Jack drove down to the corner diner feeling incredibly ambivalent. That had been the easiest job he’d ever been paid for. A few thousand nuyen just to sit around and be there in case things went bad. He couldn’t complain, but he felt a little guilty taking the money for doing absolutely nothing. Ill-earned cash spent the same as hard-earned cash though, and he needed all the money he could get. He had expenses.
Getting out of his truck, he sat down at the counter and ordered some food. Real vegetables. While the food cooked he thought of some new ways to route some cash over to Elain. Probably should wait until he hit it bigger, though. Getting money through undetected was a chore, so it was best to do it in large chunks than in a stream of multiple transactions. His food arrived, and he dug in. Good stuff, definitely worth the cash. His enjoyment was slightly diminished by a call coming in from Link. He picked it up.
“Uh, Zephyr? Could you get back here to the office? There’s some paperwork you need to-”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Okay, look, I was just trying to do a little codespeak, and- look, just get over here.”
That was Link for you. Wizard with a deck, but rough around the edges on everything else.
Getting back, it looked like there had been a twist in the job. The kidnappers had been bought out, and Mr. Johnson needed them to go from information gathering to extraction. This was more Jack’s speed. They geared up, and piled into Link’s panel van. A pressing issue had cropped up: based on intel Link had uncovered, there wasn’t enough time to get over to the warehouse before the kidnappers left, leaving them with the unsavory proposition of a highspeed chase. Link managed to avert that by hacking the kidnappers’ van and driving it away. A cute trick, but it put them on alert. It was time for Jack to put his skills to use.
Parking in a secluded location nearby, Jack and Redcap left Link in the van to provide support while they did the extraction. The wizzo managed to be pretty decent at sneaking, and the duo managed to get close to the warehouse undetected. Two punks were circling the building on bikes, but there weren’t any other lookouts that Jack could see. He reflected a bit on the capriciousness of life; Link’s trick has been the sort of mischievous bullshit any street hacker would pull, so these gangers looked to be expecting another gang to barge in. The bikes might have worked against a direct assault, but for a trained sniper they were just moving targets. Two shots, two kills. He and Redcap moved in.
Things got a little hairy after that. Redcap got the notion to “knock” on the front door of the place with one of his wizbang spells, and it seemed a useful distraction to Jack. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get into position at the side door in time; the gangers apparently had managed to guess the trick and one burst out of the door with an assault rifle and started spraying. Redcap got hit but was packing good armor. Jack stepped in front of his and let off a burst of fire from his EBR, but the punk was tougher than he looked.
Despite what the media might tell you, even the best wired reflexes in the world aren’t going to let you just up and dodge a bullet. The key to surviving a close-in gun battle was reading the shooter’s intent and having good enough reflexes to react in time. This particular shooter’s aim was too high, trying to spray at the head and shoulders instead of at the center mass. Jack ducked, and kept his shots on mark, trusting in the penetrating power of his rifle. His bet paid off better than the ganger’s.
Two more of the buggers poured out of the door then, waving machine pistols. Jack had about a half a clip left, and no time to swap. Still, he had ten bullets, augmented strength, and the best katana Los Angeles could offer. He grimaced, drawing a bead on one of them and preparing to roll the dice.
There was a flash of light, a hot white arcing of electricity, and both the punks were down. Jack blinked, grateful for his flare compensators. Redcap stepped past him, apparently healed.
He was really going to have to get used to this magic bullshit.
No matter how many times it happens, I’m never really prepared for how truly fucking terrible getting shot feels. That was the second thought that entered my mind when I spun down behind the parking barrier, a few pints of the red stuff already covering my hands. The first thought was from deep in the lizard part of my brain, an incantation drilled into us until it became unconscious. The bleeding stopped and I got angry all over again. I heard Zephyr give a shout that he was low on rounds. I hoped I could trust him to pick me up, dust me off, and get me back to town if the feedback from my next trick put me down.
I stood up, probably favoring dramatics over tactics. It’s a bad habit. Nothing else matters but the space two feet inside the doorway, thugs on either side covering behind the walls. I wonder if they feel the hair on their arms stand up just before, or the gentle pull of the ones on their head toward that one, sweet spot. Maybe it’s only me that feels the signs, the raw energy of casting with murderous intent coursing through me like a transformer. I close my eyes and the flash plays red across my lids and white for the rest of the world.
I see smoke curling out of the doorway, and soon the smell of cooked meat is on the air. The shooting stops.
Somehow I’m still standing – must be those morning constitutionals.
From there it was just delivery and handshakes. The money news says we made someone a few cold billion with our blood and sweat, but we’ll settle for a few less zeros.
Se la vie.