I move home in a fit of paranoia, we buy some new toys with our hard earned nuyen and we deal with a first-time Johnson.
After the Lead Run I wasn’t feeling too secure in my canal-side apartment. After all, the Johnson that hired us for that job did so by turning up at my front door. And with the mess that Griff got us into I didn’t fancy sticking around waiting for “Knuckles” or any of his lackeys to come knocking. So as soon as the trilby-wearing Johnson left I started packing up my meager possessions into boxes. Napster spent all morning and most of the afternoon driving around, picking up items from a combined shopping list. We’d been unprepared in a lot of ways for the last job and we intended to use our earnings to gear up. I picked up a bunch of new equipment that would hopefully help with the legwork in future. And I got my AR shades upgraded with thermographic sensors. There had been too much stumbling around in the dark. Napster spent all of his share (and some money he’d made on the side doing god knows what) on some new matrix programs and upgrading his commlink.
I called Hank and asked for him to repeat a favor he’d done me less than 6 months ago: Help me find a new apartment. By the end of the day I’d informed my old landlord I was clearing out, found a new, equally unlikable landlord, and shipped all my belongings up the river to my new en-suite luxury abode at Damside Block Apartment building. Damside Block was in a “good” area of The Silts known as Riverside. It was nestled right under the large dam, leaving it permanently draped in shadow. It wasn’t much, but at least no one knew I lived here. The place even had a working maglock on the front door and a night security guard in the lobby. The landlord offered to hook me up with a new MSP as part of the deal for a decent chunk of nuyen less than my last place. I took him up on the offer. My apartment was cold and dark, and the neighborhood was a bit rough, but it was better than getting a letterbomb from an angry gang of drug manufacturers.
The next day we decided to go visit Hank’s bar, The Bräury, and hit up our favorite fixer for a couple more favors. I always did rely on Hank too much, even when I was dating his sister I’d constantly ask him for his help. Yep, good old Detective Hank of LoneStar Security Services, always happy to help his sister’s fiancé, the upstanding Security Supervisor working for the worlds largest mega-corp. Of course that was years ago. Now Hank owns his own bar and acts as a Fixer for the runners he once hunted. The Van Run had been a one off thing, just a bit of money to tide me over until I could get a job. Hank understood, he was reluctant but he set me up. But now we were heading to a Fixer’s bar with a couple of intentions: 1) Fence a hot assault rifle that I’d used to kill at least two of Lazarus’ men, before some nosy LoneStar cop caught me with it, and 2) Ask Hank if he had any jobs going for us.
I don’t think there was ever a moment where we though “We really are shadowrunners now” but if we had, this would probably have been it.
The Bräury was a pleasant place. It was on the edge of the industrial zone in the Heysham district of Merseysprawl, just a 15 minute drive away from my new apartment and a stone’s throw from the Heysham Power Plant. The walls were adorned with Americana paraphernalia: Mounted buffalo horns, an old Remington rifle, a Route 66 sign (complete with bullet holes), a stuffed bald eagle and of course, a gigantic pre-UCAS flag with all 50 stars covering half of the back wall. An old jukebox stood in a dark corner, it didn’t actually work but it added to the effect as country western music played over the bar’s wireless speaker system. The flap of the saloon doors closing behind us completed the setting.
Hank was in his usual spot; below the bar, cleaning glasses. He pushed himself heavily in his wheelchair and placed two glasses down on the bar as he saw us come in.
“Hey! How’s the new place?” he inquired as he poured us a couple of pints. On the house, as always.
“Great, cheers. That’s twice I owe you for pulling double shift as my real estate agent.”
“So what brings you to my fine establishment gents? Surely it’s not the drink…” he looked around at the other surly patrons “or the company.”
“Know anyone who can take an assault rifle off our hands and make sure it isn’t tied back to any previous owners?”
“Can’t say I do, but I’ll keep my ear to the ground and let you know.”
