“Yakety Yaaak! Eets a great sonnng! I’ve been telling every-baady!” the orc bellowed in his heavy Austrian accent. “Yoo got to check it ouut!”
Yegor snorted as he tossed his ratchet back into his toolbox. Yakety Yak, eh? He didn’t know that one. “Yeah, I’ll look into it.” He grabbed the engine and gave it a rough shake with his bare hands, making sure it was firmly secured. The Harley rocked back and forth, but the engine didn’t budge.
“Haah!” the orc laughed. “Yoo doo that!”
Lokk was a trip. He was one of the few denizens of the Pittsburgh sprawl that Yegor didn’t feel a compulsion to punch on sight. Which was probably a good thing, because Lokk was a shadowrunner, and made no effort to hide it. Everyone knew that if you needed some wetwork done, didn’t mind a mess, and came with the right creds, Lokk would be on board. The orc’s heavy combat axes were probably responsible for more deaths in downtown Pittsburgh than lung cancer, but as long as you didn’t have a contract on your head and didn’t do anything to piss him off, you were probably safe.
Yegor topped off the bike’s fuel, set the gas can down, and screwed the cap back onto the jet-black gas tank. “You’re set,” he said. “Fire it up.”
The orc clambered onto the motorcycle, settling his massive frame onto the worn leather seat. With a kick, the cycle roared to life. Sounded good as new.
“Haah!” the orc barked again. He punched two buttons on his commlink, and Yegor’s account registered a deposit of three hundred fifty credits. “See yoo arowwnd, Crow-baah!” he bellowed as he turned the bike around and rolled out of the garage.
* * * * *
The gangers couldn’t possibly miss the massive troll bearing down on them, and it was obvious that they weren’t expecting it. The two in the street hesitated for a moment, and the one in the back of the van that was starting to climb out thought better of it and instead pulled the sliding van door most of the way closed, crouching behind it. For a second, it looked like they might reconsider.
Then they opened fire.
9mm rounds ripped through the air towards Yegor. The gangers had obviously been watching too many Karl Kombatmage vids, because they weren’t aiming worth shit. Most of the shots went wide, but one of them glanced off his hip, and another hit him squarely in the shoulder, making a dull whump as it flattened against his armored jacket. Yegor barely even felt them. He hoped that was a good thing.
At least he wasn’t out-gunned.
With another thought, the text box in his HUD flipped from semi-automatic to full-automatic. Yegor wasn’t so worried about the two guys in the street – they had no cover to speak of and might as well have been shooting pop guns at him. He was more worried about the driver and the guy in the back. He took aim at the van. The yellow crosshairs in his field of vision neatly overlaid the red crosshairs on the chest of the driver. He pulled the trigger and held it in.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
The Mossberg’s blasts rang out like thunder through the intersection, the shotgun shaking with each shot as Yegor opened fire. Visible puffs of gas vented from the sides of the barrel as the barrel coolers and recoil compensators kicked in. Plasteel shell casings ejected in a perfect rainbow arc from the right-hand side of the shotgun, clattering erratically across the cracked asphalt.
The front windshield of the van exploded in a burst of glass shrapnel, and the driver’s head and torso were blown to pieces under the hail of flechette fire. The red crosshairs overlaying the driver vanished. Without releasing the trigger, Yegor brought the yellow crosshairs to bear on the thug hiding in the back of the van.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
The driver’s side window shattered, and four jagged holes ripped into the side door of the van. The guy in the back of the van screamed in pain – some of the serrated pellets had gotten through. But the red crosshairs overlaying him in Yegor’s HUD didn’t waver, which meant his vital signs were still strong. He wasn’t out of the fight.
Yegor’s smartgun flashed a message in his vision – “MAGAZINE EMPTY”. The ammo counter in the corner read 10/20. <Switch mags,> Yegor commanded the shotgun. One of the modifications that he had made to the Mossberg was the addition of a second full-sized magazine. There was a subtle vibration from the shotgun as the adapter switched the feeder to accept the second set of shells.
The punks were rattled. One of them was headed towards the guy in the street, or maybe his wife, while still shooting at Yegor. The other was shooting at Yegor as fast as he could pull the trigger. Yegor suddenly realized that both of them had strange, freaked-out looks on their faces, and their shots were even farther off than before. What the fuck?
Yegor saw motion out of the corner of his vision. An Amerindian was approaching the firefight, his hand extended towards the thugs. He was chanting something in his native tongue. Holy shit, that’s Injun Joe. Fuck yeah, hit ‘em with some of that fucking redskin hoodoo shit.
