The Messiah List, Part 1: Betrayal

Shadowrun short fiction


“You sure this is the place?” Highlight asks, left lip curling up to reveal her prominent teeth. She sits in the back of the van but leans forward and peers at the small suburban house through the passenger’s window.

Davidson rolls his eyes; he isn’t racist but Orks kind of give him the willies, especially female orks, and having one hanging over him is unpleasant. “Sit back,” he tells her, his voice soft but commanding. While he is generally considered to be in charge Davidson is geared for social interaction and espionage; he knows, given proper incentive, Highlight could bend him in half and he is wary of being too harsh with her.

“Should be the place. It’s got the address of the place. How could it not be the place?” A pause, almost long enough to breath. “Sure doesn’t look like the place.” Twitch, the team’s rigger and hacker – good at the former serviceable at the latter – is very deserving of his handle. He rarely shuts up and he always speaks as though he is an SMG spitting out bullets.

“Double-check it.” Davidson says, without looking at Twitch.

“I did that already, chummer, double-double-checked. Tripled-checked. You might even say that I…”

Davidson cuts him off, “Fine, then it’s the place.”

“He is correct.” The fourth and final member of their team goes by the handle Father Lamb, he is their newest member and Davidson neither understands nor trusts him. They had been on several runs together over the past few months and Lamb had proved more than competent. Still, magic gives Davidson the willies even more than Orks.

“So we goin’ in?” Highlight rumbles, leaning forward again.

“It’s your call D. I swear this is it. And The Lamb agrees with me. I think it’s got to be right. Doesn’t it? I mean he has mojo on his side. It seems that it can’t possibly be wrong if my tech and his mojo agree. Don’t you think?”

“You got the floor plans?” Davidson asks. He stares a moment longer at the cozy-looking home, a home he understands to be owned by a Renraku employee who was highly desired by Ares. It didn’t seem right. Shaking his head, he turns to look at Twitch.

“Just one floor to this place according to the data I snagged. Doesn’t seem right does it?” Twitch asks as he transfers the plans to Davidson’s comlink.

Davidson opens the file; a map of the simple one-storey building appears in the lower-right of his vision. Using mental commands he expands the image and begins to study it. The front door leads to a foyer, small room to the right of that, kitchen to the left, and a hall which leads to a larger room, probably the living space. Past that, the bathroom and the bedroom. “No basement or attic? No storage space?” Davidson looks through the translucent floor plan at Twitch.

“Not that I found. Weird huh?”

A “click” comes from the back seat and when Davidson glances behind Highlight is grinning; she waggles her pistol at him. Sitting next to her, Father Lamb has a vacant look on his face and then his eyes begin to blink rapidly.

“There seems to be no astral defenses on the premises.”

“On the premises?” Davidson asks him. Something in Lamb’s tone catches in Davidson’s mind.

“Indeed, there appear to be a number of spirits nearby, possibly keeping an eye on the building.”

Great, Davidson thinks, nothing is ever as easy as it seems. “She’s not a mage, is she?” He asks Twitch.

“No sir, no sir, not according to our data.”

“Let’s just grab this chica and get out of here.” Highlight mutters.

Davidson nods. “Either we go or we stay; I don’t want to burn this Mr. Johnson so I think we go. Do-or-die time.”

“Finally.” Highlight grins as they pile out of the van; Twitch looking nervous but Lamb as calm as ever.

Highlight takes point and Father Lamb covers their tail as they approach the building, making sure to stay clear of their quarry’s car in case it’s alarmed. The neighborhood is quiet and Davidson can hear each individual footfall as they approach the house. He begins to wonder if he should have gone in alone, quietly grabbed the girl, then snuck back out again; they seemed to be making far too much noise in the still and painfully quiet night. Such a pleasant house with its paved walkway, white picket fence, and hanging plants, is something rarely seen in the 2070s and the neighborhood’s silence spoke volumes.

“It’s almost spooky.” Highlight subvocalizes to the rest of the team.

“Stay sharp.” Davidson responds, also subvocalizing.

The door is locked but Twitch’s Pass Key overcomes that obstacle quickly. He grins as he puts the device away. “Nothing to it. No alarms neither. Least, nothing I detected.”

Davidson places a finger to his lips and nods.

Taking point again Highlight swings the door open. It is old but well maintained and makes almost no sound. A soft light fills the foyer beyond the doorway, spitting their shadows back across the walkway behind them.

“In.” Davidson subvocalizes.

One by one they push their way into the small building. Once inside Davidson closes the door; it clicks shut but is otherwise silent. Always the obsessive time checker, Davidson calls up his AR clock; 2:30 AM. The woman, one Loretta Plight, is certainly asleep. Directing his team with subvocals and well-rehearsed hand signals Davidson has them fan out and cover the bedroom door. Twitch drops a couple of iBalls, sending one into the kitchen and the other into the bathroom. Once Davidson has the “all clear” signal from Twitch he nods at Highlight, it is time.

