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Winterhawk stared at the screenfuls of gibberish flashing merrily by on his computer and sighed. "Any other ideas?" he asked, pushing the chair back from the desk with more force than was probably necessary.

I shook my head. I was sitting on the sofa in 'Hawk's downtown Seattle apartment, my feet up on his coffee table, wishing for a beer. "Nothing, huh?"

"Not a bloody thing," he said, disgusted. He popped the chip out of the slot and glared at it as if that would cause it to give up its information. "I hate to say it, old boy, but I think we need to invite someone else to our little party. Someone who can talk to computers better than we can."

I nodded reluctantly, seeing our profit margin decreasing. I'd never worked with a decker before. So far, on the jobs 'Hawk and I had done, we hadn't needed to. "Wonder how much they'll charge."

"I wouldn't think it would be too much, considering that all they have to do is decrypt a chip for us. We're not even asking for them to access the Matrix. However, we have a problem. I don't know any deckers. At least not around here. Do you?"

I started to answer that I didn't either, and then we both looked at each other, pointing at each other at exactly the same time. "Harry," we said in unison.

'Hawk was already punching the fixer's number into the phone on the desk. "About time he earned his keep," he muttered. Tapping his finger impatiently, he waited. I got up and came over to the desk, looking over his shoulder. "I wonder if he's—" I began.

An image appeared on the video screen. "Yeah, whaddya want?" the image said gruffly.

Harry was a damned good fixer. A lot of people in the know said he was right up there with the best of Seattle. I believed that, and so far he hadn't given us any reason not to. That didn't mean he was easy to get along with, though. His rough-looking features, balding head, and deceptively placid brown eyes dominated the screen, but behind him in the dimness I could see the vague form of another person in the room. A female person. As usual, Harry had company. And he was always grumpy when he and his company got interrupted.

"Harry!" 'Hawk said brightly. I was never quite sure whether 'Hawk liked Harry, or Harry liked 'Hawk; they spent too much time insulting each other to tell. "Ah, forgive me—Harry and friend."

"Shaddup," Harry said. "What do ya want?"

"All right then." 'Hawk shrugged, smiling nastily. "We'll skip the pleasantries. We need a decker."

"A decker." Harry shifted position. I grinned as I caught him pulling up the sheet a little more. "Okay, when? And how good?"

"We've got a chip with some encrypted files on it. We need to have a look at them. Tonight, if possible."

Harry thought about that a minute. "Okay, that doesn't sound too tough. Tonight'll cost ya more, though."

I sighed, leaning over so I could be seen in the phone's video pickup. "It always does, Harry. Just get us a name, okay?"

"Sheesh," Harry said, with an elaborate shrug. "You young punks today don't know nothin' about biz. Ya want everything now, and ya want it cheap. Ya—"

"The name, Harry," 'Hawk reminded him. "Pleasantries later, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah. I'll call ya back in half an hour. Unless that's too long for you bigshots to wait." Without waiting for us to answer, Harry broke the connection.

I flopped back down on the couch and pulled the old Seahawks cap out of my jacket pocket. "You think this is Tommy's?"

'Hawk shrugged. "This is Seattle. A Seahawks cap isn't exactly uncommon 'round here."

"Yeah, but after that guy said he saw Tommy go in there, and not come out, it's giving me the creeps."

"I'm with you on that one," Winterhawk admitted, getting up to come over and drop into the chair opposite the couch. "If we had the time, I could work up a little ritual—if that was Tommy's cap, it would likely lead us right to him."

"And if it isn't?"

"Then we'll have spent several hours and two or three thousand nuyen's worth of magical supplies to find a tramp who lives in a dumpster with three cats and a bottle of Old Soy Rotgut."

I grinned. "Why don't we wait awhile, then."

"Excellent idea."

We amused ourselves for the next twenty minutes until Harry called back by idly watching the trideo. It was getting really late now; the only things on were informational programming, a deadly dull documentary about Native American beadwork, an old 2-D movie on the Nostalgia channel (in black and white, yet—how did our ancestors ever watch this stuff?), and a bunch of ten-year-old sitcoms. 'Hawk was impatiently flipping from channel to channel when the phone rang.

As we expected, it was Harry. He was dressed now, and his female companion was nowhere to be seen. "Okay," he said. "I got a decker for ya. Not top-flight, but you said you didn't need that. Think he'll do the job, and he works pretty cheap."

"Sounds like just what we're looking for," 'Hawk said. "And fast, too."

Harry ignored him. "Okay. Here comes the address." An address flashed on the bottom of the screen; 'Hawk hit the button to save it. I noted that it was somewhere in Everett. "His name's Scuzzy."

"Scuzzy?" Winterhawk said, raising an eyebrow. "Are we discussing personality here, or personal hygiene habits?"

"He's expectin' ya," Harry said, continuing to ignore 'Hawk. "I told him you'd be there in an hour, so ya better get goin'." Once again, he broke the connection before we could say anything else.

Winterhawk looked at me. "Scuzzy?"

