Magespace Short Story Contest - Honourable Mention


by Rand Ratinac

Micky Donovan had been having a bad day. No, let me rephrase that. Micky Donovan had been having a bad year. He’d also been having a very bad day. So I suppose it was somewhat understandable when he went out that night and got himself totally pissed.

Micky Donovan had a boss. Don’t we all? The difference is, though, who that is. See, I’m my own boss and most of the time I’m a pretty damn decent boss. Micky, though – well, his boss’ name was James. James Edward Darcy-Rutherford. The Third. Mr. Darcy-Rutherford, quite unlike myself, was an absolute bastard of a man to work for. He’s the kind of boss people don’t just dream about killing – if you know what I mean. And that was on his good days.

The big problem, you see, was that our Mr. Darcy-Rutherford absolutely despised poor old Micky. Ever since Micky had transferred to his department a year ago, Mr. Darcy-Rutherford had made it his mission in life to turn Micky’s life into a living hell. And if there was one thing you could say for Mr. Darcy-Rutherford it was that he was good at his job. Very good, in fact. Unfortunately for Micky. So it was understandable that, while he was pissed that night, Micky started making threats. Vivid threats. In excruciating detail.

The problem with that, however, was that Micky worked for Fuchi. In particular, Micky worked in Fuchi’s ‘Resources Adjustment Department’, or RAD for short. If you don’t already know, a ‘Resources Adjuster’ is Fuchi-speak for a professional Johnson. In other words, Micky was the guy who hired shadowrunners to do the dirty on other people. So when Micky started making threats, the truth of the matter was that he was entirely capable of having them carried out – if he’d been so inclined – which he wasn’t. He was just drunk.

Unfortunately for Micky, our Mr. Darcy-Rutherford was a paranoid slot. As paranoid as they come. That was probably one of the reasons why he was still around to be Micky’s boss. He’s the kind of guy who believes in preemptive strikes. In other words, if you start making threats, he’ll take you out first. And he could do that – he was a Resources Adjuster too.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

I’d done some work for Mr. Darcy-Rutherford previously and, according to him, my crew and I were the best runners he’d ever worked with. Now I had no idea whether he was telling the truth, or just winding us up in the hope that we’d work cheaper (knowing him as I did, it was most probably the latter), but whatever the case he came to me first – or at least, no one took the job before he approached me.

As I recall, I’d been in my favourite dive that night, drinking heavily. It had not been a good day for me, either, but that was beside the point. I wasn’t drinking to forget, I was just drinking to get drunk. Not a very intelligent pastime, I know, but there’s something about waking up in the morning with the mother of all hangovers to put all your problems into perspective.

"Well," I remember slurring, "if it isn’t Big Jimmy D!" I often called him that. He absolutely hated it. I’m that kind of person, in case you hadn’t guessed. I think we’ll call him that from now on in my little manuscript. There’s no way he’ll ever set eyes on this in his lifetime, but some day his ghost will look down and see that the only memorial to his existence in the entire world is a book that calls him Big Jimmy D. And that’ll slot him off to no end.

"Blood," he said with a frown. He was always frowning at me. I actually kind of liked it.

I waved my arm in an expansive gesture and just managed to avoid ending up on the floor. "Take a seat, Jimmy! I’m feeling nice enough to put up with anyone tonight, even a slot like you."

"So kind," he murmured, seating himself fastidiously. That was another annoying thing about old Jimmy D. He was so careful about keeping clean it made me want to yarf. I know, cleanliness is next to godliness and all that, but there are limits. I always got the feeling that Big Jimmy would have worn some kind of environment suit to our meets if that wouldn’t have gotten the drek beaten out of him. At the very least. Funny thing was, good old Jimmy was such a weird, scrawny looking guy that anything, even a bit of drek, could have improved his appearance.

"So what can I do for you, you old bastard?" I asked him. Jimmy D was smart enough not to be offended by that – even if I did mean every word of it.

"I have a job for you, Blood," he said to me and pulled out one of his damned files. I really didn’t like his files. If you didn’t check out anything and everything in them, you’d tend to get some rather nasty surprises sprung on you.

"What kind?" It was always important to get that out of the way up front with Big Jimmy D – otherwise you’d tend to get some rather nasty surprises sprung on you.

Jimmy looked around rather furtively, somehow managing to look even more shifty than usual – and that was saying something. Finally he leant forward and whispered, "Wetwork."

Now that was a nasty surprise – even more than the fact that I hadn’t actually killed Jimmy the first time I met him. See, despite the handle, my crew and I didn’t do assassinations and Big Jimmy knew that. I’d turned down a number of jobs from him over the years, specifically because they involved wetwork. He was a stubborn slot, though, and never knew to leave well enough alone. I’d thought he’d been learning, though – and evidently he had, because when I sat back and cocked an eyebrow at him he looked rather apologetic. That was a minor miracle in and of itself. I don’t think the fragger had ever been sorry for anything in his whole life, so I didn’t think he even knew what a regretful expression looked like. Guess he’d been practising in the mirror.

"I know, Blood, I know. I wouldn’t be asking if it weren’t important. This guy wants me dead, though, and when I think about it, the action I keep coming back to – the only way I’ll survive – is if you take him out first." See what I meant about pre-emptive strikes?

"Who?" I asked. I didn’t intend to take the job at the time – I wouldn’t have shed a single tear if this mystery assassin had offed old Jimmy D – but curiousity never hurt, or so I thought. Anyway, it always paid to get that out of the way from the start with Big Jimmy – otherwise you’d tend to get some rather nasty…well, you get the idea.

Jimmy-boy just pointed to the file – that was an annoying habit of his. One among legions. So, like a putz, I blithely opened the file – and guess whose face I saw staring back at me.

Now, I suppose I should make something clear at this point. The reason I have a story to tell about this little episode at all is not because I’m an amazingly kindhearted slot who couldn’t hurt a fly if it didn’t deserve it. No, it’s because I worked my way up from the mean streets of Seattle. I started out as a punk ganger with the Cutters years ago, ended up doing some work for the Mob after the Cutters’ little ‘run-in’ with the Ancients and eventually managed to make my own way in the world. I like being my own boss and I wouldn’t pass it up for anything. Whoops, getting a bit off-track there. Anyway, the point is that when you’re on the streets with a gang and when you’re doing biz for the Mafia, you learn the meaning and value of loyalty. And that’s why I have a story to tell. So shut up and listen.

