Case was back at work today, so I spent most of the morning reading. Reading about ATZ, about Atzlan, about blood magic– about everything I wish I’d known six months ago.
If the boys ended up on the wrong side of Aztechnology, I can see why they’ve been hiding. Its kind of odd realizing just how different PR images are from reality. Then again, that’s if the information on Shadowland is to be believed.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but with everything I’ve been through– I’m beginning to think that Shadowland is closer to reality than the nice pristine image the marketing types sling our way.
There’s so much more going on behind the scenes than I ever thought possible. Of course, I only see things when they go horribly wrong. Case has stopped trying to ‘protect’ me from the reality of the city, and the shadows.
Lord knows I’ve seen the dark side of things. I never saw them at home, but I know they were there– its just somehow– different here. Baltimore is home, I grew up there, knew the rules.
Seattle– Seattle’s different, somehow. Again, its probably me and my perceptions. I know what to ignore in Baltimore, but here– here its new and I see it all. I have a feeling if I went home today, I’d see it there too, now that I know what to look for.
I ended up taking a cab over to the hospital– Mario still didn’t want to see me. I think my helping him has only made things worse between us, but its like I told Trina– what else could I do?
He still can’t forgive me for what I did, and now– now he’s somehow tied to it too. Sometimes, you just can’t win... but...
At least from the looks of things, it’ll be a good long condemnation.
I actually cooked Case dinner last night. Not only that, he ate it– and lived.
One thing I learned early on in my career with Citywide, if you know how to cook, you do a lot of it, if you don’t, or worse don’t do it well– they leave you alone.
There’s only one thing I learned how to make and that’s firehouse chili. It doesn’t matter what you put into it, just as long as it burns like a four alarm fire. I think I outdid myself.
We spent a lot of the evening talking about what we’d do if we were trying to hide out in Seattle, the places to go, things to do– laying low for short time vs. laying low for a long time. I’m beginning to think that the boys are long gone from the Seattle scene.
I know I would be with Aztechnology after me. Yeah right– that’s why I’m still here and getting ready to go back to work. Guess I’m too stubborn to change.
Case dropped me off at the condo on his way to work and I began the task of getting my life back into some semblance of order.
I’ve realized that it doesn’t really matter what the boys were working on anymore, whatever it was is irrelevant. Case is getting me the files and we’re going to go over them this weekend. In the meantime– I have cats that need petting and a condo that needs dusting. Might as well do it while I have the time.
I managed to get some cleaning done before Trina saved me from more. She needed to talk to me. We met down at the clinic and she filled me in on what was happening with Mario.
Physically he was fine– they’d been able to undo most of the damage to his heart, but mentally... Mentally he was a mess and it was effecting his recovery.
“Its not easy,” I told her softly. “But I know how he feels.”
“Tell me,” she asked softly. “Explain it– I don’t understand.”
I bowed my head. “When I got to Chicago– when I found out what it would take to undo what Raz and her people had done to me...” I shook my head. “I didn’t want to go through with it– I was willing to die, but the mage wasn’t willing to let me pay the price– in the end, he gave me no choice and I had to live with the fact that I was alive because– because he took over... did what was best for me...”
Trina nodded. “And you did the same with Mario.”
I nodded sadly. “He wanted nothing to do with me– to what I’d been part of in Chicago, but if I hadn’t, then I wouldn’t have been there to save him. On one hand– he’s alive but on the other...”
“On the other, it means he’s a part of something completely against his beliefs and values.”
That was the sum of it. He condemned me for what happened in Chicago and now... Now he’s caught in the same web I was. It’s not quite the same– his redemption didn’t cost anybody their life. It just goes against his sensibilities I guess– being saved by someone ‘tainted’ by blood magic.
I was lost in the thought and almost didn’t catch Trina’s next question.
“How are you ... dealing with it?”
“Not too well,” I told her finally. “It’s... hard. I realized that– that I can’t undo it and that if I quit then– then it was for nothing. I keep up my fight, I fight harder. I fight the battles I can and hope that someday– in some way the balance is restored, the debt will be paid. But we both know it never can be repaid. So I keep trying.”
She thought about that for long while, and then finally sighed. “What do I tell him? What can I do?”
I thought about that and finally took a deep breath. “There’s nothing you can tell him– he has to find the answers himself. All you can do is be there for him and let him know that you love him.”
“And you?” She asked.
I shrugged. “I’m afraid, I don’t matter anymore.”
It hurt to say it, but it was true. Where I stood in Mario’s world was entirely up to him. I never stopped caring about him– I never will, but he’s the one who has to decide where and if I fit in.
I looked at her and shook my head. “No Trina, there is no but. I’m as guilty or as innocent as I feel I am and I’m the one who has to deal with that. I’ve found my answers. Your father has to find his. If you need me– either of you... I’m here.”
