After writing a story based on Jolene’s Hitman RPG, I couldn’t resist doing it again for Jonathan’s Shadowrun RPG, which ran for six or eight sessions, each four hours long, over several months.
So again, this is a group effort. The Shadowrun RPG and module, Jonathan’s witty turn as GM, and our cast of players: Jolene, Mark, AJ, Rob, David and me.
And yes, this one went off the rails as well.
From “Run the Sun,” Jonathan’s Shadowrun RPG
Starring Jolene as Skarlet the Hacker, Mark as Kung Lau the Face, David as Latoya “Scarecrow” Ryan, Troll Bounty Hunter, MK as Trista Ark-of-the-True-Daughter-of-Gaia, Dwarf Shaman, AJ as Hytorsin, Paranormal Investigator and Mage, and Rob as What-What “David S. Pumpkins” Crowe, Street Samarai.
Chapter 1: Working the Room at the Infinity Club
“The only one I thought was worth a damn was Kung Lau. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have hired them for all the nuyen in Miami. And I was right—they fragged the job, big-time.”Darius St. George, Music Promoter
The six people who entered the Infinity Club were too early for the in-real-time cyber DJ, and the ork rock playing in augmented reality was at least two years old. Serious drinkers and obsessive partiers were the only denizens of the club, and they weren’t even nodding their heads to the beat.
First through the door was a skinny man, his hair in dreads. He was young for the scarring and BioWare traces on his arms, but old for his cyber-cloth crop top. After a comprehensive look around, he checked an Ares Predator at the door and walked straight to the bar.
Next, a man wearing a dark blue vat-leather coat that hung to his knees walked in, turned in his weapons, and sidled toward the wall around the dance floor, hooded eyes cast upward, as if searching. Once in place, he quickly gulped a drink and replaced it on a passing tray, then leaned back and closed his eyes, tapping rhythmically against his crossed arms.
A troll metahuman filled the entrance behind him, his hands, face and arms embedded with cyber-gear—not quite a vatjob. He wore a dated sateen jacket and tie combo over his urban camo, and his spiraling horns were tipped with gold. After checking an armload of weapons, he turned to enter the club.
The troll bouncer stopped him with an arm the circumference of a mid-sized alligator. “You can’t bring that in here.” He pointed to the lizard skin-wrapped tomahawk hanging from the other troll’s waist.
“What do you mean? That’s a tribal symbol!”
The bouncer shrugged. “That just for you ‘glades trolls.”
“Give it up, Scarecrow, we won’t be here long,” said the fourth member, a dwarf with long, shiny black hair, intricate silver bracelets and too many earrings. She surveyed the club, her eyes shadowed from partying, but a close observer would notice that her dark skin showed an even tan against her silver lamé dress.
The first four had melted into the crowd completely by the time a stunningly charismatic Asian-adjacent man jandered into the club, surrendering his pistol casually to the bouncers while chatting up the coat-checkers. Clubbers involuntarily drifted into the man’s orbit, their smiles star-struck.
Behind him, a fragile-looking woman focused entirely on AR sight stepped over the threshold and froze, as if she would rather not stay. A micronet bodysuit covered her from chin to palms and ankles; its unrelieved black passed for clubwear. She neither noticed nor met the eyes of any meat, but a flicker of long lashes suggested she recognized several acquaintances in AR.
The Asian man brushed through the club kids easily, smiling and laughing on his way to the bar. There, he ordered a drink and introduced himself to the bartender.
“Kung Lau plus five, for Mr. Johnson.” Without waiting for an answer, he turned away and leaned against the bar, watching the sprinkling of dancers on the floor. “Anything in the astral, Hytorsin?”
The elegant man in the long blue coat mumbled. “Nothing to worry about.”
“Corps everywhere,” said the woman by the door. “But they’re not looking for us. You don’t need me here.”
“We all come to the interview, Skarlet. That’s the agreement.”
Skarlet grumbled, but said nothing more.
“All I can say is, this Mr. Johnson better be ready to pay up,” said the skinny man. “The family don’t like it when I go independent, so this needs to be worth my while.”
Kung Lau’s eyebrows raised, but at that moment, the bartender motioned to the stairs and said, “Blue Room, party of six.”
All six of the group headed for the stairs, leaving their drinks. The skinny man’s hand moved reflexively toward his hip; the troll flexed his fingers meditatively.
Skarlet entered last, wincing as the door to the rest of the club closed. The room was shielded, both electronically and astrally; Hytorsin and Skarlet took up positions on either side of the door.
The others took seats opposite the room’s prime occupant, a well-dressed troll with chiseled features.
“Welcome,” he said, “I’m Mr. Johnson.” He put air quotes around ‘Mr. Johnson,’ emphasizing what everyone knew. It was a standard designation.
Skarlet concentrated for a moment on his face, then let her gaze unfocus.
Kung Lau introduced his team by their jobs. “Smiley told you who I’m bringing.” He pointed to the two by the door. “Combat mage and hacker,” he waved at the dwarf and the troll, “shaman and hunter,” and shifting his gaze to the skinny man, “street samarai, and me. What can we get paid for?”
Mr. Johnson nodded, paused, and then said. “We want you to acquire a pre-Crash music minidisk. It was stolen from my client. Buy it, or if you can’t, get it back for us in some other way.”
He explained that his client wasn’t happy to lose this valuable property, and was willing to negotiate rather than risk losing it altogether.
The skinny man said, “Where was it when it was stolen?”
Mr. Johnson shook his head. “I’m afraid that’s confidential.”
“Is it marked? How can we identify it?” asked Kung Lau.
“It’s old. It’s stolen. There can’t be many of them,” said Mr. Johnson disparagingly.
Kung Lau steepled his elegant fingers together. “And the pay?”
“Ten thousand on delivery.”
Kung Lau examined his buffed nails. “Fifteen up front, plus expenses.”
Mr. Johnson sighed. “We’re being generous here. I don’t think you’re right for the job, anyway. What do you know about music?” His eyes shifted toward the other troll and back to Kung Lau.
The skinny man said, “Frag it all, Jethro, I ain’t got time for this puss foot! I’ve got bigger fish to fry.” He started for the door, at which Mr. Johnson held up a very clean, very large, hand.
“I’m well aware of your connections, Mr. Pumpkins, and I won’t waste time haggling. Five thousand now, seven thousand on delivery, and we’ll cover the disk.”
After a quick glance at his team, the Face said, “You’ve got a deal, Mr. Johnson. Is there anything else you can tell us? A music minidisk isn’t much to go on.”
Mr. Johnson was already standing. “It’s sentimental music files my client would be sorry to lose. Oh, and destroy any copies. That’s all I have for you.”
As he started to leave the Blue Room, the hacker tapped her comm link significantly.
Mr. Johnson stopped, tapped his own link, and flung the results toward her. “Sorry. Guess I’m new to this game.”
Chapter 2: Playing Through in Hollywood
“I don’t remember frag, and I’m off the novacoke for good. That’s what my cyber lawyer says.”Jäger, Former Head of Security at Nabō™
“Darius St. George. That’s his real name,” announced Skarlet over her commlink.
It was midday the next day. Kung Lau and What-What, aka, Mr. Pumpkins, were just waking up, the others had been investigating for hours.
“Which corp is he working for?” asked the dwarf, Trista. She hated the corps, though she’d found herself working for them more often than she liked since she’d arrived in Miami.
“Pretty murky. Horizon owns the Infinity Club, but Darius is a low-level music promoter. This might be just what he says, a personal commission.”
What-What snorted. “Not with that kind of nuyen on the barrel. He’s up somebody’s ass.”
Skarlet cleared her throat at the interruption, then continued in the same flat tone. “Word is that Shangri-La, Horizon’s ork rock label, is interested in a rumor that ‘something old is back.’ It’s thin, but they might be looking for this minidisk, too. Or they might be the ones that hired Darius to find it.”
“In that case, darlin’, I’ve got something worth jawin’ about. Lone Star chief up in Hollywood got a ‘don’t respond’ order down at the warehouse for next couple nights. That’s in your neck of the concrete, Trista. Heard anything?”
“Nothing. Though I’m not exactly dialed in.”
While they talked, everyone could hear Skarlet humming tunelessly, a sure sign that she was deep in research. Sure enough, she soon had something to add. “That ork rocker Nabō who runs with the Black Fangs is talking about a ‘little thing’ he’s doing tomorrow night.”
Kung Lao chipped in. “Sounds like a concert on the down.”
Skarlet wasn’t finished. “Nabō tridded yesterday, ‘Got a word, halfer trying to sell some drek. Scoring nuyen off the dead, oughta be geeked.’”
Trista broke in. “I’m running down the pawns, trying to find a player for the minidisk, when we get it.”
Hytorsin, silent until now, offered, “Never hand over anything you don’t know what it is.”
“Exactly. Besides, you have a player, might have a minidisk, right? So, all I could get was that there’s some hacker bar called the Tube Ray, the guy didn’t remember, but someone was looking for a player, and he pointed the guy there. Might be our thief.”
“You know that hacker bar, Skarlet?” asked Kung Lau.
“We don’t all know each other.”
There was a brief pause, and then What-What returned to the most pressing subject. “We gotta find out who sent that word.”
“The concert would be the easiest place to pull Nabō’s comm,” said Kung Lau. “When should we meet?”
After dark, the group reconned Hollywood’s warehouse district, pinpointing the location of Nabō’s illegal concert by the surreptitious movement of sound gear and alcohol into an unused building just off one of the primary streets. As promised, Lone Star presence was notable for its absence.
They were able to pick out the head of security easily. Skarlet identified him as Jäger, an ork meta with a penchant for novacoke. He was able to perform his work, though several of the hired security he was in charge of openly questioned his authority.