Yegor ducked as two more shots whistled past his head. Fuck.
* * * * *
“Smith! How you doing, you son of a bitch? What the fuck are you doing in Rust Town?” Yegor asked, surprise evident in his voice.
Smith gave a small half-smile. “Work,” he said simply.
That was Jon Smith in a nutshell, right there. As non-descript, vague and mysterious as could be. Brown hair, brown eyes, Caucasian, a slight hint of five-o’clock shadow, and… and that was about it. He didn’t have any distinguishing features, visible scars, birthmarks – not a damn thing. He was a detective’s worst nightmare – he was just “an ordinary looking guy.”
That’s not to say Smith was ordinary. He was packing too much hardware for that. There were two heavy holsters discreetly tucked away under his stylish black coat, and a long, slightly curved sword on his back rounded out his ensemble.
Smith was a guy that was impossible to get a read on, so Yegor didn’t try. All that he knew was that Smith was originally from Chicago, just as he was, and he was an adept, which meant it was a bad idea to fuck with him. They had met a few times before. Smith used to go to Yegor’s father Vladimir for repairs on his truck back in Chi-town. Yegor liked him. He was obviously connected, his creds were good, and he didn’t seem to have anything against trolls. “So why are you in standin’ in my garage, then?”
Smith gestured to the pickup in the driveway behind him. “Need a little work done,” he said.
Yegor looked over Smith’s shoulder at his truck. It was a GAZ P-179 pickup. They had a reputation for being real workhorse vehicles, and it looked to be in good shape. You didn’t see them much outside of the sticks. At least it’s not another Nomad, Yegor thought to himself. “You know, my dad still works as a mechanic up at Corben’s Toolshed, if you want him to take a look at it.”
“No, I think this work is more up your alley,” Smith said simply as he handed Yegor a slip of paper.
Yegor read the list. Morphing license plates, off-road suspension, Jackpoint 3 Pilot program, smart tires, storage recess, shielding, and spoof chip. Yegor snorted loudly. “Yeah, I guess it is.”
This was going to be fun.
* * * * *
Injun Joe was definitely doing something to fuck with the thugs. It looked like they were tripping on dopadrine, seeing things that weren’t really there. But they still had guns, and they were still shooting in Yegor’s general direction. All it takes is one shot, he reminded himself grimly.
One of the thugs was making a grab for the wife, but she was frantically fighting him off, still screaming bloody murder. The kids were cowering against the corner of a building, out of the immediate chaos. Good. Yegor took aim again at the thug in the back of the van.
A small flash of blue light within the van caught him by surprise, and the red crosshairs marking that thug in his HUD abruptly disappeared. What the fuck? Did Joe do that? He looked over quickly at the Amerindian. He was walking calmly in Yegor’s direction, arms outstretched towards the thugs, still chanting. Doesn’t look like it. He glanced back at the van. There was a figure on the other side of the van, but Yegor couldn’t make him out.
A sudden roar made Yegor jump. He swung his gun barrel in the direction of the sound, and his mouth fell open as he saw Lokk staggering through the intersection. Where the fuck did HE come from? His axe was raised above his head, blood was pouring from a gaping bullet wound in his ribs, and he was racing toward the fight with a manic expression on his face. Yegor had no idea how he could even stand with that wound, but not only was he standing, he was sprinting. In moments he had closed the gap to the spiky-haired punk that was all over the wife.
The poor jackplug turned just in time for Lokk’s axe to catch him full force in the face, burying itself two-thirds of the way through his skull. A blast of blood and flesh flew outward from his head, spraying the screaming woman in a fine red mist. The thug dropped like a marionette with its strings cut, and the woman collapsed into the fetal position, screaming even more hysterically than before.
With a wild scream, the last remaining thug set his feet wide apart and fired six more shots at Yegor. Four of them went wide, but two shots struck him squarely in the chest. A momentary look of comical relief and triumph crossed the thug’s face, but it faded as he realized that the plating on Yegor’s jacket and his naturally dense ribcage kept the shots from piercing through.
The punk kept pulling the trigger, but the pistol’s hammer just made a dull plink plink plink as it thumped home each time without a bullet in the barrel to receive it. A look of stark terror crossed his face. He was living out his final moments, and he knew it.
With a grim smirk, Yegor leveled the yellow crosshairs on his HUD neatly atop the thug’s red one, and opened fire.
* * * * *