Shadowrunner Bedtime Story
by Alex Yang
The following is a bedtime story from the flip side: "Momma don't let your children grow up to be shadowrunners."
"It was a dark and stormy night..."
"Oh no, not another Seattle story. Grandpa, tell us something else. Tell us about the time a bear tried to eat Clyde!"
"Yeah! Or the time you went out for groceries and got caught in the Aztlan riot!"
"Or about the time..."
"Whoa, slow down my little pups. I'm supposed to be tucking you in, not rilin' you up! Hmm. How 'bout the time when I was almost late for commuter bus 140?"
"Yeah! Tell us about the big, bad shadowrunners taking the bus!"
"Alrighty then. Let's see...a long time ago, when Dunkelzahn was still alive, I worked the night shift at Shiawase's nuclear facility in Denver. We were just workin' out the bugs in the system when my manager suddenly sat upright and jumped for the PanicButton. Apparently, TerraFirst was making good on their threats, and we were under attack."
"By the big, bad shadowrunners?"
"Yes dear one, but I didn't know that at the time. I just knew that Clyde and Ernest were howlin' something fierce, and only a fool would want to make barghests unhappy."
"Is that why mommy won't let us have a puppy? Because daddy is such a fool?"
"Well...I think you mother and father may need to talk a bit softer. In any case, I ran outside in time to see the security gate blow up with a loud 'KABOOM.' I guess subtlety wasn't so important to _these_ shadowrunners. I heard someone shouting (I think it was a guard named Johnson), followed by automatic gunfire. Clyde and Ernest were both down, whimperin' softly."
"Hehe. Grandpa said Johnson."
"Shut up hoophead. Were you scared, grandpa?"
"Of course I was. And be nice to your brother. Even though I had been a security guard for 'bout a year, I'd never actually fired my gun outside of the range. No matter what your friends may say, guns are not the answer to everything. I was trained, but I wasn't prepared to kill. All the violence you see on the news are the work of fools, and you two are much brighter than that. Of course, since I had a job to do, I drew my gun and crept towards Clyde and Ernest.
"By this time, the shadowrunners had shot out all the spotlights in the front, leaving me sitting in the dark. I was wonderin' what to do when another guard charged out of the gatehouse, carrying a rocket launcher and screaming at the top of his lungs. This was pretty stupid, as someone immediately popped up from around the corner and blasted him with a mean-ol' shotgun (like my Remington, 'cept twice as big and ten times as loud), knockin' him back into the gatehouse."
"And then the gatehouse blew up?"
"Yes dear one, the gatehouse blew up. Accident or not, that rocket launcher went OFF. I could see flames lickin' the doorway a split second before the ground shook from the explosion. The windows shattered, the roof collapsed, and the shotgun-toting samurai flew at least ten meters away from the blast. That explosion should have killed a troll, but the samurai actually managed to stagger to one knee before collapsing. I thought I was watching trid, it all seemed so unreal. Not until the perimeter drones rumbled around the corner did I start to move again."
"Were they Ares SL 2000s, grandpa?"
"Um, I'm not sure they had those back then. But it was something similar. Hey, I thought your momma doesn't subscribe to the premium sites?"
"I saw it at Wendy's. Her daddy is a Sioux Wildcat, and loves 'SOTA Pop.'"
"Right...of course he is. As I was sayin', the drones came as fast as their little treads could take them while the shadowrunners sprinted for the main building. A big black van roared through the open security gate and screeched to a halt, and more shadowrunners jumped out. One ran to the side of the samurai and just knelt there, as if she was praying. Even though the only light came from the burning gatehouse, everything seemed as bright as day."
"Grandpa, why didn't the shadowrunners just turn on their headlights, since something big just exploded?"
"Well, I guess they now wanted to be stealthy. Anyway, while others were standing around with weapons drawn, the girl was busy with the samurai. She was so young, and concentrated so hard that she burst into tears. Just for a second, her hair fanned back like the hood of a cobra and I thought I could see scales form on her pretty face. When I first saw her, I wasn't sure I should shoot, but when I saw those scales, I panicked. I started squeezing off shots one after 'nother, until I ran out of bullets.
"Well, I certainly ignored my own advice that night. Advertisin' your presence is foolish, but doing it in front of a dozen shadowrunners is just beggin' for trouble. Luckily, I dove for cover behind Ernest, and damn if that dawg didn't roll over on top of me. He took most of the bullets meant for me, giving me time to reload and high-tail it around the corner. I wasn't paid to die, and I kept that firmly in mind. Remember: never back yourself into a corner, and always allow yourself the chance to walk away. I know that the tribe teaches pride and patriotism at school, but you should look out for yourself and your family first.
"I soon heard the the welcome whirrin' made by Yellowjackets lifting off their launch pads. I was forgotten in the confusion as missiles were launched, shots were fired, and vehicles started explodin' here, there, and everywhere. The shadowrunners' big black van blew up, as did the two Shiawase Yellowjackets. I still don't understand why it took 'em so long to armor those deathtraps, but that's another story.
"So there I was, trying not to get hit by friendly or enemy fire, when everything just settles down, quiet like. I look at my watch, and it's only been five minutes since my manager slapped the PanicButton. Of course, it takes another five hours to sort through the mess in the courtyard, followed by another three hours of questioning. I tell you what, I was bone-tired when I was finally allowed to go home."
"Here's where you meet the shadowrunners!"
"Yes dear one. As far I can figure, they had gone to ground for a few hours after their attack, but I have no idea why they didn't hide longer. I was standin' at the bus platform when an old Americar pulls up and drops off three people, one of which was cobra girl. Like me, they had changed out of their work clothes and looked every bit as tired as I felt. I guess they tried to blend in, since they stood apart from each other while waiting silently for the downtown bus, but they looked so blatantly hostile that others started edging away from them.
"I called it in to the corp, of course, and that's why I had to run after the 140. By noting which bus they took, Shiawase was able to track them down and force them to repay damages. I should know, because I personally filled out the claim form for Ernest. The end."
"Can you tell us the story about adopting Clyde, grandpa?"
"Another night, dear one. Sweet dreams, and don't grow up to be a (stupid) shadowrunner."
©1998, Alex Yang - used with permission