In an alley not far away from the venue, the group lounged around Trista’s Toyota pickup, Hytorsin and What-What using their motorcycles as chairs.
Kung Lau leaned against the truck. “Jäger’s going to have direct access to Nabō once the guy arrives. I can take over his identity and get the rest of you into the venue tomorrow night.”
This was the less well-known reason Kung Lau was called The Face. He could morph into another person with terrifying ease.
Scarecrow spoke suddenly. “Then we need to get him off the streets tonight. Once he’s in the middle of a concert, we won’t get close enough to take him out.”
Kung Lau stared at Scarecrow as if struck. “That’s… a good idea, Scarecrow. You’re right. We’ll have to lure him out tonight with his favorite habit. Anyone got novacoke on them?”
What-What coughed. “Not me, that stuff’ll core you. But I’ve got some contacts.” With that, he jumped on his motorcycle and left without another word.
“Jäger’s not going to trust a norm,” said Kung Lau, gesturing to himself. “Scarecrow, you can get into the warehouse tonight as part of security—it’s all orks and trolls. Once in, tell Jäger you have a novacoke connection.” Over comms he added, ‘What-What, we’ll meet at the old Miami Lakes Golf Club a few blocks from here once you’ve scored the nova. Scarecrow will bring the mark.”
Scarecrow looked doubtful. “Jäger’s not gonna trust me.”
“No, but he’s an addict, so you won’t have to sell it hard. Just compliment him on his security setup, then mention it casually. You get him to the meeting—I’ll take it from there.”
An hour later, the stage was set. Kung Lau was standing alone in the middle of what used to be a well-manicured eighth hole green. The rest were out of sight; in Skarlet’s case, the cab of Trista’s truck.
Scarecrow and Jäger arrived on foot, the troll practically dragging Jäger by the elbow.
“I don’t think this is such a good idea, friend,” said Jäger, his head pivoting back and forth across the darkened greens. ‘I’ve got a concert to deal with tomorrow, and I promised Nabō—for sure this time—that I wouldn’t let the habit keep me from doing my job.”
Scarecrow was out of his depth. He gestured one shockgloved hand reassuringly in front of them and pointed a flashlight with the other. “You can keep it for later. Just meet the dealer. Look, he’s waiting for us,” he said as the flashlight’s narrow beam played over Kung Lau’s handsome features.
“Whoa!” said Jäger. “A norm?”
Kung Lau stepped forward and into the argument smoothly. “Hey, I’m just selling here. No pressure, if you don’t want some of this fine nova. It’s my own blend—longer high, better drop. By tomorrow morning, you’ll be sharp as a devil rat’s claw.” Kung Lau held out the packet of novacoke invitingly.
Jäger leaned forward, interested despite himself. “Doesn’t turn you into mush?”
Kung Lau, committed to his role, dipped in a long finger and held it up to his nose. “Would I do this if it did?” and took a mighty snort.
His effort backfired.
Jäger backed away. “No, I just gotta stay out of it. I’ve got the Black Fangs to deal with if my work goes south on this job for Nabō. I’ll look you up later.”
As he stumbled away, Scarecrow reached out a hand and gave Jäger the shock of his life, holding on until he was out cold.
Kung Lau sighed, but only said, “What are we gonna do with him now?”
Over comms, What-What said, “I might know a guy…”
The next night, Kung Lau, transformed into a simulacrum of Jäger through magic and the ork’s stolen clothes, showed up late. The Black Fangs security contingent threw ‘Jäger’ suspicious glances, and while it was true that he wore the tell-tale signs of a nova hangover—dark circles under his eyes, a tendency to quiver at loud noises—Kung Lau had rested quite enough to restore his natural charisma. In a few minutes, he was ordering the guards around officiously and unnecessarily.
Scarecrow entered the club after a discreet interval, and began working the show, checking barriers and placing porta-potty signs just as if he was getting paid for the night’s work. The guards recognized him from the night before, and were incurious.
In a few minutes, ‘Jäger’ called Scarecrow over. “You—take over at the door, and tell the guard taking tickets to work the parking lot.”
As the evening rolled on, What-What arrived, and ‘Jäger’ put him on the curtain, replacing the concert’s regular guard, whose loud complaint at the loss of this prime spot drew more attention than Kung Lau liked, especially when What-What, in character as his fake SIN, introduced himself.
“I’m David S. Pumpkins, ya’ll! Don’t you know me? I’m the best thing to happen to security since the Lone Star! You just sit back, man. I’ll take care of everything.”
This sally did nothing to sooth the guard’s injured pride, but after ‘Jäger’ berated him soundly, prompting the other guards to break into laughter, he slunk away to his new post at the porta-potties.
Kung Lau followed What-What, and once they were out of earshot, he said, “Now we’ve only got backstage to deal with.”
It was almost showtime. At the door, Scarecrow and the regular guard took copious bribes to let ticket-less hopefuls into the warehouse, surpassing pre-Crash fire codes by the hundreds. Hordes of concert-goers were already high and beginning to get restless when an ork stepped from behind the curtain and approached the mike.
“Nabō is in the house, motherfraggers!” he said, raising his arms for applause.
The crowd went ballistic, surging forward so quickly that even the ork on stage took a step back. Quickly, he scanned the wings, and his eyes lit on Jäger. “What the frag, Jäger? You trying to get Nabō geeked? Get it together!”
Kung Lau, as Jäger, shrugged and nodded, heading toward the front of the warehouse. As soon as the man disappeared behind the curtain, he went back to What-What. “Hystorsin will meet you. I’ll keep the others out while you two lift Nabō’s commlink.”
Slipping backstage, What-What looked up in time to see Nabō’s frontman move upstairs. Hytorsin appeared next. Over comms, What-What told him to follow him after two minutes. “Time enough for me to ingratiate myself with Nabō’s crew.”
Kung Lau heard this and said, “Nothing fancy, What-What. Find the comm, lift it, and get it to Skarlet.”
Skarlet broke in. “Jäger’s getting messages from everyone. The crowd’s starting to unravel. I’m sending messages that convey that Jäger’s breaking down under the pressure and the novacoke.” Jäger’s comm had been mostly unhelpful, but at least Skarlet could use it to keep the concert humming along like an overloaded tank gun.
What-What snickered. “That boy’s gonna need a new identity, if he ever finds his way back.”
“What did you do with him?” asked Scarecrow, from his post at the door.
“Who, me? He’s just enjoying some local hospitality, is all,” said What-What as he opened the door to Nabō’s private dressing room. “Is everything perfect in here, or what?” he said loudly.
Over comms, the rest could hear Nabō’s rich and practiced voice say, “What the frag, dude? You high?”
Taking his cue, Hytorsin slipped backstage. A couple of comparatively sober citizens tried to follow him, but to Kung Lau’s relief, they were immediately yanked back by the crowd.
In Nabō’s dressing room, Hytorsin found What-What entertaining the rocker and his best crew with a story.
“…as sure as I am David S. Pumpkins, the jim-jam was up on that juice. I never saw her again, but I heard she got a part in the holo-remake of Tropic Thunder. She was something else.”
Hytorsin slid along the wall toward Nabō’s bag—it was easy to spot, because it had the man’s name on it in rhinestones—but the handle was under the toe of one of his crew. He needed more of a distraction than What-What’s story about his fake self. He caught the skinny’s man’s eye and nodded toward the bag.
What-What took the hint. “My man here reminds me that we ought to drink a toast to your success.” Grabbing a pair of glasses and opening a bottle of schnapps from the drinks cart, he swooped toward the rocker with the bottle held out like a weapon. The two Black Fangs members reflexively jumped between them, but at the last minute he pulled back and swung the bottle in an arc, pouring the peppermint alcohol over and into the two glasses. “Your guys are on a hair-trigger, Nabō, and me just offering some of the wet stuff.”
With all eyes on What-What, Hytorsin was able to flip the bag open and ease out Nabō’s commlink in one smooth motion. While What-What poured more drinks, he waited calmly, as if he had not just stolen a commlink.
As soon as he finished his own drink, What-What stepped out of the dressing room and down the stairs, catching Hytorsin as he exited. “You got it?”
“Yep. I’ll take it to Skarlet.”
Skarlet interrupted. “Not out the back you won’t. The rest of Nabō’s Black Fangs crew is out here waiting for him in a half-dozen Limo-Vees. They’re about six meters from the door, and they’re gonna harass anyone who comes out.”
Trista said, “If you can open the door, I can get it from you.”
Anticipating that she might have to enter the warehouse, Trista was dressed as Barbie the club girl. Leaving the truck, she made her way quickly to the back of the warehouse, switching to a very different walk as she got into view.
Swinging her hips and holding a burner commlink in front of her face, she strolled past the Black Fangs, prompting a flutter of windows and doors.
In a moment, the warehouse door opened and What-What popped out of the back door. “You better get over here and give me some sugar!”
Looking up, Trista smirked and made a show of rushing into What-What’s arms, still holding the commlink.
One of the Black Fangs leaned out of a limo. “Who are you? This door isn’t supposed to be open after Nabō is in the house.”
“Me? I’m David S. Pumpkins, of course. And can’t you see, I’m just getting a little sweetness from my shrimp delight!”
“I am nobody’s shrimp!” Trista said, following it up with a slap, hard enough to leave a mark. The Black Fangs laughed.
“A little salt makes it all the sweeter!” said What-What, as Trista ambled away, her focus back on her commlink.
Once Trista was back in the truck, Skarlet said, “You made the trade?”
“Yep. But they’re gonna have to leave by the front door after that. Those Black Fangs aren’t going to be fooled twice.”
Scarecrow broke in over comms. “I don’t think so. The party’s gone over the top.” He turned up the gain on his mic, and they heard sounds of screaming and the thunder of feet.
