punk. Ghost only killed when necessary, but that was just one of the differences between the two Indians. Jason had never really understood Ghost's principles; he had only been blinded by the glittering street reputation of a man who stood up for his people. Sam couldn't deny that Ghost had embraced violence, but only as a means, never as the end that Jason seemed to believe it was.

It meant nothing to Jason that he was using a man's life in his dominance games. But it did mean something to Sam. There was more at stake than Sanchez's life. If Sam backed down now, he would have no more control over Jason. Too aware of the Indian's enhanced reflexes and deadly aim, Sam straightened. Height was one advantage he had over Jason. He tried to put utter assurance into his voice.

'I said no killing. We take him with us.' Jason simply stared. Sam knew that the Indian relied on the unnerving effect of his chromed eyeshields. Determined to be unimpressed, Sam stared back, but a motion in the back of the craft caught his attention. Someone was rising from his seat. The passenger's right hand was cocked back and a shiny barrel protruded from the base of his palm.

Whether Jason used his own peripheral vision or saw the reflection in Sam's eyes, he was moving before Sam could say anything. The man in the back was moving at chipped speed, but Jason was faster. The Indian shifted sideways, vacating the space in which he had stood. Sam felt the heat of the bullet's passage and heard the slug bury itself in the cabin wall.

The gunman started to drop lower, trying to use a; i seat and the passenger in it for cover. Jason swung Sanchez around with one arm and shoved his other arm in the direction of the gunman. His movement looked deceptively awkward, almost haphazard. Sam knew that it was anything but. The Sandier TMP had a smartgun adapter, feeding targeting information through the induction pad in Jason's palm to establish a feedback circuit. When the crosshairs appeared on Jason's cybereyes, he could be sure that his weapon rwas effectively aimed at his target.

Jason fired as he dropped into the seat that had been fSanchez's. The Indian's Sandier shrilled as it spat slugs to rip into the gunman's cover. Blood and polyfoam i stuffing erupted into the air. Jason's line of fire skipped up past the head rest and clipped the gunman in the shoulder as he ducked.

Fishface's gun chattered behind Sam. Women's wails and screams of pain joined the noise of the guns. The sea of corporate faces that had been staring at the runners vanished beneath the waves of the head rests. The passengers were huddled, praying, hoping, and pleading that no fire be directed at them.

Slow to react, Sam found himself the only one still standing. He reached for his holster. As his hand fclosed on the butt of his Narcoject Lethe, he knew he i wouldn't be fast enough. The gunman was rising for lanother shot.

Again, Jason proved faster. The Sandier screamed it pounded slugs into the man. Sam watched as th% [slugs chewed away cloth and flesh to reveal the implanted armor that had saved the gunman from Jason's^ [first shot. The impact drove the man back, spinning Shim out into the aisle. More bullets gnawed at him, pounding their way through his protective plates. He started to collapse, his palm gun firing convulsively, the bullets spanging wildly around the cabin.

The gunfire stopped as soon as the man hit the deck. With Fishface screaming orders that no one move, Jason rushed down the aisle to his victim. He ran a quick hand over the dead gunman. He found a wallet and, after only a brief glance, tossed it on the man's chest. He spat on the corpse and stood. 'Azzie corpcop.'

Sam relaxed a bit. The attack wasn't the closing of a trap. The gunman might have been an air marshal, or he might have been an off-duty officer on his way somewhere. The man had just been trying to do his job and keep some shadowrunners from killing a corporate. Likely, he had seen the confrontation between Sam and Jason as his chance. He had bet on his own skills and lost.

'Heat's on now, Twist,' Jason said. 'Pedro's dead weight we can't afford.'

Before Sam could respond to the samurai's latest challenge to his authority, he felt a hand grip the fringes of his jacket.

'Seftors, you cannot leave me now.' Sanchez's fear seemed to have redoubled.

'The hell we can't,' Jason snarled as he shoved past.

Sanchez winced. His glance darted nervously to the door Otter had opened, then flickered around the cabin. Finally, his panicked stare alighted on Sam. 'You have condemned me.'

'They saw that you were not involved,' Sam assured him. 'Your corporate masters understand this sort of thing. They will know that it was all a mistake.'

Sanchez shook his head vehemently. 'The ahman.

They will not believe.'

'Everyone here saw that he started the firefight.

They'll tell your ahman what happened.'

'No, senor. The ahman will not believe.'

'Why not? You've got fifty witnesses.'

'No, senor. Look at them.' Sam looked around the cabin at the faces that had reappeared. They were all strangers but he knew them. He knew the grim determination and fear that lived in every one of them. These people were already denying that Sanchez was one of them. Sam understood such draconian group dynamics from his years in Japan. There, an entire family or organization took the heat for the actions of a member. The only way to avoid destruction of the group was to deny the membership of the offender. Sanchez's fear told him that the Azzies believed in group responsibility, too.

The cabin stank of death now. The cowering salaryman was righta151it wouldn't stop here if he left Sanchez. An Aztechnology security man and at least two other corporates were dead. Several more were injured. This was no longer a minor matter, and Sanchez's fellow corporate employees would not defend him. The ahman might decide that Sanchez was responsible despite the evidence. If the ahman condemned Sanchez, those who spoke in his defense. would be under suspiciona151if they didn't share his fate. I Aztechnology was not known for its understanding and [forgiveness. These people would not take the chance. ' Sam looked down into Sanchez's face. The man was '1 of fear. He was terrified of staying, terrified by s thought of leaving the corporation, terrified by the •dowrunners, and terrified of his own presumption I desperation. His fears fought their war openly on; face. i understood those fears. He reached down and ok Sanchez by the shoulders, drawing him up. 'All right,' he said. 'Let's go.' I The gratitude in the man's face almost masked the

The room was quiet, but Dodger knew he wasn't alone in the darkened library. His knowledge wasn't anything mystic; spells, conjurings, and astral voyages were not his kind of magic. It wasn't that he heard them, or smelled them, or, as yet, saw any evidence of them, either. His awareness might have been due to some combination of his physical senses, operating below his consciousness. He didn't need to know how it worked; the fact that it had worked was enough. Still, there was no sense of danger. He had been on enough shadowruns to know that feeling. At least for the moment, whoever watched wasn't planning to attack.

'I told you he would be decking.'

The voice was deep and throbbed with vindication. Dodger knew that voice too well. Estios had never liked him and never would. The black-haired elf had squared off against Dodger from the first time they had met. Like their hair colors, their personalities were opposites. There was no attraction between them save a mutual call to hostility.

With slow deliberation, Dodger prolonged his disconnection from the Matrix, tapping in a few more commands before logging off. He took the connector from the datajack on his left temple and held it with just enough pressure that the reel wound it smoothly and the plug nestled safely into its niche. Sliding the compartment cover closed, he turned his chair around.

Estios was glowering at him, as he expected. Professor Sean Laverty stood by Estios's side. That was

also expected; the officious Estios's words only made sense if he had the professor's attention. Chatterjee stood on the other side of the professor. The Asian elf's presence was not expected but not surprising either; he was a frequent resident of the mansion. Hanging back near the door was the real surprise, Teresa O'Connor. Dear, sweet Teresa. If he had known she was at the mansion, he would never have come.

The professor waited until Dodger wrenched his eyes away from Teresa before speaking. 'Dodger, you know the rules.'

Indeed he did, but when had that stopped him from doing what needed to be done? Sliding the corners and skipping over the bounds were what made life worth living. True as that was, there were some matters best dealt with carefully. 'The cyberdeck's running a sidecar copy now, Professor. I didn't break any of your rules.'

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