Chapter 4, part 5
It took them only a few moments to reach the van. Despite their fatigue, all of them had a sense of urgency. Instead of levitating over the wall this time, Striker used his Panther cannon to blow a hole through it, and they kept going. The van was right where they’d left it. They all jumped in, Ocelot driving this time, and the vehicle screeched off into the night. Nobody looked back to see if anyone or anything was following.
By some unspoken agreement, no one said anything on the drive back to the motel. Marika silently moved to the front of the van and wove a healing spell first on Ocelot, then on Winterhawk. Neither of them protested. Winterhawk sat slumped in the passenger seat, his helmet in his lap, his gaze roaming listlessly over the street before them. Striker was in his usual spot in the back seat, staring down at Ocelot’s grapple gun in his hands.
They arrived back at the motel without incident. The four of them slowly got out, tramped up the steps toward their rooms. When Striker and Fang started toward their own room, Winterhawk said softly, “No. Not yet. We need to talk.” Behind him, Ocelot nodded. There was cold anger in his eyes.
Striker looked at Fang, who met her brother’s eyes and nodded. Unseen by Winterhawk or Ocelot, she mouthed, We have to tell them now. So the two of them followed the others into their own room.
When they were all inside, Ocelot stationed himself by the door, his face a mask. Winterhawk glanced at him and some communication passed between them, then the mage turned toward the shaman and the troll. “Sit down,” he said. It wasn’t a request.
Striker looked for a moment like he wasn’t going to comply, but one look at the two men who stood before him convinced him of the error of that. He took a seat on one of the beds, and Fang sat down next to him. Both looked expectantly, fearfully upward.
Winterhawk put one foot up on a chair and leaned over his knee. “There’s more to your little story, isn’t there?”
Fang nodded. “Yes. But it isn’t like it seems.”
“And what does it seem like?” the mage asked. “Like we were set up? Like someone wanted us dead, so they set up a run with you two so you could get us killed?” His thin lips curled in a contemptuous sneer. “If so, they did a bad job of it.”
“No!” Fang shook her head emphatically. “That isn’t what happened at all! Everything went wrong! Nobody was supposed to die!” She looked almost as if she was going to cry.
Ocelot leaned forward a bit. “Then you knew something was supposed to happen?” His hand moved toward the sword under his coat.
Winterhawk cast another glance at him, this one clearly saying, Let me do the talking. But he turned back to the two and let the question stand.
“No. No...” Fang buried her head in her hands, and Striker put a gentle hand on her back. After a moment, she regained her composure. “It was just supposed to be a simple run. Just go in and get the item, just like Mr. Johnson said. That’s all. Those-” she shuddered “-those terrible things weren’t supposed to be there. Nobody was supposed to die. Nobody...”
“But you did know what was supposed to happen, then?” Winterhawk prompted, his expression still showing no sympathy.
Fang nodded. “Yes. We weren’t supposed to tell you. That was part of the deal. He made us promise.”
“Who did?” Ocelot asked.
“Mr. Johnson.” Her eyes darted back and forth between the two of them, looking for some sign of kindness. There was none. “You see, our father used to be a shadowrunner. He-”
“Our father?” the Brit cut in.
She nodded. “Yes. Striker’s my brother.”
“Well, that explains a lot,” Winterhawk said under his breath. “Go on.”
Fang paused a long moment before starting up again. “He was a shadowrunner. About ten years ago. A good one, too. He made a lot of money. Mr. Johnson was his fixer. Also his friend. One of the few people in the world he trusted.
“About five years ago, our father disappeared without a trace. He wasn’t even on a run. He just disappeared. We didn’t find out for awhile, because we were living with our mother. We didn’t even know about what he did until Mr. Johnson told us. See, our father had set aside a lot of money for us in case something happened to him. He used to send money to our mom, even though they weren’t married, to take care of us. But after he disappeared, Mr. Johnson came to us and told us about the money. We asked him what had happened to our father, and he said he didn’t know. We were just kids then, but we begged him to find out. And he did.
Fang paused again, took a deep breath. “It was about a year later when Mr. Johnson came back and told us that apparently one of Dad’s enemies had killed him. Somebody from a corporation. There was nothing anybody could do about it, because the corporations make their own laws. He told us to forget it, we’d just get ourselves in trouble if we pursued it. P-Striker had just become a troll that year, and he was going through his own problems, but both of us knew we had to do something. I knew I had some magical talent, although I had no training. Dog had called to me shortly after I found out about Dad.
“To make a long story short, Striker and I both decided that we wanted to do something about what had happened to Dad. We used the money he’d left us to get Striker’s surgery and his weapons, and my magical training. Mr. Johnson helped us once we convinced him that this was what we wanted. We found out he had a lot of very important people as contacts. He decided that if we were going to do this, we’d better learn from the best.”
Ocelot sighed audibly, slumping by the door.
Winterhawk looked hard at them. “You mean-Johnson hired us-promised us all that money-just to watch out for a couple of kids on their first run?” He sat down in the chair with a thump, rubbing his temples.
“We’re not kids,” Striker said defensively.
“Oh, really?” Winterhawk demanded. “What are you? Twenty, maybe?”
“I’m twenty,” Fang said. “Striker’s eighteen.”
“Kids,” the mage repeated. “So what did he do-set up this run?”
Fang nodded. “He didn’t tell us the details, of course. That was part of our training. But he was supposed to set it up so there weren’t any people in there, so nobody would get hurt. All the defenses were supposed to be automatic. We were just supposed to break in, get the thing we came for, and get out. He figured you two would show us the right way to do it so we didn’t get ourselves killed when we tried it on our own.”