Now when I opened that file and Big Jimmy saw this look of surprise spread over my face, he must have figured that I knew Micky Donovan from somewhere. I did, but even his wildest guess wouldn’t have come close. "How much?" I asked immediately, dropping my voice into an angry growl. That gave him the idea that wherever I knew Micky from, it was the kind of association that wouldn’t hinder the operation – and might even aid it.

"Twenty each," he told me. Not a bad price for a hit, I knew. With a crew of five, that’d cost him a hundred K. Still, I knew something that he didn’t know I knew – namely, that Micky worked with him in Fuchi’s RAD. The PPD they could have called it – Professional Paranoia Department. Arranging a hit on one of their Johnsons was not the piece of cake you’d expect. So I upped the ante.

"A hundred each, half up front."

Heh, I know what you’re saying now. "Whoa, you’re crazy, man. Asking for five times what the Johnson’s just offered? You can kiss this and any other jobs from him ever again goodbye." Well, normally, yes, I’d agree with you. But what you don’t know is that my boys and I are a pretty high-priced crew as it is – and Big Jimmy was asking us to do something we normally just don’t do. Still, I did expect him to sputter a bit at that. What I didn’t expect was for him to blink once, look at me steadily and say, "Done."

You could have cut the silence at our table with a cyberspur. My first thought ran something along the lines of a quote from an old flatscreen I’d seen once – Inconceivable! My second thought was, Drek, there’s really something wrong between Big Jimmy and Micky.

Time for my second point, I’d say. The other thing Jimmy D didn’t know was from where I knew Micky Donovan. I’d known Micky since the pair of us had been little punks on Seattle’s mean streets, making as much trouble for ‘The Man’ as we could. We’d both been with the Cutters before that little episode with the Ancients and while I’d gone on to the Mafia, he’d turned legit. We always kept in touch, though. About the time I was breaking my Mob ties, he was selling his soul to Fuchi.

I know, I know. "What about you?" you’re saying. "You work for those same scumbags and probably do a lot worse things than Micky ever did." Well, I guess that’s true, to an extent. The thing that you’re missing there is that Micky sold his soul to those scumbags. I just rent mine out. And let me tell you, the pay is great.

So there I am, with the fattest contract I’ve ever seen sitting in my lap. And all I have to do is kill one of my oldest chummers. So what do I do?

I can hear you all now. "Stand up," you’re saying. "You stand up, floor the bastard and walk on out of there." That was exactly my first impulse. So, of course, all I did was look Big Jimmy square in the eye and say, "Done."

Heh heh heh…I can hear your sputters of outrage now – music to my ears, let me tell you. "What the hell is this!" I can hear you screaming. "All that talk about loyalty and for the sake of a lousy hundred K you sell out your buddy!" Well, yes, in a way that’s true – but there are two things you aren’t considering. Firstly, if I didn’t take the contract then our Jimmy D would’ve just gone to another crew and someone else would have taken the job and Micky would’ve been just as dead. And secondly – and most importantly – I had no intention of killing Micky; but I was going to get at least fifty K just for saying one word. Not very honourable, I know, but then I’m really just a semi-reformed gutter-punk at heart, so what the hell do I care about honour?

So I kept talking. "Have the payment made in the usual fashion and leave the file with me. I’ll look into it and we’ll get started by the end of the week."

Big Jimmy shook his head. In the bar’s lighting he appeared remarkably like an animated skeleton bouncing around inside a sack of skin. Unhealthy-looking guy. "Tonight," he told me. "I want him dead tonight."

I just laughed. "You’re kidding, right?" He stared at me and slowly shook his head and I laughed again. "Okay then. One million each."

Even Big Jimmy blanched at that. "You’re kidding me."

It was my turn to shake my head. "Hardly," I said, deadly serious. "I’ve locked horns with this guy before and I know he’s in the RAD too. I don’t know why you want him dead and I don’t want to know-" big fib there, "-but I do know that unless you give us time to work something he’ll be a fragging cast-iron slitch to get to. So that leaves you with three options. First, you pay us five million nuyen to kill him tonight and we all take our chances; and we probably botch it because of a lack of preparation and then we all end up in the drekker." I grinned. "You really think we’re gonna protect you when we can save our hides by giving you up?" I shook my head. Tip for Johnsons. That’s the reason you don’t contract work out to people who know who you really are – especially work like this. It’s just too easy to start naming names to protect yourself when things go to drek. Yeah, there’s loyalty on the streets – but it’s to each other, not to the corpers who hire us.

"Second option," I continued. "You pay some chiphead or fragwit ganger a couple hundred nuyen to take a shot at him; and even if the fragger somehow manages to get within a mile of him, he’ll blow it and you’ll be back to square one again. Unless your target’s a suspicious slot and guesses who sent the punk – then you’re in even more trouble." I could see that one had scored. Jimmy D was paranoid enough that he found it easy to believe that everyone else was too. For once that paranoia was working for me.

"Third option – you give us five hundred K and some time to work with – and this fragger’s dead in a week." I leant back and crossed my arms. "So what’s it to be?"

I could barely hold back a smile. I’d hooked Big Jimmy with my first sentence and landed him long before I’d finished speaking. He was mine for the taking – I could see it in his eyes. "All right," he said grudgingly. "All right. You’ve got a week. But that’s it. He has to be gone by then."

I waved a hand both magnanimously and gracefully. Nothing like a hard bargaining session to clear the head. "Done deal, Jimmy-boy. Now if you’ll excuse me, your problems aren’t my problems until tomorrow." I gestured him away and went back to my drinking. At least, that’s what it looked like to him, so he left me to my amusements. Actually, I was just beginning to realise I’d gotten myself in pretty deep and it was time for me to think of a way out of it for me, my crew – and Micky.

It took a while, but I got there.



