12 August, 2052Where am I? Why can’t I see anything? What happened? I can feel the magic, but my hand’s asleep – I can’t make the magic go through it.
The last thing I remember, we were getting ready to go in to pull that other team’s fat out of the fire. Jurg was rechecking his medical kit for the umpteenth time. Indy was jacking into the chopper and playing that hillbilly music he likes so much. Bronze was talking to Snake, promising his totem lots of good stuff if we could save these people. The gunbunnies, Moose and Squirrel, were quietly arguing about the comparative merits of the submachine guns they favored. And I was taking a deep breath and checking my foci, my pistols, and my battle armor. We’re one of the best High Threat Response Teams that DocWagon, or anyone else, has, and we were ready to rock and roll.
So how did I end up here? And why can’t I see anything? Let me take a look into the astral.
I close my eyes and focus on the magic, then reopen them.
The room comes into sharp focus, all shades of gray, but sharp. I’m in a hospital room. I can see the ceiling and the walls and the curtains on the window and the window itself. I can’t see through the window, ‘cause solid material is opaque in the astral, but I can see it. There’s a person sitting in the chair by the bed. Enough of this. I look down at myself.
I’m lying in a hospital bed. Tubes go into and out of my body in half a dozen places. My left arm’s gone, and so’s my foot on that side.
What the hell happened?
Saint Francis Hospital, Seattle
14 August“I’m sorry, Dan. But there’s no way I can fix your eyes. I tried, but Snake said they were just plain gone. The surgeons say your optic nerves were flash-fried by that grenade. They can’t even put cyber in there, because you don’t have the nerves any more for them to attach to.”
I winced. Bronze was sympathetic, but he didn’t have good news for me. And he was still talking.
“Your leg and your arm are bad, but not as bad. The same blast that killed the chopper took your leg at mid-calf, and your arm was so messed up, they couldn’t save it by the time we finally got in here.”
“So you’re saying I’m a cripple for life.”
“No, you’re not a cripple. You could be quite functional with some cyberware.”
“Cyberware? Are you kidding, Bronze? You know what that would do to feeling the magic?”
“Yeah, mano, I know. It would hinder your ability to use magic. But your other option is not to be able to walk, and to get used to having one hand. You won’t even be able to use a crutch, with the arm gone on the same side as the foot.”
“And then what? I still won’t be able to see.”
Bronze sighed sympathetically. “You’ve still got your astral sight. That should be enough to let you get around.”
“Yeah, but then what? DocWagon won’t let me come back without being able to see little things like colors.”
“Hmm, have you thought about becoming a real healer?”
“You mean a doctor/mage, kind of like you?”
“Yeah, but in a controlled environment, like a hospital, maybe?”
I shook my head. “No way. I didn’t become a battle mage to live the rest of my life in a controlled environment.” While I won’t admit it to Bronze, I know I’m too much of an adrenaline junkie for that.
He sighed. “OK, Dan. I’m sorry, but I don’t have the answers for you.”
This isn’t his fault. “Well, Bronze, you tried, and I appreciate it. You’re a good friend, mano. Thank you.”
“I know that your God is not my gods,” he continued uncomfortably, “but remember – if He were finished with you, He’d have let you die.”
“Oh.” I hadn’t thought of it like that.
“Hey, Dan, I really should go see the rest of the team.”
“OK, man. I’ll see you around, I guess.”
As Bronze left, I heard another, female, voice, and I saw a thin person with some head cyber enter the room.
I smiled and nodded. “That’s me.”
“Mister Meier, my name is Dottie Braun. I’m from the DocWagon Metahuman Resources Department.”
Ah. Corporate. That rarely means good things.
“Is something wrong, Mister Meier?”
I shook my head. “No, nothing’s wrong, Ms. Braun. Why would you think something was wrong? Does it look like I should be in the hospital or something?” I looked innocent.
She started to laugh, and then, embarrassed, stopped herself, and it turned into a snort. I chuckled.“Mister Meier, I hate to intrude, but I wanted to ensure that you understood DocWagon’s employee benefits and your options at this time. You’ve really impressed some . . . significant people with your heroism in the field, and DocWagon wants to make sure that you’re taken care of.”
