Slinger's Background for Shadowrun Denver
"Not like that, kid. Concentrate!"
The harsh voice cut through the youth's thoughts as he stared at the
feather on the table. Anyone who ever used the phrase "Light as a feather"
has clearly never tried lifting one with his mind, Kaivan thought, trying
to drag his wandering attention back to that offensive feather. Where his
master had obtained the thing was a mystery; it was too garish, even, to
have come from a parrot, and too small to have originated on a larger bird
such as a peacock. The boy actually suspected his master of using an
artificial feather made of plastic, just to make it harder to affect with
magic, but Kaivan never actually been allowed to *touch* the item.
Another silly rule, amongst many.
A sharp rap on the shoulder drug his attention back to the present,
and he grimaced, automatically reaching up to rub at the affected area
despite the fact it hardly even hurt. This earned him a quick rap on the
knuckles. "Somebody hits you, you *really* need to concentrate then," his
master informed him gruffly, repeating a mantra Kaivan had heard a hundred
And just as before, Kaivan had brief, fleeting thoughts of leaving.
What tied him to this place, anyway? Tied him to this man who was
frequently harsh, seldom generous with praise, stern and demanding? As he
forced his eyes to come to focus on the yellow-and-blue-and-pink pattern of
colors in that thrice-damned feather, his thoughts took a brief detour on a
meandering path through his memories.
Not that he remembered much from his early years. Most of what he
knew from that time he had been told by others, principally his master.
Master, teacher, trainer, instructor, parental-surrogate... Kaivan knew his
name, of course, but never dared use it. Instead, Kaivan simply called him
'sir'. Short. Neat. To the point. Efficient -- another of the master's
He hardly remembered his parents. Two elves, he knew; he could see
the chiseled outlines of their faces in his memories, fleeting glimpses of
pointed, narrow chins and delicate ears coming to a graceful, understated
point. Employees of the same subsidiary corporation for which the Master
had worked -- he knew that from the answers to the countless, unending
questions he was told he had asked as a boy. Always, he had wanted to
simply *know*... to understand... to reach out and take the knowledge that
everyone else seemed to have, and that he alone seemed to lack. He got that
from his parents, he had been told. Curiosity killed the cat-shaman. Or
two of them, in this case.
Kaivan didn't remember the excitement, the tension, the long hours
at the facility his parents spent as they researched the new concept they
had stumbled onto. What they were working on exactly was sketchy; at times,
the master had hinted that they were nearing a fundamental breakthrough in
understanding of magic. At other times, he downplayed it as a dead-end of
research that would never pan out. The truth, as seemed to happen more and
more as Kaivan grew older, was obfuscated behind a cloud of confusion,
hidden by a fog of lies, and occasionally tangled in a web of other truths
that enveloped it in a cocoon from which it was nearly impossible to pry it.
Kaivan could remember the bitterness in his master's voice, though,
as he recounted the last few days. A leak, a mole, a decker... somehow, the
information had reached people outside the company. Unauthorized
information transfer, they called it in the company policy manuals. An
innocuous-enough sounding term. Perhaps somebody had spilled the beans to a
lover, or a friend, and word had circulated. Perhaps the security on the
computer systems was not as good as had been suspected. Nobody knew. But
the leak worked both ways, and it was soon discovered that the facility's
secrecy might, in fact, be compromised.
All non-essential employees were evacuated, transferred to another
facility even better hidden. Research projects were moved one at a time,
with the utmost care being taken to assure their integrity during shipment.
Tension was high as more and more people were evacuated, and security was
staged up around the remaining projects. Kaivan's parents' project was the
last to be moved; they were nearing the end of a three-month enchantment
process, and moving it would involve restarting from scratch. Meetings were
held, threats were assessed, and it was decided that the likelihood of
attack sufficient to overcome the security around the facility was small
enough that interrupting the project could not be justified. The decision
was made, signed in triplicate and stamped with red ink that just as well
might have been blood.
Tensions grew and security became more watchful as the enchantment
progressed. The remaining two weeks became a few days, then one day, then
simply a matter of hours. Working tirelessly, the husband-wife pair labored
in shifts to maintain the enchantment, building up the energy required
through this, the most delicate phase. And then finally, a huge sigh of
relief swept the building along with the news of the enchantment's
completion. A few employees left to convey the news to those at the other
facility, and after they left... well, no one was quite sure what happened.
