Seattle, November 8, 2050
Boosted reflexes and a short fuse sure don't mix well. The Green Ronin slumps back unconscious as the rest of the team glare 'WTF' at me. I shrug and offer a weak apology.
Digging out my medkit, I consider hitting him with a stim patch, but a quick look at his eyes makes me hesitate. I don't want him croaking on us from an overdose, at least not yet. I pull out some smelling salts instead and wave them under his nose. That gets his attention although he's still pretty out of it.
Still wearing just a sheet, Zero appears with his deck. She takes his hand and places it on the palm reader. She purrs at him, asking for his password. I don't quite get what he says, something about images or icons, but Zero grocks it and soon a sultry female voice is talking to her from the deck in Japanese. She heads back into the living room leaving me to handle qestioning the jap.
Intimidation isn't going to work so I have to try charming him, all the while trying not to think about the last time I had to do this with Duncan the octopus in Scotland. I ask him who he was watching the hospital for and he proudly announces that his boss is Hanzo Shotozumi.
Yeah, the Hanzo Shotozumi, oyabun of oyabuns for Seattle and the big cheese of the yakuza in North America. My stomach sinks at that. I had hoped his connection was somewhere further down the ladder, not up in the frakkin' penthouse. No wonder Mr Kurso Tomori, aka the Green Ronin, has such a nice pad. That also explains the rather extensive and expensive cybertattoos covering most of his back.
I ask how he gets in touch with him and he rattles off the LTG of a dead drop box, well at least that's what Zero tell me it is, whatever that might be.
Then I ask him what he knows about the girls. He's snuggling up close to me trying to kiss me. I have to fight down the sick feeling in my stomach. I recognise it now as my system getting ready to kick my strength into overdrive. Warning symbols flash in my vision, as the new arm's limiters go offline. With a supreme effort I fight it down, pulling away from Kurso and taking a walk to calm down. I tell him I need a drink and frag me I really do.
He calls after me saying there's champagne and strawberries in the fridge. When I feel my heart slow to something approaching normal, I raid the fridge. Finlay is sitting in one of the chairs in the living room, his glare flicking between the entrance door, the bedroom and Zero. Zero has finally put her clothes back on and is currently curled up in a leather office chair, jacked into Green Ronin's deck.
The padre is hanging by the bedroom door, keeping an eye on the jap and sustaining the compel truth spell he cast on him. I saunter past him with the champagne and the strawberries, real ones at that. If I'm going to have to seduce this snake to get the info, I might as well enjoy it. I pour us each a glass of the champagne. It's good stuff but it's taste pales against the fresh, real strawberries. Sitting on the bed next to the Kurso, I take turns feeding him a strawberry, eating one myself and then asking him a question.
He sure is a charmer, I have to give him that. I catch myself almost letting him kiss me, when I lean over to feed him the next strawberry. I need to keep my mind on the job. I try another tack, and ask him how many hospitals he was watching. He sulks, telling me he will only whisper that secret in my ear if I 'share' a strawberry with him.
Yuck! Looks like I need to take another one for the team. No, not for the team, for those 17 other girls still held prisoner by these fraggers. I put the strawberry half in my mouth, holding it delicately between my teeth and lean into him. He bites into his half, then proceeds to kiss me. He's rather a good kisser, but all I can think about is trying not to stab him repeatedly with my hand blade which I had popped reflexively. I pull away for a breath feeling my cheeks flush and ask for the answer, turning my head so he can whisper in my ear.
He whispers, "All of them."
For a moment, I cannot speak, think or act. Part of me is screaming kill him now, the other part just wants to curl up and cry. I look to the padre, but he missed it. So, I ask again if he meant 'all' of them and he just grins and says yes. The padre's eyes go wide and he nods. The smarmy little shit is telling the truth.
I ask him how many girls are on the list and he just shrugs, "A couple of hundred."
A tear rolls down my cheek and I hear myself say, "Enough of this." Smack. I hit him. Hard. And again. He slumps back unconscious. The padre pulls me off with a soft, "Easy lass."
We return to the living room. Zero is still in the matrix and Finlay is still glaring at everyone. I finish up the champagne with the padre, then wash up the glasses and wipe down the surfaces to remove any stray fingerprints.
Zero suddenly jerks upright in the chair. She is breathing hard like she's been running. She tells us that she's just been in yakuza headquarters in Japan and managed to snatch some data on the senator's daughter before the system started to get suspicious.
We beat feet and, fortunately, don't get pulled over on our way home. Zero downloads a copy of the data for me, but there's reams of the stuff and my computer skills are distinctly lacking, okay non-existant. After an hour of searching, I decide to pack it in for the night and go to bed. I consider asking Zero, but she is busy cleaning our datatrail. It can wait.
I'm not long in bed when I hear a shouting match between Zero and Finlay. It starts off with her shouting at him about the broken tail-light then quickly becomes him shouting at her about getting it on with the Green Ronin. She's going to break that poor fragger's heart. Then, I hear the padre shouting at them to keep it down. I pull the pillow over my head and try to sleep.
