Sean was getting very tired of feeling woozy. As consciousness returned to him, his head felt like someone had stuffed cotton in it. This was really getting old. He opened his eyes, half afraid he’d find himself back in his posh prison.
This time, though, there were no flocked walls or fancy curtains or thick rugs. He was on a couch in a room with one window, no-nonsense white walls, and a plaswood chair next to it.
Ocelot was sitting in the chair, leaned back and balanced on two of its legs. “Finally,” he said wryly, dropping the chair back to its normal four-legged stance. “Thought you’d never wake up.”
Sean sat up a little. He and Ocelot were alone in the room. “Huh—? Where—?”
“It’s okay, kid. You’re safe.” Ocelot wasn’t wearing the black clothes or the helmet anymore; he was back in jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt.
“But—what happened? Who—?” Sean realized he sounded like an idiot, but he felt he was entitled. He sat up the rest of the way. The woozy feeling was already leaving him. Outside, it was dark. “Who were those people? And what happened to me?”
Ocelot took a deep breath. “Okay. It’s kind of a long story. I’m sure you’re sick of hearing this, but I can’t tell you all of it right now. You’ll be happy to know, though, that I made the phone calls I told you about, and you’re gonna find out soon. In a couple hours, actually. It’ll be kinda late for dinner, but we’ve got a meet set up.”
“A meet?” He looked around the room. “Where’s everybody else? There were more—”
“They’re around. Well, some of ‘em are. We hired the rest to help us get you out of there.”
Sean paused, gathering his thoughts. “This is crazy. I don’t know what the hell is going on. Can I just ask some questions and have you answer them?”
Ocelot leaned back in his chair. “If I can. If not, you’ll have to wait till the meet.”
“Okay.” He nodded. “Why was I unconscious again? Did you do that?”
“No. You got hit with a stray round and passed out. They were shooting gel rounds at you, but they can hurt like hell if they plug you right.”
That brought on a small attack of panic (I’ve been shot? Where?) until he realized that he didn’t feel any pain and all his limbs still worked. “Shot?”
“Yeah. You got healed. Magically. It wasn’t bad. Like I said, they used gel, so it was mostly a case of sleeping it off. I don’t think they wanted you dead.”
Sean swallowed. “Who were the rest of those people?”
“Friends. That’s all I can tell you right now.”
“Was Mom one of them?”
This time it was Ocelot’s turn to pause. Finally, slowly, he said, “Yeah.”
“You called her? She was one of the phone calls?”
“Where was she?”
“Can’t tell you that yet.”
Sean paused again, looking down at his hands. Then his gaze came back up quickly. “Who kidnapped me, and why?”
“That’s part of what I can’t tell you yet too.” Ocelot looked a little disgusted. “I hate this as much as you do, kid, but once you get the story you’ll know why.”
“But you do know who it was.”
“Not entirely. Mostly, though.”
“Does this have something to do with what you were telling me about being in danger if anybody found out about—what was going on with me?”
Ocelot nodded. “Yeah.”
“The guy told me his ‘employer’ would talk to me in the morning. Do you know who that is?”
“No, not exactly. In a general sense. But one of the people you’re gonna talk to tonight knows more.”
“How many people are going to be at this meet tonight?”
Ocelot thought about that for a moment and then said, “Five or six, including you.”
Sean stared at him. “You mean there are that many people who know what’s going on with me? I thought this would be just between you and me and Mom.”
“Not quite. And a couple of those who’ll be there are just kind of—observers. One of ‘em was around when everything got started so he wanted to see how it ended up.”
Sean shoved his hair back and slouched. “You know, this whole thing stinks. Have you got any idea what it’s like to be me and have all these people telling you they know more about your life than you do?”
Ocelot nodded. His face was serious. “Yeah. I don’t know exactly, but I can imagine what it’s gotta be like. You don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to, but I’m not kidding when I say I hate doin’ this to you almost as much as you hate havin’ it done. But neither one of us has a choice.”
Sean sighed. He wasn’t going to go there again. “Okay, I have another question.”
“How did you know where I was? After I left you at the dojo I went back to my place. They were waiting for me there. How’d you find out where they’d taken me? And by the way, where did they take me?”
Ocelot got up and started pacing the room as he spoke. “As for where you were, that’s easy. You were in a mansion up in the hills a ways south of San Francisco. Little town called Woodside.”
“And how you found me—?”
There was a long pause. “Let’s just say—we had help.”
Sean cocked his head. “Magical help?”
“That guy who was with you? The spell-slinger?”
“Somebody who’s gonna be at this meet tonight, or somebody you hired to find me?”
“He’ll be at the meet.” Ocelot was looking out the window.
Sean mulled that over for a few moments before speaking again. “Where are we now?”
“In a safe house.”
“A—safe house?” His gaze sharpened. “This is more shadowrunner stuff, isn’t it? Aren’t we safe?” He looked around as if half-expecting a group of black-suited Asians to come busting through the door.
“We’re pretty safe,” Ocelot assured him. “Nothing’s 100% safe. You should know that.”
