"They were gonna do what to me?" Tommy demanded.
We were in the back room of the Hurricane. Not my (and certainly not 'Hawk's)
first choice for a place to get together, but it seemed somehow appropriate.
We'd paid off the bartender to go out and pick up a better class of liquor
than he was usually used to serving, and also to keep the rest of the
clientele out of the room. Actually, Johnson was paying for it.
Sitting around the big table in the middle of the room were me, Winterhawk,
Jean Wallace, Tommy, Cap'n Jack and Meggie. Mr. Johnson had been invited
(half-jokingly, when we'd gone to collect the rest of our pay and hand over
Tommy), but he'd solemnly declined, citing pressing engagements. That was
okay, though. He wasn't bad as Mr. Johnsons go, but I still didn't have to
like 'em. He'd been so pleased to get Tommy back that he had readily handed
over the rest of the payment without even a complaint about expenses, and when
we told him the rest of the story, he had listened with proper wide-eyed
horror. Didn't offer to pay us any extra, though.
Tommy, I had to say, was looking much better. It had been two days since
we had headed back into Seattle in Jean's battered van, three unconscious
people in the cargo area and three very tired shadowrunners (okay, two
very tired shadowrunners and one very tired news-snoop) in the front. We
had dropped the boy and the dwarf off at a reputable clinic (and you
can bet that we informed the nurse on duty that we would be checking
up on them, so they'd better not be doing any disappearing acts) and then
delivered Tommy straight to Mr. Johnson after we woke him (Tommy) up and
he assured us that he had no problem whatsoever with participating in Johnson's
study. We'd left him our LTG numbers and told him to call us, and he'd done
just that today, asking if we wanted to get together.
He had somehow gotten hold of another Seahawks hat (this one a lot newer
than the other one), and, with his brown hair sticking out in little uncombed
corkscrews and his cheerful blue eyes flashing, he looked like he had pretty
much recovered from his ordeal. We'd been a little surprised to see the Cap'n
and Meggie show up with Tommy, but we really shouldn't have been, I suppose.
The ork had added a new accessory since we'd last seen him: one of those black felt
"Jolly Roger" hats that kids wear when playing pirates was now perched above his
head-wrap. It was far too small for him, but he didn't seem to mind.
Jean pulled a copy of the Underground from one of her pockets and
handed it over to Tommy. "Here's the whole story. You know most of it already.
Why don't you read it later?"
The story had, of course, been a real bombshell, especially following on
the heels of the explosion. Jean's writeup, complete with pictures (carefully
doctored to delete or obscure 'Hawk and me, as promised) had blown the lid off
the whole organlegging gang, and had already resulted in the closing of five small clinics
located in various points around Seattle and the surrounding areas. The most
shocking thing about the story, though, was that this group of organleggers had
discovered a way to keep the bodies used for harvest alive, even when
they were missing required parts. Most criminals engaged in this kind of activity,
it turned out, just snatched bodies from hospitals or off the streets based on
requirements, kind of like auto chop-shops that send out thieves to steal
particular cars depending on what their clients needed at the time. The problem
with this was that if the organleggers didn't have a particular client lined up
for all the parts, then they only had a limited shelf-life, as it were. This way,
they could keep their sources alive for an indefinite period. There was even evidence
on Jean's footage (we hadn't spotted it thenwe'd been a little busy at the
time) that they'd been experimenting with using the bodies as hosts to regrow
various parts multiple times. It was enough to make anybody sick. I was just
glad it was over.
Tommy nodded. "Man, I sure am glad I decided to be in that study. Best five
hundred nuyen I ever made."
"Quite right," Winterhawk said. Healed up, cleaned up, and back in a tailored suit, he
looked out of place in this grungy bar, but he didn't seem to care. "Apparently,
our guess was right: whatever treatment they were using on you showed up as
an anomaly in their blood test, and they wanted to study you further before
deciding what to do with you."
"Arr," Jack agreed. "Good to have ye back, Tommy me matey." He patted Tommy
companionably on the shoulder. It was pretty clear that he wasn't following much of
the conversation, but that was okay. At least he wasn't trying to get us to
drink any of his vile grog.
"One thing I'm wondering," I said. "We know why they didn't take Tommy right
away, and the kid. But why didn't they take the dwarf?"
"Oh, I found that out later," Jean said. "Seems he's got early-stage lung cancer.
They didn't want to use him until they'd determined whether it had spread.
Sounds like the docs'll be able to treat it, though, so those butchers actually
did our friend the dwarf a favor. He didn't know he had it."
"Well," said Tommy, "Whatever was going on, I want to thank you guys. I don't
have much money, but if you ever need anything that I can do, let me know. Okay?"
I nodded. "Yeah. We'll do that. Thanks, Tommy."
"Arr," Cap'n Jack said, rising. "Come on, Meggie, matey. I think we need to be
goin' before it gets too late. Cap'n can't leave the ship for too long, y'know."
He was already weaving a bit.
Meggie rose too. "Yes, I think you're right." She looked at us, smiling, her
eyes twinkling beneath her head-shawl. "Thank you. For everything."
Winterhawk and I both nodded, returning her smile.
"Coming, Tommy lad?" Jack asked.
Tommy nodded. "Yeah, Jack, I think so." He stood up, offering his hand. "I mean
it. You just ask. I owe you guys."
In turn, Jean, 'Hawk, and I shook Tommy's hand. "Glad we could help," 'Hawk said.
"Just mind those bar fights, right?"
"Right." Tommy grinned, and he and Jack and Meggie made their exit.
I settled back in my chair with a sigh, looked at Jean and Winterhawk. "Want to
take this somewhere a little more uptown?" I asked.
Jean shook her head. "No, I kind of like this place. It has...atmosphere."
"Yes," 'Hawk agreed. "I can practically taste it."
I smiled. Nothing much changes. My gaze travelled around the room, taking in
the tacky decor, the peeling panelling, the table covered with half-finished
drinks, and my two companions across from me. It was nice not having anybody
trying to kill us. I wondered what our next job would be, remembered that we'd
have to check in with Harry soon.
Not tonight, though. Maybe tomorrow. First, sleep. Lots of it.
Notes 'n' acknowledgements 'n' things