“Thanks Hank.” I surveyed the bar. The other denizens were a typical sight here during the day. Shadowrunners mostly, between jobs or waiting while the other members of their team were off carrying out dangerous legwork. A lumbering troll chick gave me a look I wasn’t sure was meant to be seductive or threatening, whilst a cybered up ork played pool against an obvious mage in a suit. Just the normal fare at Hank’s. Hank piped up.
“Spoken to Lysa lately?”
I hadn’t. “A couple weeks ago. She didn’t really want to talk.”
“So she didn’t tell you?”
“Aw man, I’m sorry. She’s started seeing some other guy. I don’t know who he is, but things seem pretty serious.”
Napster looked uncomfortable as hell. I guess listening to my ongoing marital woes wasn’t exactly what he was here for. Neither was I, thankfully Hank knew when to change the topic.
“Here’s something that’ll interest you guys. You know Tony Fellini right? Big trideo and simsense star. You’ve seen The Don? Well I’ve been speaking with him. He wants to hire someone to kill his wife.”
That wasn’t what I’d expected to hear.
“Yep!” he confirmed, smiling at the expressions on our faces “and he wants to tag along with the team that does the wetwork. Apparently he’s up for a big role in some new big budget romanticised shadowrunner simsense and he wants to learn how real runners live and work. Character acting and all that.”
Napster interjected “Tony Fellini, 34, married to Maria Fellini, 28. Separated, doesn’t look like the celeb bloggers have any idea why.”
“Me neither. Doesn’t matter. Fellini was sketchy with me, wants to meet, and I quote, ‘your best, most capable team of shadowrunners!’, to discuss the details. So, do you guys want the first shot at this before I pass it on to someone else?”
“Yes” we both said without hesitation. Wetwork was new, but neither of us was totally averse to the idea. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d killed somebody. And with a rich star like Tony Fellini coming directly to us rather than hiring a dedicated Johnson, I was sure we could squeeze a decent fee out of him.
“Good. He lands Wednesday afternoon, here’s his flight number. Suborbital port in the Blackpool district, not far by car. Your first amateur Johnson and he probably has no idea the going rates for having a wife whacked. Dress to impress and squeeze him for every nuyen.”
Three days later I pulled the cheap rental car into the arrivals parking lot at the Suborbital port. I was wearing the best shirt and pants I had, which wasn’t much, but it would have to do. Napster was in the van around the corner, trying to dig up as much about Fellini as he could and waiting for my signal in case there was any trouble. The van was loaded up with all our new toys, 2 automatic weapons and dozens of rounds of ammunition. We were ready to go wherever we needed to and face any challenge.
I stood in the arrivals terminal holding a placard that read “Fellini”. A bit cloak and dagger for 2072 but it did the trick. Tony Fellini swaggered through the MADs, swinging his carry on and headed straight for me with a big grin on his face. He was a self assured, cocky man. Big sunglasses, big jewellery, big ego.
“Heeeeyyy!” he exclaimed as he vigorously shook my hand.
Quickly composing myself and affecting my most professional manner, I replied “Mr Johnson, I’ve taken the liberty of arranging a dinner meeting and I have a car waiting to take you there at once.”
“Of coyse! Leads the way, monsieur!”
Napster was able to find me a nearby restaurant that wasn’t too expensive and pointed me to it. After a short drive we arrived at a fancy looking restaurant.
“Do you have a reservation?” the maître d’ asked.
In a quick attempt to save face, I coughed and gestured to the man stood behind me. The maître d’ recognised him of course, and led us to a quiet table in a dark corner. 3 courses and some small talk later I decided it was time to get down to business.
“OK, I take it you haven’t done anything like this before?” I asked the obnoxious star.
“Definoitely a foirst.” he replied in his thick New Jersey accent.
“For the purpose of our arrangements, we will refer to you as Mr Johnson. You will refer to me as Fanboy. This is to ensure the safety of both parties. Now Mr Johnson, please tell me what it is you wish my team to do.”
