An Asiatown Ghost Story, Part I

GM: Lotus
Players: Walker, Lotus
Synopsis: Pema and Walker are tasked with finding a downed corporate helicopter somewhere in the poorest part of Asiatown. It leads them to a series of murders, believed by the locals to the work of a Jiangshi. Once they find the helicopter crash site in an abandoned shopping mall, Pema discovers it's something far more sinister…
Date: 28th of November, 2080

A couple of hours ago, Pema sent a message to Walker about a job offer and that she might need assistance. She said she's be at the Silver Lotus temple in Asiatown, waiting for him.

Now, as much as Asiatown is as much Denver as any other area, it's also very much a world of its own. The street communicates in a different fashion; the signs and the multicoloured neon bathing the streets are a chaos of Chinese characters, Korean letters, Thai glyphs and whatnot, the smells are different, people on the street look different. The intensity of it all, the thick crowds and the suspicion towards gaijin keeps a lot of non-Asian people away. Others revel in it.

The grounds of the Silver Lotus temple is also quite an alien place for many but at least it offers respite from the intensity of the street. The neon is still there, but in the distance, the temple grounds themselves lit up in old-fashioned lamps, and the interior of the temple itself could be hundreds of years old. Just faint lights and the smell of incense in here. Not too many people either, just the huge Buddha statue dominating the hall, and a lone girl dressed like a student in one corner, seated on cushions, reading what's probably some sort of Buddhist scripture. That girl is familiar.

A man with vaguely Japanese features enters the room, pushing the door closed behind him. He passes behind a pillar on his way across the room and emerges again as Walker. In retrospect it wasn't much of a disguise - even without the fall of blond hair the elf just doesn't seem to grasp that there are forms he could take beyond 'gorgeous male of the species'.

Noting the lone figure in the corner he traces a circuit of the room to join her, a lazy wave thrown out in greeting as he approaches. "Hoi Pema, what's up?"

Not needing much of a disguise, Pema fits into the environment except for the fact she's at least thirty year younger than all the other people Walker on the way here. You could perhaps argue that the pseudo-school uniform look also is a little out of place. She looks up from her book as Walker approaches. "Interesting things going on," she says, gesturing towards the other cushions. There are bookrests in front of them all, indicating this is probably where monks or other members sit and recite sutras during ceremonies. Right now the place is quiet and dignified, though. Almost eerie, in fact, with that enormous smiling Buddha staring down at them. "There have been reports of attacks of some supernatural creature a few blocks down from here. The locals are convinced it's a Jiangshi," she says with a very calm voice. She puts away the book. "If you don't know, that's an undead creature from Chinese folklore. The Western equivalent would be something like a mix of a vampire, zombie and stock curse-of-the-mummy sort of creature. I thought you'd be interested in seeing it…" she makes a bit of frown, "…and I could use the backup. I don't know what that thing might be, perhaps it's too much for me to handle. Apparently, a couple weeks ago, a helicopter crashed in the area, and things have happened ever since. Strangely enough, nobody seems to know exactly where it crashed." she shrugs, "You'd think such a thing would be obvious, but apparently not."

Settling down onto the cushions with a relaxed air, Walker sits in silence while she talks. As the story washes over him his demeanour shifts: the stillness on his face has an air of tension to it, and his eyes seem to glint when they catch the light. "What kind of attacks are we talking here?" he asks at length, perhaps more to the point than he normally is around her, "Masking a helicopter crash is a very strange one for sure, I can think of ways to do it but they seem like more trouble than they're worth mostly…"

Pema looks up at the Buddha for a moment, and answers without looking down. "People torn apart and eaten." She says it with a strange calm. She remains quiet for a moment, her lips slowly forming a bit of a smirk, which seems like a very inappropriate reaction to such a thing. She quickly loses it though as she looks down, back at Walker. "It's all very strange. I mean… Jiangshi aren't known for piloting helicopters. It could even be some wild animal, but there we have the same problem. So I really don't know what to expect, but the locals are convinced it's a Jiangshi, so they asked around for help and it ended up with me." she extends a slender finger, poking her own cheek in that way Asian girls do to look cute, except she seems to do it unconsciously. "So, wanna check it out? I think there might be some pay involved."

