作者 主题: 【drawing Destiny】暗面事务  (阅读 550 次)

副标题: 论为何不要惹恼MR. J和奇物商和…… 翻译:薛猫

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【drawing Destiny】暗面事务
« 于: 2018-07-16, 周一 20:21:26 »
DARK SIDE MATTERS
暗面事务

(The Shadows)

JENNIFER BROZEK


劇透 -   :
My name is Elfin John, and The Dark Side is my club. It’s a gentlemen’s club of a sort. Very exclusive and hard to find. A word-of-mouth kind of place, where you need to be vouched for to get in. Just the way I like it.
At the end of the alleyway next to a theater is a wood and glass door with writing on it. At least, it looks like real wood and glass. Discreet and classy, you might think it’s an office of some kind. Maybe for one of those hardbitten detective types who could get you a tri-vid for your divorce proceedings? You’d pass it by without another thought.
And if you aren’t meant to be here, that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. I spent a lot of time, nuyen, and magic making sure only those who need to find my business do. Like I said, exclusive.
In truth, though, we cater to all kinds here: male, female, intersex, elf, human, troll, ork, dwarf, dragon, and any combination thereof. Whatever your desire, if you’ve got the nuyen, The Dark Side will find it for you.
Within reason, of course. I don’t allow BTLs or wetwork on the premises. That sort of thing isn’t for this sort of club. We’re upscale here, and I mean to keep it that way. But, as always, there are caveats and exceptions to the rules.
Take Sasha Jones. There’s a lowlife bottom feeder if ever I saw one. But he gets me what I need. Most of the time I can forgive his drek fashion sense and crude manners. For a human, he reminds me more of an ork on a bender—and that’s when he’s being good. Right now, I’ve got two of my most masochistic ladies serving him drinks and talking with him. I can only imagine the delicious torment they’re going through.
You see, just as The Dark Side gives our clientele sophisticated pleasure—music, conversation, beauty, art, wit, and yes, sex—we sell the illusion of companionship, of camaraderie, of connection. At the same time, there is so much more to The Dark Side… and that is what brings the unpleasantness of Sasha Jones to my door.
Ah well, in Dark Side matters, business before pleasure.
我叫艾尔菲·琼斯,暗面是我的俱乐部。这是某种绅士俱乐部。非常生人勿进,非常难找到。类似口耳相传的地方,你得要有人担保才能进入。正是我喜欢的方式。
在剧院旁边的小巷尽头,有一扇木框玻璃门,上面写了字。至少,看起来像是真的木头和玻璃。够隐秘,够古典,你可能会觉得这是某个办公室。或许是某位能帮你弄到离婚用三维影像的硬汉侦探?你会径直路过,不作他想。
如果你不被允许来到这里,这正是应当发生的情况。我花了大把时间、新円还有魔法,确保只有那些需要和我打交道的人才能发现。如我所说,生人勿进。
但事实上,我们这儿为所有类型服务:男性、女性、无性别、精灵、人类、巨魔、兽人、矮人、龙,以及任何混合体。无论你渴望什么,只要你有新円,暗面都会为你找到。
在合理的范围内,当然。我的地盘上不允许BTL和湿活。这些东西不适合这类俱乐部。这儿是高档地方,我有意让它一直这样。但,和所有事情一样,会有警告和例外。
例如萨沙·琼斯。要说我见过的底层小人,这就是一个。但他能弄到我要的东西。大部分时间我都能远离他狗屎的时尚观和恶劣的礼仪。作为一个人类,他更让我感觉是个醉酒的兽人——那还是他表现好的时候。现在,我让我的两位最受虐狂的姑娘给他倒酒、陪他说话。我只能想象她们正经受着多么甜美的折磨。
你看,暗面为顾客提供精妙服务时——音乐、对话、美、艺术、趣味,是的,还有性,我们是在出售着伙伴、情谊和联系的幻想。同时,暗面还能提供更多……而这正是为什我要让萨沙·琼斯此等让人不快之物进入我的大门。
在暗面的事务里,生意高于娱乐。





劇透 -   :
“Sasha…on time as always.” I stride out to meet the human. I don’t shake his hand. I don’t know where he’s been.
In the back of my head, a notice pops up that I’ve received an AR message from my father. I ignore it. One unpleasantness at a time. Just the thought of the overbearing man makes me smooth down my dark hair and run my finger over the tip of a pointed ear. It’s a habit I’ve yet to break.
“Elfin John, my man, wouldn’t miss it.” Sasha raises his drink. “You got the best. The real stuff. Not that synth drek.”
“Well, yes. As you say.” I shake my head. Of course, I didn’t waste my best on Sasha. Just the very good. “How about we have this conversation some place a little more quiet?”
Sasha smoothes back his hair, styled in the latest trend—if it were ten months ago—and stands, dumping Maisie from his lap. “Gotta go, doll. The adults need to talk.”
Maisie giggles at him from the floor, then lets Shannon pick her up. “Bye-bye, Sasha.” Her little finger wave turns into a rude gesture as Sasha turns his back. I give her a warning look. She blows me a kiss.
I ignore it, promising myself to have a talk with her later. I probably won’t. Sasha isn’t a client she has to be concerned with. But if I catch her doing that to someone who matters, there will be words, and she won’t like them.
I walk Sasha through the hallway of private lounges to the back part of the club for the upper echelons of the club’s management. This is where the other business The Dark Side is known for gets done. I decide to start nice, and lead Sasha into my private office—the one I use for company, not the one I use for management business, or the real work I do.
It is a large room with a sitting area flanked by four leather chairs around a low table for setting drinks, contracts, and nuyen on. One side of the office is filled with monitor screens. I can see every room in the building through them. They are all dark now, of course. The other side has my desk, a large cherrywood thing polished to a high shine. There are the normal things you’d expect on it—sleek computer station, pens, paper, a holo of my pretend family. Then, there are the things you wouldn’t expect—an ornate dagger, a bowl of carnivorous flowers, and a silk fan in full display. All of these radiate magic to the arcane eye.
