Shadowrun: On The Hunt 6
In fact, the gang did have a Minivan handy. A beige Volvo with grade school bumper stickers on the rear. Guess some Soccer Mom got lost in the wrong end of town. But it also had the multiple bench seats in the back, which would allow for all the girls to be able to get to safety. A female ganger came with the van, but her leathers and, apparently, self-inflicted mohawk haircut appeared as anti-Mom as possible.
Felix rode with her, curling up in the passenger's seat of the suburban vehicle, growling at the driver. He'd keep her honest. I laid Debbie down in the bucket seat of the 'Rabbit, and strapped her in. Looking up, I could see the storm continuing on over the Rat's Nest. Lighting played, cloud strikes happening in rapid fire timing. The roar of some ancient beast filled the air, speaking to an ancient part of the brain of all those present, filling us with a fear older than time.
Um, yeah. Where we going, Mr. Nameless? The She-Punk asked, sticking her head out the window. That shook me, I hadn't thought that far ahead. I should have. But there was only one answer I could think of in a situation like this.
Sam's Surgery and Deli.
The ride went smooth enough, aside from a few close shots at the Minivan. Most of the Street Monsters that live in the Redmond Barrens didn't like suits in any way, other than targets. Luckily, their shots were as poor as ever, and the van wasn't hit, by the time we arrived at the back of the tenement building where Sam's Surgery and Deli was based out of.
Sam Hartz might have been called a Slum Lord a century ago. But he wasn't really, he was slowly rebuilding the tenements and cheap apartment buildings he owned, making them places to live, rather than just dwell. He had been, in a past life, a young Rabbi. His Synagogue had been burned down decades ago in the infamous 2039 Night of Rage, when Anti-Metahuman hate groups cause global riots. Sam's brother, who had owned the Tenement we now stood at had also died, for the crime of being born a Dwarf, burned to death in a warehouse while the Seattle Metroplex Guard, the National Guard unit for the city, watched. The Kosher Deli had come with the building, a ground-floor store front, which became the source of Sam's slowly growing fortune.
Five years ago, Sam was getting some work done on the foundation, and found out that he had rather large basement. He also found a couple of Doctors that had their System Identification Numbers destroyed in the Crash 2.0, which made them non-citizens, locked out of their own homes by expensive security systems they bought themselves. Putting the two together, and Sam's Deli became known as Sam's Surgery and Deli on the street, a place that treated you with only one question, How are you going to pay? Very useful when you have a bullet you don't want to explain to Officer Friendly.
He also kept up in the job of being a spiritual leader to the people around him, even if they were Gentiles. As such, he was the most trustworthy pillar of the community I knew in Seattle. And one that wouldn't raise too many eyebrows with Lone Star if he showed up with a bevy of girls suffering from various things.
The Street Cops knew about the Hospital anyway, and a few owed their lives to it, and was willing to turn a blind eye. There were nastier places that sold people as spare parts, after all. Better to put attention to them than bother with a place that was clean, decent, and made people's lives better. That, and Sam was related to a number of good lawyers.
The former Rabbi had taken care of the girls first, getting a pair of female doctors (Well, close enough) to take care of them while the third doctor on duty, a male Dwarf named McCoy quickly and efficiently cleaned and dressed the wound. He seemed really interested in the modified skin that replaced my old hide after that bomb to the face, and seemed put off when I refused to let him figure out how to replace it. I paid extra on my Doc Wagon account to deal with minor issues like this, and I was sure they would have the equipment required to do it properly, whereas here, it was only a possibility, and a small one at that.
Doctor McCoy had just finished patching me up and was leaving when Sam came in, shaking his head. He looked every inch the Old Jewish Man, enough that he could probably copyright it. He also often put on the accent, and stereotypical mannerisms as well. An act, I found, that he dropped when dealing people who saw through it, like myself.
You really know how to bring problems to a door, Money. He said, talking with a West Coast accent that only had a hint of a Hebrew in it, Most of these girls were Sprawling, risking lives and body for the thrill of being in the bad areas of towns. Kids today, oy! Most of their parents I've already contacted, and are happy to get them. Some... Well, one. One doesn't want to go back at all. And the Corpswoman says that there's a very good reason for it. The Corpswoman was a huge Ork who had learned her trade in the UCAS Marine Corps. A better medic you won't find, and when things dropped in the pot, well, every Marine a Rifleman. She also has had experience in abuse cases that she refuses to talk about, and is the resident expert here.
