Take a step back into old fiction with a Shadowrun story told in journal format…
A Year In Seattle
Thursday, June 22, 2056 – Arrival at SeaTac
I arrived at SeaTac under a dark cloud, but from what I’ve been able to gather, that doesn’t really mean much in these parts: there’s always a dark cloud, and its almost always raining. It’s late and my stuff isn’t slated to arrive until morning so, I’ve pretty much decided to say here for now.
It’s not like I can go all that far anyway. I’ve spent most of my credits getting here. I’ve got one last paycheck from Baltimore, and I’m not slated to start working here for another two weeks. That means four weeks until I start getting a regular paycheck again. God I hate moving.
With my money limitations and the fact that I need to be here in the morning, the only choice that made sense was checking into one of the quaint little coffins they’ve got here and grabbing some shut-eye. It was either that or grab a cab over to the boy’s place… I don’t think I’m ready for that.
It’ll wait till morning…
So… here I am laying in a coffin motel room with barely enough space to write, my backpack and my medical kit wedged in beside me. Great start to a new life… Guess it could be worse… could be raining.
Friday, June 23, 2056 – I hate bureaucracy!
It was raining…
Today’s rant: “I hate Bureaucracy!”
Went to the freight depot to pick up my gear. The guy there said I couldn’t pick up my bike without a local driver’s license. So, I go to DMV, but I can’t get a driver’s license yet since I don’t have a permanent address. All I need for proof of address is a bill going to my current address.
I ended up taking a cab to the boy’s place. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best of moods. I’d already spent more today than I planned on spending for the entire week and I hadn’t managed to accomplish anything other than a monster headache…
My luck changed a little after lunch. Mrs. Macadders, the super in the boy’s building came in, with Lone Star to see what I was up to… Once THAT was straightened out, she obliged me by giving me a bill for the boys’ door, which she had replaced after the ‘break in’.
It wasn’t quite that bad, but it sure felt like it. She did make me tea after scaring the daylights out of me… and the bill did give me proof of residence. Rough start, but after lunch, I was ready for a rematch.
Went back to DMV, got my license… and then it was another cab ride back out to SeaTac where I once again attempted to pick up my bike. This time I was told that the first gentleman was wrong and I *didn’t* need my license, but it was too late in the day to process it, so… come back tomorrow…
Boom, he lowered the closed sign right in front of me.
Another cab ride back to the boy’s place and a very frustrating evening of cleaning and contemplating all sorts of things to do to any annoying bureaucratic idiots who cross my path– at least I’ll be able to fix any damage I do to them.
But… the piece de resistance came that evening when I went to the corner store to pick up some food for the night. I was tired, cranky and not paying attention: big mistake.
When I exited, some of the local gang were waiting to welcome me to the neighborhood. I scanned their faces, but I didn’t recognize anybody from the last time I was here…
I was *not* in the mood. When they started posturing I just lost it. I told them something like…”Look, its been a really bad day… can we just assume that I’ve been properly impressed and just go on about our business.”
And of course… they didn’t take it all that well. I think I would have been Jess-burger if someone else hadn’t started shooting first… Yeah, I luck out and go from potential victim to street doc mode in 5.9 seconds.
After that it was bureaucracy reporting, questioning… and the first officers on the scene, remember me from a B&E call earlier in the day… I ended-up downtown. One finger-printing later and they’re apologizing because the officer with the memory lapse suddenly remembered the B&E had been a false alarm.
So they turn me lose… and… you guessed it… I had to take a cab home. Not one of my better days.
Saturday, June 24th, 2056 – Rebounding
This morning I did not want to get out of bed. After everything that happened yesterday, part of my mind just didn’t want to function. I mean, I’ve been in town less than a day and a half and in that time I have been, mistaken for a burglar, hassled by a gang, witness to a drive-by and arrested under suspicion of criminal wrongdoing.
By this time I have taken 5 cab rides, stood in at least 27 different lines, been poked, prodded and otherwise annoyed.
Finally, the primeval part of my mind kicked in and tried to convince me that my bad luck had run its course. Yeah, right, I should be so lucky.