Seattle, November 9, 2050
I wake late and drag myself to the kitchen for coffee and fake eggs. It works. Zero and Finlay's shouting match seems to have cleared the air a bit as she is back to her usual perky self, although I can hear Finlay working out with his spear downstairs.
I return to the data. After a couple of hours with no luck, I throw in the towel and ask Zero for help. In less than 20 minutes she has found out that the girl is still alive and even where she is being kept. I stare at her in amazement then call Danny.
I tell him I have a lead on our missing person and that we need to meet, now. I give him the address of a 'runner bar in the Redmond barrens. It's a rough place but still close to the edge. He seems a bit worried about getting there in one piece so I ask Finlay if he can get Jamal to pick him up. Finlay hauls Jamal out of bed, and ten minutes later we head down to the barrens.
The place is as bad as I remember. While there is a check for guns, no-one seems to mind me wearing the revolver. Guess it doesn't count as a real gun in here. There are only a few other people in at this time of day; one rough looking guy hitting the shots hard, and another fellow sitting loading his Ruger. The barman is a big muscled human with two cyberarms, both fitted with spurs. The spurs are extended.
Danny sits nervously in a booth, with the locals eyeing him up like a tasty snack. They lose interest when I join him and he visibly relaxes. I order a couple of shots, but Danny isn't drinking so I knock them back myself. Frag, I've drunk some rough booze in my time, but this stuff is only one step up from gasoline.
Coughing, I tell him about the data and hand him the chip. Finlay is blabbing in my ear to get the the money first. I ignore him. Danny scans the contents, his jaw slack. He asks if it's real and where I got it. I tell him it came direct from yakuza HQ in Japan. He is flabbergasted, then starts making calls. He talks to the senator first then tells me the dude wants to speak to me.
The senator has one of those calm voices that gets votes. He thanks me and tells me if the data holds up then he will pay the reward. I tell him that we would need it in cash or certified sticks. He pauses then agrees. I also tell him he should move quick to extract his daughter and that my team is available if more legitimate means aren't. He promises to think about that then asks to speak to Danny again. Danny verifies the data and hangs up. Then he calls his contact with the feds.
I'm getting verbal abuse from the team over my comm about the feds. I just tell them to chill. Danny tells me the government agent wants to speak with me. He can be in Seattle in 30 minutes. He asks me if I think we can get a coffee as I finish his shot. The barman just sneers. Danny suggests a working man's bar he knows down by Tacoma docks. I wait till Jamal arrives to pick him up, then follow him on the Harley with the rest of the team trailing in the van.
I'm on my second coffee and have had a second breakfast by the time the fed arrives. He's a lot younger than I expected, but his eyes are old. He slips into the booth across from me, next to Danny. He introduces himself as Agent Cooper; Danny later tells me his first name is Percy. I tell him he can call me Billie.
He scans the data and appreciates the offer of deniable assets but hopes the information will be enough to get a warrant. We exchange numbers and he leaves. Great, I'm working for the feds now.
Seattle, November 10, 2050
I get a call early. It's Danny. Agent Cooper's just been on the blower to him. The judge tossed out the warrant. Cooper wants another meet and I suggest the same place as we met yesterday. I haul ass over there and find an angry young man. He tells me he has a team in place but can't go in without probable cause.
He needs someone to make some noise, preferably heavy calibre and ideally with a few explosions. I nod and tell him we'll do it. He warns me that as soon as we start making noise, we will only have two minutes to get clear.
I ask about the Felicity Berman. He tells me he would like to hand her over to the senator, but if we think we can snatch her, he's cool as long as we deliver her to him. He tells me his team will be ready to go in 30 minutes. I reply that I better get to work then. He slips me a disk and we go our separate ways.
We return to the garage and load for bear. I take the SMG and a couple of grenades plus one of my little parcels of C4. Finlay has his new AR and spear, Zero her pistol and deck and the padre brings the mojo.
On our way over we work on the plan. Cooper's intel is good with satellite photos and more. The place is big, with a pool and it's own boat dock. There's a pile of cameras on the main building and regular three man guard patrols.
We decide to go in invisible, grab the girl and make a noisy exit. If anything goes wrong, we go straight to noisy and leave the rescue to the feds. We pull off into the woods a few minutes walk from the mansion. The padre mutters and complains as he casts the four invisibility spells needed to conceal all of us. He succeeds but he lets us know that the strain of maintaining all four spells means he is not up for any spell-slinging.
We make it to the wall around the place undetected. Finlay climbs up then helps the rest of us over. Everything is going smooth until we are about halfway to the main building. Then the padre croaks out 'contact' and all hell breaks loose.
First thing I feel is magic wash over me, but the padre gets between us and the spell and I shrug it off. Finlay is also unaffected but both Zero and the padre groan in pain. Finlay reacts fast, spinning around and firing a grenade at the wall behind us. Plan B he screams as two air elementals manifest around us. I pull a smoke grenade from my pocket and lob it towards the building but it goes wide, only covering the right hand side. Just my luck, as then about half a dozen goons pop up, most of them on the left, and open fire on us.