The Ork’s augmented body smashes into the wooden door, a crack and a pop preceding an eruption of wooden shards and a gasp from the room beyond. Highlight thunders out of view for a moment but Davidson quickly follows, his enhanced senses taking in the room quickly as he enters.
Loretta Plight’s bedroom is small and as quaint as the rest of her home. Along one wall is an armoire and a mirror, along the other a dresser and in the rear of the room the small cozy-looking bed where she lays, wide-eyed and bewildered. Davidson quickly pushes past Highlight, giving her the “stand down” sign as he does so.

Putting on his most winning smile and holding out a reassuring hand Davidson addresses Loretta. “We’re here to extract you, there’s no need to be alarmed.” The young woman’s blue eyes slide briefly away from Highlight, fall on Davidson, and then dart back to the massive Ork.

The fear in Loretta’s eyes concerns him. The run, as it had been told to Davidson, was to extract Loretta Plight and relocate her to her new home working for Ares in Seattle. It was his understanding that she was in on the plan and had approved the extraction. It is possible that Ares had not told her how and when it would happen, thus making the mock forced-removal all the more plausible, but this seems like too much apprehension for something she should have been anticipating.

“Miss, you were expecting us weren’t you?” Davidson keeps his hands away from his body, keeps his voice low and calm.

“What’s goin’ on, D?” Highlight rumbles from behind him.

Davidson holds out a hand to quiet her as Father Lamb steps forward. “Let me speak with her, Mr. Davidson.”

Cocking his head Davidson looks the mage over but shrugs and moves aside to let the man into the small bedroom. “Magic stuff?” He asks, remembering the spirits Lamb had noticed in the astral.

“Perhaps.” The mage says, stepping close to the bed and looking down at Loretta. “Do you know who I am, Ms. Plight?”

The frightened woman looks as though she is having trouble focusing on Lamb. She blinks slowly, scrunching her eyes when she closes them and then shakes her head. “Sh-should I?”

“No.” Father Lamb says, placing a hand on her arm.

Standing in the doorway, Twitch sub-vocalizing his name, the concern Davidson hears causes him to switch on his wire as he turns toward his teammate. It is then that the world begins to blur as Loretta begins screaming. Davidson’s head snaps back around in time to see Loretta’s body begin to melt beneath Father Lamb’s touch. Highlight is faster than him, already moving toward the mage who had anticipated her move and was ready for her. In his hand is a metal tube and with a flick of his wrist he touches it to the Ork. Highlight hits the ground, her body convulsing painfully. Davidson steps forward, ready to tackle Lamb, his confusion fading and his ire rising. As he does so he sees the gleaming smile on Lamb’s face but the instant before Davidson reaches him, Lamb is gone.

It is only then that Twitch finishes the thought he had begun before everything had gone crazy. “Someone from this house just called The Star.”

Davidson drops to the ground, Highlight cursing softly as he touches her. “High,” he says quietly. “You okay?” Turning to Twitch, about to ask for a stim patch, Davidson looks up to see one already sailing toward his head. He catches and applies it in one graceful, wire-smooth motion.

Before they can do or say anything else, sirens begin calling for them from beyond the small buildings walls. Twitch and Davidson share a look and then Davidson eye’s focus on Highlight. “Hey, girl, can you move? Can you get up?”

Her eyes flitter open. “Where the drek is that piece of regurgitated soy?”

Davidson shakes his head. “Gone.”

Sitting up, Highlight stares at Loretta’s body. The woman’s body is hardly recognizable; her flesh appears to have dissolved, muscle and bone showing through the thin layer of skin that remains. The Ork shakes her head, perhaps in disbelief, perhaps to clear it of the sights she just took in. “What…” She trails off.

“We were set up.” Twitch whispers. “Lone Star is outside.”

“Shit.” Highlight tries to stand, stumbles and crashes back to the ground. “Shit, shit, shit.” Each curse accompanies a spasm from her pain-wracked body.

“How many of them, Twitch?” Davidson stoops, trying to help Highlight back to her feet.

“Looks like two… no make that three cars.” Twitches eyes are wide. “Now what, D?”

Davidson manages to get Highlight to her feet but she isn’t steady. He looks at her and then at Twitch and forces a smile. “No real choices to make now, Twitch. Do-or-die time.”

“Ya know,” Twitch says, his forehead knitting. “One of these days I’m going to choose the latter and then you’re going to feel really bad.”

“They must have our van surrounded, can you hack her car Twitch?”

“Is the Pope an Evangelical?” Twitch responds with a grin.

“Actually,” Highlight rasps. “I don’t think he is.”

Twitch looks at her. “Whatever. I’m in. When we’re ready, it will be too.”