“OK, have a seat and talk at me. I’ve got nowhere else to go at the moment.”
She sat down in the chair by the bed, and pulled some brochures out of her briefcase. “Well, Mister Meier, I understand that you’ve lost your sight, and your arm, and one-quarter of one leg and your foot. Is that correct?”
“That’s what they tell me.” I smiled. “Of course, maybe it’s a good thing I’m not from Missouri.”
She didn’t even blink. Either she didn’t understand the reference or I was losing my touch.
“Well, DocWagon will pay for cybernetic replacements for your eyes and for your arm and leg, without any further administrative review.”
“The docs tell me the eyes aren’t replaceable. My optic nerves were flash-fried.”
“All right then, . . .”
She moved the top sheet of paper from her lap to her briefcase and looked at the next sheet.
“In addition, DocWagon will compensate you for the loss of the arm and partial loss of your leg, and, since, due to injuries sustained in the line of duty, you will no longer be able to pursue your chosen profession, DocWagon will pay for job retraining.”
“Job retraining for what?”
“Why, whatever you like, Mister Meier. Would you like to teach magic? We’ll pay for whatever schools you like. What would you like to do?”
I shifted a bit in the bed, not caring if she could tell I was uncomfortable. “Ma’am, I don’t know what I would like to do. I . . . I’ve been a combat mage for DocWagon for most of my adult life. I don’t have a lot of other skills.”
“I understand that. That’s why we’re offering you retraining. What skills would you like to learn?”
I paused. “Ma’am, I just don’t know. Can I get back to you on that?”
“That’s fine. You really should sleep on it, anyway. I’ll leave these brochures here, and you can call me – my LTG location is on there.”
“All right, ma’am. Thank you for stopping by.”
Might as well be nice. She’s trying to be nice; she just doesn’t have a clue. How am I going to read a brochure?
So now what the heck do I do? Ever since those tests in school identified that I was a sorcerer, that’s what I’ve done, that’s what I’ve BEEN. I started working for DocWagon because our mages actually get to use combat magic. The medical side of it, that was secondary. I mean, I like helping people, helping people is great, but it’s just not the same as feeling the magic flow through your nerves and seeing its effect on the world.
I just lay there and thought.
“Hey, Dan.” That bass voice could only come from one person, and the form at the door confirmed it – huge, with half of his astral form black from cyberware.
The troll came in and closed the door behind him. He sat down rather gingerly, unsure that the chair would take his 400+ pound weight.
“So, how ya doin’, Moose? You’ll have to pardon my asking, I’m not seeing too well these days.”
“The docs were able to patch me up. They had to replace my hand, but that’s OK – how often did I use a fingerprint scanner anyway.”
I shook my head. And just think – he considers this normal -- replacing pieces of himself with machinery every time he gets hurt. I shuddered.
He continued, no doubt grinning at my discomfort – we’d had that conversation many times. “Listen, Dan. Squirrel and Indy and I’ve been talkin’, and we’ve got a proposition for you.”
“So, what’s up? Talk to me.”
“Well, we’ve been thinking, and none of us think DocWagon is what we wanna be doin’ for the rest of our lives. It’s steady work, and it’s usually fun, but, for what we’re doin’, the money sucks.”
I had to agree.
“So what do you want to do instead? There isn’t much of a market for freelance ambulance crews.”
“No, but what do we do? We go in and extract someone from a dangerous situation. There’s lotsa market for that.”
I looked at him funny.
“You mean corporate extractions? Shadowrunning?”
“Yeah, why not? Lots of money to be made, and it’s not that different from what we’ve been doing for years.”
I stopped and thought about it.
“Let me think about it, Moose. That’s a major decision, and I need some time.”
“Okay,” the troll sounded relieved I was considering it. “The offer’s open. Just let us know. We’ll probably wanna start a ‘consulting firm’ to cover the income and all. Can you run one of those? You’re the only one of us who’s been to college.”
Like two years of partying at the U of Dubya really counts. I was a thaumaturgy major, not business. Still, though, I could figure it out.
“I could do that. Like I said, let me think about it.”
