Unrest and a midnight brawl with cheap corporate hit-men? Now that's Shadowrun!
AN INTRODUCTION TO
a Shadowrun story by Merlee Tomlin
August 24, 2079
Car horns, shattering bottles, moaning, groaning, and people yelling, "Dooooooood," echo throughout every nook of the powerless two-story home as I toss and turn in my twin bed during the midnight hours.
Sleep always came difficult to me but at least living here gave me something to blame it on. Used to live up north with my family till I finally built up the willpower to run away. Tired of that circus lifestyle. The past can stay where it is. I'm looking forward now.
An air horn blows right outside yanking me out of my racing mind. Who the hell even has an airhorn these days? Go back to twenty-nineteen. It continues to blow and Refika, my roommate, an orc too lazy to get a job, screams at something unrelated to my own personal problems. He is jacked into the neighboring house's power and internet, gaming at two in the morning and still gets more sleep than me... bullshit.
The horn blows again but this time it gets louder like it's in the house, so I pull my pillow over my ears to muffle it. My eyes clench shut until the sound softens, and to compensate, the wielder starts blowing it in sporadic bursts being accompanied by laughter that would make the Joker cry.
My roommates and I have been squatting in this house for over a month now and these hooligans have been the bane of my nights since. But I suppose I can't complain. Last house we lived in it was the crickets. And before that it was the peepers. That constant ringing still echoes in my ears sometimes.
Nolan. My name. Could be talking to some other guy named Nolan though. Yeah that's probably it.
Louder this time and the stairs are creaking. My door clicks and pounds to no avail. Locked... sucker.
"Nolan!" It's Zakarias, my other roommate, an elf slash ex-med student who lost everything when his parents died over ten years ago. "Where's my antiseptic?" He asks.
"Hang on. Let me check my antiseptic radar." I nestle myself deeper under my covers.
"Did you check your medkit?"
"Oh my god! Why didn't I think of that?"
I smirk. "Elementary."
"I'm going to kill you, Nolan."
"Hey, I thought doctors weren't allowed to kill patients."
"You're not a patient, now where is my antiseptic, I have a real patient down stairs and he's in real bad shape."
"How bad we talkin'?"
"Just get me the antiseptic!"
Antiseptic is in my bag, so I roll out of bed onto the floor wearing Die Hard pajamas and a white tank top and grab it without opening an eye. I stand up, hobble over to the door, unlock it and hand the entire bag over to him and his pretentious, combed, blonde hair.
"You want to give me a hand too?"
"No," I say, closing the door and slumping back on top of my bed.
"You're gonna make me ask Refika?"
I say nothing. In fact, I start snoring until I hear his footsteps disappear down the hall.
Another peaceful night. That is until the air horn blows once again, and my red, malice ridden eyes shoot open in unrelenting rage. Next thing I know, my covers are flying, my body is cold, my door opens, heels are pounding, down the stairs, a door handle, a gust of frigid air, and my vocal cords start to vibrate.
"One of these days," I shout into the street, "you're all going to die, and instead of tears being shed, confetti will fly and a ballroom will be built on your graves! You're all nothing but stupid, entitled, pieces of shit with no special skills or life worth living! You will all amount to nothing!"
A moment of silence, until...
"Isn't that house foreclosed?" One kid asks.
With nothing left in my arsenal, I slam the door shut and the air horn blares directly at our dark little home and pebbles begin to rattle against the windows. I walk to the living room where I find Zakarias with a headlamp pointed at his patient lying on a tarp on the coffee table. So much for tv dinners.
The man on the tarp appears to be one of the more ravaged patients Zakarias has ever tackled. The entire left side of his body suffers from both lacerations and third-degree burns. His arm looks like his leather coat has melted into his skin, his left eye is shot, and his pants are torn and charred. A gigantic overall mess of a person.
"You give those twats a piece of your mind?" Zakarias asks walking in with a set of disinfected surgical tools.
I feigned a smile. "Gave 'em what for... so where'd you find this guy?"
"You remember Bryan? He used to be a classmate of mine at the Middle-High."
"The fraggin' sour-nose dip-shit?"
"Yeah, him. He contacted me earlier talking about some guy who fell into Lake Dorri right after some crazy explosion preceded by gunfire. I don't know, Bryan's part of some hospital that put camera's up all over the district to make it easier to find victims."
"'Protect thy neighbor,'" I quote.
"Protect thy stranglehold over thou privacy," Zakarias smirked.
"As if they're the only ones who watch your every move."
"Anyway, it helps the public rest easier at night, but the heat on this most likely shriveled their pride and they brushed it under the rug. They suspect underground dealings. Shadowrunners.
"Well, he tells me he wants to help out my small business. Then in his typical douchebag fashion said that no one was more perfectly qualified to handle a patient of such pathetic standing than me. You know, for the cherry on top."
"Swell. You should invite him over." My fingers flex into fists as I analyze the peculiar man unconscious on the coffee table.
