STAR WARS: Through the Shadows and the Flames
A Star Wars/Shadowrun Crossover fanfic
Episode 2: The Street Jedi Bloodied, Part 1
Spellchecking by WarpObscura
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Terrence Tong is voiced by Denis Akiyama
"Sorry pal, I already gave to the shelter."
"A Union? You one of them commies? I hate commies."
"Get away from us."
"TAKE MY CREDSTICK JUST DON'T KILL ME!"
An hour into his quest to find Jillian, and Anakin had not found much in the way of assistance. Instead he had been dismissed, threatened, and mistaken for a robber.
What is wrong with the people here?! he wondered, that familiar core of bitterness burning like an ember inside of his heart. I could have found more kindness in the backstreets of Mos Eisley! What is the name of this place, so that I might curse its people forever?!
His surroundings were familiar – it felt like the depths of Coruscant, but at the same time... it wasn't. It was less dense, for one thing, so he had a better sense of what was going on around him, and allowed Anakin to appreciate the sheer scale of the place, from the ground beneath his feet to the metal floof a kilometer above his head. The open spaces allowed him to see the end of the road he was walking on, the forest of neon and holos coalescing into a single dot of light.
No, this could not be the Undercity of Coruscant. It never had this much space; it had always felt like walking the halls of a moon-sized spaceship.
And on Coruscant, everyone spoke Basic. Now he was walking in an area where the language, both spoken and written, was different. The shape of faces seemed to have changed, too, reminding Anakin of the denizens of Jedha.
"I am so lost..." Anakin began to despair. It seemed his instincts had let him astray, when they had been so reliable before.
"I'd say you are," said someone on his left. Anakin turned to see a tiny old man clad in a poncho sitting at a kiosk, reading something on a black tablet of plastic. The man lifted the visor of a yellow combat helmet that had seen better days. "And you sure as shit don't look like you belong here, Gweilo."
Anakin frowned. "I shall leave soon after I find the place I'm looking for," he shot back.
"Hey, don't get your panties in a twist," the man smiled before taking a puff of a mechanical pipe. Many of his teeth were missing, and the rest were rotted.
"Just letting you know, most gangers here don't like Gweilos..." he looked Anakin up and down. "And most of those are stupid enough to try and take on a chromed-up Künstler. Some of them are good enough to make a sport out of it. So... what are you looking for, chummer?"
"A place called the Seamstress' Union."
The old grinned. "Ah, that tourist trap..." he sighed wistfully. "Good drinks, great whores. Let me guess? Got mugged on your way there?"
"No, I just... had to leave in a hurry. A friend of mine said she'd be there."
"Well, you're really, really lost now, Gweilo. The Union's in Redmond. That's about ten klicks east by north-east of here." The old man tapped on his tablet, and showed Anakin a small map. "See? We're in Chai Town, in the Eye District."
Anakin's eyes narrowed at it. "I've been running south in the wrong direction!"
"Eh, not quite. If you had gone straight East, you would have gone smack dab in Hallower territory. They'd have ripped your chrome out. If you wanna get to the Redmond Sprawl you've come to the right place. Chai Town is close to the old Nine-Oh. We got a few Black Taxis here that will take you there for about... six thousand Njen?"
Anakin didn't know what even a single of these Njen was worth. He eyed the old man's kiosk. "What will six thousand... Njen will get me from your stall, merchant."
The old man scowled, a bit confused at the question. Then, after a moment, he pointed at a few goods on his stall. "About six packs of Royal Hellhounds — which is a pretty decent brand as far cig cartridges go. Ten packs SoySnaks or Veggie Jerky... Twenty cans of Blue Grail beer if you're up for a casual party. A single dose of Jetstream or Krank, if you REALLY wanna party — That shit's in the back, incidentally — And... let's see... A six month membership card for a porn service?"
"...What about a loaf of bread?" asked Anakin, hoping to get a clearer picture. Bread was cheap, after all. "How many of those is that worth?"
"...what, you mean REAL bread?! Shit, son, you really aren't from around here! Get me a loaf of bread and you can have ALL of this crap, AND I'll throw a brand new car. Look, 6000 Njen is a nice little chunk of change – big enough for bums to kill each other over — but BREAD?" The old man had a good laugh at that one. "Six K won't get you bread."
