I hesitated when I parked. The apartment building was across the street, with the same troll doorman looming in the safety of the doorway. There was an incredible urge to start and gun the engine, escape while I could, but there was also a deeply rooted need to go and see her. Almost reluctantly, I turned the car off and unbuckled the seat belt. I took my time getting out, pretending to study the building opposite me. It was average for the area; run down, harking back to the glory days of the past century.

I absently locked the doors behind me and strolled across the street. The troll met me outside the door, keeping me out with his presence and folded arms.

“Slot off, Jack,” he stated, not quite a snarl. “She don’t wanna see ya again.”

“Ex...cuse me?” Again, I hesitated. The last time, he’d had a more sophisticated manner, almost corp like. Now, he was a dangerous animal acting – badly – the part of a domesticated pet, while desperately wanting to rip my throat out.

He studied me for a second with deep green cybereyes, the crosshairs in the pupils and the emotionless stare the only signs they weren’t natural. “Shanna,” he finally rumbled. “You’re gonna stay away from her.” It was both statement and warning.

I sighed quietly. It was annoying, but I’d expected it. It’s impossible to find good help these days. “Look, I don’t mean to be a bother, I just want to talk to her. And you’re just doing your job. So how about you take your break now and buy a doughnut or something?” I held out a credstick. He just glared down at it like it was a rotting carcass. Then he transferred his gaze to me.

“Are you trying to bribe me?” he asked in a quiet voice.

I laughed nervously. “No, that would be illegal. I’m just offering some... incentive.”

He moved like a snake, arms unfolding to push away the cred and grab me by the throat. Before I knew it, he slammed me into the wall, bringing stars to my vision and cutting off most of my air. “Listen to me, you son of a slitch, you’re only gonna keep breathin’ ‘cause I need this job too bad to kill you. I don’t want to see you around here again. I don’t give a damn that yer her brother, the next time I even smell you, your hoop is mine. Understand me, motherfragger?” He gave me what might be considered a gentle shake, for an earthquake. He was in my face, close enough for me to see the rage that was somehow in his eyes. “If you had any idea what you did to her the last visit,” he whispered, ham sized hands flexing around my throat, “you’d know better then to come around.” He suddenly released me, letting me slump to the ground, gasping for air.

“Is everything all right here?” The speaker was an older man in a faded suit. He peered at us from the safety of the lobby and locked doors.

“Yessir.” The troll touched the brim of his hat in a respectful gesture. “Just trying to get the point across to a drekhead that doesn’t unnerstand “no solicitors”.”

“Ah. Very well then.” He turned to go, then hesitated and faced us again. “And Toby?”


“When you’re on duty, watch the language please.”

“Unnerstood sir.” The troll watched him walk off.

“She’s my sister, dammit. I want to talk to her.”

He snorted and folded his arms again. “You ain’t fit ta call yerself a meta, let alone her brother.”

I hauled myself to my feet, unwilling to look like I might be submissive to him. Street goons are all alike; you have to show strength, prove you’re the bigger man. “Look,” I snarled, “this is more than your job is worth. Let me by.”

“Are you threatening me?” He sounded amused, as if he looked forward to beating me into a bloody pulp.

“No.” I was reluctant to say it, but I knew that I couldn’t take him in a fair fight. “But common sense dictates that it would be more profitable for you to take the nuyen, step aside, and let me talk to her.”

“Common sense ain’t got nuthin’ ta do with it,” he growled back.

Then what does? Suddenly it clicked. The doorman guarded the door. He didn’t fraternize with the residents, he simply opened the door to them and closed it to those who didn’t belong. While he might recognize names and apartment numbers, there was a big difference between knowing what apartment a person lived in and actually going to it. When I tranked him and ran by last time, he didn’t hesitate, simply lumbered towards my sister’s room, taking and making shortcuts only a long time resident could know. And the decker I’d hired to find her apartment mentioned it was registered to a T. Smith. “Then sleeping with her does? How long have you been fragging Shanna?”

The fist appeared out of nowhere, slamming into my nose and sending me flying. When I finally looked up from my dazed view of the now-bloody cement, he was standing over me, hands in fists and quivering with the desire to hit me again.

“Don’t ever say that again!” he snarled, baring his tusks like he wanted to take a bite out of my guts. “I’ve known her fer over ten years, which is a damn sight longer’n you er her ma ever stuck around. What she does er wants to do is up ta her, not me, never you!”

“Unrequited lust for a blind cripple. Now that’s just pathetic.”

