Movement Allowance: 5
Combat Sense: 7
Strength Feat: 6
Resist Torture/Drugs: 6
Human Perception: 3
A long day in the Box. The interrogator sighed, reviewed a few of his notes, studying one dossier in particular before calling out, “Send in the next guy.” There was a buzz from the door before it opened. The interrogation room didn’t have a whole lot of light, but the detective was able to make out a huge silhouette enter the room.
As the silhouette came into the light, the detective was able to see the features of a bear of a man. He was wearing a long duster, and a Stetson, like you saw in the old-style cowboy vids, but the easily most noticeable feature of the man was his left arm. Having a cyberarm nowadays wasn’t that weird – it would almost be stranger to see someone come into the precinct without one – but the one on this guy was huge, even for a man of his size. It was a wonder he didn’t have problems with the door. Other things the interrogator noticed as he looked over the man was an old-school sheriff moustache, and straight-hair slicked behind his head that went halfway down the man’s neck. All of the guy’s hair was gray.
As the man sat in the the chair on the other side of the table, it became immediately apparent it was too small for him, though if it caused him any discomfort, he didn’t show it. In a gruff voice, the man asked, “Mind if I light up?” The question brought with it a glint within the mouth; this guy must have Vampires, canines only, by the look of things, the detective thought as he gestured to go ahead. The large man pulled out a small box, opened it, and placed a large cigar in his mouth. As he pulled out a lighter to light it with his right hand, the detective found himself wondering how the massive, three-fingered left hand could hold the cigar so delicately. The damn thing almost looked like an industrial part. The man put his lighter away, took a few puffs of his cigar, and stared coldly at the detective with gray eyes.
Feeling a little unnerved, the interrogator started, “So you’re the one folks on the streets call Iron Wolf?”
Another puff of smoke. “I hear that name whispered sometimes when I walk by, yeah.”
“Whispered? Whats that about? People afraid of you?”
“You tell me.”
A moment of silence. “So you’re a bit of a legend then, is that right?”
“Hell if I’d know. All I know is I’ve been doing this shit for a long damn time. Maybe even longer than most Militech execs.”
“May I ask what you mean by, ‘this shit?’”
The man stares hard at the detective for a moment, before saying calmly, “This and that. Odd jobs, usually for odd people. People that don’t like other people.”
“So you’re an assassin?”
“Detective, I should hope you’re not that much of an idiot. I wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a little familiar with my line of work. So how about you get to the point, chombatta?”
“Yes. We know you’ve been working in the area for at least a couple of decades, on and off. And we know some dust has been being kicked up between Arasaka and Militech lately.” The detective pauses. Realizing the Wolf had nothing to add, he goes on. “With all your work in the area, we believe you might have some insight into whats happening.”
“I’m not involved with either at the moment. They’ve both paid pretty good in the past before though.”
“Still, we thought perhaps your… experience, would help make a prediction, maybe help the police force prepare for what might happen shortly.”
“You want words of wisdom from an old coot who’s been in the game too long.” The man takes a deep draw from his cigar, listening to the detective fumble a bit over the statement before exhaling the smoke and saying, “I know what ever is happening is big enough that I won’t be taking jobs for either of them. I have been in this business for a long time, and I plan to be in it for a bit longer, if I can help it.”
“Well, maybe you could just tell us what you know, your perspective, patterns you may have noticed over your career.”
Iron Wolf sits for a while, staring at the table, smoking his cigar, and blowing smoke rings into the air.
“So… are you going to provide a statement for the department or should I just release you?”
“I’m trying to remember, blueboy. You want to hear about patterns I’ve noticed over my career, I have to go way back. And that means we’re gonna be here awhile, so make sure you’ve got enough donuts to last you the night. First things first, the name is Ezekyle. Ezekyle Ferrus. You can call me that if you like.”
“Well, Ezekyle, my name is Detective Faulkner, you can call me Jim.”
“I was born in Finland, about a couple dozen miles out of Espoo. Grew up on a farm, one of the youngest of seven children. My four older siblings, Hanna, Magnus, Samsa & Tomi – those two are twins – me and Eeva, also twins, and my little sister Niina.”
“So it was probably a little difficult raising all of you?”
“To say the least. Don’t know how my folks did it, and ran a farm on top of it all. Suppose the farm never did too well though. I’d like to think most of us kids turned out alright. Emphasis on most of us; I try to keep in contact with the family but you know. Siblings will always squabble a bit. Hanna and Eeva still hold a lot against me, after some stuff that happened growing up.”
