Mr Johnson didn't show it but the man sitting across the table from him had impressed him. The shadowrunner had arrived wearing a classic English-cut suit which looked like it might be genuine. When Johnson's security had asked him to surrender his weapons he'd placed his knife and two pistols on the tray without argument and had submitted to both the pat-down and the M.A.D. scan in the same way.
Johnson steepled his fingers as he ruminated on the meet, his eyes moving slowly around the hotel room searching for anything to occupy his mind. It was an old trick but in these days of instant gratification, simsense and B.T.L. it worked like a charm. His eyes fell on the 'runner's pistols; as an ex-military man he was mildly intrigued that a man who lived his life by these tools chose those particular weapons. Johnson carried a Beretta, a chunky nine millimetre with less stopping power than he would have liked but his suit would not accommodate a Predator like his sec-men carried. The little .22s would have difficulty penetrating his suit, let alone the armour vests his goons wore. No ejection ports, that meant that the weapons were caseless, an advantage he supposed; and the silencers made them quiet weapons.
Bring his mind back to the moment at hand he focused again on the shadowrunner. It took all of his experience to keep his face schooled; the 'runner sat still, his manner composed and attentive. Mr Johnson's surprise was almost evident, this was a matrix jockey, how was he so patient? He drew a deep breath and moved his pocket computer aside.
"So. Mr… Stranger, the datasteal must be completed within the next twelve hours. The price is eight thousand. Do we have a deal Mr Stranger?"
"Nine and a half." It was the first that the Amerind had spoken since he'd sat down. Johnson was once again surprised at the 'runner's composure: His jacket needed updating. "My information puts that data on a slightly more impressive system than you've described. Nine and a half thousand, four and a half in advance, here and now, before I leave this room; five in the care of a third party I nominate, held until the job is complete."
"Mr Stranger." Johnson felt strangely out of his depth: he prided himself on his ability to read people, but looking at the 'runner he realised that so much of that ability depended on the eyes. Looking into the Amerind's solid black cybereyes he could see even less than those chromic ones the samurai seemed to prefer. Jeez, what sort of sick fragger has solid black eyes?
"Mr Stranger, you seem to believe that your negotiation in this matter is from a position of strength, I'm not sure where you've come by this err-oneous assumption but let me assure you Mr Stranger, that it is… incorrect."
"Mr Johnson…" and that was when the lights went out.
Stranger sat exactly as before, his last thought dead on his lips as his mind raced; Johnsons had tested him before. He sat with every nerve alert, listening, fighting the urge to switch his eyes' lowlight and thermograph circuits on.
Mr Johnson's surprise was more evident. 'The son of a slitch is a decker right?' his mind racing through the possibilities, 'he's fragged the power to the room… He's about to draw down on me.' It would be fair to say that Mr Johnson panicked, it would also be fair to say that he would normally have handled the situation better but the Amerind had him spooked. The rational part of his mind, given time, might have pointed out that the 'runner's guns were on the tray by the door, that Simmons was right there. The rational part of his mind didn't get a say, it was his instincts which pulled the sidearm from his jacket.
Stranger heard the rustle of fabric and leather. Johnson aimed blind where the 'runner's heart was. He squeezed the trigger. Stranger kicked off from the floor. The Beretta barked. Muzzle flare froze the tableau. The back of the chair hit the floor. The bullet did not reach the far wall.
Stranger stifled the grunt that would have burst out when the bullet hit his shoulder. His teeth were still clenched when the impact of the floor on his back threatened to knock the wind from him. Immediately he reached for his groin.
Simmons pulled his Pred as the muzzle flare of the boss's 101T illuminated the falling shadowrunner. Moments later his flashlight was in his hand. Briefly it illuminated the man, squatting with his flies gaping. Simmons almost didn't notice the little hold-out pistol before the room was once again strobe lit, first by the pistol's muzzle flare then by the explosion of Simmons's flashlight. The Élan cracked again. Again. Again, all the time moving. Every time Simmons fired his hand cannon the sound of a bullet burying itself in a human body was sadly lacking. 'Christ this guy's fast, how come we didn't pick up his wires when he came in?' The thought was never answered. Even as he asked the question he felt the warm plastic of the little Morrisey under his chin. Again the Élan cracked, this time the sound was more… muted.
Stranger had switched in his lowlight and thermograph by now. His Walthers and knife had become visible, still carrying the chill of the night outside. Grabbing the pistols he displaced as a round from the other bodyguard's Warhawk chewed into the counter where he'd been standing.
Tucker had also switched in his low light systems, though they weren't working quite right. It still looked dark. He could see the target though.
Johnson, or rather O'Leary, was trying to put on a pair of thermographic goggles while at the same time firing at the 'runner's muzzle flashes. So far neither was successful; Tucker had pulled him from his seat soon after the gunplay had started. His position wasn't great, lying on the floor with his big bodyguard above him. Worse the fragger was fast. O'Leary knew he wasn't carrying wires, the hotel had cyberware scanners and he'd been hooked into a spur feed from them. So was he vat-grown or an adept? He wished he'd brought a spellworm on this one, or better yet a wizworm. The thought amused him, a testament to panic over training.
Tucker was scanning the room, the target had vanished, faded into the shadows around the room.
Stranger lined up the shot. The glowing heat signature of the bodyguard his target. The weapon kicked but made no sound. The little Walthers rated high on his scale of favourite weapons; small enough to be concealable even with the silencer. Loaded with subsonic rounds they were almost the ultimate stealth weapon. At this range even a subsonic .22 was deadly, especially if the user knew where to aim.
Tucker registered the barest muzzle flare out of the corner of his eye. The five feet between the muzzle of the Walther and the arm hole of his vest gave him less than five thousandths of a second to react. It wasn't enough. He felt the bullet puncture his right lung, felt his left his left arm go numb the Predator there dropping from his grip as the slug penetrated his heart.
O'Leary managed to get the goggles on as his bodyguard died. Rising slightly from the floor to bring his own gun to bear he froze at the touch of cold metal behind his ear.
"I'm taking your gun now Mr Johnson. Stay right where you are and nothing will go wrong."
O'Leary allowed the 'runner to gather the firearms, watched him drop them into the waste basket. He felt the door open.
"I don't think I'll take that job thank you Mr Johnson. Have a pleasant evening."
O'Leary watched as the 'runner's heat silhouette vanished behind the closing door. It was only then that the panic that had clenched its fist around him since the lights went out released its grip…
Return to Story Page