I felt a lot more human after a shower, but then I was face to face with reality again. Here I was, alone in Seattle, sitting in my brothers’ condo, with no idea where to go from here. Since I lost my supplies in last night’s fiasco, I decided to try again, but this time I was paying attention.
I saw them this time, long before they surrounded me, but there was no way I was prepared for what happened next. They smiled and handed me something that looked almost like a shoelace, I looked at it for a second and then smiled.
I thanked them for it and they seemed surprised that I didn’t ask what it was. It was a token. A symbol that indicated I could move through the neighborhood un-hassled. They’d acknowledged me as a street doc and therefore, I was a protected commodity.
That was when Fin stepped back into my life. I’d been out here almost 2 years ago, spent 3 months visiting, exploring. Two of those months were spent dating Fin. He pulled up on his bike as the presentation ended.
He sat there and started laughing. Two years and the mans’ first words to me are. “Jess, I should have known it was you…”
Of course, he’d already heard all about last night’s debacle. “Only you could get yourself in a situation like that and get out of it just as easily.”
This both seemed to amuse and amaze the assembled gangers. Fin had been one of them, and that I was his friend seemed to elevate their opinion of me even more.
With a smile, he offered me a ride. He took me to breakfast and he filled me in on what he knew about what had happened. It wasn’t much. Some gunfire, the condo was ripped apart by someone looking for something, and nobody had seen a thing.
After that, he took me out to SeaTac and helped me deal with the series of clerks until I had my bike and the rest of my stuff was on its way to the apartment. He rode with me back to the boys’ place… I think he’s trying to look out for me.
However, after a few hours of watching me clean and get things into a semblance of order, he told me it was good to see me and that he’d be in touch.
Ah well, at least I have my bike now… the rest will come in time.
Sunday, June 25th, 2056 – Picking up the pieces
Things never happen the way you expect.
I spend most of last night cleaning up the place and trying to get everything in order, and this morning was just a continuation of yesterday.
Matt’s room was the easiest. He’d always been a bit sparse in the furnishings department. His futon had been slashed open, the paper screen smashed. Every drawer was dumped and the stand where his swords were always proudly displayed was hauntingly empty.
I re-stuffed the futon and hit the slashes with some heavy duty thread. I figure until I get the rest of the place in order, I’ll sleep there.
Next, I tackled Alan’s room. His was the Master bedroom, complete with walk-in closet. Not that he used it for anything as ordinary as ‘cloths’ mind you. No, that was his inner sanctum, also hauntingly empty. I caught a whiff of incense, but nothing else. The floor was clean and the markings were gone. I couldn’t tell if it had been… undone… but it didn’t feel right going in there. It took me almost 5 hours to establish order in the place, but when I was finished, it looked almost as if Al would be coming home at any minute.
Andy’s room was last. I gasped when I saw how hard hit his room had been, then paused. Thinking about it, it didn’t look *that* much different than the way he normally kept his room. The only difference was a big gaping empty place where his computer stood.
I closed the door.
Everything is almost normal. The only weapons I found was a broken sai and a pair of shanai. It took me until this morning to realize something else was missing– the cats. The boys have been missing for almost a month now, and Taco and Maxwell aren’t really known for their survival skills– dry food is their idea of roughing it.
It was about three when I realized I hadn’t eaten yet. I went to the diner on the corner and had a late lunch. I didn’t really recognize anybody, but they recognized me. One or two knew who I was, but everybody seemed to have heard about me.
I was sitting there when one woman walked up to me and stood there staring. I turned and smiled, but she was scowling at me.
“Should have let them die,” she told me angrily. “Do us all a favor.”
I looked at her and shook my head, offering her a seat. “Some grow out of it,” I told her as she continued to stare at me. “But they’ve got to live long enough to learn.”
She didn’t get it. Some people never do. I sighed and told her I’m a medic, its what I do… How do you explain to someone the oath, the belief… I’m not here to pass judgment on people, that’s for their ministers… I just keep their bodies going…
“Now more of *us* will get hurt.”