“I thought twins always get along?”
“Thats what you’d think. I guess sometimes we’d think similarly, or reach the same conclusions. You know, that bullshit about psychic connections, or whatever. Sam and Tomi had it a lot better, they’d finish each others sentences. Wreaked havoc on me mum, trying to figure out which of those two was which.”
“I see. So what is it your sisters hold against you?”
“Not all my sisters, just Hanna and Eeva. Hanna was the firstborn, so she was gonna be a bit stuck up I guess. Eeva kind of joined up with Hanna on a lot of things, and they’d always try to boss the rest of us around. Magnus never had it too bad, he was always absorbed in his own thing. I decided I wouldn’t take too much of it, especially when they started getting real nasty to Niina. Niina was the sweetheart of the family, she’s the one I have the most ties to, her and dad. Sam and Tomi usually joined in, supported me and all. I think they liked me standing up to Hanna especially. They’d been dealing with her for six years before Eeva and I showed up, I suppose they would be a bit more tired of it.”
“Do you mind if I interrupt for a moment to order in some coffee and food? Anything for you perhaps?”
Ezekyle let out a long exhale of smoke. “Anything better than kibble would be a welcome change.”
“Fallen on hard times then?”
“Haven’t had a lot of work lately. Been trying to keep up on bills. And Val’s got me in a program. Thinks I’m getting cyberpsycho. I admit I’ve been a bit short with her lately, and if it makes that woman happy, I’ll do it.”
“But it is under control, isn’t it?”
“Don’t worry, Jim. You boys won’t have to sick a squad on me.”
There was a lull as a secretary brought in a fresh pot of coffee, a plate of donuts, and some food that could have passed as fresh, if not for the packaging that had listed all the preservatives.
“So you were talking about your childhood?”
“Ya. Grew up on a farm that had problems. When I was about 14, AgriCorps rolled in offering money for the stead. We weren’t particularly attached to the land, and the money they offered was good, so dad took it. Saved us a lot of trouble down the road, still hear about the nasty things that happened to the people that didn’t get off the land. So, having sold out, we had no reason to join a nomad pack, and we wound up moving into Espoo.
“Well, luck would have it, my dad and mum were able to get jobs in the city, and Hanna was able to get a job working as secretary for some smaller business. You know, back when smaller business were still around. She would’ve been… 22 then? She wasn’t around as much anymore, but Eeva more than made up for it in bitchiness. Magnus even got a job in a grocery store. The rest of us made it through school pretty easy. All of us got jobs over the next couple of years, except for Niina. She didn’t have time for it, was too caught up studying, or doing this group or another, or playing some kind of sport. She was the achiever in our family, which was fine. I always tried to help earn some for her education.”
“So what job did you find yourself doing?”
“Well, I had been working pretty small, just odd jobs here and there. Some time when I was 16… well, thats when things changed a bit. Turns out guys in jobs like yours don’t like being seen doing illicit activities.”
“How bad off you think you’d be if your superiors caught you supplying booster gangs with state-of-the-art police gear?”
“I think I’d be forced out of town and I’d have to change my name. And thats best case.”
“Ya, well this guy wasn’t just selling ‘em the normal riot gear or pistols. We’re talking ahead of the curve, times are a-changin’ stuff. Heavy weaponry, early energy rifles, military-grade cybertech.”
“What’d this guy do?”
“Threatened me, my family, made me help with the supplying sometimes. After all the pain and heartache, I think he sucked some four grand out of our family. Thats what got me started soloing.”
“So did it ever end?”
“After the less red-handed cops around town started noticing these weapons, and noticing a few tell tale signs, ya. Guy got busted, but I was already in the game, and it paid well. I tried to keep my nose as clean as possible, only take jobs that had justified reasons, were for what I thought were nobler causes. ‘Round this time, I started getting involved with this Nomad girl, knew her from when I lived on the farm. We got real close, first love and all that trash, I won’t bore you with the details. Anyway, some bad stuff happened there. Real bad. I had heard she got taken by some gang or another off the streets. Couple of guys I worked with were sympathetic, helped me track her. By the time we got to the warehouse they took her to… She was gone. Guys who sold her were still counting their money. I can’t remember what happened next, aside from being really angry, and winding up covered in blood and gore. This is about when I started being called Wolf. Guys who were there with me said I just let out his howl, and tore the gangers to pieces. I never found out who they sold her to… I think she got sold to some cybertech manufacturer. ‘Volunteers’ for new products. I have no idea.”
