What follows came to me in an unexpected manner and at an unexpected time. For the many years of our professional association I have suspected that some event that occurred early in ShadoWraith's life has been the motivating force for much of his odd behaviour and his emotional detachment that at times bordered on pathological. However, not being the prying sort (despite my usual excessive curiosity), I never asked him about it and he did not volunteer any information. Until last Christmas, that is. He visited me at home during a break between runs, and during this visit he revealed the following tale. It came in the form of old-style tapes carefully preserved in a heavy steel box-- a box that had apparently been buried away, both literally and figuratively, for many years. The discussion that followed lasted for most of the rest of that night, and I think that it, along with the tale itself, went a long way toward helping 'Wraith conquer some of the demons of his past.
To absent friends, indeed.
<2037-08-27 15:47 EST>
So here I am again, talking into a recorder...
I remember when Dad bought me the first one of these. I was 10. I was still weak from VITAS and trying to cope with all the changes - an albino was rare enough but elves were completely new. People just can't handle something new. Dad thought if I talked out my problems it would help. He bought me a dictation recorder so I could talk it out then delete the tapes, if I wanted. That way no one would ever know what I said, but I could work things out. Dad was always trying to help me deal with things. He didn't always know what to do, but he always tried. Dad... he...
<2037-08-28 09:22 EST>
Never let it be said that revenge is not profitable. With the money I got from the last guy, I could live quite well for a long time. I managed to get something from each of the damn bastards. The last one knew I was coming. I don't think he knew why, but he could see the pattern. I made sure he knew who I was and why he was dying before I killed him. He begged. Yeah, like I care. Son of a bitch killed my father and sealed his fate then. Every single one of those bastards paid for what they did. They couldn't kill the company, so they killed the man. Well, their companies may fair better than ours did without the CEO, but they made the choice, now they can rot. Literally. (cold laughter)
<2037-08-28 09:38 EST>
I need to figure out what to do. I have money. The last guy didn't have as much as some of the others. sheesh, I must have pulled over a million dollars from the safe of the second guy, between bearer bonds, cash and jewelry. I guess he didn't know what was coming or he'd have had better security. It paid for my speed and a few other toys quite nicely. It seems kind of fitting that most of what I used to kill them came from their own money. Yeah, sure I did start with some from what I took from home, but not much, really. So now what. I've got cash but I don't really have anything to do. I can't go back...
I guess that's a point. I can't go back. If someone pays attention, they might figure out what the connection was over the last few years. I'm not sure if Dad would approve, but maybe my old life has to go. I wonder how long it will take...
<2038-07-17 03:51 EST>
So now what. I guess habits die hard. As soon as one project is done, I go back to the planning stage. So here I am talking to a machine again. I actually still have a decent amount of money, but I am running out. I've been staying in cheap motels and talking to some pretty interesting people. Tom has been a great help. He's one of the more interesting people. I guess he must have been one of the first of the Dwarves born, since I don't think he's that young. It kind of hard to tell, but I'm guessing he's in his twenties or something. He can't be older than thirty, since I don't remember any cases like mine with Dwarves. He knows an awful lot of people. Most of the best computer experts I found were through Tom. Assuming the last guy finishes his job, I won't exist anymore...
<2038-07-17 13:13 EST>
I slept on it and I still haven't a clue what to do. I replayed the earlier recordings on this thing. I'm not sure why I'm keeping it, but I suppose the risk is small. Even if someone can figure out who I am referring to, the person I was is gone. I suppose I should check with Tom and see if the last guy really did do what he claimed he could. If he did, then the last records should be gone.
<2038-07-17 19:42 EST>
That was interesting. Tom offered me a job. Kind of a strange job, really, but it's a job. This woman wants a package delivered fast and with no questions asked. ...and no records. I can do it, it just seems weird.
<2038-07-18 01:06 EST>
I finished the job. It was easy, really, but when I told Tom I was done, he asked me if I'd like another job. I said sure, but this one doesn't start for two days. I guess I'll do it. Its not like I have anything better to do with my time, and it pays. It'll help pay for food and motels, at least.
<2038-07-29 04:12 EST>
Wow! I just finished my fourth job for Tom and this time someone tried to stop me! The guy actually shot a me. I had my Browning and shot back. I didn't wait to see if I injured him, I just got out of there. I guess maybe next time I should try to bring the SMG. I'm just glad I always carry the Browning. I knew these courier jobs were illegal, but I didn't realize someone would try to stop me. Its not really that big a deal, I've been shot at many times before. Some of the bastards' security was fairly tight. I guess I'll have to be careful, but I really don't have anything else to do...
