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Authors: Lisa Smedman

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The Lucifer Deck

BOOK: The Lucifer Deck
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CONJURED KILLER RUNNING WILD ON THE NET

Life on the streets of 21st-century Seattle can be tough, especially for a young ork like Pita. And it gets a lot tougher when she witnesses a corporate mage murdered by the violent spirit he just conjured from another dimension. Now she's in a heap of trouble with the dead mage's employer, an organization with something to hide.

Fortunately, KKRU reporter Carla Harris is in a position to help. Carla needs a big story to give her career some juice, and Pita's predicament might be the ticket. Because Pita's pursuer—MCT, the mega-huge computer firm—has hired the heavy hand of the Yakuza crime organization as muscle, things heat up pretty fast. Moreover, the entity that MCT's mage foolishly summoned is very, very old, and unlike any power on earth. It has infiltrated the telecommunications matrix with devilish cunning—and unless Pita can thwart it with her newly acquired magical powers, Seattle's throat will be wide open for the cutting....

DEADLY IMPOSTER

Then it struck Pita. She’d had to tip her head back to look at Yao. He should have been shorter than that. And some of the things he said had been odd. And the body language had been all wrong.

 

Pita glanced nervously at the man beside her. This wasn’t her friend Yao.

 

She didn’t want to find out who it really was. Ducking out from under his hand, she bolted for the top of the stairs, back toward the main entrance of the KKRU building. But before she’d taken two steps, the imposter barked out a sentence in a foreign, lilting language. Suddenly Pita was running in midair. She struggled wildly, trying to make contact with the ground. But the stairs were a good half meter under her feet. She twisted about—just in time to see the man who’d been posing as Yao shed his skin in a shimmering transformation. Clothes, hair, features—all blurred and changed. The man was suddenly thinner, darker. With a shock Pita recognized the elf who’d tried to cast a spell upon her earlier. The mage! Like a fool, she’d fallen into his trap.

Pita cried out, but even as she did, a bolt of yellow
streaked from the elfs fingers toward her, enveloping her. Pita’s eyes closed and she fell forward into darkness. . . .

SHADOWRUN : 23

THE LUCIFER DECK

 

Lisa Smedman

Many thanks to the members of the B.C. Science Fiction Assn. writers workshop, whose advice and careful critiquing helped make this book possible.

1

"Pita! Hoi, chummer, have you made the patch?"

Pita lay on her back, screwdriver clamped between her oversized teeth. The service shaft was narrow, just wide enough to accommodate her broad shoulders. She’d had to strip off her jacket and worm her way in, her arms stretched out ahead of her. Now she shivered in the cold.

Working by the light of a cheap Brightlight rip-off with a rapidly depleting power cell, she pried open the protective plastic covering the trideo cables. Feeling along one of them, she located the splitter that branched the cable off to individual apartments. Then she smiled as her blunt finger found a free port.

"Hoi, Pita!" One of the other kids kicked her feet, the only part of her that remained outside the service shaft. "Is this going to take all night?"

"Yeah, yeah. Nearly there." she growled back. She popped one end of the cable feed into the port and then plugged the other end into Chen’s electrode net. "I gotta test it, first."

The trode net was the poor person’s version of a datajack—a means of translating raw electronic data into a multi-sensory experience without the need for expensive cybernetic implants. She snugged the headset’s electrodes around her temples, closed her eyes, and broke into a wide grin as an image sparkled to life behind her closed eyelids. The upper-right corner was a mess of white static, probably due to the worn cladding of the fiber-optic cable she’d used to patch in. She should have boosted a new cable from the local Tridio Shack outlet, but for now, this dumpster-diver’s special would have to do. At least the rest of the image was sharp.

She’d tapped into an infomercial for the Yamaha Rapier. The sleek, wasplike body of the motorcycle burst out of a shower of chrome confetti and screamed past on a strobelit highway that looped across the flame-filled sky. "Ride the wind. Feel the fire. The ’54 Rapier. Just ten thousand nuyen."

Pita snorted and winked to change channels. Ten thousand nuyen? Not in ten of her lifetimes.

She skipped over a nostalgia rock channel and then past
Name
That
Logo,
a game show in which children from the Aztechnology arcology competed with each other for expensive simulator sets. The first station catered to sludge-minds who’d been born before the millennium and the game show was kid stuff. At seventeen, Pita was too old for that drek. She curled her lip as she caught a few seconds of a rerun of a speech by Governor Schultz, in which he promised to clean up Seattle’s streets. Didn’t she know that some people had to boost the odd package of Soygrits, just to get by?

She flipped past a Salish-language station and devoted a few seconds to an advertorial by the
Church
of
Sorcerology
. "Is your child among the one per cent of the population with natural magical ability?" an overly enthusiastic announcer asked. "In this Awakened world of 2054, can you really afford to let your child’s magical abilities slumber? Our free stress test can reveal your child’s hidden talents. Just call our office at—" Pita changed channels.

Her attention was caught by a local newscast. A snoop who looked vaguely Native American was jamming on about another brain-bashing by the local chapter of Humanis Policlub. The trid zoomed in on an ork, a little younger than Pita, whose head had been laid open like a smashed fruit. Then it panned down to the globular red spillage on the boy’s shoulder and the letters scrawled on his chest: "One meta-freak down. Half a billion to go."