“萨沙……总是这么准时。”我大步跨入房间和这个人类见面。我没和他握手。不知道他去过哪儿。
在我的后脑勺,一条提示弹出,告诉我收到了一条来自我的父亲的AR信息。我无视了它。不快之事要一件一件来。仅是想到那个傲慢的男人就让我抚平我黑色的头发,用手指轻触一只尖耳朵的端部。这个习惯我还没能克服。
“艾尔菲·约翰,我的朋友,不会错过的。”萨沙举起酒杯。“你有最好的。真货。不是那些合成垃圾。”
“好吧,的确。如你所说。”我摇了摇头。我当然不会给萨沙浪费最好的。只是非常不错的。“我们到安静一点的地方谈怎么样?”
萨沙把头发向后理了理,整理成最新的流行——如果不是晚了十个月——之后站起来,把坐在他大腿上的梅齐摔在地上。“得走了,洋娃娃。成年人要说话了。”
梅齐在地板上朝他咯咯笑,然后让香农把她拉起来。“再见,萨沙。”萨沙转身时她的小指头转成一个粗鲁的手势。我警告地看了她一眼。她朝我飞吻。
我无视她,提醒自己记得之后和她谈谈。可能不会。萨沙不是她该担心的顾客。但要是让我看到她对某个重要顾客这么干,我可会说些她不喜欢的话。
我领着萨沙穿过私密贵宾区的走廊,来到俱乐部深处的管理端,这里是暗面因此著称的其它生意进行的地方。我决定先好好说话,把萨沙带进了我的私人办公室——我给同行人用的办公室,不是用来处理生意和我的真活的办公室。
这是一个大房间,休息区四面是四张皮椅子,中间一张矮桌用来放饮料、合同,还有新円。办公室的一面墙是整面的监视屏。我能在上面看到这栋建筑里所有房间。当然屏幕现在都是暗的。另一边是我的办公桌,一张巨大的樱桃木桌,打磨得锃亮。上面是你能想到的普通玩意——线条优美的计算机工作站、笔、纸张,我的伪装家庭的全息照片。然后还有些你不会猜到的东西——一把精美的匕首、一盆食肉花、一把全开的丝绸扇子。在有奥秘视觉的眼中,全都散发着魔法能量。
劇透 -   :
Sasha plops into one of the chairs without being invited. I grimace, then swallow my ire. Instead, I smile, all teeth as I watch my expression in the monitor glass. My face is puffy today; pale skin around hazel eyes. It doesn’t take away from my devilish good looks, but I notice it. “We’ve had a long working history, haven’t we?”
“Uh-oh. You sound like my dad.”
I turn and give him a look. I’ve discovered that if you just gaze at someone long enough without speaking, as if you expect something from them, they’ll talk to fill the silence. Too many people are uncomfortable with silence. For me, it’s my best friend.
Sasha smoothes his pompadour with a nervous hand, then rubs his fingers on his designer jeans. “Yes, Elfin John, we’ve had a long working history. I’ve always done right by you, and you’ve always done right by me.”
I nod. “We have. So, tell me about the Awakened angler fish lure.”
“Little dry? Sorry about that. My jar broke. I had to make do with what I had at the time. Lots of things trying to eat me.” He gives me a weak smile. “Got it back in the water as soon as I could.”
I don’t care about the fish lure. I just wanted to see what he’d say. Now I know I need to give it a thorough once over. In truth, I’ve had to give all of his recent shipments a thorough once over. This time with an eye for mistakes and glamour. I’d made the mistake of getting too comfortable with a shadowrunner once. It won’t happen again.
“Ah, totally understandable. Deep sea fishing for Awakened critters is a dangerous game…but you’re one of the best in the business. You and your team.”
“That I am. Don’t you forget it.” Sasha snaps his fingers and gives me a too-wide grin as he glances around the room like a trapped animal.
He still isn’t sure if he’s in trouble or not. He is, but I should put him at ease for what’s to come. “Would you like a drink? I’m having one.” I touch a button with my foot and a full bar rises out of the floor. “Taéngelé, I think. I’m in the mood for something with a touch of class.”
Ever a slave to his pleasures, Sasha relaxes. “Yeah. Scotch. Neat. Real if you got it. Synth if you don’t.”
I doubt he would know what real scotch tasted like…and certainly wouldn’t know the difference between a single malt and a blended version. I choose the blended brand. Like I said, I don’t waste my best on people like Sasha. Just the very good. “This is my private stash. Real, of course.”
To his credit, he doesn’t just swill the glass I hand him. He stops and gives it a deep sniff before taking a swallow. With a cough, he rasps, “Good.”
He didn’t notice I hadn’t poured myself a drink. For a runner, he is incredibly dense. “So, tell me about the Awakened narwhal horn. Where did you get it again?”
Sasha pauses, his glass halfway to his mouth. He finishes the gesture to buy himself time. After a moment to savor the alcohol, he shrugs. “Off the coast of Alaska. I told you that when I delivered it. It was on the manifest.”
“Oh, yes. I forgot. So many items come though my shop. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep up with it all. What did you do with the rest of the carcass? I’m curious. You didn’t deliver the rest to me with a bid price on it.”
萨沙没被邀请就砰地一声坐进一把椅子。我皱了皱眉,但是咽下怒火,一边露齿微笑一边从监视屏玻璃上观察我的表情。今天我的脸有点浮肿;褐色眼睛周围的皮肤有些苍白。虽然这不会有损我恶魔般的好相貌,但我还是注意到了。“我们共事很久了,不是吗?”