"Hey, you gonna be at the shelter tomorrow?" Zak asks beginning an examination of the unconscious man.
"Why not?" He asks stopping what he's doing to look directly at me.
"Dammit!" I shout. "Point that light somewhere else!"
"Sorry," he says looking back at his patient. "But why not? I've been volunteering there for the last week. It's good hearty food, pleasant people and occasionally someone stops by with a proposition. You could possibly get a job and find your way out of this life."
"That place is insult to injury. I don't need anyone's help staying on my feet."
"Says the guy coming back from his little fight club every night crawling on hands and knees."
I say nothing and present a flippin' bird to his face.
"Sorry, dropping it." Zakarias says, snapping a surgical glove onto his left hand and readying another for his right.
I look closely at the singed hairs on his leg and swing my gaze down to his ankle. "Hey," I say noticing an anomaly. "Why is his foot black?"
"You ever seen an overcooked ham?" Zak's second glove snaps into place.
I lean in closer to the man's foot. "No, I mean, discolored, not burnt. Here look at this." I point at a scar where the anomaly seems to be coming from.
Zakarias leans in with his headlamp to see what I, the guy who's not a doctor, could possibly have a question about. Then he leans in closer. Then a little closer. "Uh, Nolan... I don't know what that is."
"What's that again, doc?" My eyebrows rise to meet my scraggly hairline as I speak.
"It appears to be... spreading."
"What do you mean?" I poke my nose down next to his and to my own surprise, I see tiny black and navy-blue veins slowly creeping up to his ankle looking like the ever-expanding Boston highways. "Uh, Zak? Is that supposed to happen?"
"In my experience... no."
"So, what then. These wounds are clearly fresh, and this thing that is creeping up his leg-"
"I don't know." Zak stops talking and reaches for his belt, pulling it out of the loops, letting it whip through the air as he does so. Then he wraps it around the man's calf well above the strange substance and tightens it as much as he can, then points at me. "Grab the iron and plug it in."
I know what that means. Amputation. I'd seen plenty of shit, but even the thought of that makes me queasy.
I walk into one of the empty rooms and rummage through a pile of junk until I find the iron in a box with two toasters. Walking back to the doctor and his patient with the iron in one hand and a toaster in the other, I notice that I had stopped hearing the air horn. Maybe they moved on. Either way, it doesn't change the fact that there is a practically dead guy in our living room about to lose a leg.
"It's in his left hand too," Zakarias yelled down the hall.
Scratch that, an arm and a leg. What could be worth that?
I plug the iron into the wall closest to Zakarias, now wearing a surgical hair cap with his headlamp on top, surgical mask, and magnifying optics, brandishing a bone-saw.
I plop myself onto the couch and begin flexing my hands around the rusty metal of the toaster only to hear someone knocking on the door.
"Ugh," I groan.
"You want to go check who that is?" Zakarias asks turning his headlamp off and speaking low.
"We're not supposed to be living here, so we need to see if it's-"
"You don't have to spell it out for me."
I get up, walk over to the door and peer out the window only to barely dodge out of the way of the flashlight someone is shining inside.
Looking back into the living room I see Zak anxiously waiting for my analysis. "Maybe some corporate owned hitmen trying to finish off your patient," I shout as whispered as I can.
"Nah. Black suit goons. If we wait them out they'll go away."
"What? Are you sure it's not the IRS?"
"At two in the morning? They're clearly after your friend there. Just stay quiet and we'll be fine."
Suddenly, a shiver runs down and up my spine as the house begins to quake from the stomping and screaming of our friend Refika clearly trying to win the award for most impeccable timing. I drive the bottoms of my palms into my eyes and release a groan from deep inside my gut. This just isn't my night.
I sigh and grab the door handle to be greeted by three men taking out a page of Corey Hart's autobiography, wearing cheap plastic sunglasses well after curfew. Two humans, one tall, the other mid-sized and lanky, and the third man is a dwarf, stocky in nature. "Evening," I say, realizing I'm still in my pajamas and tank top and gripping the toaster hard enough to imprint my fingerprint right in the side.
"You know this home is foreclosed," stated the tall one.
I peer over their uniforms to see if they are connected to any particular business. No special indications I can make out. "What happened to getting letters in the mail?" I ask.
The dwarf took a step forward and spoke with an oddly high-pitched Italian accent. "We're gonna need you and any others to vacate the premises."
I stifle a yawn and rub my eyes. "Man. Since when does the IRS send overpaid security chumps to remove squatters from a place that has been vacant for over ten years? Also, why do they even care? No one's bidding on this junk."
The lanky man steps up and pushes me back to see into the house and catches a glimpse of Zakarias and the man on the table. He simply looks at his buddies and nods and then I get a feeling that things are about to become... interesting.
I take a deep breath and feel a sudden warmth splash over my body, loosening my joints, soothing my muscles, and clearing my mind as I take in the situation. That is of course until I see the lanky man step out of the way and my nose is greeted with the bony knuckles from the dwarf.