Walker gives her a hesitant look, a small frown forming on his face. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't that the spiritual content of your recent ordeal?" he asks, clearly unhappy that he's bringing it back up. "If this thing is killing people I'll help. Pay is nice but not strictly necessary for this kind of thing." Contemplating the rest of her words, he leans his chin on a balled fist and thinks. "Do we have any leads? Victims' names or anything about this chopper?" he returns her smirk with one of his own, "Or are we just going hunting to see what we find?"

"It was," Pema replies, still poking her cheek. "It was… not nice." she lets her finger drop. "The area in particular where the chopper went down is in the poorest part of Asiatown. Lots of derelict buildings over there, though there are still people living there. Not even the triads bother much with those areas, so the locals go to the local Tongs for protection. One of their elders contacted me; they might have names. Otherwise, we might just have to go check out the area. That's all I know at this point."

Nodding sympathetically at her confirmation and reaches out to give her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Water under the bridge," he murmurs with a sad smile before turning to the matter at hand. "That sounds sensible as a starting point. A local city spirit might know something, but until we know what we're dealing with I'd rather keep a low profile."

The Tibetan girl gives a little smile as her shoulder is squeezed. "That ritual is meant to be repeated, by the way," she adds as she gets up. "Until you're no longer afraid of it." she shrugs, not going any further on that topic. "Let's head out to the area, then. Talk to the Elder first, or just look around first?"

Getting to his feet with her, Walker gives her a pointed look at her little revelation. "I'd better teach you how to make a fire then, huh? Can't have you freezing to death in a cave looking for enlightenment!" Following her as she makes for the door, he cocks his head and decides, "Elder, otherwise we're just playing guessing games. Would it be easier if I put on something less pointy-eared?" He flicks the end of one ear for emphasis, knowing perfectly well that metahuman bias in Asia is an extremely mixed bag.

After heading out the main door of the temple, Pema stops in the courtyard outside, by a vending machine. It looks rather misplaced, but the machine doesn't sell drinks, it sells incense sticks. She buys a bundle of three sticks, then goes over to the big cauldron-like incense burner in the centre of the courtyard and sticks them in the sand. Then, she nods to Walker and leaves, urging him to follow. As they walk, she says. "That sort of prejudice is mostly Japanese, I think? Though honestly, I suspect the locals out there in that area are suspicious of -any- outsiders. Most of them don't even speak English. But it's not a bad idea," she muses and heads back out onto those busy Asiatown streets.

It's a fairly long walk, taking them away from the busiest streets of Chinatown. The bustling commerce and trid screens become fewer and fewer. A couple blocks down and the area transforms. Tall featureless residental buildings reach high, the trid screens are replaced by old neon or plain metal signs. A few tuckshops here and there can be seen, illuminated by old fluorescent lights or red paper lanterns, with the odd table on the street. An old multistory shopping mall appears at the corner of the block, with boarded-up windows and an empty parking lot. Pema stops to look around, frowning. Only a third of the street lights are even working. "I'm not surprised a flesh-eating monster decides to come to an area like this."

"It's not exactly where you'd choose to be," Walker concedes with a frown, "It's not far off from the nicer bits of Aurora, which is saying something." He trails off for a little bit, glancing around the street, "Poor light, no crowds, tight little maze of alleys… Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised to find one here. Still doesn't explain that business with the chopper though."

Pema looks up at the rows of residential houses, most of which still have potted plants, repair work, clotheslines and other signs of life. "Lots of people living here," she adds. She seems to be looking for something, something which she eventually spots. "There it is," and she heads further down the street towards a smaller building with a large sign in Chinese on it. "The Tong house," she adds as she walks up to the door.

Outside the tong house there are three men sitting, wearing Chinese-style cloth jackets with monkey-fist buttons, wearing sunglasses and with various bits of obvious cyberware. They point at Pema, saying something aggressive in Cantonese, whereby she replies with something that sounds almost as aggressive in return. One guy, sitting in a plastic garden chair points inside with his thumb.

The bottom floor of the Tong house is arranged like a bar, looking somewhat as if the Cybered Arms and a Chinese restaurant had a bastard child. Shady people everywhere, but there's also an older man at a table there, surrounded by slightly younger people. The old man beckons to Pema and Walker with his palm down, to come sit.

