Monday, June 25, 2018

Rise of the Machine (Part Two)

"Choosing the lesser evil is merely the first step on the road to damnation" ... Creep ~ Shadowrunner and hermetic magician.

February 14th, 2060

1432 Hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

The waiter left me alone with the wall panel.  My temper was flaring as I tapped the blinking button.

"Charles, it's been far too long." Mr. Johnson said with a perfect smile.  His salt and pepper hair looked just as I remembered it but his eyes had more grey in them and less blue, like the sky as a storm rolls in.  "Sorry to bother you but we need to talk."

I don't have ice water in my veins.  Many shadowrunners want you to think they do.  At that moment though, my blood ran cold.  I thought furiously, my temper suddenly quenched. "It has been quite a while.  How have you been?"

"Rather busy I'm afraid, Charles."  He spoke smoothly, like we were old chummers shooting the breeze. "I'm going out tonight for dinner.   You should join me.  Bring Aria, I'd love to catch up."

Somewhere, deep inside me, that little flame of anger shook off the cold fear that gripped me.  I felt the muscles in my face clench. "I'm afraid Aria and I already have plans.  Could we reschedule?"  Being angry shouldn't make you stupid.  Don't loose your temper with Mr. Johnson when he has a powerful magician on his payroll.

"Oh Charles, I insist.  Please do come on out and join us.  Eye of the Needle, nine o'clock.  Don't be late."  With that the connection broke.

I returned to my table with my best fake smile.  I'm sure it didn't fool Aria for a second, but it kept appearances up for the rest of our lunch date.  We talked and laughed, and watched the otters play over lunch.  I didn't talk to Aria about the call until we got home.


February 14th, 2060

2055 Hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

Aria and I stepped off the elevator and were met by the same Maitre D' I had always seen at the Eye of the Needle.

"Good evening sir, madam.  Do you have a reservation?"

"C.U. Thomas for the Johnson table." I responded.  My tone was, perhaps, a bit short.

"Very well. Your table is ready.  This way please."  Aria took my arm as we followed the Maitre D' to a table near the center of the restaurant.  "Your waiter will be with you shortly."

Mr. Johnson and Samantha Goode arrived as the waiter was taking Aria's order, "All organic ice cream only, no artificial sweeteners." Aria told him.  We both rose and shook hands, Aria with Samantha and myself with Mr. Johnson.

"Charles, it is so good to see you.  Aria, charming as always."  He spoke through a broad, perfect smile. "Glad you could make it."

Samantha Goode looked stunning.  That night she wore a white dress {though Aria later informed me it was a gown... I still don't know the difference} with gold brocade along the shoulders and bust.  Gold studs graced her ears, and a gold bracelet held a large moonstone at her wrist.  She smiled easily at Aria. "You're positively glowing dear.  Congratulations on your child."

"Children actually." Aria replied.  "It's my first pregnancy, and I hit the jackpot.  Two for one. Do you have any children, Samantha?"

Samantha's Goode's smile faltered for a blink, "No, I'm afraid I haven't managed that miracle yet."

"It's miserable.  Your hormones hate you, your emotions go nuts, and everything seems out of sorts." Aria smiled then as she put her hands to her growing baby bump. "But then they kick you for the first time, and it seems like all the world lines up."

"Charles, how have you been?"  Mr. Johnson asked. 

"Dreadfully busy.  So many duties to fulfill.  I'm sure you can relate." I replied.

"Quite right, the world moves at such a fierce pace.  So many things to do, goals to accomplish, it is difficult unless you have good people working with you."  Mr. Johnson took a drink of his bourbon. "Kentucky bourbon, best drink you can get east of the Tir.  Have you picked names for the twins yet?"

I felt damned uncomfortable talking about my twins, but it is always best to not show fear in front of predators. "We have a few ideas we're still mulling over.  Do you and Samantha have any other plans for the holiday?"

"Holiday?" Mr. Johnson asked.  His face wore a questioning look.

"It is Valentines Day." Samantha interjected. "A holiday for romantic celebrations."

"Ah. I see." Mr. Johnson replied. "We do have other business tonight. I'll not bore you with the details."

"Sounds charming." Aria muttered.

Samantha busied herself with her salad for a moment.  Mr. Johnson continued, seemingly not concerned at Aria's response.  "Charles, I'll come right out and ask this.  What would it take to get you to work for me?  A full time position."

I hadn't seen this coming. "What type of position?"

His smile broadened. "Trouble shooter."

"I would prefer to be a contractor, but thank you." I told him.

"Now, now.  Humor me.  What would it take?  I can't imagine you plan on working out of Redmond for the rest of your life.  Now with children coming, I would think a young man of your intellect had been thinking of his future."  He took another drink of his bourbon. "Come on now, what would it take?"

I took a drink of my ice water then looked at Aria.  She was glowing, and she looked very worried. I thought about the twins, about the people I knew in the Shadows, and all the death I had seen.  I thought about Pepper and his family.  "Honestly?" I asked.

"Of course," he answered.

I took a breath and looked him right in his stormy eyes. "I would want to be able to choose the trouble I shoot. I want to be home every night possible.  I want to retain my citizenship and my rights.  I want the freedom to pursue my own interests without a corp telling me that my discoveries were theirs.  I want to live where I want and how I want." I took another, slow breath and continued. "And I would want five million a year."

Samantha Goode started to choke on a bite of her salad.  Aria was strangely still.  Mr. Johnson nodded, knowingly.  His expression made me think that he had expected my response or something very similar.  I saw a thin trail of smoke snake out of his right nostril, and a horrible thought crossed my mind.  Mr. Johnson looked right back at me, "Thank you Charles. Why don't you come down to my office, and we'll start the paperwork.  Contract for one year work for you?"

I felt as if my soul were screaming at my numb brain.  "You're offering me a year long employment contract on those terms?"  I asked him.

"Oh yes I am.  I'll have the contracts drafted by Monday morning.  I hope to see you in the office, say ten o'clock?"  He looked very pleased with himself as he finished his bourbon.

I looked at Aria, who looked stunned. Samantha had a stone faced expression. For just a moment I thought I smelled brimstone.  Every man has his price.  Mine, for that contract, was five million.


To be continued in part three ....


Thank you for reading my fan fiction.  Rise of the Machine is broken down into small components and will be released over the coming weeks.  I hope you enjoy it!

Presently, I'm working on completing the formatting of my latest RPG source book "The Steel Road" which was successfully funded on KickStarter.  In the late summer of this year (2018) I'll be bringing another book to KickStarter "Whispers of Persephone" which is a RPG source book of Necromancy for the 5th Edition game mechanic.  I hope you'll check it out on KickStarter when that campaign launches.

I want to thank you all for reading about Tommy, and the adventures he had.  I look forward to telling the rest of the tale.

W.S. Quinton

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