Chapter 1: Old Friends and New Business
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/25037665794/part-i-old-friends-and-new-business

Chapter 2: The Stand Down Job
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/26166383051/part-ii-the-stand-down-job

Chapter 3: We Did It
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/26650393971/part-iii-we-did-it

Chapter 4: The Ares Job
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/27135227625/part-iv-the-ares-job

Chapter 5: Meet My Rigger
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/27640516665/part-v-meet-my-rigger

Chapter 6: Mission Creep
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/28141691443/part-vi-mission-creep

Chapter 7: Do Machines Dream of Loving Relationships
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/28637979295/part-vii-do-machines-dream-of-loving-relationships

Chapter 8: The Ork and the Dragon
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/29136689724/part-viii-the-ork-and-the-dragon

Chapter 9: The Dog Tag Job
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/29640359822/part-ix-the-dog-tag-job

Chapter 10: What Really Happens During Down Time
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/30126706346/part-x-what-really-happens-during-down-time

Chapter 11: A Days Work
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/30614500866/part-xi-a-days-work

Chapter 12: It’s Wires All the Way
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/31080960062/part-xii-its-wires-all-the-way-down

Chapter 13: The Docwagon Job
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/31552307732/part-xiii-the-docwagon-job

Chapter 14: Get Parker
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/32006683402/part-xiv-get-parker

Chapter 15: How to Deal With a Dragon
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/32471008135/part-xv-how-to-deal-with-a-dragon

Chapter 16: Fluff and Smoke
http://fluffandsmoke.tumblr.com/post/32951035509/part-xvi-fluff-and-smoke

 

More about Harebrained Schemes   http://harebrained-schemes.com/shadowrun/

More About Shadowrun Returns  http://www.shadowrun.com/shadowrun-returns/

Forums to join about Shadowrun Returns http://www.shadowrun.com/forums/categories/game-2 

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Part XVI: Fluff and Smoke

In this moment of absolute terror, Kat Parker saw her life in flashes.

Time seemed to slow down, pausing in syncopated bursts of movement and memory. Ahteen’s massive wings beat a cadence as steady as a pendulum. The light in the dragon’s sanctum shifted to darkness and back again to the rhythm of its wings, mocking the rhythm of her life.

But what life, really? Her last two years were defined by dangerous shadowruns and drinking away the memories of teeth—forced to remember each time her foot struck the pavement. She had found her only respite in a burn-scarred kitten named Fluff. Now, her chance for justice came down to this moment of fear and determination on the green scrap of Salish-Shide punched into the concrete wilds of Seattle.

A slice of light cut across the room. In its flashes she could distinctly make out the faces around her: Marshall Parker lay sprawled across the wooden stage. Opposite him, several members of the Ork delegation Kat robbed just days ago, stared at the medical team. Recognition took hold over their faces. Some fumbled for weapons while others shifted to shield their delegate. Then RC hefted the RPG onto his shoulder and fired.

The rocket launcher cut a white contrail as it streaked towards the dragon’s roost, missing the beast wide. The rocket surged into the wall beyond and detonated in a cacophonous din.

Ahteen’s wings knifed in one direction and back again with all the force, grace, and certainty of fate. It spread its maw, snarling at the mess the shadowrunners made of its lair.

Beside Kat, JT sucked in the suddenly dry air and choked out, “Here we go!”

And this time Kat was ready.

Ahteen lunged at Kat. She dove out of the way, grabbing her prized metal briefcase with one hand and still firing with the other. Ahteen pulled up just before hitting the ground, one jagged claw connected with the decker’s back razoring through her DocWagon gear down to the form-fitting armor beneath. Kat lurched to her knees. Her briefcase tumbled away. Then the dragon was airborne again, circling for another attack.

           “Kitsune!” Kat screamed for support, but the shaman did not move. Sweat drenched her collar from the effort of holding back Ahteen’s powerful magic.

Kat whipped her head around desperate to find some sort of backup. RC had already turned his attention to the Orks who seemed to be organizing a counter-attack. The adept freed his katana from a nearby duffel and leapt toward the Orks. JT held an AK-97 in each hand. He moved, firing wildly at the dragon. His bullets did nothing to slow the beast down.

“Haegemon?!” Finally she saw the rigger press himself into one of a dozen alcoves ringing the room and link to his rigger control box. With his free hand, he kept up the fire on the circling dragon.

“Drones are live!” Haegemon screamed back over the crack of gunfire, “They have security pinned down in the hallway, but I don’t think I can punch through!”

Kat’s AK-97 clicked uselessly. They needed more firepower if they hoped to have a chance. She scanned the room for her briefcase. It lay forgotten on the other end of the round sanctum. She just might be able to reach it if she ran hard enough…and if the dragon didn’t get her first.

Ahteen’s clawed feet caught a crossbeam high along the room’s vaulted ceiling. The beast hung there, assessing targets. Kat started forward. Her feet churned beneath her with speed she never thought she had. Then came the crackle of splintering wood. The beast detached. The shadow of the thing darkened the ground beneath her feet. She ran even harder, moving so fast that she thought she might lose her balance. But her effort wasn’t enough to outrun a dragon. Her self-preservation instincts clenched her stomach and raised the hair on the back of her neck. She stumbled, then dove into the closest alcove. Ahteen strafed along the path she had just been. The dragon roared bitterly, banked, and rose.

“Not yet, Slitch. I’m still breathing!”

But Ahteen hadn’t missed entirely. Kat felt a sudden wetness and realized her cybernetic leg was torn open and leaking fluids. The knee joint responded haltingly when she tried to bend it. Kat wouldn’t be running for that briefcase anytime soon. The decker dragged herself backward into the shadows of the deep alcove. If she couldn’t get to that briefcase maybe could help in another way. In homes like these, jackpoints were as common as outlets. She fished around was rewarded with a mainline connection.

She synced up with system security in a flash. Hallway cameras showed her Haegemon’s drones lying down, suppressing fire in the main hallway leading to the sanctum. Ahteen’s security team was pinned down and using the doorways for cover as its members tried to shoot the drones out of the sky. She initiated a priority security lockdown and the hallway doors shivered shut, locking Ahteen’s detail in the rooms beyond.

Something echoed in her head a - voice of pure panic cut through her semi-conscious meat to reach her jacked-in brain. The voice seemed to hit her in slow motion

“Kat!….Look….Out!”

It was JT’s voice. He was screaming.

Kat yanked the cord out of the dataport, shut her eyes, and rolled. Ahteen slammed a claw into the alcove, pulverizing the spot where she was an instant ago. Kat stopped rolling and opened her eyes. She was sitting on the cold marble floor between Ahteen’s powerful haunches. The dragon loomed over her over. Kat grimaced and freed her Colt L36 pistol, snapping off rounds that plinked to the marble floor like acid rain.

This didn’t feel like that night in Salish-Shidhe. It felt different…wrong somehow. She threw a longing look towards the metal briefcase far beyond her grasp. Then she looked for Kitsune yet again. The shaman remained frozen, battling forces Kat could see and perhaps, as Kitsune believed, even comprehend.

Suddenly a figure resolved at the edge of her vision. RC flashed downward out of the sky and buried his katana in the beast’s back.

Pain mixed with surprise clouded Ahteen’s eyes only to be quickly replaced by a terrible rage. It turned with a quickness that shocked her. A guttural cry that seemed to rip out her soul emanated from its massive mouth. The beast shook off RC like the troll was nothing more than a toy. RC tumbled end over end, and crashed into the distant wall with a crack. He didn’t move again.

Kat cried out involuntarily. Then the beast turned back toward her.

Ahteen’s fangs dripped hot saliva. The smell of rot and death were thick on its leathery tongue. Thin lips curved into a wisp of a grin.

Kat gritted her teeth and said, “You remember me now, don’t you?”

But the dragon’s eyes betrayed no hint of memory— only curiosity and anger. It twitched forward as the sanctum doors burst open. Two drones looped in and unleashed their payload on the dragon. Ahteen roared and with bone-jarring force, leapt into the sky.

The drones seemed to catch Ahteen off guard. For the first time Kitsune broke free of her trance. She called out, “We have to keep the pressure on! Don’t give it time to prepare another spell!”

Kat struggled to her feet. She looked up in time to see the first Guardian drone spiral out of the sky. RC still wasn’t moving, but JT had found the RPG launcher and was quickly readying a second shot. Kat swore under her breath and staggered to the case. She opened it, relieved to see the weapon was still intact in its foam casing. The etching on the weapon’s gray shell read Ares MP.

JT’s RPG rocket leaped into the air as Kitsune threw the full weight of her magic into a powerball. The double explosion rocked the room. Ahteen twisted in the air and faltered for a moment. Then it lashed out with its tail, knocking the final Guardian drone to the earth.

Ahteen wasn’t done yet. The dragon arched its back and let loose a bolt of lightning that caught JT full in the chest. His clothes erupted in flames and the One Man Army tumbled to the ground, gasping for breath.

Suddenly a blur of white fur darted into the room. The dragon snapped its head around roaring even louder than before.

“Fluff, no!” Kat cried out, desperately.

Ahteen dove straight for the kitten, its mouth opened wide to claim the morsel, but Kitsune got there first. The shaman stepped in front of the kitten and turned, shielding it from Ahteen. The dragon’s maw shut violently on Kitsune, biting the shaman in half.

