The Back Alley God
After a job gone bad, Iyanke has returned to Seattle, intent on starting a new life. But when she digs too deep on what she thought was a simple job, she finds herself on the forefront of a battle against a sinister force, bent on awakening an ancient evil.
Iyanke shouldered her military-green duffel, stepped off the bus and started to make her way to the terminal building. She pulled the collar of her jacket up, a futile defense against the constant mist of rain falling from the gray Redmond skies. As she walked she pulled a single blue hair tie from her pocket and with a few deft motions bound up her long mane of dark hair. The pink and blue-dyed stripes always stood out when her hair was wet, and the ponytail revealed the shaved sides of her head along with the thin wire that snaked down from the datajack in her right temple to disappear into her heavy jacket where she kept her commlink. When coupled with her small tusks and tall, lean-muscled ork frame she could be an imposing figure. She used that to full advantage and the majority of the other patrons quickly stepped aside as she approached. Within a few moments she was passing through a pair of automatic sliding doors and into the shelter of the main terminal building.
She paused at the entrance and took a few moments to scan the crowd and the building’s features. While outwardly she projected a façade of strength and intimidation, at the moment it was pure bravado. In reality, Iyanke was terrified.
Forcing herself to action she crossed the terminal floor and made her way to some of the long-term storage lockers. She was keenly aware of the sound her heavy boots made as each step struck against dark tile. No one else seemed to notice or care, but to her it sounded like echoing thunder announcing her presence. She forced her facial expression to remain calm and resolute and with a few quick mental commands ordered the filtering in her cyber ears to cut the sound from her audio.
The trick worked and she was able to push down a rising tide of panic that was threatening to overwhelm her. With a few more measured steps she entered one of the aisles of lockers and proceeded to locate the half-size unit labeled “047.” Her commlink detected the locker’s interface and she sent it the code she had received less than twenty-four hours earlier. The lock disengaged with an audible click that did more for Iyanke’s courage than she cared to admit and with a quick tug she opened the small door. Inside was another duffel. It was a medium-sized, black sport bag and it bulged with its contents. She grabbed the second bag and closed the locker. The sound of the lock clicking back shut was a little ominous, but she chose to ignore it and made her way to the end of the aisle.
At the end of each aisle were three coffin hotels stacked on top of each other. The long octagonal cylinders were big enough for most metahumans to sit up or lay down along with some space for bags or other storage. They were used mostly for travelers who had an overlay or other delay and needed a place to sleep for a few hours in between connections, but it would also make a great place to lay low for a few hours and put a plan together. She found that the top and the bottom unit were both free. She chose the top and with another quick mental command to her commlink she sent enough cred to the unit’s reservation system to rent the space for the next twenty-four hours. Once the transaction was complete she quickly climbed up, opened the door, and slid inside.
Once inside the interior light immediately kicked on along with the heating system. The door was mostly just a framed window, so she engaged the privacy setting, which darkened the glass. Even in the brief walk from the bus to the terminal her clothes had become wet enough to be uncomfortable. Quickly stripping down to her underwear and sports bra she hung her pants, shirt, and coat on a series of hooks above the heating unit to dry and set her boots next to the door.
After a few minutes the small space began to warm, and Iyanke’s fears began to partially recede. It was comforting to be hidden in the small box, away from the masses of metahumanity, where anyone could be watching. She had paid the fixer well to mask her trip from Denver to the Seattle sprawl. She had to trust that it would buy her the time she needed to fade into the background here and start over. Maybe she would even be able to find out what happened and make sense of the last seventy-two hours, but for the moment it was enough to be warm and dry and feel a small measure of safety.
Taking a deep breath she sat cross-legged and pulled the black duffel next to her. With a certain amount of resignation she opened it and began to review its contents. Lying across the top was a light-weight bullet-proof vest. It would fit nicely under most of the clothing she currently owned without anyone noticing if they didn’t look too close. She’d been traveling without any armor to make it easier to get through customs, but had felt exposed the whole time. It would be good to have some protection again. Leaning the vest against one of the walls she examined the rest of the bag's contents.
The other items were smaller in size and were mostly mundane. They included a couple boxes of protein bars, a few bottles of water, a medkit, respirator, flashlight, an assortment of data chips, some duct tape, and a long combat knife. She skipped over most of it and instead settled on a larger black hard-shell case. Flipping the latches, she gently lifted the lid to reveal its contents.
Inside were two pistols. The first was an Ares Predator V, a large caliber pistol with a fair amount of stopping power. She checked the weapon and then synced its onboard smartgun system with the link in her cybereyes. A set of crosshairs appeared in her vision, tracking perfectly with weapon’s movements. She gave a brief smile, Ares was always the best. That’s what had drawn her to work for them in the first place, although it seemed like a lifetime ago. Taking a clip and ammunition from the other side of the case she loaded it, along with a spare clip. Placing both in a provided holster she set them aside next to the armored vest. While she generally preferred to use her magic in a fight, sometimes it was good to have some hardware.