He wanted to hit me again, I could tell. But anything more without me making a move would be grounds for a lawsuit. Finally he shrugged. “Ain’t her fault. Wanna blame someone, try yer ma fer leavin’ her with a bastard that’s willin’ ta rape her near daily ‘fore she’s six.”

What?! I couldn’t – wouldn’t believe that. I’d heard rumors, of course, about Ryan Phillips having unsavory habits, but child-rape? No, he wouldn’t do that. He couldn’t.

“Damn corpers,” the troll muttered when he saw my disbelief, more to himself than me, “always goin’ to protect yer own so us idiot street scum don’t learn yer worse’n us.”

“Lissen scum,” he whispered as he leaned in close, grabbing my shoulder in what looked like an effort to help me up but felt like a poker run through my shoulderblade, “if I ever catch you around here when I’m on duty, yer a stalker that I can shoot in defense of the ‘poor, blind cripple’ that you’ve been harassing. If I catch you when I’m not on duty - ” he twisted, sending me back to my knees at the burning pain - “I’m gonna come after you in self defense. That means I’ll take the opportunity to break yer back, then rip off yer balls and beat ya to death with ‘em. Unnerstand?”

He was showing far too much pleasure in the thought for me to consider he might be kidding. “Yeah,” I managed somehow.

“Good,” he cooed, slapping me on the back with a hearty, ‘now we’re best chummers’ smack that sent me back down to the pavement. “Now git outta here.”

I don’t know how I was able to get back to the safety of the car, but I did it. I just sat in the driver’s seat for a time, trying to get feeling back into my hand and out of my shoulder.

“So. Did you two have a nice talk?” a voice like a ripsaw through carbon steel asked in an obscenely cheerful tone.

I was too afraid to turn around. Gods only knew what was behind me. “How’d you get in here?”

“Please. Child’s play with you an’ Toby bein’ so loud while bonding – ”

“Bonding is not what I’d call it!” I snapped.

“Eh, from here it looked like it involved cred, posturing, and lots of testosterone. Oh, no guns or beer! I see yer point now. Well, close enough.”

I finally hazarded a guess on the speaker’s identity. “Shanna?”

“Ooo, give the suit a prize, it didn’t take more’n – three minutes. I’ve got a genius for a twin.”

“We’re not twins.”

“Hmm, I suppose there isn’t enough a resemblance, now is there?”

“No, there is – I mean – but – ” I couldn’t figure out what to say first.

“Oh shut up,” she snapped. “I don’t care.”

“No! Let me finish!” I barreled on in the stunned silence. “I was trying to say yeah, there is a resemblance, but I’m over a year older than you. It was a common mistake.”

“Was.” The word dropped like a dead weight. After an uncomfortable silence, she finally spoke. “So. What brings you here, other’n a death wish.”

“I... wanted to speak with you.”


Other then the death wish,” she repeated.

“I’m serious!”

“So am I. What’s yer point?”

“Shanna, we can’t go on like this!”

“Sure we can,” she drawled, “I mean, it worked fine fer ten years at least, and you were happy fer four years more’n that. I don’t want or need you or her to come back into my life, making me into little miss suit who’ll be happy paying off with the rest of her soul and life for the chance to walk or see again. Can’t you leave me alone?!”

“You don’t even know why she left us!”

“It should matter?” The sudden lack of emotion in a mockery of a voice that managed to get so much feeling across earlier was frightening.

“Yes! She didn’t want to put us in danger! People were out to kill her!”

“Where can I get their number? Besides, she seemed to have failed miserably, as a mother and for keeping us safe. Unless you consider physical and sexual abuse safe. I sure as hell don’t.”

“Why do you keep up these ridiculous lies? The Phillips are a model family, upstanding citizens – ”

“In the corporation’s eyes. After all, that’s what counts, doesn’t it? So long as they do their jobs well and keep the façade of law, no one gives a damn what happens behind their doors. You must think shadowrunners are just part of bedtime stories or trid shows.” She sighed in what sounded like disgust. “Dammit, I don’t know why I bother. Listen, bro, I’m sure Toby make some sort of quaint remark about what he’ll do if you come back. So I figger I’ll just mention that if I spot you first, I’ll give you a firsthand account of what the Phillips are like. Sim chips can do amazing things these days. Then I’ll let Toby on you. Ciao!”

There was a faint whir, a hiss of displaced air. I dared to turn around, just in time to see a mechanical drone rise from the back seat and smash through the back window.

I sighed and slumped in the seat. This has not been a good day.

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