“额——哦。你听起来像我爹。”
我转身看着他。我发现只要你盯着一个人足够久,不说话,像是你在等他们说点什么的样子,他们就会自己填补沉默。太多人对沉默感到不适。对我来说,沉默是最好的朋友。
萨沙紧张地用一只手抚平他的蓬巴杜发型,然后手指在他的设计师牛仔裤上摩擦。“是的,艾尔菲·约翰,我们共事很久了。我一直对你公道,你也一直对我公道。”
我点头。“的确。那么,跟我讲讲那个觉醒鮟鱇魚诱饵。”
“太干了吗?不好意思。我的罐子破了。那时只能用手头有的工具。有一堆东西想要吃掉我。”他朝我无力地微笑。“尽量让它尽快重新入水了。”
我不关心鱼饵。我只想听听他说了什么。现在我知道我得重新审视了。事实上,我得重新仔细检查他最近的所有货物。这次需要用发现错误和伪装的眼睛。我犯下了太过相信狂奔者的错误。不会有下一次了。
“啊,完全理解。深海垂钓觉醒生物是非常危险的游戏……但你是这一行最好的。你和你的队伍。”
“我当然是。你可别忘了。”萨沙弹了个响指,一边朝我露出咧得太开的微笑,一边像困兽一样四处张望。
他还不确定自己是不是有麻烦了。他有麻烦,但我该让他放松点。“想喝一杯吗?我有瓶酒。”我用脚轻触一个按钮,一个吧台从地板上升起。“精灵蜂蜜酒,我记得是。我现在的心情想喝点高级的。”
永远是欲望的奴隶,萨沙放松了。“好啊。苏格兰威士忌。什么都不加。真货,如果你有。没有就合成的。”
我怀疑他是否知道真的苏格兰威士忌是什么味道……他肯定不知道单一麦芽和调和麦芽的区别。我挑支了调和麦芽的。如我所说,我不会在萨沙这类人身上浪费最好的。只是很不错的。“这是我的私人收藏。真货,当然。”
不出所料,我把杯子递给他后他摇都没摇。他把杯子握住深吸一口然后灌下。他呛了一下,嘶哑着声音说,“好。”
他没注意到我没给自己倒酒。对一个狂奔者来说,他迟钝得离谱。“那么,告诉我那个觉醒独角鲸角。你从哪弄到的来着?”
萨沙停顿了,酒杯送到一半。他完成了这个动作,好为自己争取时间。花了一刻享受酒精后,他耸了耸肩。“从阿拉斯加沿岸。我送货的时候告诉你了。在清单上。”
“哦,对。我忘了。我的店里来的货太多了。有时候很难全部记住。尸体的其它部分你怎么处理了?我很好奇。你没把剩下的部分送给我加价。”
劇透 -   :
For a couple of long seconds, he doesn’t say anything. We both know that the narwhal horn didn’t come from an Awakened creature. In fact, I’m not sure where he got it…or if it was even real narwhal—and that is the crux of my current problem.
I watch him calculate the odds of me knowing whatever he says is a lie, and decide it isn’t worth it. He does the next best thing: deflection.
Sasha leans back in the leather chair. “Is that what all this is about? I was worried you were mad at me.” He shrugs, relaxes his shoulders, and feigns feeling comfortable once more. “You’re not the only talismonger in town, you know.” Then he frowns, his gaze dropping from me to the glass in his hand and back.
He sold me out to some wannabe competition? I wish I could rip his throat out with my teeth. Instead, I give him that wide, feral grin again. “I’m the only one of my caliber in the city, Sasha. You know that.”
He doesn’t respond. He can’t. The paralytic on the rim of his glass ensures that he can’t move. Though, he is very much awake and will remain so. Poor bastard.
I activate my internal comm. “He’s ready. Take him to workroom three.”
Two of my augmented bouncers come in without knocking. One puts a black bag over Sasha’s head and plucks the glass from his hand, setting it on the low table. The other picks him up and takes him to my workroom.
A notice pops up on my comm. Father has left another message. Apparently, he wants an answer now. Putting the drugged glass on the bar, I grimace at the thought of his voice. Shoving that away, I activate both messages to run one after the other. To my intense pleasure and annoyance, a placeholder screen appears in my comm. The man couldn’t be bothered to face me directly. Instead, his supercilious voice fills my head.
“Jonathan, it’s your father. I’m reminding you that we have an engagement at Lord and Lady Nordstrom’s home in Kensington tomorrow night. I don’t care how long it will take for you to travel from where you are to there. You are expected to be at my side at 1900 hours for cocktails. Don’t be late. Bring a date. But no one too trendy. I understand your little foibles and will allow it in you, but not your date. Let me know that you’ve received this.”
The first quick text ends without a good-bye. I shake my head. I want to go to this fête about as much as I want to deal with Sasha. The things we do for family. The second message begins without preamble.
“One other thing, bring a date only if you can bring an appropriate young lady. For God’s sake, do not bring a woman who works for you. I still hear grumbles about the last time that happened, and Lord Rutherford still won’t look me in the eye. I do not need my friends embarrassed by being reminded that they are one of your clients. Discretion is the watchword of the day, son. Remember it. If you cannot do as I ask, come alone and I will pair you with a suitable young lady. Let me know immediately.”
This message cuts off in the same abrupt manner as the first one. I debate for all of ten seconds and sigh before dashing off a quick text message: <I will be there on time. I will come alone. Thank you.> If he can’t be bothered to show me his face, I can’t be bothered with more than text on a screen.
That unpleasantness done, I follow my bouncers and Sasha to workroom three, warring with myself over whether or not I will enjoy this.
