Shadowrun: On The Hunt
Of course, anyone who truly knew me wouldnt ask that question.
Jonathan Jonah Johnson was a good, honest person, widower, semi-retired. Not to mention independently wealthy from having his company bought out, and investments since then. Thats the official record. The reality of my situation is much darker, more sinister.
In the Light, I am Jon Johnson. In the Shadows, Im Mister Johnson. The nom de plume used to hire people that dont exist, to do jobs that never happen, and pay with money that doesnt show up on any ledgers. The paymaster to Shadowrunners, the common term for those people that live outside the system, to perform the tasks that spies once did for anyone that has the cash. If you want to use the street name given to me years ago, however, its Money. Partly because I had it, but more because I was good for it.
Walking from the coffee house, and pitching the almost full SoyCaff into the closest garbage can, I let my mind spin through the problem. The first task would be to clear my schedule. This was easily enough done, thanks to the joy of Wireless computer connections. Only one person complained, and ordered me around. I simply disconnected the call to him, and blocked his contact information. Mercenary though I may be, Im not some JoyToy that can be bossed around. I make sure people know this first off.
With time on my hands, I contemplated how to go about the search. Jet had gotten me a holo of little Debby. Cute kid. So far, all that was known was that a gang was involved and likely magic as well. The orphanage wouldnt care much; there was no end to orphans. And ones that were more likely to be adopted, thus making the company more money than the government funding given for each orphan. Pure economics, although I might be discrediting them. They didnt kick her out earlier.
I had sent Jet off to question the kids some more, and to get a few items of Debbies. They liked her, as she did some magic tricks for them, and they knew she cared about Debby. Perhaps she could get more information on the gang out of them. Anything would narrow down the search. Now, I needed a tracker.
A few e-mails later, I had the meet all set up. After quickly changing from my nice suit and overcoat into somewhat rattier and stained clothing and cheaper mirrorshades, topped off by my Grandfathers old armor-lined duster and geared up. The Browning Ultra-Power in a small of the back holster was a start, a snub-nosed, heavy framed automatic pistol in .45 ACCP, it had power and concealability. The screw-on flash suppressor prevented the over-sized muzzle flare from blinding my previously natural eyes. I didnt need it now, but it gave the gun an intimidating view, and protected the threads that also allowed the gun to equip a sound suppressor. A few blades went into various sheathes, including a concealed one in the duster that could hold either a switchblade or a straight razor. I picked out my silver-plated razor, with solid-silver handle, just in case the meet went bad. I was dealing with people who thought of bullets as annoyances; but silver, now, that got their attention.
My car had heavier weapons in it if I needed them, a Colt Cobra SMG and a nice, classic AK-97 Assault Rifle. As reliable weapons as you can find on the market. The car itself is about as stock as I am. A blueprinted crate engine that could pass everything except for a gas station, suspension that could handle turns like it was a monorail train, and an armored hide like a Troll Street Samurai. Not bad for a Chrysler-Nissan Jackrabbit budget sports car, black of course, one of the most common sights on the street.
Sliding into the Jackrabbit, and slipping the datajack into my head, I started the car with a thought. The Rabbit came to life with a slight whine, the engine having had sitting too long, but soon sorted itself out, the computerized control sorting out a slight imbalance in air-fuel mixture. A self-diagnostic told me that she was ready to go, and seemed eager to do it. Its a strange feeling, interfacing with a vehicle, even if you arent rigged to become one with it. The car still felt alive, with emotions as alien as can be conceived. A lot of people talked to their car, anthropomorphized them, and when we learned to interface with them, it turned out to be right, in a manner of speaking. I slipped her into gear, and slid out of the parking space with a flick of a mental hand and foot, and drove out into the Seattle night.
