Chapter 7, part 3

“You sure you don’t want your firepower?” Ocelot asked.

It was 22:05. He and Winterhawk, in a nondescript rented car, were about five minutes from Front Street, driving the sporadically-lit route through one of the worst parts of Seattle proper. They had decided to risk a stop at Ocelot’s motel to pick up the remainder of his gear, since he figured that he would need all the help he could get.

The mage shook his head. “It isn’t worth the time to go get it. Either my magic and my sword will be enough, or they won’t. I doubt that my feeble skills with my SMG are going to make the difference one way or the other.” He was driving the car, staring grimly out the cracked windshield a the ruined buildings and potholed streets ahead of him. It was a rare clear night, but this did not make it any easier to see landmarks. Ocelot, in the passenger seat, was trying to read the tiny map on his pocket secretary; the locator in the car didn’t work. Winterhawk turned to look at him. “I trust you don’t plan to just walk in the front door.”

Ocelot shook his head without looking up from the map. “Don’t have a plan yet. I’ll have to see the place first. Slow down--I think we’re getting close.”

Winterhawk scanned the street ahead of him, nodded. The abandoned machine shop, set apart from the other buildings by two narrow, overgrown alleys, had the look of a building that had not been occupied in a very long time. There were no lights in or near it, most of the high, dirty windows were broken, and dark stains ran down the sides of the walls like black clotted blood. In the front, facing the street, was a large door; one of the alleys was wide enough to drive a vehicle through, suggesting that there might be other doors in the back. “That’s it, all right. Lovely place, isn’t it?”

“Park down the street a little,” Ocelot said, tossing the pocket secretary in the back seat. “Not too close.”

Winterhawk pulled the car down one of the side streets and parked it at the curb. The only other cars in evidence were all missing some vital part of their anatomy: tires, windshields, doors--one was missing all four wheels and had been propped up on cinderblocks. “I guess if we’re dead, we won’t care about the rental deposit,” Winterhawk said, but in a tone that did not suggest he meant it to be humorous.

Ocelot got out of the car without a word, went down the street to the corner and stared at the building. After a moment, Winterhawk joined him. “Can you see into the building?” Ocelot asked.

“I can try a clairvoyance spell,” Winterhawk said, and did so. After only a few seconds, he shook his head. “It must be the right place, because I can’t see a bloody thing. Whatever’s in there is masking itself better than I can see through. P’raps it’s a by-product of whatever ritual it used to get here. It’s also almost pitch-dark in there, which doesn’t make things any easier.”

“So we’re going in blind,” Ocelot said, almost to himself. “What about skylights?”

Winterhawk shook his head. “Nothing. The only windows are the ones up there.” he pointed to a large bank of windows in various stages of brokenness about four meters up. “There are two more doors, both in the back--one large roll-up with a big lock, and a person-sized door next to it.”

Ocelot looked at his chrono. “We’re running out of time. The only thing I can think of is to set up a diversion at the door, then go in through the window. Can you levitate us up there?”

“Sure. But what kind of diversion do you mean?”

Ocelot pulled a grenade from his pocket. “I’ll set this to go off in one minute. It should blow the door. Then, I hope, we can get in through the window and surprise it enough that we can get the first shot in. You think that’ll work?”

The mage shrugged. “I can’t think of a better idea. Oh, and try not to get out of my line of sight. I can’t protect you from spells if I can’t see you.”

“Got it.” He took a deep breath. “All right--let’s do it to them before they do it to us.” Without further comment, he started off down the street toward the building. Winterhawk followed, also silent. Each was alone with his own thoughts, and each one’s thoughts had a lot to do with death at the moment. Although they did not know it, both Winterhawk and Ocelot were feeling roughly the same thing: fear, mixed with a desire for the challenge and relief that, one way or another, this soon would be over.

At the door, Ocelot once again pulled out the grenade. “Ready?” he mouthed silently.

Winterhawk nodded, beginning his levitation spell.

