The Next Morning
Posted by Rystefn on July 21, 2009
So I’ve been writing more lately, and I thought I’d share. Quick bit of background: This particular piece is set in the world of ShadowRun (imagine a cross between Blade Runner and D&D), and features this guy, a former teen pop star turned shadow criminal:
The Next Morning
Huh… didn’t see that coming…
Granted, things like this do happen to me, but most of the time I know walking in how it’s going to end. Sure, there are surprises, no one’s arguing that point, but mostly you have some idea. Mostly, you expect some degree of surprise and account for it, but once in a great while, life throws you a curve ball… and sometimes life kicks you in the skull from behind in the dark like some Chinese elf from a third-rate trid flick…
And sometimes things get really weird. Then you wake up bruised, beaten, and handcuffed in an expensive hotel room as an orc walks in wearing about ten thousand nuyen worth of business suit and holding the key to the cuffs. If you had told me yesterday where I’d be this morning, I’d have laughed and bought you a drink for the story, but no way in Hell I’d have believed you.
Sometimes I wonder how I get myself into these situations. Most of the time, I’m pretty sure that I’m better off not knowing.
This story starts yesterday afternoon. What should have been a simple information-gathering run turned really nasty. Redmond’s been that way lately. Eric was shot up pretty bad, and I’m amazed Brimstone walked away at all. After an experience like that, I felt the need to get myself into some more familiar surroundings and do something unlikely to get me killed. Well, that was the plan, anyway.
DJ Ogg was doing a show in Seattle, and I knew a place that would be playing the live tridcast. You probably wouldn’t peg me for a fan of Ogg and the Boyzzz, but they’re a special kind of talented. Those orcs have about ten masters’ degrees between them, and Ogg’s a Juilliard graduate. Cum Laude. I didn’t tell you that. Besides, it’s likely they would play “Move Like You REALLY Mean It,” and I’m just vain enough to want to catch that.
Of course, anywhere playing a DJ Ogg live tridcast would be full to overflowing some very large, very rough types, but this club was downtown in a relatively upscale neighborhood. Besides, I am a fan, and with that crowd, good taste carries a lot of weight. The trick is to stay far away from the dance floor if you weigh less than 125 kilos. For the record: eighty is a lot less than that.
I get there early so I can get a seat at a table with a decent view and not wind up standing in the middle of the club when “Trash the Place” comes on, and it’s not long into the evening before I get few angry orcs confronting me about being there. After a bit of a demonstration that I’m familiar with Ogg’s work and appreciate the nuances of “Geek that Glitterboy,” we’re buying one another rounds and they’re teaching me some Or’zet.
Now I’ve always had a flair for languages, and lately things just seem to click smoothly into place, so it’s understandable that I might get a bit cocky about it. Allow me to take this opportunity to make one thing clear: No matter how good you might be, you are NOT good enough, after only a few hours, to do anything useful in any language. This is not a lesson you want to learn the hard way in a room full of drunken, rowdy orcs. Trust me.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a DJ Ogg show, but if you have, then you know, and if you haven’t… well, you need to. They’ve always been masterful entertainers, and the Boyzzz really brought their A-game to that show. Even in trid, it was amazing. It’s easy to see how they’re still selling out shows after more than a decade in the biz. After the show, my new friends were howling for someone to play all their stuff in order, and it even got through the first few OCs before they started mixing in other stuff as well.
Sometime around midnightish, when some of the crowd (including the guys I’d befriended earlier) had gone home, a busload of orcs crowded in all at once. Between the timing and the concert T-shirts, it was pretty easy to figure out where they had come from, and most of them seemed pretty hyped-up still from the show. A rather small group, less rowdy, took the table next to mine. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, really, but sometimes you hear something you just can’t ignore…
“I don’t know why dey play dat drek at every show,” one of them was saying, “no one cares ’bout StarShine no more.”
“Dat’s da point, Randy,” another answered, “dat has-been disappeared back wit’ Crash 2.0, but de people still loves Ogg. Dey still moves like dey REALLY mean it.”
“Bah! What do youse know, John? Hell, I bet Ogg don’ even remember what de song’s about no more. Ain’t no statement, jus’ a song dey done so many times dey can’t screw it up no more.”