A guttural howl started in Kat’s stomach and worked its way up through her lips carrying with it all the pain and anger she’d felt over the last two years. She trained the Ares MP Laser on Ahteen as the beast tried to climb back towards the rafters. The gun spit a steady red line that struck the dragon in the back and continued straight through to the other side. Ahteen’s massive wings shuddered and stopped. The dragon slipped backward and fell, its freakish other-worldly prehistoric scream ending in a tremendous boom. Dirt, dust and silence filled the space of its echo.

Kat felt joy rush over her, brief and sudden as a splash of cold water. She turned to seek out Kitsune and remembered her friend was dead. She fell to her knees as much out of pain as exhaustion. She could hear the remnants Ahteen’s security detail outside, thumping against the hallway doors. There wasn’t much time to escape.

“Haegemon, fire up whatever drones you have left in the Citymaster. They should be able to punch a path to us and help cover our retreat.” Her voice sounded tired and strained. Haegemon wasn’t listening. He knelt over Kitsune’s remains. His shoulders rocked violently.

Kat gathered up the strength to join him, their plight momentarily forgotten. Fluff climbed into Kats arms and licked her once then twice again. Kat said, “We really shook the Pillars of Heaven, didn’t we, Fluff?”

“Kat, you better see this.” RC could barely stand his head hung low and his right arm was bent at an impossible angle. He sounded serious, depressed even. JT stood beside him. The samurai gingerly probed the pink flesh where the lighting bolt had nearly ended him. Kat set Fluff down and limped over to join the two men beside the dragon’s carcass.

The stink of the dead thing was overpowering. Kat tried to gather enough saliva to spit on the beast, but her mouth was too dry. Then she tried to kick it, but her cyberleg wouldn’t cooperate. Finally she gave up and moaned, “It’s over, okay? The fracking thing is dead.”

“Wait, Kat. Watch.” JT said.

She looked and she saw what they did. Ever so slowly the beast’s features were shifting; softening. The snout, once long and sharp, began to round. The lips began to fatten.

“He’s reverting to metahuman form. This isn’t Dragon behavior. This is Drake behavior. I thought Ahteen was—“

"A Dragon?” Fluff said behind them. The cats voice was low and menacing. All of them spun around to see the kitten growing and changing much faster than the dead thing before them. As they watched, Fluff shed her coat of burn-scarred fur to reveal charcoal scales beneath. She ballooned outward, first to the size of a dog, then a man, a troll, and much, much larger.

The real Ahteen stared down at the four shadowrunners. Her teeth gleamed white in the skylight. Wisps of gold like smoke tendrils, ran up from her black snout. Kat stared open mouthed at the thing that was her good luck charm; her pet. Ahteen struck snake-quick, and stopped just short of Kat’s face. “Yes, Kat, I do remember you”, she hissed. Then in a blink of an eye, she swallowed Kat Parker in two bites as the Ares MP laser clattered to the ground.

The others stepped back, staring.

Ahteen grumbled, “Now, I suppose I should thank you for a job well done. That drake Smoke has been a thorn in my side for many years now. Yet I could not be seen as personally challenging him.” Ahteen spat the last word as though something foul had taken root in her mouth.

It took a while for any of them to screw up the courage to speak. RC was the first to regain his composure. “May we at least know why?”

Ahteen’s shrug was more like a ripple. She unfurled her wings and then brought them back in again. “Smoke belonged to Dunkehlzahn. Any action against it was by extension an action against my Loremaster. I have no desire to face him directly.”

Haegemon stepped forward, squinting in disbelief. “You’re a dragon.”

“That seems obvious.” Ahteen replied. Then she regarded the runners matter-of-factly and added, “You didn’t really think you could slay a dragon by yourselves. Did you?”

The three surviving men looked to one another before deciding not to answer that question.

Ahteen sighed, “Forgive me, it seems I have no discrete way back to the city other than the way I came. The three of you will take me back to Bellevue and then you may return to Mr. Strouther to receive your payment.”

They stared at the dragon, but again did not speak.

“Well, lets get to it shall we? I’m sure you have relocation plans to attend to. Berlin was it?”

The dragon shrank back down to the form of a kitten and bounded toward the door.

9 notes

Part XV: How to Deal with a Dragon

The Stuffer Shack on the edge of West Bellevue made drek soycaf, but the view of Council Island was worth the extra couple of nuyen Kat’s crew proffered for each tepid cup. The decker stood at the edge of the parking lot, staring off at the distant island. Council Island was one of the last patches of green in Seattle. Once, she’d flown over New York and glimpsed the magically enhanced wilds of Central Park. It was a green brush stroke on a canvas of concrete. Kat imagined that people flying over Council Island must feel the same way.

Interstate 90 knifed through the Northern edge of the island, bracketed by heavily manned and armored security checkpoints. If everything went according to plan, their DocWagon uniforms and vehicle would get them through those checkpoints and one step closer to Ahteen.

A dark thought flittered through Kat’s imagination: when did anything go right in the shadows? She absently stroked the small kitten in her arms and instantly felt better. Kitsune touched her elbow. The shaman slid a thin arm around Kat’s waist and laid her head on Kat’s shoulder. “It won’t be long now.”

“Then what, a vacation? I hear Hawai’i is nice this time of year.” Kat sighed and leaned into her friend. Truthfully, she’d never heard a thing about Hawai’i, and outside of a working trip to London, and that business in the Salish-Shidhe, she’d never spent real time outside of Seattle.

Kitsune laughed, her breath fogging the crisp Lake Washington air. “Right, like shadowrunners know how to take vacations.”

A long shadow fell across the pair followed by two somewhat shorter ones. RC threw an arm over the two women and rumbled “‘Yen for your thoughts?”

Kat smirked to herself, remembering how they all came together. The kind of jobs she did—expected to do—didn’t require more than a decker, a samurai, and maybe a mage or shaman to handle the wizzer stuff. The Ahteen job turned out to be more than she ever expected. She brought in a rigger—Haegemon— and even though he couldn’t rig vehicles, his drones provided all the necessaryfire support and spying capabilities imaginable.

Still, it wasn’t enough to meet the demands of the job. She considered handing out DocWagon contracts to everyone on her crew, finding a second rigger (one who worked behind the wheel) and even tracking down a cybered freak like Hatchetman to fill out the roster. Finally she gave in to the demands and called in a physical adept, RC, whose mystically enhanced martial abilities gave the crew the last element they needed to get the job done.

“I was just wondering where everyone is going to hide out after this is all over?”

JT quipped, “What, we’re still talking about heading to a second city? I mean, Seattle’s shadows are so deep these days you could get lost in ‘em, and no one would ever find you.”

Kitsune glanced at Haegemon before she answered. “I thought about Chicago. I know this guy down there, Devean, who says there’s good work for shamans.”

“I know someone down there too.” JT kept going. “An old chummer of mine named Livingston works for Ares Firewatch and he says the bug problem is a lot more serious than they tell you on the trid.”

They lapsed into silence, five shadowrunners watching the cars zip by on I-90, considering the magnitude of what they were about to do. Kat looked to the clouds breaking apart over the Mount Rainier and thought of Dunkelzahn. She hoped that all dragons weren’t created equal.

RC asked, “What about Hong Kong?”

Haegemon countered, eyes trained on Kitsune. “I don’t know, I was thinking Berlin, but I don’t know how things sit between Lowfyr and Ahteen. Hell, killing the wyrm might be doing Lowfyr a favor.” He shrugged.

JT replied, “Maybe we should get those linguasofts and head over to Italy.

“Italy!” Kat, Kitsune, and Haegemon cried in unison.

RC stared at the four of them, clearly confused.

Haegemon joked, “Florio said we were welcome anytime.”

The group fell into an easy silence and this time it stuck. Minutes later, a call came in over the DocWagon network. A platinum client was in cardiac distress at a private residence on Council Island. Without another thought, the team climbed into the DocWagon armored transport and rolled toward their destination.

The thick concrete border checkpoint rose up quickly and Kat stomped on the brakes. She eyed the scorch marks along the barriers where overzealous go-gangers had tested their manhood and failed. Autocannons swiveled towards her from the edges of the road. Kat stopped the Citymaster in front of a leathery security guard. The man wore the colors of the Sioux Army. He held one hand out, palm towards the vehicle, and the other arm cradled an AK-97.

“We have a medical emergency, sir. Let us through.” Kat’s heart thumped so loudly in her chest that she worried the guard would hear it. But he paid no attention to her thumping heart or her profuse sweating, instead asking for her ID and running it through the scanner, never breaking stern eye contact. Satisfied with the results, he stepped slowly aside and waived the truck through.

Kat let out a short, satisfied chortle. Her hackjob at DocWagon last night passed the first test, though the real hurdle was Ahteen’s inevitable security force at the house. They knew nothing of the dragon’s retinue or where they were going other than an address and the little information available on the ‘trix. She raced through the streets, sirens blazing. A quick five-minute drive brought her to the mouth of a forest clearing and the road leading to Ahteen.

“Are we ready?” She called back to the others. Nobody answered. They didn’t have to. Fluff sensed Kat’s anxiety and crawled into her lap. Kat stroked the kitten gently and whispered the same mantra Kitsune whispered to her. “It won’t be long now.”

Even without being comfortably jacked into the matrix, Kat could feel the cameras on her. She eased up the road cautiously. It was unlined and the wide Citymaster brushed past trees on either side. Finally the wooded canopy fell away to reveal a grassy clearing and a lodge as long as a department store. Haegemon whistled his approval, settling into the seat next to her.