What was known from a thorough analysis of the rubble was that an
intrusion had been staged, highly coordinated and thoroughly equipped. They
cut through the magical and physical security measures like a hot knife
through butter, gunned down the security guards mercilessly, and advanced
toward the laboratory mercilessly, leaving no one alive in their wake. They
never got there. The flash blinded more than a few in the surrounding
neighborhood unfortunate enough to be looking in that direction; the shock
wave damaged the surrounding buildings. Only the wards still in place around
the building prevented the destruction from being any more massive. When the
smoke finally drifted away, all that was left of the facility and its
occupants was a crater, with ash, charred bits of laboratory equipment, and
bits of flesh, bone, cyberware, melted gun barrels, and a background count
that lasted for several weeks before finally beginning to fade away.
Well, that wasn't all that was left. There was Kaivan... now
orphaned, and safely in protective custody as a precautionary measure, along
with the other family members of those who worked at the facility. Only a
few years old, the boy was too young to fully understand what had happened,
and was destined to be raised in a corporate school (or so he was told) when
the master stepped forward, for reasons known only to him, and offered to
take the boy in. Questions were asked, of course; some of the other workers
were puzzled. The master never told them -- or told Kaivan, in fact -- the
reasons for taking the boy in. But it was done, and the corporation,
relieved of the ongoing responsibility to raise a young boy of unknown
talents, gratefully acceded to his offer.
No, it wasn't a bad life, and Kaivan did have a duty, a
responsibility, to his teacher, did he not? To the man who took him in when
he had nowhere to turn? He didn't remember this, of course, but he knew it
to be true. What other possibility was there? And he was learning; the
master had a good deal of knowledge to impart. Knowledge about magic, and
to some degree about life, though Kaivan wasn't sure if he believed that the
world was really as dangerous as his master's cynicism would imply. Yet
still, his own parents' death made it clear that there were those out there
to whom one's life mattered not at all, and his teacher had survived where
many others had not.
Still, Kaivan was only ten years old... and he went to bed each
night exhausted, his mind swirling with formulas, patterns, spirits' names;
his body aching with the strain of trying to channel magical energies. But
it was worth it. He could feel the knowledge within his mind, almost
burning with the quantity and sheer power of what he had learned. No, he
would stay, could not do otherwise. Where else could he sate this hunger
that burned in him, that caused ordinary needs to dwindle to insignificance
next to the yearning to *know*, to *understand*. Kaivan relaxed with this,
his eyes snapping back into focus and locking on the feather, airborne,
floating lightly with the currents of the wind. Delicately balanced, like
the circumstances of his life, waiting only for a strong breeze to send him
skittering away, out of control. But none of that mattered. Because once
again, he had succeeded.
Kaivan resisted the urge to whistle as he walked along the streets
back toward home. Despite the recent improvements and the ever-recurring
'clean up the streets' campaigns being run by the Committee, this still
wasn't the best section of town. One learned to keep one's head down,
present neither an attractive target nor any sort of threat, and instead
simply go about one's business. Gangers didn't bother people they
recognized, not so long as they didn't make trouble -- and avoided calling
attention to themselves.
Kaivan had no illusions about his skills. While his learning had
accelerated over the past few years, once he had acquired a solid
theoretical foundation on which to build his knowledge, he still only knew
four or five decent spells that were anything more than mere practice
exercises. He had a lot to learn, and a long way to go -- his master had
never missed an opportunity to remind the boy of this.
Far from settling into a routine, Kaivan's life had grown more
interesting with time. Over the past few years, his role in his master's
research had gone from being told, "No, don't touch that!" repeatedly to
instead being asked, "Kaivan, look up this formula?" And recently, he had
even been allowed to participate in some of the elaborate enchanting
rituals, lending his own magical energies to the task of creating new items
of power. This fascinated the youth, but his master would not permit him to
neglect his other topics of study.
Being sent on errands was also a welcome chance to escape and see
life on the outside. Today he was returning from the talismonger's shop,
his cargo valuable enough to feed several families for many years, and a
prime target for anyone who would want to rob him. Yet by emulating the
others around him -- automatic now after years of habit -- and carrying
his package as if it were nothing of significance to anyone, he transported
his cargo of gold and silver through the streets with little need to worry.
Well, there was also the fact that, to all outside appearances, he
was a large, burly ork who was behaving in a non-threatening manner. Not
an easy target, and hardly someone worth messing with for the fun of it.
Kaivan remembered the first day he had emerged, disguised, from the
apartment building, feeling strangely naked and convinced that everyone was
looking at him and seeing right through his disguise. Confidence came with
time, and as he rounded the corner to walk down the narrow alleyway toward
his apartment building, he stopped suddenly, some unconscious cue jolting
him out of his reverie.
It took him a moment to locate the source of his startlement, but he
took the intervening moments to find a secure place from which to observe.
