We parked our bikes along side the club, 20NY and a glimpse of my holstered Predator to the lot attendant, insured that they would be there when we returned. Moth got us and our pistols past the bouncer, a large (even for a troll) man named Winslow.
The inside was dark, noisy and full of smoke. I switched in the low light and added flare compensation to counter the harsh lights at the bar. The smoke was too thick to fight, so I added to it with a large cigar. Moth went to look the place over as the rest of us headed toward the bar. Zipper and I stuck together while Ember struck out on his own.
A bartender came over, she was young and very attractive. She had Latino features and a dancers body underneath a gray t-shirt and torn jeans. I decided to take a chance.
"Karen, I would like single malt scotch, neat and a beer for my friend."
The use of her name caught her attention as did the credstick I had laid on the bar. The bands marked it as a certified stick with 500 NY limit. She wiped the bar in front of us, the stick disappeared in the bar rag. She smiled at us and said she would be right back. While mixing our drinks, I noticed that she had stopped by the register. After the cost of the drinks, there was still over hundred NY on that stick.
"Anything else chummers?" Karen had returned with our drinks and the credstick. I pushed the stick back toward her as Zipper spoke.
"A few minutes of your time. I'd like to discuss Gate Crasher's findings."
"Gate who? You've got the wrong girl." Karen was trying to be coy, the flash of fear in her eyes gave her away.
"Don't yank me around. I'm not the Azzies or the BMP. I grew up on the same streets you did and live in the shadows. This is Biz here, so far I've only paid enough to get your attention. You got data, I got more cred."
"OK. Don't push and keep quiet. Stay in the club and I'll find you after my show." The stick had disappeared into her jeans and she moved on. The bar was getting busy.
Zipper looked at me grinning and said, "Have I got it or what?" He seemed most pleased with himself. I nodded in agreement and we moved toward an empty booth in the back of the club. We were soon joined by Ember, who seemed in a foul mode.
"Bitch wouldn't even talk to me. Even worse the beer is watered!"
"We didn't have any problems, with Karen or the beer." Zipper, still grinning, was not very sympathetic to Ember's woes. Ember's grumbling was interrupted by the arrival of Moth and Kensai. Kensai gave his report.
"Fairly quiet night, mostly locals. Didn't spot any magicians in the place and no one really chipped out. You fellows have any luck with Karen?"
Zipper brought the two up to date while Ember ordered another beer. This time he requested that the cap still be on the bottle. The next hour went by slowly. We nursed our drinks while the crowd around us became louder and steadily more drunk.
The action picked up as the stage lights started strobing through the spectrum. A pulsing latin beat came over the sound system as Karen came on stage. It was hard to recognize her as the women we saw at the bar. Her costume had about much leather as my shoulder holster, her hair was now loose, and her makeup lent her face a feline cast. Her dance lasted over ten minutes and had the crowd's full attention. It was obvious that she was wired directly to the stage lights and sound system. The effect was quite impressive.
Ten minutes after the next dancer came on stage, Karen was at our table. The makeup was gone, the jeans and t-shirt were back. Her hair was pulled back, displaying the datajack behind her left ear. She got right to Biz.
"What do know about Gate Crasher?"
"I know that before he died, he ran some systems I'm interested in. I'm looking for data on them." Zipper also wasted no time.
"Listen, I know what he did, but not how or where. I'm a fragging dancer! All I know about this shadowtech stuff is that it gets you killed. And that chummers, is not on this girl's schedule. He was onto something hot. Hot enough to fry his brain, and I don't want it coming after me."
"Dying is not on our schedule either. I can provide you with loaded stick and a seat on a mag-lev to New York or Dee-Cee. Either way, your out of this mess and can get a clean start."
"Let's see the stick and then I'll consider it."
Zipper pulled a bonded credstick from his jacket and placed it on the table. "Here's a doubleK stick, no locks, no holdups. Clear and free credit registered through a very discreet Jamaican bank."
I saw the hunger in Karen's eyes' as she looked at the stick. I also saw the bouncer, Winslow, making toward our booth. A glance and nod were all that needed to alert Ember and Kensai. fortunately, the troll was there to give warning, not cause trouble on his own.
"Karen, you better get out of here. Three suits just came in and two of them are passing around pictures of you. I'd worry about the third, she looks mean and is holding on tight to an oversized handbag."
Her fear became more evident as the troll spoke. It did serve to cut short our bargaining session. "OK chums, you got a deal." The stick Zipper had set out disappeared as Karen continued. "Let' get out of here quick. Winslow, try to delay them as we cut out the back."
Karen was up and moving toward the rear of the club. Ember and I moved to flank her. Moth and Zipper followed. Kensai brought up the rear. As we were moving, Karen's face fuzzed and was replaced by Moth's features. Ember's nod told me he was responsible. We moved through the kitchen doors with out slowing. The Predator I had drawn while entering the kitchen kept the questions to a minimum.
As I slowed to show the business end of my pistol to orkan cook closing in with an extra-large cleaver, Karen burst through the back door into an alley. Ember and Moth were on her heels.
The night was cut by two screams, seconds apart. Kensai and I dove outside, leaving Zipper to deal with the cook.
What we found wasn't pretty. Moth was leaning over Karen's body. The dancers chest was a bloody mess. The result of a flechette round. Moth had already started a healing spell, one that would take time we didn't have. Ember pointed down the alley.
"Shot came from down there. I think I toasted the sucker."
Kensai dashed down the alley to verify Ember's work. Zipper came backwards out into the alley, firing his pistol into the kitchen.
"I could use some help here!"