“Drones are ready to go?” There were four Ares Guardian drones latched to the roof of the Citymaster, the most the rigger could control with his gear.

“Ready. When you start the party I’ll signal them to start dancing. That should keep security off of us long enough to do what we came for.”

Kat gave a barely perceptible nod. Her gaze was locked on the building. It was massive: a mansion built out Cedar logs stacked horizontally from trees that were larger than the Citymaster. Kat wasn’t fooled by the rustic visage. She could almost hear the thrum of sophisticated electronic security ebbing from the house. She knew that even now their images were being processed. Somewhere inside, Ahteen’s own deckers were combing through Docwagon’s secured databases to confirm her crew’s identities at the root level.

Fluff made a sound like a growl and started to pace, eventually trying to sneak into Kat’s medical duffel.

“Not this time, Fluff.” Kat pursed her lips into a tight frown. She shut the door on the kitten and Fluff whined pitifully.

She grabbed the metal briefcase she’d lifted from the Ares cache what seemed like months ago, kissed it, and dropped it on top of the gurney. Beside her, RC readied a long case stamped with the bright red caduceus symbol often thought to represent health and long life. Kat had learned over the years that the symbol’s real meaning was as dark as her own on this day. Kat rubbed her templed, thinking how the weapons and drones stuffed in among their gear went well beyond standard DocWgon protocol.

A phalanx of security officers rushed out to meet them.

“We received a call that Mr. Marshall Parker is under duress inside.”

The lead officer had the look of a long time soldier. He stared at her, unmoving.

“Sir, we need to get inside and get to our client now!”

At that RC stepped forward with his case in hand. The security detail responded immediately, raising and cocking their sub machine guns. The troll didn’t flinch. He just raised a crooked middle finger and smiled.

“Sir, I don’t know who you are, but my client paid us a lot of money to make sure he doesn’t die. I hope your insurance and your host’s insurance is fully paid up because if he does die, the lawyers will be on you faster than ghoul on flesh. Now, I have the complete authority of DocWagon to go in there and get my client. Will you please step aside.” It wasn’t a question.

Sweat pooled in Kat’s armpits. She wasn’t built for this. She was a decker, more at home in the matrix than anywhere in the real world. It was only a matter of time before this soldier saw right through her.

“Why don’t we bring him out to you?”

“Don’t you dare move him!” Her heart crawled up into her throat. “We have no idea what is causing his condition and if you move him you could do more damage or maybe even kill him, and I swear if you…” she caught herself. She was beginning to panic

For a moment, the only sounds were the wind moving through the trees, a faint scratching at the door of the Citymaster, and Kat’s labored breathing. The lead officer cocked his head slightly as if responding to an unheard command and said, “It seems you check out, Ms. Moore. Please collect your gear and follow me.”

Haegemon led the way, pushing the equipment-laden gurney down wide twisting hallways. Kat and Kitsune followed and RC brought up the rear. Kitsune turned to Kat and mouthed, “Are you scared?”

Kat looked ahead. She didn’t answer. They came to a large antechamber with monstrous bronze double doors set into one end. Ahteen’s security detail followed them to the door. The lead officer opened it.

They saw the beast the moment they entered the great chamber. It hunched on four legs as thick and long as maples. The five runners all stared up at it, awed by the size of the thing. Kat tried to move, but her breath caught in her throat. Her memory dragged her back to that night in Salish-Shidhe. She remembered the gold markings like tendrils of smoke crowding its snout. She remembered how it spread its deep red wings and every star dotting the clear sky vanished behind them. From this distance, forty or fifty yards, the beast felt smaller, less like the shard of malice that tore her life apart.

The beast’s red skin looked duller than it had that night. Its snout had shed the markings she remembered. A thick row of ridges followed the curve of its back. Its eyes, blue and gold saucers, each the size of a child, flitted over her without a hint of recognition. Kat’s eyes narrowed and she stared back defiantly.

A squat NAN woman, the beast’s translator perhaps, stepped out of its shadow and started to say something. Kat tore an AK-97 from under the gurney and pointed at the beast. She flicked the catch to full auto and squeezed the trigger.

The dragon roared as the bullets slammed into its skin. Some found purchase while others glanced off. Ahteen glared down at Kat with cold hatred but still not a hint of recognition.

Kat screamed, “You don’t remember me, do you, slitch? Well, you won’t live long enough to forget me again!”

RC’s case fell away to reveal an RPG. He hefted it to his shoulder and fired. The dragon leaped into the air. Wings spread wide, it banked against the curve of the ceiling. The ground began to shake with the power of Ahteen’s magic.

JT sucked in air and choked out, “Here we go!”

8 notes

Part XIV: Get Parker

The Docwagon job left a lump of worry in Kat’s gut as the night grew long. Way too easy. Her small crew strolled into a Docwagon facility, uploaded false worker IDs, and made off with an Ares Citymaster medical transport all without firing a single round.

Kitsune was smoking and scouring Kat’s closet for a dress to wear. It had to be something that would catch the musician Marshall Parker’s attention. Kitsune would be the bait to reel him in. She pulled Kat aside. “Kat, there’s something wrong about this.”

“Hey, just because I don’t own the hottest fashions…”

Kitsune snorted. “No, Kat. I’m worried about you, this job, the whole thing.”

Kat ignored the gesture, “Since when do you get pissed about a job being too easy?”

“Seriously Kat, everything has felt odd since that kitten showed up.”

“Fluff? She’s our good luck charm.”

Kitsune paused, took a long drag, and exhaled. “I thought you didn’t believe in luck charms.” She smirked.

Kat shrugged. “Apparently they believe in me.”

After a few more minutes of picking past Kat’s vast array of leather and ripped grungy clothing, Kitsune finally settled on a length of shimmery black fabric. She slung it over her shoulder and started searching again. “I used to go out with a guy, a Dog Shaman, who sort of lost his way. He started making bad choices and woke up one day half-dead in the city morgue. That day the Dog Spirit came to him in material form and helped him find his way back.”

“You said something like that before, like Fluff is my familiar or spirit guide, or something.”

“You were lost for so long after you tangled with that dragon. Then one day this kitten comes along, just like with my friend Jake. Now you’re acting like he did when Dog came to him. You’re acting like Fluff is somehow your spirit guide. But, Kat, there is one huge problem: everything that I know—that I believe in—tells me deckers can’t have spirit guides.”

Both women stared at the small kitten stretched out in the closet doorway licking itself.  She saw the worry in the shaman’s eyes and thought it was absurd. She told Kitsune not to worry, and left her rummaging through the closet. Kat still had one last thing to take care of before they kidnapped Marshall Parker. She headed downstairs and signaled for a Gridlinked autocab.

She climbed in the back of the cab, slotted her credstick, and entered the address for Matchsticks. The autonav beeped and the cab eased into evening traffic. Kat settled back and closed her eyes. The worry-shaped lump in her gut flowered into doubt and fear. Kitsune’s voice kept looping in her ear like an Elemental’s song stuck on playback. Maybe she was right about this Ahteen business being off in some way. Then again, it might be her nerves talking, psyching her out about the looming confrontation. She’d faced down Ahteen once before, during an extraction gig in Salish-Shidhe. All her team had to do was break into a farming commune and extract a scientist who’d been hiding out there. They were almost at the fence when something came hurtling out of the night sky.

Kat remembered the screams and the blood. She remembered seeing the flecks of gold on the beast’s snout as it snatched her up simple as flicking an ant. Her next memories were hospital beds, then a half-dozen surgeries. She started asking questions about what happened and how. It took a year to get the name of the thing that swallowed her leg.

“Ahteen.” She hissed the name under her breath. Heat filled her cheeks and she wiped at her eyes in the dingy Seattle cab. Fluff protested inside the bad—producing a series of irritated mews.

RC was more or less where Kat left him days ago, nursing a tall draft at the bar. He wore black slacks and a tight fitting black top that left no room for bulky cyberware. The stools on either side of the massive troll remained empty. Rhys Corlett was manning the bar again. She called long-haired elf over and ordered a neat scotch and another beer for RC. Kat plopped down beside the troll and slid a small plastic card between his elbows.

“What’s this?” RC’s grin showed pearl-white fangs and perfect teeth. She sipped her scotch, letting the strategist work it out on his own.

RC held the card between two thick brown fingers, taking in the information. Then he set the card down gently and pushed it back towards her. Kat didn’t pick it up.

“Expensive cover. What is it, insertion, extraction, or assassination?”

“We’re not going to kill the target. Our job is to get him to a street doc, and get him back inside the Renraku Arcology in one piece.”

RC worked it out in his head. He was thinking about the Red Samurai, Renraku’s deadly special security division. Few runners that crossed them lived to tell about it. “I suppose you have a plan to get him out?”

“Remember Mako Sochou?”

The troll nodded.

“He got a message to Parker that Andrea Frost would be playing a set at the club tonight.” Andrea Frost was lead vocalist of the legendary band Concrete Dreams. Though the group had retired from the biz, the members occasionally did sets at Club Penumbra. Seeing her in concert was worth leaving the safety and comfort of the Renraku Arcology.

“So what happens after you put him back?”

Kat worked at the scotch a bit more, filling her mouth with it before swallowing. The burn made her voice crack a bit when she spoke. “This guy is our way to get to the real target. I won’t lie to you, RC. It’s wetwork.”

“Drek, Kat. You know I don’t do that stuff anymore.”

“We’ve stretched ourselves to the limit, RC, and we’re almost out of time. My crew won’t do it without you.”

