The meet with Harry was set for the following night at one of the fixer's usual meeting places: the back room of a smoky bar called the Black Dog Lounge. The runners filtered in, taking their places around the large table; Harry was already there, and had claimed the center spot facing the door. ShadoWraith, who had a particular aversion to having his back to the door, sat next to Harry. Joe, shoving two chairs together to accommodate his massive weight, took the place to `Wraith's right, while Winterhawk slouched casually to Harry's left. Ocelot, the last to arrive, declined a chair in favor of leaning on the wall.
Harry reached over and switched on the small, mushroom-shaped white noise generator in the center of the table. As usual, he was dressed in a nondescript gray suit that looked like he had slept in it, and he had a cigar (currently unlit) stuck between his teeth. "Okay," he said. "So how'd things go? I heard ya ran into some trouble."
"Harry: master of understatement," Winterhawk said wryly.
"We were successful," `Wraith said.
"Yeah, but they knew we were coming," Joe spoke up. "We nearly got killed in there."
"Yes—you might want to have a word or two with our latest Mr. Johnson," Winterhawk said. "It's not terribly comforting to be met with opposition so far out of line with what we were led to expect."
"Did you hand over the stuff?" Harry asked. "You don't still have it, do you?"
Ocelot shook his head. "We met with him right after the run."
"Even got some extra yen out of him," Joe added.
"Hmm..." Harry mused almost to himself. "Doesn't sound to me like he set you up. I've worked with that Johnson before—he's always been on the level. Maybe somebody else—?"
"The map," `Wraith said.
"Huh?" Harry looked quizzically at the elf who, in his effort to be terse, sometimes failed to impart enough information to make himself clear.
"The chap who obtained the map for us," Winterhawk translated. "We were speculating about his being responsible for the setup, as opposed to Johnson."
"Or maybe somebody bought the guy off," Ocelot said.
Harry nodded. "Sounds a lot more likely. I'll look inta it if ya want me to, but I'm thinkin' maybe it's just better if we forget about it. Ya got in, ya got out, ya delivered the goods. The way I'm lookin' at this, they got no more reason to bother ya if ya don't stir up their little party, y'know? Bad fer the bottom line."
The four runners looked at each other, their expressions ranging from frustration (Ocelot and Joe) to resignation (Winterhawk) to impassivity (`Wraith). Ocelot sighed. "Yeah, I guess," he said. "I hate to just leave it hangin' like that, but I guess there isn't much else we can do."
Harry shrugged. "It's the biz. You know that. I can't look out fer everything. I can screen the Johnsons, but I ain't got much control over the rest of it." He grinned, clamping down on the cigar. "That's why they pay you guys the big nuyen, right?"
"Okay," Harry said briskly as if they had replied, "let's get on ta the rest of it. You got anything ya wanta sell me?"
Ocelot shook his head. "Not this time. We were lucky to get out of there with our skins and our own stuff."
"Wasn't any time to grab anything else," Joe said with a bit of regret. One of the guards had had a light machine gun he would have liked to have gotten his hands on.
Harry nodded. "Got it. Okay, then I only got one more thing, and then you guys can get back to whatever ya do in yer spare time." This last was punctuated by a grin aimed Ocelot's way. Ocelot glared back but said nothing.
"Another job already?" Joe asked. "I want some time off first."
Harry shook his head. "No, it ain't another job. I know how much you guys need your beauty sleep." He leaned forward a bit, removing the cigar from his mouth and resting it on the edge of the table. "I don't know how well you been keepin' up on news lately, but there's a new fixer in town."
"A new fixer?" Ocelot shrugged. "So? Are you afraid we'll jump ship or somethin'?"
"Nah," Harry said, not taking the bait. "Nothin' like that. But you know how I like to keep my ear to the ground and my eyes open, right?"
None of the team even bothered to answer that, because they all knew the question was rhetorical. Harry was legendary in shadowrunning circles for having his fingers in just about every important pie in Seattle. Rumors had it that his influence extended considerably further. Very little occurred in town without his knowing about it, as he was constantly being fed information from his staggering network of contacts, informants, and retainers. Nobody knew who was and wasn't on Harry's payroll, who owed him a favor this week, or who was trying to get into his good graces, but somehow information didn't often elude him. "Well," he continued, "I can't find out squat about this guy. And that worries me some."