If she was paying attention, Pema just might notice the grin that curls Walker's lips to reveal a couple of pearly canines at the aggressive exchange, quickly hidden when it seems as though she speaks whatever language is the requirement here. "Never knew you had it in you," he murmurs softly as he follows her in, wondering idly if the received wisdom in Aurora - not to mess with people as obviously out of place as himself - holds here. Glancing at the old man, the elf takes his lead from Pema for the time being, acting out the part of bodyguard. Conventional? No, but probably fairly effective.

Pema shrugs as if it was nothing. "That's what a friendly and civil talk in Cantonese sounds like," she says, albeit with a slight chuckle. "We're not going to stay long, I think." She sits down at the table, and almost immediately they're at it again. You'd swear she was telling that elder that his ancestors were smelly and couldn't afford pickles by the way her voice goes. Naturally, the old man doesn't sound much more courteous. She gestures to Walker, and says something more. The old man chuckles and gives him a thumbs up. Pema grins. "He likes you."

The old man, who might be in his sixties or so, "Elf mage very handsome! And good mage, help Lien-Hwa to find the Jiangshi! It crash the air-machine," he says, trying to mimic the sound of a helicopter while imitating the crash with his hand going against the table. And then, Jiangshi come! Kill many people! Chen family, all dead! Brother Lee, dead! Korean barber, dead!"

While these… negotiations are going on Walker sits back in his chair, the picture of relaxed professionalism. His aloof mask slips a little at the thumbs up and compliment from the old man, the elf seemingly unable to resist responding with a thumbs up of his own. "Sir has excellent taste!" he mugs with a broad grin before muttering as an aside to Pema, "Clearly he's a fellow charmer, we tend to get along. I assume you have the addresses of these victims?"

Giving the old man a penetrating look, Walker inquires, "Who has seen the Jiangshi?" His pronunciation is flawless, almost unnaturally so, like he combined the old man and Pema's renditions of the word in his head to parrot back to them.

The old man turns back to Pema, and they keep chattering in Cantonese. During the conversation, Pema reaches into her bag and takes out a bunch of yellow papers, the talismanic type that she uses as foci. These are written and stamped, though they do not seem to have the magical aura of foci. She turns back to Walker, "Did you see that abandoned shopping mall further down the street? That seems to be the place, a lot of the people around there have been affected."

The old man nods as if he understood what she said. His English is obviously not great, but maybe his listening skills are superior to his speaking ones. "Many people have seen! Auntie Lam, wife of Brother Lee, you can talk to. Or Korean barber's daughter. Not far," he gestures towards said shopping mall's location.

Pema chats with him some more, then turns to Walker. "Is there anything you'd like to ask before we go?"

Walker takes all this in in silent contemplation, eyes drifting around the room as he does so. Places, names and relations are all filed away for later reference. After considering Pema's final question for a moment, he replies, "Did anyone notice anything about the chopper? Model? Markings? Anything like that? Might be useful to know where it came from. Other than that I think I'm all set though."

"Pretty big one, not like military but transport one. Corporate," is the answer that Pema manages to elicit. "Someone might have shot it down, but they're not sure." She shrugs, "But it should be somewhere around that shopping mall." with that, she gets up on her feet, says something more and seems to recite some sort of prayer to them. Then she heads out.

Once outside, she rolls her eyes and draws a sigh. "Ugh… these Chinese old men are all the same."

Following her out after giving the assembled company inside a polite - if a little curt - nod, Walker gives the girl a curious look. "Dirty old men?" he suggests, "You get them everywhere. Or was there something I missed in the rapid fire Cantonese?"

The Tibetan girl shakes her head, "Not dirty, just… derogatory. More or less saying it's good you're with me, because a young woman cannot accomplish anything on their own." she snorts. "Feels like I'm back in Hong Kong again. Anyway, where shall we go first? Talk to someone, or go check out the shopping mall?"

The elf's green eyes narrow at the response. "Yeah, no shortage of sexist jackasses anywhere either," he mutters with a perhaps-surprising amount of venom. Shaking his head to clear it, he peers down the street to where the dark, squat mall lurks. "Let's do our homework and talk to people first," he suggests, "Not like this critter's going anywhere and by now people have probably learned to stay clear."