His teacher had drilled caution into his pupil's head until finally it
had become a subconscious reflex. Using the observation techniques he had
been given, he scanned his surroundings, paying attention to each item he
could see, assessing it, considering his reactions.
There. That was it. You simply did not see a brand-new Ford-Canada
Bison in the Warrens. Not even on the outskirts. Not here. It wouldn't
last five minutes. Well, maybe a little longer, but not much. Perhaps in
front of a corporate facility, it might last a few days, but here, where
there is nothing to interest any corporate big-wig, it was out of place, a
shiny black beacon that something unusual was happening.
Kaivan craned his head back, peering up along the row of windows to
locate the one that represented his own apartment. Every muscle tensed -- or
cringed, perhaps; Kaivan couldn't be sure -- as a sudden burst of noise
erupted from that window. The glass shattered, and body flew threw it, a
body that might once have been a man, but now was simply a ragged, torn,
burnt mass of flesh. Kaivan knew what a powerbolt's effects looked like, and,
lacking even the presence of mind to drop the package he was carrying, he
darted toward the front of the building, his breath already coming in ragged
bursts from fear, surprise, shock... His master might need him.
Throwing open the door to the building, unmindful of any noise it
might create, the boy charged up the steps two at a time, heading up toward
the fourth-floor apartment that he shared with his master. Muffled thumps
sounded through the frame of the building, and shouts erupted from upstairs.
Wisely, the youth took a brief moment to drop his masking spell and instead
choose the invisibility spell he had been taught, his teacher's words
burning in his ears: "Never let 'em see you, kid. They can't attack you if
they can't see you -- or even better, if they never know you're there."
His approach was far from stealthy, but the noises from upstairs
were sufficient that there was no chance he could be heard. Muffled clumps
of footsteps and ragged calls unrecognizable as words flew down the stairway
to intercept him, and as he heard them fading, growing more obscured by the
bulk of the building, he knew that someone -- multiple someones -- were
retreating down the staircase at the other end of the building. Kaivan knew
he couldn't get there in time to have any effect; and to be honest, he
didn't care. His primary concern was for his teacher. A lump welled up in
his throat, a mask of fear and anger and sheer adrenaline-induced terror
washed across his features, invisible to any onlooker. He forced these
emotions down. "Never let 'em see you sweat, kid. Never sweat. You need
that energy when the going gets tough."
Fumbling in a pocket for a key proved unnecessary; the door was
standing wide open. All adjacent doors were closed and tightly locked; in
the Warrens, you quickly learned that if it doesn't directly concern you,
it shouldn't interest you. You'd live far longer that way.
Kaivan barely brushed the door as he entered, yet even the light
brush transferred enough of his velocity that the door swung back to strike
the wall behind it with a muffled thump. Kaivan gasped for breath, already
exhausted from the unaccustomed physical activity, all his senses running on
a keen edge as his gaze swept the disarray that was his home. Brilliant red
blood stained the carpet and walls; unidentifiable bits of flesh had
scattered in various directions. And there... there was what Kaivan had
hoped not to see. A pair of legs, shrouded in all-too-familiar dark pants,
horizontal on the floor.
Kaivan had little knowledge of medicine, but still, his instincts
guided him to a natural response to what he saw. He rushed forward,
oblivious to any possibility of danger, placing himself in what would be a
perfectly obvious line of fire if there was any to be had, invisibility
spell or no.
Before he even reached out to check for a pulse, Kaivan knew that it
was pointless. He withdrew his hand, sadness, terror and horror mingling
into a cold, chilling lump deep in the pit of his gut as he stared, unable
to look away, from the carnage that had been the man who had taught him what
he knew. Rage flooded into him, replaced by a sense of utter helplessness,
a shattering of his worldview as the hard, cold realization struck him that
everything that he had known, everything he could remember, was now dead
upon the floor below him.
Kaivan sucked in a deep, ragged breath and then another, racking
sobs that coursed throughout his entire body. Invisible tears coursed down
his cheeks, then materialized as they broke free of his face and dripped
toward the floor. Kaivan had loved his teacher in a way; he was a father
figure if not a father, a trustworthy anchor in a world of confusion and
violent chaos. Kaivan wept for the man who had cared for him, but also for
himself, who had been cast adrift into a sea, and uncertain of his own
ability to swim.
It seemed like hours, but in truth it was only a matter of a minute
before Kaivan's rational side began to gently but insistently nudge him out
of the state he was in. All right, it seemed to say, you've had your cry.
Now, it's time to get to work. Time is short, and the need is great.
Later, Kaivan would tell about how he quickly laid his plans, then
set about implementing them in a calm, cool, and professional way. The
truth wasn't nearly as pretty; it involved a swollen-eyed, red-faced youth
moving in a daze around the apartment. Something within him had the
presence of mind to close the door and draw the windowshades, discouraging
passers-by from looking in and interfering with what the boy had to do.