Kung Lao confirmed. “I can’t get to the front door. Someone’s crashed a car through the wall near the entrance, and the catering bar is on fire. We need an exit.”
Trista put her truck in gear and eased the Toyota as close as she could get to the corner of the warehouse without being spotted. “It’s going to attract unwanted satellite attention.”
“Just do it,” said Kung Lau.
Jumping out of the truck, Trista went to the corner, making sure of her target, then called out, “Ziota, spirit of air, I command you: create a cloud to confuse these who oppose us!”
A multi-colored cloud snaked away from Trista, then spread out, covering the back door and oozing its way into the waiting Limo-Vees. Shouting and noise came from within and doors opened, only to be left hanging as Black Fangs stared in every direction but the warehouse.
Trista sighed. “Done. But I feel like I painted a target on my head.”
Under cover of the sparkling cloud, Hytorsin and Kung Lau, sans Jäger, spilled out, Hytorsin running for his motorcycle while Kung Lau followed Trista back to the truck.
They crowded into the cab just as the whole truck bounced. Scarecrow had skated over and thrown himself in the back. His tap on the roof deflected the metal.
As Trista drove out past the back of the warehouse, the confusion cloud dissipated. They saw What-What pop out of the back door; behind him, a coughing Nabō stumbled out to the waiting limos.
“That cut it close, What-What. We’ll meet up in the morning,” said Kung Lau over comms, then leaned back against the seat and closed his eyes.
Chapter 3: Unplugged at the Cathode Glow
“No comment.”Eric Young, Owner of the Cathode Glow
The next day, Kung Lau slept off the effects of hours in another man’s skin, Skarlet filleted Nabō’s commlink, and Trista performed a ritual to force Ziota the air spirit to work with her again.
It was afternoon before the shadowrunners regrouped. They met over comms, the early risers commenting on the news of the day.
Suppressing a laugh, Hytorsin said, “So it looks like you’re famous, What-What!”
“What?” said What-What in a tone unlike his usual drawl.
“My bad—not you. All the trids are saying David S. Pumpkins saved Nabō from being burned and/or trampled last night. There’s no picture…”
“I don’t know what the family’s gonna say. How in the bowels of hell did this story get around? Did you have something to do with it, pixie?”
Hytorsin answered, “Not my sort of thing, What-What. Also, not an elf.”
Trista coughed politely, then said, “You were pretty upfront with your SIN, What-What, and you ran out the door right in front of him.” Skarlet snorted, but said nothing. Trista cut her comm, coming back on after a minute.
What-What sniffed. “I mean, we ran out the door together. That’s hardly the makings of a rescue scenario!”
Kung Lau decided this was a good moment to call the meeting to order. “So what did you find, Skarlet? Was the link worth the trouble?”
“The email was in his trash. It refers to music by a ‘legendary dead rocker’ and offers Nabō the chance to bid on it. He obviously thought it was drek. I also got a haul of contacts and tickets we can use for trade: Luna from the Night Sisters, Stiletto, that cybersports troll The Boulder, and an agent named Ludwig von Ceep. But the best lead is that the offer came from a wannabe hacker called Zipper—very sloppy work. She’s going to be at the Cathode Glow tonight.”
Trista added, “That’s the real name of the Tube Ray, so we can make it a double—talk to the owner about the minidisk player, shake down Zipper.”
“We’ll meet at the Cathode Glow, then see what we can find out,” said Kung Lau. A slight noise from Skarlet prompted him to add, “We need you. None of us speak hacker.”
When the shadowrunners assembled outside the Cathode Glow, Skarlet eyed the others with pity. “Your ICE is pitiful. I’m upgrading you—it won’t stop a hacker, but it will keep you from getting punked for fun. Seriously, how are you people not corpsicles by now?” She let her eyes travel over the Scarecrow and What-What’s cyberware. “Particularly you two.” She did something with her commlink, and they all saw their links reboot.
Kung Lau opened the club’s door wide and walked in, exuding natural confidence. Skarlet trailed behind the others.
She found her fellow runners in the middle of the bar, looking around in consternation. A few figures hunched over vintage games around the edges of the main room, and a bar sat untended along one wall. There was barely any sound or movement. Even Kung Lau looked nonplussed.
“Switch to AR,” hissed Skarlet. “This is a hacker bar!”
One by one, their avatars popped up. Ghosting around What-What was a bipedal blue shape.
“This is embarrassing. What-What, you didn’t even change the default!”
Awkwardly, they shifted their avatars. Trista’s morphed into a 1920s flapper, Hytorsin chose a Ghostbuster, while the others selected up-to-date images to correspond with their appearance.
As soon as they lit their AR, another dozen people showed in virtual attendance. The still figures at the games conversed animatedly, laughing and betting over their play. In physical reality, the bar was dull and muted, but in AR, it was alive with color and sound, most of it vintage. Avatars ranged from a strange orange circle with a cut-out pie shape, to a creature with a turtle shell and a mask.
“Those games are prehistoric!” said Hytorsin.
“You can still play them in meat here,” said Skarlet, “but somebody’s done a good job of wiring them into AR.”
“I’m game,” said Trista. “Maybe I can get someone to chat.”
“I’m going to find out what they drink around here.” With that, What-What headed to the bar, where an elf bartender had appeared.
Skarlet lifted a hand slightly in the direction of the booths at the back. “Zipper’s over there, hanging out in meat with her friend Aero.”
Kung Lau, Hytorsin, and Scarecrow saw an Amerindian dwarf dressed in metal-studded black, sitting across from a similarly dressed human girl.
Skarlet zoned out for a moment, and Zipper’s eyes turned toward them. “She’s expecting us.”
Hytorsin drifted away, saying, “I’ll see if I can locate the owner. Maybe they’ve got something in the astral.”
Kung Lau and Skarlet walked over to Zipper’s table and sat down.
The dwarf looked nervous. “You said you’d come alone.”
In the physical, Skarlet simply stared at the girl. In AR, her avatar tossed her head. “I said I wouldn’t bring anyone. Who comes of their own volition isn’t my business.”
Kung Lau took the moment to smile, exerting his considerable charm. “I’m just here to make the trade go smoothly, ladies.”
Aero snorted and turned away, but Zipper smiled back. “Well, I don’t know what you want. I don’t think I’ve got anything to trade, really.”
Skarlet got down to business, still operating in AR where no one but Zipper, her companion, and the shadowrunners could hear her. The booth was sound-deadened, but she trusted her own tech. “You sent an email to Nabō about a minidisk for sale. We want to know who’s selling it.”
Kung Lau reacted involuntarily. He hadn’t expected the hacker to use so little finesse.
Zipper reared back. “What? I didn’t do… I don’t know who that is. I was just doing a favor for somebody.”
“If you were doing a favor, you know who it was.”
“I owed him money. I don’t have any part of it otherwise.” The dwarf was looking nervous again, and Aero was beginning to shift toward the edge of her seat. She couldn’t leave without getting past Skarlet.
Scarecrow moved a step closer, recognizing the signs of an imminent fight.
Skarlet’s eyes flickered around the table, then settled on Zipper. “We can trade for the info. We only need a name. You like the Night Sisters, right?”
Zipper perked up. “Oh, I love them, especially Luna!”
“Well, you can have her private number… for the name of the not-friend you sent the email for.” Skarlet held out her commlink. “We can trade over comms simultaneously. No trace, no bugs.”
Zipper leaned forward hopefully. “You won’t tell him it was me, will you?”
Skarlet smiled. “I’ve never even heard your name.”
Zipper nodded, began swiping through her contacts, and then waited while Skarlet manipulated her own comm. “You ready?”
Zipper flicked a finger, then squealed. “It’s really her number?”
“Right up until you call her, it is. Don’t waste it.” Skarlet stood up and moved toward the bar, where What-What was warming a stool.
The others drifted over.
Hytorsin said, “There’s a door at the back, hidden. Probably the owner’s place.”
Trista sighed. “I lost a few bets listening for information, but I might as well have been in the Awakened Ozarks for all I understood.”
Just then, a middle height older human came out of a discreet door at the back. He surveyed them with amusement for a few minutes before coming over and saying to Skarlet, “I saw what you did to my friend Zipper.”
Skarlet narrowed her eyes. “Just a tiny trace. I like to know who I’m doing business with. It won’t hurt her—she might even learn something.”
The owner shrugged. “She probably could use it. Punching over her weight, I think.”
Skarlet nodded in acknowledgment, but said nothing further.
Kung Lau introduced himself, then said, “We wanted to talk about a minidisk player from before the Matrix Crash you might have experience with.”
The bar owner gave his name as Eric Young. “I have some from a few different eras. I’m probably the only one in town—they had to be extensively repaired. Come on in back, I’ll show you.”
What-What carried his drink with him. “Has anyone else asked about one of these rare bits?”
“No one has talked to me about them besides you.”
“How much?” asked What-What.
Young looked him over casually, then smiled. “You can’t afford it, but when you find the disk, bring it to me. I’ll play it for you.”
Chapter 4: Corps Behind the Koda Club
“David S. Pumpkins? He talks right, and he’s a hero for giving Nabō another day, you know? Yeah, we tight.”Hook, King of the Trashers
The shadowrunners arrived at the Koda Club in Little Haiti not long after dark. The club was owned by Zipper’s contact Kerwin Lumas at the pleasure of the Trashers, a Haitian gang. Skarlet stayed in the Toyota, and King Lau saw no reason to argue. A hacker’s only good while warm and dry.
The dive was well-filled even so early, but the bar was abandoned, with three or four gangers looking impatiently for refills.
Taking the lead, What-What asked the whereabouts of Kerwin Lumas in letter-perfect Haitian.