The sad part of it all is that she's needed. Badly. Sam could use two of her. Or three.
OK, Sam, we'll figure something out. And the one I carried in? I asked, mind already working on a dozen different ideas at the same time.
Her? She's fine after we got a sedative in her. She woke up while being examined and fought. Hard. Reminded me of my niece, really. Still single... He looked at me, knowing that I was a widower. I chuckled and shook my head. Maybe someday I could recover, but it will be a long time coming. Bah, OK. Anyhow, she's doing OK aside from fright and panic. Time will heal those wounds well enough. As for the scare she got, support is what she'll need, and we can't really give her that here, perhaps her family...
She has a Sister. In fact, that's why I did all this, I owed said sister. A lot. I stared deep into Sam's eyes with my mirror-shined golden orbs, almost daring him to press for more information. He didn't, and simply nodded. There's no Angels in the Shadows, possibly none left in the world at all. We all do things only for selfish reasons.
Sam's the closest thing to a White Hat in the world. Most of his profit went into making lives better for people, living only a comfortable life himself, when he could just as easily had a life of leisure. He, my Sister the Nun, and my Wife were the only people whose immortal souls didn't need any worrying about as far as I could figure out.
We moved to the Deli after that, and I had ordered half the menu, and paid for it with a fat Certified Credstick. Told Sam the rest was a Tip. Payment for the girls and my own treatment. Sam would also be looking at a reward or two, most likely. I didn't begrudge him that.
Leaving the Deli, Felix came up to me, wearing only a pair of OR Scrub pants. We had left his clothing with Jet at the Containter. One of the girls hiding behind him, Money. It's done. We owe you nothing now. He stated this with full conviction. There was no question in his voice, just as there was none in my mind.
Paid in full, Felix. It was good to work with you, and hope that we can work together, or have you working for me some other day. I said with a smile. And then bent down to look at the girl.
She shied away from me, then moved forward with a notebook, thrusting it into my hands, and running back to the safety of Felix's legs. My enhanced, digitally precise hearing heard a barely breathed Thank you., and they went off into the dark of an alleyway. I turned to the Deli, seeing Sam nod and smile. He and Felix had figured something out.
Who knows, maybe she'll found a Rome for this Sixth World.
The Jackrabbit felt much larger and emptier with no one else in it. I set the autopilot on to get me home, and started flipping through the book, figuring that it was some girl's sketchbook. I couldn't be more wrong. The first page was fairly normal, if high quality for a young girl, a happy family in a house. Then the art quality decreased, the family not so happy, the house on fire and being bulldozed, with a dump truck full of barrels coming after. Then a series of graves, with the Dad crying over them. Finally, the art became scenes of violence and rage, unfocused or controlled by any sane mind. Then came the horrific items, images that appeared impossible, that hurt the eyes to look at. Shorthand that had the occasional word of rage and hatred, a few pages filled with nothing but line after line of Revenge written in a hurry.
This was not book of a little girl, even an abused one, but that of a mind that had snapped. One that had occult influences, one that was filled with rage enough to communicate with spirits that were as twisted and evil as he himself had become.
After getting back to my apartment, and getting into a nice, comfortable housecoat (With an even more comfortable Colt L36 pistol tucked into a specially built pocket), I got a pot of Soycaff going, and started scanning and cropping a few of the diagrams. I knew more than the average person about magic, but that's really not saying much. Most people learn about magic by watching Karl Kombatmage episodes. And, really, cars don't blow up, guns need reloading, that sort of thing.
But, again, You are your contacts, and I did know an expert in Magic. Professor Zack Tribur of the Michigan Institute of Technology & Magic. Zack was one of those weird contacts that you can't remember where you knew him from. The earliest I could remember meeting him was in Las Vegas, and I don't remember much of the preceding week, but I'm sure we had a good time together with the three prostitutes we woke up in bed with. Still trying to figure out why I would dress up as a clown, however.
It was a half-decade before I even met my future wife, of course.
He picked up the call on the fourth ring, his angry features displaying in the three-dimensional display of the Trid, This better be important! I'm in the middle of research that will turn out to be important to all of Metahumanity! He bellowed. He was secure in his Tenure at MIT&M.