The sound of gunfire coming from the kitchen told me that the cook wasn't Zipper's problem. I moved back to the doorway to help keep what ever was in there bottled in while Moth worked on Karen. Using the edge of the doorway for cover I saw a woman in a gray corp suit toting a SMG. Also present were two male suits packing pistols both of which were firing at Zipper. Zipper had enough sense to do as I had, that is use the doorway for cover. The woman was chasing the last of the kitchen staff out into the club. I assigned her a higher threat factor due to her weapon and fired two rounds. Both slugs hit high in the rib cage, on the right rear torso. Instead of dropping, she turned and fired a burst in my direction. I pulled back as the brick fragments chewed into my armored jacket. Her jacket stopped my heavy pistol rounds cold. It would take more time than I wanted to spend in order to effect her with just my pistol. However my options were limited, I thrust my pistol back around the doorway and opened fire at her. Zipper mirrored my actions. As their fire slowed I moved to better acquire a target.
That was a mistake. Several rounds struck me squarely in the ribs. I felt ribs crack under the impact of several SMG rounds. The exchange was not one sided however. I saw the female suit stagger back when several of my shots struck the breast pocket of her jacket. Zipper didn't seem to be damaging the other suits, but his fire was keeping them contained.
Suddenly the female suit staggered and blood starting leaking from her nose and ears. She recovered quickly and her SMG tracked up over my shoulder and started firing right through the door. There was the sound of slugs pounding into body armor right behind me. A spared a glance and saw Ember, standing right in the doorway. He didn't seem damaged from the SMG rounds, so I returned my attention to our foes.
As I continued to fire at the women with the SMG, I noticed the other suits showing the effect of Ember's combat spells. Our concentrated attack proved too much for them. One of the pistol toting suits broke and ran back into the club. He was followed by the female, but her retreat was more controlled. She covered her retreat with burst of SMG fire. The remaining suit was to far from the club entrance to make good his escape. He tossed his pistol toward us and raised his hands in surrender.
"Hold it chummers! The girl isn't worth dying for."
"Watch him Zipper, if he moves, terminate him."
Zipper grinned and replied, "Why wait, let's geek him now."
Ember spoke up, his voice noticeably weakened, "Let him live. Corp rules of engagement. Keep him covered till we're ready to split."
The mage looked very pale and was trembling slightly. I inquired about his physical state. His jacket showed the signs of at least a half dozen direct hits.
"I'll be OK. Just drained from the magic. It took some powerful sorcery to effect them. They weren't bench warmers. I recognized the woman from my days at Fuchi. Samurai named Vicki, nasty bitch as I recall."
"Since you're OK, let's see about getting out of here before their backup or the BMP get here." I could hear gunfire from the club. Not much though, probably the suit's keeping the patrons heads down. Looking around the alley, I saw Moth still bent over Karen's body. The pool of blood didn't seem to be getting any bigger. I couldn't judge the state of the wound, some one had draped a jacket over her chest. At one end of the alley was prone figure, still warm, but not moving. There was no sign of Kensai.
As Moth rose to her feet, Karen's body rose as well. "I think she'll be OK." Moth's voice showed the strain of supporting both the healing and levitation spells. "I'm ready to move, Kensai went to secure the parking lot."
"Right, Let's go. I'll take point, Zipper guards our back. Ember, stick with Moth with the middle."
We made it down the alley without any trouble. As I reached the street, I saw Kensai standing over a bleeding lump of corp suit. It's movement showed it to be alive, but not by much. Kensai had a revolver stuck through his belt that wasn't there before. I saw him slide a cylinder into his coat pocket as he spoke.
"Tell your friends to lay off. Next time I won't be so nice."
The lump groaned. Kensai smiled at this and looked up at us and spoke, "Let's slot and run folks. Party ain't over yet." He was referring from the sound of gunfire coming from inside the club. I recognized the sound of Vicki's SMG. As we headed toward the parking lot, I took a better look at the lump of bleeding suit. It was the first fellow to run from the kitchen. The extent of his wounds lead me to believe that the cylinder Kensai put in his coat pocket was a monofilment whip.
The parking lot attendant was nowhere to be seen. As Zipper and I started our bikes, I pulled length of cord from my pocket and tossed one end to Moth.
"Tie this to your belt and then levitate yourself also. Kensai will ride with me and tow you."
I handed the cord to the dwarf as he climbed on the bike. Seconds later, we pulled out into the street, with Moth and Karen in tow, and headed away from the approaching sirens. As I rounded the first corner, I saw Vicki dive out of the club. She was back on her feet and moving quickly. Her team wasn't going to stick around for BMP questioning.
We had only covered a few blocks when there was a scream behind me. Karen had woke up. Seems she didn't like being towed through the night streets of Boston. Perhaps she just wasn't used to be levitated two meters off the ground, or was it that just minutes ago, she was shot and nearly killed.
Moth calmed her down enough to talk somewhat normally. Karen told us to go to a Store24 nearby. Once we arrived, we reeled in the two and Moth dropped her levitate spell. Karen lead us inside, Kensai stayed with the bikes.
Karen spoke briefly with the owner, who then retrieved a package from a floor safe behind the counter. She sounded short tempered and hurried. Karen snatched the package and thrust it at Zipper.
"Here, take the damn things! I'll find my own way out of town. If I hang with you any longer, I'll probably get shot again!"
Before Zipper could say anything, she bolted through the door. The owner just shrugged.
We made it through the door just in time to see Karen entering a taxi. She would be gone before we could get to our bikes. Tim left toward a T station, while Zipper rode off with Ember. Moth and I returned to our Waltham loft. It had been a long day ...