"Well, it matters not," said Anakin. "I haven't a single of these Njen in my possession."
"Oh, looking for a job? I know a few places that wouldn't mind some muscle, or a pretty face."
"I don't have enough time to wait for pay."
"Need something more immediate? Because I've got just the thing for you..."
Anakin, clad in the dirty poncho the old man had given him, sat down near the back alley, stared at his knees in shame, held out his hands for alms, and waited. The act felt... awful, but not because of the stench coming from the alley, or because the ground was dirty. No... he had seen his mother do this before, in the streets of Anchorhead, back when he was but a helpless babe, before the toydaran had bought them... before, when they had nothing.
"Alms for the poor," Anakin said, echoing his mother's voice some twenty cycles past. Time had dulled the pain of that old wound. Discipline had kept the tears away. "Please... Alms for the poor." Maybe I should be crying, he thought. Arouse some pity?
He had not needed to wait long for someone to spit at him. He would have waited longer before anyone would have spared a pre-paid credstick for some Gweilo, but that was when the Golden Orphans had appeared.
The Golden Orphans were a fairly small gang, somewhere in the lower middle of Chai Town's criminal food chain. Like most gangs, they were mostly made up of Third — and sometimes Fourth — Children, unwanted offspring that were worth little more than animals in the eyes of the Law. What set them apart from the other street gangs was an apparent obsession with gold. Gold teeth, gold jewels, gold jackets, gold condoms – you named it, they had it in gold.
Fake gold, of course.
It wasn't so much the gold they were obsessed with, of course. That was just a symptom of the terrible obsession inside every Orphan, this simple idea: I am better than you and I want you to know it. If you gave them less than the respect they thought they deserved, well... the gold may have been fake, but the chrome certainly wasn't.
Oh, and they absolutely hated bums. Probably because it reminded them too much of where they had come from, or where they might have ended up.
"Well, well, well..." The leader of the pack of Orphans chucked. "What do we have here?"
Anakin glanced up at them. There were eight of them, clad in various articles of gold, contrasted by various bits of white cloth either silky or cotton in texture. They all had that Jedhan look about them, marred by pieces of metal. Their leader — a man taller than Anakin by a couple of inches and four inches wider — cracked the knuckles on his meat hand, making sure that Anakin got a good look at the thick cable actuators that animated his golden arm prosthetic. The leader of the group of Orphans stared down at Anakin and sneered, saying, "Do you know where you are, white boy?"
"Alms for the poor..." Anakin repeated, playing dumb.
The alpha thug's idea of charity? Grabbing Anakin by the neck, and dragging the young Jedi into the alley. "You're in Golden Orphan turf, white boy! That means you give us tribute in either cash or ass!"
"Doesn't look like he's got much cash on him, boss!" said a young man with artificial legs.
"Pretty mouth on him though!" said another thug, suggestively caressing the tip of a short blade. "I say ass!"
"Ass! Ass! Ass!" they chanted, though Anakin could not understand their Mandarin. That suited him just fine. In the end, they'd soon speak a universal language.
"Have you studied the diagrams?" asked Kamus Kajrai – yes, that was his name, which had escaped Anakin's thoughts — the newly knighted errant Jedi. He had been the one that had brought the counsel that had attracted the ire of the rest of the Republic. Normally, Anakin would have though anyone that counseled peace over war a coward – but the man had proven over and over again that the Jedi knew little of fighting a total war. Resentment had turned to respect, then admiration for the half-Jedhan monk turned mercenary.
"I have," replied Anakin.
Kajrai nodded. "Then let us begin."
Under the watchful eye of Battlemaster Cin Drallig, Kamus walked through the execution of the basics of Teräs Käsi, an unarmed combat discipline devised by the followers of Palawa to fight – of all things- the Jedi themselves. It was an odd irony that they were learning it here in the Temple, of all places, and odder still that Drallig had even approved.
Anakin liked it – the blows and strikes were fast, brutal, and graceful.
"You've practiced this style before?" asked Kajrai.