In his mind's eye, he could envision no way he could dispose of his
master's body. He wasn't sure what you did in this sort of circumstance,
but he was relatively certain that he didn't want the cops involved. Magic
was frowned upon by the authorities -- especially high-level magic of the
sort he had been working on with his mentor. Whatever the reality of the
situation, the boy knew that allowing Knight Errant or their ilk to become
involved could hardly be good for him.
So... the body would be left here. He glanced around the apartment,
looking for what he could take with him. Staying here was obviously not an
option -- what if those men came back? And there would be questions asked,
soon. There was that corpse outside to consider. No, this was something
that needed quick action. Much as it pained him, looking around at the
familiar surroundings, he understood instinctively that much of what was
here would have to remain here, to be disposed off in... in whatever manner
these sort of things got disposed of.
Foci. Those were valuable. Kaivan knew he would need money, that
now that his mentor was no longer paying the bills that he would have to
eke out his own survival. He wasn't certain how to do that, but his
natural intelligence told him that having something to live on in the
meantime would make getting himself established far easier.
So... foci. There were a few of those. Including that one he and
the master had been working on. He approached the table, inscribed with
runes inlaid into its surface, and looked at the mess that now lay upon it.
The materials that had been ordered so neatly now lay in disarray; broken
bits of glass littered the surface of the table, spilling into the floor.
But the focus itself was missing. Letting out a curse in his native
Sperethiel, remembered from childhood and surfacing during periods of
stress, Kaivan let his mind assemble the pieces to the puzzle, locking
them into place with a mental click of comprehension.
The focus. They wanted it. They came to get it. They took it, and
his mentor's life in the process. Kaivan felt violated, all sense that he
might once have had of security turning one hundred eighty degrees into
full-blown paranoia, and he redoubled his rate of movement. They killed his
mentor for a reason, and perhaps it was to make certain that he could not
recreate the work that had been stolen. Perhaps they might also know that
he had an assistant, an apprentice. Kaivan's thoughts increased to a
frenetic pace, driven by this thought and the thin, icy burst of fear that
dug deep into his chest.
What else was left? Materials -- those were valuable. Kaivan
summoned enough calm within himself to shift his attention into the astral
plane, looking over his master's body. Now those foci had survived,
unnoticed by the intruders and untouched by the bullets that had destroyed
his teacher's body. Carefully, though still with a sense of haste, Kaivan
reached out and, with a sickening feeling that in doing so he was somehow
being disloyal to his master's memory, he removed the items from the
corpse's form. First the earring, then the necklace. Finally, that small
group of items from the pocket... there. Kaivan took a moment to count
them. Expendable spell foci: he had learned about those, and how to craft
them, and how to use them. There had been four of the tigers-eye stones;
now there were only two. His master had not died without at least trying to
defend himself, as witnessed by the corpse on the ground outside. The two
manipulation foci, crafted to resemble coins, those remained as well.
Kaivan hastily shoved those into a pocket.
A decent wad of corp-scrip was stashed into a drawer, along with a
tangled mess of small-value credsticks. The boy crammed these into the
duffel bag he sometimes used to transport items he purchased, or that he was
taking for sale, trying to make sure to gather up everything necessary. A
change of his own clothes or two. His eyes scanned the room and came to
rest upon those small boxes, containing a strange mix of powders, incenses,
metals, patterns... supplies for summoning elementals, something Kaivan had
never before been permitted to do. His master would have no further use for
them, and Kaivan was not about to leave them behind. Not when he still had
space. Into the bag they went.
Now, Kaivan began looking for other items. A few hardcover books
that he used for reference went into the bag. He stood torn for a moment
of indiscretion over two small cases of trid chips that he had enjoyed,
waffling over which to take, before finally he gave in and stuffed them
into the bag. A few other items: a pocketknife. His master's pocket
secretary, and the chips containing the magic library -- perhaps he
could guess the password and find further information within the secretary's
memory. He returned to his mentor's corpse and located the keys to the
much-abused Nissan Jackrabbit parked beneath the building. Guarded by an
elemental itself when parked, and not of enough value for anyone to bother
with too much, it had managed to survive relatively unscathed.
Slipping those items into a pocket, he turned and surveyed the
apartment one final time. Nothing here that could not be replaced.
The alchemical equipment, once potentially valuable, was smashed to ruins.
He would count the nuyen later, once he was safely underway and had time
to think about his next course of action. Childhood toys... he had few of
those, none with any real sentimental value; no, those could stay behind.
