译注：括号里都是译注，是的。携枪的女孩们 GIRLS WITH GUNS 我想要的只不过是一个该死的煎蛋卷和一杯咖啡而已。遗憾的是，阳光普照的塔科马（Tacoma，美国华盛顿州西部皮尔斯郡港市，皮尔斯郡就位于暗影狂奔世界的舞台中心——西雅图的南边，塔科马在皮尔斯郡的东北，很接近西雅图）市中心的艾伦餐厅并不提供咖啡——他们提供豆咖（soycaf）。我两种都喝过，它们就是不一样。是啊，真货挺花钱，但偶尔享受点真货难道不值得吗？而不是假的？不过，至少他们的煎蛋卷还是完全足以弥补这一点，所以我压下这份失望。我掏了足够的腰包点了真蛋，因为它的替代品那么地近乎不可食用，而且他们把真货里塞满了豆制口利左香肠（soyrizo）、真洋葱与甜椒，还有多到荒唐的米制假胡椒芝士。这方盘中的天堂。
劇透 - :
All I wanted was a damn omelet and a cup of coffee. Sadly, Allen’s Diner in sunny, downtown Tacoma didn’t serve coffee—they served soykaf. I’ve had both, and it’s just not the same. Yeah, the real stuff will cost you, but isn’t it worth it to once in a while have something good? And not fake? But at least their omelets more than made up for it, so I dealt with the disappointment. I shelled out enough for real eggs, because the substitutes are just this side of inedible, and they stuffed the real ones with soyrizo and real onions and bell peppers and a ridiculous amount of rice-based faux-pepper jack cheese. Heaven on a plate right there.
I got started in the shadows at a place like this. Been five years now. I was out on the street; the army and I had parted company on less-than-cordial terms a few weeks earlier, and while I’d managed to avoid time in the stockade, a bad conduct discharge made it hard to find a legitimate job. A lot of the corps didn’t want the risk of someone like me, who’d struck a superior officer, no matter how justified it might have been at the time. It speaks of a bad attitude, which in corpspeak means not bowing down to your corporate masters. Can’t have that.
劇透 - :
So there I was, way back when, trying not to look too desperate, tightening my belt in an alley behind some diner in Puyallup, competing with a dozen or so other homeless people for scraps. I guess one of the employees at that diner saw something in me—my bearing, maybe, or the armor jacket I’d managed to liberate before the army gave me the boot—and she motioned me to her side. “You want to earn some cred?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I told her, trying to keep my voice from sounding too eager. I figured what was coming wasn’t going to be good, but I also figured I wasn’t in a position to be picky. “What do you need me to do?”
She looked me up and down a little bit more, then waved me into the kitchen. “Sit tight,” she said, and told one of the others in the kitchen crew to get me a sandwich. She disappeared for a moment, then came back to get me. She led me up front to one of the booths. It was in a dark corner, away from the doors and windows. The only person sitting there was an ork with a couple of datajacks in his head, a commlink sitting next to a cup of something that might have been coffee.
He looked me up and down like the woman had done back in the alley, then he said, “Have a seat.” I climbed up into the booth—it really wasn’t built with a dwarf like me in mind, but I’ve had to deal with worse inconveniences in my life—and the woman refilled his cup and set one down in front of me. I finished the sandwich she’d gotten for me in silence; the ork waited patiently for me.
劇透 - :
“You got any skills?” he asked me with a voice that sounded like gravel in a blender.
“I drove a truck in the army,” I said.
“The army adapts vehicles for dwarfs?” He seemed genuinely interested.
I nodded. “Yeah. Sometimes I had to do it myself, but it wasn’t that big a deal.”
He made a motion in an AR window he had up, then nodded. “You have any problems with shooting someone if the situation calls for it?”
I looked him over for a minute. He was interviewing me for a shadowrun. Actual shadow work, the big time. At least that’s what I thought then. When you’re down as far as I was, even the gutter looks like a step up. “I’m not gonna kill anybody for you, but if it’s defending myself or my team … no, I can pull the trigger.” I felt my cheeks flush. “I don’t have a piece, though.”
He nodded. “This isn’t wetwork; I try to stay away from that sort of thing.” He made a few more gestures. “It so happens I need a driver. I’ve got the ride and the crew, though you’ll have to do your own mods.” He waved aside the AR window and looked me in the eyes. I didn’t flinch away. “Pay’s a thousand, half up front. It goes down day after tomorrow; give me your commcode and I’ll get you the particulars.” I gave it to him, then he continued. “You’re going to want to be armed, though, so your up-front won’t be cash this time around. You have a doss?”
I nodded. “After a fashion.” I let him know where I was crashing, and he said he’d send someone over with my payment. He told me to get another sandwich to go before I left, and then he got up, put his commlink in his pocket, and walked away. I got another sandwich and made my way back to my squat. I fell asleep wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into. The next morning I woke up with a box next to me. It had a note that said, “Frank, here’s your up-front. Hauser.”
I hadn’t given him my name.