The rain was worse now. Seattle is infamous for its rain, the Ghost Dance that won the Amer-Indians their freedom, and most of North Americas land, had only made it worse. At least the volcano wasnt spewing too much ash into the air. The streetlights of downtown soon made way for the busy freeway, large trucks and a smattering of smaller vehicles feeding the economy at all hours of the day and night, and then onwards, up north, to the Redmond Barrens. What had once been a prosperous area had become the worst of slums. Neglected, unpoliced by anything except its residents, with Lone Star Police patrolling the area to prevent anyone from getting out. Once you went in to live there, it was next to impossible to get out. A haven of scum and villainy, of criminals and SINless. The people I usually hire to do dirty deeds for any amount of money. It was a place where people were killed over a cardboard box, as that would make a good home. It was where people were killed for the wrong kind of glance. It was Hell on Earth, one of our own making. I drove quickly through the streets, a few random shots popped off at me, only one of which actually hit. Gangers arent known for being good shots, not like they can practice much by putting up tin cans on a fence, and then going hunting, like I did growing up. Now, I was doing a different kind of hunting, in a different forest, one of concrete, steel, and glass.
And Id still need a hunting dog. That is why Im here, at an old Pool Hall called at one time Vandisons Bar and Billiards, in the middle of the night, in one of the worst parts of town. Parking across the street, I unplugged myself from the car, and slide towards the guards at the front entrance. Two men and a woman stand there in loose leathers, along side a very large wolf. They all growl at me, baring teeth. Most people would mistake the men and woman for human, but I grew up in a strange environment, I recognized Shapechangers when I saw them. It helps that Ive done work with this pack, and they owed me. Hello Rish, I said to the woman, the Alpha Bitch of this pack, Im calling in what Im owed.
And what makes you think we owe you anything, two-leg? Except, maybe, a five-second head start before we run you down? She scowled. Shapechangers arent humans that turn into animals. Theyre animals that turn into humans. That difference clouds most discussions with them, but Rish had been raised by a Human family, and not a very nice one at that. She had issues with Human men in all aspects except one. She gave new meaning to the term Man-Eater.
What makes me think that? Oh, I dont know
I said, absently waving my left hand. My right slipped into the pocket of my jacket, with easy access to the silver straight razor, Maybe Harkness saying that the Pack owned me. Maybe I confirming that favor owed not even an hour ago. Maybe he being happy to finally get that debt paid. I smiled a wicked grin at this one, looking at her with gold eyes that glowed blue, Or maybe just because Im going to refuse to take No for an answer.
She looked like she was going to argue more when a loud bark came from within the building. I smiled up at the semi-concealed camera. Looks like they had power today, a chancy thing when you steal it from decades old, and forgotten, power runs under the street. Especially with the price of Copper being up recently, scavenging a good line of old electrical line could net a person a lot of money, even after taking into consideration the fencing fee. It could keep a person in chips for a week, long enough to forget this world. Long enough for someone to catch you and kill you for the reward as you gazed into electron dreams. Or keep you drunk for a month, and have the same effect as youre in a stupor.
Wolf Shapechangers (Not Werewolves, those dont exist, and Shapechangers will be very adamant about telling you the difference) could very much smell fear. So I walked in like I owned the place. Harkness sat in a makeshift throne at the far end of the bar. A king in his court, with a bevy of women chained at his feet, almost wearing the harem clothing he had found somewhere. They were human women wearing dog collars, and there by choice. He was a good protector, and didnt beat them, as good a deal as can be had in this part of town. Harkness was huge, almost two meters tall, and wore robes of synth-silk, flowing and open, easy to get out of if he needed to, to shift form to the oversized wolf he truly was. I dont know why he made himself appear like some petty king, I never asked, but I did spot a few books in his room once, myths, fables, childrens stories. Perhaps he emulated that, seeing himself as the barbaric version of humanity. He, like Rish, had grown up around a human family, but the rest of the pack was as feral as can be. He was Alpha because he could think as well as fight, could talk to the two-legs that outnumbered them, and prevent battles as well as lead them. It was hard to kill a Shapechanger, hard to even injure one, but it could be done, and Metahumanity had nothing if not numbers.