He blinked twice to clear his eyes, took a deep breath, and walked toward
Then walked back a few moments later to retrieve a single, garish,
yellow-and-blue-and-pink feather from where it had been collecting dust,
forgotten, atop a bookcase. And then, once again safely wrapped in the
intangible arms of his invisibility spell, he departed from the apartment,
the building, and what had been the sum of his life until today.
Kaivan drove for long enough to be certain he was not being
followed -- at least, not by any sort of conventional means. A few checks
of astral space and the summoning of a low-level watcher spirit helped
make him feel more secure against magical threats. He'd heard about
riggers -- cybered-up people who could seemingly work magic with
vehicles -- but he couldn't worry about that. He had far too many other
things to consume his entire available quota of worry for the foreseeable
He'd been able to drive for over a year now, having obtained
his license as soon as he reached the required age; his mentor had insisted.
So now, the task of operating the car was mostly routine, automatic, and a
welcome familiarity that gave him some time to re-orient his thoughts.
The short-term questions were easy. Find somewhere new to live.
Get settled in, get a routine established, find some sort of safe anchor
back to reality. Those goals, Kaivan was already reaching decisions about
how to accomplish. The longer-term goals presented deeper challenges,
To start with, what could he do? He had some definite skill at
magic, and magic was always valuable, but he wasn't certain if he was
willing to work for corporations. His parents had, and had lost their
lives; his mentor, in fact, had accepted the job to develop that focus
against his better judgement upon request from a 'Johnson'... one of those
corporate-shadowrunner interface types.
Was that was his mentor was? A shadowrunner? He hardly seemed the
stereotypical one from the trid, dressed in all black with all kinds of
fancy gear and a lingo all their own. He didn't go out and break into
facilities, but instead mostly stayed in the apartment and... worked.
Kaivan was never fully sure whom the work was for, though on occasion people
arrived and had conversations that were, he was sternly told, not for
his ears. Perhaps that was it. And if so, perhaps he should follow in his
teacher's footsteps, because his education would certainly be most suitable
for his mentor's avocation... wouldn't it?
Shadowrunner. A nice word for criminal, wasn't it? That's what the
news called them. "A ruthless band of mercenaries" was responsible, one
station liked to say, while another preferred to blame "sinister members of
the criminal underworld" for everything. Yet, from what he'd learned from
his master, just about everything was illegal these days, to one degree or
another. What separated a criminal, a shadowrunner, from anybody else?
Heavy thoughts. Dark thoughts that occupied Kaivan's musings as he
took the time to locate a new apartment. His master's SIN was encoded on
his credsticks, with a simple 'photographic' ID (his master didn't believe
in letting anyone know his biometrics, having ranted about this particular
topic on several occasions). Easy enough for Kaivan to reproduce, given his
familiarity with the man and his mastery of the Physical Mask spell. Even
the cameras were fooled. The money was good, and the bored-looking man
behind the counter didn't seem inclined to ask too many questions and
generate extra work for himself.
The apartment was spartan but functional. A single bed was
provided, though no sheets and blankets covered the bare mattress. The
young elf made a list of required items and spent the next several days
in a series of shopping trips, carefully acquiring what he needed, watching
expenditures carefully. His limited funds would have to last him until he
could find a way to earn money on his own.
Once that was done, and a meal was resting solidly in the boy's
stomache, he lay awake gazing at the ceiling. If he were going to become a
Shadowrunner, he'd need contacts. On the trid, they were always calling up
their fixer, who had a job for them. That was how 'biz' got done -- you
called your fixer. Except Kaivan didn't know any fixers.
Or... did he? That talismonger that he bought supplies from... he
hardly operated out of a reputable storefront. No, he worked behind the
scenes, and seemed suspicious of Kaivan far more than any legitimate
shopkeeper would, at least until he got to know the boy. Maybe he would
know a fixer. Kaivan didn't know too much about the criminal underworld,
but he did have an idea how to survive in tough neighborhoods. Keep your
head down, don't cause trouble, and most of the time, everybody leaves you
alone. Just have a big enough stick that you don't seem to be worth messing
That's another thing Kaivan forgot to consider. Defending himself.
He knew one good attack spell: Stunbolt. Good for knocking an opponent out
and getting away. Kaivan had only really *had* to use it, other than for
practice, once -- that time he got cornered by somebody who thought that
package he was carrying looked a little *too* interesting. Nobody messed
with him after that.
But still... spells weren't perfect. And they weren't very
intimidating. Invisible until the moment they went off, they didn't carry
any sort of visible threat unless you used them. And his mentor had always
told him, "The best weapon is one you don't have to use." So... perhaps a
gun. Kaivan paled briefly at the thought of killing someone -- visions of
his master's bloody, torn remnants of a face intruded into his mind, and he
shook his head to clear it. No.
