- Originally written: August 7, 2007 at games.loopingthehen.com (the gaming part of my personal blog…the link is to the Wayback machine, so that’s not quite how the blog looked back in the day)
- 2019 thoughts: I was pretty proud of this at the time I wrote it, though more than a decade lets me see it’s weak spots. Occasionally too much Shadowrun vernacular (some of which I made up); I’ve also always had a problem with word repetition…I desperately need an editor to smack that out of me. Still, it’d pass a college English class with a once-over.
I don’t know how my life came to this; it definitely was not supposed to be like this. I glanced at the virtual readouts on my electric blue Suzuki Mirage as it approached the redline, it’s engine a high whine that resonated with several of my implants, causing a touch of system shock. The go-gangers were falling further behind each second, but that was not my biggest concern at the moment. Flying through the Twin Hills slums at nearly 200 kilometers per hour was dangerous enough, where a random child, trash can, or overturned streetlight could land me in the morgue, but worse was knowing I only had 11 minutes left to make the datachip drop.
Ending up in run-debt to this particular Johnson was as good as signing up for a year’s worth of suicide runs, probably the Kansas City-New Reno-Dubuque loop. There were worse things in the desert than go-gangers, and a cute street shaman I’d once lived with told me they’d be drawn to my tech like a rat pinscher to drek. But at least on this particular jaunt, that tech had saved my life more than once. Piloting the Japanese bike at over 100 klicks was only something I would do with my wires on; the reflex enhancements had set me back a year’s gig, but I knew I would need an edge if I wanted to take on the high-kale speed-courier assignments. Seeing and interacting with the world in slow motion was an addictive experience, and one I knew not to abuse lest I end up like every other burnout.
Still, I sometimes felt my humanity leaking out of me like oil from the old Yamaha I made my first delivery on. I was scared of the dark as a child, so the cyber-eyes were obvious, and my first implants. I’d guilted my parents into buying them for my graduation from Tech School. No big deal, and only people running active lev 6 scans ever knew I had them. Still, my parents nearly disowned me when I got busted peeping into Sally Straw’s bedroom window at 1am, not 3 days after install.
The control rig implanted into the back of my skull is a little longer story. When my parents nearly ended up dust after a late-night B&E; by some stimmed-up ganger, I knew our section of zoo was out of control. I had made a killing selling creds I pilfed from a million newbs in Eve 6.5 until I zapped one of a mod’s sig-ots and got booted. That paid for the drone-rig and a couple of GM-Nissan Dobermans. At my parents insistence I went with the stun-stik mod instead of a belt-fed automatic (I later found out my Dad didn’t want anyone running his SIN, which would be required for the Ingram, and that it wasn’t any of his old-lib ideals manifesting themselves as concern over gang-bangers).
A few months later when the ganger tried to hit us again with some of his slimy friends the puppies worked just fine. After emptying their credsticks and nicking their jackets, I got my hands on the modded Pred-4 semi-aut I still carry today. No one much bothered our squat 2 bedroom slum-house after that, though dad did replace the aging wooden fence with some electric chain and concertina wire, so I don’t know whether that was for fear of being electrocuted by the by steel mesh or being brought down by 400 pounds of faux-barking goodness.
As the snows came down heavy and radiated that winter, me and that Pred-4 making courier rounds of Denver proper on an old Japanese dirt-racer, picking up nickels and dimes. Doing cake-runs for mid-level suits paid the bills, but I knew that was not the way to wealth and power. (Yes, I was young and naive to think a slummer punk could find any way to wealth and power.) However, with visions of sugar-plums and nuyen dancing in my head on Christmas Eve 2067, chance put me in the path of Gerald Grieves, alias Spartacus, a local merc, and perhaps my closest friend.
A botched courier run the previous night had left Chuckie Tillman’s Swift Courier Inc. quite short on manpower. I had done a couple of slum-runs for old Chuckie-boy, and he knew I wasn’t afraid of a little risk if there were zeroes attached to my paystick. Spartacus was to be my cover as we picked up a package south of Denver in Aztlan. If things went wrong, I was to haul-tail to an underground tunnel run by Swift Courier Coyotes and pray that Gerald’s augments gave me a chance to hit the border before I got shot in the back.
Well, things went wrong, and no mistake. Instead of grabbing the steel case and jetting as quick as I could get it stowed as I normally did, I found myself face to face with Brazilia, the Aztlan courier. A little shy of two meters tall, hair to her shoulders died azure with silver taglights running the length, and hypnotic eyes of no color that had ever existed in nature. Underneath her left eye was a digital tatoo of Quetzacouatl, feathered serpent of a thousand hues. It slid beneath her skin and she smirked as my eyes couldn’t decide what to focus on: her eyes, her face, her augs, or the figure-hugging jumpsuit of electric blue. Her body was tight and fit and I knew immediately she rode as well, her bike’s chrome sparkling dimly at the far side of the dark warehouse. When she winked at me, a slow, langorous movement, her eyelid sparkling sapphire, the world stopped.
Watching her, my breath caught, my heart skipped and my voice caught in my throat. The 45 seconds it took me to stammer a not-very-smooth hello probably cost her her life. The moment I decided I loved her, the first bullets sprayed from a jeep-mounted Ingram behind us. The Aztlan courier team opened up as well, but I knew it was already too late for Brazilia, as a half-dozen rounds nearly cut her in half. Before loss could form or my brain could even register what happened, Spartacus had me planted behind some steel pilings and had gone to work. I had never seen someone move so fast, and thought it must be the grief distorting my vision. Three members of the Ares Interception Team went down before I thought to pry my Pred-4 from its holster. Still, even the big mercenary wouldn’t charge a 50-cal, and the Ingram was laying down heavy suppression fire on the opposite side of the warehouse, pinning down the remainder of the Aztlan unit, when the rage came on me.
I was on my bike before I knew what I was doing, the old engine purring gamely for a second before I gunned it in the direction of the jeep. Halfway to my destination the gunner noticed a madman on a dirtbike firing wildly toward him with a semi-auto and began to bring the White Knight around to end my life. He was almost grinning when I plowed the little bike into his jeep. He didn’t grin when fate improbably decided to intervene and I rocketed toward the turret like a walnut launched from a slingshot. My helmet caught him under the chin with a crack and we went over the other side, me landing on top. Before he was able to regain his senses I had started to pound his head into the hard concrete of the warehouse floor.
I don’t know how long I did so, but it took Grieves manhandling me to make me stop. If the gunner had once had a skull, it no longer resembled anything but a random lump of processed oatmash. Snapping to, I looked around, noting only Gerald and I remained in the cavernous building. He looked at me but didn’t say a word and just handed me the case, silver with several rust-colored slashes. I recoiled slightly at the sight of her blood, but the big merc pushed it into my hands. He was insistent, but gave a knowing nod as well, and gestured over his shoulder and said I had 30 seconds to say goodbye.
I tried to argue. “Man, my ride’s busted, there’s no way I can get this back across the border in time.” He pointed again and I knew what he had really meant.
“Sorry chummer, but she really won’t need it.”
I glanced at her for only a second as I passed her body, and I barely recongnized the life it once held. With her bioelectic engine dead, the taglights in her hair had stopped twinkling and the electric tatoo on her cheek was no more than a spec of black nanotic ink.
I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised when I fired up her Suzuki and the body shone a rich, electric blue.