Thursday, May 2, 2013

Part 5: In Which the Theme Develops

Part 1 starts here; Part 2 starts here. You can find Part 3 there; Part4 here. If this gets too long, I might need a second Table of Contents. Just a reminder this is about my Shadowrun character. It's like an origin story, but with words.

* * *

Looking at the dead kids -- they may've been gangers, but they were kids too -- made you wonder. You'd've never pictured a guy like Samuels blowing them away while they were on the ground if you'd met him when he came in. Yeah, he was a dick, but he was a good officer. By the book sometimes to a fault, but he'd had that sort of legendary Ness-spirit. Then he'd gotten beaten down by the reality in the department and the world, and he was plugging two scared kids who probably couldn't have stood up if they wanted to with the beating they'd taken.

I was still contemplating this when he whistled. Lincoln had come and taken a cautionary position behind me; part of his training had been to stay away from dead things. Nothing contaminates a body like a random animal. Lincoln trotted over to Samuels, thinking that's what the whistle was for. I engaged the safety on my shotgun, picked up one of the rifles, checked that it was locked, and shouldered each weapon to balance their weights.

"What are you, a one-man arsenal?" Samuels asked when I came to the door. The poor sap the kids had shot never had a chance; didn't even have a sidearm. He was a sort of decoration to make people feel safe. Fat lot of good it did them.

"They're not going to use them," I said. "Speaking of which, next time, we take the suspects alive."

"I thought you were old school," Samuels said. "In the bad old days when Chicago burned.

"That's the night Chicago died dipshit," I said. "We're breaking all kinds of regs, I'd rather not have to try and justify any more dead bodies."

"It was a legitimate shooting," Samuels said. "Unless you saw it differently."

I weighed my words carefully; I had seen it differently. But, right now wasn't the time for this. "Let's get inside; I haven't heard any gunfire, so I'm worried the good guys may not have won the day," I said.

That seemed to placate things. Another thing that had me worried is that the tattoos the kids had on their necks weren't familiar to me. Shiny, nearly fluorescent green and pink scorpions ran up and down their necks, the stinger wrapping around to the Adam's apple. If it had just been on one, I'd've chalked it up to the kid's weird tastes. But both? That was a gang affiliation, and I didn't know it. Samuels computer didn't it either.

Lincoln, obviously, was of no use in this situation.

Inside though, Lincoln was of even less use. When we went in, pistols pointed at the ground, Lincoln almost bolted back outside. The air was thick with gunfire, and orderlies' bodies and a receptionist were splattered across the main room. Someone had lit the place up. I counted at least four, which probably accounted for most, if not all, of the doctor's actual staff. But, what hit me was the faint smell of something that had been dead for a long time in the air, masked ever so slightly by the pseudo-medicine smell of street drugs.

Gurneys were scattered about the lobby, there were seven of them, with an eighth over turned. The bodies there were in grotesque configurations. Skulls, chests, arms, legs -- various body parts ripped open, blood pooling along the ground and the gurneys. The one that had toppled over's chest cavity had emptied into a pool beneath him.

"What the fuck?" I said.

"It's like a chop shop for cars," Samuels said. "Someone was ripping out their implants."

"Then reselling them," I said, with a whistle. "Or using them. Get the computer up and see how many people are here."

"I can't do that," Samuels said.

"Stick your finger in it and open it up."

"I'm not a computer expert," Samuels said. "That's a specific programmed designed to short circuit and bypass the station's security; it isn't a silver bullet for every terminal you want popped open."

"Well, at least see if someone fucking left it logged on. Lincoln, follow," I said. Samuels kept his gun in his off hand as he went to the receptionist's desk. She had been shot to death still in her chair. The bullet wounds on the orderlies made me think that there had been panic; one or two had guns discarded by them, but they never stood a chance. The grouping was tight, and one body had about a dozen bullets at center mass. Whoever had come in may have recruited some flunkies, but they weren't fucking around.