Perhaps tomorrow he would talk to this talismonger, and see what he
could find out. That would be a good course of action. Find out if he had
what it took to be a Shadowrunner. Find out what they *really* were; Kaivan
wasn't quite naive enough to trust everything he saw on the trid. And he'd
need a name, too. Shadowrunners never used their real name. That'd be
stupid, right? So... yeah. A name.
Mojo was taken. He'd heard of Mojo. Mageman. Spelldude. Lame,
lame, lame. Even as naive as he was, he knew even *he* wouldn't take anyone
seriously with a name like that. Ghost. Taken, I know. Hunter... no.
Stalker... no, makes me sound like I'm some guy breathing hard into
the phone. Stinger. There we go... kinda cool, a little pretentious, but
not too specific... Spell-stinger. Doesn't have much to do with magic, does
it? No, spell-stinger, mojo-stinger... mojo-slinger? Too long. They
always have short, cool names. How about just... Slinger?
Any further thoughts Kaivan might have had on this matter were
completely indistinguishable from dreams.
Kaivan's exhaustion from the previous day's events kept him in bed
well into late morning. He awoke, refreshed, relaxed... then tensed as the
memory of what had transpired just yesterday flooded back into awareness.
He scowled, looked around the barren apartment, and finally convinced
himself that this, for better or worse, was the reality he was stuck with.
For a brief moment, he found himself almost comprehending why people would
use BTL chips.
He surveyed his clothes, including the new attire he had purchased.
None of it was particularly out of the ordinary -- several T-shirts for his
favorite thrash-metal bands, a couple of pairs of tight-fitting pants --
after all, nobody was going to tell him what not to wear, now. He selected
one combination, put it on, and peered into the room's dingy and somewhat
clouded mirror, nonetheless grinning at what he saw. "Lookin' good...
Slinger," he found himself saying, then giggled softly and shook his
Finding the talismonger involved a small drive to another part of
town. He knew this man, also knew that he didn't typically give out
anything for free. A few of the credsticks and a bit of the corp scrip
travelled safely in Kaivan's pocket. Enough. He drove through the city,
mentally rehearsing what he would say. Parking the car, he travelled on
foot through the narrow alleyways toward the talismonger's place of
Which, as usual, appeared to be closed. Kaivan knocked three times
on the door, then twice, then opened it. Then, he made his way back through
the dusty, abandoned shelves toward the 'employees only' door. Knocking
twice, then three times, as he had been taught to do, he made his way down
the stairs, proceeding cautiously in case no one responded to his greeting.
In this case, though, the familiar voice of the talismonger drifted
toward the stairs. "Who's there?" he asks, in that typical semi-demanding,
semi-worried tone. Kaivan answered with his name... then suddenly, almost
without thought, added, "But call me Slinger."
"Huh? Oh, s'you, kid... er, um... Slinger," he said, looking up as
the boy rounded the corner. The talismonger himself was a relatively young
man, with streaks of stark white hair coursing backward from his temples
that Kaivan had always suspected were artificially added, just for effect.
The man seemed to be having trouble keeping a straight face. He stared at
Kaivan for a moment, then suddenly frowned. "Wait a minute. What're you
doing here? Felix is dead." As if by magic -- or very possibly with its
aid -- a gun appeared in the talismonger's hand, aimed directly at Kaivan.
The boy froze, unsure how to react to this, and lifted his hands
skyward, displaying open palms. "Yeah, he is," the boy admitted. "And... I
need help," he adds, the rehearsed speech flying completely out the window.
The talismonger stared at Kaivan for a long moment, neither the gun
nor the frown ever wavering. Finally, he slipped it back beneath the
counter. Kaivan let out an audible sigh of relief. "You've got a lot of
nerve coming here," the talismonger said conversationally, still watching
the boy cautiously.
"Look, I know, but I didn't know who else to turn to. I mean...
they just killed him. Shot him, and took that thrice-damned focus." The
memory resurfaced again, the image of the gory demise of his teacher. "I
got out, took what I could. They got what they wanted, and I don't think
they're still looking... are they?" This last was appended in a tentative
voice as suddenly Kaivan considered the possibility that he wasn't nearly as
safe as he might have imagined.
"Maybe they are, maybe they're not. I know they might be lookin'
for me, to see if he told me anything. And they might be lookin' for you.
If you helped him make the thing, then maybe you'd be worth some good cash
to them, too, huh?" Even Kaivan's inexperienced eye could see the
nuyen-signs in the talismonger's eyes.