An ork stood up and towered menacingly over the skinny man. “I’m Hook. Who’s asking?”
What-What threw out his bony chest and crossed his scarred arms over it, in an attitude of defensive strength. “David S. Pumpkins, Esquire. My firm,” here he threw a comprehensive glance at Hytorsin, Scarecrow, Trista and Kung Lau, “has an opportunity to discuss with him.” As he turned back to the Trashers leader, What-What was slightly appalled to be greeted with a full-teeth grin.
“David S. Pumpkins? David S. Pumpkins! The bloodbrother who risked his life to save Nabō!” He held open his arms to his fellow Trashers, who looked on obediently. “It’s David S. Pumpkins, fraggers! He’s looking to do Lumas a turn!”
“Lumas must not have gotten the word,” said one of the thirsty gangers. “He lit out of here like his bar was on fire.” He waved toward the deep reaches of the club, past stinking toilets and an office with a broken door.
What-What, leaning on Hook’s goodwill, asked, “Would he go home?”
“Doesn’t have one. He pretty much lives here.”
Scarecrow, interpreting correctly that their quarry had escaped out the back, asked in English, “What’s behind the club?”
After eyeing the troll suspiciously for a moment, Hook answered, “An old junkyard. He’s used it before to shake a tail.”
Kung Lau said something low into his comm, while What-What thanked Hook and the mix of ork and human gangers in a combination of Haitian and rude hand-signals that seemed to please his audience.
Trista leaned over to Scarecrow and whispered, “Let’s see if we can cut off his exit.” To the others, she said, “We’ll meet you outside.”
She and Scarecrow ducked out the front and scouted for an entry into the junkyard. Over comms, Skarlet said, “There’s a hole in the fence a half block to the west.”
Putting a hand to her Colt Manhunter, Trista trotted quickly toward the gap, but Scarecrow beat her there. Seeing her hand on her weapon, he said, “I don’t know about you, but I think we want him alive. Hard to talk to a dead guy.”
Trista pulled her hand away, but shrugged uncomfortably. “I got a bad feeling, is all.” As she slipped into the junkyard, she fell onto all fours, and said, “I’ll hunt him as a wolf. He should be OK as long as he doesn’t run.” Her smile was particularly terrifying as her mouth extended into a wolf snout.
Scarecrow watched Trista’s wolf form slink away down a row of smashed up vehicles, and then looked around for Hytorsin, who had followed them out of the club.
“I’ll check out the astral if you’ll watch my back,” he said, settling against the remains of the fence.
Scarecrow took up a position where he could watch both the battle mage and the place where Trista disappeared, activating his roller skates for quick intervention. When the shaman got a bad feeling, there was usually something bad about to happen.
Over comms, he heard What-What and Kung Lau talk low as they cleared the eastern-most rows. He couldn’t see them, but he followed their progress easily by their reports.
Hytorsin shook his head to clear it and pointed to the northeast. “I’ve seen him! Just broke cover at the corner, end of the first row. I think there’s a gate.”
A shot rang out across the junkyard, and Skarlet said, “A squad of corps just showed up. So far, eight haircuts—I’m taking out their comms.”
An exclamation from What-What was followed by a volley of shots. “I winged one, but he wasn’t aiming for me—I think they’re trying to take out Lum—”
Skarlet interrupted him, “It’s getting hot. There’s a corps mage in there with you, so watch your backs; I was able to hobble their leader’s frequency, but their hacker is good. It won’t last long.”
Scarecrow, with a nod to Hystorsin, slipped into the shadows and began to skirt the towering piles toward the northeast.
Hystorsin said, “The troll’s going for our target.”
Falling back to the fence, Kung Lau gestured to Hystorsin. “Everybody out. I’m going to call in reinforcements.” With that, he disappeared through the gate leading to the Koda Club, followed by the sound of more gunfire.
“I’m trying to get out!” said What-What. “Don’t know they’re going to let me.” More shots followed, and a scream came from the northwest corner.
Hytorsin stayed near the gap, hands at the ready in case the fight moved his way. In a moment, he was rewarded by the delivery of a limp but groaning body.
Scarecrow said, “Take Lumas to the truck. I’ll go back and find the others.”
He was headed toward What-What when the samarai said, “I’m at the northeast gate. You got Lumas?”
“Yep. But Trista’s MIA,” said Hytorsin.
Scarecrow veered left toward the corps, where he’d seen the wolf last. He sniffed, using his cyber senses to search for the dog, finally locating her in an unnatural circle of darkness. He cringed—corps mage. A shot rang out behind him, and then he heard the shouts of orks and humans.
The Trashers had arrived to protect their turf.
The dog, he was pretty sure, was in the center of that hellish blackness. He couldn’t hear anything but two fast heartbeats and harsh breathing. He skated forward, holding out his cyber gloves, ready to catch or crackle, as the situation warranted.
He felt a furry body under his hands and yanked hard as it resisted his grasp. There was a gurgling scream, the blackness instantly lightened, and then he rolled out the other side with the wolf-shaman slung over his shoulder, skating toward the scrap wire fence. He shouted, “Where’s this fragging gate?”
As the others tried to guide him, he turned his unoccupied shoulder toward the fence. “Never mind. I’ll make my own.”
After making sure their prize wasn’t bleeding out, Kung Lau drove the truck back to Hollywood with Lumas sitting between himself and Skarlet.
In the back, Scarecrow had thrown Trista into the truck still in wolf form. It would take her a bit to come back to human, and even then, she was drenched in blood.
She wiped at her mouth. “Yuck. Corps juice.” She glanced at the troll. “You think I killed her?”
Scarecrow shrugged. “No idea. I just grabbed and ran. You’re the one who ate her.”
“I couldn’t let go. Once I’m a wolf, I’m not great at changing direction.” She grimaced uncomfortably. “I didn’t intend to kill her. I was just holding her down.”
Inside the truck, Lumas whined, “What the frag do you want with me? Are you Kens? I don’t have nothing the corps want.”
It didn’t take an empath to tell the man was lying, but Kung Lau used his charm to sooth him. “Kens? No way. We just saved you from them. A little gratitude? Your man Hook asked us to help get you out of trouble. You’ve got something the corps want, and I think we can take it off your hands.”
The man shook his head stubbornly. “I don’t have anything.”
Kung Lau pulled in just as Hystorsin and What-What arrived on their motorcycles. “I can live in hope, can’t I?”
The shadowrunners took their guest up to Trista’s apartment with enough noise to suggest a good party, covering Lumas’ complaints that he was being kidnapped by crazy people. Once inside, they closed the windows and turned up the music. Trista headed for a shower, leaving the others to handle the subtleties.
Once they’d seen her in the light, no one tried to stop her.
Kung Lau sat across from Lumas. He said in a concerned tone, “How are you? Can we get you something for that?” He pointed to the man’s shoulder, which was oozing blood through the makeshift bandage they’d twisted over it.
Lumas shook his head sharply. “No, I’ll be fine. Just let me go home.”
“Maybe a drink?” said Kung Lau, ignoring his request.
“No, no, I’m fine.”
“I just want you to be comfortable. You’re going have to stay here a pretty long time if you don’t have the minidisk, because if you go out there, it’s pretty clear the corps are going to have your head.”
Lumas’ eyes popped open wider at the mention of the minidisk, but he started shaking his head and just kept doing it. “No. No, I don’t have the minidisk. The corps don’t have anything on me, and neither do you. I haven’t done anything wrong, and whatever I have is mine.”
Kung Lau smiled slightly as Lumas completed his defense.
Hystorsin, who had been out of Lumas’ view for the first part of the interview, shifted into range. The graceful combat mage was casually juggling three balls of lightning.
Lumas sat silently, his eyes following the performance, until Kung Lau spoke again.
“So, if you’re really the owner, we are offering a fair price—a thousand nuyen now, a thousand once we’ve verified the contents. Plus, we’ll immediately put out word that we have it. The corps will leave you alone.”
Lumas looked from Kung Lau to Hytorsin and back again. He swallowed once or twice, sweating, and then finally broke. “My old man was K-Spot, JetBlack’s manager. This is supposed to be the last thing he ever recorded before he overdosed. It’s the only thing I got from my dad, so I gotta make it count.”
Hystorsin released the three balls into the air, where they dissipated in a glitter of sparks.
“JetBlack? I remember hearing him. My gran loved that old emo rock.” Kung Lau leaned back on the couch, patting one hand to his chest. “Respect for your dad, Lumas. Respect.” Then he pulled out his commlink. “If you have it on you, I can turn over the first half of your payment right now.”
Lumas reached into an interior pocket and pulled out his commlink and a mylar sleeve with words scribbled on it, handing them both to Kung Lau. “I don’t have a player for it, but I know it’s important. My dad hid it til the end. It’s real.”
“We know, Lumas.” With a flourish, Kung Lau gestured from one commlink to the other, completing the transaction. “It was a pleasure doing business with you.”
As soon as he got his commlink back, Kerwin Lumas sprinted for the door and bolted.
Holding the disk sleeve up to the light, Kung Lau read its words aloud. “Carrion Studios, ’48. JB. For enlightenment, seek out absent friends.”
Chapter 5: Nested Inside Carrion Studios
“No, we don’t have a pest problem. That’s just a rumor.”Stan Lasky, Carrion Studios Historian
Skarlet was the last one to show up at the rendezvous. The others waited for her to arrive before they entered the Cathode Glow.
Trista said, “Word is that Jäger was captured by Lone Star last night. The corps are charging him with violating the peace and endangering useful citizens.”
What-What looked the other way.
Trista continued, “They found him wearing a burlap sack, walking on the old Tamiami Trail. Nobody has any idea how he avoided the tribes and the meta-pythons.”