I checked each gurney, by the third one I thought I'd be sick. I heard a cough coming from the next, and I approached it at a jog, Lincoln at my heels. I looked down into the half-face of a thin, wiry sort. He definitely was gang material, you could tell by the scarring and tats on his remaining face. But, probably not a heavy. Judging by the amount of hardware ripped out of him, he probably handled the finer details.

"What's your name man?"

"Who you run with?"

I hesitated, then showed my ID to his good eye.

"Fuck man, you're not the cavalry."

"What's your name?"

"They call me Digital Dave," He said. I saw his lungs shudder as he coughed. "I'm starting to feel the pain; I've been numb for hours."

I looked at the equipment on the gurney and followed the tubes to the dispenser. I hit the button, but not even a trickle of the liquid came out.

"You're empty Dave," I said. "I'm sorry. Is it painful?"

"Not yet; it is gonna be though."

"Who did this?"

"The doctor; she gave out a bunch of cheap implants a few weeks ago -- sort of a grand opening." I wondered where she got the money for that sort of hardware. Then I figured that if she was planning to get it back, it didn't really matter. "Yesterday the boys and me started to feel sick, so we tried to come and see her."

"Then this happened?"

"She had us wait in the back, gassed us, I think," He said. "I tried to turn the equipment off, nearly fried myself. Fuck, there it is."

Samuels looked up as Dave started to cry. I pulled the first aid kit from Lincoln and grabbed the pain suppressors. I didn't know where the best place to plug it would be, so I delivered it straight to the bloodstream. He shuddered a bit, and I grabbed at his hand and steadied his head.

"Stay with me man," I said. "Samuels, get an emergency response team here."

Samuels just shook his head. "Lines are dead. This whole place went off network. And no way in hell I'm raising them with my signature."

Bastard, I thought as I turned back to Dave. Lincoln had walked to the other side of the gurney and was nuzzling his convulsing hand. Dave grabbed onto Lincoln's helmet and squeezed my hand back. "Someone shot this place up, big man. Big guns. Fucker didn't seem human," Dave said. "He just shot everyone."

"How many were with him?"

"Just two flunkies, but the big guy's a fucking tank. He's after the doc; out for blood, man. Oh fuck, it's coming back," He said; I watched his insides convulse. "I can't take it."

I looked over at Samuels, but he shook his head. No help was coming. The bastard. "Give me another fucking shot. Make the pain stop."

"I can't, I used all I've got," I said. I looked at the other gurneys, they were empty or damaged. I didn't even know if I could move him without him dying. It was a miracle he was still alive as it was.

"Then fucking shoot me, man. You've got a piece," He said. "Quickly, before it really hits."

I looked at him; I wanted to tell him to hang in there, but I knew what it felt like to be dying. When I was lying on the ground with the bullets in me, I thought I would die. But, there was a part of my brain that knew I'd be fine. It knew that the wounds weren't fatal; this was though. Hell, I think he was probably missing part of his brain and most of the right side of his body.

"Lincoln, go," I said, and the dog obeyed, trotting over to Samuels. He was a good dog; he didn't even look back when I said I was sorry we got there too late to help and pulled the trigger.

* * *

SIDENOTES: Initially, they were going to get the plot dump from the receptionist. But, I felt like that wouldn't really drive home how big of a dick Samuels is. It also wouldn't really show how horrific whatever it is the doctor did to these people was. Not only that, but Samuels would have no reason to shoot the receptionist, and then we'd have an extra character on hand we'd have to do something with. The cleanest solution would be to have someone else deliver the information, and who better than one of the victims? This also helps us show that Roscoe is a pragmatist; he's not against killing, which I was afraid it would seem like he was. Life is cheap in Shadowrun, but for some people, life doesn't even have value. It's hard to find a way to have a character think life is worth something, while still having him be able to Do What Must Be Done. So, let me know if you think this version works better than however you imagine the scene where they talk with the receptionist instead. The other nice part about this is it lets us get a glimpse into the world of hacking, without us having to delve into it much in the story.

The vision of hacking and "smartlinks" are probably really the only things that would 'brand' this story as Shadowrun, and even then, not really.

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