Next, she reached into the case and took out a smaller, lighter pistol, a Light Fire 70. She went through the same process with the second weapon, checking the action and installed smartgun system, then loading it.
Pausing for a moment she looked down at her naked right arm. She had replaced it with a completely cybernetic implant about two months ago after taking a burst of autofire while protecting the subject of her assignment. She starred as the intricate, metal fingers clenched into a fist and then relaxed. Looking back, it was probably the start of when things went bad. It had also blunted her connection to her magic, something she was still learning to compensate for, but sometimes it had its advantages.
With a mental trigger, a sliding mechanism opened the forearm revealing a carefully concealed holster. She fitted the Light Fire then pushed it shut. Then, with a sudden movement she extended the cybernetic arm, coupled with the mental command to activate the mechanism. The holster opened and the pistol slid into her extended hand before the arm was even straight. Afterward, it only took a moment to replace the gun and reset the holster. Once back in place there was barely a seam to indicate that it existed, concealed in the bulk of the arm. It would be a good way to hide the gun in places where weapons weren’t permitted.
After handling the weapons she gave one final inventory of the rest of the bags contents and, setting it aside, laid down crossing her arms behind her head. She couldn't help but think about the one piece of equipment that she normally always carried, but was now absent. Her badge.
Iyanke's security career with Ares had eventually led her to Knight Errant and law enforcement. Six months ago she had taken a deep cover assignment in Denver, where none of the local authorities knew her real identity except for her handler. Everything was going well and she had worked her way up to a trusted position within the Koshari. Then everything went sideways. Her handler was killed and Iyanke labeled a traitor by both sides. With the law and syndicate both after her she had no choice but to flee Denver and assume a new identity somewhere else.
Once again she felt a wave of fear and loss begin to rise like a wave from the pit of her stomach. For several minutes she closed her eyes and took deep breaths, trying to push it back down. Finally, she was able to gain control of her emotions and the fear was replaced by exhaustion from the ordeal of the last few days. She would contact the fixer in the morning, but for now she needed sleep. She rolled onto her side and pulled up her knees, drawing herself into a ball for warmth and comfort. Then with a mental command to the coffin unit's controls the lights dimmed and went black...
She woke with a start. In an instant she was bolt upright, the cyberarm slide activating and placing the Light Fire in her hand. She held it pointed at the coffin unit’s door, senses alert and heart racing as she tried to pull herself out of the last tendrils of sleep. It took her a few moments to realize that the sound that had woken her was the buzz of her commlink.
I need to calm down, she thought to herself, getting wound way to tight. With a deep breath she lowered the gun and brought up the call. The face of a middle-aged human male appeared in her AR window. He was good-looking, with silver hair and a perfect corporate suit and smile.
“Hello, Karl. How are you?” Iyanke greeted him.
“Quite well, actually,” he responded with an amused smile, “do you need a minute to get yourself together?” He eyed her bed head hair and bare shoulders from his side of the video call.
“Rough night,” Iyanke remarked casually, refusing to rise to the bait, “Thank you for answering my inquiry, there aren’t too many people I can trust at the moment.”
“Of course,” his face switched to an expression that seemed almost like genuine concern, “our relationship in the past was always mutually beneficial.” He steepled his fingers and Iyanke realized he was reclining slightly in a high-backed office chair, probably in his suite downtown. His amused half-smile returned as he finished, “I consider helping you leave your old life behind and establish yourself in Seattle to be a long-term investment.”
She eyed him for just a moment. She had known Karl during her corporate days in Seattle. He was an independent fixer for a number of corporate clients and some of the more sophisticated syndicates. She’d taken a chance reaching out to him before she left Denver. He could have easily turned her in to Ares or the local authorities, but they had done each other a number of favors in the past, and she had hoped that he would consider that. The gamble had paid off. He was the one who had arranged her passage here to Seattle and the bag of goodies that was waiting for her at the bus station.
“So what have you got for me?” She pushed any lingering doubts aside and dove in. “I need a job pretty quick if I want to get out of this coffin.”
“Something right up your alley. The retrieval of a small focus. The Johnson wants to keep his anonymity, but it’s a family heirloom or some such thing. Not much more than a bauble really. I’m sending you the files now.”
Iyanke saw the file package appear in a separate AR window. With a wave of her hand she opened it and spread the files out in front of her. The focus was an old catholic crucifix, made of iron. It had some nice scrollwork, but nothing to indicate any exceptional value.
“The job pays pretty well, too. Thirty-five hundred. One thousand of it in advance, plus the tools I provided you already.”
Iyanke reached out and took the image of the crucifix in her hand, rotating it to get a better look. She took a few moments to inspect the details, memorizing its features.
“Alright,” she confirmed, “I’m in.”
The fixer’s smile spread wide and he laid his hands down on what was probably a desk outside of the video’s frame. “Excellent. I’ll wait for your contact once you have retrieved the item. It’s good working with you again.” Then he severed the connection.
The AR window faded and the young ork woman looked down at the gun in her lap. With another sigh, she replaced it in the arm slide, then set about examining the rest of the files Karl had sent her. It was time to go to work.
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