The debate went back and forth for a few minutes, and I couldn’t help but to put in my two cents. I’m no good at staying in the background. Leaning over towards them, I said: “Sorry to interrupt, guys, but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation, and there’s something neither of you seem to have considered…”
“An’ What’s dat?” Randy asked.
“The rumors that StarShine helped record the original track. If that’s true, don’t you think maybe they play it because they were friends; maybe even they’re hoping he’ll hear it?”
“Listen to da pinky, here!” John hooted, “‘E tinks Ogg might work wit’ dat Glitterboy, Mikey StarShine!” The whole table burst out laughing… well, not quite the whole table. The orcish woman directly across from me was looking at me in an odd sort of way, I might have thought something of it, but I was distracted by the next thing Randy had to say.
“Look ‘ere, tiny. I been a stage ‘and wit’ Ogg fer five years now, an’ I ain’t heared not’in’ ’bout dem ever workin’ wit’ anyone outside da band. An’ John? ‘E’s been wit’ ’em jus’ as long, an’ HE ain’t heared it neither! We all works wit’ de band one way or anudder, an’ none us heared dat. So, where’s dat leave yer rumor, tiny?”
Sometimes, I just can’t leave well enough alone… “Ah, but ‘Move Like You REALLY Mean It’ was almost ten years ago.”
This set off a whole new round of arguing, and I was honestly enjoying myself at this point. Loud arguments are an orc tradition, and it said something that I was being included instead of being dismissed out of hand… or beaten senseless.
“Look, Tiny.” It seemed Randy had created me a nickname, because it had rapidly caught on with the rest of the group. “Even if dey worked wit’ ‘im fer copyrights ‘er whatever, why would dey be sending some kind o’ message at ‘im now? Ain’t like Ogg’s gonna be doin’ no show wit’ some teenage popster.”
“True, but StarShine would be, what? Like twenty-five now, right? Maybe they saw some potential. Maybe Ogg thought he’d grow into something worthwhile. I mean, look at Jeanette Carlssen. Didn’t she mature into a respected actress?”
This immediately devolved into more arguing, and more than a few crude remarks intended to be complimentary, but I’m sure poor Jeanette would be petrified to hear.
It was at this point I remembered Amy, the female who had been looking at me thoughtfully before. Now there was a sly smile on her lips and she cast a knowing wink my way. That’s when I recalled the earlier argument. Randy and John had been with Ogg for five years, but Amy had been on the production team for twelve years. She had said nothing, and I thought little of it. Too late, I remembered that one of the sound techs back in winter ’63 was a young orcish woman, not much older than I had been at the time.
Yup. She recognized me. No way out of this without at least some token sign that I knew she knew. Last thing I needed was for her to tell these guys who I used to be. Remember what I said about languages? What I tried to say was “Az’g Hishk d’Kreizish,” Or’zet for can’t hide your eyes: a wink at our shared knowledge of my identity… What did I actually say? I couldn’t tell you if my life depended on it, but it was apparently a pretty horrific slur. The words were barely out of my mouth when I was lifted from my chair and tossed onto the dance floor. The next bit is pretty hazy – mostly fists and boots and essentially a miraculously mild roughing-up at the hands of half a dozen large and angry orcs.
I’m pretty sure Amy explained the mistake to them, because I know for a fact that I didn’t say anything useful. There were a lot of apologies, mostly mine, and fearful discussions of bad press. Not that fighting would make Ogg’s crew look bad, but six orcs to one human isn’t exactly glorious rebellion of the downtrodden, is it?
Since I like Ogg, and the mistake was mine, I let them press a top-notch hotel room and free run of room service on me as hush money. Well, that’s what I thought I had done. Again, I wasn’t exactly in the best of conditions at that point. Turns out I was allowed to crash in one of their hotel rooms for the night, but I did have free run of the room service.
Still, it wasn’t all bad. Amy looked damn good in that suit the next morning, so it wasn’t the worst wake-up ever.
What? Oh, the handcuffs… Don’t look at me like that, that’s Amy’s kink, not mine. I’d like to see you argue about it if you were in my position… Not that kind of position…