After leaving the local Tong headout, Walker and Pema find themselves out on the streets of Asiatown. The shadier, low-income parts of Asiatown, anyway. People still roam the streets, cars still drive by and there are still city lights above their heads, but everything looks old, worn, left behind in the earlier half of the 21st century without maintenance. Despite looking far less safe than the modern, neon-drenched part of Asiatown, Pema looks strangely at ease with it all. In fact, almost as if attempting to illustrate this fact, she produces a lollipop from the pocket of her coat, unwraps it and pops it in her mouth, followed by a grin of pleasure. "So," she says, "We've got three sets of victims; the Chen family, some guy named Lee, and a Korean barber. The Chen family were all killed but we might find a neighbour to talk to or something, maybe? What do you think?"

"I think your annoying friend mentioned an Auntie Lam who had seen the Jiangshi?" Walker recalls with a nod back towards said elder's hideyhole, "Start with our definite leads and work down perhaps?" The lollipop and her cheery attitude get a brief raise of the eyebrows from the elf, who cocks his head at her. "Nervous sweet tooth?" he asks with a grin.

"Yeah, Auntie Lam seems to be the wife of Uncle Lee. Chinese people don't change surnames when they marry," she shrugs. "I've got the addresses, so we might as well start there." as she tosses the lollipop wrapper in an already overflowing litterbin on the side of the street, she grins. "I don't know, feels like I'm home again. This area looks a lot like where I grew up in Hongkong. Except the buildings are not quite as tall, and the streets are a little wider."

"And there are flesh-eating monsters hiding around the corners?" Walker asks with a playful grin before nodding, "I get it. It's funny how places can feel familiar like that." He trails along behind her, not quite as at ease as she is ti judge from the way his eyes constantly dart around, never alighting anywhere for more than a few seconds.

And so the investigation starts. The addresses the elder gave them leads first to a nondescript residential block, the type that's basically a square with an open courtyard in the middle. Mostly old people and children running around here, and the latter gather around to stare and point at the blonde elf. While the occasional metatype can be seen, they still retain a lot of their ethnic features, making Walker still stand out. Their asking around finds them a grief-stricken widow who speaks of how her husband disappeared while he was out scavenging from the old shopping mall. His blood was discovered at the location, but his body was never found.

As they continue over towards the Chen family's former residence, they come across a sort of ceremony processing down the street. Maybe a crowd of hundred or so people, everyone dressed in coarse white robes, women with white hoods and men with white headbands, hauling what looks like a portable shrine or something. Pema remarks that it's a funeral ceremony for the very same Chen family. They were a respected family, and their murder has left their entire community in fear. Apparently people saw a crazed-looking man with glowing red eyes emerge from their home, saturated in blood.

Finally, the barbershop is closed down after the murder. The place has been turned into an eerie shrine, the walls covered by talismanic yellow papers of the same type that Pema makes, to keep the demonic creature away. The barbershop itself is tiny, with just a single chair. A small shamanistic shrine has been set up inside there, whose red lanterns provide the only light in the room. The lone chair, scissors all over the floor, yellow paper charms and caked blood on the floor and wall turn the place into a scene of horror. Everyone speaks of the same thing; a demonic creature with pale skin and glowing red eyes, that leapt away into the night leaving only death behind.

It all points towards the abandoned shopping mall, and that also seems to be the place where the helicopter crashed. People mention that the crash happened about a week ago, and that there was still some business going on inside the mall at that point. Now, the few shopkeepers that were there have left, for good reason.

Between the grisly murders and the general fear of the unknown it's pretty sombre listening and the morbid astral impressions don't help any. Walker's mood seems to darken as they continue their rounds until his face seems locked in a permanent frown, green eyes staring at with piercing intensity. His aura doesn't show it, but inside the elf is all cold fury. It's not often he ends up on exactly the same page as his totem, but evil spirit killing seems to be an issue the two agree on.

"Suggest we start on the roof," he murmurs in a monotone, "We might be able to see the crash site from up there and if we need to bug out it should be easy enough." Glancing at her, his customary smile is notably absent, "Anything you need to do first?"