"No, but I've seen KanjiKlub thugs practice it on Hutt mercernaries," replied Anakin. "It left an impression."
"KanjiKlub thugs practice Silat," corrected Master Drallig, even as he took notes. "It is based on Teräs Käsi, but was dressed down for military training."
And hour later, Kamus had worked out the kinks in Anakin's techniques. Pride got to Anakin's head, and he tried to execute a Slashing Wampa.
Kamus countered with a Förräderi, and Anakin was on the ground.
Cin smiled, shaking his head. "Impatient one as always, Anakin." The Battlemaster joined the Knight-Errant in giving Anakin a hand getting up. "I've told you before, your raw talents are no substitute for practice."
"They served me well so far," countered Anakin, his ego as bruised as his ribs. "Masters, I am curious... why the sudden focus on unarmed combat?" he looked at Kajrai." I had believed we would be focusing on firearms."
"Rumor has it that Dooku has been training assassins in this very art," said Drallig. "I intend to make sure all Jedi are prepared against them."
"There is another reason," added Kajrai. "Have you ever lost your lightsaber, Anakin?"
The Padawan nodded, embarrassed.
"And have you ever lost your connection to the Force?"
Anakin scowled. "I didn't believe it possible."
"Oh..." A pained look came over Kajrai's face for a moment, reminding Anakin of Watto, moments before he began to drink and the shocks began. Anakin should have felt pity, but instead he suppressed a wince. "Oh, it can happen. There are creatures out there that will do it with their mere presence, and there are Nightsister curses so terrible that your only hope will be to cut yourself off from the Force, lest you suffer eternal damnation."
Kamus took a deep breath, and closed his eyes, regaining his composure.
"Should your lose the Force and your lightarms, what will you have left?" Kajrai turned to Anakin, and looked at him expectantly.
Anakin mulled over the question a bit, before finally answering. "Myself."
Kajrai smiled. "Indeed. And knowledge of Teräs Käsi will allow you to turn yourself into a living weapon."
"...But Teräs Käsi can't be all that effective without the Force, can it?"
Kajrai smiled. "Tell that to KanjiKlub."
In the dark depths of the alley, Anakin smiled. He may not have the Force any more, but he had a new body, with a new strength that made for an even more powerful weapon.
In the dark depths of the Alley, the Golden Orphans screamed... first in pain, then in terror.
"Back already?" said the old man.
"It was as you said," said Anakin as he made room on the kiosk for the makeshift poncho bag. "It didn't take long for them to come after a pauper."
"I said 'bum', but whatever. Let's see what you got for me."
Anakin opened the bag, exposing its contents.
Minutes later, they had taken inventory of a pack of cigarette cartridges, three credsticks, two condoms, seven rings, a HF machete with a black scabbard, a cyberarm, a two cyberlegs, a datapad, and eight incisor teeth covered in gold. Real gold. It was part of a rite of passage with Orphans, and of greater interest to the old man than anything else Anakin had brought him.
"I love working with Kunstlers," the old man smiled. "You fuckers always do great work. I take it they're all dead?"
"No, I told you—"
"You're no killer, yeah yeah... This suits me fine, anyways. Less heat." The old man began to slot the credsticks one by one into a larger cylinder, fattening it with digital currency before handing the thing to Anakin. "Eighty K for the teeth, plus a fifty K bonus for the stuff. Cyberware's basic crap, but I know a guy who can smelt it all for printer fluid." He grabbed the machete. "Oh, and keep this. You'll need it."
Anakin accepted the Njen stick and the weapon both, and bowed politely. "Thank you."
"That should be enough for your fare, and a night out at the Union, and a day at a pod hotel to work off the hangover. Or a clinic fee, if you can't handle the booze." He leaned in conspiratorially. "While you're there, give Candi a try."
"I have no need for sweetmeats," said Anakin, innocently.
"Candi with an 'i', kiddo. Sweetest meat there is. Come back around if you need any more quick cash. Always got work for a basher like you."
"I'll think about it... hold, I never asked your name, forgive me."
"Terrence Tong. How about you?"
Tong grinned. "Heh, your parents had an odd sense of humor!"
