'Runner's High

Snoop left the back room of Depth Charge, tugging the collar of his jacket up around his neck. The night was pleasantly warm and unpleasantly wet, a combination one simply grew accustomed to in Seattle. The pockets of his coat were heavy with fresh, certified credsticks. Even before he was fully out of the club, he had several Matrix sites pulled up, browsing through new toys. He could practically feel the ’sticks burning holes in the synthleather.

He parted ways with his latest co-workers and headed to the nearest station for the L. It was late, late enough to be early, but the blur of neon and the buzz of traffic and the heady reek of Downtown Seattle never really went to sleep. It just cycled, like guards on a shift. The party shift was starting to wind down, but the next group, the scavengers and hobos, was already spinning up. He wasn’t too concerned. He made sure he looked like he was more trouble than he was worth.

He spotted a Stuffer Shack on the way to the L and decided to splurge. He dropped seven nuyen on a McBigburger meal with fries and a diet Pepsoy. The greasy bag dripped as he carried it to the station, past some fairly envious stares. This time of night, in this part of town, even Stuffer Shack was something to envy. One of the tweakier-looking bums got a little too close for Snoop’s comfort, and he let his wired reflexes trip on. When the skinny vagrant saw him start to twitch, he backed right off. Snoop’s ‘ware wasn’t all obvious, but he was damned sure chromed.

He ate the fries on the ride home, but he ended up giving the burger to one of the winos who wasn’t currently passed out drunk or whacked out of his mind. The man asked for the drink, too, and cussed Snoop out when he wouldn’t hand it over. The ingratitude of the scavenger nagged at Snoop’s thoughts the rest of the way home.

His apartment complex was called “The View,” and it advertised seaside windows. The only real view was of the Sound, which had more in common with a rotting fish lake than the sea. It was cheap enough, though, and secure. No one asked too many questions, and no one brought their work, whatever it might be, home with them. There was less gang graffiti here than on most of the walls in the neighborhood, and as he entered the building, he bumped fists with the “doorman,” Troll. Troll wasn’t a troll… just a big-ass human who happened to work for the Scud ’62, the local street gang that kept the peace.

He keyed in to his room and latched the door behind him, running a quick scan around the room. Discarded pizza boxes, second-hand furniture, wall display of a half-naked ork chick, ambient music set automatically to his broadcast “mood.” Same as before, nothing unusual. Still, he reminded himself for the hundredth time to install some personal security sensors. He stripped off his coat and gloves, flung them on the back of his only chair, and flopped down onto the couch. He could feel the glum spiral starting to scratch at the back of his brain; looking around his apartment, he felt stuck, repetitive, useless.

It was always like this, after a run. He browsed a couple skin sites he’d subscribed to online, but it was idle. Nothing much interested him once he’d gotten paid. It was like those people who start to hate on themselves right after they fuck. Immediately following the amped up rush of a ‘run, everything else just seemed too mundane. Belatedly, his home commlink kicked on, informing him that there were no messages for him. It tried suggesting various entertainments and reminding him of the trideo programs it had recorded for him. He didn’t know why it kept recording My Little Azzie; he’d told it not to for a solid month, but it just kept right on. He ignored the blare and pulled his “prescription” from under the small living room table he owned.

The drugs even came in a little clear bottle. Heisenberg was good at his job. Snoop dropped one of the few remaining pills into his palm and made a note in his commlink to call Heisenberg for a refill. He pulled a mirror and a razor blade from beneath the table, too, and cleared a space for them among the discarded cups and cola cans.

In short, precise cuts, he dissected the pill, dicing it into finer and finer leftovers, until there was nothing but a line of white powder on the mirror. He took the straw from his Pepsoy and sucked as much of the drink out of it as he could, before snorting the novacoke right up into his cranial cavities.

Immediately, he sat back, hard, letting the drug do its work. It blazed lines of fire through his brain. The novacoke grabbed his mind and his senses and enveloped them in frenetic activity, like he was firing on all cylinders and red-lining his brain. He probably was. He’d seen the nocavoke burnouts, but they were all addicts. He wasn’t. He could quit any time he wanted… but why would he want to? This was flying. It made him feel alive like only ‘running did, and by the time he crashed, he’d be so exhausted that he’d just sleep away the numbness. It had become almost routine.

One of his personal commlinks beeped, and he looked at it bemusedly. He recognized the number. He opened a full channel, but got only audio.

“Myello.”

“Rupe?”

“Raven. Sweetie. It’s been too long.”

“It’s been a week. You owe me money, and I heard you just got paid.”

“The run went fine, thanks for asking.” Snoop leaned back, pulling a crumpled pack of cigarettes from one of the folds of the couch. “I only shot one guy, and he didn’t even die. I think.” He tapped out one of the cancer sticks and stuck it between his lips.

“Jesus, Rupert, are you high?”

He scowled around the smoke as he lit up. “‘Course I’m high. The fuck do you care? You moved out, remember?” An ARO on the wall blinked, indicating that smoking was prohibited on the premises, but he ignored it, as usual.

“Yeah, because you were a coke-head.”

“You said it was because I was a dick-head.”

“Whatever.” The line was silent for a few moments. “You doing okay?”

He shrugged, knowing the visual link would reproduce the motion in her AR window. “Sure. I did a job, got paid. Didn’t get shot, didn’t have to kill anyone. I was goddamned useless the whole time, but sure, I’m fine.” He sucked deeply on the cigarette, letting the nicotine mingle with the novacoke in his system.

“You sound a little tense.”

He stood up, gesturing wildly with the smoking stick. “Jeez, after a ’run? That sounds so unlike me.” He shook his head, lifting a hand to his forehead. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, he said, “I’m sorry, honey.”

“Bad day at the office, huh?”

“Yeah. I mean, it went fine enough. I had a plan, mostly, and it worked, pretty much. I don’t know… I just feel like the whole thing was slipshod. I should have planned better. It’s just luck that I didn’t get someone killed.”

“Your plans were always pretty good before.”

“Yeah, before you left. That’s because you were there to cover my ass. Now I’m out there with these new guys… well, girls. All of ’em, geez, and so young.” He sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I miss you, Raven.”

“You just need to get laid.”

“That an invite, peaches?”

She seemed to think about it for a moment, but he shook his head. “Nevermind. Bad idea. Look, you’re killing my buzz here. I’ll wire you the twenty I owe you, same as always.”

Another pregnant pause. “You know, you could just call me if you need to talk. You know my number.”

“I’m fine. Thanks for checking in on me, love.”

He disconnected the link before she could reply and sat back on the couch. He dialed the sensitivity on his ears as high as it could go, and turned up the volume on the music until it was painful. Then he shut off the image feed from his eyes, and let himself drift on the smoke and the music.

'Runner's High

Shadowrun: Disconnected Vignettes SaffuranSomei