Pita tore the ’trode rig away from her temples and fought to keep from heaving. Simsense made everything seem so real. So close. She could practically reach out and touch the spilled brains, could smell the blood that had soaked his shirt. The bashing had taken place just a few kilometers from here, in Seattle’s downtown core. Like the boy who had died, Pita was an ork too. What happened to him could have happened to her.

The aural trode was still in contact with her scalp. A tinny voice squawked in her right ear as she held the goggles in her hand: "KKRU Trideo. The station that puts ‘U’ in the picture."

Pita thumbed the headset off and called back over her shoulder. "Hoi, Chen. I’ve got a patch! Now all we gotta do is scan for the broadcast. What channel do you think they’ll tap into this time?" Funny. It was awfully quiet out there. Then she noticed the flashing blue light.

Something wrapped tightly around one ankle. Before Pita could even shout in alarm, she was hauled roughly out of the service shaft. The fiber-optic cable pulled taut, then popped from the port. Then she was out on the sidewalk, her elbows scraped and hurting like drek, staring up into the barrel of an automatic rifle. The Lone Star cop behind it didn’t look happy. Behind him, a blue light flashed in regular circles on the roof of a patrol car. Lone Star was the private corporation hired to provide Seattle with police services.

Pita’s three friends had assumed the position against the apartment block’s wall and were being patted down none too gently by a second Lone Star officer, this one female. Pita glanced down at her chest where the red dot of the rifle’s sighting laser was targeted and groaned. They were in some serious drek now.

"What’s that in your hands, kid?" the cop behind the rifle asked. "A stolen simsense unit?" His chromed cyber eye whirred softly as he scanned her face.

Chen, the oldest of Pita’s three friends, turned his head away from the wall. "It’s not stolen." he gritted through oversized teeth. "My brother gave it to me so I could watch his broadcasts. He’s a—"

The cop behind Chen kicked savagely at his ankle and Chen collapsed, gasping in pain.

"Nobody asked you, porkie." the cop hissed. "Keep talking, and you’re only going to get iced. Now get back into line."

Stun-stick in hand, the Star watched as Chen climbed painfully back to his feet. Even though he was just seventeen, Chen was twice the size of the cop. Unlike Pita, who had only goblinized two years before, Chen had been born an ork, and had the broad shoulders and huge hands to prove it. Yet he also had the laser-straight black hair, flat face and eye folds of his Asian ancestors. Aside from his bulk and jutting canines, he looked almost human. Pita, on the other hand, had a face as coarse and ugly as any true-born ork. No wonder the cop glared at her. She tried in vain to close her lips over her snaggled teeth.

The cop above her plucked the ’trode rig from Pita’s grasp. He turned it over, inspecting it. "Frag it, Doyle, this is old tech. Nobody in their right mind would boost it. The kid probably lifted the unit out of a trash ’pacter. You really want to waste time inputting a report for this crud?"

The female officer stepped back from Chen and the two smaller orks, still keeping her stun stick aimed at Chen’s back. Then she shook her head. "Not really. Trash it."

The cop standing beside Pita dropped the headset on the cement, raised his booted foot, and slammed it down hard. Metal and plastic splintered and circuits crunched, leaving a shattered mess. After wiping the heel of his boot against the pavement, the cop stepped back. The thin red line of his weapon’s sighting laser winked out. "Get up, boy."

Pita cringed. Was she really so ugly that they couldn’t tell she was a girl? She felt even worse when she saw the look on Chen’s face. His eyes were locked on the broken goggles. Behind him, the two younger orks, Shaz and Mohan, looked stunned. Like Pita, they’d never seen Chen cry before.

Pita rose to her feet, shaking, as the cops backed into the shadow of their patrol car. The first cop still held his weapon ready, but it was no longer trained on them. While the female officer clicked her teeth, activating her radio headware to call building maintenance, he jerked his head to one side. "Scatter." he told the orks.

"Disappear."

They did.

Twelve blocks later, puffing from their run, Pita and her friends slowed. Chen had been running with a peculiar hop-step, and now he settled into a limp.

"Fragging goons." he panted, surreptitiously wiping the last of the tears from his cheeks.

Shaz and Mohan walked a pace behind him. They were brothers, twelve and thirteen years old. They’d only been on the streets a year, and looked to Chen, with his six years of city smarts, for leadership. They had shaved their heads, thinking it would make them look tougher, and wore matching black T-shirts emblazoned with the grinning face of the ork rocker and go-gang leader who fronted Meta Madness. The group’s logo was stitched across the T-shirts in silver wire.

"Yao gave me that headset." Chen muttered. "He said I wouldn’t be able to talk to him once he went underground, but that I could use it to watch his broadcasts. Now I won’t even be able to see him on trideo."

"I know." Pita untied her black synth-leather jacket from around her waist and tugged it on over her sleeveless flannel shirt. Her threadbare sneaks, cheap like everything else that came out of the Confederated American States, scuffed the sidewalk. Knobby knees poked out of the holes in her jeans as she walked. "At least you know he cares about you. My sister never even ..."

BOOK: The Lucifer Deck
12.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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