"I can pay you, too," Kaivan hastily pointed out. Before the
talismonger could react, he continued, slowing his speech and trying to
project a confidence that he didn't fully feel. "I've got some nuyen with
me, but I've got more somewhere else. I'll need supplies, information.
Connections." He decided to go out on a limb, to take a risk. "You know
Kaivan had never acted like this before; he had always seemed to be
a somewhat shy, reserved, carefree kid. The talismonger studied the boy for
a few moments longer, rubbing thoughtfully at his chin. "Okay. Okay, I'll
help you. It'll cost you, but you know that." His posture seemed to
change, losing some of the reservation and suspicion. He leaned away from
the counter, and started ticking items off on his fingers. "First off, if
you're using Felix's credsticks, stop. Every time you do, they can trace
you. Word on the street says it was a corp hit squad, maybe Aztec. Who
knows? Whoever they are, neither you nor me has any business fucking with
them. You want the cash on this sticks, I got a guy who can help you
convert it over. Old Felix had a bit put away, I'd guess. If you're
driving his car like I'd guess you are, not knowing shit about shit, then
you're gonna need new plates and maybe a paint job. You've rebonded all his
foci you took... no, wait. He's dead. They're not bonded, no material link
there. Biggest threat is that they'll find some kind of material link to
you in that apartment of his. Shoulda torched the place, kid. But since
you didn't, I'd build myself a ward as quick as I could."
Kaivan struggled to assimilate the vast rush of information as the
talismonger babbled, even as a small bit of his mind bristled at being
called 'kid'. Still, it didn't seem wise to bring up that point right now;
he was learning a great deal right here.
"If you're staying someplace you bought with those sticks, I'd ditch
it as fast as you can," the man continue his stream of informative babble.
"This guy'll get you new sticks, only take ten percent, which is more than
reasonable, I can tell you. Hook you up with a fake ID, too, matches the
sticks. It won't be that great, but good enough here in Warrens. Nobody
checks too much if your money's the right color. Then, you get a new
place, set up shop there, and boom. You're back in business." Then, he
scowls as he mentally reaches the point where Kaivan's request for a fixer
was mentioned. "What do you want a fixer for, huh, kid? Think you're some
kind of Shadowrunner?"
"I might be," the boy replied loftily.
The talismonger chuckled softly. "Might be, my ass. You're a
wannabe, at best. But you're bright, I'll give you that. And you've got
balls. So I'll tell you what. There's a guy I can hook you up with. Sorta
reliable, sometimes a little hard to find. Ganger, does a bit of resale
of... shall we say, items with questionable shipping records."
Kaivan smiled, and the smile was genuine. "That's great. How can I
The talismonger eyed Kaivan for a long moment. "If I sent him a kid
of, what, fifteen, sixteen, he'd laugh his ass off then tell me to piss
off," he stated flatly.
"I'm seventeen," protested Kaivan, to no effect. The point was
made. "And I can look older," he added, forcing a bit of strength into his
The talismonger looked skeptical. "Show me," he commanded, with an
idle wave of his hand, both an invitation and a grant of permission to cast
a spell within the shop.
Kaivan took only a moment to implement the Physical Mask spell, this
time selecting a human male in his mid-to-late twenties. Reasonably
handsome, the man sported dark hair, a dark goatee, thin sideburns, and a
vaguely mysterious aura.
The talismonger eyed the result critically, and finally nodded.
"Lose the sideburns. Somebody that age wouldn't wear 'em, probably. Darken
the eyes a bit, make the hair a bit shorter... yeah. There you go. Not
perfect, but it'll do." Kaivan responded with a grin, prompting a scowl
from the shopkeeper. "Trouble is, you still move and act like a kid. Tell
you what -- for now, you let me know what you need, and I'll get it from
"For a slight fee," Kaivan replied, in his new, lower voice that
masked somewhat of the youthful tone of his usual speaking voice.
"Of course," said the talismonger, spreading his hands wide, with a
sly grin on his features.
Kaivan took a moment to consider before speaking. "For
starters... I need something to defend myself with, something besides
spells. But I don't want to carry around a big beast like that." He pointed
toward the section of the countertop under which the gun disappeared.
"Something small, so I don't get stopped by KE every time I turn around.
Something I can hide, but is damned effective at stopping people coming
The man looked thoughtful for a moment. "You want something KE
won't flinch at, get a Narcoject. They're legal, and they're 'damned
effective' if you know how to shoot a gun."
Kaivan grimaced. "Yeah, I know how. Felix made me learn; couple of
days at the range every month since I was fourteen."
"Smart of him. You'll thank him for that later," the man advised.