I could tell it wasn’t easy for her, but none of this has been easy on any of us.
Its just life.
We got an early start today. Case brought the files over to the condo and we started going over them. The paydata on Aztechnology was vague at least at first glance, but the more I looked at them, the more trouble it seemed to spell.
There were photos and data on transactions that were less than kosher and hand written notes mostly in Alan’s handwriting. I read through them several times, but it still didn’t make any sense.
Case waited until I’d gone through it a few times before he started telling me what they’d been able to figure out.
Several experimental weapons had been shipped to AZT in Seattle. From the looks of things the shipment the boys had found wasn’t the first, and definitely not the last. Someone had arranged for the shipments to disappear from the records and to reroute them.
The pictures in the file, were of weapons that, according to all the records, did not exist. Where they’d gone after the boys had logged them was even more interesting-- and confusing. From the looks of things, the weren’t going to Atzlan proper but to the rebels.
That was the– secondary official version. But it was as false a trail as the first one and we both knew it.
As he finished filling me in on what he knew, I nodded, then began shaking my head. “Maybe they weren’t really – running away. Maybe– what if they’d put something in the case, like a transceiver.”
“And follow it where it was actually going?”
I shrugged. “It’s a possibility. Something dangerous that has trouble written all over it– you turn your back on it, it will come back to haunt you.”
“It could be something else they were working on,” he reminded me.
I nodded, “but we still have no idea what that was... or what they were doing in an AZT warehouse in the first place.”
Case nodded as he once again went over the information and the notes we’d made. That’s about when the 3x5 index cards came out and I began transcribing the notes to them. Actual information was written in black, Alan’s notes in blue, Andy’s in green and Matt’s in purple. Case’s comments and mine were added in red ink.
Slowly a picture began to emerge. My hands trembled as I pinned the last note to the wall and stepped back from it. It didn’t make sense and yet it made perfect sense.
Weapons and supplies coming into Aztechnologoies and going back out, not to Tecochtitlan and Aztech’s main headquarters, but to the Yucatan and rebel held territories– shadowrunners learning this and disappearing. An audit trail a mile wide, and only the slightest attempt to conceal the transaction.
It was as if the boys had found something they were supposed to find, only they’d found it too early– before the real transaction had occurred, they’d become more of a liability.
The million nuyen question : what is really happening?
Christmas eve and I'm getting ready to go back to work. Kinda figures I'd start back to work Christmas day. Ah well-- people get hurt every day of the year, no reason Christmas should be any different.
Case and I celebrated today since he's on duty tomorrow too. Case bought catnip filled toy mice for the cats and Maxwell knocked everything off the coffee table as he sprawled across it. He looked up with his pupils practically filling his eyes, mewed and proceeded to fall asleep.
Taco on the other hand was doing kitty wind-sprints down the hallway chasing imaginary mice.
It felt so good to laugh again, but I still couldn't shake the numb feeling that's been with me since Chicago. I don't know if I ever will...
The Walkers stopped by to see how I was doing as did Trina. She got really shy when Jonathan pointed out the misletoe, but she didn't seem to mind either.
Mario's still in the hospital, still not responding to therapy. Mrs. Walker promised Trina that she'd stop by and see him. It was nice to have most of my extended family over-- the big absenses were Mario and Andrews. Case felt it too-- I think we all did.
Case and Jonathan ended up in a corner for a while and then I noticed that Case was showing him the 3x5's. It wasn't really a surprise, finding out that Jonathan is in on this merry little escapade.
I wonder if anybody in Seattle has a normal life?
Sometimes you wouldn't think this is supposed to be a celebration of life– the arrival of a promised salvation... For all too many people it was business as usual. The morning was rather slow and I finally got to watch some trid and catch up on the world events I'd been missing.
You know little things like... a dragon running for President. At first it sounded so ludicrous, but after two stabbings, one over who got to cut the turkey, it was starting to make a lot more sense.
Couldn't be worse than what we've had. Besides, I don't know anybody rich enough to buy off the likes of Dunkelzahn. I'm sure he has his own agenda, but at least it won't be greed-- power maybe, but definitely not greed. Something tells me he could be just what we need.
I had a lot of time to think about it-- Citywide ended up stationing me in a 'less active' area. Guess they're trying to ease me back into the job. Have me work without undoing all the work I've been doing in therapy. It has its trade offs though. Instead of four twelve hour shifts a week, I'm running three days on, three days off.
Still, it feels good to be back-- to be useful.
Case stopped by with dinner. It was a relief-- the folks here cook worse than I do.