There was something in her voice that told me, I wasn’t one of *us*… I had broken some unwritten rule.
She left me, sitting there, trying to sort out what she’d said, and how I felt about it. I’d almost gotten a handle on it when a man walked up and sat down across from me. He wasn’t exactly friendly, but he wasn’t exactly hostile either. He just sat down and stared at me for a minute or two.
When he spoke, it was in measured tones and it took me a while to get used to his speech pattern.
“Jess, all she understands… is boys like them, they killed her son… she hates them all– and you helped them, therefore– you’re as bad as they are…”
Looking at him, I wasn’t sure if he shared that opinion or not, but since he sat there smiling, I like to think he’s a friend.
“I have to…” I told him softly. It wasn’t really a plea, or an excuse, just a simple statement. I don’t wear the caduceus on my jacket for show… its what I am.
He nodded. At least some people understand.
He sat there a moment longer and then smiled. “I assume you’ll be looking for the cats,” he added, his grin widening.
I didn’t believe it at first, but as he smiled I began to understand. He introduced himself and told me he’d been looking after my wayward charges.
The man’s name is Mario, and he’s the neighborhood grandfather… A good man to know, and it turns out a good source for neighborhood gossip. Problem was, there wasn’t much gossip about the boys, only the same story Fin had told me. At least I have the cats back.
Things are beginning to get rolling, I just have to be patient.
Monday, June 26th, 2056 – Missing Persons
Well, today I made my first voluntary trip down to police headquarters. After waiting in line for 2 hours I got directed to the missing persons desk two levels down. With visitor pass in hand, I made my way through the station and stood in another line for almost an hour before getting to talk to the desk clerk.
Officer Saunders. I mean, I’m used to your typical civilian clerks who are bored out of their gourds doing the drudge work… but there was no way you could expect Officer Saunders. First off he’s about 8’10” average height for a Troll I guess. The man was gruff, but straightforward. He showed me how to fill out the request, in triplicate since I was looking for Matt, Alan, and Andy.
He was an odd combination of helpful and gruff. He made the checks he gave me the case numbers and status, then growled at me to get out of there and let people with real problems get their information. As I headed out he called to me, telling me to check back in a week for any updates, and that I might want to check the hospitals and the morgue for John Does.
I turned in surprise. It was the first helpful thing I’d gotten from anybody at the star. He winked at me then growled, “Now stop wasting my time!”
It gave me something to think about as I went back upstairs and turned in my pass. The clerk asked me if I got the information I needed and I shook my head.
“Sorry honey,” he said. “sometimes nothing’s better than the alternatives.”
It wasn’t very comforting, but at least he made an effort.
The rest of the afternoon I spent riding around the city, getting a feel for the layout and traffic patterns. I’ve got just over a week to learn the area before I’m on duty. At least it felt like I was accomplishing something.
Tuesday, June 27th, 2056 – And John Does
Today was the hardest day I’ve been through in a long time. Following officer Saunder’s advice, I stopped by the hospitals looking at their John Does. I only hit the public hospitals, but I figure I better learn where all of them are if I’m running an ambulance– public and private.
Looks like I’m going to need to buy a map of the place.
The weather wasn’t too bad– of course, it was raining. The ride gave me time to clear my mind between stops at the hospitals. I guess it wasn’t all that bad. I’ve seen more injured people in a standard shift, but somehow it was different.
I wasn’t there as a street doc, there was nothing I could do for them, their golden hour had long expired before I reached them, and all I could do was try and identify them. I was glad to say that I didn’t know any of them. But to be honest, I’d rather find the boys in the hospital than in the morgue
The morgue – that had to be the worst part of the day.
Again, I’ve seen dead bodies. I’ve attended my share of autopsies and even done some of the cutting. It’s part of the job. I guess the problem was… I wasn’t there to study mortality, but to find the boys. That was not an easy thing for me to do. It was almost like admitting they could be dead.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that that’s probably the most likely option, but it doesn’t mean I have to admit or accept it. Maybe it is a form of denial, but I can’t shake the feeling that if they were dead– I’d know somehow. It doesn’t really make sense, but I think it’s the only way I can keep on with this. Guess its like the clerk said, it beats the alternatives.