Now, whatever you may think of us shadowrunners, the majority of us aren’t stupid. At least, not the ones who last for any noticeable amount of time. The stupid ones burn fast. I don’t know about burning bright, but they sure as hell burn fast. I don’t know why, but most of the stupid ones end up in my line of work – street warriors, street samurai, whatever your preference; that’s what we’re called and that’s what we do. I…no, scratch that. I just answered my own question. The reason they end up there is because you don’t have to be smart to beat the drek out of somebody. But to do it with finesse, with style, well that’s where us brainiacs come into our own. To figuratively beat the drek out of someone without them even realising you’ve taken them calls for a real genius. Now, I don’t want to brag, but…okay, I’ll brag.

Honestly, it wasn’t entirely genius on my part. Although I am one, according to some tests I took one time. The main reason I managed to pull this little job off was because I knew who I was dealing with. I knew the both of them like the back of my hand and I knew which way they’d jump when I said ‘boo!’ Sometimes that helps even more than sheer brainpower – that’s why everyone always goes on about the value of intelligence. That’s intelligence – as in what the military doesn’t have – not brains.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. I’m told geniuses tend to do that. They think a lot faster than their mouths work and they just keep going off in all directions. At any rate, the first step, after I filled my crew in on what was going down, was to stop in and speak with Micky.



"Damn it, Micky, would you just listen to me for a minute?" I bellowed. "Your boss is out to get you!" I quickly calmed myself down and looked somewhat furtively around the bar. It isn’t often a smart move to raise your voice when you aren’t on home turf – especially when you’re discussing a contracted killing. No one seemed to be paying much attention – one of the benefits of picking a low dive to do your dealings in. The big drawback to such a strategy, however, is that it tends to be a lot cheaper and easier for people to find out what you were talking about, if anyone did happen to be taking surreptitious notes. It was most unlikely that Big Jimmy D would ever even hear enough about this little meet to know to ask questions, though. I suppose that was the one reason I was ever glad Big Jimmy was a stuck-up snob. Apart from his shadow ops, he didn’t know anyone from the seedy side of the streets.

Anyway, I leaned forward and grabbed Micky’s wrist tightly. "He was sitting so close I could have reached out and tweaked his snotty nose!" I hissed and shook his arm. "You know I’ve done work for him, Micky. I swear to you, Mr. James Edward Darcy-Rutherford sat just where you are now and offered me half a mil if I’d get you out of his hair permanently!" I tossed his arm away and sat back with a disgusted sigh. "What do you find so hard to believe about all this?"

Micky was shaking his head in disbelief, his expression stunned. "He wouldn’t do that, Bobby. I know he doesn’t like me, but he doesn’t like anyone, really."

I shook my head. "Correction, Micky. He doesn’t like anyone, true – but he hates you. But that’s not why he wants you dead anyway." I paused somewhat dramatically, then plunged forward in a rush, as if I was uncomfortable telling him this. "He heard about your little performance the other night, Micky – he heard about the threats." Micky let out a groan and I tried not to smile. Score one for Blood. Actually, at the time I still wasn’t exactly sure what had set Big Jimmy off. I’d found out about Micky’s little pub-crawl through some discreet digging, but I wasn’t able to confirm that that was why Jimmy D wanted him dead until some time later. It was a very good guess at the time, though. "You and I both know he’s the most paranoid slot in existence. He thinks you’re serious and he wants you dead before you do unto him."

Micky was as pale as a vampire by this time. "Are you sure?" he asked in a little-boy kind of voice that I hadn’t heard from him since we were kids. That in itself was quite remarkable. I could’ve sworn you’d never be able to get a sound that soft out of him. Micky was a very big guy – bigger than me, even, and that was saying something. That was probably one of the reasons he intimated Big Jimmy. Hell, he even intimidated me when he was angry.

I nodded solemnly. I hated to do this to the poor guy, but it was for his own good. "Very sure, Micky."

"What did you do?" he asked, even more subdued than before.

Uh-oh. Lie time. I could feel the little fragger screaming and clawing at my throat as I began to speak. Second Unwritten Law of the Streets – you don’t lie to your chummers.

"Turned him down, of course," I said easily.

The truth never even stood a chance. I had the lie out and winging its way to Micky’s ears before it could do more than tickle my slick little gullet. You see, that law works well when you’re just a punk ganger. When you’re a shadowrunner, though, you learn that things aren’t as clear-cut as you thought they were. We runners have a little qualifier we stick onto the end of that law – ‘unless you can get away with it’. I’d had a lot of practise lying to chummers over the years, so it didn’t cause me more than a momentary twinge of guilt – and I’m used to those. "But that’s not the point. By now he’s gone on to his second-string crew and he’s got someone to take the job. Not everyone he asks is going to be an old chummer of yours, Micky."

Suddenly, he got suspicious. I guess the initial shock had passed. "Why’d he come to the Service anyway, Bobby? He knows you guys don’t do that kind of job. And you never screw your Johnson unless he screws you first. So what gives?"

I almost grinned. That was my Micky – stubborn, hardheaded and not a little paranoid himself. "He’s always going on to me about how we’re his best crew, Micky. I guess he really means it." That elicited a reluctant nod. "Anyway, I guess the big money offer was supposed to salve our consciences." Then I did grin. "Apparently he doesn’t know we go back. That’s why I’m telling you. Anyway, I didn’t take the job, so he’s not my Johnson right now – so technically I’m not screwing him."

Micky whistled admiringly. "That’s one slick bit of sophistry, Bobby."

I laughed rather delightedly. Playing with meaning and intent and the letter of an agreement is Micky’s stock-in-trade, so I’m always pleased when I can impress him. "You like?"

Micky nodded and that was when I knew I had him. Two from two. I was on a roll. "So what do I do?"

I let a slow smile spread across my lips. "You hire us, that’s what you do."

Micky was obviously puzzled. "To do what?"

"To kill Jimmy D, of course."

That one rocked him. I could tell. "Say what?"

"You hire the Service to kill one James Edward Darcy-Rutherford the Third. We’re good, we’re professional and we’ll only charge you fifty K all up – a tenth what Big Jimmy was offering."

"But you don’t do wetwork."

I shrugged. "Well, actually, I’m doing this to save your miserable little hide – so, technically, it isn’t wetwork. Let’s call it preemptive bodyguarding, shall we?"

