"Scavvies, y'see? They been causin' trouble for the guilders lately. Took out a bunch of Goliaths that'd been hired to guard a caravan."
Julie spat on the ground. "Goliaths," she said, replacing the wet cigar in her mouth.
The man nodded, "they got pretty trashed, lemme tell ya. Anywhoo, these guilders are ready to pay a pretty cred to anyone who can mess up the patriarch of this family."
Julie leaned in, "family?"
The man nodded again, more vigorously, his eyes widening at the promise of an interested audience. He'd peddled this tale around the various saloons of this sector, and found nothing but disbelief. He didn't think the leader of a House Escher gang would even grant a male an audience, but here he was sitting across a table from the leader of the Necrotown 'Nihilators—no matter that two of her gangers stood behind him out of the light of the dim glow-globe suspended above the drinks.
"They're real messed-up, lemme tell ya! Bunch'a inbreds 'n' mutants. They call themselves The Subhumans." He looked around, "rumor has it, they even try'n breed with the dead."
Julie leaned back in her chair, and chewed on her cigar. The man licked his lips nervously and, after a while, reached for the bottle of booze. Julie stuck her hand out and grabbed the man's wrist.
"You've had enough," she said. "Tell your contacts I got this. Let Sweet Dee over here know where we can find these shitheads, and get the hell outta my sight."
The man bit his lower lip and nodded. He rose and moved out of the light towards the big one they called Sweet Dee.
Julie grinned and thought of all that a pile of credits would get her.
For a man, Doc Sellers was one of the best. Julie was no fool, and made sure to make contacts with no less than three friendly docs. Not only were they good at patching up the girls, but they paid a suspiciously high amount for any that didn't make it.
Suzi sat at a greasy window, and looked out to what bits of the underhive she could see. The weather control systems had it raining for some reason. Rivulets of heavy water snaked their way through the grease and leaked into the window through the bottom. Her right leg bounced up and down and she took another drag off her cigarette. Twelve feet from her, under a black tarp lay Klaudia.
In the other room with the doc lay Julie. A wyrd's rat had ripped her throat out. If the doc could do anything for her she'd have to scrounge up a vox at the market if she ever hoped to bark orders anymore. If she did make it, though, I guess she'd be glad that she wouldn't have to keep looking over her shoulder for Klaudia anymore.
Doc Sellers cleared his throat and Suzi turned.
"I have good newth and bad newth," he said, pulling off bloodstained gloves and depositing them into a drawer with white, flaking, paint. "Thweet Dee ith going to pull through, though she'th not going to be the thame. I recommend a little prothedure while I have her under thtill."
He reached into the next drawer and pulled out a computer chip with three dangling cords. "Thith should enthure thome thenth of calm about her, but... Yeth, she'll never be the thame."
Suzi took the cigarette out of her mouth. "Julie?"
Doc Sellers lowered the lobo-chip and turned it around with both hands, regarding it. "That'th the bad newth."
Suzi put the cigarette back in her mouth and inhaled. Her eyes drifted to the dark doorway where the doc worked. Maybe they should have gone to Doc Homme instead. She was a female but despite that, Julie never trusted her to work on anyone but the juves. She was the one who "couldn't save" Katherine Kool, and though this led to Julie's ascension as leader, it forever marked her as bad luck. Julie was pretty superstitious.
"Oh," Suzi said. She looked over at the slab where Klaudia lay. Doc Sellers looked at her, then at Klaudia, then over at the greasy window.
Finally, Suzi ground the cigarette on the heel of her boot, and placed it on the window sill. She stood up. "I'll let the girls know." She began to leave the room.
"What about the lobo-chip?" Doc Sellers asked.
Without breaking step Suzi called back "put it in, I think she'll need a bit of calm when she wakes up."
"I can do it, sure!" said the woman at the other end of the table—the very same table that Julie had met with the man selling information about The Subhumans.
Suzi looked in her drink, her leg was bouncing up and down beneath the table. She could hear Carrie clear her throat behind her. Ever since Sweet Dee had gotten the operation she had been a little slow on the draw, and Suzi couldn't trust her to be the bodyguard that she had been for Julie. If this demotion bothered Dee, she didn't show it. But who could tell anymore.
"We took a set-back, that's all." Suzi said to the woman—Courtney Crash was her name. She took a swig of the fungus whiskey.
Courtney nodded, her eyes big and letting Suzi know that she understood clearly.
"It's not gonna be easy, but you say you're an ace with that sword, so I believe you. You know we got some scavvies comin' for us, right?"
"I heard," Courtney said. "I ain't afraid of those creeps. I got Slicer and Piercer here," she gestured to her sword and pistol hanging from the third chair by their scabbard and holster. "Though if I may," she began, "why don't we just off this captive and toss its body back down that stinkin' hole they came from and be done with 'em."
Suzi looked at her, her head cocked and looking tired. "First of all, you may not." Courtney lowered her eyes. "And secondly, it's because it's personal. I need him as bait."
As if on cue Marlene walked into the room, rubbing her knuckles. "It's asleep," she muttered on her way to the bar. Kandi was working tonight and already had Marlene's drink ready.
Suzi sighed and reached behind her, tossing a bag into Courtney's hands. "There's seventy-five," she said, rising from her seat.
"It's your deposit. From here on in, you'll take a share with the rest of us. You want some cool shit? It comes outta your pay. Carrie here's my second, Dee's still the third, but in case she don't make much sense, you listen to Marlene over there." Suzi slung her lasgun over her shoulder.
"Get some sleep. Tomorrow we tie that scavvy to a pole and go fishin'."
Suzi walked out of the bar and up the stairs to her bed.
|Sweet Dee takes up an overwatch position while zombies lurk on the hive floor beneath her.|
|Sweet Dee scores a hit, taking two scavvies down with super-heated plasma.|
|A wyrd's giant rat has designs on Julie Ruin.|
|The second table. Not quite finished, but fully built. Sorry for the werid-sized photos. I left my camera at home and had to rely on my cellphone for documentation of Julie Ruin's final scrap.|