“Yeah. I’d—I’d just like to get to find out what the hell is going on before somebody else tries to kidnap me.”
“Well, there’s not much chance of that—the kidnapping, I mean.” He dropped back down into the chair. “Listen—you’re probably gonna want to get cleaned up before the meet. It’s gonna be at a pretty nice place. You don’t have to get dressed up if you don’t want to, but there’s a suit in the bedroom through that door if you want it. We’ll be leaving here in about an hour.”
Sean looked a little suspicious. “What are you gonna do?”
“You mean now?”
“Wait for you. And get dressed.” Ocelot’s expression suggested that he didn’t like suits any better than Sean did.
For some reason, this made Sean feel better. “Okay,” he said, getting up. “I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
As it ended up, he took longer than a few minutes. Once he got into the shower, the hot water rolling over his body felt so good—just the simple pleasure of a hot cleansing after all the weird stuff he’d been through in the last few days—that he didn’t want to leave it. He didn’t even think much, but just practiced some of the meditation techniques Sensei Watanabe had taught him what seemed an eternity ago and let his mind wander. By the time he was out, toweled off, and shrugging into the unfamiliar suit, half an hour had passed. He came out tugging at his tie, and grinned.
Ocelot was in the front room, his damp hair slicked back, tugging at his own tie in much the same way Sean was. When he saw Sean, he smiled wryly, shrugged, and gave up, letting the tie hang ever so slightly askew. “Ready?”
How can I ever be ready for this? “Yeah.”
Ocelot was driving a black van, different from the one he’d seen back at the Asian man’s mansion. Sean was almost certain this was not his regular mode of transportation, but he didn’t ask. Instead, he sat in the passenger seat and looked out the window, watching the darkened scenery go by.
From the look of things they were still in San Francisco somewhere, though he didn’t recognize the street names. The traffic, as was almost always true in large cities, was a nightmare. Ocelot let the grid control the van’s movements but kept a sharp eye on their surroundings. He didn’t look like he was expecting trouble, but rather that he would be ready for it if it came.
“How long have you been a shadowrunner?” Sean asked suddenly as the van drove through a neon-lit commercial district full of coffee houses and bars and closed retail stores.
Ocelot shrugged. “Awhile.”
“Are you still one?”
“What do you mean, only occasionally?”
Ocelot turned to look at him. “I mean, only occasionally. I only do a few jobs now, and only the ones I really want to do. Mostly the dojo takes up my time.”
“Training new shadowrunners.”
In the darkness Ocelot smiled faintly. “Yeah. Something like that.”
“You mind if I ask you something kind of personal? I’ve been wondering about it for awhile now.”
“You can ask.” He shrugged. “Can’t tell you if I’ll answer till I hear it.”
Sean leaned back in his seat and watched the traffic. “The birth certificate—the one I found—says you were 30 when I was born. I’m 18 now. That means you’d be almost 50. But you don’t look it. Have you had some of that age-retarding stuff done?”
Ocelot smiled; clearly that wasn’t the question he’d expected to be asked. “You could say so, yeah.”
“The shadowrunner thing must pay pretty well. That stuff’s expensive.”
“Doesn’t have to be. Not if you have the right friends.”
Sean thought about that and finally nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense, I guess.” He paused. “What’s the name of the place we’re going to?”
Again Ocelot smiled—this time it was an odd smile. “It’s a Chinese place. The Golden Dragon.”
Sean nodded and subsided back into silence. A light rain was falling, coating the van’s windshield with little droplets which were quickly whisked away; he watched the rivulets wind their way down and pool up at the bottom of the glass next to the Armorlite logo and wondered what Jay was doing right now. He should probably give the dwarf a call so he didn’t think Sean was dead or something. Better wait until after tonight. Who knows what’s gonna happen then.
It took them about another twenty minutes to reach the restaurant. Although it was after midnight the place looked busy, with many cars moving in and out of the parking lot. Ocelot pulled the van past the tasteful facade of the place’s name in English and Chinese characters done in understated red neon flanked by two uncoiled Eastern dragons. Beneath this was a carved wooden door that reminded Sean a bit of the one at the place where he’d been held. Makes sense, though—San Francisco’s heavily Asian, so lots of the decor would be Asian. He waited while Ocelot parked the van (he wouldn’t surrender it to a valet) and armed the security system. “Okay,” Ocelot said. “You ready for this?”
“No,” Sean said honestly. “But that’s okay. At least now I finally get to find out what’s been going on.”
“That’s the truth,” Ocelot agreed.
As they crossed the parking lot, Sean looked around a little nervously, once again inexplicably afraid that somebody was getting ready to jump them. No one did, though—in fact no one looked at all suspicious. He followed Ocelot through the wooden doors without giving it another thought.
Outside, three cars down from the van in a nondescript black sedan with blacked-out windows, an equally nondescript middle-aged Asian man keyed his headware radio and sent off an updated report consisting of three words:
“He has arrived.”
Copyright ©2001-2003 R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of Wizkids.
No part of this story may be reproduced without permission from the author.