Micky’s eyes lit up and he whistled again. Twice in one night! Damn, I’m good! "Frag, Bobby, you play as fast and loose with your ethics as any corp bloodsucker I’ve ever run across."

I just smiled. "I try."

"I’ll just bet you do." Much calmer now, Micky downed what was left of his beer. He paused, then slowly shook his head. "I can’t, Bobby. Things just aren’t done like that in the corporation. We play by different rules."

"Damn it, Micky, what do I have to say to get it through your thick skull?" I yelled, slamming my fist against the table and leaving a rather large dent. That’s par for the course in a place like this. You’d think the management would have figured out by now that when half your clientele are street thugs with more muscles than a troll on steroids, reinforcing the tables is a Good IdeaTM. "This ain’t Fuchi-land, boy! You’re in the RAD and that means you’re playing by street rules – my rules! You want to live past the end of the week, you listen to what I have to say and then you do what I tell you to do!" This guy! Even now, after all these years in the corporate world, he still tried to play fair. I was amazed he’d survived as long as he had.

Micky was still going to argue. I could see it in his eyes. Fortunately, other events preempted him. As he began to speak again, I saw some people moving up in the front of the bar. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. "You saw some people moving? So what? If that’s a big thing then you’re getting as paranoid as Big Jimmy." Maybe, but on the streets, paranoia is a survival tool. You just have to learn to focus it. That’s the difference between Big Jimmy D and I; his paranoia is unfocused – he thinks everyone is out to get him. Me on the other hand – well, I can just tell when something is out of place. You spend enough time on the streets and you learn to distinguish between real and imagined threats. That’s a talent that’s kept me alive for years now – so when I saw four people stand up in different places around the bar almost simultaneously, I could tell something was going down. Maybe it wasn’t to do with us, but I knew enough to keep an eye on them and that’s what saved our hides.

"Micky," I said quietly. "Shut the frag up. Do you or do you not want to live past the end of the week?"

Micky blinked in astonishment. "Of course I do, Bobby. What do you think I am, suicidal?"

"Okay, then…" my voice trailed off as I saw the four hitmen make their move. The closest, a short, beautiful woman with extraordinarily spiky, fluorescent green hair, whipped out a Ingram SuperMach SMG and two of the others produced various other weaponry. The last, a tall, stately man with short, black hair raised his hands in an odd gesture that screamed ‘mage!’ Major bad news.

"…duck!" I continued, reaching out and dragging Micky down and away from the table as the woman opened up, laughing wildly.

Now, whatever anyone tells you, the Ingram SuperMach is not a wimpy gun. Sure, it only packs light pistol rounds, the kind of things that flatten out against even the lightest body armour you can find. But if you’re good enough, even a light pistol can do some nasty damage. And when you’re firing explosive APDS and those rounds are coming faster than drek out of a tourist in Aztlan, it doesn’t really matter how much armour you’re wearing.

As the two of us rolled across the crowded floor, the crazy woman turned our table into little more than a bad memory. Popping to my feet, I jacked on my wired reflexes and everything went into slow-mo.

My Savalette Guardian virtually jumped into my hand as the emerald witch adjusted her aim towards us again. The bar had dissolved into screaming, running masses of people. A number of them had actually opened up, some at me and Micky, some at the hit team, some at each other. One thing to be said for insane fear and barely controlled aggression – it makes it damned hard for a group of assassins on one side of a crowded bar to get to the other.

That left Micky and I to face the emerald witch. Reaching down my left hand I grabbed Micky by the collar and hauled him to his feet. My other hand, my metal hand, pointed my gun towards the woman. My smartlink painted a red dot on the centre of her chest and I squeezed the trigger.

The loose sleeve of my armoured jacket ballooned as the counterweights of my cyberarm gyromount popped out near my wrist to absorb the recoil. A three-round burst exploded from the muzzle of the Guardian and stitched a line of fire across the emerald witch’s chest. She let out an unholy screech and dropped out of sight.

Micky’s eyes were wide and staring as I turned towards him. I cursed. Seems it had been a while since Micky had found himself in the middle of a firefight. Not a good time for him to zone out on me. "C’mon, Micky!" I bellowed. "We’re outta here!"

Micky nodded and the pair of us raced towards the exit. That’s another thing being big is good for. Even in the middle of a riot, people’s instincts tell them to get the frag out of the way of anyone bigger than them – and there ain’t many bigger than Micky and I.

Unfortunately, it seems that little aphorism works just as well when you’re dealing with a mage. Just as we were closing on the door, tall, dark and stately stepped out of the crowd in front of us.

"Frag!" I yelped. The mage’s hands were slowly coming up as I glanced around wildly. I spotted the large front window of the bar not three feet away and, lacking better inspiration, I headed towards it, dragging Micky by the collar of his suit. "I think you should cover your head, Micky!" I shouted. Then I jumped.

Micky’s extra weight made things a little less graceful than normal, but I still managed to tuck and roll as we flew through the window. The glass shattered around us in a wave of tinkling shards, then we hit the ground. An instant later the mage’s spell, a huge, billowing ball of flames, flooded out and around us. We were still rolling, though, and it barely scorched us.

I dragged Micky to his feet again, whirled and pumped another burst back into the bar at the mage. He ducked out of the way and we were off before he could follow up on his first spell.

Micky looked at me as we pounded down the street towards my car, fear written all over his face. "They were…after…us…weren’t they…Bobby?" he puffed. Seemed like firefights weren’t the only thing Micky hadn’t been in for a while. I decided I’d have to take him down to the old gym again – if we survived this little adventure, of course.

"No, Micky. They weren’t after us. They were after you."

Micky paused, then nodded. "What do…I need…to do…Bobby?"

I smiled. Seemed the attack had been just the thing to convince Micky he needed to take my advice. As that guy they call ‘The Bard’ – you know, Willie Shakespeare – might have said, ‘It is a most fortuitous happenstance when a bungled assassination doth serve your own ends’. Poetic fellow, that Willie.

"You hire the Service to take out Big Jimmy, Micky. That’s the only thing you can do."

"Okay. You’re…on, Bobby."