Davidson takes one last look at Loretta, memorizing what’s left of her face. Someone had set them up, sent Father Lamb into their midst months ago, possibly preparing for this moment. If he and his team got caught here Lone Star would look no further, and they would take the fall for Loretta’s death. While most of his thoughts were on himself and his friends he also considered the woman Lamb had killed. What could she possibly have done to deserve such a death? When they had first arrived, Davidson had thought how the house did not appear to be the residence of a corporate mogul or really anyone else of importance. The idea that someone had wanted this woman extracted seemed extreme but the reality – someone had wanted her dead – seemed even more inordinate. There was a problem to solve, a mystery. Davidson likes mysteries.

Of course, the first thing to do is to get out alive.

The three make their way back through the small house as a booming voice from outside informs them that they are surrounded. Highlight is still having trouble moving, leaning heavily on Davidson as they head toward the door. With one arm supporting his teammate, Davidson reaches with the other into a pouch at his side and pulls out two grenades. He hands one to Twitch, who accepts it with a wince.

“Don’t worry,” Davidson says. “I gave you the smoke. Throw it after mine. Then we run to the car. It’s unlocked?”

Twitch nods, grim-faced.

As ready as ever, Davidson opens the door and tosses his high explosive grenade through the doorway, and the blast sends Lone Star officers diving for cover. In the explosion’s wake smoke billows out from the second grenade, thrown by Twitch as ordered. Under cover of the ensuing smoke and confusion, the three bolt into the night.

The sound of gunfire fills the air. Still partially supporting Highlight with his right arm, Davidson catches Twitch with his left as the rigger lurches and almost falls, a bullet catching him in the stomach. The distance between Loretta’s front door and her car is short but Davidson feels every step, experiencing each as though it is a mile. The car doors pop open as the three approach and Twitch launches himself across the passenger seat to land behind the wheel. Highlight stumbles as she reaches the car, seemingly confused, and Davidson is forced to stop and push her into the back seat.

More shots fill the night, and pain rips through Davidson’s leg.

With both teammates inside and his arms free Davidson pulls out an HK-227 and lays down some suppressive fire before spinning back toward the car. Then more shots and an explosion fill Davidson’s mind, until they are shoved aside by an intense pain that engulfs the left side of his body. Stumbling, disoriented, he crumples into the passenger seat. The car doors close on their own and a scream catches in Davidson’s throat as he registers the bloody stump where his left arm used to be.

The car jerks backward. Blood begins to pool. Fumbling, Davidson pulls a stim patch from his pouch and drops it on the seat next to him. Blood pours freely from the wound, spilling out onto the patch, which appears to Davidson as a lonely raft in a sea of red. The world begins to dim.
Lamb’s grin fills Davidson’s mind.


“I’ve got you, sir. Hold still.” It’s a man’s voice. Davidson stops thrashing as a blurry face comes slowly into focus.

The Doc Wagon Medic smiles “You’re okay now sir, just hold still.”

“My friends?” Davidson croaks.

“They’re both alive. Let’s get you to the hospital. You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

Davidson feels the straps wrap around him, sees he’s on a gurney. He can see the ‘wagon ahead, then he’s inside. He doesn’t see Twitch, Highlight or Lamb. Lamb. It’s only then that he recalls the mage’s betrayal. As the world begins to dim again, a whooshing sound filling his ears, Davidson makes a promise to himself: he’ll find the bastard that did this and wipe the grin off his sick, pasty, face. When the darkness finally consumes him, Davidson no longer cares; he’s in pain and he is angry, but for now there is only rest.


To be continued…

  1.  
    avatar
    Joe Says:

    Nice story, Josh.
    Keep it coming!

  2.  

    I’ll second that! Part one of this serial turned out very well, I’m eager for more! (Not that you need to rush… :-) )

  3.  

    Now that I’ve had a chance to read it through again (first time I had my editor hat on), I feel the need to add why I like it. Though the Betrayal doesn’t dwell on dialog, there’s enough to get a sense of each character’s personality. Action is here too, and especially the setup, the mystery and questions which are raised… I could see this going in one (or more) of several directions, but I don’t wish to unduly taint any ideas you may already be developing by spilling mine here.

    Yeah, this really feels like it’s going somewhere good, and that pretty much sums up my excitement :-)

  4.  

    I’m glad people are enjoying it. My wife is out of town this weekend so I guess I have no excuses for not working more on part 2.

    I have to say, it has been a bit harder to write than part one… hopefully it wont disappoint.

  5.  

    Heh, that’s kind of what I figured, and why I didn’t want to try and forecast part two or give you reason to think that you need to alter your plans just because “people might see (and read) it” 8-)

  6.  

    I do know where the story is going and I know what is going to happen (for the most part) but there are a couple different ways to address things and I am wresting with that.