“Ian Malcolm?” Kitsune drummed her fingers against the coffee table. She looked especially fox-like today. Her long black hair hung straight and framed her face in a way that drew attention to her aqualine nose and small lips.
“I know what you’re thinking, Kitsune, but that was a long time ago.” Kat shook her head and looked at the ground, tracing small circles in the carpet with her index finger.
Haegemon joined the two women on the floor of Kat’s loft apartment. He and Kitsune had made their way over after stashing the gear and dumping the stolen truck, while Kat had taken Fluff home and spent a tense half hour waiting to find out how badly JT was injured. She spent her time fuming—stewing in her desire to yank every weapon out of that cache and satisfy her hunger to avenge JT. But the hunger remained— waiting in the back of her throat like a strangled cry. Kat couldn’t let go of her vengeance, so she did what she always did: threw herself into a new problem to quiet the old one.
Unfortunately, the new problem, the Parsec file, was one she wasn’t equipped to solve. Five minutes ago she’d gotten the call that JT pulled through surgery fine. The bullet had avoided all the especially important organs, and he expected to be on his feet for the next job. But as soon as her elation had come, it shrank as she realized that the next job meant decrypting the file.
There was only one way to do that. Or, she should say, one person who could…
Haegemon spoke, briefly lifting Kat from her carpet fixation. “Ian Malcolm…I know that name. Didn’t he used to go by the handle Maximillion or something? He worked with Atarun and Thrakkesh, right?”
Kitsune shrugged and added, “He dated Kat.” She gave a wry smile and waggled her eyebrows at Haegemon.
“Ooo-ooo. Kat! Nice!” Haegemon punched her lightly on the shoulder.
Kat scoffed and ignored him, turning instead to Kitsune. “Kitsune, just tell me what to wear, and you two clear out of here.”
Kitsune laughed and shook her head, but did as instructed. She dressed Kat in a NuZoot plastic wrap skirt that showed off her cyberleg and a matching GloPunk circuit-patterned top. Soon the others were gone and Kat was alone in her sparse apartment waiting for the doorbell to ring.
Fluff crawled out from her spot under the couch and padded to the door. She sniffed the floor around the entrance, hopped up on the nearby kitchen counter, and crouched there like a vulture. Kat smoothed out her skirt as she walked to the door. As she put her hand to the doorknob, she felt her chest tense. She took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and pulled the door open.
Ian Malcolm was still stunning. That smile and those deep-set eyes took her back in time just long enough get lost in his memory. He winked at her, and rubbed the side of her face with his smooth thumb—a touch that used to be so familiar. As she opened her mouth to greet him, he interrupted her. “I figured you’d need something from me sometime.”
She managed to release a small laugh. Her chest had tightened up again, and her skin felt hot and prickly. As she moved to invite him in, he slid past her, his arm brushing briefly against her leg. For all his good looks, Ian was as subtle as a troll chipped out on BTLs.
All of a sudden, her lips remembered how to move. “You… you look good, Ian. The shadows are treating you well.” She tilted her head down and looked up at him through her eyelashes.
He grinned at her. “You too I hear. The rumor is you, Kitsune, and JT added someone to your crew.”
Kat mustered up a coy smile and offered him a drink. He took it as he glanced around the room. Despite the space, the couch and the adjacent chair were the only places to sit. She offered him a seat on the couch and sat down beside him.
“So…” Kat cleared her throat. “Still dating little miss Cathy Dekker? You always did like the razorgirls.” She was trying too hard to sound casual.
He expertly changed the subject. “Never mind that— you still dodging gangers? I heard the Crimson Crush put a bounty on your head. What did you do to torque them off so bad?” Ian cocked an eyebrow.
Good—work. She could talk about work. “The Crush were the unfortunate victims of a shadowrun. For some reason they want to hold me responsible for what happened to them.”
“Probably because it’s your fault. That is how it usually goes, right? You do something stupid and then blame the fates, the tradewinds, or whatever other drek Kitsune stuffs your head with.” He smirked and then tensed as he heard a low growl coming from the kitchen.
Kat smiled. “Huh. Fluff already doesn’t like you. Guess she has good taste.”
“What the frag is a fluff?”
“You have a cat? Since when? How many more will you get now that you’re single?”
“You are an asshole.”
“No, I’m a pragmatist. You need something from me. Learn to play nice.”
Kat sighed and fell back against the couch. “Fine. I need your help with a file. It’s written in Parsec and you’re the only person I know who can hack it.”
“It isn’t a joke, Ian. I’m willing to pay you to help me.”
“I don’t want your nuyen, Kat. I just want you to admit that you should have let me teach you this years ago. Parsec is a valuable machine language.”
“Why, just because you and a bunch of coders see it as the future!? Look, Ian, after all my years of running I’ve only ever gotten one file that uses it. So tell me again why it’s so ‘valuable.’”
Ian folded his arms. “If you grouped together the purchasing power of all the hackers in the sprawl you’d see that the financial output of that group outpaces every other.”
“Yeah, if that were true, everyone would know it, but no one does!” Kat was starting to shout. This was not going according to plan. She did not want to turn this into argument number 1,093 with Ian.
“It isn’t about us, and you know that, Kat. Parsec is the hacker language. It isn’t owned by any megacorpoation. It came from shadowrunners like you and me. You should be applauding it instead of bowing at the feet of Mitsuhama every time you hit the ‘trix.”
Damn. He was being reasonable. Kat sighed, “Okay, I know things went wrong between us, and I realize a lot of that was me, but I need this, Ian. Will you help?”
He brandished a wide smile.
“Please.” She glared at him.
It cost her dinner and a call to Doc Maplethorpe to give Ian’s razorgirl a consultation, but he agreed to crack the file. The moment she could read it, she couldn’t believe what she saw.