What-What shrugged. “Maybe he’ll turn over a new leaf.”
Just then, a Rolls Ryce slipped up beside them. Skarlet hopped out of the back. Her eyes were shadowed from lack of sleep, and she kept one hand over her face as she ducked into the Cathode Glow. The Rolls Ryce flashed its ground effects twice and drove away with a highly-tuned whine.
It was early for the club, and only a few avatars stood, sat or floated in front of the ancient video game consoles.
Eric Young met them. “I saw your word on the net last night, Skarlet. That’s bold, hinting to the corps that Lumas is no longer in possession. Why’d you do it?”
Skarlet glanced at Kung Lau. “Somebody made a promise. Keeping promises is good business.”
“Right up until promises get you gutted,” interjected What-What. “Still, the Trashers are OK, and they’d hate to lose their club.”
“What about your client?”
“Verifying authenticity is all part of our white glove delivery service,” said What-What. “Let’s get this party started.”
Eric waved them into the back room. “After you!”
Once they had arranged themselves around the oldest minidisk player, Kung Lau produced the disk and handed it to Skarlet, keeping the sleeve to flip between his fingers while they waited.
The result was disappointing. A tinny sound emanated out of the player, overlaid with electronic moans and scratches. But while the others sighed with frustration, Kung Lau leaned forward excitedly. “That’s JetBlack, all right! But what’s wrong with the disk? Is it damaged?” He looked at Skarlet, who waved a hand dismissively.
“That’s music encryption, really old school. But those can be the worst.” She flicked her gaze toward the door, where a polite Eric had excused himself after they paid his reasonable two hundred nuyen fee. “Maybe Eric will help me cobble together an interface for this thing.”
So, while the others took a break in the Glow, Skarlet and Eric tried to hack the decades old, bespoke encryption algorithm.
Finally, Skarlet called them back in. As they took their seats, she pushed a button, and they heard the first thirty seconds of a song in low but audible quality, then it went to noise again. She paused the disk and said, “I can’t break any more layers of this encryption. It’s got a failsafe—if I make the wrong move, we’ll lose everything. There are seven songs that don’t match any of JetBlack’s recording history, and they’re all like that.” She resumed the recording, and they listened to all of the songs.
Kung Lau shook his head in disbelief. “It’s a whole JetBlack album, and we can’t get to it. It’s got to be worth a fortune.” He raised his head hopefully. “Is it a magical encryption?”
Hytorsin slipped away, his eyes drifting up to the heavily baffled ceiling, and then refocused. “No magic at all.”
What-What shrugged. “We can sell it to Darius as is. Nobody said we had to crack it.”
Hytorsin asked, “What about the note on the sleeve? Is that a clue?”
Kung Lau held up the sleeve and quoted it again. “For enlightenment, seek out absent friends. It’s got to be. Nobody encrypts something without a way to decrypt it.” He paused for a moment while they considered the question.
“I spent the rest of last night researching Carrion Studios, where this was recorded in forty-eight,” said Skarlet. “There’s drek for music history from before the final Matrix crash in sixty-four, but the studio building is still there, even the sign—it’s a long shot, but maybe we can find out more in the flesh.” She pronounced the word flesh like it was unpalatable.
“So we go?” said Scarecrow from his position sitting on the floor. The room was small for a troll.
“We go,” said Kung Lau. “But we don’t take the disk with us. The Kens are looking out for us now.”
After making a deal to secure the minidisk in the Cathode Glow’s well-insulated back room, the shadowrunners took the long drive down to the old South Miami industrial district, where the cavernous building that once housed Carrion Studios still stood. The old Carrion sign was faded, and below it, a much more modest label said Healy Productions.
The door was unlocked, and inside, a bored-looking receptionist was playing CyberFarm on her comm. She looked up with a start when they arranged themselves in front of her. An old ork janitor leaned against the wall nearby, taking a break.
What-What introduced himself, producing an old-fashioned plastic business card from his pocket and presenting it. “David S. Pumpkins and friends. We’re filming a trideo about old Carrion Studios, and we’re hoping to ask questions, take a look around.”
The receptionist’s expression brightened. “David S. Pumpkins! Nabō’s cyberknight!”
Hystorsin laughed and said, sotto voce, “Looks like your cred precedes you!”
What-What flashed him a glare, but kept his voice sweet. “That’s right, it’s me, so you can bet I’ve got some backing for this trid.”
The girl picked unconsciously at the overlay on her nails and said, “I don’t know anything about that. I’ve only worked here for a few weeks.”
At that, the ork janitor stepped forward. “A trid about Carrion Studios? I’m the guy you want to talk to—I was engineer for the studio back in the day!”
What-What turned away, and the receptionist went back to her game.
“Engineer? Perfect! You can tell us all about the studio in its heyday—when they were recording that famous ork emo band, you know—“ Kung Lau snapped his fingers as if trying to remember the name.
The ork grinned, showing the loss of several teeth. “JetBlack! Yeah, him, the Buff Skeletons, Orange Sunshine—even The Shadows. JetBlack was tight with the lead singer of The Shadows.” He checked faces to see if they were impressed. “I’m Lasky, B-T-W, Stan Lasky.”
The shadowrunners all professed deep interest, and Trista took out her comm to record, as if they were indeed making a trid.
Stan wasn’t deterred by their lack of gear. He began a tour of the crumbling remains of the studio, which was mostly empty, and his stories, which were empty as well.
But he’d already given them important information, and Kung Lau followed up on it. “JetBlack was friends with The Shadows?”
Stan winked. “More than friends, I’d say, with the lead singer. Can’t remember her name.” He continued, “The Shadows weren’t a real big deal, then, just a local band.” He threw open a door to a large room that was entirely draped in cobwebs, mold, and darkness. “This is the recording booth. Everything from Carrion got thrown in there.”
Unlike the other places he’d shown them, Stan didn’t step into the room, he didn’t even look in, keeping well away from the open door. He said, “That’s about it, unless you want to see the loading dock.”
“Maybe we could take a look in the recording booth? This could be great for our trid. Lend it the vintage flavor everyone’s looking for,” said Kung Lau.
Stan grinned delightedly. “If you can clean it out, you can have anything you find. Just throw what you don’t want in the loading bay.”
As Kung Lau nodded his agreement, Stan scampered back to his work, saying, “I’ll just be in the front office if you need me!” He was gone before they had a chance to ask him anything else.
Hytorsin raised one eyebrow. Kung Lau shrugged. What-What put a hand on his gun, while Scarlet stepped back a few feet.
After that, everyone but Skarlet spread out in the room, shifting the boxes and look for clues. Scarecrow moved what they’d reviewed and discarded out to the loading dock.
Ten minutes passed in which the worst of it was dust and mildew. Sensitive to such things as shamans sometimes are, Trista wrapped her all-purpose scarf around her face, and promised herself a thorough scouring.
As they worked, they heard the worrying sound of a large, fast creature rustling through the boxes at the back of the room. As they got closer to it, they paused more often to listen, and to loosen weapons in holsters.
Suddenly, What-What shouted, “Something just tasted me! I swear, if that wasn’t a tongue, I’m a keeb.” He glanced at Hytorsin. “Sorry, Hytorsin. Just something my grandad used to say.”
The creature uncloaked for an instant as it was flying through the air toward a crouching Trista, revealing wrinkled white skin and a hairless tail as long as a jump rope. She knocked it away with the box she was holding, and it blinked out of sight.
Hytorsin growled, raising his hands, which began to glow and spark. “Still not an elf, What-What.” Then he added, “Devil rat! At least that explains the magic I assensed.”
In seconds, the runners (sans Scarecrow and Skarlet) were ranged back to back, holding weapons or preparing magic. Their eyes scanned the dark room, searching for the telltale shimmer that was a devil rat uncloaking.
What-What, sweeping his Ares Predator in an arc, said what they were all thinking. “They’re a lot bigger than I expected.”
What-What was the first to fire a shot, but even that solid hit didn’t slow the rat down. It flashed in and out of view, first on one side of the room, then the other, searching for an opening. Suddenly, two appeared at once. The runners fired, but missed as the rats retreated.
Scarecrow appeared in the doorway, “What’d I miss?”
As he spoke, a third devil rat flashed in front of him, three-inch long teeth razoring down the cyberimplant on one arm. Instinctively, the troll grabbed the animal with his other shockglove and gripped it.
Next, Kung Lau’s agility paid off, dodging one rat while landing a sharp blow on the second one. It cloaked imperfectly, allowing Hytorsin to finish it with a ball of lightning. The smell of burnt vermin filled the air.
As Kung Lau and What-What took aim at the third rat, Scarecrow shouted, “No! Don’t kill ‘em!” but his objection wasn’t enough to stop the inevitable. The last rat was struck a stunning blow and blasted apart with prejudice by a square hit from the Predator.
“No…” said Scarecrow, clutching the unconscious body of his own rat.
What-What leaned toward him, holding out a hand. “Need some help with that?”
Scarecrow pulled the rat behind his back. “No! I’ll put this one in a crate and release it outside the city.” He glanced at the shaman. “You’ll take me to drop it off?”
Trista nodded with only a tiny eyeroll. “Yeah, we can do that.”
Behind the remains of the two devil rats, the runners uncovered a dozen acid-free boxes filled with demo reels and studio tracks. Some were destroyed by the rats, but most were intact. Only a few had labels.
Trista peered at one and read, “Delphia, sound engineer… Delphia, sound engineer… Hey, didn’t that guy Lasky say he was the engineer for Carrion Studios?”
Kung Lau bent over the box. “I don’t see his name on any of these. It’s just Delphia. Lots of bands, too. I mean, not big names, but somebody might want them.”
What-What agreed. “They’re not recording any more pre-Crash music. This could be real swag.”
