Gregory Darwin – Grondanar – was my first Shadowrun character. Strong and huge, we joked that if they made a prebuilt archetype for him it would be “Troll Bunker”. He carried a huge backpack so that when the team mage inevitably passed out from spellcasting, we could just put him into the rucksack and keep going until he woke up. He also got some bioware to increase his intelligence, took some correspondence courses, got a license for real estate, laundered a lot of his gains as Grondanar to the accounts of Gregory Darwin, and ended up getting into construction.
By current game year of 2080, though, he’s pretty elderly for a troll, and I thought it would be nice to start a campaign by making one of his fondest wishes come true.
One would think a private island would be the ultimate in security. Certainly, former USAS Presidential candidate and business magnate Kenneth Brackhaven did. He had made a lot of enemies over his life, and now he ran his racist organization from said private island. His list of enemies was long, and in addition to his desire to see orks and trolls (and elves and dwarves, yes, but they could wait a little) eradicated, he spent a lot of time trying to make sure that list became much shorter.
His companion lazed on the couch across from him. He had a feeling he’d need to get rid of her soon – she was showing signs of being bored with him. That wasn’t really something he needed, especially with his growing physical weakness.
That was the worst part. There was a chance he might die before he got closer to his goals. He’d pursued every means there was, but his talent for making people angry had denied him access to clinics for the life extension treatments. And so, he felt each day he was getting older, and that angered him
The lights flickered, and his commlink froze for a moment, then restarted. He swore, then swore again at a knock on the door.
“I said no interruptions!” he yelled, and then cowered as the door opened violently, crashing to the floor.
Ducking his head so the horns cleared the way, a troll – a very large one – entered. Brackhaven’s mood, already black, become worse as he recognized the aged but still powerful form of one of the largest thorns in his side of the past five years. He’d tried for most of that time to kill Gregory Darwin, the troll real estate magnate of Seattle, and been ridiculously unsuccessful. He’d spent almost ten million nuyen on runners and assassins, and every one of them had failed. The troll straightened his pearl-grey raw-silk three-piece suit’s jacket (reinforced with armor), and regarded the resident of the island.
“Kenneth,” Darwin said, his voice seismic, “it’s so difficult getting an appointment. I’m sorry to just barge in like this, but one does what one must, after all.”
They had always been like this, even before Brackhaven decided he needed to move to this island: cordial loathing in public, but in private a vicious hatred that meant one of them would need to die.
“Gregory,” he replied, “If I’d known you were coming, I’d have prepared a luncheon.”
“That’s quite all right,” the troll said with a smile. He looked at the young lady. “You can go, miss. You probably should dress for a trip.” Then he returned his gaze to Brackhaven, and there was not the slightest bit of benevolence in that gaze. “So.”
“So,” Brackhaven nodded, as the girl left the room hurriedly and the troll took her place on the couch, which groaned under the troll’s weight. “And why are you here, trog?”
The cold smile grew wider. “Well, Kenny,” Gregory began, knowing how very much Brackhaven hated being called that, “I’m dying. It’s inevitable. I’m old for a troll. But one wants to leave the world a bit better than it was left, so I’m taking care of a few loose ends.” The smile went away. “You, mostly.”
“I’m terribly sad to know I’m going to outlive you,” Kenneth replied, with no sincerity at all. “I know you’ve gotten in the way of a lot of my plans, and knowing you won’t be stopping them soon makes me all the happier. Most of them will go on even if you kill me right now. And of course, when I die, I have safeguards. If you kill me, my death will be sent to every major law enforcement agency in the world.”
Gregory shook his head. “Really, Kenny. You probably figured that I hired a shadow team to get me in here, but do you really think I didn’t think this through? I used to run the shadows myself. It was the way to get by after the Night.”
Brackhaven snorted. “Another trog runner thinking he can make it back into the light. Pathetic.”
“No, Kenny. Pathetic is your belief you were completely safe here.” Gregory leaned back, making the couch groan again. “You see, the most important person in your life… is actually Milly. I wanted to keep her out of this, but she insisted, and she came up with this part of the plan. I have to admit that I had my doubts, but…”
Brackhaven kept his outer cool, but inside he seethed. Milly – Millicent Darwin – was Darwin’s adopted daughter and had run away three years before. Every resource he had looking for her said that Darwin was spending huge resources to find her, and she was managing to avoid every attempt he made. But she was …the most important person in his life? Who?
“Really, Kenny… I thought your deckers were good, but I guess the ones I hired to fake her new ID and her running away were better. I mean… Bull was happy to help us when she needed a new identity as a cook.”
He couldn’t help it – his jaw dropped, and as it did, the cook – a drab girl with little personality but great talent and skill as a cook – stepped into the room, and it was only now that he recognized her voice.
“Hi, Dad,” she said, and grinned. “Hope you enjoyed your gene-sauce, Bracky.”
Brackhaven swallowed. “gene-sauce?”
“Oh,” the troll rumbled, “there’s been a genetically engineered virus in your meals since she started working here. Slow-working, genetically similar to the cold virus. But it’s really been damaging parts of your nervous system. Kind of like a targeted Parkinson’s. By now,” he continued, checking his watch, “you’ve got about ten minutes it shuts down most of your conscious motor system, and then about a day before the autonomous system closes down. And my team is just about finished cleaning up your guards, stripping your datasystems from the inside, and reallocating all your funds to laundries, and then to accounts I control. I’ve destroyed your entire empire, Kenny.”
The weakness, the clumsiness… all a plot. He opened his mouth, and croaked, “why this kind of treatment? Why not just shoot me?”
Darwin rose, and Kenneth Brackhaven found himself unable to raise his hands. “Because I wanted you to have a slow, painful, degrading death, Kenny. You’re going to fall over, and lie here. And slowly, you’ll be unable to blink, and then unable to breathe, and you’ll slowly suffocate. And when that alert goes out, all they will see is you dying of what appears to be natural causes.” He straightened his jacket and offered his elbow to his daughter. “Shall we, Milly?”
“Sounds good, pop.” She took his elbow and they left the room.
It took twenty-six hours of lying on his couch, in his own waste, for Kenneth Brackhaven to finally suffocate.
Six days later, with his sister Molly and daughter Milly as his side, Gregory Darwin passed away. He was smiling as he died.
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