Chapter 3, part 3
Marika and Paul arrived at Hangar 83, Seattle-Tacoma Airport, about half an hour earlier than the appointed time. They had come in Marika’s van, a battered, few-year-old little thing that she’d had modified so Paul could ride comfortably in it and so her two Huskies, Furball and Aurora, had lots of room to run around in the back when she took them places with her. This was most of the time, since the dogs were devoted to her and the three of them didn’t like to be away from each other for long. This time, though, the back was not full of two large dogs, but rather of her and Paul’s gear. She’d left Furball and Aurora with another Dog shaman friend of hers; she knew they would all be happy together for the few days she would be gone.
Most of the gear in the back was actually Paul’s; Marika didn’t carry much stuff with her, and most of what she had was already on her person: her precious Dog amulet was a power focus, and her few spirit-summoning materials she carried in her large handbag, along with her Predator pistol and spare ammunition for it. Paul had bought it for her a year ago and insisted that she learn to fire it; she didn’t like to do so, but was nonetheless glad she knew how should the need ever arise.
Paul was the heavy-weapons specialist: his stuff took up a lot more room. Laid out carefully in the back and covered with a heavy tarp were his prized light machine gun, an assault rifle, and the big gun, a Panther assault cannon that stretched nearly the length of the small van’s cargo area. In addition, there were various grenades and ammo boxes, and a katana. All that firepower scared Marika a little, especially the Panther. She was not by nature a violent person; neither was Paul, really, but she knew he enjoyed the feeling of power his toys gave him. She couldn’t blame him: he was only eighteen, two years her junior.
The two of them sat in the van, watching the hangar and waiting for the appropriate time to get out and look for the plane. Marika wondered if the two others, Ocelot and Winterhawk, would arrive together or separately and if they would be late. It was apparent the two knew each other from somewhere, but they hadn’t left the bar together.
“Yeah?” His deep voice was reassuring in the darkness.
“What do you think about those two guys? They scare me, kind of.”
Paul shrugged. “They don’t seem so tough,” he grumbled.
There was that eighteen-year-old-guy machismo again. She smiled fondly at him. “Paul, tough doesn’t necessarily mean they’re as big as a house and can rip steel apart with their bare hands, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. But I still think I could take ‘em if I needed to.”
“I don’t think you’ll need to,” she told him, deciding not to intrude on his fantasy if it made him happy. “What do you think they do?”
“Dunno.” Paul considered. “That Ocelot guy looked like a fighter. Moved like one. Quick, quiet, you know?”
Marika nodded. She’d come to the same conclusion. “What about the English guy? Winterhawk?”
“Full of himself,” Paul said. “Can’t see why, though. Snappy dresser, but didn’t look like he’d last long in a fight.”
“Maybe he’s a decker,” Marika mused.”I couldn’t see if he had a datajack or not. It would make sense, though--we’ve got you for heavy weapons, me for magic, and Ocelot for close combat. And deckers don’t have to be very tough. Just smart.”
“Maybe.” Paul shifted in his seat, making the whole van shake on its suspension. “You think they figured out about us?”
For a long moment, Marika didn’t answer. Then she said slowly, “I’m not sure. They were both looking at us like they were trying to figure something out. If they’re as good as they’re supposed to be, maybe they did. But we still can’t say anything about it. That’s part of the deal, remember?” She looked hard at her brother. Sometimes when he got excited, he blurted out things he shouldn’t be saying.
The troll nodded. “Yeah, I remember. I’ll keep my mouth shut, don’t worry. This is too important to us.” He smiled at her, an enormous toothy grin. “Everything’s gonna be fine, ‘Rika. It’s all going just like Mr. D. said.”
Marika didn’t answer that, because she had noticed something out the van’s window. Far off in the distance, headlights approached. “I think at least one of them is here,” she said, pointing. Paul followed where she pointed, and the two of them watched as the vehicle drew closer, resolving itself into the large, dark form of a limousine. They looked at each other, confused. They didn’t know what they were expecting, but this wasn’t it.
They stayed inside and continued watching as the limo pulled up next to Hangar 83. The passenger door opened and after a moment, Ocelot emerged, followed by Winterhawk. Marika noted idly that the two were almost exactly the same height; the Brit had seemed taller since he was so slim. Almost immediately, both the men’s gazes fell on the van, and even from this far away, Marika could see looks of suspicion cross their faces. “Come on, Paul,” she urged. “We need to get out. They don’t know it’s us in here.” Opening the door, she stepped out of the van. When Paul had followed, she locked it up and hurried over to where the others were waiting.
“You checked out the plane yet?” Ocelot asked, pitching his voice louder to get over the sound of the wind. He stood with Winterhawk next to the limo. The wind was strong, whipping at their clothes and hair.
“Not yet,” Marika told him. “We were waiting for you.”
Without waiting for an answer, Ocelot took off toward the hangar with Winterhawk right next to him. After a moment’s hesitation, Marika followed, then Paul.