"I mean, Anakin... sounds Jap, or something."
"It sounds Jap, that's all I'm saying. In any case, take care of yourself."
At the center of the Redmond sector, deep inside Hallower gang territory, amidst slums, tenements and old factories... there was a tiny island of neon holos, a quarter made up of kiosks, clubs, and convenience stores... and right at the center of it was The Seamstresses' Union.
Gerald beheld the blue and pink neon-bright holo sign of the whorehouse – it was that of a comely, busty woman suggestively inserting an oversized thread through an oversized needle, with a wink and a smile for good measure. This place had once been a favourite of Quentin's – not particularly because he liked the place, but because many a Shadowrunner that had gone on to affect some measure of change in the World had begun their careers here. Gerald himself had never been here, but he had heard that Lady Kabuto was running the place.
After the Tunnel Wars, Kabuto and Gerald were not exactly on speaking terms.
Getting in had been fairly easy. A quick Sign and Gerald had gotten past the bouncer without paying or getting frisked. The inside was... not what Gerald had expected. Despite being in the middle of a hive of scum and villainy, the Union felt... oddly warm, and optimistic – the lights were bright and yellow, the wooden walls gave it a homelike feeling, helping the jukebox's music in generating good cheer amidst the various mercs and lowlifes that frequented this place. No time to enjoy the ambience, thought Gerald, gotta start asking some questions.
It had taken close to an hour, but eventually someone talked.
"Yeah, she was here," the oversized, fur-covered troll replied before drinking from his large tankard of Soy Beer. Called Sasquatch by the Union's clients, the man was easily one of the most sought-after Shadowrunners when a team needed tank-level firepower on a mission. As such, he received a lot of requests, and many of them didn't work out. Sasquatch didn't work for cheap. "I warned her that her pretty face and honeyed words would do her no good," snickered Sasquatch. "Ocelots are screamers, not talkers."
Jill is more than a pretty face, thought Gerald. "What did Jill want with the Ocelots, exactly?"
"Something valuable," Sasquatch set his tankard down. "Said a cut would set us up for a good long while, but she wasn't specific. Didn't have cash up front, though."
"That's why you didn't take the job? Ocelots are gangbangers." He nodded meaningfully at Sasquatch's prosthetic metal hands, painted red. "No match for someone like you."
"Besides being half as numerous as the Hallowers, Ocelots have about twice as many mages – blood mages that is." Sasquatch flexed his hands. "By the time I geek one mage, I'd be out of bullets, and the rest will boil me alive."
"Where are these Ocelots?"
"Renkaku Underground, sector 451." Sasquatch's eyes narrowed. "Why do you want to know?"
"I might be planning an extraction job," replied Gerald. "For Jill."
"You'll be extracting her corpse," Sasquatch took another gulp from his tankard. "I don't come cheap, especially not for a run inside the Ocelots' main stronghold."
"I pay up front," Gerald slapped a large platinum coin on the table they had been sitting at. "For the beer," he smiled. "I'll stay in touch."
Gerald needed privacy to make a call. The troll would make a good disposable asset, but he would need professionals for what came next. Weaving a path through orcs, elves and harlots on his way out, he had been stopped by a blonde woman in lingerie.
"Hi there, handsome!" she said, with a slight drawl. She put her hand on her hip, and raised her serving tray. "The name's... Candi." And there was something in the way she had said 'Candi' that promised all sorts of carnal pleasures without actually describing them. "I'm almost off the clock, but is there something I can help you with before I'm gone for the night?" Her question seemed innocent, and that little wink at the end had almost sealed the deal – Gerald hated to admit it, but these days his appetite for shapely young women got the better of him.
Not today, however. Today he had an objective, and that always overrode his lust . Still, he gave her his best smile. "Maybe..." he said meaningfully. After all, she wanted his coin as much as he wanted her. "I'm looking for someone in particular. About your height, but dark-haired and—"
Candi rolled her eyes, and the spell they had over each other was snuffed out. "Jill, right?" she sighed. "Why does everyone want Jill today?"
Gerald frowned. "Someone else is looking for her?"
