Seattle, 8 November 20xx, 09:45
Harry had certainly outdone himself with the accommodations this time, Ocelot thought as he rode the elevator up to the fourth floor of a small but very exclusive hotel on the outskirts of Seattle. This place was all class: thick luxurious carpeting, walls of muted hues, real plants, lots of windows--the place must be costing Harry a fortune, but nobody was complaining, least of all the fixer. And knowing Harry, the staff could be counted to to keep their mouths shut about whatever unusual activities might be going on up on the fourth floor. That was worth even more than the luxury.
They were meeting in Winterhawk’s suite to settle up and discuss options. Ocelot was relieved that the mage had finally been released from the small private hospital where he’d been for the past week. None of them had been allowed to see Winterhawk in that time, on orders from the doctors; all they had told him was that his friend’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening, and that they would release him as soon as it was safe to do so.
Ocelot had gone to pick up Winterhawk last night and take him back to the hotel where Harry had already made the necessary arrangements. He’d been shocked at the mage’s appearance; he had seen Winterhawk injured many times, but the mage had always been quick to heal himself up (or they had always taken him to a friendly shaman for healing if he couldn’t do it himself). This time, he had looked exactly like what he was: a man who had been badly hurt in an accident and was going to take a long time to heal up. His left arm and lower leg were both in casts, his ribs were tightly taped up, and a bandage covered a deep gash in his forehead. Although he tried to maintain his cheerfully sarcastic demeanor, Ocelot could see the haunted look in his eyes. He’d lost weight, too; Ocelot had as well. “Are you sure they want to let you out?” he’d asked the mage.
Winterhawk had shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be there anymore. I might as well feel rotten in more pleasant surroundings. Besides, the doctor insists on looking in on me twice a day.” He sighed. “This injury business is no fun at all, you know. I don’t know how you mundanes put up with it.”
Ocelot had decided not to answer that.
The others were already in the room when he arrived. Harry was sitting in a soft chair by the window, and Striker leaned against the wall with Fang sitting down on the edge of the large bed. Winterhawk sat up in bed, propped up with an array of large pillows. He looked better than he had the previous night. He smiled as Ocelot came in. “Nice of you to join our little party,” he said.
Ocelot nodded. “Yeah.” He took a seat on the other side of the bed and waited.
Harry looked around at the assembled group. A week after his adventure, he was looking like his usual irascible self again. “So,” he said, clearing his throat, “Anybody got anything to drink? ‘Hawk won’t let me light up a cigar in here.”
“If you’re going to pollute the place, Harry, at least go out on the balcony to do it,” Winterhawk said in mock irritation.
Ocelot got up and checked the wet bar in the suite’s front room, returning with a tray containing a tall bottle of very good Scotch and five glasses. He handed this to Harry. “This do?”
Harry grinned. “I always knew there was a reason I liked you, kid.” Setting down the tray on a dresser, he poured five glasses and handed them out. “You sure you’re allowed?” he asked Winterhawk, holding the glass out of his reach.
“Who cares?” the mage asked. “Hand it over, Harry. I could use a good shot right now.”
Harry did so, then raised his own glass. “Listen,” he said awkwardly, “I dunno quite how to say this, so I guess I’m just gonna blurt it out. I want you guys to know I’m...Well, I wanta thank you for what you did. And I wanta apologize for gettin’ you into this in the first place. I almost got you guys killed, and I couldn’t even make it right this time.”
Ocelot shrugged. “It turned out okay. Mostly, anyway.”
“But the thought is there,” Winterhawk said, raising his glass. “I think this is the first time I’ve heard Harry quite so eloquent. I’m touched.” He smiled a little. “It’s all right, Harry. We understand.”
“Aw, go on,” Harry snorted. “You know this sentimental stuff isn’t me. That’s why I’ve got these.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a pair of credsticks, which he tossed on the bed.
Ocelot picked up one and looked at it, then looked up at Harry quizzically.