Hangar 83 was not a large one; the doors were open halfway to reveal a cavernous open area lit by large fluorescents in the ceiling far above. As she followed the two men inside, Marika could see the form of what looked like a corporate jet situated in the middle of the hangar’s floor area, near the door. A dwarf woman dressed in khaki pants and leather jacket was tinkering with something under the plane’s wing. She looked up as they arrived, and pulled a plug out of the shiny jack in her temple. “Right on time,” she said around the pen stuck between her teeth. “Good. Get yer stuff loaded inside. We’ll take off in about twenty minutes.” That said, she turned away and plugged herself back into the plane.
“Charming woman, that,” Winterhawk muttered under his breath to Ocelot, who didn’t reply. Marika saw that each had exchanged his former outerwear for what looked like armored longcoats, though the Brit still carried his umbrella.
“We better get our stuff loaded,” Paul said, turning to go back outside.
It didn’t take long for them to gather their gear together and stow it in the plane. Paul put his machine gun and assault rifle in a big canvas bag along with their ammo and the shells for the Panther. The assault cannon itself wouldn’t fit in the bag, so he rolled it carefully up in the tarp and carried it to the plane that way. Marika had already put her few items inside, so she stayed close to Paul, noting that Ocelot was eyeing the rolled tarp. He said nothing about it, though. She watched the two of them to see if their gear could give her any indication of their specialties, but learned little: Ocelot had a couple of featureless duffel bags, and Winterhawk’s two suitcases and garment bag were no different from those of any other business traveler.
When they finished loading up, Ocelot went over and said something through the window to the driver of the limousine, and after a moment the car started up and silently moved off into the night, leaving the four of them alone with the dwarf woman, who had finally completed her pre-flight check.
“Okay,” she said, “Everybody on board. We’re gonna have to stop once to refuel in about three hours. Then it’s on to Chicago. Sorry, but we ain’t got an in-flight movie.” She grinned at her own joke and scrambled up into the plane.
The passenger compartment of the little jet was luxuriously appointed, as would befit something meant to shuttle corporate executives back and forth to their various venues. There were six seats of soft blue leather, three on each side, that swiveled around freely so their occupants could face in any direction. One of the chairs was much larger than the others, to comfortably accommodate a troll or large ork. Each group of seats had a small table in its center. At the front of the compartment was a little kitchenette complete with well-stocked refrigerator, microwave oven, and wet bar; at the back was a tiny bathroom, complete with shower. The carpeting was a shade of blue somewhat darker than that of the chairs, thick and plush.
Paul grinned. “Nice,” he said appreciatively, and sat down in the troll-sized chair, trying it out for comfort. Marika took the one next to him, belting herself in. She didn’t like to fly much; she wasn’t afraid of it--it was just one of those things she preferred not to do if she didn’t have to.
Ocelot busied himself walking up and down the narrow aisle, checking out the features and amenities, while Winterhawk immediately took a seat across the way from where Paul and Marika had settled. “Everybody buckle up,” came the dwarf’s voice over the loudspeaker. “We’re ready to go.” Ocelot came back down the aisle and sat down next to Winterhawk, and the two of them belted in. After a pause, Paul did likewise.
Nobody spoke until they were in the air. As soon as the rigger told them it was safe to do so, everyone but Marika quickly undid their belts. Smiling sheepishly to no one in particular, she followed suit, looking around.
Winterhawk stood and removed his overcoat and suit jacket, which he smoothed out and carefully placed over the back of the unused chair near his own. Then he sat back down, glancing over his shoulder at Ocelot. “Wake me up if anything exciting happens,” he said, then swiveled his chair so he could lean against the window and closed his eyes. In a few minutes, he was asleep. Marika wondered how he could do it: she was so nervous she didn’t think she could ever fall asleep again.
About half an hour passed, during which the three wakeful occupants of the passenger compartment sat staring out their respective windows into the night. “Well,” Ocelot finally said, rising from his seat and coming over to sit in the empty chair near Marika and Paul. “I guess if we’re gonna be working together, maybe we should find out a little more about each other, so we know what kind of skills we’ve got.”
“You start,” Paul said. Even when trying to be quiet, his rumbling basso profundo carried a certain authority.
Ocelot seemed not to notice. He smiled a little tightly. “Okay, I’ll start. I’m a fighter. I’m fast, I’m decently strong, and I’m good in hand-to-hand. I’m also good with guns, but I don’t like to use ‘em as much. I prefer a good close-in combat.” He looked at Paul expectantly, as if to say Okay, now it’s your turn.
The troll took a deep breath. Marika could tell he was nervous. “I do the big guns, mostly. And I can beat the hell out of most things in a fight.” He met Ocelot’s eyes, though there was no implied challenge in his words.
“Good,” Ocelot said. “We’ll probably need that. You got any tech?”
Paul nodded. “Wired reflexes, and a smartgun link. I’m pretty fast.”
“Okay.” Ocelot nodded. “What kind of big guns you got?”