"Wait a second," Ocelot said, staring at Harry. "You're tellin' us there's a new guy in town and you can't find out anything about him?"
Harry had the team's attention now. "Yeah. That's exactly what I'm sayin'."
"How'd you find out he's around in the first place, then?" Joe asked.
The fixer didn't even give Joe a dirty look. "I been hearin' rumors for the past few days. There's somebody been quietly lookin' for talent for awhile now. But nobody knows who he's got, and nobody knows what he wants. It's like he's purposely tryin' to stay out of the limelight."
"Interesting..." Winterhawk mused. "So what is it, exactly, that you want us to do, if anything? Certainly you don't think that if you're unable to get any information, we—"
Harry shook his head. "No, no. I'm not askin' you to scout info for me. I can do that myself. But I just found out that our mystery man's throwin' a big shindig this Friday night. I got an invite, and I managed to wangle some more for you guys, if you're interested."
"Hang on," Ocelot said, raising his hands in a `stop' gesture. "He's tryin' to stay in the shadows, but he's throwin' a party? Doesn't that sound weird to anybody else?"
"Damn straight," Harry said. "That's part of why I gotta see this. Whoever this guy is, he's got some serious chutzpah. I figure anybody with that kind of moxie's gotta either be a nut with some damn good connections, or else somebody I'm gonna want to keep an eye on. Either way, I'm plannin' on showin' up at that party."
"You don't know anything else about him?" Winterhawk asked. He'd come up from his casual slouch and now seemed much more interested in what was going on.
Harry shook his head. "Nothin'. I don't even really know it's a guy. Could be a woman, I guess. Oh—the signature on the invitation was "G." Handwritten, but just the initial. Damn thing was hand-delivered by a courier."
"How'd you get us in?" Joe asked.
"Sent back my RSVP and asked if I could bring one of my teams. Got an email back—anonymously—sayin' sure, no problem. I had one o' my best deckers try to trace it, but he gave up. Said it was like tryin' to follow a weasel through a rabbit warren."
"Where?" `Wraith spoke up. As was his usual behavior, he had been sitting back and taking in the conversation without comment up until now.
Everyone turned toward him. "Where what?" Harry asked.
"The party. Where?"
"Oh. It's at Lunar Dreamscape. You know, that new place downtown, on the top floors of the Kurusawa Building? They've got the whole thing rented out for the night. Buzz is there's gonna be some pretty big movers and shakers there. Friday night, starts at 20:00."
"I'm there," Joe said, sounding satisfied. "There's bound to be great food at a place like that."
"That's our Joe," Harry said, shaking his head in mock annoyance but grinning at the same time. "Maybe I better get back to `em and tell `em to beef up the buffet table." He stood, reclaimed his cigar, and ineffectually straightened his jacket. "Well, come if ya want to. I gotta get goin'—you know, things to see and people to do."
When Harry had left, the four runners looked at each other. "You guys goin'?" Ocelot asked, turning a chair around to straddle it.
Winterhawk shrugged. "Why not? I'm intrigued. Aren't you?"
"Could be dangerous," ShadoWraith said.
"Yeah," Ocelot said. "Besides, I hate parties. I always end up standin' around with a drink in my hand, not knowin' what to do."
"Hey, guys," Joe spoke up. "We should go—you know, keep an eye on things for Harry. Maybe we can find out something about this guy."
"Any excuse to get to that buffet table," Winterhawk said with an amused half-smile.
"He's right," `Wraith said.
"Who's right?" Ocelot leaned over the back of his chair.
"Both," the elf said mildly. "Referring to Joe, though."
"There's a new one," Winterhawk commented. "If you're agreeing with Joe, I'm not sure I'm in favor of this after all."
Ocelot sighed, rolling his eyes. "Okay, okay. So we're goin'. Gotta admit I'm a little curious about it too. I guess I can put up with wearin' a suit for one night."
"Don't strain yourself," Winterhawk said, making a show of brushing an imaginary piece of dust off the lapel of his own suit. He stood up. "Well, I'm off. Need to go reschedule my flight home if I'm not leaving until after Friday. See you gentlemen then."