The Tibetan sorceress does start out looking fairly indifferent to things, but the sad stories and the funeral procession seems to get to her as well. Unsurprisingly, the setup in the barbershop intrigues her as another Wujen has obviously been at work there, both with spells and setting up protective talismans (that, of course, probably won't protect against anything except the superstitious). She even takes the liberty to replace the burnt-out incense at the altar in there.

By the time they're done with their investigation it's already dark outside. With all the residential houses turning on the lights, it actually gets less gloomy on the streets somehow where they stand, although the lamp posts themselves remain unpredictable. They find themselves at the corner of a block, the dark silhouette of the old shopping mall just behind the fence across the street. The shopping mall itself probably has five or six floors, covering several block on its own. It must've been the commercial hub of this whole in its heyday, perhaps some 30-40 years ago. Pema looks at it with a frown. "Traces of both spellcraft and spirits abound… looks like we're dealing with a particularly psychotic mage of some sort? Or a spirit? Grey-skinned humanoid with glowing eyes could be almost anything… perhaps even a ghoul or some other strain of HMHVV?" She shudders, but as Walker begins to talk on how to infiltrate the place, she straightens herself out. "The roof seems like the natural place to start, yeah. Should be obvious enough to tell from there. It might be dark if we're going inside, though. Like, pitch black. Do you have a light source of some sort? Perhaps some shop around here that's still open has a torch for sale…"

"Too many possibilities and too much superstition to tell for sure," Walker observes with a fatalistic shrug, "We should find a flashlight, yeah. I don't normally carry one." The elf gives the darkened mall a final baleful glance before turning to look at their options for acquiring dodgy electronics.

Fortunately, a piece of tech as archaic as a standard torch isn't terribly hard to find, and after asking around in two or three shops, Pema finally emerges with a pair. Very cheap-looking things, but they'll hold up for a couple of hours at least. Hopefully. She hands one over to Walker. "All I could find… oh well. Shall we check out that shopping mall, then?" she looks over at that dark giant, that is barely visible as more than a silhouette against the dark sky and the high-rise buildings in the distance. "That place does not have good feng shui… in other words, it creeps me out."

Nodding in silent agreement with her assessment, Walker glances up to the sky and his eyes glow softly for a moment. It might just be the intermittent street lights here, but for a moment it's as if a large shadow passes over the street, there and gone in a flash. "That'll give us some air cover if we need it," he murmurs, "I'll see if I can find some of the locals when we get inside." That said, he makes a few passes with his hands to erase the signature left by the conjuring.

Pema might just see that shadow sweep past, but she knows what it is and nods to Walker. "Good call," she says, then looks back at the shopping mall. There's a fence around part of the building, covering the parking lot which is just as big as one could expect of a mall that size. The parking lot has turned into a bit of a junkyard with the years, with husks of blown-out cars, discarded household appliances, electronics, drones and all the other sorts of technological refuse a city of the late 21st century produces. "Mr. Lee was killed on that parking lot so we shouldn't assume it's safe. We better just fly all the way there, what do you say?"

Peering at the assorted refuse piled in the erstwhile parking lot Walker nods in agreement before looking up and calling out in Ute. Shortly afterwards, mist wraps around the pair as the elf lifts off the ground. "Agreed, but best stay quiet if we can, so ka?"

With that, Pema joins her hands as in prayer, a string of prayer beads wrapped around her fingers as she does so. She sort of skips off the ground and her body floats away, up into the night sky. The streets are fairly empty at this time of day, meaning there isn't much reaction to them casting magic spells in the open. Soon enough they float over that dark parking lot and even over the shopping mall itself, and once they reach above it, it's obvious they have found the spot.

The building itself consists of two sections, one slightly taller tower of perhaps eight floors that makes up one wing of an otherwise rectangular building of five to six floors, with two large atriums covered by glass domes. It appears as if the helicopter brushed against the tower, then crashed down onto the roof of the building and hit one of the glass domes, leaving a dent in the concrete where it landed as well as bits and pieces of hull and destroyed rotors. The chopper itself then fell through the dome and into the atrium.

"Well that solves the mystery of whether or not there was a crash," Walker murmurs at the sight of the smashed dome, "I'm gonna go see if there's anything to see inside, hang tight." With that he alights on the roof and ghosts over to the edge of the atrium, cautiously peering down into the hole below.