As we pelted down the street, my smile widened. Stage two complete. Next step – go see Jimmy D again and try to save the lives of these two stubborn fools.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the First Unwritten Law of the Streets is ‘Don’t screw your chummers’. Shadowrunners’ addendum – ‘unless you can get away with it’.



It was a couple of days before I could arrange another meeting with Big Jimmy D. During that time I hid Micky with a couple of old pals from our gang days who I could trust to protect him, or to call me and the other members of the Service in, if things got too hot and heavy for them to handle. I had my people out combing the streets, listening for any talk about Jimmy, Micky or the little fracas that had gone down at the bar the other night. If we could manage it, I wanted to keep it all hushed up. The fewer people asking questions about trouble in Paradise – well, in the RAD, anyway – the better. After all, we were only five people. There wasn’t a whole lot even we could do if every punk in the sprawl heard that Big Jimmy was offering a half-mil bounty on Micky’s head. Hell, I’m good, but even I know I have my limits. Not many, but I do have them. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’m also devilishly handsome and the most modest guy you’ll ever meet. Can you tell?

I found Jimmy D holed up in his downtown office. Nice place; great view. I have to admit there are some things that corp lowlifes have over even the best shadowrunners. No way I could ever afford a place like this, even if I sold off every ounce of chrome in my body.

First things first. If this was going to get this to go the way I wanted it to, I’d have to put him on the defensive from the start. So I stomped on up to his office and planted a kick right in the middle of his door. Now this was a big door – thick, heavy oak. Lovely carving, fine texture, the kind of thing that made even an urban monster like myself pine for an earlier, more natural day. Not for long, though. I’d miss my soydogs too much.

My kick split the door right down the middle – gotta love that muscle augmentation – and I barged into Jimmy’s office. Now, you may be thinking that a stunt like that was rather unnecessary and just showed how much of a thug I really am. Well, maybe you’re right in part, but the heart of the matter is that I knew Big Jimmy had surveillance cameras mounted throughout the hallways leading into his office and I knew he’d be watching me. The combination of simultaneously watching me smash his door to splinters on the camera, hearing all that noise and then seeing me come storming in towards him should have been enough to give a paranoid slot like him a heart attack. Nearly did, matter of fact. I don’t like to boast – much – but I’m really a rather intimidating sight when I get into full swing.

"Are you fragging insane?" I roared before Jimmy-boy could even stand. I stomped across the office and slammed my knuckles into his desk. Left dents there, too. I really have to learn to control my anger. "What the frag possessed you to send another crew after Donovan?"

Jimmy D almost disappeared as he shrank back into his overstuffed chair. "What are you talking about, Blood?" he asked rather pathetically. I could see that the hand he wasn’t waving around distractingly was frantically punching the silent alarm button hidden under the edge of his desk. I smiled tightly. My plan was working.

"I am talking, little man, of the hit team that attacked one Michael Donovan in a Tacoma bar not two nights ago," I hissed dangerously. "I can’t believe you sent a bunch of frag-ups like that after him. I don’t know who they were, but not only did they miss Donovan, they nearly started a fragging riot!" I straightened up and glared down at him. "Count your lucky stars that they missed their mark, Jimmy. If they hadn’t, then I’d have to kill you for fragging around with us."

Big Jimmy breathed a sigh of relief as he realised that, despite my fearsome demeanour (ain’t that a good phrase?), I had no intention of rendering him down to fertiliser at that point in time. Of course, the Fuchi security guards chose that moment to rock up, heavy weaponry aimed my way. Jimmy D waved them away testily, having no further use for them now that he knew his life wasn’t in danger and not really wanting anyone within the corp to know what his current business with me involved. In typical fashion, I just ignored them, although I could feel the flesh at the back of my neck creeping from the sensation of having all those guns pointed at me.

Once it was just the two of us again, Big Jimmy stood and looked at me imperiously. "I really have no idea what you’re talking about, Blood. Yours was the only group that I approached about this matter. Do you really think I’m going to go around telling just anyone about this? I came to you because I know you’re the best. I’m not going to settle for anything less than the best when my life is on the line."

I stared at him for a long moment before grunting. "All right. If you say so. But someone’s been blabbing about it and it sure as hell wasn’t my people. Donovan’s holed up somewhere in the Redmond Barrens now and he’s looking for people to take you down. Seems he figured out who was behind his current difficulties." I frowned. "This is going to be even harder than I originally thought."

Jimmy looked at me suspiciously. "What are you saying, Blood?"

"I’m saying the cost just went up, Jimmy-boy. Did you know that Donovan’s apparently developed some friends in the gang scene? Huh? Seems he’s got some buddies from the Ancients watching out for him." That was rich, but then, I’ve always enjoyed lying through my teeth. No way the Ancients would touch us after our history with the Cutters. Not even with a ten-foot troll. It wasn’t like Big Jimmy would ever find out, though, so I went on tweaking his nose. "Did you hear that, Mr. Darcy-Rutherford, sir? The Ancients!" I shook my head. "We’ll have to put an assault force together if we want to get through that lot."

Jimmy frowned petulantly. "How much more?"

I smiled tightly. It’s always nice when you have the upper hand in a negotiation. "It’s not just a question of more money, Jimmy. I need more time, too. Donovan’s going to be on his guard now and his Ancient buddies will be champing at the bit. We need to let things cool off a bit longer, or we’ll never even get close to him."

Jimmy D sighed. "How long, Blood?"

I shrugged. Big Jimmy probably thought I was wondering how long I could milk this for. He was right, but not exactly in the way he thought. The longer I could put off a confrontation, the better the chances were I could convince them to give this up. "Another week or two at least."

"And what am I supposed to do while you’re sitting on your hoops, waiting for Donovan and his friends to relax their guard? He’s going to have people out gunning for me, isn’t he?"

"You sit tight, too. Hole up somewhere secure. Doesn’t matter where. Just get away from here. Don’t let anyone know where you’re going, either." I grinned. "Except me, of course. The Service will watch out for you. I’ll have at least one of us on station with you at all times. We’ll get to Donovan. You just have to give us time to work."

Big Jimmy grimaced sourly. "And money."