”Null persp. You know where to find us.”
Moose got up and left. I just lay there and thought.
The shadowrunning life. It’s glamorous, but deadly. Lots of money, living fast.
“I burn my candle at both ends /
it will not last the night. /
But something something /
it makes a lovely light.”
And I might be able to do it without cyberware, to protect my magic.
On the other hand, my magic is a gift. Could I look my mother in the eye, knowing that I was breaking the law and killing people for a living? Well, no, I won’t be able to look her in the eye ever again, but I know what I mean…
On the other hand, I hate being manipulated, and Bronze was working real hard to manipulate me into not even listening to this pitch. What right does that old snake have to tell me how to run my life?
On the other hand (I guess I can have as many figurative hands as I want – they just don’t help me pick up a beer), maybe Bronze was right. Do I have a right to use my magic just for my own benefit? With DocWagon I could at least rationalize it as helping other people.
I just lay there, and thought.My mother came, and she cried, and we talked for almost an hour, and she had to go back to work.
And I just lay there, and thought.
15 August, evening
There was a knock on the door.
Bronze walked in, pushing a wheelchair.
“Hey, Dan. Howya feelin’?”
“I’ll make it. What’s with the chair?”
“You’re sitting up and the docs say you can ride in one of these. I want to show you something.”
“O-kaaaay.” I wasn’t sparkling with enthusiasm.
He glared at me. Even without seeing his expression, I know he’s glaring at me.
“Dan, trust me.”
“Okay.” I owe him that much. With his help, I got myself into the wheelchair, and he pushed me out of my room and down the hall.
“So where are we going?”
“You’ll see. I want to show you something.” He pushed the elevator button to go down.
With a ‘ding’ the elevator doors opened and we entered. The doors closed and we went down.
‘Ding.’ The doors opened onto a scene of barely controlled chaos. We scuttled into the room and out of the way as a gurney was wheeled into the elevator, somebody kneeling on it and doing CPR on the occupant as they went.
A nurse sprinted by, her arms full of bags that had some kind of life in them. Blood packs? Apparently reaching her destination, she expertly slid to a stop in her sneakers on the industrial linoleum floor, opened a swinging door with a swung hip, and exited our view.
Bronze wheeled me over to an open doorway. A group of people stood around an orc lying on a table. Various tubes went into the patient, and one of the staff was squeezing an Ambu bag to force air into his lungs.
“Flatline. Paddles, two-fifty.” The voice of the doctor was calm and even. She took the defibrillator paddles from a nurse.
“Clear!” Everyone stepped back for a moment as she quickly brought the paddles into contact with the patient’s torso. The patient’s body lurched. As soon as the paddles were removed, the resuscitation started again.
“Clear!” The bag was pulled back and the paddles replaced for a moment. The patient’s body jumped up for a moment, then the doctor removed the paddles and resuscitation resumed.
“Sinus!” The doctor put the paddles back in place on the crash cart.
“Pseudoatropine thirty milligrams by IV, ten mikes of neocarb by patch. Monitor him closely and call me if his condition changes.” The doctor stood and watched for a few minutes as the patient’s conditions stabilized, then she slipped out, discarding her latex gloves in a trash can as she did.
We started to follow her, but stopped.
“LOL crossing the street, lost to a sports car running a red light.” I winced and turned to see a team of paramedics giving their report to the triage nurse, their gurney not even slowing down as it wheeled in through the doors.
“Pulse 85 but steady, BP at the scene one forty over seventy-five, en route dropped to ninety-five over fifty. Glasgow nine. External abrasions but no significant external blood loss.”
The nurse nodded. “Trauma seven. Get Ramirez in here, stat!”
We followed the gurney to the doorway of the trauma room, and stood aside as an amazingly obese dwarf, one of the roundest I’ve ever seen, waddled in behind it. His aura was bright – a spellcaster, a shaman, to be specific. He started giving orders.
“Okay, I need two units of B neg, an antibody booster, and my chair.” He climbed up onto a stool that a nurse kicked over to him, and his hands started to glow as he put them squarely on the little old lady’s bare forearm. He’s casting a spell on her – to heal her?