The helicopter certainly did a number on that atrium. The steel frame is still intact, although many of its beams and most of the glass panes are shattered. Starlight from above peers down through the open atrium, revealing glittering water deep down below.

Pema lands on the roof, picking up a piece of bent-up metal that might've been part of the helicopter's hull once. She puts it down again carefully, then turns to look at the tower. "Must've been a fairly big chopper," she says, "Otherwise that tower would've stopped it dead, I would suspect. Anything down there?"

Gliding across the roof back towards her, Walker does not look happy. "There's -something- down there," he replies with a grimace, "There's water at the bottom, and even some signs of life, but astral space is a fuckin' mess: like Aurora on a bad day." Peering back at the dome, his expression turns thoughtful as he adds, "Maybe worse, we're gonna be silhouetted against the sky if we go in that way, although I don't think we have much of a choice."

"Maybe we do," Pema says, looking at the tower building. It took quite a beaten during the crash, as if something huge took a massive bite out of it, even to the point of tearing off sections of the wall. "We could enter that way too… or maybe there's a door somewhere on the roof." she frowns though, looking quite disturbed by the scene. "Whatever's down there is going to be bad, I'm sure… though having that thing killing more innocent people here is worse." With that, she leaps up and flies over to the tower building, up to the hole in its wall. It's easily big enough for them to fit through.

Kicking off the ground and darting after the girl, Walker catches up to her by the hole in the wall. "Let me go first," he says in a tone that suggests it isn't a request, although he does give her the briefest of grins, "I can probably take a hit better than you." His expression turns serious as he adds, "And if we get into trouble in there, run. Understand?" After that he calls out again to the circling mist spirit in Ute before approaching the hole.

The tower building seems to be an administrative part of the building, mostly containing offices. Some of the infrastructure of the offices are still there, like some of the desks and the odd trid screen on the wall, but mostly they're what you could expect of an abandoned building; empty. "You're right," Pema says without argument, letting Walker go in first. She lands a couple of steps after him, then begins to walk through the first office out onto the near-empty floor. She takes that flashlight out, but she doesn't turn it on, just keeps it in her hand. Up ahead, there are lifts and stairs leading down into the shopping mall itself.

Assuming they continue down, they head down two flights of stairs then emerge through a door and enter the shopping mall itself. They emerge quite a distance away from the atrium, but it's not as dark as they would assume. Surprisingly, the power in the building seems to be still on, at least partially; the darkness is penetrated by the odd sign; glowing letters in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and occasionally even English bathe the empty corridors in colourful light. Some of them flicker, others merely glow, meaning some parts of the mall is illuminated enough to get by with low-light vision, others are not. Most of the shops are either boarded up and covered with metal screens. Others are just gaping empty.

"Got a certain kind of spooky charm to it, huh?" Walker murmurs as they proceed into the mall proper. As the pass one of the lit storefronts he extends his hands, fingers dancing through a quick set of patterns before beckoning gently. A faint outline of a blank humanoid fades into view, body lit by faint neon traceries that flicker over its 'skin'. As Walker feeds power to the spirit it grows taller, larger than a troll until it towers over the pair. "Come play in the real world," the elf calls, and the spirit begins to materialise, "Confuse anything that tries to hurt either of us."

The tall, dark but not particularly handsome spirit bows in humility but also makes whispering noises in complaint and unease. It shivers, for there is something evil present here.

The corridors ahead are as they are. Once reaching a particularly dark section, Pema turns her flashlight on, looking around. They're still on the top floor of the building, and the helicopter would presumably be somewhere closer to the bottom floor. "We should continue downstairs," Pema says, her voice barely more than a whisper.

Giving Pema a nod, Walker's eyes flicker for a moment before she hears his reply inside her head. ~This might be easier than whispering.~ The elf's mental tone is different today, but maybe it's just their oppressive surroundings. In place of the usual good humour there's a steely determination. Whether or not it's encouraging depends on your perspective.

They proceed down one flight of stairs, reaching the floor below, which looks largely the same except that this section seems to be built more like catwalks with an open section in the middle, giving a view down. The odd lighting with some sections being dark, others lit by signage and others having actual lights probably indicates the power is on but only a few fuses are still working and whoever installed the electrical infrastructure did a very poor job. Looking over the railing, one can clearly see how the bottom floor is flooded, with dark water at the bottom. More interesting, however, is further down the building, close to the atrium. There' a huge hole between the 3rd and 4th floors where the tail of a wrecked helicopter sticks out, the body of the craft having lodged itself in there, tearing up the ceiling of the 3rd floor. It seems to be a fairly large cargo helicopter.

