Chapter 1, part iii

In his suite on the second floor of the Manor’s west wing, Stone burrowed to the back of his large walk-in closet, searching. While he hunted, he allowed his mind to wander over the past, to his days as Winterhawk, a little surprised at how easily it was all coming back to him.

It seemed so long ago since he’d last seen Ocelot (later Viper, and later still Ocelot again), Wraith, and Joe. Two years, but over the gulf of geography and all the major changes he’d made in his life, it seemed more like five, or even ten. It was not quite true that he had not heard from any of them in the intervening time: almost a year ago, a small, featureless note had arrived at the Manor informing him that Wraith, the silent, emotionless elven assassin, had disappeared and was presumed dead. He had known the note was from Ocelot, even though there was no signature and no return address--only a tiny paw-print in the bottom corner of the note. There were also no details, and Stone had not checked into the information, nor had he attended the memorial. Knowing Wraith, there may not even have been a memorial. Hell, knowing ‘Wraith, there was a good possibility that he wasn’t even really dead, but had just seen fit to drop off the face of the earth for some mysterious reason of his own. Still, even the thought of one of their number possibly being dead so soon had saddened him somewhat, despite the knowledge that the elf’s highstrung, paranoid lifestyle was leading almost inevitably toward such an untimely demise. One down; only three to go, Stone had thought, and then been shocked at the morbidity of that. There was no reason to believe that Wraith’s presumed fate might befall the rest of them; at least not any time soon.

As for Joe, he too had disappeared completely. Stone supposed he had returned to his home in the Native American lands; he never had had a chance to know the young troll well during their association. In fact, of the three, Joe had been the only one who had never visited Stone in England. That was all right, though: he was a fine enough fellow, and good in a fight, but the two of them hadn’t had much in common. He wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that the troll had hooked up with another runner group, since he was by far the youngest of their team, barely out of his teens at the time they had split up.

Stone continued rummaging around, shoving suits, heavy woolen overcoats, and other components of his costly wardrobe aside impatiently, his thoughts continuing to play over his bygone days. What a team they had been! In their time they had fought dragons, toxics, insect spirits--there wasn’t much out there that they hadn’t tangled with, and survived. Most of the subjects for his highly successful scholarly papers had, of course, come from his notes taken during his days as a shadowrunner--it was not often that an ivory-tower academic got a chance to study an Ant spirit in its hive and live to tell about it. Study hadn’t been exactly the right word--fight for one’s life was more accurate--however, he’d gotten the data. That was what counted. They didn’t have to know how he’d done it. And then there were those things from the metaplanes--what had Harlequin called them...Horrors? Stone shivered. Even his intensely curious mind didn’t want to settle too long on those things. But that had been another success: they were locked away, and the world was safe, thanks largely to the efforts of his team. He couldn’t talk about it--didn’t want to, really--but the knowledge was there.

He was nearing the rear of the closet now, back where he’d shoved things he didn’t wear anymore, but didn’t feel like getting rid of, like that plum-colored suit: had he ever actually worn that? And the Taste Police hadn’t hauled him away? Lucky thing. But what he was looking for had to be back here somewhere; he couldn’t have--ah! There it was. Right where he’d left it.

Almost reverently, Stone pulled the heavy black leather duster down from its hanger, hefting it experimentally. He held it up by the shoulders, inspecting its folds and pockets and buttons like he was meeting an old friend after a long absence. He slung it over his arm and made his way back out of the closet and into the bedroom.

Roger was sitting in the chair by the window, one leg thrown casually over the arm, grinning at him. “Where’d you dig up that old thing?”

“Don’t you ever knock?” Stone asked in mock irritation, tossing the longcoat on the bed.

“Nope,” the spirit said cheerfully. “That’s what you get for giving me autonomy. I get to show up when you don’t want me around and be a pain in the arse.” He glanced at the coat. “Going on holiday?”

Stone nodded. “Sort of. Going across the pond for a bit. I was actually going to call for you in a while anyway--I want you to take my classes for me for a few days.”

“You’re going off to do something dangerous, aren’t you?” When Stone didn’t answer, the spirit continued, “Better not tell Aubrey. He’ll get his knickers in a bunch over it for sure.”

Stone slumped down on the bed. “He already knows. He heard the call.”

“Nosy these days, eh?”

“That’s nothing new,” Stone said fondly. “I really don’t want to upset him, though.”

“So why are you going?”

He shrugged. “Because I have to, I guess. Remember I said before that I was bored?”

“So instead of going to Africa for amoebic dysentery, you’re going to America for lead poisoning. Jolly good,” Roger said, grinning.

Stone didn’t respond to that, except to glare at the spirit. “You people have no faith.”

Roger’s expression turned serious. “It isn’t that, Alastair, and you know it. If this is what you need to do to get this little wanderlust out of your system, then I say more power to you. But you’re not exactly in top fighting form, you know. You’ve been an academic for two years. The worst thing you’ve had to fight is the traffic into London. Are you sure you’re up to this?”

“Why Roger,” Stone said sarcastically, “You’re worried too. I didn’t know you cared.”

“Just be careful,” the spirit said, refusing to take the bait. “And call me if you need me.”

“I will. I promise. But I want you to keep your nose out of things unless I call you. That’s an order. Understood?”

“Sure.” Roger got up and went over to the doorway, where he lurked, leaning casually against the jamb. “Do I have a choice?”

“No. Now get out of here, will you, and let me get on with it.” Stone turned his back on the spirit, returning his attention to the armored coat and the memories it was awakening.

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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.