“Won’t?”

She swallowed more of her scotch. “Haegemon thinks we can’t. These guys, they know their jobs, but they don’t know how to get in and out of places like you do.”

“Okay, tell me the plan.”

“Our target is a musician named Marshall Parker. There is a street doc waiting for us to deliver Mr. Parker to his clinic tonight. The doc will inject him with a time-release agent that should cause Parker’s biomonitor bracelet to go haywire at a time of our choosing. When Docwagon sends a response team, we can be the first unit on scene.”

RC finished the thought for her, “And your medical credentials will get you past security and face to face with your real target. Nice plan, Kat, but it doesn’t sound like one of yours.”

“It isn’t. Mr. Johnson set the whole thing up.”

“You trust it?”

“The plan?”

“The Johnson.”

“Drek, RC, I haven’t trusted anyone since Joshua Fennema put my crew on that Salish-Shidhe run.”

RC looked at her cyberleg and raised an eyebrow. “Who is the target?”

“The plan is solid, RC. With you on board it’ll be a milk run.”

“The target?” RC’s voice rumbled.

“Look, this Johnson and I clearly want the same thing. He’s put me in a position to do it, and I can, so long as you help me.”

“Kat, who are you going after?”

She didn’t want to say it. She knew how he felt about what happened in the Salish, but if he was going to join them, he had to know everything. Kat took a deep breath and said, “Ahteen.”

“This about what he did to you?” The troll crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at Kat.

“Yeah, its about that, but its also about Wizfall, “Pretty Boy” Floyd Turkowski, Bootsector, Hedlund, and MC23, everyone who didn’t make it out the last time we tangled with that slitch.”

“You really think you can take out a dragon?”

She thought about what Kitsune said earlier, about the close calls. She thought about Fluff and smiled. “I think the spirits are on our side.”

The walk to Club Penumbra took Kat and RC the better part of ten minutes. They spent that time sorting out the specifics of the run. Kitsune’s job was to get close to Parker and get him “drunk” by slipping a neuro-stunner into his drink.  Once he passed out, they would hustle him off to Doc for the insertion of the time-release poison. Kat said, “We need to be careful, because Parker is awakened, and while his magic is meant to enhance his musical performance, we have no idea what offensive spells he has.”

The line to Club Penumbra started a block out. Kat and RC maneuvered around crowds of partygoers, dipping into the alley behind the club. They stopped beside a beat up step van with the legend Brodu and Son’s on the side. These old clubs always had maintenance ports in the back where a maintenance worker could access the air conditioning and other core operating systems. Kat accesed the port, bypassing a flimsy firewall to tap into the club’s security camera network. She fastened a viewscreen to her CTY-360 and handed the adept an earpiece. Once it was in she activated her own internal microphone and said, “RC is here, team. He is going to run the operation with me.”

RC nodded to Kat and said, “Hoi, chummers. Good to be aboard.”

Somewhere in Club Penumbra Haegemon let out a yelp of satisfaction.

“Anyone see our target?” Kat cycled through the camera views, looking for her team. Haegemon stood near the front door, watching the bouncers. JT and Kitsune were at the bar, playing the part of the happy couple while edging closer to a portly man dressed in slacks and a button up shirt. Kat zoomed in on the man. His hair and beard were going gray, and he tugged on his one gold hoop earing.

“That’s the guy, Kitsune. See if you can get close enough to dose him.”

RC cut in, “Hold up, Kitsune. I think you can sell it better if you and JT split up. Let’s play it like jealous boyfriend.”

Kitsune turned towards JT and gave him a hard shove. The samurai made a big show of falling backwards. He swore loudly as she stalked towards their target. Kitsune’s black skirt was slit all the way up the side showing hints of the glo ink fox tattoo inked into her hip. When she sat down beside the musician, she made sure he saw all of it.

“She’s not selling it.” Indeed, the musician didn’t look interested. He pulled his drink in closer.

RC said, “JT, go make a scene. Get your girl back.”

JT approached her, looking tough and angry. He shouted a few choice words while Kitsune looked to Parker for help.

Kat activated her mic, “Haegemon, make sure the bouncers don’t step in.”

Kitsune looked frantic, her eyes darting between JT and the mark. She settled her sight on Parker, a pleading look in her eyes. The musician glanced up briefly tucked his chin into his chest studying his drink.

RC muttered into his earpiece, “He’s not the helping type, JT. Press him.”

JT responded. He moved closer to Kitsune and growled, “Don’t you fracking look at him. What is that doughboy gonna do?”

That did it. Parker slowly and reluctantly looked up, and JT’s shirt instantly burst into flames. The samurai yelped and backed away, slapping at his shirt. Just as quickly as the illusory flames sprouted to life, they vanished.

Marshall Parker said, “I suggest you leave, sir, or next time the flames will be real.”

Kitsune hooked an arm around Marshall Parker and crooned, “Thanks. You’re a regular Neon Boyscout.”

He chuckled. “Neon Boyscout. I like that.”

“I think I like you.” Kitsune leaned in close and kissed him on the cheek. She dropped the neuro-toxin into his drink.

Kat said, “That’s it. I’ll get the van and meet you all outside.”

A few drinks later, Kitsune walked the half-conscious musician out the front door and into the waiting step van. Everyone else piled in, laughing and congratulating each other. RC was last man in. He closed the van door and looked for a place to sit down. The only seat left was occupied by a small white kitten.

RC raised an eyebrow and asked, “What’s the story with the kitten?”

7 notes

Part XIII: The DocWagon Job

DocWagon cards as valuable as a dragon’s egg, if the contract is right. Marshall Parker, the locally famous multi-instrumentalist, owns super-platinum coverage (probably funded by his patron, Ahteen). Unwittingly, Marshall has become the key to a private enclave and invite-only party in order to fulfill a personal vendetta to kill a dragon in his own home.

Strouther crafted the plan. They needed a way into Ahteen’s lair, and Marshall Parker would be giving a concert there. If anything went wonky with Parker’s vitals during that concert, the biomonitor wristband that came with his top-level medical contract would send a DocWagon response team screaming toward him. Kat’s team would be that response team. But first, they needed to “borrow” a van and get their team registered to respond to the future “Emergency.” Simple as that…

The South Renton DocWagon service facility was the size of a small hospital lined with emergency room bay entrances on one side, and a corporate storefront on the other. Kat’s small group of runners was trudging through the rain toward the neon EMERGENCY VEHICLES ENTER HERE sign and then picked up the pace, jogging toward a trickle of shift change workers eager to get out of the rain.

The four runners split up at an emergency room entrance. Kitsune, dressed in her new DocWagon digs, hung back near the entrance and pulled out a cigarette, trying to look the part of a worker on break. JT and Haegemon were dressed in street clothes. They carried duffel bags and wore their IDs on short chains around their necks. As they drifted closer to a cluster of incoming workers, Haegemon turned to JT and said, “I never get to see you High Threat Response boys anymore.”

“They just shifted my crew here this week, but who knows how long they’ll keep us here.” JT chimed back. They kept up the scripted small talk, blending into the crowd of workers with practiced ease.

Kat’s business lay on the corporate side. The place closed up at five, leaving behind housekeeping drones, and a handful of wageslaves hoping a little overtime could put them one more step up the corporate ladder. Kat was dressed in a Mortimer’s of London business suit and carrying her satchel over one shoulder. After flashing her DocWagon ID to the first security officer she saw, no one else bothered to look in her direction; she was just another wageslave to them.

Kat rode the elevator up to her destination. HR lived in a cubicle farm four floors up at the center of the facility. It may as well have been a cave. The air was crisp, recycled from blowers whirring high above her. After hours the only hint of light came from the glowing green exit signs at either end of the room and the red LEDs of sleeping desktop monitors. Kat chose a station where the clusters were four instead of twelve and the extra space provided room for seats and a round table: a manager’s station.

She jacked in.

Kat sucked in a breath and pushed out the distractions of the physical world. She ignored the desk, the cold conditioned air pushing down on her, the empty office, and focused her attention on the electronic subroutines moving toward and away from the computer station. She sank down in her chair and let her mind imagine the world around her fading to a mesh of wire diagrams and system access points. It didn’t take long to find the employee records server and embed the five false identities. On a lark, Kat put her identity up for a commendation (at least when someone checked her records they’d see she was good at her job).

She shut down that access point and refocused her intrusion. Kat hacked through a succession of firewalls, burying herself within the root system where she could see the security system’s data thread spooling towards the building’s CPU. Door locks and security cameras radiated from the core like the spikes of a blowfish. Kat quickly suppressed the command line, draining away its memory allocation the way a kink in the line strips away a diver’s oxygen. Without RAM and ROM delivering code, the cameras stopped recording and maglocks clunked open lazily.

“Excuse me, miss?” A voice drifted towards Kat from somewhere far away.

Meanwhile, Kitsune had managed to casually slip into a garage bay from a newly unlocked side door. Kat took control of a garage bay camera, watching as the shaman strolled, head down, toward a bulky Ares Citymaster parked near the back of the bay. Bright red lettering on the side of the transport warned, ‘High Threat Response’. Haegemon and JT followed, and Kat’s three companions loaded into the Ares Citymaster. Kitsune revved the engine.

“Miss?” More words trailed away from her consciousness, but the sound was garbled as if mumbled underwater.

Kat zoomed in to see the vehicle’s license tag. She populated the number in the system’s active vehicle log for tomorrow’s evening shift, linking it to Kitsune’s forged ID as the driver along with the other forged identities as crew.