Also, close to the helicopter, they can see how two red eyes begin to glow in the darkness. Pema winces visibly as those eyes lit up and fear runs through the telepathic link. ~It's there!~

"Confuse the red-eyed thing," Walker mutters in a clipped voice to the Hearth Spirit, which edges forwards to get a good look at its target. The shaman, meanwhile, hunkers down and peers down at the apparition below. Confusion and then alarm bubble through the link, ~Metahuman. Armoured. Strange aura- GET DOWN!~ A wordless deduction accompanies the thought: armoured people tend to be well-armed too.

The red-eyes humanoid figure moves, still as little more than a shadow in the distance. It raises an assault rifle the silence of the shopping mall is filled with the deafening whirr of a high-speed automatic rifle, spraying out a huge barrage of automatic fire against the intruders. The glass rail of the catwalk, the Chinese characters in glowing neon behind them and the metal wall all explode in showers of sparks and glass shards, an inferno of destruction. It causes Pema to withdraw and run back, throwing herself on the ground. Clearly, she has never experienced getting shot at before. Nonetheless, the first barrage fails to connect with them.

Drawing a something from the ever-present satchel at his side, Walker's hands are flung out to reveal a Chinese paper talisman that hovers between his hands as they glide through the air before drawing inwards in a grasping motion. As the elf's eyes blaze with white-gold fire, flames of the same colour consume the talisman entirely, the final cinders blowing away on the wind. Staying low for now, the elf busies himself disarming their 'monster'.

~Remove the clip from your weapon and bring it up here. Hold up on your fingers the number of allies you have in the building.~

Turning his head a little to address Pema, the elf hisses, "Are you all right? Stay down for now, I have that one," his voice an unnatural, not-quite-discordant duet.

It seems like the red-eyed beast the locals have been seeing is some guy in CorpSec armour. Despite the menacing appearance and the firepower, his mind is as vulnerable to manipulation as anyone else. His assault rifle's clip falls out on its own, probably activated by Smartlink. He then proceed to raise his other hand, holding up a finger. Just one.

At that moment, that one ally strikes against Pema, who has been hunkering on the floor, almost in fetal position. She screams out a high-pitched shriek, clutching her head. Her body lifts off the floor and is thrown across the room, slamming into a wall which probably knocks the wind out of her. She's thrown up into the ceiling, and remains pinned there for a moment until he falls to the floor. Knowing how frail the poor girl is, she nonetheless manages to get up on her feet, albeit. Her dark hair is a mess, covering her face, but when she looks up, she has changed. Her pupils have shrunk, leaving her eyes mostly white, and she's bleeding out of her eyes. She twitches unnaturally, then breaks a smile, another trickle of blood escaping the corner of her lips.

Nodding down at the single raised finger, Walker whirls around to confront the sight of Pema being thrown around the room. "Fuck…" he mutters to himself as she rises to her feet like something from a horror movie. "Confuse it!" he commands the neon-lined hearth spirit before fixing his burning gaze on the presumably possessed girl, his eyes narrowing to slits, "I don't know if you can understand English spirit, but whatever pain you visited on that girl I will inflict on you a hundred times over."

As the mind-controlled soldier lowers his rifle, the corporate logo on his armour becomes visible. Aztechnology. He's harmless for now, though.

Pema's hand trembles as it reaches into her pocket. Her entire body remains twitching, and it becomes apparent the girl is struggling against the hostile spirit's influence upon as she whimpers out a "Help me…" through that smile. Pema's handgun is not a particularly powerful one, but as the spirit forces her to pull it out and slowly brings it towards her forehead, it nonetheless becomes a threat.

As the gun appears and the spirit's intent becomes apparent, Walker's reaction is instantaneous. The spell holding the gunner is dropped, the man forgotten as the elf's hands fly out and flicker briefly before gesturing upwards. The pistol flicks out of the girl's hands as if it was on the end of a pole, clattering down by the shaman's feet as he stares down the apparition.