"Okay. One Narcoject, with a few clips. It's quiet, it's non-lethal, it's
easy as hell to conceal... I think it'd work for you. You'll also want an
armored trenchcoat. It won't stop much, but sometimes it can just make the
difference that saves your life."
Kaivan nodded. "Okay. Whatever you say..." He trailed off
tentatively, not sure what to say next.
The talismonger grinned slyly again. "How much you got to spend?"
The youth hesitated for a moment, performing a quick mental
estimate. "For now... that's about all I ought to spend."
"All right. Come back here, same time tomorrow. There'll be a guy
waiting outside, dressed in black, probably smoking a cigarette if I know
him. Ask him if the store is open, and he'll tell you the door isn't
locked. That's how you'll know him."
Kaivan smiled in response. "I'll be there. And... hey, if you hear
of anything, I'm looking for work, okay?"
"Shadow work?" The talismonger snorted and chuckled softly.
"Whatever you say, kid."
Kaivan simply smiled once again in response. "The name," he said
softly, "is Slinger."
Kaivan approached the shop the following day, scanning the area in
front of the shop while he lifted the cigarette in his fingers to his lips
and took a quick draw, blowing the smoke out quickly. At least he'd had the
presence of mind to buy the pack on the way home the previous day, and try
a few of them before heading to this meeting. The first one made him sick,
the second one made him so dizzy he had to lie down, and the third one this
morning had made him cough for nearly a minute. But now he was able to at
least puff on it passably, so long as he didn't try to inhale too deeply,
and maybe combined with the spell it'd help make him look a bit older.
That seemed to be a recurring theme, he thought with a grimace.
Right on schedule, he saw a man fitting the description he was
given. Kaivan approached the store, walking toward the door, then glanced to
his left, trying to look casual as he asked the man standing there, "Is the
"Can the crap, kid," the man replied tersely. "You got the sticks?"
Kaivan swallowed and nodded, a bit taken aback by the delivery, but
he handed them over, hesitating only a moment as he realized that he was
forking over all his savings. Still, the talismonger wouldn't steer him
wrong, would he?
"Then hand 'em over!" the man said, as if talking to an imbecile.
Kaivan frowned faintly, still hesitating. "How do I know I'll get
them back?" he asked in a reasonable tone.
"Well, you won't get *these* back," the man said, with a faint
sneer. "But you'll get some back, with an ID. You mind showing me what you
really look like?"
Kaivan swallowed, looking down at the cigarette in his fingers and
then lifting it to his lips as he dropped the spell. Taking a quick drag,
he couldn't avoid coughing slightly on the smoke as he inhaled more deeply
than he meant to.
The man just laughed. "Okay. Hold still. Get that cancer stick
out of your face, there you go." He lifted a pocket secretary, looked down
at the screen, then nodded. "Okay. Got it. Meet me here, same time
tomorrow." He turned and disappeared down an alleyway, leaving Kaivan
standing alone in front of the shop, looking slightly puzzled. He shook his
head, tossed the cigarette away, and then returned to his car.
Kaivan returned at the appointed time the next day. The man was
there, smoking a cigarette. Kaivan tossed his own smoke into the alleyway
as he approached, watching the man carefully.
The shoemaker grinned and patted a coat pocket. "Got it right
here." Kaivan approached, and the man pulled a small bag of items out of a
pocket, running through each one as he handed it over. "ID. Credsticks,
three of 'em, with your new info. You'll notice the balance is a bit
smaller." He laughed without humor. "Driving license. You'll notice
you're nineteen now, on paper," he added. "New name is Ben Dover." At
Kaivan's pale expression, he laughed, this time seeming to enjoy the joke.
"Just kidding. New name is Gregory Smith. I made you a UCAS citizen, hope
you don't mind." He finished itemizing the stack, then added a cautionary
note. "These won't stand up to any real legwork, so don't be drawing
attention to yourself. Chip in there will tell you all about your new
self. Read it through, and learn it by heart. Stay out of trouble, and
you're home free. Any questions?"
Kaivan looked at the pile of items, then started stuffing them into
various pockets. "None that I can think of."
"In that case," the man said, leaning away from the wall in
preparation to depart. "It was a pleasure doing business with you, kid."
Kaivan smiled as he tucked the last credstick into hiding underneath
his secure long coat. "I keep telling people. The name," he explained
patiently, "is Slinger."
Background Copyright 2001 by Slinger's Player. Used with permission.
|This page Copyright ©2001 by Joel E. Ricketts and Craig G. Rickel. All Rights Reserved. Some information and content Copyright ©1999 by FASA Corporation and/or Wizkids, LLC, and its use or reference here is not intended as any sort of challenge to those Copyrights. Shadowrun is a Registered Trademark of FASA Corporation.|