Finished with her tasks, the decker allowed herself to focus on the external world. She surfaced slowly, the distant voice still a nagging data thread queuing at the edge of her consciousness. It drifted from an irritating wisp into the alarming sensation of a hand on her shoulder. Kat began the log-out process and the reality of the world came screaming back. As her senses checked back in, the hand on her shoulder tightened. Kat clenched reflexively and fought off the urge to slap the hand away.

“I asked you what you are doing at my terminal?” The gruff voice belonged to a man in an ill-fitting business suit. His tie was undone, and the shirt’s top three buttons open. Stubble collected around his chin and below his lip. His breath stank of stale mints.

“Oh, oh! I’m so sorry.” Kat pushed away from the table and disconnected her datajack. She tried to keep the tremble out of her voice but failed. She patted her satchel absently. “They told me you were already gone for the evening.”

“Who are they?”

Kat started to speak but snapped her mouth shut, she put her finger up to her lips as if to indicate that someone might be listening. She took a long look around the room, swiveling her head dramatically, giving herself time to remember the lie they rehearsed. “I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you that.”

“I said what are you doing at my station?” Two shadows cut across the distant green light of the exit sign mounted across room. Her heart beat faster. Kat glanced over to see a pair of security guards standing there.

The decker moistened her dry lips and smiled conspiratorially. “Okay, I mean I have to tell someone, right?”

“I think you better start talking right now.”

She caught a quick look at the nameplate on the desk: Patrick Goodman. The two guards were moving towards them now. Their walkie talkies squawked and squealed, announcing their arrival.

Kat leaned into Patrick Goodman and whispered, “Well, Mr. Goodman, corporate sent me down to run some data before the buyout.”

“What buyout?!” Beneath the rush of hot, minty breath came the familiar stench of bourbon. He looked over at the guards who were frozen in place now, unsure of how to react. He made a fumbling, clumsy attempt to fix his thick gray tie and repeated his question in a whisper.

“Well, sir, corporate received an offer from Crashcart to purchase this location. There are already arrangements in place to shift the service personnel to other locations. They sent me ahead to see if there was anything on the administrative side worth salvaging.”

Patrick Goodman suddenly looked ill. He didn’t mouth another word until an officer’s walkie talkie squawked again, pulling the manager out of his trance. “I, uh, think you should carry on.”

“Thank you, sir.” She paused, freestyling now, and added “What they said about you was right.”

He stared at her curiously, his head tilted slightly to one side in a way that reminded her of Fluff. Kat had to force herself to stop grinning long enough to explain. “You can make the tough choices.” She then topped it all off with a wink.

Patrick Goodman beamed. He finally straightened his tie enough to finish buttoning his shirt. He strolled away, back straight and shoulders high. The guards seemed satisfied enough by this that they continued their patrol.

Once all the men were gone, Kat ducked into the closest stairwell and made her way down to the first floor. The Ares Citymaster was waiting for her out front. Haegemon opened the door and helped her inside.

“Any trouble?”

“Nothing I couldn’t handle.” She patted her satchel. Fluff mewled beneath the leather.

JT growled, “You gotta stop dragging that frackin kitten along everywhere we go. It isn’t healthy. I think it loses a life every time you stuff it into the bag.”

Kat rolled her eyes. “Nice work, everybody. We have the wheels. Now all we we need is the patient.”

The group sped away along the I-5 toward the giant man-made mountain that is the Renraku Arcology.

10 notes

Part XII: It’s Wires all the Way Down

Kat eyed the Fuchi chronometer strapped to the inside of her wrist and slouched deeper into the hard plastic row seat facing a column of spinning dryers. 11:46 AM. It wasn’t like Mortimer Reed to be late. She thrummed her fingers, and absently swung up the volume on the Jet Black tune playing through her auditory implant. Nearby, a tattooed kid sat on a washing machine popping his chewing gum loudly and staring at her. She could practically hear his cybereyes zooming in on her low cut shirt.

She sighed, and pointedly looked in every direction but his. This early in the day, Stig’s QuikWash was about as crowded as the barrens after curfew. A pair of elderly women folded whites at chipped duraplast table, and bickered loudly about the mayoral race. A few seats down from Kat, a wiry elven man scrubbed desperately at the breast pocket of his suit.

Despite Kat’s efforts to ignore him, the love-starved fanboy leapt down from the washing machine puffed up with a disgusting supply of youthful courage and adrenaline. Kat rolled her eyes and continued to bob her head, bracing herself for the conversation.

But instead of uttering what would no doubt have been a dull, stammering introduction, the boy stopped short and stared through the storefront window where two men stood dressed in dark clothes. Kat’s hand went to her satchel. One of the men was thin and carried a laundry bag. The other was a muscled up Amerindian who moved with the robotic stutter of wired reflexes. Kat recognized him immediately. The pair of runners stepped through the door. Kat relaxed slightly, but left her hand where it was, wrapped around the butt of her gun.

“Hoi, Joshua. That bag for me?” She pointed her chin in the direction of the second man.

Joshua’s vat-grown muscles tensed and relaxed unnaturally, making his toothy grin appear feral. “Long time, Kat. Good to see you in one piece.”

She smiled, eying the fresh chrome at his temples. Puckered surgical scars trailed down his cheeks. Joshua was like most Street Samurai she knew: peel back the top layer of skin and it’s wires all the way down. “Good to see you’re keeping up with the latest ‘ware. Who’s the new meat?”

Joshua watched Kat’s hand twitch inside of her satchel. His smile never faltered. “He’s a chummer, so ka? Kat, this is BillD4.”

BillD4 was lanky and brooding in a way that reminded her of Steelflight. Her attention moved from the man to the rumpled laundry bag he carried. Her package looked like drek. She took it and made a note to hit up Reed for a discount next time she needed to secure stolen goods.

“So, where’s Mortimer?”

“Couldn’t make the trip, so he sent us.”

“Couldn’t?” Kat cocked an eyebrow.

“Wouldn’t.” Joshua laughed. BillD4 stepped back and looked around the laundromat while Kat pulled out a switchblade and cut open the protective tape around the mouth of the bag. She peered inside and frowned.

“Feels light. Was he able to make the adjustments we discussed?”

Joshua eyed the bag, “There were some disagreements with the manufacturer, but we made sure the proper adjustments were made.”

There were five Doc Wagon ID cards stacked on top of four black Docwagon uniforms neatly folded at the top of the bag. She pulled them out to reveal a fifth uniform crumpled at the bottom. It was gray and larger than the rest. Flecks of blood dotted a sleeve and collar. Kat turned to the two runners with a pained expression. “You know this means I have to wash it!”

“Well, it looks like we met you in the right place.”

BillD4 began to laugh and turned to leave. Joshua tried his best to fight his cyber-enhancements and smile. He looked like he would rip your head off instead. He turned to the bugglegum boy and winked, and Kat could hear the boy gag and begin to choke.

An hour later, Kat caught up with her crew at Pike Place Market where the smell of fish singed the air. They were having real meat burgers at an outdoor restaurant overlooking Puget Sound and grinning at the tourists who walked by.

“Spending your cut already?” Kat grinned at the collection of runners.

Kitsune offered Kat a chair, and the decker accepted it. She cuddled her satchel in her lap and offered each of her runners a smile in turn. “Uniforms are in. We can make the DocWagon run tonight, before we get Carter, or we can wait till after and reduce the number of hours the vehicle is missing before we use it.”

Haegemon said, “Shouldn’t we talk about whether or not we’re doing this at all?”

They fell into silence when a waitress came by and took Kat’s order. Kat asked for a burger, a glass of milk, and an empty bowl. When the bowl came she set it on the ground and poured the milk into it. Then she opened her satchel. Fluff uncurled herself and took a cautious peek. Seeing the runners, she leapt out of the bag and on to the floor where she lapped at the bowl of milk.

Kat continued, “What if I told you if we make this next goal, I can hire an adept?”

All around the table there were nods and murmurs of assent. Haegemon beamed, “You’d have my vote to continue.”

“Null sweat, chummers. We’ve stretched ourselves pretty far, but if we stretch for one last goal, I can get us the person we need to finish the job right.”

Kat laid out the plan quietly. The four runners would enter a nearby DocWagon clinic dressed in uniform and carrying ID cards. Kat’s job was to hack the human resources server and build in their backstory as active employees. She splayed out four new DocWagon employee cards like a poker hand. The fifth she held on to.

JT snatched the one with his image and asked, “Do you mind telling us how you thought up these names, because if you think I look like a Damien Lockrow, we’re going to have problems.”

“Damien is a strong name. It suits you.”

“It sounds like a trid romance hero.”

Kat tapped the fifth card she still held face down. “No, Storm Browne scans like a trid romance hero. But it fits our perspective adept.”

Haegemon leaned in, “You have someone in mind?”

Kat laughed, “You couldn’t have been much fun at Christmas. Wait until the job is done to unwrap your present, Haegemon.”

He groaned and buried his teeth into his hamburger. Kitsune sighed deeply, “I could get used to being Nicole Holland. It would be a pity to dump these identities after the run.”

Kat agreed, flashing her own identity card. “I could get used to being Jennifer Moore too, but if we get past Ahteen’s security with these SINs, they’ll be dead as that dragon. It’d be wise to get as far away from them and here as soon as possible.”

I’m thinking Hong Kong,” Haegemon mumbled looking at Kistune.