The gun is easily ripped from the weakened girl's hands, and it seems the possessing spirit lacks the strength as well. The now disarmed hand curls its finger and begins to tear into the skin on Pema's cheek, nails digging in until they draw blood. With blood seeping out of her mouth, her eyes, most of her face is already a horrible mess at this point.

On an astral level, that horror continues, as the walls of the entire area is caked with blood. Long veins pulsating with blood shoot out from the floor, grabbing onto Pema's astral presence, pumping its horrific, unnatural blood into her form. The spirit itself remains faceless, just a bloodied mess of gore pulsating with hatred.

"Hem her in!" Walker calls to the neon humanoid, who advances on the girl with it's arms raise while Walker attempts to grab hold of the unfortunately possessed girl. Unfortunately, the possessed girl is just too quick, managing again and again to twist out of the shaman's grasp.

Deciding to stick to his strengths in future, Walker growls low in his throat and shifts his vision to the astral plane. Batting through the spirit's attempts to defend, the elf steps through the girl's flailing arms to thrust a hand palm first in front of her face. In the physical world it must look rather odd, but in astral space a flare of mana streams from the elf's hand, blasting the intruding spirit out of her body. As it is flung free, Walker takes the girl's head between his hands. "Pema we need to go, now. Hang on and I can fly us out, OK?"

The disgusting astral abomination is successfully driven out of its host, leaving only streaks of oozing blood behind as it retreats into the darkness.

In physical space, the presence holding Pema's body and mind hostage disappears, sending the girl almost tumbling over were it not for Walker holding her head. Fortunately, her slender frame does not weigh much. Her eyes are rolled back, face still sullied with blood, and it's clear she is barely conscious.

"Good enough," the elf mutters to himself as he hooks an arm under her shoulder and around her waist, lifting both of them into the air and heading for the ruined dome. Once outside, he sets them down a safe distance away and sets his satchel down to assess her injuries. "Hang on little one," he murmurs as he gets the medkit from his satchel, "You're going to be fine."

Fortunately, flying out of the building is easy enough. They leave through the ruined atrium, and instead land on the rooftop of a nearby residential building. Setting Pema down, Walker is starkly reminded of another event not too long ago where he saw the poor girl nearly die as well. She isn't dying though, although she looks even more horrible than last time. She's suffering from blood loss, bruises and might have a broken rib or two. Possibly a concussion. But she'll be fine.

Not a lot he can do about the bruising, but the gash in the cheek and whatever happened to her eyes is a different matter. Walker kneels by her and puts his hands to either side of her face again. The glow from his eyes is softer this time, barely visible over the distant neon glow. Within a matter of seconds the worst of the wounds are knitted shut as if they never were. With the immediate issues dealt with, he sits back and gives her some room, putting his longcoat to use as an impromptu blanket in case she gets cold.

Pema's injuries might look bad, but the spell seems to do away with most of them, and the girl opens her eyes. She's still clearly not doing great, though, and is balancing the edge of consciousness. She wipes her face, getting rid of most of the blood but some of it remains smeared out over her features. She tries to sit up, but it doesn't go all that good. "Can we go home… please?" she says, mumbling so much it's difficult to even hear what she's saying.

"We definitely can," Walker replies slipping a hand under her shoulders to help her sit up, "Want me to fly you?" He fishes a white cloth handkerchief from his satchel and hands it to her for her face. "Easier than hands," he explains with a wan smile.

She definitely looks less like something out of an old Asian horror trid after wiping her face. An improvement. "Yes, please," she says, and tries to stand up. It sort of works, but she's stumbling and weak. "At least the first part," she stubbornly adds, while looking around in confusion, wondering where she is. Around them is a night view of Asiatown, with the glowing neon of the inner parts in the distance. And wherever Pema happens to live?

Walker smiles at this display of pigheadedness. "Come on then," he mutters, slipping his arm under her shoulder again. "You're going to have to give me directions though, and remember I don't speak the language, much less read it." He doesn't seem quite as worried as he was earlier, but the look of concern in his eyes hasn't entirely disappeared.

"Which language," Pema replies in confusion as she's being lifted off again. "I'm not sure… just take me somewhere. I need a rest…" her head drops and she returns again to that point of being barely conscious.

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