I have to admit though, the Chief M.E. was a trip. Dr. Tommy Chen was there when I arrived. He reminded me a lot of Dr. Drasco the M.E, in back in Baltimore. He had the same droll sense of humor. It helped, made the setting seem more normal, at least normal for me I guess.
Did I say ‘droll’? Morbid would be more like it. But you kinda get used to graveyard humor in this business. Its how you fight it. You laugh about it, you even laugh at it, cause death is no laughing matter, but maybe if you laugh hard enough you can keep it from getting to you.
Sometimes I think we’re all guilty of it. After the Night of rage, where countless lives were lost, I thought the world was going to end. Until Matt looked at me and shook his head.
“Hell of a birthday present, hu kid?”
It wasn’t really funny, but I was nine and it kinda put things into perspective. You can’t beat yourself up over things you can’t control. You just do your best with what you’ve got and don’t look back.
I guess the real problem here is that its all about looking back. Looking for something that may be gone forever.
Damn, I’ve been here less than a week and I’m sounding like I’m giving up. I’m not though. Us Millers are made of sterner stuff.
Wednesday, June 28th – A new direction
The day started off kind of slowly. I didn’t really want to do much of anything after yesterday. One of the bodies… what happened wasn’t pretty and for some reason I spent most of the night imagining Matt, or Alan, or Andy’s face attached to it.
I think that’s the last time I eat microwave burritos right before bed.
I mean, I’ve seen worse– hell, I’ve treated worse and never had a problem. I think this whole thing is getting to me.
I finally did manage to get up and by then, the walls seemed to be closing in on me. I figured doing some routine maintenance on my bike might take my mind off of the rather self-destructive mood I was in.
I pulled out my token the local gang had given me and figured it was time to mount it, and the others I’d collected back in Baltimore. When I’d finished, my bike looked more like a talismonger’s shop than anything. I’d attached them and the others to my antenna and was looking at it from an artistic standpoint when Mario came in.
He stood there for quite a while before speaking, and then finally he came over. “I’ve been watching you,” he commented evenly.
I looked at him but waited for him to finish.
“Seems, if you’re left to your own devices, you’ll tear yourself apart, but if you’re doing something for others– you don’t have time to worry about the other things.”
I shrugged, but I think he pegged me with that statement. I mean, I’m most comfortable when I’m up to my eyeballs at an accident scene. I mean, I don’t have to think about myself, what I should say, how I feel… the only thing that matters is getting the injured where they need to be, and keeping them alive long enough for the real docs to do their work.
When I looked back up at Mario, I could tell, he knew me.
“I know you’re not a full Doc, but sometimes a street doc’s better for what goes on in the neighborhood. Folks ’round her do all right, but still… they can’t afford a regular Doc for every little thing that goes wrong.”
He had my interest up now.
“My daughter runs a clinic in the neighborhood, and she could use some help. With your training, you could do some Assistant work, freeing her up for the bigger stuff.”
I smiled at him. He was offering me something positive to do to keep my mind off of my problems, and a way to get to know the folks in the neighborhood and maybe, just maybe learn a little more about what happened to my brothers.
If only it had been that easy. His daughter, Trina was so overworked that she didn’t have time to see him. She had us waiting in the reception area while she tried to catch up on her patients. I guess maybe she thought he wanted her to look at me, cause any time he tried to talk to her, she just shook her head.
It wasn’t until somebody brought a kid in that had been mauled by a dog that I really got to do much of anything. She was already calling the ambulance when I dropped to my knees and pitched in.
Normal doctoring, maintaining health… I know the basics. But give me an emergency situation and I’m at my prime. By the time the ambulance arrived, we had most of his wounds dressed and he was looking a lot better.
Trina told me anytime I wanted to help out, I was welcomed.
Guess I don’t have to worry about having nothing to do. Oddly enough, that helps a lot.
Copyright 1999 – M.T. Decker