<2038-09-17 13:53 EST>
I have a new place to live. Its nothing like what I lived in before, but it beats the living heck out of some of the places, or should I say gutters, that I've lived in. Its also better than the motels I've been staying in for the last year or so. Tom says he owns the floor. I was kind of surprised when he made the offer, but then I realized that the floor has three separate apartments in it. His takes about half the floor, but the other two aren't bad. There's a common room that all three share as well. I am surprised Tom offered to rent it to me, but I guess you don't meet a lot of prospective tenants in his line of work. He's known me for over a year, he helped a lot clearing my past, and I guess he feels he can trust me enough. It seems a little odd, but I guess I'm not in the habit of trusting anyone any more.
<2038-09-18 19:49 EST>
Apparently, I already have a new flat mate. I guess Tom didn’t wait around much. The third apartment on the floor is presently occupied by a rather wild character. Tom did not mention how he knew her and I didn’t ask. Sharla is an Orc, nearly as tall as I am, but a lot stronger. She’s not bad good looking, and she has a real wild personality. I swear she was flirting with me when she moved in...
<2038-10-26 22:53 EST>
Learn something new every day. I just spent the evening inside Tom’s apartment, for the first time ever. The place is covered in swords, knives, and other things with sharp edges and he has a locked cabinet with an incredible collection of guns. What I was doing there takes some background, I guess. Not long after I started doing jobs that Tom set up, he asked me about the condition of my guns. I said they were doing fine and showed him the pistol. He asked me if I ever cleaned them and I said, yeah, sure every month or two. He cringed and offered to fix it up. He proceeded to perform a far more detailed maintenance on the pistol than I ever had. Since then I’ve hired him once a month to provide detailed service to all my guns, especially the pistol and rifle. Yesterday, I was going to hand them to him for service again and he invited said I should come in and see how its done. When I saw the sword collection I was impressed. Between discussing them and servicing my guns we spent the rest of the afternoon. It turns out that not only does he have contacts and arrange jobs for people like me, he is also an expert at making weapons, both swords and guns. He apparently isn’t bad at using them either.
<2038-10-28 18:41 EST>
Sharla is such a flirt. She keeps threatening to take me out on a date and get me to unbend. She says I’m too stiff, then she always adds that can be a good thing. She is wild, to say the least. Today she decided she didn’t like the name Mike, which is what I’ve been calling myself. She decided I would be called Long Shanks, because of my “geeeeorgeous long legs.” She is, if nothing else, utterly unabashed. I actually kind of like the name Long Shanks. I wonder what Tom will think of it...
<2038-11-04 11:41 EST>
Well, its official. Last night I finished my first job using the name Long Shanks. I think its kind of odd, but Tom was right. My employer preferred a strange name to a normal sounding first name with no last name given...
This is a strange life I have entered...
<2038-11-13 11:41 EST>
Sharla was teasing me today. She said she wanted to... well, she said some rather wild things. I don’t think she was serious... Then she calmed down and mentioned that I’d missed her birthday. I apologized and told her I didn’t know and she laughed and said I missed it by months. She then hit me with the punch line, telling me all she wanted for her birthday was me and a bow. I’m kind of getting used to her being so forward, but sometimes I think she’s serious. Its actually kind of weird in a way. She and Tom are the closest I’ve had to friends since before... They’ve introduced me to some of their friends, but I don’t really socialize with anyone. I mostly just go on jobs and stay at the flat.
Anyway, Sharla then asked me what my birthday was. I told her. I figured it couldn’t hurt. She commented that my birthday must always have been lost because of Christmas. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I didn’t say much and she took that to mean yes. She said she’d bake me a cake and promised me a birthday party. I’m not sure what she has in mind. I’m not sure what to think about that either. No one has baked me a cake since I was 17. The cook always prepared one for my birthday each year until I turned 18. That year, Dad took me out to dinner and announced that since I was now a man, I should be treated like one. As of that day, I was officially an employee of the company. I didn’t do much the first few years except when school was not in session, but I began to take real responsibility once I had my CPA license. I became an executive as soon as I had my MBA.
I guess I’m rambling again. The holidays are coming and that makes everyone a little out of sorts or uptight. Speaking of uptight, there were another bunch of idiots from that anti-metahuman group in the news again tonight. They made the usual threats to kill any metahuman that “didn’t know its place.” I guess things never change. It was just the color of your skin that mattered thirty years ago.
<2038-11-19 17:28 EST>
This month, instead of servicing my guns, Tom offered to show me how to do it myself. He started with basic cleaning, most of which I know and built up. I think we’ve only just touched the surface of gun servicing and repair, but he offered to teach me more. I think I’ll take him up on it. It seems a useful skill to have.