"Hm-hm..." she smiled. "About your height, but dark-haired and—"
"Very funny," he said dismissively. "But I don't have time for jokes."
"—much younger looking." She bit her lower lip, her expression wistful. "And very cute too, despite the scars and the augs."
"...Did he have a beard, too?"
"That he did. Not as well kept as yours though."
"Where is he?"
Candi narrowed her eyes, and lowered her tray. Nothing's free around here. Gerald obliged her with a platinum coin.
"He's chilling by the bar. Doc Rick seems to know him pretty good. They just started chattin', if you're looking to eavesdrop."
It's him, thought Gerald as he caught sight of the insane Razorboy Jill had taken in. Killing him now would only bring the whole place down on me; better wait until he's alone.
After casting a hex on himself to mask his presence, Gerald sat some distance away from the augmented man. Too far away for a normal person to eavesdrop, of course, but Gerald's abilities allowed him to focus on the conversation the Razorboy and the Bonesaw were having, drowning out the sounds of the bar with sheer focus.
"That was some high-quality custom cyberware someone loaded you with," slurred the drunken doctor, before burping out loud. He had been drinking quite a bit, too much for a meta-human, that much was obvious. How he could hold a conversation was a mystery Gerald didn't care much to solve. "Nothing like I've ever seen before! The bone fusion alone... almost as if the stuff was GROWN out of you!" The old man seemed ecstatic. "I would have loved to have you convalesce in my lab and observe you – for science, of course! But, then Jill went full Nightingale on you and well... *hic!* seems she took good care of you, though? I mean, I gave her plenty of instructions but—"
"She did fine," said the Razorboy. "And it is my duty to repay her kindness, but first I must find her. Do you have any idea where she went?"
The Bonesaw rubbed his eyes. "Ah, nuts... she said something that she had found something extremely valuable. An egg, or a cup, or something..."
No, thought Gerald. That Razorboy needs to be thrown off the scent. I can't allow him to run off and interfere! Quickly tracing a sign with salted chalk on the table, Gerald muttered a curse – a temporary one — that would confuse the old man.
"She told me about this gang... but... but... the name, I knew their name, some kind of cat, but?
"Hallower," Gerald slipped the word into the old man's mind, but the alcohol in his system was interfering with the effect.
"Are you alright?" concerned, the Razorboy put a his hand on the old Bonesaw's shoulder. That was when Gerald's hold began to slip. Unaccustomed to failure and hating interference in his plans, Gerald redoubled his efforts.
"You look... ill," said the Razorboy.
"It's the drink, i think..."
"Bullshit," said the red-haired elf bartender. "You haven't even downed a whole bottle of reactor squeezin's!"
Hallower... Hallower... Hallower...
"Hallowers!" the old man finally said, but the Razorboy was nowhere near him. Gerald, to his own shock, felt a daze creep on his consciousness, and wondered just how much that spell had taken out of him. His eyes were still keen, and they darted about, looking for the young cyborg.
That was when Gerald felt an iron grip on his shoulder. "Hi," said the Razorboy, his other fist raised for a straight punch aimed at Gerald's jaw.
"H—," Gerald's quip was interrupted by the impact. Despite reflexively casting his enhanced magic armor, the impact had sent him flying high above the crowd, right into an orc that had just slotted his credstick into the Jukebox. As Gerald fell on him yelling an obscenity, the orc's face was smashed against the Jukebox's window, accidentally selecting an oldie song called 'Ballroom Blitz.'
As the drum solo rose, the orc turned around with a coldly furious snarl. That was when he caught sight of an elven mage, and assumed he was responsible for the humie that had been thrown at him. It wasn't true, but the orc had been looking for an excuse all night to throw a chair at the elf's face. The elf's attempt to dodge caused him to bump into a dwarf, who liked neither elves nor orcs and grabbed the nearest glass bottle to serve as a makeshift club. The dwarf hit another dwarf by mistake, and...
Oh yeah! It was like lightning
Everybody was fighting
And the music was soothing
And they all started grooving
Yeeeeah, yeah YEAH YEAH
"It's a Sith!" bellowed the Razorboy from the front. "Everyone attack!"
And so, it turned into a barroom brawl.
END OF PART 1