有那么漫长的几秒,他什么也没说。我们都知道那根独角鲸角不是来自觉醒生物。事实上我不确定他从哪儿弄到的……甚至它是不是真的独角鲸角——而这正是我当前问题的核心。
我看着他计算让我知道他撒谎的后果,并且决定不值得。他干了第二正确的事:转移话题。
萨沙朝后倚着皮椅。“这场面就是为了这个?我担心你要对我发火了。”他耸耸肩,落下肩膀,假装再次放松。
“你不是城里唯一的奇物商人,你知道的。”然后他皱眉,他的眼神从我身上落到他手中,然后又回来。
他把我卖给了某些未来的竞争者?我真希望能用牙撕开他的喉咙。但我没有,而是再次朝他咧嘴露出野兽般的笑容,“我是这座城市里唯一的销售渠道,萨沙,你也清楚。”
他没回答。他不能回答。杯沿的麻痹毒素确保了他无法移动。但他会十分清醒,并且将一直保持清醒。可怜的混蛋。
我开启我的内部通讯链。“他准备好了。带他到三号工作间。”
我的两位殖装保镖没敲门就进入了。一个给萨沙的头套上黑色袋子,把酒杯从他手中拿开放在矮桌上。另一个拎起他送到我的工作间。
通讯链弹出一条提示。父亲又留下了一条信息。显然他现在就要答复。我把下了药的杯子留在吧台,只是想起他的声音就让我皱眉。我把这个念头甩开,点开两条信息连续自动播放。让我十分高兴和恼火的是,一个空白屏幕出现在我的通讯链上。这男人甚至不愿意面对我。只有他傲慢的声音充斥了我的大脑。
“乔纳森,这里是你的父亲。我提醒你我们明晚在肯辛顿诺德斯特姆勋爵和诺德斯特姆女士的家中有约。我不管你要多久才能从你现在的地方赶到。我希望你在19:00出现在我旁边参加酒会。不要迟到。带上女伴。但不要太时髦。我理解你的那些癖好并允许它们出现在你身上,但你的女伴不行。收到后让我知道。”
第一条短信没说再见就结束了。我摇摇头。我不想参加这场游园会,正如我不想和萨沙打交道。看我们为家族奉献的一切。第二条信息直接开始了。
“另一件事,要是不能带一位得体的年轻女士就不要带女伴。看着上帝的份上,不要带为你工作的女人。我现在还能听见对上次的抱怨,卢瑟福勋爵现在还是不能直视我。我不需要我的朋友因为被你提醒他们是你的客人而感到尴尬。谨慎是我们的格言,儿子。如果你做不到,一个人来,我会给你找一位合适的年轻女士。马上让我知道。”
这条信息和前一条一样粗暴地结束了。我纠结了十秒钟,叹口气,然后快速敲出一条短信:<我会准时到。我会一个人。谢谢。>要是他懒得让我看他的脸,我也懒得发文字之外的信息。
不快之事完成了,我跟着我的保镖和萨沙来到三号工作间,内心争论着我是否会享受接下来的事。


劇透 -   :
My bouncers strip Sasha of every weapon he has—and it’s an impressive amount for a street thug like him—then bind him to the heavy metal chair provided. I let him stew in darkness for a good five minutes while I make sure everything is ready. Also, I let the drug run its way through his system. I want him moving when we begin.
As I check the restraints, I murmur, “I’m sorry it’s come to this.”
Sasha mumbles something incoherent. That means the paralytic is at the end of its cycle. Soon, he’ll be in control of his body again. I move behind and to the side of the chair and watch him in silence as I count in my head. I reach sixty-four when he speaks again.
“John, chummer…we can talk about this, yeah? No need to do anything drastic, right?”
I nod to my bouncer. He rips the black hood from Sasha’s head. I gesture for the bouncers to leave us in the workroom. They close the door with an audible click of the latch and clunk of the deadbolt. I keep my silence wrapped about me like a cloak as I watch him gaze around the workroom and understand what it could mean.
A talismonger’s workroom is a thing to behold. Especially mine. Well, it usually is. I had to clean it out for what’s to come. I keep things in here I didn’t want messed up. Still, the room is impressive, if I do say so myself.
It’s a large stone rectangle with deep ebon cabinets secured with ornate silver locks. The walls, usually filled with tools of the trade, are bare. You can still see where some things used to hang. The walls are cleaner there. The floor is covered with chalked ritual circles and seals…along with wax drippings and old, viscous stains. It looks a little like the large stone table I have to one side of the room. The ceiling is black from years of candle soot.
The Hermetic tradition is not the neatest of magic, but not the messiest either.
Sasha twitches. First his hand, then his head. That means the paralytic has fully worn off. I added that side effect to the drug so there’d be no feigning being paralyzed while plotting me bodily harm.
I step into view. “Welcome to my workroom, Sasha. Usually it’s got a bit more in it, but I don’t need you seeing how the sausage is made. Of course, a talismonger is more than the sum of his telesma…more than even the unspoiled and exotic telesma I sell here. Do you know what I mean?”
Sasha shakes his head in tiny jerks. I’m not sure if his silence is because he hasn’t quite regained control of his brain yet or because he’s suddenly developed some common sense. Either way, it allows me to go on uninterrupted.
我的保镖将萨沙的所有武器解除——对他这样的街头恶棍来说算是相当惊人的数量,在把他绑在房间内的厚重金属椅子上。我让他在黑暗中烦乱了五分钟,同时确保一切就绪。同时我也是在让毒素流过他的循环系统。我们开始时,我希望他能动。
我检查拘束具,一边低语道,“我很抱歉到了这一步。”
萨沙口齿不清地咕哝着。这表示麻痹毒素已经到了循环的最末。很快他就能再次控制他的身体了。我移动到椅子后方,沉默地看着他,同时在脑子里计数。数到六十四时他再次开口。
“约翰,伙计……我们可以谈,对吧?不需要这么夸张,对吧?”
我朝保镖点头。他将黑色头罩从萨沙头上扯下。我指示保镖都离开。他们关上门,门栓发出轻响,锁舌咔哒扣上。我让沉默将我包裹,如同一张斗篷。我看着他四处张望这间工作间,理解了这意味着什么。
奇物商人的工作间值得一看,尤其是我的。好吧,通常值得一看。为了准备接下来的事,我把它清理过了。我把不希望被弄乱的东西留在这里。但若由我来说,这间房间依然相当惊人。
这是一块巨大的方形石块,上有乌木抽屉,用花纹繁复的银锁锁着。四面墙通常会挂满待售物品,现在是空的。你还是能看哪些地方曾用来挂东西。这些部分更干净些。地板被粉笔绘制的仪式法阵和密封覆盖……还有蜡滴和一些久远、黏稠的污渍。看起来有点像我放在房间另一边的巨大石桌。房顶因长年的蜡烛火焰被熏得乌黑。
赫尔墨斯流派不是最整洁的魔法方式,但也不是最乱的。
萨沙抽动了一下。先是他手,然后是头。这表明麻痹效果完全消退了。我给毒素加了点副作用,所以他没法一边假装被麻痹一边密谋伤害我。
我踏入他的视野。“欢迎来到我的工作间,萨沙。这里平常东西比较多,但我没必要给你看香肠是怎么做的。当然,一位奇物商人不仅是他他的奇物……甚至不仅是我在这儿买的的各种未被损坏、稀奇古怪的奇物。你知道我的意思吗?”