JT spoke up first. “Nah, Berlin.”

Kat grimaced. “From one dragon to another you mean?”

He shrugged. “I hear there’s good work in Berlin.”

The four shadowrunners lapsed into silence, each considering the implications. In a few hours they were going to take on dragon. Nothing could be the same after that.

The silence stretched on as the waitress returned with Kat’s meal and then left again. Finally, Haegemon cleared his throat. He waived his identity card in the air with one hand and raised his glass with the other. “To Will Oprisko, after tonight you’ll work for Doc Wagon, and tomorrow you just might get to kill a dragon.”

They clinked their glasses together and drank.

7 notes

Part XI: A Day’s Work

By the third ring, her eyes finally focused on the numbers on the digital readout. She growled into the phone “It’s six in the morning, Glutman.”

The fat Austrian on the other end of the trid laughed nervously. “Ya, it is early, but not too early for friends, no?”

“We were never friends, Glutman. What do you want?” Beside her, Fluff’s head was buried in JT’s mop of hair, meticulously licking each strand. The sleeping samurai groaned and tried to swat the kitten away to no avail.

“We have troubles, Kat. Nightshade and her team were grabbed by Knight Errant. You need to get them before they get into deeper trouble, ya?”

Kat sat up quickly and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Wha? Why are you telling me this?”

“Kat, please, this is serious. They were caught by KE running da Aneki Corporate HQ. They’re going to be shipped back to the federal lock up by tomorrow. Nightshade, Equinox, and Crash Negative Zero are still your friends, Kat. They need your help badly and you always help your friends, yes?”

She looked over at JT and gently placed her palm over the gauze wrapped around his back. “Now isn’t a good time to be taking on new work.”

“You’re talking about the Crimson Crush, right? Bad news travels fast in the shadows, but I got nuyen with your name on it. Good—nuyen buys you time.”

If only it were that easy. She promised him an answer in an hour and set about getting the crew together. By six thirty they were sipping soycaf on her couch and flipping through the trideo for news reports on the capture.

“Drek! A rush job? Now?” JT shook his head.

Haegemon adopted a thoughtful look. Kitsune didn’t, instead bursting, “Did everyone forget the Council Island job? Let’s walk through it, shall we? One, we have to extract Ahteen’s musician, Mr. Parker, from the fraggin’ Renraku Arcology tonight. Two, then we’ve got to find a way to put him back! Three, we need to bust into a Docwagon facility, plant IDs, and steal an ambulance just so we get on to Council Island and into a dragon’s lair!”

Haegemon slid a few inches away, hoping to avoid Kitsune’s wrath. She wasn’t finished. “So in the extra fifteen seconds we have before dawn, you want to break into a KE facility, forgetting that we just broke out of one, and spring three runners!”

“Nightshade is a friend. That’s that the real point. If we don’t do this they’ll wind up in Darrington and no one deserves that. And the chance to pull in this much nuyen for a day’s work doesn’t come around often.”

“Drek, Kat, we can’t spend the nuyen if we are all dead!” Kitsune continued to fume.

JT glanced nervously at the shaman, but mumbled, “I’m in.”

Kat nodded to him, lips tight. She glanced cautiously at Kitsune.

Haegemon scratched his chin. “Maybe there’s another option. You’ve made a lot of nuyen off of this Ahteen work so far. My cut could mean enough to walk away from running; from Seattle altogether. Kat, we could take this job and be done with it all.”

Kitsune threw up her arms in disgust. She flew into the kitchen, and began to pace furiously. Kat watched Kitsune—musing to herself as she gazed at the irritated shaman. Drek, when it rains it pours, she thought. I go months without a job and in the middle of the biggest one I’ve ever had I get another. Kitsune is right, but so is Haegemon— although Strouther already offered her a way out. Maybe Ankh could take the job. He still had “Kid Cash” Derringer, Sangius, Veav, and Endrin working with him. That’s more bodies than she had to throw at the problem…

Fluff hopped up on the couch and settled down in her lap. She raised her hind legs, flicking her tail against Kat in the classic ‘pet me’ gesture. Kat obliged, gently skirting the burnt flesh.

As Kat emerged from her internal monologue, her throat was dry and her voice cracked. “I’m not walking away from this, Haegemon. Ahteen is my problem.”

“And Nightshade?”

“That’s Kitsune’s call now.”

Kitsune sighed. “Okay, Kat, but I don’t know if I can go along with the rest of it anymore. Something isn’t right about this job. Fox came to me again last night. I think we should walk away.”

“I won’t—“

“I know you won’t, but the rest of us might. We deserve a chance to talk it out. I mean fine, yes, we’ll break out Nightshade, but after that, we’re going to put this Ahteen business up for a vote.”

Kat didn’t want to agree, but Kitsune left her no choice. With less than an hour of planning under their belt, the four shadowrunners assembled in Snohomish— Seattle’s quiet garden belt and a part of city she’d never seen until this morning.

“Trees in Seattle. I thought they were restricted to Council Island and specified dog parks.”

Kitsune laughed. “This area is big on farming. Nobody used to come out this way, but Seattle feels like it is growing every day.”

At first glance, the KE facility looked brand new. Wide steps marched up towards an entrance that featured a waterfall and a marble bust of a policeman holding a child. When you looked closer you noticed a hint of rust on the statue.

“You recognize the art?” JT pointed at a wall that, though painted over, still bore faint traces of graffiti.

“Autoduel76.”Haegemon whistled. Autoduel76 was Seattle’s premier tagger; part social activist, part social critic. He went after gangs and cops. Once a public complaint was filed against a particular precinct, it was only days before Autoduel76 added paint to the fire. He didn’t just tag a location he paint bombed it. Every surface became his canvas.

“Recent work too. I think we just got lucky. They’ll be on edge, and eager to make some arrests.”

Kat knew where that luck came from. She smiled, reaching inside her satchel with both hands. One pulled out her SEGA CTY-360, and the other shoved Fluff back down, before the kitten could make her presence known.

Kat jacked in through a nearby PANICBUTTON kiosk. Setting off a PANICBUTTON is easy. It is also the sort of thing Shadowrunners avoid. Only, Kat wanted local security to come running. If she could, she’d pull in every KE officer in a 16-mile radius. Kat glided into the SAN, and found the controls for the three farthest PANICBUTTONs. It could look like a gang raid, or an earthquake. It didn’t matter to her, so long as security came running.  She released a honeypot program into the network to track KE responses to PANICBUTTON calls and then she popped all three in succession. Moments later eight cars flashed out of the parking lot leaving two remaining. She set her deck’s onboard timer to beep in two-minute intervals, threw her hood over her head, and jogged towards the front of the precinct.

The inside matched the outside, military gray walls lined with pictures of policemen performing community service. A handful of angry citizens milled around the front desk, waiting to ask about lost pets, tickets, or other minor infractions. The desk clerk was a forty-something uniform with cybernetic eyes that probably fed real time images to the surveillance system. Kat kept her head low, so when he glanced at her, all he saw was her hood. She turned towards one of the wall photos, pretending to care.  Her timer beeped the first two minutes just as an explosion tore through the back of the cop shop.

Patrons were screaming and the desk clerk looked around frantically. In the distance she heard JT’s AK-97 pumping bullets into the backdoor. Haegemon’s drones followed up with controlled bursts of automatic gunfire. That did the job. The desk officer followed a handful of remaining officers towards the back while everyone else ran out the front. Kat headed for the front desk, pausing only to make sure the officer didn’t look back. She leaped over the counter and sat down in front of his computer. The officer was still logged in the system. She jacked in, immediately pulling up building schematics and the corresponding security camera feeds.

JT and Haegemon had the back door secured and a steady stream of bullets prevented the officers from taking back any ground. Kat slaved the digital cameras to her station and initiated a memory dump.

“Where are they?!” Kitsune burst through the precinct door, glancing upwards at the camera nervously.

“Basement level. Down the hall to your left. One guard with a shotgun!”

Kitsune ran down the hall as Kat’s cyberdeck beeped again. Four minutes. Someone at the station hit a PANICBUTTON. Her honeypot program detected the outgoing signal. Kat’s fingers flew across her keyboard as she tried to suppress the signal. A second PANICBUTTON call rang out. A third, a fourth, a fifth.

“Faster, please.” She muttered to no one in particular.

A sixth call shot out past her defenses. She watched the program hurtle into cyberspace and swore loudly. On the basement camera, the cell guard crumpled against the wall as if punched by an invisible hand. Kitsune came into view. She held up three fingers, then five, and then seven. Kat sleazed through the security system until she found the lock codes for the corresponding cells. She sprang all three and then forced the system to reboot itself. Now everything was just speed.

She waited until Kitsune and the three runners, looking worse for wear, came sprinting up the stairs and out the front door. Not an athlete by any measure, Kat was surprised how quickly she ran to the van.

JT and Haegemon were already falling back when Kat, Kitsune, and the three rescued shadowrunners pulled the van around the corner to pick them up. Kat’s deck beeped a final time, marking six minutes on site. It was another three minutes before Knight Errant showed up in force. By then, the runners were already gone. 

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Part X: What Really Happens During Down Time?

Dawn crumbled over Stuffer Shack in splotches of purple and red. Kat parked on the near-empty street and climbed out of her Americar—Fluff jammed into the crook of her elbow. Haegemon and Kitsune waited by the entrance. Kitsune fidgeted nervously.

Kitsune looked around. “Where’s JT?”