"Yes, bossman, and money. What do you think we do, sit around on our hoops all day just waiting for your call? Constant guard duty for weeks on end is going to cost you. And we’ll be out, watching Donovan, putting the squeeze on people, buying equipment for an infiltration or an assault. It all costs."

"How much?"

I paused for consideration. I already knew what I was going to ask for, but I thought I’d better make it look good. At the very least it might have made Jimmy D feel a bit better about it all. A bit. "Double it. 200K each."


"Oh, and I’ll need another 50K each up front. Expenses, you know."

Jimmy scowled and reached for his telecom. "Seems to me a better option is just to put out a general reward. What do you think, 50,000 nuyen for Donovan’s head? I believe I might some takers for that and it’s only one twentieth of what you’re charging me."

I shrugged again. "Fine, Jimmy, you do that. No skin off my nose." I grinned. "Hell, it’s not like I’m gonna give you back the 250K you’ve already paid us." Jimmy’s scowl deepened, but he still picked up the telecom handset. Okay. Time for Big Gun Number One. "Just make sure you can trust them."


"Well, just think about it, Jimmy. You’re going to be dealing with punks you don’t know from drek. They ain’t never met you before and they don’t have the deep, abiding affection I have for you." Heh. I kill me. "So where does that leave you? You’re gonna have to trust thugs who’d probably geek you for a tenth of what you’re offering. And what do you do if someone comes along to claim your bounty and he’s really someone hired by Donovan. You think you’re gonna figure it out in time to stop him blowing your head off?"

There, I’d said it. The ‘T’ word. Our Jimmy D nearly had a fit whenever he even thought of trusting someone besides his own good self. The closest he ever came to it was when he was paying that someone more than his enemy was. Now that’s trust.

Still, he only paused for a moment before lifting the handset to his ear. "Maybe you’re right, Blood. But I can always hire someone to guard me and to make the meet. Your street thugs will never even see me."

I nodded. "Might work. I hope you have some guards you can trust." Still nothing. Big Jimmy was starting to punch in a number. Time for Big Gun Number Two. If this one didn’t work I was in big trouble. "I guess if you’re going public with this it doesn’t matter if your bosses in Fuchi hear about this."

Jimmy ground to a halt and his face froze. Bingo. "What?"

"Well, isn’t it obvious, Jimmy? You know as well as I do that if you put out a price on Donovan’s head, someone here is going to hear about it. If your bosses in the RAD are anything like you and Donovan, they’ll have their ears to the ground and they’ll hear about this. So, like I said, I guess it doesn’t matter anymore if they hear about it." I nodded thoughtfully. "That’s pretty good from my perspective, actually. If I can spread the word that the Service commands half a million for less than a week of work…well, we’ve hit the big time, haven’t we?"

Jimmy D’s hands were shaking now. I guess the fact that his superiors at Fuchi might object to the unauthorised termination of one of their employees by another had slipped his mind. Very slowly, very carefully, he replaced the handset. "On second thought, Blood," he commented in an offhand fashion, "you may have a point there. Very well. If I agree to pay you a full million, will you guarantee to complete the assignment before two weeks are out?"

I shook my head in disbelief. "Oh, come on, Jimmy. You know I can’t make a guarantee like that. I’ll tell you what, though. I promise to do my level best to complete the job on schedule."

Jimmy stared at me bitterly. "That’s a cop out, Blood, and you know it."

I gave him my best impish grin. "Hell yes, Jimmy D, but what can you do about it?"

Big Jimmy’s expression became even more sour, if that were possible. "I think I’m starting to dislike you intensely, Blood."

I doffed an imaginary cap to him. "The feeling is oh so mutual, babycakes. Catch you ‘round, Jimmy."

I could his feel his eyes boring into my back as I sauntered from his office and let me tell you, it felt great. These corp suits, they think they’re so high and mighty. Believe me, you’ll never know what true satisfaction feels like until you experience total and absolute control over one of the scumbags. Hey, there’s a thought. Maybe I’ll make a simsense the next time I rub my Johnson’s nose in the drek, and market it. Something tells me that’s one item that’d sell like hotcakes to the oppressed masses.

By that stage there wasn’t a lot I could do except wait. Sit and wait. If you knew anything about me, you’d know that patience isn’t really one of my virtues. But then, I have so many, who’d miss one or two? Told you I’m modest, didn’t I?



Now let me tell you something about shadowrunners. There are two kinds of them – those who can outwait a constipated turtle and those who have a life. Oh, sorry – that could be construed as offensive, couldn’t it? Let me rephrase that.

There are two types of runners in this world – those who were trained by a corp slash government slash buncha geeks and those who learned from the streets (read as ‘outwait a constipated turtle’ and ‘have a life’ respectively – but only when your corp-trained buddies aren’t in the room). Now, one kind of runner is content to sit on his hoop for days on end, just waiting for his target to make a move slash mistake slash six-foot soydog with the lot. The other kind was never trained for such a mind- (or hoop-) numbing job. That kind of runner needs to get out and do something – anything. Guess which category I fall into.

Look, chummer, if you ever compare me to a constipated turtle again, I’ll rip your lungs out through your nose, ‘genuine mistake’ or not!

Okay, now we have that little misunderstanding cleared up, I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at. Even the best of us can only take sitting around for so long. And I was dealing with a pair of the most irritating slots on the planet. Okay, in all honesty, Micky wasn’t that bad. At least, not compared to Jimmy D. He understood that I have my limits and, what with Jimmy being one of the most paranoid creeps on the face of the planet, it wasn’t all that easy to get to him. So he wasn’t too put out when my original estimate of a week went up to two, then three and so on. What got to me, on the other hand, were his continuous whining, questions – "Has Mr. Darcy-Rutherford called off the contract?", "Couldn’t we just talk this out?", "Are you sure there’s no other way?"

All right, I’ll admit that keeping him in the dark about it all wasn’t exactly the nicest thing to do – but at the time, it seemed the best solution. And by the time I was starting to regret my decision, it was a little late, don’t you think? I’m not sure how you’d take it, but if I’d been in Micky’s shoes and he said to me, "Oh, by the way, Bobby, I’ve taken out a contract on you, but I only did it for your own good," – well, it wouldn’t have been pretty.