“Machine gun. Assault rifle. And a Panther,” Paul finished proudly.
Ocelot whistled softly. “Good deal. How good are you with ‘em?”
“Good enough,” Paul said, just a bit defensively. “I can handle ‘em, don’t worry. And I got a katana for fightin’ up close.”
“Good,” Ocelot said again, his smile a little less tight and a little more relaxed. “Me, I use a bunch of different hand weapons, but my favorite’s this.” Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew what looked like a small handle with nothing attached to it.
Marika had no idea what it was, but Paul’s eyes widened. “A monowhip? Those things are dangerous.”
“Not when you’re good with ‘em. Just don’t get too close to me if we get into combat. I’ve still got all my fingers, so that must be a good sign.”
Marika took a deep breath. Ocelot noticed it and smiled. “That was a joke,” he told her. She nodded, but still didn’t speak.
Paul looked dubious, but finally smiled too. “I guess what’s more important is, do your friends still have all their fingers?”
Ocelot grinned, choosing not to answer that. Turning to Marika, he said, “You’re a shaman, right?”
“Mind if I ask your totem?”
She smiled. “I follow the ways of Dog,” she said, even more proudly than when Paul had spoken of his Panther.
Ocelot’s eyes widened a bit and he seemed to relax a little more. “I’m glad to hear that,” he said, but didn’t elaborate. Marika knew what he meant, though, and was a little surprised that he knew it: Dog required loyalty in those who followed his ways. A Dog shaman would never knowingly betray her allies. If Ocelot knew that, as he apparently did, he would be more comfortable working with her. “Got any specialties?”
She thought about that. “I guess I do a little bit of everything,” she finally said. “I have a couple of decent combat spells, and I know healing, of course,” she added hastily, aware that knowledge of magical healing was one of the most valuable things a magician could bring to a team.
“She does just fine,” Paul spoke up.
Marika smiled at her brother, then glanced over at Winterhawk, who was deeply asleep now. “What about him? What does he do? Is he a decker?”
“‘Hawk?” Ocelot shook his head with a little smile. “No, he’s a mage. An in-your-face, nuke-’em-till-they-glow combat mage.”
Marika nodded, unsure of what to make of that. “You’ve worked with him before, haven’t you?”
“Yeah. We used to work together a while ago.”
“Shouldn’t he be in on this?” Paul asked, looking over at the mage suspiciously.
Ocelot shook his head. “Nah, let him sleep. He just got over from London this morning, and he’s jet-lagged. We’ll need him to be at his best when we get there.”
That sounded reasonable to Marika. She was a little tired herself, but decided she’d try to sleep later on if she could.
“You two worked together long?” Ocelot was asking Paul.
“Awhile,” the troll said. “We been through a lot together.”
Marika smiled a little to herself, forgiving him the little lie. Actually, it wasn’t a lie, per se--they had been through a lot together. But she didn’t think it was the kind of stuff Ocelot was looking for. He just nodded, though, like he suspected it. “Maybe we ought to take a look at those plans while we’ve got the time.” He stopped, considered, then looked annoyed. “Damn. Gonna have to wake ‘Hawk up after all--he’s got the stuff in his pocket.”
“Why don’t you just get it?” Paul asked. “He left his jacket on the seat there.”
Ocelot shook his head, already getting up. “Not smart.” Gently, he shook Winterhawk’s shoulder and the mage opened his eyes, looking uncomprehendingly at Ocelot for a moment. “What--?”
“Go back to sleep,” Ocelot said quietly. “I just need to get that envelope out of your jacket.”
“Take whatever you want,” Winterhawk growled, turning away from him. He fumbled in his pocket, snapped open the pocketwatch, glared at it, snapped it closed again, and put it back in his pocket. “Just go away.” Before Ocelot had the envelope out of his jacket, he was asleep again.
Marika looked at him uncertainly. “Is he always that--uh--grouchy?” she asked Ocelot.
Ocelot dropped back down into the chair next to her with the envelope. “No, not always. Sometimes he’s worse.” He took the plans out of the envelope and spread them out on the tiny table, and the three of them spent the next half-hour studying them. There wasn’t much to study; Johnson had been right--the level of detail on the map was not high. From what they could tell by the map, the building was surrounded by a tall perimeter wall, with about 50 meters of open space between the wall and the building entrance. The map did not show the location of any security systems. It also did not show much of the layout of the building’s interior. Ocelot sighed. “We’re really going to be on our own with this one, I’m afraid.”
Marika nodded, trying to remain interested in the map, but she was finding it hard to do. The time passed slowly, and the plane still made her nervous, especially when it infrequently hit air pockets. When the little jet finally touched down for refueling, she was glad to get out and stretch her legs on solid ground.
The rest of the flight to Chicago was uneventful. Winterhawk woke up right after they took off from the fueling stop, and he and Ocelot spent the next hour going over the plans on their own. When the plane finally landed in Chicago, the sun had risen. Accounting for the time difference, it was nearly 0700.
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.