The fixer waved him off. “I know it ain’t as much as you expected, but I figured I owed you somethin’ for gettin’ ya screwed over that bad.” Then he turned to Fang and Striker. “Now, about you two.”
“What about us?” Striker asked. “You don’t owe us nothin’.”
Harry nodded. “I know that. But Ocelot here tells me that you two are tryin’ to get yer start as runners, but your fixer--well, he ain’t around anymore.”
Fang nodded sadly. “That’s right.”
“Well, I’ll tell ya what,” the fixer said, pulling out two more credsticks. “I gave those two jokers sixty-five K each. I got that much here for each of you--” he held up the credsticks “--or I can give ya less cred and make a deal with ya.”
“What kind of a deal?” Striker asked.
“You know, I’ve got a bit of a reputation around here--” Harry said.
“Don’t ask about what it is,” Winterhawk interrupted.
“--as a fixer,” Harry continued, ignoring him. “I get a lotta good jobs, and I’ve helped a lotta teams get going around here. Hell, I even helped these two back when they were just a couple of punk kids.”
“I was never a punk kid,” Winterhawk protested.
“So what I was thinkin’,” the fixer went on, still ignoring him, “Was that I could help you guys out too. You know, make connections, get ya jobs, hook ya up with the right people, that kind of thing. Kinda keep an eye on ya while ya make a rep. Ya might not get this kind of money right away,” he added, indicating the credsticks, “--but if ya plan to stay in the biz, it’ll be worth more to ya in the long run. So whaddya think?”
Striker looked at Fang, then both of them turned to Winterhawk and Ocelot. “What do you say we should do?” Fang asked.
Ocelot shrugged. “We can’t make up your minds for you. But Harry’s good. He ain’t humble, but he’s good. He could really help you out a lot if you let him.”
Fang looked at Winterhawk.
“Much as it pains me to say this,” the mage said, “I haven’t seen better than Harry. You could do a lot worse.”
Harry grinned. “Respect. It feels so good.”
“Well, don’t hold your breath for it to come again, Harry,” Ocelot said. “We got our reputations to consider, after all.”
Again, Fang looked at Striker. “Paul?”
Striker sighed. He still wasn’t sure that the shadow life was for him, but now that the shock of the last few days was beginning to wear off, he was willing to give it a try. “I think we oughta do it,” he said.
Fang nodded. “Me too. Do you really think you can help us?”
“Sure, kid,” Harry said. He jotted down a phone number and handed it to her. “You take this, give me a call in a few days, and I’ll set you up, okay?”
Fang took the number and put it in her bag, then stood. “We will. Thank you.” She turned to Winterhawk and Ocelot. “I think it’s time for us to go, though. You three probably have a lot to discuss.” She took a deep breath. “Thank you. For everything.”
Winterhawk smiled. “And again, thank you, my friend. If you ever need anything, feel free to call me. Harry knows how to reach me.”
“Me too,” Ocelot added. “Just call.”
Tears glistened in Fang’s eyes. Distractedly, she brushed them away. “Thank you,” she said again. Reaching out, she gently squeezed Winterhawk’s hand, then Ocelot’s, and finally Harry’s. “Come on, Paul,” she said, her voice roughened by her tears. “Let’s go.”
Striker pushed himself off the wall and followed his sister to the door. Opening it, he turned back. “Thanks,” he said, and then the two of them were gone.
Harry watched them go. “Nice kids,” he said. “Gonna be part of a good team.” Then he too stood. “Well, I really got no more to say, so I’ll get my butt outta here so ‘Hawk can get his beauty sleep. God knows he needs it.”
Winterhawk leaned back against the pillows and did not take the bait. He was getting tired again--whatever the Horror had done to him, it had taken most of his endurance. He could feel it coming back, slowly, but he knew he had a long way to go. “Harry?”
“If you get any more wonderful jobs looking for the best around, do me a favor, will you?”
“Don’t call me.”
Harry grumbled something under his breath, then turned and left the room, still muttering about “...no respect.”
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.