Ocelot set the grenade’s timer for 1:00, then raised up and nodded at Winterhawk. Together, the two of them lifted swiftly from the ground and up toward the windows, where they hovered with no sound, waiting.

Exactly one minute later, the grenade exploded with bang that was deafening in the quiet night air. The door, heavy but partially rotted due to rust, blew off its hinges and fell into the interior of the building with a metallic clattering. Simultaneously, Winterhawk and Ocelot crashed through the upper window, scattering glass shards down to the floor far below. “Down!” Ocelot hissed, and Winterhawk quickly complied, dropping them to floor level.

Their low-light cybereyes did not take long to adjust to the very dim light inside the building. They were in an enormous room that stretched up into rafters a good five or six meters up. All around them, the gigantic hulks of massive machinery towered, looking like malevolent creatures crouched to strike. Dust was everywhere. What little light was available came from the moon- and starlight shining in through the broken windows. It was enough, but barely.

In the center of the huge room, in an area cleared of machinery (whether by the building’s original owners or by others was not immediately apparent) was a heavy wooden chair. In the chair was a slumped figure. As Winterhawk and Ocelot, on the far side of the room, stared intently at the chair, the figure raised its head. “Somebody there?” asked a man’s gruff, tired voice. It had barely enough power behind it to carry to where the two runners stood.

Winterhawk was looking around, trying to spot anything preparing to ambush them, but he could see nothing. “See anything?” he whispered to Ocelot.

Ocelot shook his head. He took a step toward the figure. “Harry?”

The figure’s head snapped up the rest of the way. “Who’s there?” he demanded. He tried to move, but it now became apparent that he had been tied hand and foot to the chair. “Who the hell is that?” The voice was unmistakably that of the missing fixer.

Ocelot unslung his shotgun and looked at Winterhawk questioningly.

“I’ll go check it out,” the mage said. “Just make sure you shoot anything that gets near me, all right?” At Ocelot’s nod, he activated his levitation spell lock and glided noiselessly across the floor to land next to the chair.

It certainly looked like Harry in the chair, and he did not look well. He was unshaven, bruised, bleeding, and his clothes looked like he had slept in them (even worse than usual). His hands were bound to each other and then lashed tightly to the back of the chair; his legs were bound at the ankles to the chair legs. He looked surprised to see anyone, but when he identified his visitor, his eyes widened. “‘Hawk?” he asked hesitantly.

“Hello, Harry,” Winterhawk said, looking around again for imminent attacks.

Harry let out a long, relieved sigh. “‘Hawk, am I glad to see you. Get me outta here, willya?” He snorted in disgust. “I thought nobody’d ever find me. Don’t know what the hell that guy wanted me for--but listen--I gotta apologize, ‘Hawk. For that job I sent you on. I know this has somethin’ to do with that, and I’m sorry. I checked that guy out like crazy. You know that. But I got lied to, and I fell for it. That’s not supposed to happen. It’s not--”

“Harry, you’re babbling,” Winterhawk murmured, bending down to cut the bonds on the fixer’s feet. “Let’s just get you out of here, and then we’ll talk about it, all right?” He glanced up to see if Ocelot still had his gun aimed at them.

Inexplicably, Ocelot suddenly had a look of wide-eyed terror on his face. “‘Hawk, get--” was all he could get out before something whacked Winterhawk in the side of the head with the force of a steamroller. The mage got a vague impression of Harry’s form shifting into one that resembled a giant octopus as he spun head over heels and slammed into a wall.

Ocelot ran forward, emptying his gun’s clip into the creature as he ran, but it seemed to have no effect. Sickeningly, the octopus-creature was laughing--its entire gelatinous, disgusting body was quivering, and the sound was unmistakably laughter. Its speed was incredible; it was on Ocelot before he could move, and then he too was flying through the air and crashing into the side of one of the ancient machines. The last thing he heard before he passed out was the laughter, and he knew if he survived this, it would haunt his nightmares for the rest of his life.

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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.