I shrugged. "C'mon. Bring the chip and let's get going." I shoved the cap back in my pocket and headed for the door.

The address Harry had given us was in the Pinehurst area of Everett. It was a lower-class, decaying-looking neighborhood, but not nearly as bad as where we'd been earlier in the evening. This looked like the kind of place where low-wage worker types lived: they couldn't afford much, but at least they were going to take care of what they could afford. The actual address was a three-story, nondescript apartment building; Scuzzy's place was on the top floor. We had to park a couple blocks down the street.

"I wonder what a chap named Scuzzy looks like," 'Hawk commented as we headed up the stairs to the third floor. I didn't answer him. I thought it was best that way.

My knock on the door brought a filtered "Jus' sec!" from somewhere inside the apartment. I looked up above the door and saw a tiny camera lens, set into something that looked like a bullet hole, and pointed it out to 'Hawk.

The door opened in about a minute to reveal a tall, gangly young human with an even taller shock of bleached-blond hair that stood nearly straight up. His pale face was skinny and angular, his blue eyes sizing us up from behind old-fashioned round wire-rimmed glasses. He was dressed in jeans, a Cyberpope sweatshirt with the sleeves ripped off, and fingerless leather gloves. Two shiny datajacks in his right temple caught the scant light from inside the apartment. "You guys come from Georgie?" he asked, his voice clipped and a little strained, like he was on too much caffeine.

"Harry," I told him.

He grinned. "Good. Can't let the wrong guys in, y'know." Without further greeting, he turned and hurried back into the apartment. I looked at Winterhawk, who shrugged, and together we followed him in.

The apartment looked like an electrician's nightmare. Every square centimeter of space was covered with cannibalized cyberdecks, wires, tools, more wires, display screens, and a whole bunch of other stuff with functions I couldn't identify. There were narrow walkways through the junk, and exactly one chair that wasn't covered with it. Surprisingly enough given the occupant's name, though, the place was cluttered but neat. There were no piles of dust, old food wrappers, odd odors (except for a faint ozone smell), or any other signs of squalor in the apartment, and even Scuzzy's clothes looked clean and relatively unwrinkled. Scuzzy plopped himself down in the chair. "Okay," he said, "What'cha need?"

Winterhawk gave him the chip. "This is encrypted. We need to know what the contents are."

Scuzzy took the chip, held it up and inspected it, then slotted it in his deck. "Anything in particular I should look for?"

"Anything to do with a guy named Tommy, or Tommy T," I told him. "If he was there, what happened to him, that kind of thing."

"You got it," Scuzzy said. "Have a—oh. I guess you can't," he said, grinning sheepishly. "Uh, just hang out for a minute and I'll see what I can find." He plugged the wire from his deck into his datajack and leaned back in his chair, eyes glazed and fingers flashing.

I pointed at him, "You look like that when you're astral, you know," I teased.

"I do not," he said, mock-indignantly. "My fingers don't move at all."

I just grinned, busying myself looking around the apartment. It wasn't a big place, but it looked even smaller with all the junk. I couldn't see any evidence of things like a bed, or a bathroom, or a refrigerator. The light was very dim in here; the only illumination came from the light of a streetlamp outside the window, and a small halogen lamp on the desk next to Scuzzy's deck.

"How long d'you think this'll take?" I whispered to 'Hawk.

"Only a couple more minutes," Scuzzy answered. A pause, and then, "I can hear you guys, y'know." Another pause. "Just a second...there! Got it!" Scuzzy yanked the cable out of his datajack, inserted another chip into the chip-slot, and hit a button on the deck. After a moment, he pulled out both chips and handed them to us. "There ya go," he said. "The black one's the unencrypted version."

"Did you find anything?" I asked.

Scuzzy nodded. "Some pretty nasty encryption on there. Looks like hospital records. Transfers and stuff. No reference to anybody named Tommy T, but looks like they've got patient records on there. You know, age, sex, race, stuff like that. Maybe he's there. You can look now. It's all right there to see." He leaned back in his chair. "Piece o' cake."

"How much do we owe you?" Winterhawk asked, carefully stowing the two chips in an inner pocket of his coat.

Scuzzy shrugged. "Wasn't much of a job. Say two-fifty?"

I pulled out my credstick and dialed up that amount, handed it to him. "Say," Winterhawk said, "If you don't mind my asking—"

"What?" Scuzzy polished the plug on his deck's wire and set it gently down on the desk in front of him, then ran a hand through his hair.

"I'm just curious as to why you call yourself 'Scuzzy'. If you'll forgive my saying so, you don't look particularly like a 'Scuzzy.'"

The decker grinned. "Everybody asks me that. Maybe I should change my name. Nobody gets it anymore. It's archaic. You know—old-century stuff. Computer interface. It's—" he stopped, his blue eyes going wide as he stared past us. He pointed at something with a shaking finger, what little color he had in his face draining away. "What the hell—?"

Winterhawk and I spun, our eyes widening as well as we saw what was taking form in the small apartment.

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