劇透 - :
I opened the box and stared at the huge fragging pistol it contained. It was a Predator IV, still in its factory packaging, matte-black and just as deadly as it looked. The grip was scaled to fit my hand; the box also held two extra clips, a shoulder holster, and a box of ball rounds.
True to his word, Hauser sent me a message with an address and a time. I turned up on time, and got to spend the afternoon modifying the driver’s side of a Bulldog van so I could drive the damn thing. I met the team, and the next day we went and liberated a dozen cases big enough to hold assault rifles. To this day, I don’t know what was in them; it wasn’t part of my job to know, and I realized I didn’t much care.
I didn’t have to shoot anyone that time around. I got a credstick with five hundred nuyen later that night. Hauser asked if I wanted more work; I allowed as to how I did.
I got to keep the pistol. I still carry that piece. I should have tossed it ages ago, but I’ve almost never had to fire it in anger and I’m sentimental. Probably going to get me killed one of these days, but so far I’ve managed to keep body and soul together.
劇透 - :
I come to Allen’s these days to get the hell away from the shadows. It’s a way to connect to what I laughingly refer to as reality, the life I used to lead before I became a runner. I don’t know why; it wasn’t a great life. Like I said, I’m sentimental sometimes.
I staggered into the diner at about half past eleven; the lunch rush hadn’t started yet, but there was still a pretty good crowd. I climbed up on my usual barstool and looked around. Regulars, mostly; some looked at me and nodded, some scowled. One woman in particular, an ork somewhere between thirty and three hundred years old, actually muttered a curse, spat on the floor, and got up and walked to a different section of the diner. We knew each other; I’d been driving a job where her son, a basically good kid trying to claw his way out of the soulless poverty of his childhood, had gotten shot up. He was in a coma in a hospital across town; I wondered if Hauser’s operation still paid his medical bills, but I doubted it. I’m sentimental, but Hauser—Hauser’s one of those guys who thinks emotions just get in the way.
The waitress, an older human lady named Charlotte, set a cup of soykaf in front of me without having to ask what I wanted. She smiled at me, read my omelet order back to me before I’d even made it, and sent it to the kitchen while I chided myself for my predictability. I was going to have to shake up my routine one of these days. But the omelets were so damn good.
I noticed this girl walk in the door and start hitting up customers for loose change. Panhandling sucks, but even in this bright shiny electronic age of ours, there’s still corp scrip and coinage floating around. It’s hard to keep body and soul together, but it didn’t seem to me she’d resorted to flat-backing just yet. She held her head up a little high for that
我低下我的头并且闭上眼。流浪骑士（Knight Errant）很少这么登场；在鸡蛋之外，这是我如此喜欢这个地方的另一个原因。我不是警察。我曾经在军队里开卡车；现在我为约翰逊先生（Mr. Johnson）开卡车。我是一个暗影狂奔者。我为了钱朝着人们的脸上开枪。至少，形象地说是这样的。
劇透 - :
She hadn’t made it over to my side of the diner when trouble walked in. By “trouble walked in,” of course, I mean, “a dumb fraggin’ ganger with a pink mohawk rode a damn
Harley Scorpion through the door and unloaded a Remington Roomsweeper into the ceiling.”
All I wanted was a goddamn omelet.
I bowed my head and closed my eyes. Knight Errant didn’t come out this way very often; besides the eggs, that was one of the reasons I liked the place so much. I wasn’t a cop. I used to drive a truck in the army; now I drove a truck for Mr. Johnson. I was a shadowrunner. I shot people in the face for money. Figuratively, anyway.
But this was my place, dammit. This is where I came to get away from craziness like this. A dozen of Pink Mohawk’s close friends and relations had joined him by this time, terrorizing the customers and the staff. I didn’t recognize their colors; whoever they were, they were away from their turf. This was a problem, because while KE didn’t patrol the neighborhood, we did have the Spikes, and they didn’t take kindly to motorcycle-riding thugs that weren’t them. These punks were trying to make a statement to those punks, and before too long things were going to get even messier.
Dammit. They were starting to make their way to my side of the diner. Most of the crowd was hiding under their tables or behind the counter. Most everybody but me and the panhandler. She had tucked herself into a corner by the counter, but she wasn’t cowering behind it. She was watching the gangers shake down the customers and tear random shit apart. I saw something in her face that I hadn’t seen in a while. She was scared … but it wasn’t running her. She was scared, but she was also angry. She was looking for a way to stand her ground.
I smiled a little then, and she gave me a funny look, like she was trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. She cocked her head at about the same time I felt Pink Mohawk walking up beside me. Like the other mouth-breathers he rode with, he was hooting and hollering and generally acting like his size and the pistol-sized shotgun he was carrying were going to be enough to leave me shaking in my boots.
He was way too close. He wouldn’t be able to get off a shot before I could put my fist in his solar plexus. “All right, old man, gimme your stick and your link!”
劇透 - :
Old man, my ass. I looked up at him—I’m a dwarf, I look up at a lot of things—and got my first good look at the punk. Jesus. He was barely old enough to shave. I tried to play it cool, to keep him focused on me, but I really wished some of my team were there with me. I was on my own, though. Mostly. “There’s still time to call this off and get out of here with all of your organs.” I flipped a switch in my head and felt my body light up as I got ready.
