Chapter 10, part 2

Harry’s head hurt like it had never hurt before. His gut hurt too. Slowly, with utmost care, he opened his eyes, afraid that if he did not take care, his eyes would just pop out of his head and roll away.

He moaned, bringing a hand up to his forehead. The cold was soothing. He wasn’t sure where he was, but a shaft of sunlight was hitting him in the face. That was what had awakened him. Afraid, he looked around to see what had occurred.

The machine shop looked like a war zone. Bodies were strewn around the floor in various positions; Harry himself was fetched up against the bottom part of a large, unidentifiable machine, which explained the pain in his gut. Gingerly, he sat up, ready to stop moving at the instant he felt anything that might be serious internal injuries. As near as he could determine, though, he hadn’t hurt anything permanently. He decided to risk getting up and checking to see who was alive or dead, fearing what he would find. Was that thing still here? He didn’t see it, but that didn’t mean anything.

Finally, he decided that if it was here, he would just let it kill him. He didn’t care anymore, and he certainly wasn’t going to fight it on his own. Whoever those two new runners were, the lady shaman and the troll, they had lasted about two rounds against it. Harry, with no cyberware and no combat training, had no illusions.

Oddly, the decision made Harry feel better. Now he knew where he stood. Holding onto the machinery and shuffling slowly across the floor, he headed for the first body.

It was the troll, and he was already showing signs of waking. Next to him lay the shaman. She was unconscious and pale, but breathing. As Harry checked her, the troll opened his eyes. “Hey...”

Harry turned back to him. “You’re awake. Great. How you feelin’?”

“Who are you?” the troll asked suspiciously, noting that Harry was near his sister.

“I told ya before--I’m Harry. I’m a friend of ‘Hawk and Ocelot. I guess you must be too.”

The troll nodded. “Yeah. I’m Striker. This is Fang.” His brow creased in concern. “Is she okay?”

“I don’t know,” Harry told him. “I think so, but I’m no doctor. You ain’t got a phone, have you?”

Striker fished around in his jacket pocket and came up with a portable phone. “Here. I dunno if it works, though. I hit the wall pretty hard.”

He wasn’t kidding: for the first time Harry noticed that the wall behind him bore the impression of his huge back. Apparently he had cushioned the impact for Fang, or every bone in her body would be broken. Harry took the phone and popped it open, praying that it was still functional. It was. “Good!” he said to himself. “At least somethin’s working around here.”

Getting up, he moved into the middle of the room. “Check the others,” he told Striker. “I gotta make a call. By the way, where are we?”

The troll was reluctant to leave Fang, but he followed the fixer’s orders and moved off after describing their current location. Harry punched in a number, contacting one of the runner teams that he kept on retainer, one that was strong in healing powers and brute force (in case that creature came back). He promised them big nuyen if they could get there fast.

This finished, he hurried off to find Striker. The troll had just raised up from looking at Ocelot, who was wrapped around another machine, bent and bleeding. “He’s alive,” Striker said, “but he’s bad off. We gotta get some help.” He pointed up to a broken spot on the machine about three meters up. “I think he hit up there.”

“Help’s on the way,” Harry said grimly, though he wasn’t sure it would get here in time. He wondered how long he’d been unconscious, then remembered that he still had his chrono. 01:15. Not long, but maybe too long. “Where’s ‘Hawk?”

Striker pointed. “Over there. I ain’t looked at him yet.”

Harry hurried over to the mage’s side. He too was unconscious and bloody, and looked like he may have broken several bones. His hand was knotted in a deathgrip around the hilt of his mageblade.

“Don’t move ‘em,” Striker said, coming up behind him. “Looks like they’re both in bad shape. I think ‘Rika’ll be okay, though. She hit me, mostly.”

“‘Rika?” Harry wasn’t thinking too straight.

“Fang. She’s my sister,” Striker said. If he was going to trust Harry, it might as well be fully. “I gotta go back to her.”

“What about that creature?” Harry asked. “What if it comes back?”

Striker’s eyes widened. “You mean they didn’t kill it?”

“I dunno. I jumped on its back like an idiot, and the next thing I know I’m wrapped around that thing,” he said, pointing toward where he had awakened.

“Shit,” Striker said, hurrying over to pick up his Panther from where it had fallen. Squatting down next to Fang, he hefted the cannon and pointed it into the center of the room.

Ten minutes later, there was a pounding on the door. Striker swiveled around with the Panther, but Harry yelled, “No, kid! That’s the cavalry. I hope,” he added under his breath.

It was. Harry opened the door and admitted four individuals: a human man and woman carrying, respectively, a heavy machine gun and an assault rifle; a dwarf man with a Panther (Striker stared when he saw this: the gun was significantly taller than the dwarf, but he handled it with practiced expertise); and an elven woman wearing a longcoat festooned with charms and talismans. “Where are they?” the elf woman demanded as the other three moved into the room and took up defensive positions.

Harry pointed toward the three downed runners. “Keep an eye out,” he told the three samurai. “I don’t think there’s gonna be trouble, but it’s possible.”

The elf woman quickly checked Fang. “She’ll be fine,” she told Striker. “Just stunned. No injuries. Just keep her warm.” Striker, relieved, pulled off his jacket and gently laid it over his sister. The elf moved off to her next patient. Ten minutes later Ocelot, looking like someone had put him through a meat grinder but healed of his injuries, came over to Harry.