As if by magic, Stan Lasky appeared in the doorway, covering his broken fang with a hand to hide a grin when he saw the blood and guts. “A little trouble?”
The four runners eyed him balefully, but when Kung Lau spoke, he sounded perfectly friendly. “More fun than trouble. Say, you know anything about this Delphia on the labels? Was she the engineer after you?” Kung Lau emphasized his question by shaking a box.
Stan’s grin faded as fast as a devil rat’s cloak. “We were here at the same time.” He eyed the many, many labels. “I wasn’t in it for the likes. I was a real a-fiction-ado.”
There was a small pause while the runners nodded understandingly, then Kung Lau repeated, “You know anything about her now?”
Stan sneered, his broken fang making the expression more impressive. “I heard she ended up a real BTL-head. Might still be alive, but I haven’t heard anything since she chipped out.”
While Kung Lau and Stan were talking, Scarecrow had gathered up all the intact music boxes and carried them to the loading dock. Trista left with Skarlet to get the truck, both of them glad to get out of the building.
Shortly, Kung Lau, Hytorsin and What-What left Stan Lasky to clean up the dropped rats and met the others in the loading dock.
Scarecrow secured the last of nine boxes in the bed of the Toyota Gopher, then hopped in with them, holding the devil rat crate under one arm. He banged on the truck’s cab. “Ready.”
Chapter 6: See No Evil in the Reef
“First, they showed up looking like a go-gang. Next time, they jantered into the Reef wearing prom gear.”Kevin Moon, Hialeah Lone Star
It was mid-afternoon when the shadowrunners returned to the Cathode Glow. Eric Young was the only contact they knew—and trusted—who could utilize the music they’d disinterred.
And they weren’t wrong. Surveying one box, Eric pushed the unmarked disks aside to pick out one in a jewel case with a picture of a tall woman wearing blue dreadlocks and cyber tattoos. “I remember her—the singer for The Shadows. They used to play the Ball & Chain in Little Havana. She was a real smokeshow..” He slipped the disk into his pocket. “I think I’ll keep that. The rest, what do you say to a percentage of profits on sales? Fifty-fifty?”
Kung Lau hesitated, but agreed. He didn’t have the connections to get the most out of this kind of paydata.
While the others were making deals and liberating devil rats, Skarlet pushed the net to the maximum looking for information on Delphia, the late lamented JetBlack, and the lead singer of The Shadows.
She had unearthed something useful. From the Toyota, she tapped in over comms. “Lasky had one thing right. Delphia, as far as anyone knows, is a Better-Than-Life chiphead. She’s been seen at Hanover Place Apartments near the edge of the Seven Storms relief center.”
Hytorsin responded. “The Reef. Great. If we’re going there, I say we go in daylight, while we can see our killers.”
“What do we think she’ll remember?” said What-What. “She’s got to be sixty, with decades hooked on the beetle.”
Kung Lau shrugged. “We’re not finding out by sitting here. Let’s get going.”
They entered the Reef through Hialeah, where Lone Star patrols favored their vehicles being intact when they returned, and where Hanover was only a few blocks from the border.
The threat of a summer storm and the unsavory location meant they were able to park within view of the massive steel gate that marked the boundary. The guard, a Lone Star lounging in a shock-shack facing the Reef, looked surprised when they appeared, but said nothing as he touched a few buttons and waved them past.
Crossing into the Reef was like stepping over hell’s doorway. The streets were taken over by squats, garbage, and junk vehicles. Most people hurried past without meeting their eyes. The exceptions were several young children who followed them immediately. One dwarf boy, older than the rest, did little to hide.
When they arrived at Hanover, there was nothing to tell them where they were but the shape of the building, recognizable from satellite. No signs survived, and shacks clustered tightly around it obscured the facade.
The older boy slouched up to them and said, “Why you here?”
Kung Lau considered him seriously. “This your place?” He cocked his chin at the building.
The kid nodded, once. “Ours. What you want?”
“We want to ask Delphia about JetBlack and Carrion Studios.”
The kid tilted his head toward his shoulder, listening to something over comms, then pointed at Kung Lau. “She’ll see you, the haunted one, and the dwarf. The plugins,” here he nodded at Skarlet, What-What, and Scarecrow, “gotta stay outside.”
Skarlet glared at Kung Lau, while What-What growled slightly. Kung Lau waved them off. “How could I know? Secure our exit. I don’t think this will take long.”
The three unwired runners followed the dwarf boy up three flights of stairs to the top floor. Six doors led off the landing, but once inside, there were no interior walls remaining. Dozens of makeshift bedrolls were pushed against the wall, and the remains of one apartment kitchen and bathroom seemed to serve all who lived there. In the sweltering heat, the place reeked.
Trista’s nose wrinkled, but she didn’t pull up her scarf. Kung Lau and Hytorsin showed no reaction.
Seated on a massive and deteriorating couch, a thin woman of uncertain age watched them silently as they approached. Eventually she said, “You found the disk.”
“You know about it?” asked Hytorsin.
Delphia’s lips twisted. “I recorded it, didn’t I?”
Kung Lau’s voice took on the cadence of professional negotiation. “Then you know what we’re looking for.”
Delphia turned toward a window that was so thick with dust and dirt that it barely lit her face. “JetBlack was the best artist we ever saw at Carrion, and that was his last—and best—album. It’s like he knew he was going to die.”
“Some people say he died in an accident, but others claim it was a drug overdose. What do you think?”
Delphia didn’t answer Kung Lau’s question. “I know what you’re looking for. The decryption. I don’t have it, though.”
“Do you know who does?”
Delphia’s eyes lazily drifted over the empty room. “I do, and I’ll give it to you. But I need a favor first.”
It was dark by the time the runners assembled outside the Lotus Flower Card Room in South Beach, wearing their club gear. Compared to the Lotus’ usual patrons, however, they were dressed for prison work release.
The Lotus was members-only, which in practice, meant Asian and magic only. Some said the Yellow Lotus Triad ran it, but that was mostly a stereotype. No one really knew, but the one thing they did know: don’t show up uninvited at the Lotus Flower Card Room expecting a warm welcome.
Skarlet stayed in the Toyota, parked in front on Pine Tree Drive. What-What and Scarecrow, sweating and overdressed, remained on guard. They were all aware, though, that there was little they could do if the favor went south.
Kung Lau led the way inside, first through an unmarked and unlocked door, then past a series of seven patterned silk panels, each more finely woven and plainly decorated than the last. The final curtain was pure white, and so sheer they could see the expression on the tall, black-haired elf who awaited their arrival.
He spoke Chinese, asking their business.
Kung Lau responded in the same language. “Please inform Mr. Chen that we’re here to pick up a package for Lady Blue.”
The man looked the three of them up and down, a slightly pinched expression around his mouth. Trista smoothed out her dress under that supercilious gaze, but Kung Lau stayed cool.
“Passcode?” said the man, after he finished with his visual frisk.
Kung Lau hesitated briefly.
Over comms, Skarlet said, “Delphia specified that you have to see Mr. Chen.”
Kung Lau said, “I was told to give that to Mr. Chen only.”
The elf’s eyes flickered over the three once more, and then he waved them into the club’s elegant vestibule. “Wait here.”
As soon as they stepped forward, their comms dropped out.
It was like being deafened.
Immediately, Hystorin launched himself in the astral plane.
Vaguely, he could perceive spirits of air, fire, earth and water patrolling the club, but the guests were cloaked perfectly. He could perceive that the club ran deep under the sand, into the limestone bedrock, but he was in the dark about its inhabitants.
When he tried to reach further, he heard these words. ”Lotus flowers grow tall out of the rotting carcasses of curious children.”
Hytorsin’s eyes popped open, and he shuddered visibly.
“You look sick. What happened?” asked Kung Lau.
Hytorsin squared his shoulders. “An ancestral spirit. Warning me to keep my assensing to myself.”
Trista, who was preparing to call Ziota, let out a nervous breath.
Kung Lau held up his hands, palms out. “I think we should just wait. It might be all we can do.”
They didn’t have to wait long. Another man, human this time, appeared as from nowhere and bowed from the neck. “I am Mr. Chen.”
Kung Lau bowed more deeply. “An honor, Mr. Chen. Lady Blue sent us to retrieve her package.”
Mr. Chen waited patiently.
“The passcode is Abbey Road.”
Mr. Chen produced a tiny, expensively wrapped box from his pocket and handed it to Kung Lau. Then he turned and walked back into the club, his form almost immediately invisible.
Trista whistled approvingly.
Hytorsin glanced up. “It’s time to leave. The ancestor is impatient.”
The runners drove straight to the Reef. It was almost midnight by the time they passed the Lone Star guard, and still hot. Watching them walk through the gate that he opened only a crack, the Lone Star grinned.
Scarecrow yanked at his tie.
Trista said, “Hey, at least you’re not wearing a metal dress. This thing chafes.”
As before, they were followed by a horde of children.
Skarlet said, “Why are these kids excited to see us?”
What-What shook his head. “Don’t want the answer to that question.”
At Hanover Place, the dwarf boy from earlier met them and escorted Kung Lau, Trista and Hystorsin up to the noisome apartment. The other children stayed below.
Delphia waited for them on the same couch. Her eyes glimmered in the sparse lighting. “Let me see it.”
Kung Lau stepped forward and offered her the box.
She opened the wrapping quickly, lifted the lid on a tiny stone box, and pulled out a BTL chip. She said, “The person you need is Marlee Bremerton, ex-lead singer of The Shadows. She lives somewhere in Miami Shores—she hates to be seen, though.” With that, Delphia waved them away, as the dwarf boy drifted toward her.
Kung Lau led the way out.
Downstairs, even more children had gathered. What-What’s hand twitched, hovering over his Predator, as the children—completely silent—walked up the steps and into Hanover Place.