Yeah, mostly I drive. It’s not all I do, though. The wires help me in a fight almost as much as they help me behind the wheel.
The punk scoffed, and pointed the Roomsweeper at my head. “I said gimme your stick, old man!”
My left fist shot into his belly like a cobra, doubling him over and knocking the breath out of him. He didn’t even have a chance to cry out. He did have time to pull the trigger, but by that time he was no longer aiming the gun at my head; he took a divot out of the floor as he went down. I chopped the back of his head to help him along. I jumped down from my stool, drawing my Predator as my combat boots found the back of Pink Mohawk’s jacket. I was looking for my first real target when I felt a pair of hammers hit me in the ceramic plates that reinforced the armor in my jacket. I staggered backward and tripped as my foot caught on Mohawk’s collar.
One of them had shot me. It was a heavy pistol, but the report didn’t sound like a high-quality piece. Something cheap made in a nanoforge or a sweatshop in Vladivostok, probably, though if it had hit me in the head, I’d be just as dead. I came down hard on the diner’s tile floor. I lost my grip on the Predator as the back of my head met the tile; I could hear it skidding away as stars began dancing in my vision. I shook it off and looked for another weapon as one of the other gangers approached to finish what she’d started. My hand found the barrel of Mohawk’s Roomsweeper; I yanked it into one hand, got my other hand around the grip, and I was aiming at the punk who shot me when she staggered backward and dropped like a stone down a well.
I recognized the report of the weapon that dropped her; it was my Predator. I looked back, and saw the young dwarf girl standing there, in a passable stance with both hands on the grip. She looked surprised, but determined. I smiled again, a little wider this time, and stood up to face the surprised remnants of the gang with Mohawk’s gun in my hand and my boot on the back of his head.
劇透 - :
Funny thing about most gangs: A lot of them don’t really want a real fight. They want to beat people up and terrorize them. Faced with actual resistance, most of them will tuck their tails and run. This one was no different; they lit out of Allen’s like a dragon was chasing them as soon as they figured out that their boss was down. I dragged Mohawk and the girl who’d shot me—she wasn’t dead, but she was going to be sore as hell when she came around—and dumped them both in the gutter. The bike I pushed out and toppled over next to them. I walked back in, and found the girl slumped into a booth, my Predator sitting on the table in front of her. I picked it up and holstered it, then looked around the diner. Someone had almost certainly hit a PANICBUTTON™, and the Knights would show up soon, regular patrols or not. It would be much better for me if I weren’t there when they arrived.
I looked back to the girl. “You hungry?”
I motioned toward the kitchen, and the back door. “I think I owe you lunch, at least, but we should probably get it someplace else.” I handed her the punk’s Roomsweeper. “Come on, I know a place.”
She tucked the pistol into a jacket pocket and followed me to the parking lot. We both piled into the beat-up pickup I was driving and headed away from Allen’s as quickly as I could without attracting attention. I’d been right; Knight Errant cops were already pulling up to the place, lights blazing. We passed a couple of their cruisers going back the way we came. I turned the truck and headed for Puyallup.
The girl was silent for most of the drive. I rummaged through the truck’s console and found a certified credstick with a couple of hundred nuyen on it and handed it to her. “You earned this,” I said. “Thanks for saving my ass back there.”
She took it without expression, then said, “You’re welcome.” She looked at the stick. “Where are we going?” she asked. I don’t know what she was thinking, either about me or the situation in general. She seemed wary, but she didn’t act like she thought I was one of the bad guys.
“Another diner, a lot like that one. Omelets aren’t as good, but they have pretty good sandwiches.” We drove a little further in silence, then I pulled into the parking lot at the same diner I’d been scrounging behind five years ago when I’d started down this crazy road.
劇透 - :
I stopped the truck, then looked at her before I got out. “You need a job? I know a guy.”
A look of wary hope showed in her eyes. “Yeah. Beats starving.”
I chuckled. “Don’t I know it.”
We climbed down from the truck and walked into the diner by the front door. I scanned the crowd, and sure enough, I saw Hauser holding court in his usual corner booth. He acknowledged me with a nod, but someone was sitting opposite him, so I motioned the girl to a barstool and we both sat down. A waitress took our order, and the girl dug into her sandwich with gusto when it arrived.
Hauser’s guest finally rose and left; I excused myself and walked over to the booth. Hauser was looking rougher every day, but that happens with orks. They get old before the rest of us. I know he had a son somewhere whom he was presumably grooming to take over the family business, but I’d never met him. Hauser greeted me warmly and asked how my last job had gone. He knew the answer, of course, but there are forms to follow in this work.
I motioned with my head toward the girl, and said, “Got someone looking for work. She’s got moxie, if nothing else.” I told him about what had just happened over at Allen’s; he nodded approvingly and motioned her over.
I turned to leave, and smiled at the girl as she passed me. I heard her climb into the booth, and heard Hauser’s raspy voice ask her, “You got any skills?”