“He tore his stitches getting out of the underground last night. He’s back at my place now, watching the trid and resting up. I promised him cigarettes.”

The shaman nodded distractedly. “I had a dream last night, Kat. You were in it.”

Kat shrugged and suggested, “You’re welcome?”

“I meant I had a dream about my spirit totem. Fox told me to warn you. She said the eyes lie to the heart, and that you would know what that means.”

“I don’t know. I might have read it on a greeting card once, but thanks for the message.” Kat smiled and triggered the sliding doors. Kitsune and Haegemon trailed behind, whispering conspiratorially. Stuffer Shack was awash with fluorescent lamps ringing the color out of everything like bleach in a laundromat.

“You still don’t believe in the spirits, do you?”

“I get magic. What I don’t get is how you can believe some great spirit is responsible for all of your magic. I mean, look at hermetics. They don’t have spirits but they have magic. Tell me how that makes sense.”

Kitsune giggled and poked Kat in the back. She said, “Maybe deckers and shamans aren’t all that different.”

Kat stopped short and studied her friend, waiting for the punch line.

“See, we decided that Fluff here is your spirit totem, or your familiar, if you prefer. I never knew deckers could have familiars, but this is the sixth world. Anything is possible.”

Haegemon laughed and Kitsune joined in. The irony of Kat having a kitten was not lost on the shadowrunner, but when she held her pet and rubbed the spots of fur where the memory of flames showed black and scarred, she knew Fluff was meant for her. Kat forced a smile to her lips and said, “I don’t know about familiar, but she is my good luck charm.”

The news trid above the register droned on about how the Kicktraq Corporation was being sued by Trans-Union Intertech for providing extremely faulty projections on corporate futures. Kat nodded to the store clerk, a nervous teenager with ‘Sebastian’ etched on his nametag. She eyeballed the Colt L36 in his waistband and snickered. She asked him where cat food was and he gestured to aisle seven.

The ‘Shack never closed. Every hour brought its particular set of threats and customers. Five in the morning lived between the after-bar and pre-work set. Representatives of both groups roamed the aisles. Kat maneuvered past a couple decked out in skintight white leather and sidestepped a middle-aged mom and her son on the way to Fluff’s favorite treat. She rejoined the others at the dispenser bar where Kitsune was already working her straw into a Ludivenko Lovely Soya-Sloppy with the DoubleThick option. They were talking biz.

Haegemon said, “You know what I don’t get? Why do the tribes want Council Island to be exclusive?”

Kitsune smiled and rested her hand on top of his. She said, “Remember what I said about the Great Ghost Dance? Think of how much the tribes gave of themselves in order for the Native American Nations to exist. Don’t you think they deserve something private and special that belongs only to them?”

“I’m saying once you start making things exclusive, you start alienating a large part of the people you are trying to impress. I believe in compromise. Let it stay exclusive for a little while and then let everyone experience it.”

Kat barely listened. She didn’t have a stake in the argument. As she watched the two argue, a troll lumbered up to the nearby the Synthmeat “Hot Dog” dispenser. He was so tall that he had to bend over to avoid bumping his head on the Yummy Burger sign overhead. He had a child’s face with a wisp of mustache that looked glued on. The troll stared at Kitsune, licking his lips.

“Pretty slitch like you shouldn’t waste her time on bed-wetters like him. You need a real man.” His voice rumbled. He rolled up one sleeve to expose a tattoo of a troll dressed like a caveman and holding a club.

Kitsune said, “I’m supposed to be impressed because you remember the Flintstones?”

Despite herself, Kat burst out laughing and shook her head. It was the first time the troll noticed her standing there. A look of slack-jawed amazement fell over the troll’s face, and then he turned and ran out of the store without another word.

“What was that about?” Haegmon whispered, glancing down the aisle after the fleeing troll.

“I have that effect on men.” Kat shrugged and set Fluff down on the ground to pour herself a soycaf.

She felt the explosion before she heard it. The force of the blast rattled the soycaf dispenser, spilling hot liquid all over her hands. She stumbled backwards and turned towards the source of the blast. Smoke filled a gaping hole where the far side of the store had been. Fluff wailed and arched her back. The other customers ran screaming towards the back of the store.

Four Orks and Kitsune’s troll admirer stepped through the smoke. The leader had a pink mowhawk and a black eye. He pointed at Kat when he said, “Give us the slitch decker and nobody gets hurt.”

“You have got to be joking.” Kat said, but nobody smiled. The Orks were armed with brass knuckles and pistols, and the troll dragged out a sword that had to be as long as Kitsune.

Trembling slightly, Haegemon backed towards Kat. “Hand to hand combat really isn’t my thing.”

“I run the matrix, Haegemon. Why do you think JT calls himself One Man Army?”

“Well, he isn’t here now.”

The Crimson Crush gangers strode forward, three taking up a flanking position one aisle over, while the sword wielding troll held his ground, blocking any possible escape.

“Kitsune…”

The Fox shaman furrowed her brow. “There’s too many of them for a manabolt.”

“That cannot be your only offensive spell!”

Kitsune glared at her, but quickly turned her attention to the aisles next to the flanking gangers. She gritted her teeth. A crack, like a rock breaking, stopped the gangers in their tracks. They looked around as they heard the second crack and then the third. Slowly it dawned on them that the aisles themselves were toppling over, as if pushed by invisible hands. The gangers watched in horror as the racks cascaded towards them. Soypasta boxes and canned soups rained upon them.

“Nice spell. What do you call it?”

“Ram.”

The store clerk was making a mewling sound in his throat and jabbing the panic button. He never even drew his Colt L36. Haegemon walked over, pointed at the downed gangers and said, “I just need a pack of smokes. The rest can go on their tab.”

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Part IX: The Dog Tag Job

JT leaned up against a flashing crosswalk light and clutched his side like he thought something would fall out. It was raining in Seattle, and Kat sighed heavily and hung an arm around Kitsune as she watched the samurai huddled under his brown duster.

“We need JT at his best down there. Can’t you whip up a spell to make him better like you did for me?” Kat’s own wounds had faded into puckered flesh. If only magic worked so well on the mental scars Ian Malcolm left behind.

“With the chrome he has? It’d be like trying to heal a carburetor.”

Haegemon leaned in between the two ladies and said, “Give the man time to heal.  Hire an Adept.”

“Shut up, Haegemon. What are your drones telling you?”

Haegemon stared up into a skyline teeming with rain clouds and drones—paparazzi whirlies, police sentries, adDroids—everyone with a stake in knowing what was going on in the streets put a drone in the sky. Haegemon’s spotter drones melded into the flow of traffic, delivering a bird’s eye view of the people they planned to rob.

He jacked into his control deck, pausing to let the digital reality wash over him. “They’re standing in front of Lordstrung’s Department Store. The dignitary is a female. She has the briefcase chained to her left arm. Her detail is smaller than we thought. Just the lead agent and two others all dressed in slacks and dark jackets. You won’t miss them.”

“What, no mage?” JT’s smile looked more like a wince.

“They don’t make it obvious.”

Kat’s crew was set up in front of the Big Rhino Restaurant, an Ork cuisine mecca so well known that it appeared on dining shows. It was also one of the handful of publically acknowledged entrances to the Ork Underground. The Cascade Ork dignitary and her crew planned to meet with Ahteen in a few days time. Kat’s crew needed to steal valuable SIN data from them before that meet happened.

“You all know what to do?” Everyone nodded.  “Remember, we’ll be signal blind once we get below, so everyone needs to stick to the plan. Haegemon is our spotter. Everything moves through him. We’re relying on stealth and wit for this one.”

Haegemon started to speak, but she stared at him until his mouth closed.

Since he had tusks, nobody noticed when Haegemon followed the security detail in through Lordstrung’s to a meta-only entrance to the tunnels below. The place might be a safe haven for the goblinized, but they still offered public tours to keep the lights on. Kitsune and JT clasped hands and started down the stairs towards the Big Rhino’s entrance to the Ork Underground. In recent months the Ork Underground opened up more tourist entrances to respond to the demands of a city that seemed to grow larger and deeper everyday. Of course, they were only a tiny fraction of what the great expanse the Ork Underground really was. The tourist entrances just seemed to make the “norms”, politicos, corps and Lone Star happy, which meant the majority of the Orks were left alone: just the way they liked it.

Kat made her way to one of these newer entrances, a few blocks south in a hotel called Sourdough Station. She was dressed in an I Heart Brooklyn sweatshirt with the hood pulled low over her brow. Her satchel swung loosely at her side offering the impression of a street kid looking for afternoon thrills. The clerk at the entrance took her fifteen nuyen fee and muttered a warning to stay on the marked path.

Kat fell in step with a couple of tourists. The halls were narrow enough that they had to group together. Conversation echoed off the low ceilings. A short, round man was talking up London as the new place to be. His friend, who called himself Eric, agreed and called it the gateway to Tir Na Nog. They got into a discussion with a tall bookish type who announced himself as Professor Nicholas Russell. The professor droned on about the social value of the underground while Kat choked back bile, wondering if this is what having a SIN was like. If so, she wasn’t sure she’d trade her lifestyle for a steady wage, vacations, and empty conversations.