<2038-11-26 16:18 EST>
Thanksgiving was interesting. I think everything is interesting with Sharla around. When she found out I was going to stay home by myself, she insisted I come out with her friends. Tom had his own plans, so I had no way to decline. It wasn’t bad, even though I’m never comfortable around people I don’t know. They were a decent group of people. Almost all of them were metahuman so we ended up talking a lot about the couple that were killed last week, just because they were a “mixed couple” - elf and human. Alamos 2000 didn’t claim credit, but they supported the move and “warned” others not to “go against the natural order.” It makes me sick...
Thanksgiving dinner was nice, even though some of the conversation was somber. Turns out Sharla can’t cook a thing, but, like everything else, she knows someone who does. (laughter) She is quite a character.
<2038-12-18 19:52 EST>
I lost a job today because I was an elf. Apparently the guy never saw Tom, he had no clue he was a dwarf, but when he saw me he said he didn’t employ my kind and left. I told Tom and when the guy called back asking for another person, Tom told him where he could stick it. Its getting nasty here in New York.
<2038-12-26 12:32 EST>
Once again, living in the same flat as Sharla proves interesting. She wouldn’t let me stay home alone at Christmas and for two days hauled me around visiting her friends. It was actually kind of fun. I don’t know if she’s trying to give me a social life, or what, but it is sort of fun. I feel the most comfortable I have in years. I’m even getting to know some of Sharla’s friends. I think some of them are convinced she’s sleeping with me on the side. She doesn’t discourage the idea, but she doesn’t encourage it either. Regardless, it was a good Christmas. I wonder what she’s going to do for my birthday...
Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Tom gave me a Christmas present! Its an incredible sword. Tom says it’s a Katana. I haven’t a clue how to use it, but Tom said he’ll teach me. I’ll pay for the lessons, of course, like I’m paying for him to teach me how to service and repair my guns, but the sword itself is a great gift. He said I shouldn’t be out there with only guns. Considering his collection, I’m sure he prefers to use a sword to a gun.
<2039-01-02 14:34 EST>
Sharla lived up to her promise. Last night she got together some of her friends that I know and they all took me out on the town. Since everyone else was busy partying last night, the crowds were pretty sparse. Probably just as well, considering that we were an entirely metahuman group and there seems to be a lot of people gunning for metahumans these days. I did notice that Sharla and her friends looked a little hung over at the start of the evening, but there’s nothing like the “hair of the dog” to cure you. She kept us out partying until the sun rose. When I got home I just dropped into bed exhausted. This has been the best birthday I’ve had in years...
Oh yeah. She did have a cake!
<2039-01-15 02:57 EST>
I was shot at today during a job, but not by someone connected to the job. Being shot at isn’t all that uncommon anymore, but generally its someone that wants to steal what I’m delivering or prevent the delivery. This time, I’m pretty sure it was neither. The person, a human, muttered epithets against metahumans, swore I didn’t belong in “this part of town” and started shooting. Since it was after midnight, I just fired a couple shots of my own and left faster than that moron could even think about following. Its getting dangerous just to be metahuman...
<2039-01-30 04:29 EST>
That was an interesting job. I’m not sure if someone hired us, or Tom hired us himself, but Tom and I and a number of others all went to one of the metahuman detention centers to free the people imprisoned there - oh, I’m sorry, they are there under “protective custody.” yeah, right. The guards were well armed and none of them were metahuman. I pointed out they were just doing a job and Tom said, fine, then I could shoot to disable. I actually did. Not easy during a firefight, but I dropped three without killing them. I guess I’ve become a pretty good shot. Anyway, we got these poor people out and Tom helped them head out of the New York area. Fortunately, the detention center wasn’t here in Manhattan so it was easier to get them out of town. Sad that they have to leave their homes, though, just because some idiots can’t see that humanity comes in many different forms.
<2039-02-05 23:21 EST>
(sigh) The news has been ugly the last few days. There have been demonstrations and random violence against metahumans all over the place. It was getting bad before, but this is insane. I’m getting worried just walking the streets. I feel sorry for those that can’t move as fast as I can.
<2039-02-07 14:39 EST>
There have been seventeen what the news calls “incidences of violence” in the last thirty six hours. I’m not sure its safe for anyone today, not even me. I wonder when it will end.
<2039-02-07 15:23 EST>
Sharla just showed up with a bunch of her friends in tow. I don’t know where they were, but I guess they don’t feel safe in the streets even in daylight. I guess Sharla thinks Tom and I can provide some sort of protection.
