by "A. Stone"

>>>>>Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold. From a culinary standpoint, a cold dish implies uncooked, unprepared and essentially unprofessional. Gazpacho soup, however, is notorious form being served cold, and it is still well regarded, where today Revenge is certainly not seen as the gazpacho soup of the human experience.

What, then, is Revenge? In earlier times, past the communication revolution, the industrial revolution, and even the Renaissance, there existed something called 'wierguild,' or 'man-price;' it consisted of rules for carrying out Revenge, and it was a task that many men devoted their lives to. Today, only a handful of people in the world might know what wierguild means, but everyone is cognizant of the price of doing 'business', as they say, and the debt that one man owes to another when his life is taken.<<<<<

- Mr. R(00:03:10/12-25-61)

Bastian crouched in the darkness, gun drawn as tightly to his chest as his breath. A waiter's uniform lay discarded underneath the stairs, stuffed behind a rack of wine. Even at this point, he did not feel ready, or even willing. He felt just as apprehensive as he did crouching over a body five years ago.

It wasn't that Bastian wasn't good at killing people; he had run the shadows, fought alongside the human misery involved in criminal dealings, survived death because many times he was able to make the choice to pull a trigger, swing a blade or push a button. And even sometimes the kills came in cold blood, Bastian sending a whisper from the shade of death a kilometer and a half away. It was not the nature of this murder that made Bastian shiver.

He shivered. He didn't want to think about it anymore, but holding that gun, starting at the door... The ramifications of this would be few. He would need to move out of Seattle for a while, spend the winter in CalFree or the Carribean League until the police and private investigators would be occupied with other things. There was nothing to connect him to this murder either; his professional reputation would remain undamaged. He felt, though, this would be his last job, he didn't need to worry about the sudden relief of stress; he had been taking less jobs every month, planning things to do and places to visit when he wanted out.

Bastian shifted his position. He had taken up shadowrunning to hone his skills for this moment. It was approaching, and the apprehension gave way to anger and fear: anger at the fact that he was afraid, fear at the fact that he was angry. It was more than that, Bastian knew, but he didn't want to...

Think about it, Chase said to him, Money like this doesn't come along every day. He turned to go up the stairs to his apartment.

The door at the top opened, someone standing there fired, and the flashes forced the blood of Chase to spill all over Bastian.

They tumbled down the stairs. Bastian crawled up over his friend, and for a moment was simply amazed; he had never really seen a person die, and before this it hadn't seemed possible. The amazement gave way to anger, and he reached inside Chase's jacket for his gun.

Drawn, round chambered, pointed at the man at the top of the stairs, the gun wasn't what that fellow was afraid of. He started down into Bastian's eyes, and it occured to Bastian that the man's eyes, though skillfully crafted, were cybereyes. The pupils didn't contract, but the rest of the man's body did. It held one note of dread, a slinking, stalking dread that oozed out of him like the way Chase's blood was oozing out of his body. Bastian tried to find a way to pull the trigger, to justify killing the man, but his mind would not help him, and his emotions were still contracted with anger and fear. Bastian didn't know what else to do, so he stood up and started up the steps towards the man.

After Bastian had taken one step, the man backed into the steel gate that protected the rest of the apartment, frantically forced it open, and slammed it shut on his longcoat. As Bastian gained on the man, he abandoned the coat and ran down the corridor, out of Bastian's sight. In his jacket was some clips and identification, and from then on Bastian tracked him, followed his career until now he was in his house, sitting in his wine cellar, waiting for the man to come downstairs and get more champagne for his guests.

Bastian shifted in the darkness again. Had he not become a shadowrunner, participated in the violent cycles of the business, taken every nuyen he was offered so that he could get even with this guy? What would be the point of it all if he just walked away right now? His skills would be worthless, his life suddenly meaningless, if he turned back now. It strengthened his resolve, but did only as much as imagining Chase's death did for Bastian's anger. Further down, where his ego dared not tread, Bastian knew the answer; he would kill the man because otherwise the violence he had caused would have no consolation, and at this point, murder was the only confession he knew how to make.

He pulled his gun away from his chest, made sure a round was chambered, and held the gun ready in front of him.

The door swung open, and this time he was ready.

"Think about it," Gerold said, "Money like this doesn't come along every day." He laughed and slipped his son a twenty nuyen bill for helping him get the wine, and opened the door.

His son saw a flash and a whisper from the darkness, and Gerold's gray suit was suddenly covered with red. It splashed into his son's reindeer horns so hard it knocked them off his head.

Gerold's son was amazed; he had never seen so much blood before. He was sure that his dad had just died. He hadn't ever seen someone die before. Then good memories came to his stunned mind and he got angry at the shilloette. Gerold's son reached into his father's jacket, where he kept his self-defense gun, and drew it out. He cocked and pointed it at the man in the basement.

Funny, he thought, scared to act, as the light played off the shadow, His eyes aren't real.

(c) 2000 "A. Stone". Used with permission.