The fixer looked hard at him. “Tell me you killed it. Please tell me you killed it.”

Ocelot sighed. “I wish I could, Harry, but I don’t know. I think we did. I hit it pretty hard, but--” he shrugged. “I just don’t know.” He realized that their party was not complete. “Where’s ‘Hawk? He’ll know. Is he okay?”

At that moment, the elf woman’s clear voice came from where she was bending over the mage. “Harry, we have a problem here.”

Ocelot, with his jacked reflexes, was there almost instantly. “What?” he demanded, staring down at Winterhawk’s bloody form.

The elf shaman waited until Harry arrived a few seconds later before she spoke. “I--I can’t heal him,” she said, confusion clear in her voice.

“What do you mean, you can’t heal him?” Ocelot demanded angrily. “Just do it.”

The elf woman didn’t even look annoyed at him. She looked utterly baffled. “No--you don’t understand,” she said quietly. “There’s something--odd here. His essence is--wrong. I tried my best spell, but my healing magic isn’t working on him.”

Harry, grim-faced, turned to face Ocelot. “Allinda is the best,” he said. “If she can’t do it, then--”

“Is he dying?” Ocelot demanded.

“I don’t think so. But we need to get him to a hospital soon.” She continued to look perplexedly down at the mage. “What happened to him?” she asked Ocelot. “Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life.”

Ocelot elected not to answer that, not in the least because he wasn’t sure himself.

Harry was already off with Striker’s phone again, making another call. He came back over. “I called some trusted people with an ambulance,” he said. “I know a private hospital--they won’t ask any questions.”

Everyone stood around for several minutes, unsure of what to do until the ambulance arrived. Fang awakened and, when informed of Winterhawk’s problem, insisted on trying to heal him herself, but she came to the same conclusion Allinda had. The only way she could describe it was that the mage’s essence was somehow depleted, weak, but not in the normal way an injured person’s would be. She agreed that she had never seen anything like it before, and Dog was silent.

Fifteen minutes after Harry called, two men wearing armored jackets hurried into the room, pushing a stretcher. As they set about their task, Harry, Ocelot, Fang, and Striker moved off to give them room. “We still don’t know if it’s dead,” Harry said. “That scares me.”

Ocelot nodded, distracted. Despite the healing spell his muscles still ached he was still weak from stress and lack of food, and he was worried about both the Horror and Winterhawk. “Yeah, me too. But we’re not gonna know until ‘Hawk wakes up.”

“So--if he--” Striker ventured, unsure of how to say it. “Then we’ll--never know?”

Ocelot glared at him, and so did Harry. “We’ll know,” he said flatly. “‘Hawk’ll be fine. He’ll tell us.”

“Hey,” Striker said, trying to quickly change the subject, “What happened to that Roger guy?”

“Who?” Harry asked. “You mean that Brit guy who came in with you? Who the hell was he, anyway? ‘Hawk’s cousin or somethin’?”

“Just a friend of his,” Fang murmured. “Where did he go?” She was all too afraid she knew.

“He disappeared when that thing threw a big spell at us,” Ocelot said. “I think he blocked most of it.”

“Hey!” came the voice of one of the ambulance men. “One of you guys Ocelot?”

“Yeah,” Ocelot said quickly, coming over. “What is it?”

The man hooked a thumb down at Winterhawk, who had been carefully strapped to a board and lifted up to the stretcher. Somehow, they had managed to pry his grip from his mageblade, which now rested against the side of the stretcher. “He’s askin’ for you.”

Ocelot looked down, noticed that the mage’s eyes were open. He looked unfocused, though, like he wasn’t really seeing what was going on. Ocelot laid a hand on his shoulder. “‘Hawk? It’s me. What do you want?”

Winterhawk tried to move his hand, but his arms were strapped to the gurney. “Is--are...” he paused. “...alive?” His voice was only a whisper.

“Everybody’s alive,” Ocelot assured him. “Everybody made it. And you’ll be fine soon. You shouldn’t be talking.”


Ocelot leaned close. “‘ it dead? Is it gone? Did we kill it?”

Very slowly, the mage nodded. “...dead.”

“It’s gone. You’re sure?” Ocelot didn’t want to take any chances.

Again, Winterhawk nodded. “Yes...dead.” He turned his head to the side. “...sword?”

Ocelot grabbed it and held it where he could see it. “It’s right here. Maybe I’d better take care of it for you until you get out, okay?”

The mage nodded a third time, too wasted to speak further. The ambulance attendant grabbed the end of the gurney. “We gotta get him out of here.”

Ocelot nodded, gently squeezed the mage’s shoulder, then returned to the little knot of people standing around. The other runner team had already left.

“Well,” Harry said, “Now what?”

Ocelot shrugged. “I guess it’s over.”

“He gonna be okay?”

“I don’t know yet. I hope so.”

“Did you ask him if it was dead?” Striker said anxiously.

“Yeah. I asked him. It’s dead. It’s all over now. I guess we can all go home.”

Slowly, Ocelot turned and trudged toward the door, stopping only to gather up the rest of his gear from the pile on the side of the room. He cast a glance at the manacles still locked around his wrists, shrugged, and went out.

After a moment, Harry followed him, head down and hands jammed into his pockets.

Finally, Striker put his arm around Fang and the two of them moved slowly to bring up the rear of the procession. Neither of them looked around them as they left. They did not want to remember this place, though they doubted they would have a choice.

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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.