Trista brushed her hands down her arms, shivering.
As the shadowrunners headed toward Hialeah gate, no one looked back.
Chapter 7: Following a Shadow in Richmond Highlands
“The donuts were stale, Scarecrow!”Diana Ricks, Miami Shores Lone Star
A welcome rain, a real frog-strangler, gave the shadowrunners an excuse to sleep in the next day.
What-What reinitiated comms. “Rise and shite, ghouls and wights! It’s time to play haunted house.”
“You’re a bit cheerful for this early in the day,” grumbled Trista.
“Being generous always makes me cheerful. Turns out, the family got a bounty when they turned Jäger in. They got paid, I got paid, and now, ya’ll get paid. Cha-ching!”
As nuyen appeared on their commlinks, the others observed an appreciative silence.
After the party broke up the night before, Skarlet’s research had pointed to Marlee Bremerton living in a Richmond Highlands mansion bought around the time of the Crash by a shell company. Though employees were listed, no one was ever seen to enter or leave. The mansion was infamous, and the locals avoided it—will-o-the-wisps were spotted at night, and laughter sometimes floated down from the roof.
“I can meet in an hour to stake it out,” said Hytorsin. His occult background made him the only runner excited about this aspect of the job.
“Miami Shores is A-rated, and we’re going to sit outside, staring at the place? The Lone Stars are going to come down on us like a meta-python on a newborn devil rat,” said What-What.
Scarecrow coughed. “I’m friends with a Lone Star in Miami Shores. She might be willing to give us some uninterrupted time if we don’t start anything.”
“Perfect. You get her the word, and we’ll see you in an hour,” said Kung Lau. “And speaking of A-rated; Trista, run the Toyota through a vibro-wash. That Gopher looks like it lives underground.”
Far more than an hour passed before Scarecrow rolled in on his skates. He hopped in the back of the newly polished Gopher and collapsed dramatically, shaking the cab’s three occupants.
Opening the back window, Kung Lau said, “What the frag? We had to move around the neighborhood a half dozen times to keep the professional busybodies off our backs.”
Scarecrow, his shoulders resting against the tailgate, said, “Ricks said I had to buy her these special salty donuts she likes. I had to skate all the way to Wyndwood.”
While they talked, Hytorsin and What-What joined them in person. Hytorsin said, “I’ve been assensing, and I can’t get in. The place is well-warded.”
What-What added, “Also two security drones and a three-meter fence, for those who like to stay inside their skin-bags.”
“I’d have to astral project to learn more,” said Hytorsin, “but I need to clear it with the Order. This is an edge case.”
The others nodded or rolled their eyes, depending on their tolerance of authority. Hytorsin’s Order swore members to just use, a phrase What-What had been known to interpret as just use it.
This time he kept his gator shut, while Kung Lau asked the important question. “How long?”
Hytorsin shrugged and took a walk. The others watched for stray Lone Stars who’d not been appeased with salty goodness.
They were surprised when Hytorsin returned almost immediately. “The Order agreed, it’s time for someone to take a look. This place has been off the astral map for decades.”
“They’re curious,” said Kung Lau.
Hytorsin didn’t answer.
Kung Lau turned to What-What. “Keep an eye on his meat wagon.” Trista had found a hidden parking spot on a side street, and a troll on roller-skates wasn’t exactly low profile.
Back on his motorcycle, Hytorsin found a stable position crouched over the handlebars and opened the bike’s interface to lend his act verisimilitude. To a passerby, it would appear as if the bike stalled, and he was evaluating the problem.
He relaxed and looked within.
In moments, the mage felt the fleshy snap as his astral form left his body. He was experienced, and took only the slightest pleasure in the freedom.
Approaching the mansion, he drifted to the decorative gate and floated over it politely, rather than passing straight through the fence. On the other side, he hovered over the front walk to take in the scene.
The house had been built at the beginning of the previous century, when the number of windows and the depth of porches signaled the size of your bank account. The porch was twelve feet deep and each side of the house was punctuated with ten windows. On the porch, a long-haired cat with extra claws lounged on the rail, staring at him. He’d experienced the feline sensitivity to spirits, so he wasn’t surprised.
Three ghosts were clinging to the physical realm. The first was a bearded man working in the front garden. The second was an elf leaning over the roof deck rail, her long hair swinging as she moved her head to a beat. Both of them paid Hytorsin little attention, but the third was a little boy, seven or eight, who watched him eagerly while kicking grass near an azalea bush in full bloom.
Hytorsin eased over to him, keeping a careful eye on the other two spirits. He asked, “What’s your name?”
The boy looked down at his feet, which were bare and filthy, like all Florida children. “Jacob. What’s yours?”
“Hytorsin. Do you stay here?” He didn’t say live. Formerly living spirits could be sensitive about the L-word.
“Yeah, the lady whose house this is takes good care of us.”
“Do you mean she can see you? Like I do?”
The kid was confused. “She’s real, but she can see us any time she wants. She’s special.”
Hytorsin realized the boy didn’t know he was a living person, not being able to see his body slouched over the motorcycle. He didn’t correct him. “What about the others?” He nodded to the man and woman, who were watching him now. “Are they happy here, too?”
The boy shrugged. “I guess so.” He concentrated on his toes, digging into the dirt. “You want to play hide and seek?”
“In a minute. Does JetBlack stay here, too?”
But the boy was hiding, and being a ghost, doing it well. Hytorsin could only make out a wisp of his blue jeans against the white railing of the porch.
The bearded man suddenly appeared in front of him. The man’s expression was unfriendly, and his words vibrated with anger. “Get back into your pulse-pot, mage. We take care of our lady.” He reached out a hand toward the azalea bush, passing it through the mass of flowers. It left a swath of dead blooms in its wake.
Before Hytorsin had a chance to press his case, a voice from within the house called out. “Let the mage in, Hemingway. And his friends, too, before they draw attention to our oasis.”
At a nod from Hemingway, Hytorsin withdrew into his body. After a moment to reorient, he called over comms, “We’ve been invited in. I suggest good behavior.”
Inside, a human servant showed them into a comfortable, old-fashioned parlor. Once they found their seats, Scarecrow on the floor, a beautiful woman in dreadlocks and cyber tattoos entered the room.
It was Marlee Bremerton, looking much as she had thirty years before when she posed for the cover of The Shadows minidisk. At least, it was a projection of her.
“You’ll have to forgive my appearing as a hologram. This is the only way I see people these days. Can I have anything brought for you? The bar is well-stocked.”
Skarlet, scanning the room for projection tech, spoke up. “We’re here for a decryption key. But if you have the code for this projection algorithm, I’d take that, too.”
Marlee clapped her virtual hands. “You found the disk! Did you bring it? I’d love to hear it again. Those were good days.”
Kung Lau answered her. “The disk is safe, but we have a copy of what we decrypted.”
Marlee nodded. “That’s perfect. Let’s go to my studio.”
She left so quickly that the runners scrambled to follow.
Down a corridor, up a flight of stairs, and through a soundproof door, they came to a state of the art—current state—recording studio. Guitars, drums, horns, and keyboards were arrayed around the space, some in cases, others hanging on the wall or lying on chairs, like the musicians were gone only briefly.
Marlee’s hologram gestured to the soundboard. “Send the files here, Skarlet, my dear. Copies can’t be decrypted, but we can enjoy what’s there in full Matrix-surround, the way it was meant to be heard.”
Kung Lau nodded—they had to take the risk. Skarlet sent the files with a few taps of her fingers.
Marlee ‘operated’ at the soundboard, and as the music began to play, Skarlet examined the room again, looking for the source of this amazing tech.
Each file played just thirty seconds, then Marlee skipped to the next, cross-fading so that it sounded intentional and playable. She kept time with her toe and sang along with the lyrics. Her voice was beautiful, though they had no way of knowing if it was real or cyber-real.
As the seventh clip fell into silence, Marlee laughed. “Oh, I couldn’t have enjoyed that more.”
What-What said impatiently, “How much do you want for the decryption? We’re on the clock.”
Marlee’s expression changed comically. “Oh, I’m sorry if I misled you. My key was destroyed during the Crash. The only other one was JetBlack’s.”
“Do you know how he died?” asked Kung Lau. “The stories are contradictory.”
“K-Spot handled the spin, and he never told me the truth.”
Hytorsin asked, “Have you ever seen JetBlack’s ghost?”
“Never. But I’ve seen his tomb at Miami City Cemetery.”
Chapter 8: Dead and Alive in Miami
“They paid me like they said they would, even though the disk was damaged. That’s all I know—except that JetBlack is still alive and so is Elvis!”Kerwin Lumas, Owner of the Koda Club
The runners left Marlee’s mansion no more enlightened than when they arrived. They decided to drown their troubles in authentic organic Cuban food; they had to skirt around Gladeview and The Reef, but the City of Miami boasted the best Cuban restaurant in the world, Versailles.
The decor, however, was questionable—their table was a piece of old signage that said DISN,with an up arrow.
Only after food and drinks did they discuss their next step.
“Seek out absent friends might mean JetBlack himself. Could he have been buried with the decryption key?” asked Hytorsin.
Before anyone answered, all of the group’s commlinks lit up at once.
It was a conference call. A pleasant, robotic-sounding voice said, “You’re invited to a meeting at Miami City Cemetery with the executors of The JetBlack Trust. Be at the tomb in one hour.” And then the call ended.
The group was silent for a long moment, then Scarecrow commented, “It will be dark by then.”
Skarlet tapped her commlink a few times and said, “JetBlack’s tomb is located in the southern quadrant, between the Tuttle memorial and Temple Israel. It’s a nice address if you’re dead…”
Hytorsin finished her sentence, “…but a dangerous one if you’d like to keep living. I heard that the Lone Stars tried to clean out the feral ghouls a few years ago. Not many survivors.”