I hit the dirt and roll away from the incoming fire. The padre grunts as he takes a couple of rounds and I hear Zero cry out too. I mentally switch the SMG to full auto and lay down a line of fire towards the guys on the left, driving them into cover behind some parked cars. Finlay throws a smoke grenade, then draws his spear and moves to take on both the elementals, giving us a chance to run for it. Padre and Zero take off towards the hole in the wall.
Finlay is moving so fast it's hard to see. There's one shimmer then two as the air elements fall to his blows. A guy appears on the roof and I catch a burst as I get to my feet. I hiss as I feel the bullets punch through my armor. I keep my attention on suppressing the guys on the right as I stagger towards the wall. Finlay calmly sheathes his spear and switches back to his AR, suppressing the guy on roof. I tumble over the remains of the wall, tasting blood. Zero and the padre don't look to be in much better shape.
Finlay retreats behind the wall and I lob an HE grenade towards the house to discourage pursuit. He reloads his grenade launcher and sends an air-timed grenade towards the guy on the roof. There's a bang and a scream. Well, at least we got one of the fraggers.
I drop my little package behind the wall. Two minutes I call, then stagger off into the woods. Zero and the padre follow after me, while Finlay lays down some covering fire. He then catches up, scooping Zero off her feet and hustling back to the van.
I'm not surprised to find Percy the G-man waiting for us. Finlay is glaring at him with his AR held ready. I spit up some blood and push the gun away. I tell him to help the others into the van. From behind us I hear a large explosion, then the reports of heavy calibre rifles. Percy makes some comment about our condition and I reply with a tight grin that at least we are still alive, if barely. He hands me a card. It's for a doctor who owes him a favour. I ask about the Berman girl. He holds up a hand and touches his ear, then tells me that his men have just secured her.
I turn away, my shoulders slumping in relief and pain and climb in the van. Vision blurring, I call the doc and tell him who gave me his name. He ask what I want. I tell him we have multiple gunshot wounds and need treatment on the quiet. He gives me an address and tells me to pull into the garage.
Finlay drives while I try to bandage up Zero and the padre. I can't do much for myself so just have to press my hand against the hole in my side to stem the bleeding. When we get to the doctor's place and he opens the back door, he frowns that I didn't say there were several people injured. I cough up some more blood and point out I did say 'multiple' gunshot wounds. He asks who is the worst injured and I tell him I thinks it's me.
He gets me onto a table and starts cutting away my armor and clothes. I tell him about my 'ware, clinically listing the stats for the arm, bone lacing, boosters and eyes. I finally tell him that I am awakened and then promptly pass out.
When I awake it is dark. I feel numb and distant. Finlay's face slowly comes into focus. I ask about the others. He points to my left and Zero is lying there. Finlay tells me that the doc is working on the padre now, but he was able to heal himself a little, so isn't in as bad a shape as the two of us. I pass out again.
Seattle, November 16, 2050
It's been a week since we got shot to shit but we are healing nicely. The doctor gave Finlay a box of painkillers and antibiotics, which he has been feeding to us every day. It's almost funny to see him playing nurse but as he won't let me have a drink, something to do with booze not mixing with pills, I've been sober and cranky for most of the week.
Sober and unable to do much but sit up in bed, I've been watching a lot of news. Percy is having his 15 minutes of fame. He explains that while investigating a terrorist attack, his team stumbled on a prostitution ring and that the senator's daughter was amongst the girls recovered. There are no shots of any of the girls, but the senator makes several appearance making prepared statements about the return of his daughter, explaining that she is receiving medical treatment. Yeah, to remove all the drek they put in her head.
Danny is also in the news with a couple of hard hitting articles on the subject. The feds are denying any leaks from their department. That makes me laugh so hard it hurts.
Seattle, November 16, 2050
I finally get a call from Danny. The senator wants to meet us. We're all pretty much recovered, although my ribs still hurt a bit and I'm still sober.
The meet is on a boat on an out of the way dock. The senator is still a public figure and even though the case is old news, he probably doesn't want to be seen dealing with shadowrunners. Away from the camera, the senator looks older with a bit of a paunch. Or maybe those lines around his eyes are from seeing his daughter again.
He shakes all our hands and offers us drinks. The padre asks for a scotch, but I just ask for water. I tell myself its because I'm still on the drugs. He hands over a small briefcase, which I pass to Finlay to check. I ask him about his daughter and he tells me she is undergoing surgery to remove the cyberware the yakuza installed in her head and will then receive therapy to help recover her memories. He looks despondently down at the cabin floor and says that he thinks his little girl may be gone for good.
I growl at him, harsher than I intend to, that she is still his kid. Is this the sort of reaction I can expect from my own parents?
Then with another round of thanks and handshakes, we are ushered out. Back on the dock, I ask Danny how many girls the feds rescued. Eighteen, of which none apart from Felicity matched the names on the list from the hospital. Well, it's a start.