萨沙的摇头稍微有点抽搐。我不清楚他沉默是因为还没能完全控制大脑,还是因为他突然获得了一些常识。无论如何,我都能不被打扰地继续说。
劇透 -   :
“Talismongers are the heart of their magical society. We buy and sell telesma, lore, and knowledge. We’re the one place that those with eyes to see can go for all things enchanted. Especially for those who cannot create for themselves. We have connections everywhere. As such, we have a duty to the magical society we tend to.”
Sasha is panting now, sweating in his panic. “John, I can explain. Please—”
I continue, overriding him, letting my anger show. “I have a duty to my clientele to make sure they get the best foci, telesma, and formulae. That everything I sell is well made, properly collected, and exactly what they paid for. Safe, unspoiled, exotic…exactly what that narwhal horn should’ve been, but wasn’t.”
I watch the fear crawl across his face. Then I soften my words, lacing them with the promise of salvation. “What was it exactly that you sold to me? It left a lovely young woman in a coma. Perhaps, we can undo the damage before it’s too late. Perhaps, it’s not too late for any of us.”
“It was narwhal. I swear…just not awakened…or fresh. But you gotta understand, I didn’t have a choice. Mr. Jones said he’d pay me double to bring it to him instead. And if I didn’t, he’d ruin me.”
This is the confession I need to save my own ass. “Mr. Jones?”
Sasha shrugs and twitches a little. “I don’t know his real name. Just Mr. Jones. You know the deal. He tells me what I need to do for his client…and I get paid.”
It’s interesting that it’s a “Mr. Jones” rather than “Mr. Johnson.” Tells me that the anonymous employer is from Great Britain rather than North America. That means this might have been a personal vendetta against my client. Same continent, different side of the border.
“Did your Mr. Jones hire you to steal from me or to give me fake components…or both?”
“Will you let me go if I tell you?” Sasha’s eyes beg me to lie to him.
So I do. “I’ll let you go…when we’re done here. I promise.” I don’t tell him that I’m not the one in charge for the moment. I won’t be done with Sasha until they are.
Sasha relaxes, believing me. “It was both. There’s some who don’t like you as the main talismonger in town…and they specifically told me to give you the regular narwhal horn. Gave it to me, actually, to give to you.”
The competition wants to play rough, do they? Well, we’ll work that angle after this business is done. No one threatens me or mine. Not in my city. I’ll set my people looking for who the up-and-comers are as soon as I get a chance.
“Thank you, Sasha.” I turn to the wall behind me. “Have you seen enough?”
“奇物商人是他们所属魔法社群的心脏。我们买卖奇物,还有知识。我们是那些能看见真实之人获取所有魔法之物的途径。尤其是那些自己不能创造的。我们的联系遍布各地。因此,我们对自己偏爱的魔法社群负有责任。”
萨沙现在因恐慌而气喘流汗。“约翰,我能解释。拜托——”
我继续说,盖过了他的声音,一点点展示我的愤怒。“我有责任确保我的顾客得到最好的法器、奇物和公式。我卖出的所有东西都是精心制作、妥善收集,如他们要求。安全、无损、奇特……正是那根独角鲸角应有的样子,可它不是。”
我看着恐惧爬上他的脸。然后我舒缓语气,词句中浸入救赎的蜜糖。“你卖给我的到底是什么?它让一位年轻美丽的女士陷入了昏迷。或许,我们能在为时已晚之前消解它造成的损失。或许,对所有人来说,都还不太迟。”
“是独角鲸。我发誓……只是不是觉醒的……也不是活的。但你一定要理解,我没有选择。琼斯先生说他为它会出双倍价。如果我不同意,他会毁了我的。”
正是能救我小命的证词。“琼斯先生?”
萨沙耸耸肩,又扭了一下。“我不知道他的真名。只是琼斯先生。你清楚怎么交易。他告诉我要为他的顾客做什么……我收钱。”
有趣,这是位“琼斯先生”而不是“约翰逊先生。”说明这位匿名雇主来自大不列颠而不是北美。意味着可能是针对我的顾客的私人报复。同一大陆,国境两边。
“你的琼斯先生顾你来偷走我的东西,还是给我假货……还是都有?”
“我告诉了你,你会让我走吗?”萨沙的眼神在求我说谎。
于是我照做了。“我会让你走……这里结束后。我保证。”我没告诉他此刻不由我做主。他们没处理好萨沙前,我动不了。
萨沙放松下来,他信了。“都有。有人不喜欢你作为城里最大的奇物商人……他们特别指示我给你普通独角鲸的角。实际上,是给我,再给到你。”
竞争者想玩硬的,是吧?很好,我们会从这方面着手,这桩生意结束之后。没人能威胁我和我的东西。在我的城市里不能。我一有机会便会安排我的人查找挑战者是谁。
“谢谢你,萨沙。”我转向身后的墙。“你们看够了吗?”
劇透 -   :
The illusionary wall disappears, revealing three elves—the beautiful woman who hid them, a young woman in a wheelchair, and an equally beautiful man. They have the same Germanic look and family resemblance that tells even the most casual of observers they are related. The man and woman glare at Sasha, while the girl in the wheelchair looks at nothing.
“Let me introduce you to Herr and Frau Schmidt. My clients.” These, of course, are not their real names. I’d rather die than reveal such to scum like Sasha. I point to the girl. “And she is the young lady your fake telesma hurt. It’s much more complex than a coma, I’m afraid. You see, she’s very much alive, but caught on the astral plane.”
“You said you’d let me go. You promised!” Sasha struggles against his bonds, panic beating about his head and shoulders.
“Oh, I will let you go…but first, reparations must be made.” I put a hand to my chest. “Not by me, of course. I’m not going to punish you. They are.”