Direct hit to the schnoz, and my vision goes whack, but I catch him scowling and shaking his hand from the unnaturally tough surface he just punched. Sometimes, even the simple things make me smile.
"Wooh!" I shout as I wipe blood from my nose and shake off the hit stumbling back into the kitchen. "Didn't think I was gonna be in for a bit of fun tonight."
Smiling, I toss the toaster between my palms before launching it directly towards the center of the group nailing the dwarf in the chest. I might have heard a crack or two as well. Next, I grab a chair from the kitchen table and marvel at how light it feels in my hands then smile at the men. "Now be good dogs," I say pulling it back, "and sit!"
I heave the chair at the three men and watch the two humans push off the dwarf leaving him to take the full force of the appliance. Sadly, life ain't like the movies and my chair does not explode in a shower of splinters. All I see is a small crack in the leg where it hit the man's dome knocking him unconscious and both falling to the floor in a series of plumps and kerTAKs!
"Nolan!" Zak shouts from the other room.
The lanky man had stumbled into the living room and is now pulling an Ares Predator V out of his jacket. Oh boy. I look over to the tall one who had the barrel of his already pointed at me. I leap as the gun fires and I land next to the chair that now rests idly on top of the dwarf and grab the back of it pointing the bottom of the seat at the tall guy.
A bullet hits the chair.
I stand up and thrust my shoulder into the lanky one who just fired a bullet into the living quarters where my roommate is quivering.
I toss the chair at the tall guy and turn my focus on the lanky one attempting to shoot the patient, grabbing him by the shoulders and pulling him back sending us both onto the floor.
"Sonuvah bitch!" The tall one yells with a newly formed bruise on the bridge of his nose, courtesy of the chairman. Is that what you call someone who makes chairs? He steps to my side and starts to point his gun at me wavering slightly, but I manage to roll over and pull the lanky man into the trajectory of his gun hoping he has poor reaction. No such luck, and the lanky man elbows me in the gut.
"Urgh!" I groan.
"I got him!" Shouts the one sprawling with me on the floor searching for any kind of advantage. "Just make sure the target is dead!"
The tall man nods and leaps over us with me trying to reach out and trip him, but the lanky guy holds my arm back grappling with all his might.
I try to turn and see what is happening until I hear Zak's pathetic cry for help and see a light turn on along with a shadow of a man holding his hand over his eyes. Then a bullet fires, a curdling scream and the sound of boiling bacon grease fills the room all captured by the light bouncing from side to side from what I can only imagine is Zak and the tall man's interpretation of a tango.
The lanky man's face fills with horror and his arms become stiff and weak. One second to collect myself and I free one arm that soon finds a home in the side of the lanky man's face sending him into a deep sleep and I wonder if that might also help me catch a little shut eye tonight.
"Nolan, look out!" Yells Zak.
Phew, still alive. Not that I'm worried.
I turn to see the tall one stumbling around with an unsavory reddened blistering blotch on the side of his face and his Ares pistol struggling to find anything that might be worth shooting.
"You kids are gonna die," said the tall man trying to line his sights up with my head.
"Hey, Zak," I say. "Remember telling me about that time you tripped someone, and they fell off a dam and hit their head on a rock?"
"Wh-whu, what?" Zak stuttered.
I wrinkle my upper lip. "Huh." I watch the tall man's confused face turn into sheer terror as it starts to descend from his feet being shoved out from under him by an easily mistakable stronger than average kick. His gun fires in a random direction and I watch his lips part and a strangled yelp leave his throat. Down he drops until the back of his head hits the corner of the coffee table with a loud thump leaving him limp on the carpet.
My head hits the floor to find just a little bit of rest, then I roll my gaze back at Zakarias shivering in fear with the blackened smoking iron still in his hands. "I guess someone else told me that story," I said finally. Suddenly the sound of an air horn blares into the open door and a smile as twisted as the tall man's new tattoo spreads across my face. I look at the unconscious patient, then at Zakarias. "You gonna fix him? If so, don't forget to look at his other hand."
Zakarias turned his shaking gaze to the man on the tarp on the coffee table and his originally unharmed hand that now has two fresh bullet holes in it. What are the odds?
Not waiting for any kind of response I remove the lanky man from me and head off to take care of some important business that leads me outside to the middle of the street, coincidentally into the middle of a group of extremely annoying teenagers. When I left that group, I had a couple bruised fists and a trophy that looked shockingly similar to an airhorn that had been sat on by a minotaur.
The door closes behind me and I rub my forehead trying to comfort the fresh aching underneath my skull. I look at the three men lying on the floor either dead or unconscious then raise my gaze to meet the stoic expression of Refika off to take a bathroom break from his games and halting upon witnessing the aftermath of our kerfuffle.
"Nice of you to join us," I say with a great big grin. "In case you hadn't noticed, we're gonna have to move again."