“And the insect spirits weren’t part of the deal,” Winterhawk said, unnecessarily.
“Insect-spirits?” Fang asked, eyes widening. “No-none of that was part of it. Not that poor man with the...arm-”
Ocelot pushed himself off the door. “We’re going back,” he said flatly.
“Back-where?” Fang asked.
“Back to Seattle. Back to take care of Johnson. It’s obvious he set us up. Maybe he set you up too, but we owe him.” His eyes were alight with smoldering rage.
Winterhawk rose from his chair. “Now, just a minute,” he said. “Let’s not be too hasty about this, shall we?”
Ocelot turned on him. “What’s the matter with you, ‘Hawk?” he demanded. “You slippin’ worse than I thought? That bastard set us up. Nearly got us killed. Now we owe him. Simple as that.”
Winterhawk made a calm-down gesture. “I’m trying to be rational about this, old boy. P’raps-”
“Rational?” Ocelot yelled. “Rational? Are you blind, or dense, or what?”
The mage took a step toward him, his voice changing character just a bit, quieter and more dangerous. “Maybe you’d best stop this, my friend. You’re getting a bit out of hand. Now sit down and let’s be reasonable about this, shall we?” He pointed toward a the chair he’d just vacated.
Sitting on the bed, forgotten, Fang and Striker silently watched this little drama play itself out, wondering where it was going to end.
Ocelot was having none of Winterhawk’s attempts at mollification. His rage at having been double-crossed had taken full hold of him. “You want to have it out right here and now, ‘Hawk? I’m ready.” His posture stiffened a bit and he dropped into a fighting crouch.
The Brit looked at him with disgust. “I’m not going to play your little testosterone games,” he said contemptuously, turning away from him.
Ocelot grabbed his shoulder and spun him back around. “You’d better shut your mouth, unless you want me to shut it for you.”
Winterhawk just shook his head in disbelief. “You’re getting paranoid.”
“You’re getting old!”
The mage sighed. “Just sit down, will you? This is getting ridiculous. It’s getting us nowhere. You’re acting like an idiot.”
“Okay, that’s it!” Ocelot said, enraged. With inhuman swiftness, he drew his sword from beneath his coat.
Winterhawk stood his ground, his blue eyes narrowing in anger. “All right,” he said under his breath, “If that’s the way it’s going to be-” He raised his hands, and around them blue fire sparkled. If Ocelot was going to be this irrational, maybe a little nap might calm him down.
He had failed to reckon with Ocelot’s speed, though, which had grown even faster since they had last worked together. As the mage raised his hands to loose the spell, Ocelot whipped the sword around and smacked Winterhawk in the head with the butt end of the handle. The spell forgotten, the mage went pale and collapsed in a heap on the floor.
Ocelot stood up straight, stowed the sword back in its place, and turned to Fang and Striker. “I’ll see you two back in Seattle. I’ve got a little present to give Mr. Johnson.” As the two of them looked on in horror, too shocked to move, he opened the door, moved swiftly out, and slammed it behind him.
For a moment, nobody did anything. Striker stared at Fang, his eyes wide. She spread her hands slowly in a gesture of confusion.
“Come on,” she finally said, looking down at Winterhawk on the floor. “We have to help him. Paul, put him on the bed, will you? Gently.”
Striker bent and picked up the unconscious mage, laying him carefully where she directed. There was a small dent in Winterhawk’s forehead, and blood oozed from the wound, bright red against his pale skin. Fang took a deep breath. “I can heal the wound,” she said, “But I don’t know if I can wake him up. We might just have to wait-” Without further comment, she set about her healing spell. The cut was a small one and easy to deal with, but as she had predicted, the mage did not awaken. Fang looked up at Striker, her voice taking on an edge of desperation. “What do we do, Paul? Everything’s going wrong...”
Striker looked down at her patient. “You want him to wake up?”
She nodded. “Yes, but I can’t-” She didn’t finish, for her brother was already headed for the room’s small, dingy bathroom. After a few seconds, he emerged with a glass of water and, before Fang could speak, he dashed the water in Winterhawk’s face.
“Paul!” she protested angrily, batting his hand away. “What are you-?”
“Look,” the troll cut her off, pointing. “It’s working.”
And sure enough it was. Fang turned back to Winterhawk, whose eyes were now fluttering open. “See?” Striker said proudly.
Fang ignored him for the moment, her attention on Winterhawk. “How do you feel?”
He stared uncertainly back and forth between the two of them for a moment, then raised his hand to his forehead. The water had washed the small amount of blood away, so he didn’t find what he was looking for. “What-?”
“You’re okay now,” she told him. “I healed you. How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve just been run over by a train,” he said faintly. He searched the faces around him again. “Where-where’s my overzealous ex-friend?”
“He left,” Striker said. “Said he was going back to Seattle.”
“To take care of Mr. Johnson,” Fang added. “Oh, Paul, we have to warn him!”
Slowly, Winterhawk raised up, not yet certain that nothing was broken, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. He ran a hand through his hair, still damp with Striker’s dousing. “Warn whom?”
“Mr. Johnson,” Fang said. “He didn’t set us up! I know he didn’t! If Ocelot gets to him-”
“Calm down,” the Brit said. He took a deep breath. “We’ll find Ocelot before he leaves town. Don’t you worry. I’ve a few things I want to tell him myself. Everything will turn out-”
And then the door and window burst from their frames and hell was among them once again.
Copyright ©1996 R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of FASA Corporation.
No part of this story may be reproduced without permission from the author.