Right, Zack. And how many ways have you figured out there are to skin a cat? I asked, smirking at him.
JONNY! I thought you were DEAD! He cried out, and I mentally kicked myself. Even three years later, I was running into people that I still haven't contacted after that day. Most were hurt about that. Zack just looked relieved. We had that kind of friendship.
Yeah... Zack, I'm sorry, I thought I had told you I was OK. I said apologetically. I had thought that, and then remembered doing so only while in the tank while recovering years ago. It was still a close thing despite the medical technology available. A few years earlier, and I wouldn't have.
Well, wasn't sure that was really you. Things do... Happen around you. He looked concerned, then smiled, But it's great to know you're OK after all! Hey, we got to... Oh Jon. I'm... I'm sorry, my condolences. He sobered as he realized that I wasn't alone in watching that opera. I wasn't alone in surviving it either, but there weren't many more. And my wife and unborn child were amongst the majority.
It's all right, Zack. Look, my bad, been busy with, um, things. I'd leave it at that, Zack maybe not be in the Shadows, but he knew when not to pry, But I'm mostly free now. I'll fly over, and we'll paint the town in Whiskey.
He brightened up with that, and we chatted about various things, mostly his research. He really was working on figuring out exactly how many ways there were to skin a cat, and was just starting on the magical techniques. Government research grants, go figure. Finally, after making plans for next week, I dropped the bomb about needing his help.
Look, Zack, I got something from somewhere, and don't know exactly what it is. I don't like the looks of it, but looks are deceiving. Figured I'd run it by an expert, and your name was first in my mind.
All right, Jon. Send it on over, and I'll look at it right now. A quick transfer of the files complete, I moved off to get the Soycaff while he look at the images I sent. The scans weren't great, I just used my digital eyes, and I had removed certain parts from the files, just in case. Zack himself could work no magic, but could see into the Astral Realm, seeing the spirits of people and things. A useful talent, but one that grated at most people, being able to see magic, but never touch it. He revelled in it, and was an expert in theoretical magic of various practices, and could read someone better than any machine. It also made playing Poker against him impossible.
It only took a few minutes before he was able to piece everything together. Not because the notes were that easy to read, but because he was that good.
Jon. I have to know, where... He wanted to ask, but knew that he'd probably hate the answer. His mood was as sober as a stone, his eyes just as hard as well. This worried him.
Let's just say the original author won't be using it. I want to know what to do with it. Think it could help...
NO! No. Destroy it. Completely. Jon, if this is one of the things you've been working on that's prevented you from calling, then good! Focus on this! No, you must destroy this. I've already deleted the files, and I'll see about getting one of the Computer Geeks here make sure it's blown away completely. Jesus wept, I wish I could do the same with my brain. He took a few deep breaths to regain composure, I'm... I'm touched that you trusted me with this. But it's evil. Very, very evil. The only similar things I can attribute to this is a combination of Blood and Toxic magics, only more so. I know that doesn't make sense, but I do not want to read more into this.
I looked to the right of the Trid, at the gas fireplace set up beside it, I can destroy it, Zack, no worries on that part.
Good, look, Jon. Forget the plans we just made. Finish this. Period. Then call again, you can pay for enough drinks to make me forget this. Sell some shares, because it's not going to be cheap. He hung up the line on that. I didn't understand most of that, but both Blood and Toxic magic were bad things. Even my Grandfather thought so, and he'd seen more forms of Hell on Earth than even I have, watching the explosion slowly move through the crowd, heading towards my beautiful wife...
I shook my head, and lit a fire. It would be a slow process. The fire would destroy the hemp paper, but if I fed more than one sheet at a time, I would likely set off the smoke detector. Well, I had time. Carefully rolling up each sheet into a tube, I fed them into the fire. The story of the monster's life laid before me, the items that weren't magical writings, I read. If nothing else, I could find out who turned him so, maybe extract some revenge for him.
It was near the end when I saw the picture. Women in chains being lead by a sleazy man. The Women were standard, generic women, pretty faces like you'd see in any of the comics. The man, however, the features were unmistakeable.
All the pages were fed into the cleansing fire, slowly, one at a time, rolled into a tube.
All the pages, save one, which was balled and thrown in with great violence.