Got a really disturbing call-- man beat his son half to death because he broke his new toy. Love that holiday spirit. On the bright side-- maybe the boy and his mom can have a normal life now that his father's gonna have a new home.
Man I wanted to hurt him. The shape the boy was in, the look in the mother's eyes-- I nearly took him out myself. Fortunately the boy needed me more than I needed to avenge him. In the ambulance he looked up at me with these big angelic eyes and just whispered, "Thanks."
I did lose it then. I was crying as I checked on him, and he just slipped his hand into mine and said. "It's okay... its not your fault..."
Out of the mouths of babes...
I stayed with him until the police arrived with his mom. His eyes lost a little of their innocence when she hugged him. They took on a more– protective quality. No kid should have to go through that and to watch him with his mom, acting older than he was-- that's one hell of a kid.
"You take care of each other," I told them softly. His mother didn't hear me, but the boy did.
"We will," he mouthed with a soft smile. "Merry Christmas," he added.
That smile stayed with me the rest of the night. It kinda said that no matter how bad things get-- love, laughter... light... they will win through in the end.
The day started at three in the morning, or was it just the night continuing? Not that it really mattered there was work to be done and we were the ones to do it.
A baby had stopped breathing. Never an easy call to deal with. Tonight was no different. I felt tense as we wasted precious time convincing the parents that we were going to do our best for their child. Seems that the Citywide station that covered Fort Lewis had a less than stellar reputation. Seems Lewis is where you go when you aren’t cutting it in the ‘real world.’
I understood their concerns, but my first concern was their daughter... and finding out what happened. As I worked on her, I realized that it the first time since Chicago that a life depended on me doing the right thing. This time at least, I was in control and there was no way I was going to give up on this kid.
She was trying to breathe, but nothing was getting through. We went through the numbers on her but nothing seemed to work. Her throat was swollen and it was almost as if she was fighting us as we tried to establish an airway.
Time was the most important factor so we bundled her up and I worked on her as Terry, my new partner, drove.
All the way to the hospital I worked on her and I finally got an airway established. It was close, and I could see by the doc’s expression she wasn’t out of the woods yet. She seemed to be having some sort of allergic reaction, anaphylactic shock. It's going to be touch and go for a while but my vote is on the kid.
Our fourth call of the day brought us back to McChord Hospital. I checked up on her and found our Christmas Miracle... She’d just been a little late.
As the morning calmed down I began to realize that being stationed in Fort Lewis wasn’t all that bad. The military took care of most of the ‘real work.’ We were responsible for the civilians– and any full call outs that occurred.
By lunch time, I was getting restless and a little bored. I worked out in the weight room trying to convince my arm to heal faster. I have another appointment on Thursday to see how its healing up, but until then– it looks like I’m stuck at Ft. Lewis.
Around 3:00, when we still hadn’t gotten any calls, and the trucks were all polished, and we’d taken our third inventory of the day, Terry decided to start asking questions.
He wanted to know who I’d either ticked off or bribed for this assignment. I had to chuckle– it was a goldbricker’s dream and a true medic’s nightmare. People were in trouble and I was baby sitting a dalmatian and ten year old equipment.
It didn’t take Terry long to figure out that I didn’t want to be there, but it still beats doing nothing... or running dispatch.
At 5:00 we got a call to a minor accident. I recognized the voice on the other end immediately. It was Ray. He didn’t sound too excited, but it was good to hear his voice just the same. We didn’t get to talk much, but he teased me about getting back to ‘real’ work soon.
By the time we got back, the dinner Case had brought me had been half picked through by my ... ‘comrades,’ and I was left to fend for myself.
I’m beginning to wonder if they make locking coolers for such occasions.
We gave the truck another coat of wax, like it really needed it. I think if they really want to do some good, maybe they should cycle equipment from the busy stations here. At least they’d get the rest and maintenance they need.
I have never seen an ambulance as old as ours look so... pristine. I mean– there wasn’t even one bullet ding in it... not one!
Okay– Two days on the job and I’m already chomping at the bit.... We got one call last night, and the only reason we got it was because the base medics were on a ‘real call.’ They got a helicopter crash. We got a drunk.
Worse– listening to the scanner as we pulled back into the station, I heard no less than three calls that should have been motorcycle calls-- should have been mine.
If it makes any sense, I had trouble sleeping because there weren’t enough calls. I kept expecting something to happen, but nothing did. Nothing worth worrying about anyway– one transport, one accident scene. By the time our relief shift showed up, I was more than ready to go home.
Its almost, but not quite, like being on administrative leave. The only real difference is the fact that I have to stay at the station for three days (more like three and a half, but who’s counting?) And every now and then, we get a call.
If I never have to polish a truck three times in a row with no calls– it will be too soon. Unfortunately... it looks like it’ll be next Sunday. Night.