And then there was good old Jimmy D. Tell me, have you ever heard the old joke about looking under the lowest form of life in the universe and finding a lawyer squatting there? Well, let me put it this way. After a week, Big Jimmy no longer ranked as highly with me as a devil rat down the front of my pants. By the end of the third week I would’ve married a lawyer if it would’ve kept him away from me. I’m sure he felt the same, but then, what do I care about his feelings? He demanded I keep him completely up to date on every aspect of our assignment and then – get this – whenever I stopped by to fill him in on said non-existent operation he berated me for wasting time when I should have been out taking care of his problem. A couple of my teammates had to drag me out one time before I killed the little slot myself – and I’m normally the most even-tempered one in our bunch.

Anyway, this went on for six weeks. Six weeks! Can you believe that? Running back and forth between the two of them, listening to their whining day in, day out. By the end of the sixth week, Micky just wanted to go home, Big Jimmy D still wouldn’t call off the contract and I was getting to the stage where I just wanted to kill them both and get back to my normal, weird life. I think that’s what finally precipitated my somewhat unorthodox solution to the problem.

Oh, there was one silver lining to this particular cloud. I managed to crank Jimmy D’s fee up to five million nuyen, half up front. But still, I would’ve given it all back if the whole fraggin’ situation would just go away.

What? The solution? Hold on, I’m getting to it. Well, basically, the first step was getting Micky and Big Jimmy D out of their respective holes in the ground. I couldn’t solve anyone’s problems while the two of them were sitting on their hoops, quaking at every little noise. Now Micky didn’t know any of the other members of the Service, so I had the boys get Big Jimmy while I took care of Micky.



"Micky! Move it, ya slug! Jimmy D’s found out you’re staying here! We gotta move – now!" I kept screaming dire warnings at the top of my lungs as I kicked the door of his room in and ran over to him.

Micky’s incredibly coherent and dazzlingly brilliant reply went something along the lines of, "Huh? Whuh? What? Whazzit?"

Okay, so bursting in at two in the morning and waking him from a sound sleep like that was pretty cruel – but if you hadn’t already noticed I’m a rather mean and petty person. I get my kicks where I find ‘em.

I grabbed Micky by the shoulder as he struggled upright and wrenched him out of his bed and onto the floor. Then I bounded across to the window and stood there, staring out fearfully.

Micky was sputtering in outrage by the time he managed to get to his feet, but I just ignored him. Finally he stormed across to me. "What the frag is going on, Bobby?"

I glanced around, feigning surprise, and dragged him away from the window. "Keep your head down, drekwit! I don’t know if Big Jimmy’s hitters are here yet or not. Come on, move it. We’ve got to get out of here."

Micky’s expression slackened as he finally realised what I’d been saying. "Mr. Darcy-Rutherford knows I’m here? Frag, Bobby, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!"

Like I said before, you just gotta know which way they’ll jump (insert self-satisfied smirk here).

We pelted down the stairs and out the back of the building. Micky surprised me quite a bit by managing to keep up, even at the rather furious pace I was setting. "Where are we going, Bobby?" he asked as we ran. Evidently living in fear (and without elevators) for six weeks can do amazing things for one’s level of fitness.

I pointed down the street to a dark alleyway. "I left my car in there. Now shut up and keep moving."

We were only about thirty metres from the alley when a chattering burst of fire chopped up the road in front of us. Micky screeched to a halt and looked up. "Up there!" he shouted, pointing to two indistinct, shadowy figures standing on a rooftop to our right. The one with the rifle lifted it again and pointed it straight at Micky – who just stood there. I guess that after a life spent in corporate offices, a few weeks on the streets can only do so much for giving back your survival instincts.

"Get down, Micky!" I yelled, leaping towards him. My irresistible force met his immovable object. Guess who won?

That’s right; I always knew I was irresistible.

As the two of us tumbled to the rather filthy street, a second burst of fire hit the ground where Micky had been standing an instant ago. I cursed. This was getting too damned close for my liking.

I ended up flat on my back, looking up at our attackers. I saw the second one, the one without a gun, raise his hands and point towards us. Suddenly Micky jumped as if he’d been hit by a bullet train, then slumped to the ground. I rolled over to check his pulse. He was still alive, but he was out like a fragging light.

I smiled and flopped onto my back again. Activating my headware radio with a thought, I subvocalised, "Good job, Pepper, Revenant."

I saw Pepper acknowledge my praise with a nod. Revenant’s voice came over my subdermal speakers – "Hell, boss, it’s what we do."

I grinned, then winced as my back twinged. Hitting the ground that hard isn’t fun, even when you’re wrapped in body armour. "Just one thing, Pepper," I complained. "Do you think next time you could miss by a bit more."

Pepper’s throaty laugh echoed in my ears as she blew me a kiss. "Now come on, Blood, you wanted it to be believable. It isn’t realistic unless I’m trying to kill you."

"I respect your artistic integrity, Pepper," I grumbled, "but I think Micky would have been convinced if you’d just fired near him, not at him."

"Don’t be such a baby," Pepper laughed. "I didn’t hit either of you. Not from want of trying, but I did miss."

Frag, with people like this working with me it’s a wonder I’m still alive. I clambered to my feet and dragged Micky to his feet with a grunt. "Come on, let’s move it. Blaze and Cerberus are probably waiting for us already."



I’m sure neither Micky, nor Big Jimmy D, had any idea what was going on when they first awoke, and I’m equally sure that absolutely scared the drek out of the both of them. So I suppose that could, in part, explain how they reacted. By that point of time, however, I didn’t give a frag for explanations –I guess that explains how I reacted too.

By the time we arrived at the old, abandoned mine, Blaze and Cerberus were busy getting set up. Not having the resources of a mage with them, Blaze had doped Jimmy D up with a DMSO/tranquilliser shot from his SuperSquirt II. The slot was sleeping like a baby when we rolled up.

We quickly lugged Micky into the mine and onto the elevator. Now this elevator used to work on an old diesel engine. A couple of chains on either side supported the weight of what was basically a large, open platform as it dropped into the ground – a couple of hundred metres into the ground. A rotten, wooden ‘safety’ rail was all that stood between the passengers and a long drop off the sides. When we found the mine a couple of weeks ago, the elevator was in pretty drekky shape. The motor had burned out long ago and the chains were practically rusted through. It was perfect.