“The question is, should we go?” asked Kung Lau.
What-What shrugged. “We could still hand the disk over to Darius. Let Shangri-La or whoever he’s working for deal with the decryption.”
Trista shook her head slowly. “If this trust for JetBlack’s estate is legit, we could be opening our SINs up to a lawsuit by refusing to meet with them. If corps lawyers are torpedo sharks, copyright lawyers are megalodons—a job I did for the Florida Tribal Alliance involved the rights to Jimmy Buffet’s catalog.”
Kung Lau rolled his eyes. “You can’t even hum Margaritavilleanymore without paying a kickback to the Alliance.”
“Exactly. Copyright lawyers.”
“So we go,” said Kung Lau, meeting the eyes of his cohorts around the table.
Miami City Cemetery was barely a mile away as the flamingo flies from the restaurant in Little Havana, so the runners arrived early.
In daylight they wouldn’t have been able to slip into the cemetery through Downtown Miami without a funeral, but after dark, the Lone Stars weren’t so concerned about would-be tomb raiders. They rightly believed that the tombs could take care of themselves.
Still, the guard needed some excuse to let them pass. They found the woman, an ork, parked across the entrance, watching a trid on her Lone Star commlink.
Kung Lau decided to offer a combination of plausible deniability and light bribery. He walked up to her open window with his hands clearly in view. “Nice night. The rain really tamped down the dust.”
The guard paused her trid with one hand and put the other more firmly on her Predator. Even in a triple-A rated sector, Miami wasn’t kind to the unarmed. “The humidity works for me. What’s brought you to the house of the dead tonight? Is there a party?” Her eyes flashed as she took in the Toyota Gopher and two motorcycles that waited for him.
“My friends and I were passing by on the other side of the cemetery, and saw someone destroying property, opening a hole in the fence. They dropped this” —he handed her a hundred nuyen credstick— “which could be evidence.”
The Lone Star reached up and stroked one tusk. “I guess it would take me no more than an hour to check that out.”
Kung Lau smiled his most charming smile. “Maybe a little longer.”
Without further discussion, she slipped the credstick into her breast pocket, put her Ford Americar in gear, and was gone.
As Trista parked the Gopher out of sight, What-What commented, “That was easy.”
Hytorsin retorted, “Easy in. Let’s see how easy it is to get out.”
The pedestrian gate was barred from the outside, but unlocked. Leaving Skarlet in the truck as usual, the runners entered one at a time.
Inside, Hytorsin put one hand against a sturdy monument shaped like a winged angel and began assensing the cemetery. He stayed in the astral for only a few seconds, and shook it off with a shiver. “Ghouls. And ghosts. But mostly ghouls.”
“Any coming our way?” asked What-What, sliding his Predator from its holster.
“The ghouls are still in the Temple, for now. The ghosts are all around.”
Even Trista, who commanded nature spirits, looked around uneasily, but the runners continued to fan out, moving stealthily toward the location of JetBlack’s tomb.
A few minutes later, What-What said, “Found it.”
Scarecrow said, “I can see you from here.”
“Hytorsin, are you with him?” asked Kung Lau.
“No, I have you in sight.”
“Well, then, who the frag is that?” he said, as a tall slender figure in a dark coat rose up. “What-What, watch your six!” Kung Lau pulled his weapon and advanced into the clearing around the tomb, and Trista began to call up Ziota. Hytorsin prepared to ascend into the astral, arranging himself behind a solid gravestone.
The tall figure raised a hand and said in a smooth, feminine voice, “Kung Lau, this isn’t a great way to do business.”
Hearing her over comms, the runners waited to launch an attack. But no one lowered their weapons.
Skarlet said, “They aren’t using any frequency I can track. They came out of nowhere.”
“There was no one but ghouls and ghosts here when we arrived,” said Hytorsin. “I’d swear it.”
The tall figure was a pale woman, elegant and slightly dissipated in appearance, dressed in all black. Beside her another woman stepped forward into the clearing.
“I’m Risa, an attorney for The JetBlack Trust,” said the tall woman. Waving to her companion and continuing her gesture in a half circle behind them, she said, “Our mage, Sinna; the others prefer to remain anonymous.”
“How did you beat us here? You weren’t on site when we arrived,” said What-What.
Risa stared pointedly at his weapon. “I hope you understand that if I can do that, a gun isn’t going to be much protection.”
“So you’re threatening us?” said Kung Lau. “I thought you said this was a business deal.” Still, he waved his hand downward for the others to lower their weapons.
Risa nodded. “It is. We can assure you, the Trust is the rightful owner of the disk you’ve so ably located, whatever others may say.”
“We’re not lawyers, and we’ve been paid in advance to deliver. Perhaps you could litigate this with our client.”
The woman turned slightly toward Kung Lau, her eyes boring into his. “We’d so much rather not. How would it be if we paid you and your friends 30,000 nuyen as a finder’s fee for the disk, plus 5,000 each to reimburse you for reputation damage?”
Kung Lau tapped a word onto his commlink: Yes?
Five responses came back, and Kung Lau silently indicated to Skarlet to retrieve the disk. He waited until she was on her way to the Cathode Glow before he responded to Risa. “My colleague will expect us to signal before she delivers the item.”
Risa smiled. “Very good. Trust should be earned.”
At that moment, a projectile sang past Kung Lau’s ear, straight at Risa.
It must have narrowly missed her, because she pulled out a weapon and shot in the direction of the Temple, saying, “It’s Shangri-La!”
A formation of drones flew in from the east, firing in all directions. Kung Lau instinctively ducked behind JetBlack’s marble tomb, but one of the drone projectiles grazed him across the thigh. Fortunately, a medglue patch was enough to staunch the blood. He could have sworn Sinna was hit, too, but she didn’t react.
What-What doubled back toward the Temple, firing as he ran in a zig-zag pattern.
Hytorsin’s palms began to glow, and soon, balls of lightning chased the drones, throwing off their aim as they tried to maintain altitude and mission without catching fire.
Scarecrow, closest to the parking lot, shouted, “Their rigger is over here!”
Trista dropped to a crouch between several low stones and called out, “Ziota, spirit of air, sew confusion in the mind of this enemy until the battle is over!” With single-minded concentration, she pictured the Shangri-La spider directing the drones that flew overhead. (If she wavered, Ziota would be just as happy to mindflay anyone.)
Risa, Kung Lau, and What-What continued firing, the samurai twice for every one of Kung Lau’s. Risa, though, was fast and deadly. From Sinna, the Trust mage, came streaks of fire.
One of the corps ran toward the parking lot, possibly to support the rigger, who had left the safety of his Grumman Cratemaster and was shaking his head, as if wondering why he was there.
The fleeing man didn’t make it all the way; Scarecrow reached out and grabbed him with one shockglove, holding him tightly until he stopped struggling.
Suddenly, Kung Lau shouted, “Hytorsin, behind you!”
A corps fighter had moved stealthily in from the south, and her katana caught Hytorsin across the shoulder. With no time to prepare, the mage improvised, projecting violently into her aura and tearing the woman’s spirit loose. Her spirit stumbled, and her body fell.
She would live, but it would be a few days before she knew it.
Hytorsin, on the other hand, was completely aware that he was alive. Only the living bled. He slumped down behind the gravestone, making himself a smaller target. “I’m out!” he announced over comms.
By this time, though, Risa’s crew had taken out the rest of the Shangri-La fighters, and Scarecrow had taken charge of the rigger. The shadowrunners surveyed the field in silence.
Over comms, Skarlet said, “I’m five minutes out. Eric said he’s got a deep-pocket buyer for that Carrion Studios paydata.”
Kung Lau stood up and limped over to Risa. “You’ve got the nuyen?”
Risa nodded, and raised a hand. A man with an elaborate commlink, whose skin was dark bluish, tapped a few keystrokes. Risa said, “You should have it.”
After the others verified their payment, Kung Lau walked out to the Gopher and returned. “The minidisk,” he said, bowing to Risa ironically.
Risa accepted it. “It goes without saying that if I find you’ve kept copies, I’ll repossess by way of your chest cavities.”
Kung Lau cocked his head to one side. “We’re not responsible for any copies made by your friend Marlee.”
Risa quirked an eyebrow at him, but didn’t satisfy his curiosity.
Scarecrow, helping Hytorsin to his feet, said, “Hytorsin’s in need of some of Trista’s healing.”
“So am I.” Kung Lau cast a look around the cemetery, where a dozen men and women sprawled in various stages of dead. He could also see humanoid figures lurking in the vicinity of the Temple. “Are we done, here?”
Risa said, “We’ll clean this up.”
After thirty-six hours of downtime, the members of the Miami Lakes Golf & Social Club met for drinks at the Cathode Glow. The alcohol had improved.
“I hear Jäger’s been signed up for cooking school. I wonder what soft-hearted squishy did that?” asked What-What, by way of opening the conversation.
After a long pause, Skarlet said, “Maybe he’ll make something of himself. The world can always use more good food.”
Kung Lau intervened. “We took it out of petty cash, What-What. I also paid off Smiley, returned the advance to Darius, and paid off Kerwin Lumas.”
“What did you say to Darius?” asked Hytorsin.
“I told him the disk was irreparably damaged by devil rat droppings, and that some goons had relieved us of what was left when we tried to get it repaired. He thinks we hosed it, but that’s what I want him to think.”
Trista said with unconcealed satisfaction, “That’s burned us with Horizon and Shangri-La.”
“We made some nuyen and a few contacts, and in this world, that’s what counts,” said Kung Lau, raising his drink in a toast. “Who’s up for another run?”