Up ahead, the human crowd moved east towards the safety of the marked tourist track. A handful of more adventurous souls drifted towards a bar whose pink neon sign proclaimed it as B-lo. Haegemon was standing beside the entrance, doing his best to resemble a bored local trying to decide if the club was worth his time. He  tilted his head to the right and Kat followed the gesture. Five identically dressed Orks marched toward the club. Their identical over-muscled arms were obvious chrome jobs that practically burst through the seams of the off the rack suits they wore.  The men formed a phalanx around a tall ork woman dressed in a crisp blue pantsuit that offset her pale skin and ebony tusks. Kat was more interested in the lead security officer. He was troll-large, barrel chested, and bearded. NAN military dog tags jangled from his gray shirt.

Kat shuddered once, breathing in the tenseness of the situation. Haegemon was directing JT and Kitsune towards the targets with a series of discrete hand signals. Kat’s heart beat faster. It would happen fast, and this deep in hostile country, they’d only get one chance.

Kitsune and JT held hands. They didn’t dress like tourists. Kitsune wore Knee high boots and a black longcoat. Her hair was in a bun, her eyes painted, and she wore deep red lipstick. She looked like a ten. JT looked like a four in his beat up CAS army duster, jeans, and a Seattle Seahawks tee. He reluctantly let go of Kitsune’s hand and she sashayed to the bar, drawing more than a few eyes. While the men watched her, JT stumbled past the security chief.

It took the man a second to realize what happened. He clutched at his throat where his dog tags had been a moment earlier, but in the next seconds, Kitsune’s manabolt spell took effect and the lady dignitary crumpled to the ground. Somebody screamed and there was a lot of shouting. Suddenly there was smoke as Kitsune’s second spell took effect. Screams were joined by shouts of confusion. Then someone yelled “fire!” and everyone stampeded for the door.

The security chief shouted for his men to go after JT, while he drew his weapon and moved to cover the dignitary.

JT slammed past Kat and she spun, feigning a lack of balance. But instead of slumping to the ground, she turned away and fell against the wall, securing the dog tags JT had just handed her.

Kat had rehearsed this part in the mirror time and again, hoping to be fast enough. She freed the memory core from the dog tags and slotted it into her Sega CTY-360 cyberdeck. Half falling against the wall, she jacked in to her deck, making short work of the rudimentary dog tag security, and copied all of the SIN data.

When she pulled herself upright it looked natural. Kat tossed the dog tags on the ground and backed away as if frightened by all the commotion. The entire operation took less than eight seconds.

Two guards tore after JT, shouting for him to stop. One of them noticed the dog tags on the floor and pulled up short. The thick-necked Ork picked up the tags and called his partner back.

Kat watched the entire scene play out through backwards glances as she blended in with the crowd of tourists hustling towards the exits.

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Part VIII: The Ork and the Dragon

Strouther had refused to meet at Matchsticks, which put everyone on edge. The four shadowrunners drove in silence through the streets of Bremerton. JT shifted uneasily in the backseat, trying to find a way to get comfortable without upsetting his bandages. Between JT getting shot and the fact that they were fragging with a dragon, Kat didn’t know if they were walking into a meet or an ambush.

They arrived at the GPS coordinates as the sun climbed into the morning sky. They pulled up next to a large blue dock house, riddled with bird drek. Its paint was chipped and aging, and its roof was covered in thick patches of moss. It looked like it had been abandoned for years.

Kat hopped out of the car and started toward the house—Kitsune, JT, and Haegemon close behind her.

JT moved his hand toward the damp, rotting door, and quickly hesitated. “Should we knock? I… I feel like this door will break if I even breathe too hard in its direction.”

“Oh for frag’s sake.” Kitsune rolled her eyes and turned the rusted handle, heading in without even bothering to announce herself. JT shrugged, following her and nodding for everyone else to do the same.

As they walked in, they were struck by air heavy with dust and what must have been the remains of a thousand dead insects. Kat spied the dwarf Julius Strouther to their left—pacing the length of a dusty metal table with four chairs on one side and a single chair on the other. He looked nervous.

Kat started to speak, but thought better of it. Instead, she walked swiftly over, and caught Julius Strouther’s eye. He managed to look both startled and weary. He gestured silently toward the four chairs, and took his lone seat opposite them. Kat helped JT into one of the chairs and sat down beside him. The others sat and waited for their fixer to begin.

Strouther coughed into his sleeve.  He wiped his chin and stared at Kat. “You find it okay?”

“Yeah, Strouther. Drek, why did you drag us out here?”

He shrugged. “The data you got me was good. Too good. Mr. Johnson thinks it gives him the firepower he needs to challenge Ahteen head on.”

“You mean go after his businesses?”

Strouther paused, fished for a cigarette and snapped open a lighter with his other hand. After a long drag, he continued.

“No. I mean go after him.”

Kat could see his hands shaking when he took a second drag. “We’ve known for some time that Ahteen maintains a private residence on Council Island. We also know that the Island is exclusive to NAN tribal interests. Our Mr. Johnson couldn’t understand how a Korean dragon earned a prime spot on an island full of Native Americans.”

Haegemon cut in. “What is there to understand? Ahteen is a dragon. If you say no, he’ll eat you and burn down your village… or some such drek.”

Kitsune spoke. “Our tribes are responsible for the Great Ghost Dance. Ahteen can’t go around laying claim to our sacred land and expect us to get over it. When we pull together we have the mojo to fight back. Besides, this is still Dunkehlzahn’s domain. I’m not sure Ahteen even has the right to go to war here.”

Kat saw the conversation slipping away. She cleared her throat loudly and asked, “So what changed?”

Strouthers turned to her. “He saw your file.”

The four runners exchanged glances, not quite understanding the connection.

Strouther exhaled a puff of smoke and continued. “What Kat found was essentially a service order. Ahteen was moving major merchandise to the Cascade Ork tribe. The guns represent his part of the deal. In return, the Orks are giving him four dozen clean SINs.”

A murmur rippled through the runners. None of the four even had SINs. Kat looked into it once, but the cost of a single System Identification Number was astronomical. Even then, a SIN was either stolen off some downtrodden wage slave or belonged to a corpse. Only governments had the power to generate new SINs— Governments like the Native American Nations.

Kat whistled. “Are you saying the Cascade Ork created these SINs for him? Why would they do that? Why would he need them?”

Strouther’s attention wandered from the rafters to the door and back to Kat. “That’s beyond my pay rate and yours. What I do know based on that file is the Cascade Orks are bringing those SINs in tomorrow night. They are meeting with one of Ahteen’s contacts in the Ork Underground in two days’ time.”

Haegemon winced. “There’s a saying down there: No tusks, no service.”

Strouther shifted in his seat, attention drifting back to the rafters. JT noticed it this time and his right hand fell to his lap where a Ruger Super Warhawk waited.

JT barked, “You never did answer Kat’s question, Strouther. You mind telling us what has you so spooked?”

The dwarf’s eyes locked on the Street Samurai. “You mind pointing that pea shooter somewhere else?”

Kat could feel tension filling the air like gas. She held her hands out, palms up. “We all noticed it, Julius. Now you tell us what’s going on, or we are done here.”

The old fixer leaned forward and took a deep pull on his cigarette and laughed. “Kat, maybe you need to tell your chummers here what they’ve gotten themselves into. Or…should I tell them about the bounty on you?”

She could feel the others staring at her. Heagemon slid his chair away, as if the handful of inches made a difference. She choked down the urge to curse at him and said, “Look guys, it’s no big deal— just a misunderstanding. It doesn’t have anything to do with this.”

JT growled, “Sounds like a big deal, Kat.”

Strouther continued. “Gangers from the Crimson Crush came around the club yesterday asking questions. They even threw a couple of nuyen my way to spread the word. When they didn’t leave I decided to have our talk somewhere out of the way. I don’t think I was followed, but being this close to a bullseye makes me nervous. You are becoming too hot to deal with Kat.”

Her palms felt damp. She rubbed them along the arms of her chair as she gathered her thoughts. “I didn’t want to distract my crew. The bounty is my business. I’ll handle it. Now let’s talk about how three humans are going to walk into the Ork Underground and pull off a heist.”

JT glared at Kat for a long moment. Then he sighed and set his gun hand on the table, fingers thrumming nervously. “Okay, business. What sort of security are we dealing with?”

Strouther seemed to relax into the question. He said, “I did the legwork on this one. The Cascade Orks are sending a dignitary and a five-man security detail. The dignitary will be carrying a briefcase chained to his wrist. My contacts tell me the briefcase is a decoy. The SIN data is stored on a set of dog tags worn by the chief security officer. You need to get to those dog tags, and either steal or clone that data.”

Haegemon leaned back scratching at the stubble beneath his chin. “Where is the exchange?”

“Ahteen’s estate on Council Island. He is hosting a private concert and plans to make the exchange at the concert.”

Kitsune threw her hands up. “Well, that’s it then. We’ll take our cut now and go home. There is no way we can get on to Council Island with the gear we need, let alone break into Ahteen’s lair.”

The dwarf took another drag on his cigarette. “If this is what you want, there is a way. I understand if you don’t want to go any further. You’ve hit every goal I asked of you so far, and with the nuyen you’ve made, you’ll be set up for months. If you don’t, null sweat. I have another crew—Ankh’s crew— that can handle the work.”

He was lying. She knew it. Every fixer has a back-up plan, but using Ankh’s crew was just another dig at her. He knew she would never let Ankh cost her a job. This was Kat’s chance for vengeance. She knew it, and so did Strouther.

Kat stood up and shook her head, “We finish what we started.”

JT chuckled and shifted uncomfortably. “You talking about all of us?”

Kat’s answered with a glare. 

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