I straighten and nod to Herr Schmidt. “He is all yours, sir. And if you’ll excuse me—”
“No.”
That single word freezes me in mid-turn. “Sir?” I fight to keep his real title under my tongue.
“This is a crime against our people, is it not? You will witness the punishment.” His face is implacable.
The compliment and the threat are clear in that first sentence. I bow. “Of course, sir. I will witness it.” Part of me is terrified. Part of me is ecstatic. Our people. After all these years, to finally be accepted.
I step back and watch the elven nobles lay out their magical tools on my stone table. I wish I had taken the time to give it a deep clean. Well, Hermetic mages recognize each other and understand the stains. I hope.
“What are they doing?” Sasha’s voice is a harsh whisper.
I hunker down next to him and keep my voice low as the pair begin the summoning. “I believe they’re going to have a talk with the free spirit that has their daughter’s astral form captured.” As the sound of the ocean reaches my ears, I add, “Remember, this is your doing, not mine. I bargained in good faith.”
“Let me go, John. Please. I’ll tell you who hired me. Then I’ll walk away. You won’t have to worry about me anymore.” His eyes dart to the elven pair. “And I won’t tell anyone. I swear.”
I know it for the lie it is. “You know who Mr. Jones is and who his clients are? You know exactly who they are?”
Sasha shakes his head. “No, but I can get you the contact numbers. I can lead you to them. I swear I’ll do it.”
I stop paying attention to him as I see the power of what my clients have summoned. It makes me catch my breath. I know Sasha can’t see what is gathering on the astral plane. He’d be a lot less calm. At the first sight of the free spirit in question—a huge sea creature with many tentacles—I wish I was anywhere but here. I stand and watch it come, glad I’d taken down my astral wards as requested. I don’t think they would’ve mattered anyway.
墙壁幻象消失,出现了三位精灵——一位藏起他们的美丽女性,一位坐在轮椅里的年轻女性,还有一位同样美丽的男性。他们有着同样的日耳曼外貌和家族相似,足以告诉最漫不经心的观察者他们有血缘关系。男性和女性盯着萨沙,而轮椅里的女孩看着虚空。
“允许我向你介绍施密特先生和夫人。我的顾客。”当然,这不是他们的真名。我宁肯去死也不能透露给萨沙这种渣滓。我指着女孩。“而这位就是伪奇物伤害的女士。我恐怕这比昏迷更复杂。你看,她还活着,但是被困在了星界空间。”
“你说过会让我走的!你答应了!”萨沙在束缚下挣扎,头和肩膀慌乱地扭动。
“哦,我会让你走……但首先,必须完成补偿。”我将一只手放在胸前。“当然,不是由我。我不会惩罚你。他们会。”
我站直身体向施密特先生点头。“他交给你了,先生。如果您允许我——”
“不。”
这个词将我的转身冻住。“先生?”我挣扎着将他的真实头衔藏在我的语调中。
“这是针对我们族人的犯罪,难道不是吗?你将见证惩罚。”他的面孔毫无宽恕。
第一句话中的称赞和威胁很清楚了。我朝他鞠躬。“当然,先生。我将见证。”我半是惊恐,半是狂喜。我们族人。这么多年之后,终于被接纳。
我后退,看着这些精灵贵族将魔法器具摆放在我的石桌上。真希望我有时间给它彻底清洁一番。好吧,赫尔墨斯法师会认出并理解这些污渍。希望如此。
“他们在做什么?”萨沙的声音成了嘶哑的低语。
两位精灵正在召唤,我蹲到他旁边,压低声音。“我相信他们正在和把他们的女儿困在星界的自由精魂对话,”海洋的声音传入耳中,我补上一句,“记住,这是你干的,不是我。我善意地求过情。”
“让我走,约翰。求求你。我会告诉你谁雇的我。然后我会走开。你再也不需要担心我。”他的目光投向那一对精灵。“我不会告诉任何人的。我发誓。”
我我认得出谎言。“你知道琼斯先生是谁、他的顾客是谁?你知道他们具体是谁?”
萨沙摇头。“不,但我能给你联络号码。我可以带你找他们。我发誓我会的。”
我不再注意他,我看到了我的顾客召唤出的力量。让我屏住了呼吸。我知道萨沙不能看见正在星界汇聚之物。否则他不会这么镇定。第一眼看见这个自由精魂——有无数触手的巨大海洋生物——我希望自己正在别处。我站起来注视着它的到来,庆幸自己按要求解除了我的星界屏障。不管怎样,我不觉得会有不同。
劇透 -   :
“What? What is it? John? John? What are you looking at?”
I shake my head. “You’ll see soon enough.” The power of the spirit is enormous. I’m almost breathless in my awe. I can’t help but take a step back as it enters the room. I know when Sasha can see it. He makes incoherent whining words in the language of pure panic. Shifting from astral to normal vision, the spirit is no less terrifying manifested in my workroom.
I lean over and whisper, “Silence. It may not notice you.” Sasha sucks in his words and panic, swallowing both with a will that would’ve been impressive in another circumstance. For now, it only proves he has a great desire to live.
Herr Schmidt bows and speaks in German to the spirit in a diffident tone I have never heard from someone of his stature. I listen to the request, the bargaining, and the terms the mage uses.
“John, what’s he saying?” Sasha hooks my pants with his pinky finger.
I slap it away. With a look and nod from Frau Schmidt, I realize they want Sasha to know what is about to happen to him. I return the nod and shift back to whisper in Sasha’s ear. “That is the spirit that holds their daughter. From what I gather, it has worked with this family for centuries, with some long-held traditions. It was disrespected by the girl’s poor choice of telesma…and has kept her astral avatar in recompense.”
I pause, listening as Herr Schmidt continues his polite bargaining. “Her father is explaining your deliberate choice to give her the wrong thing…and has offered you, a known killer of Awakened creatures, to the spirit…to do with as it will.”
“But it wasn’t me. I didn’t mean it.” Sasha all but wails these futile words.
The free spirit turns its full attention on Sasha and me. “Oh, look. I think it’s accepted the bargain.”
“John, move.” Herr Schmidt’s command brooks no argument.