<2039-02-07 15:56 EST>
I guess Tom had the same idea. A couple of his friends showed up and they’re just “going to hang out together today.” There’s a good bit of bravado, but I know they’re thinking there’s safety in numbers. Its probably going to get worse after dark. I noticed a few more of Sharla’s friends are here too. Maybe we’re all just getting jumpy, but I think I’d rather spend the next few days living communally with a large group of people than risk getting killed going out on the streets. There have been too many people killed in the last few days. The news just reported that the police just broke up two small riots down near Battery Park.
<2039-02-07 18:47 EST>
The news is reporting small riots breaking out all over. There’s getting to be quite a few of us in the flat now. There’s about a half-dozen of Tom’s friends here and every one of Sharla’s friends that I know, and quite a few I don’t, are here as well. I’m not sure how we’ll sleep tonight, but I don’t want to put anyone out on the streets tonight. Maybe it will die down before morning.
<2039-02-07 20:33 EST>
So much for dying down. Things are getting worse. Tom just heard about a building about two blocks from here that has a group of metahumans inside and a group of rioters outside. Tom and his friends have decided to go to the rescue. He’s passing out his weapons to his friends now. I’m going with. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let innocent people die at the hands of hate mongers. Damn bastards!
<2039-02-07 22:04 EST>
(heavy breathing) Holy shit! We’re luck to be alive! We thought a few rounds fired over their heads would disperse the crowd. We were wrong! They came at us with clubs against rifles! These people are insane! We shot a few of them and that backed them off long enough for us to get in and gather the people inside. There were a lot more than we bargained for, but we gathered them all. By the time we got outside, the crowd had found a few guns and between those and Molotov cocktails, they gave us a running battle home. Two of Tom’s friends and several of the people we rescued were shot, but no one was killed. One of Sharla’s friends is a Shaman and is healing the wounded now. Unfortunately, we were followed back and now this place isn’t safe. We can’t fit everyone on this floor anyway. We had to put the people we rescued on the floor above. We disabled the elevator and two of Tom’s friends are watching the stairs. We’re worried that a riot could start outside our building next...
<2039-02-07 22:42 EST>
Talk about predictions. There is a very angry and rapidly growing group in the street outside out building. There’s no help from the cops - the news is reporting the same thing all over town. We’ve decided to make a break for it. We’re going to try to get out of town and head upstate to let things cool off. Tom’s passing out all his weapons to anyone that can use them. I hope we make it. There’s at least fifty or sixty people including the ones we rescued. This isn’t going to be easy. I’ve pack pretty much everything I own, although that isn’t much, in a bag. I have no idea how long we’ll have to lay low upstate.
<2039-02-07 23:13 EST>
(heavy breathing) Its not good. The mob’s on our heels. Couldn’t stay on the streets with all the riots. We lost four people before we headed into the sewers. Seem to have lost them now, but we’ll have to come up to find a bridge or tunnel.
<2039-02-07 23:41 EST>
(sporadic gunfire in the distance) They found us. Killed eight before we got their front ranks. Three of Tom’s guys are leading them the opposite way while we try to hide. Hard to hide fifty people though. We can’t move too fast either, we keep having to rest or we’ll loose half the group.
<2039-02-07 23:51 EST>
(heavy breathing) Lost two of Tom’s guys. Only one of the decoys made it back. Taking a break, then we’ll move on.
<2039-02-08 00:03 EST>
Bastards found us again.
Hope they rot in hell.
Killed half our group.
Sons of bitches are dead now, though.
<2039-02-08 00:21 EST>
Only fifteen left.
Found us trying to cross the bridge.
We’ll try a tunnel instead.
<2039-02-08 00:48 EST>
<2039-02-08 00:49 EST>
hit us, rounding a corner.
first round caught her shoulder, spun her to face me.
second went through her chest.
fell forward into me, coughing blood...
died in my arms.
bastard came at me, laughing.
emptied my clip in his face.
others pulled me on.
left her... dead... on the streets.
<2039-02-08 01:22 EST>
found us in the tunnel.
got the last five.
carried the last one, but she died.
no one escaped but me.
...failed them all.
<2039-02-08 06:52 EST>
sharla, tom... all fifty.
failed them all.
Copyright © 2002 by S.A. Rosenau. Introduction copyright © 2002 by R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of Wizkids; nothing in this story should be construed as a challenge to Wizkids' trademarks or copyrights. All characters in this story are fictional and bear no intentional resemblance to any persons known to the author, living or dead. No part of this story or character therein may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the author.