After a moment, the dwarf’s aura suddenly dimmed, and his patient’s brightened. He nodded. “She’s stabilized. I stopped the internal bleed, but she needs the blood drained from her belly and twenty mikes per kilo of neocillin to prevent peritonitis.”
The nurses had already strung an IV bag, and added one of what I was now sure were blood packs to the pole. Bronze pushed me away from this room as the dwarf stepped down from his stool and wearily sat down on it.
“Can I help you?”
Bronze and I both turned, but the nurse wasn’t talking to us: she was talking to the troll in sweats who was running in from the outside, a screaming human woman in his arms.
“Yeah. She’s gonna have a baby. Now.”
Almost before the big guy could finish his statement, an intern had pushed a gurney in front of him and the doctor from before was right there.
“All right. Put her down on this gurney and we’ll take her from here.” The troll gingerly put the woman down, cradling her head until the intern produced a pillow from somewhere. She seemed to calm down somewhat at the medical attention, though she was clearly still in great pain. The doctor and the intern wheeled the woman back into a side room, as the nurse literally took the troll by the hand and led him over to a registration desk to try to answer all the usual questions about identity and insurance and the like.
Just then something big smacked against the outside doors of the ED. The security guard ran out to check on it, and leaned back in.
“Get a gurney! We’ve got a gangbanger!”
Ramirez ran out, followed by a nurse with a gurney. The security guard and the nurse lifted an unfortunate ganger, who had apparently been thrown into the doors from a fast-moving car, onto the gurney, as the fat dwarf cast a spell on the guy to hold him together until they could get him inside.
Once they were in a trauma room, the patient was tubed and resuscitated, as IV’s were started with plasma and replacement blood. Eventually, the dwarven shaman could release his concentration on his spell, and the patient was sent upstairs to emergency surgery.
When we turned around, the female doctor we’d first seen was presenting Mr. and Mrs. William McMullen with their daughter, a healthy 15-pound bouncing baby troll.
“Seen enough?” Bronze looked down at me.
“What, …what do you mean?”
“Do you get the picture of what life’s like down here?”
“Yeah.” I tried to appear indifferent. Stay cool, Meier.
“OK. Let’s go back upstairs.” He wheeled me back into the elevator and we went back up to my room.
Neither of us said a word as he helped me back into my bed, but then he leaned over and looked me right in the face.
“Now, Dan, I want you to listen to me. Every day, those people fight a hundred battles against Pain, against Death, and against Despair. Every patient who comes through those doors comes here because they’re already losing one of those battles. You’ve always said you’re a warrior at heart. Well, here’s a war for you, and one with honor. I’ll see you later.”
He stood back up straight and walked out of the room.
I just lay there and thought.
17 August, 8:30 am
“Ms. Dottie Braun, please, with Metahuman Resources. My name is Mage/Medic First Class Daniel P. Meier, SIN 9384210-9286298422-3289392.”
“Ms. Braun, this is Dan Meier. I’ve decided what I want to do with the retraining benefits.”
Somewhat awkwardly, I walked out of the hospital on crutches. I still wasn’t used to my new foot and arm. My mother was hovering, trying to help but not be in the way. She ended up carrying my bag. I’d be staying with her for a few weeks.
21 October, 2052
“SEATTLE (AP): LoneStar has confirmed the deaths today of four shadowrunners who were attempting a kidnapping from the Renraku arcology. Michael “Moose” Lonagon, Christine “Squirrel” Schneider, Leigh “Siamese” Glaze, and Jackson “Indy” Malone were killed instantly when, after repeated warnings, Renraku security shot down their helicopter on the grounds of the arcology. LoneStar states that no charges will be filed.”
St. Francis Hospital, Seattle
1 June, 2060
I was in that weird mental and physical state we call “tired but wired.” I’d just come off of a double shift, and now was in my first staff meeting. The Chief of Staff was talking, and talking, and talking . . .
I jumped to full alertness just in time to stand upon request.
“And I’d like to introduce our newest physician to the Emergency Medicine Department, Doctor Daniel Meier.”
(c) 2000 dejaffa. Used with permission.