I move—fast and without pretense—to my ally’s side.
“什么?那是什么?约翰?你在看什么?”
我摇头。“你很快就会看见。”这个精魂有无比强大的力量。我震惊得几乎忘了呼吸。它进入房间时我下意识后撤了一步。我知道萨沙能看见它了。他以纯粹的恐慌发出无法分辨的悲鸣声。精魂的星界形体变换为普通外表,但即使在我的工作间显形后,它的可怕程度不减分毫。
我靠近他低声说,“安静。他可能不会注意你。”萨沙吞下了话音和恐慌,这种意志换一个环境会相当令人印象深刻。而现在,这只证明了他的求生欲有多强。
施密特先生鞠了一躬,用德语和精魂交谈,他的语气我从未在一个如此身份的人身上听到过。我听着这位法师请求、协议,还有他使用的措辞。
“约翰,他在说什么?”萨沙用小指钩我的长裤。
我把它拍开。施密特夫人看了我一眼,朝我点头,我意识到他们希望萨沙知道他将会发生什么。我点头回应,回头在萨沙耳边低语。“那就是囚禁他们女儿的精魂。根据我的消息,它与这个家族合作了好几个世纪,他们有长久的传统。女孩选择的错误奇物是对它的不敬……它因此将她困在星界作为报复。”我停下低语,听着施密特先生继续礼貌地交涉。“她的父亲正在解释是你有意将错误的物品送到她手中……并提出将你,一个著名的觉醒生物杀手,交给精魂……随它处置。”
“但不是我。我不是故意的。”萨沙只能悲号出这些无用的话语。
自由精魂将全部注意力转向了萨沙和我。“哦,看。我认为它接受了交易。”
“约翰,离开。”施密特先生的指令不接受任何拖延。
我离开了——毫不掩饰地迅速离开,走到我的盟友身边。
劇透 -   :
Sasha struggles, straining against the straps holding him to the metal chair. “John, you fat-faced leaf eater! You can’t do this to me. You promised to let me go!”
“Oh, that hurt. Perhaps you should focus on what’s coming your way instead.” Actually, the insult did hurt. I shove my hands into my pants pockets to keep from touching my rounded face and my pointed ears. I glance at the elves next to me. Their angular cheeks and pointed chins made me ache. That is what I’m supposed to look like.
My own father threatened to disinherit me if I changed the way I looked more than just my ears. He doesn’t understand that I was born in the wrong body. He doesn’t care. All that matters to him is that I look mostly like him at all appropriate high society functions.
What I look like matters to me. I want to be comfortable in my own skin. Eventually, the old man will die, and I’ll be able to finally look on the outside how I feel on the inside. If that doesn’t happen soon, I may have to help him along. Especially with this new turn of events.
Our people… My pride swells as I glance between the two nobles next to me. I’ve finally been accepted. It makes the insult hurt a little less.
The girl in the wheelchair blinks a couple of times, then bursts into tears. Frau Schmidt gathers her daughter into her arms and hugs her tight. I know that she couldn’t have been trapped in astral form for more than a couple of days. She hadn’t had the telesma for that long…but time in the astral is different. I wonder how long it’s been for her.
“He has accepted our apologies and our offering. This should be interesting.” Herr Schmidt brings my attention from his daughter back to Sasha. “You should lower your blast shield.”
萨沙挣扎着挣脱将他捆在金属椅上的束缚。“约翰,你这个肥脸吃叶子的!你不能这么对我!你答应过放我走的!”
“哦,我受伤了。或许你该关注朝你去的东西。”事实上,他的辱骂确实伤到我了。我将双手插进裤袋,不让它们摸上我的圆脸和尖耳朵。我朝身边的精灵看去。他们棱角分明的脸颊和突出的下巴让我心痛。那才是我应有的样子。
我自己的父亲威胁我,如果我改动样貌的范围超过耳朵,他就要取消我的继承权。他不理解我被生在了错误的躯壳里。他不在乎。他唯一关心的是我要在所有得体的高级社交活动上看起来像他。
我的外貌对我很重要。我希望能舒适地待在我自己的皮囊里。总有一条,老头子会死,我将终于能够让我的外貌和我的内心一致。如果不够快,我或许得帮帮他。尤其是有了最近的事态发展。
我们族人……我扫视身旁的两位贵族,自豪油然而生。我终于被接纳了。这让那句侮辱好受了些。
轮椅上的女孩眨了几下眼,然后嚎啕大哭。施密特夫人将她揽入怀中,紧紧地拥抱。我知道她被困在星界形体的时间最多不过了几天,她拿到奇物的事件没那么久……但星界的时间不同。我好奇她的感受有多久。
“他接受了我们的歉意和供物。这会很有趣。”施密特先生将我的注意力从他女儿身上转回萨沙。“你该放下你的防爆盾。”
劇透 -   :
With a gesture, I lead my guests to the appropriate spot and activate the safe room. The walls of Securitglas surround us, making our ears pop as the room is fully sealed and pressurized. Not a moment too soon.
My workroom goes from dry to half-filled with water in a blink of an eye. Sasha screams and rips his skin bloody trying to escape his bonds. The water is up to his chest, but he thrashes as if it is already over his head. The spirit strokes a tentacle over Sasha’s hair, petting him like a dog.
Herr Schmidt points downward. I follow the direction he indicates. Fish that look like a cross between piranha and octopi tear at the shadowrunner’s clothing, then his flesh. Blood chums the water, exciting them. I can’t help glancing at the elven noble, and he challenges me with an arched eyebrow. I know what he’s saying: “If you want to be one of us, you remember this and treat all your enemies with the same mercy. If you have the fortitude for it.”
I turn back and watch Sasha’s pain, drinking it in. Another blink, and the workroom is filled almost to the ceiling. Sasha, still struggling, still being eaten alive, screams once more before sucking in a lungful of water. After that, it is a waiting game. Sasha takes another two minutes to die. I watch him every second of those two minutes.