We made a few alterations to it. We replaced the chains and pulled out the engine. Two simple hand cranks, one on either side of the platform, were the only way to move it up. Down, of course, was another matter. There were only two ways to stop it dropping at full speed into the mine. The first was to operate the cranks. The second was to step on the foot brakes. We’d attached a couple of them, one to each of the cranks.

The funny thing was that neither the cranks nor the brakes worked unless they were both operated together. In other words, you were screwed unless there were at least two people on the platform and they were both stomping on the brakes or they were both working the cranks.

All right, I’ll admit that these were pretty elaborate alterations, but I thought that if I could actually get Big Jimmy D and Micky working together that they might decide not to kill each other.

We dumped Micky beside one of the cranks. Jimmy D was already snoozing under the other one. Then Blaze, Cerberus and I pushed the elevator out into the mineshaft and Revenant levitated it in place. And we waited.

Micky was the first one to wake up, but Blaze popped him with a small dose of tranq and put him out again. And we waited some more.

I think I was picking my teeth with a toothpick and the others were lying around snoozing when our sleeping beauties stirred again. This time they woke up within seconds of each other. As they were rubbing their eyes and climbing to their feet, I leaned over and kicked Revenant in the ankle. "Drop the spell," I whispered. Turns out I didn’t even need to bother. The shock of the sudden kick apparently broke Revenant’s concentration. He sat up with a shout of pain, the others bounced to their feet in surprise – and the elevator started dropping into the ground.

I scrambled over to the shaft in time to see Micky and Jimmy D land on their hoops, terror written all over their faces, as the platform began to pick up speed. "The brakes!" I yelled at the top of my lungs. "Step on the brakes!" The pair of them looked up at me, looked down at the hand cranks as they merrily whizzed around and then jumped on the brakes faster than I would have thought possible for unaugmented humans.

There was a horrendous screech as the brakes began to slow their fall. About fifty metres below me, the elevator finally drew to a halt. It took a few moments for them to catch their breath again, then, almost as one, they looked up at me.

"Blood? What the frag is going on?"

"Where am I, Bobby?"

As soon as they spoke, they realised they weren’t alone on the platform. "Frag," I muttered. This was not looking good. Even at this distance, I could see Micky’s shocked expression, and Jimmy D’s features drawing into lines of hatred and outrage.

"You!" Big Jimmy screeched. He shifted around, ready to throw himself on Micky. Before he could move I jumped to my feet.

"Sit down and shut the frag up!" I bellowed. Oddly enough, that seemed to catch their attention. "Look, you stupid bastards," I seethed, "I have spent the last six weeks of my life trying to keep the both of you dumb slots alive!" I jabbed a finger at Jimmy D. "Micky, I lied to you. I took this scumbag’s contract, because it was the only thing I could think of to stop him going out and hiring someone else. Jimmy, I lied to you too. I’m the guy Micky hired to kill you."

Big Jimmy’s jaw was hanging open like a broken trap and Micky was staring at me incredulously. "Why, Bobby?" he asked.

I nearly blew up at that. How stupid could two people be? "Because you, you stupid frag, are my friend and I owe you, and because that bastard pays me well, that’s why!"

There. You see? I told you I’m not a nice guy. The whole reason why I tried to keep the both of them alive is because I owed one of them and the other one was my meal ticket. If Big Jimmy D hadn’t paid me so well for so many years, I would’ve just taken both his and Micky’s contracts, then knocked the dumb slot off. Morals are wonderful things, aren’t they?

"Listen up, you fraggin’ morons. I’ve got some news for the both of you. Micky – your boss only wanted to kill you because he’s a paranoid slot and he thought you wanted him dead. Jimmy – Micky was drunk when he threatened you. Do you hear me? Drunk! He never meant a word of it! The only reason he hired me to geek you was because I convinced him that was the only way you wouldn’t off him first!

"The pair of you have been living in the most god-awful conditions for the past six weeks, all because you’re both stupid! Don’t you think you’ve had enough of this? All you have to do is call off your contracts on each other and go back to your lives and we can all live happily ever after. Frag, I’ll even pay the both of you back every cent you gave me for this mess!

"Now listen to me," I continued, more softly. "You two are stuck down there together. If one of you lets off his brake, the both of you go down. If you want to get out of there alive, then both of you – both of you, mind – are going to have to work together. Grab a crank, start turning it and you’ll get out of this – together!"

Maybe it would have worked. Maybe they would have worked together to get out and found out that they could rely on each other. Maybe – if only Jimmy D hadn’t been such a nasty, hateful slot. I could see Micky was thinking about what I’d said. Big Jimmy, on the other hand, looked at Micky, looked at me, looked at Micky again – then screamed and threw himself across the platform at Micky. I groaned, the elevator started to drop again and Micky yelled and threw a right cross that floored Jimmy D.

I glanced at Revenant, snapped my fingers and pointed at the rapidly descending platform. Then I turned away. I simply couldn’t take it anymore. If the fraggers were too stupid to live, then I wasn’t about to make them.

I started walking and I didn’t stop until I was a long way from the mine. Then I leant against a tree and tried not to cry from sheer frustration.

Eventually the rest of the crew pulled up in Cerberus’ van. Revenant was the first one out. He walked up to me and quietly said, "I knocked them out again then lowered the platform to the bottom of the mineshaft."

I grunted.

"They were still asleep when we left. When they wake up again they might go back to killing each other – or they might actually decide to work together."

I grunted and shrugged.

The tall, stately mage looked at me for a long moment, then walked away and Pepper took his place.

My crazy woman rubbed herself up against me and nibbled my earlobe. I sighed, then reached out to her. Stroking back her spiky, fluorescent green hair, I kissed her forehead. Sometimes I wish she’d do something about her hairstyle. It isn’t exactly inconspicuous. "Come on, little witch," I said. "Let’s get out of here."



What? You want to know what happened to Micky and Big Jimmy D? Well, if they ever get out of that mineshaft and come to visit without bringing an assortment of large, automatic weapons, I’ll let you know.

©1998, Rand Ratinac - used with permission