing they could do now was flee to less violate shores. He didn't like the idea of leaving via Jenny's unique skills yet again, but taking time out on a tropical island or some other suitably idyllic spot while the local heat died down was infinitely better than running and being scared.

She told me if I wanted to keep my aura from collapse I would have to give up my way of life. Bollocks that. Everyone goes out one way or another. I'm not giving up my fun for a few extra years.

When they piled in their recently stolen ride Shelly caressed the jewels and baubles of state she had stolen in their last mad run through realities. "Hey Drake, how do I look? Drake laughed at the sight of Shelly wearing what would have been the Elvin queen's jewelry. His laughter lasted long after they shifted.

From: Gen. Picard, David Stern

To: Col. Starbride, Elly

Subject: Re: Shifter Project

After a comprehensive review of both your department’s as well as your personal records we have found, outstanding issues concerning Former Sergeant Julian Fawkes (subject #45100R) aside, I have been authorized to grant you continued and uncontested command of Project Gholem resources with the following terms.

You are to give, in addition to the official weekly summary reports, detailed accounting for each department starting with those that have the most contact with test subjects. Given the containment requirements for your proposed project we understandably have concern over how the sympathies of your handling crews lay.

Instead of the overlay methods used in the majority of your subjects we want you to go with an accelerated growth cloning regime for this subject. While we are fully aware of the risks and historical shortcomings of cloned samples it will provide us with an opportunity to further study these traits in a subject made cooperative by flash conditioning and a re-tooled genome to give us a less aggressive subject. If this first generation clone proves inadequate you will at least have data to further refine the traits you wish to implant, or possibly make a second generation clone to provide further refinements. Authorization for this has been granted, signed, filed both with Central and a hard copy that rests in my personal files.

I wish you the best of luck and though I am one of those that raised objections at your continued command I will not make undue difficulties in your operation. We serve the same cause, and I only hope that the hoped for ends have justified the means.

General David Stern Picard


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