The Price of Betrayal, Part Two

by Scott Wheelock

Aztechnology's top-secret lab deep in the heart of Aztlan was one of the hardest places in the world to get into, and harder still to get out of alive. But that's just what John "The Terminator" Thompson was getting paid to do, and he'd be damned if he was going to let some scuzzball Aztec priests stop him.

His team was ready beside him, and they were the best team around. Jenny "T-Bird" Jones was ready with the drones, her army of machines waiting for action like the UCAS marine corps. She was the best rigger out there, and her drones were top of the line, like all the team's equipment. Jeff "Tank" Jones was waiting on his other side, a walking behemoth, massive and huge. Tank was a Troll, ugly and slow, but strong as a tank. The Terminator had never worked with a better man. Sammy Sharkboy was the team shaman, a shark shaman who specialized in combat and detection spells, but who was always in danger of going berserk at the worst possible moment. John had confidence in him though: The Terminator had never lost a team member. Tank wore a gryo-harness that held a Vindicator Minigun capable of hosing out 1,000 rounds a second of hot lead. He had named the gun "Betty." The last member of the team was the mysterious magician Paddy O'Carpenter. He was an elf, six feet tall and one-hundred forty pounds. He was talking under his breath to himself now, and power radiated from him like energy off of a power line. Paddy was an Irish elf, and the best mage in the country, maybe even the world.

The final member of the team was their decker, Betty. She was the hottest hacker in the Matrix, able to slice the paydata from the most secure systems in the world. Betty was off in a secure place, the team van, twenty miles away. She was using a satellite to break into the Azzie system to help the team with the security systems.

John "Terminator" Thompson gave the signal, and the team moved in, John in the lead, with Tank, Razorman, Paddy, and Sammy right behind him. John took position beside the lab's main door, motioning the others to take cover. He slapped the C-4 on the door, and dived behind a nearby bush. The door flew apart in a mass of twisted metal, spraying the field with shrapnel. Tank and Razorman moved in quick, Tank covering the area with his minigun, and Razorman extending his cyber-spurs to get rid of any security that remained. There was one guard left, he was trying to rise, and John raised his silenced Savelette Guardian, putting a silent burst of three armour-piercing discarding sabot rounds right between the guard's eyes. John motioned the rest of the team in, and they moved down the main corridor, moving quietly but quickly.

John used his headware radio to call Betty, his pulse hammering at his chest.

"What's the story on security, Betty?"

"I've got you covered, boss. There are ten guards in the lunchroom, on break. There's a shaman in the main lab, and maybe some paranormals. I've disabled the maglocks, you'll be able to get into the bio-genetics lab easily."

"Great, Betty, keep up the good work." He grinned; she was the best decker he'd ever known, and she'd come through for him again.

"No problem, boss. And John?"

"Yeah, betty?"

"Be careful in there." She was concerned for the team, even though she knew they were the best Seattle had to offer. If anything went wrong, she didn't know what she'd do.

"I'm always careful, Betty." He turned off his radio, and made the hand signal that meant the team should move forward. They went through a set of double-doors, Tank and Razorman moving to cover the hallways, and Sammy marching ahead, followed by John and Paddy. Razorman was the team's Street Samurai equipped with the latest delta-grade cyberware, a killing machine. He used to be a ganger, now he did his fighting as a professional shadowrunner.

The first clue John had that something was up was the enormous spirit in the hallway, a massive fire elemental that threatened to toast the entire team.

"The gig's up, boys, let's rock and roll!!" John yelled as he rolled forward into the hallway. He began firing bullets into the beast as it rushed forward. John could see it was using its confusion power to send Tank and Razorman running into a wall, and he cursed the magical monstrosity. Sammy stood his ground though, and raised his arms in a grand gesture, wind whipping his hair back and forth. The fire elemental was almost upon him when he banished it, sending it back to hell. John gave the thumbs-up to the shaman, and they all moved stealthily down the hallway, approaching the lunchroom.

Sammy suddenly slumped to the floor, and John realized he'd gone into the astral plane, where he could scout the lunchroom unseen. John motioned Tank and Razorman to set themselves up on the other side of the open doorway, and was about the give the signal to go, when he heard a crack from behind him. He spun around, and saw Tank's sheepish grin as he held up the plastic fork he'd stepped on. And then the gunfire started, and John hit the floor.