He smiled in a feral manner as I approached him; his guards lined the walls, wearing the packs colors, loose brown leather pants and vests. Standing at attention like guards of old, lacking weapons and armor, not needing any more than what was gifted to them by their supernatural nature.
Well, you seem to be doing well for yourself, Harkness. Love what you did with the place. I said, waving at the makeshift tapestries. They appeared to be the banners from various high school teams. The pack laughed at this, they considered Harkness habits to be rather humorous, a Wolf emulating the wolves of humanitys past, from when Men were less civilized, little better than animals themselves.
Yes, a nice display, war banners for when the next gang attempts to attack. To take our territory, our supplies, our bitches. He replied in a growl, A minor indulgence, like my beauties below me. But business is your concern as always, Money, tell me what you need. Which streets do you wish to run red with the blood of your enemies? Which pieces of flesh do you wish for yourself, for the rest of the bodies will belong to us. I raised an eyebrow to this. The favor owed wasnt a minor one, but I hadnt expected this big a repayment. Either I had miscalculated what I had done for him, a possibility when dealing with Shapechangers, or the pack was chomping at the bit for a hunt. Or both.
I need a tracker. The best you have that can work in two-legged form, and that can help in a fight, as well, if possible. I answer. Shock came from all around. I had underestimated the favor, apparently. They were insulted, and a few started getting hairy from the insult.
I tell you we can make the streets run with blood, and you ask for a tracker? Harkness roared as he stood up in indignation, You think what we owe you is so small, so petty? He marched towards me, shifting slightly as he came, before regaining control. His rage was apparent in his eyes, as they tried to pierce the mirrored plastic that hid my own. His fists clenched and unclenched in a manner that indicated he wished my flesh between his fingers. As had happened time and again, death itself faced me, and I stood my ground. And I did it with a smile and not a lick of fear.
I am using your favor to help repay one of my own. A debt owed that cannot be repaid even if I lived a hundred lives, and performed a thousand deeds in each of those. It may seem like Im only asking for a simple tracker, but what I am really asking for is something worth far more to me than the death of all those that oppose me, of their compatriots and families. It has allowed me to pay back those that had wronged me in a way you understand far too well, rather than die an ignoble death from a cowards weapon. No my friend, I clasp his shoulder, I ask for something worth more than my very life.
Harkness started for a bit, and then gazed at me warily. Im a slick devil, after all, with a tongue of honeyed silver, which Shapechangers fear above all else. My words could be worse poison than the straight razor in my coat. Then he smiled, I know of your war, of what was done to your wife, and the litter she carried. I have seen that you are the Wolf almost as much as we, and heard your howls or rage and loneliness to the night. I gift you a tracker, his nose true, and his courage unequaled.
Thank you, Harkness. It is greatly appreciated. How is he in dealing with two-legs like me, however?
Well, you didnt stipulate that.
Oh well, Ill buy a newspaper then. The pack bristled at that, but Harkness laughed deeply. Anyone else making that joke, and theyd be literally torn apart. But I was spending a big favor at a cheap price, and some leeway could be given. Especially when the Alpha was allowing it to go past.
This is Felix. Harkness said, waving towards the person next to me, He will find a shadow for you if needed, with the wind at his back. Felix stepped forward, his features in human form were Amer-Indian, and rather handsome. He lacked a lot of the tell-tale indications of being a Shapechanger aside from the traditional unibrow. I couldnt tell if he was playing the role of the Stoic Indian or if he was just being a normal Wolf in Human Clothing, either way, he didnt appear happy to being sent with me. Tough.
Alright Felix, lets see if we can find a shadow in all this rain. I said, and walked carefully out. You dont turn your back on a Wolf, even one thats seemed to show a semblance of civilization. Harkness looked at me hungrily. In any other situation, I wouldnt be as welcome here.
Id be lunch. And a hard-won lunch at that.