我用手势引导我的客人来到合适的位置,启动安全室。
安保玻璃墙面包围了我们,房间被完全密封、加压,我们的耳朵发出嗡嗡声。宜早不宜迟。
眨眼间我的工作间从干燥变成半满水。萨沙尖叫着挣扎逃离束缚,将皮肤撕扯得鲜血淋淋。水到了他的胸口,但他扭得如同已经漫过头顶。精魂伸出一只触手抚摸萨沙的头发,像是在拍一只宠物狗。
施密特先生朝下指。我沿着他的方向看去。像是水虎鱼和章鱼杂交的鱼类撕碎了狂奔者的衣物,随后是他的血肉。血液渗入水中,让它们愈发兴奋。我没忍住看向精灵贵族。他扬起一边眉毛挑战似地看着我。我知道他是在说:“如果你想成为我们的一员,你就要记住这个场面,以同等的仁慈对待所有敌人。如果你有胆量。”
我转回视线观看萨沙的痛苦,品味他的痛苦。再一眨眼,工作间的水几乎到了屋顶。萨沙还在挣扎,还在被生吞活剥,他发出最后一声尖叫,大口吸入空气。之后,便是等待。萨沙又花了两分钟死去。这两分钟里我每一秒都在注视。
劇透 -   :
Herr Schmidt bows to the free spirit, communicating telepathically with it. A moment later, the spirit, the water, and its pets disappear. I look into the astral, but they are gone from the immediate area, leaving behind only the echo of the ocean.
“I would like to go home.” Frau Schmidt’s words are polite, but no less a command.
That is my cue to release the safe room. The Securiglas walls retract after the room unseals. Everything, except the ceiling and my safe room area, is scoured clean, with only the faint, brackish smell of salt water lingering in the air. Even Sasha’s body is clean—though that won’t last long. While blood no longer flows in his veins, gravity still does its job, and those bite marks are already leaking.
Frau Schmidt and her daughter leave the workroom without a word or a backward glance. I don’t expect anything more. Family reunions after a near-death experience are a private matter. Or so I’ve been told.
Glancing at Herr Schmidt as he gathers his work tools from my now pristine stone table, I ask. “Sir? Are we good? My debt is cleared?”
Even in private, I can’t allow myself to speak his true name. My astral wards are gone. Anyone could be listening. And after the ruckus we just caused on the astral plane, people are bound to be out and about, looking for the reason.
“It is.” He nods his affirmation as well. “You’ve shown your mettle.” He gestures to Sasha’s body. “I trust you will deal with that?”
“Of course. The Dark Side is full service. There is nothing more for you to do. Though, when you wish, the club is always happy to receive you and your family as an honored guests.”
施密特先生向自由精魂鞠躬,以念动和它交谈。过了一会儿,精魂、水、它的宠物都消失了。我看向星界,它们已经从附近区域离开了,仅留下海洋的回响。
“我希望回家。”施密特夫人的话彬彬有利,但不容反驳。
这是让我打开安全室的暗示。房间密封解除后安保玻璃墙面收回。整个房间,除了房顶和安全室区域,全都被冲刷一新,仅余微弱、稍咸的海水气味残留在空气中。就连萨沙的尸体也是干净的——虽然这维持不了多久。虽然他的血管里再也没了血流,但重力还在完成它的工作,他身上的咬痕已经在渗出液体。
施密特夫人和她的女儿一眼不发、头也不回地离开了工作间。我没指望更多。濒死经历后的家族团聚是间私密的事。至少我是这么被告知的。
我看着施密特先生从现在崭新的石桌上收起他的器具。我问道,“先生?我们没事了?我的责任已经偿清了吗?”
即使是在私底下我也不允许自己说出他的真名。我的星界屏障消失了。任何人都可能在偷听。在星界弄出这么大动静后,人们总是会探出头来找原因。
“是的。”他同时点头确认。“你展示了你的勇气。”他指着萨沙的尸体。“我相信你会处理好这个?”
“当然。暗面提供一切服务。您无须再做任何事。但,若您希望,本俱乐部将永远乐意将您和您的家人奉为上宾。”
劇透 -   :
The elven noble finishes packing away his and his wife’s tools. “I think the next time we meet, you should be my honored guest. I’ll have my man set up a dinner engagement.”
“Thank you, my friend.” I make a calculated risk and offer my hand. I had just helped save his daughter, after all.
He accepts the gesture with a nod, and we clasp arms. “Until then.”
I walk him to the stairway to the private part of The Dark Side. There, his own retinue takes over as escort. I wait at the foot of the landing until my comm beeps and my security woman says, “The bluebirds have flown, sir. Would you like me to prepare your private suite?”
I look back at my pristine workroom with its lack of astral wards and dead body. “Not yet. Business before pleasure. I need a cleaning crew for one. Make sure this one is never found. Not one scrap of flesh. Not one bone.”
“Yes, sir.”
I return to the workroom and inspect my ebon cabinets. They survived. That will make tonight’s work so much easier. As much as I want to celebrate the evening and my new acceptance, when it comes to Dark Side matters…business always comes before pleasure.
精灵贵族收拾好他和他妻子的器具。“我想下次我们见面时,你应当成为我们的上宾。我会让我的人安排一次晚餐。”
“感谢,我的朋友。”我算计着冒险伸出我的手。毕竟,我刚刚帮忙救了他的女儿。他点头接受了。我们双手紧握。“之后见。”
我领着他来到楼梯进入暗面的私人区域。他的扈从在那里接手了护卫。我听着下楼的脚步声,直到我的通讯链发出提示音,负责安保的女性说,“蓝鸟们都飞走了,先生。需要我准备你的私人套间吗?”
我回头看着干净的工作间,缺了星界屏障,有具尸体。“先不用。工作高于娱乐。我需要一人份的清洁队伍。确保这一个永远不会被发现。没有一片肉。没有一块骨头。”
“好的,先生。”
我回到工作间检查我的乌木抽屉。它们幸存了。这会让今晚的工作容易许多。虽然我极其想庆祝今晚以及我新收获的认可,但说到暗面的事务……工作总是高于娱乐。
« 上次编辑: 2018-07-18, 周三 19:12:44 由 NewAlbionDrone »
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably an Andrik