"Everybody get cover," he yelled, "Tank, you started this, you finish it!" Tank growled, and moved past John to get in the doorway to the lunchroom. Betty screamed death as he mowed the ten guards down, chewing through their armour like it was paper. Tank took hits though, lots of them. John could see he was in pain as he released Betty's trigger, and he motioned Paddy forth to take care of Tank's wounds. Paddy began his ritual of healing as Razorman moved into the room, scanning the area with his delta-grade eyes.

"It's clear, Terminator. We got ‘em all before they could raise the alarm." Razorman sounded disappointed, like he wanted to fight someone. John hoped he kept that rage, as he knew things could only get worse from here. Just then he heard a loud "whoosh!!", and felt a blaze of heat. He spun around, and saw Sammy engulfed in flames, running back and forth like a madman, screaming at the top of his lungs.

"What happened!" he yelled as he smothered Sammy under a blanket.

"He turned on his sustaining focus," Paddy said, "and the security shaman grounded a fireball through it. Damn near got me and Tank, too."

Dear god, thought the Terminator, he's so badly burnt! Not Sammy, no, not his best friend in the world! He remembered one time when he and Sammy had been kids, and Sammy had looked up at the lights of Seattle, a steely set to his jaw. "We're gonna be a part of that, Johnny," he had said, "you and me. We're gonna shine so bright there. We're gonna be legends, you and I, and we're gonna retire old and rich."

And now that would never happen. No, Sammy was dying, and there wasn't a goddamed thing he could do about it. Except make that security shaman pay!

"Find him!" John yelled at Paddy. Paddy's eyes glazed over, and he looked around the room.

"There," he pointed, "in the corner." Tank looked ready to fill the body with lead, but John stopped him.

"No," he said, "this one's mine." Walking over to the shaman's slumped body, he gave it a sharp kick. The shaman's eyes flew open, and he grabbed for a fetish on his shirt to throw another fireball, but John's weapon hand was faster. He brought the gun up right under the shaman's chin.

"Well, punk. Do you think you can sling that spell before I pull this trigger? Do ya? I don't think you can. But I'll give you a chance, even though you gave Sammy no chance at all." The Terminator then stood up, walked back five steps, and turned around. The shaman was frozen for a moment, and then plucked a fetish off his shirt. Just as his mouth began forming the words to the spell, John whipped around and shot him, three times in quick succession. The shaman's body fell to the ground, and John holstered his weapon.

Using the silent hand signals he'd learned in the UCAS Marine Corps, John motioned the team to gather round the bio-genetics lab entrance. As they waited, tense and ready, he directed Jenny "ThunderBird" Jones to send one of her drones in first. She typed commands into her remote control deck as John opened the door, and they watched as the Doberman drone went into the darkened lab where the end of their mission lay.

For a while, all they heard was silence, and then a hideous crunching filled the air, and T-Bird fell over, clutching her head. Then John was moving.

"Everyone in," The Terminator yelled, "and let ‘em have it!" But they all stopped dead when they saw what lay before them.

Shackled to a lab table in front of them was a helpless female clad only in tattered rags, a female John realized was his girlfriend from Chicago, Sheila. And standing over her were three horrible figures. The first John recognized: it was their Mr. Johnson, who had organized this run!

"So glad you could make it to our little party, John. I see one of your teammates decided not to join us, ha ha ha!!!"

"You bastard," John yelled, "you'll pay for this! You're as sick and twisted as they come!"

"Yes," Mr. Johnson agreed, "I agree. But not as twisted as my friends here, Mr. Hyde and Dr. Frankenstein. Boys, introduce yourselves."

The two remaining men took the hoods from their heads, and John saw twisted faces in the light. The first had the insectile visage of an insect shaman, which was bad enough, but the second! The second had the melted scars that marked him a toxic shaman, one whose sole purpose was destruction and death! And, John observed as the shaman drew back his lips in a toothy grin, he was a vampire as well!

This was going to be the toughest battle of his life, John thought as he reloaded his weapon. Around him, he heard his teammates doing the same thing as they formed up behind him.

"Well," the Terminator said, "that's enough talking, I think. Let's get it on!" And the team leaped into action!

---to be continued in part three---

©1999, Scott Wheelock - used with permission