“What did your Fixer tell you?”
“That you needed a team to deal with a problem regarding your wife.”
“So he didn’t tell you the whole story then? The fact that my wife sent an assassin to kill me?”
Hank hadn’t mentioned that. Hank hadn’t mentioned much honestly. What transpired in my conversation with Tony Fellini was this: He had run up gambling debts. Unfortunately for him those debts were to a Mafia family. Having squandered all his savings he was forced to pay his debt by performing in pornographic sims, the kind distributed on BTL chips. His wife found out the money had gone and left him. Now she wanted him dead for ruining her life and making a mockery out of her.
And that’s when he revealed the kicker. He wanted us to protect him from the assassin, while we worked to eliminate his wife and her hired help, all the while he would shadow us so he could learn how to play a shadowrunner in the sim that was going to reboot his career on the coattails of the tragic death of his beloved wife.
That’s when I used my vast deductive powers to deduce this simple deduction: The lowlife was broke.
“You understand that this job involves wet work against a well known famous target? And that there is an active element working against us? And that you would be in our way?”
“Yes. All of that.”
“In that case, we require 80,000¥. Half up front. And a 20,000¥ expense account.”
He wasn’t good for that much, I knew he wouldn’t be. After some hard haggling (and a suggestion of blackmail), we settled on 56,000¥, half paid up-front and an expense account for 8,500¥. He was good for the twenty-eight thousand then and there thankfully. We’d no doubt be needing the money before long.
“This is my wife’s last known address.”
23 Higher Gate, Preston District
“I know that she moved out of there months ago, but it’s all I’ve got on her for now.”
Fellini didn’t even offer to pick up the tab for the meal, so I paid it as we left. I called Napster and asked him to pick up our Johnson. Fellini wanted to live like a runner? Well he could start now. The armored GMC pulled around the corner and the side door slid open, revealing our small arsenal of guns and toys piled in the back.
“Your ride is here Mr Johnson. Napster will take you somewhere safe for tonight. You two can get to know each other. I’m sure Napster will regale you with tales of our many exploits all night long.”
I sent Napster a text message “Take him to the nearest coffin hotel and stay with him. Show him the life of luxury us runners lead. I’ll meet with you tomorrow morning. I’m just going to return the rental car then I need to take some personal time. Call me if there’s any trouble.”
Napster spent the night crammed into a tiny little pod across from our Johnson and protectorate, keeping the star awake for hours with his tales of battles with dragons that obviously never happened.
I dropped off the car and grabbed the maglev back up to Lancaster district. On the train I made the call I had been dreading since Hank had mentioned the word “wetwork”.
“Hello?” Lysa answered the call.
“Hi Lysa, it’s me, Richard.”
“Sorry I haven’t called, I’ve just been so busy with work. In fact I’m about to go away on a job, I might be a while. I was wondering if I could drop by and see Thomas this evening, say goodbye, you know?”
“Listen Richard, now’s not a good time…” There was a long pause, a resigned sigh, and then “I’m seeing someone else.”
There it was. At least she finally had the decency to tell me herself. Hearing it from her made it real though. I knew it was over between us, we’d been divorced legally for 6 months, and things had been bad before that. But I guess I’d still been holding onto hope up until that moment.
In a moment of schoolboy jealousy I responded “Yeah. Me too.” The conversation hung awkwardly. “Listen, perhaps you could just put Thomas on the call for a minute, let me speak to him?”
“Just one minute, let me tell him I love him.”
I let out a sigh. I was scared. For the first time I truly felt I was getting in over my head. Wetwork. Assassination. I was scared that something would happen to me and I’d never have a chance to say goodbye to my son.
With no reason to be in Lancaster now, I grabbed a soykaf and took the next maglev back in the direction I’d came.
Once this job was over, I’d have enough money to prove that I could look after Thomas. And if this new man thought he could keep me from seeing my own son, he’d have to stop a team of professional killers.