Ezekyle stared at a spot past Faulkner, somewhere not quite in the room. “Ezekyle? Still with me?”
“Her name was Aila. She deserved a lot better than she got.”
“You can’t save ’em all, chief.”
“I don’t need your counseling, detective. I’m a grown man, and it happened more than thirty years ago. I know the world ain’t a fair place, but I’ve survived everything its given to me, and everything its taken. Now where was I?
“Oh yeah. Not everything around that time in my life was bad. I’d taken up smoking well before then, but the day I turned 18, my dad bought me a cigar. It was good, sweet, hearty. Nothing like the garbage you get nowadays, or even this bit I’ve got here. Never went back to faggots. Asked him where he got it from, and he said he’d been making friends with this big politician, trying to make mayor of Espoo. We talked about him for a while, and I realized he was talking about a guy who’s face I’d seen in ads around town. Guy had plans to change the world, one of those idealists. You know how it is. Well, some of the reforms this guy was pushing wasn’t making too many people happy. I’ll tie that back in in a moment.
“So my dad tells me he’s arranged for us all to have a dinner with the guy, could make a good impression and everything, and it would be nice. Managed to get the the whole family together, even Magnus – he’d been out of Finland, doing some work for a cyberoptics manufacturer. It had made me a bit uneasy, what with the business with Aila, but they were a good company, clean. My brother was climbing up pretty fast, they had him running a few deals down in… Chad? I dunno, I guess people in Africa needed good eyes. Anyway, we go to this really uptown restaurant, all the bells and whistles. Now remember how I mentioned not everyone liked this guy?”
“Ya. Some idiot walked up to us in the restaurant, some cheap Uzi ripoff in his hand, holds it to the guys head and starts going on about how the guys been making some bad decisions, and an example has to be made of him. Well, turns out the idiot was wearing some stupid clown mask, trying to hide his identity. Thing is, he couldn’t see anything but what was right in front of him, which was fortuitous, or he might have seen me get up, might have seen my fist coming, might have gotten to his second sentence, and might not have wound up in an intensive care unit.”
“Geez. What’d you do to the guy?”
“Clocked him. Right in the temple. They told me later I’d caved in his skull, and I don’t think he ever made a full recovery. But the politician was impressed. So was my family. The people who hired the assassin were caught, and the scandal helped the guy easily get into office. So my family now had a friend higher up, and the people who normally hired me suddenly wanted to hire me a lot more. Heard a lot of people start their spiel of giving me a job with ‘If you can do that with your bare hands, I can’t wait to see what you do with a gun.’”
“So you started getting a bit fat off the whole deal?”
“A little. Most of my money was going into Niina, she was still in high school, and I wanted to make sure she got into a good college. Another good chunk was going to my folks, and they got to retire. The day my dad quit his job, he called me over to the house. He said he figured I was the big money earner in the family now, and he gave me his hat. Said he got it from his daddy when he became the bread earner. And as you can see, I still take the hat with me everywhere I go. Maybe I’ll give it to someone one day. I don’t have kids, don’t plan to. But maybe one day I’ll give it to some of the young bloods running around, or one of Niina’s kids. When I get out of this crap. Could easily make it as a fixer. But I still got fight in me, so this hat stays until then.
“Anyway. About a year after the event with the politician, I had been walking around the streets on my way to get a few more cigars, ‘cause I’d been doing pretty well for the last month or so. But when you hear a ricochet of the wall ahead of you and then you hear the gunshot? You get in cover. Across the way, there were a couple of boosters. Well, I didn’t realize ‘til later what was actually happening, but it seemed an awful lot like they were just trying to deep six me for parts, so I started fighting back. After I took one or two of ’em down, saw a lot of other guys come around the corners on either side of the street, corporate gear from head to toe. They started taking shots at the gangers too, and I was able to get a few more guys down before the fight was over. So, figure I earned some of the clips the gangers had for the shots I had to spend on ’em, but as I get close to the bodies, the corps surround me, and push me into this limo I hadn’t noticed, but thats what the gangers had been actually shooting at. So I’m jammed in this limo, and sitting across from me is – no big surprise here – a suit. And we just kind of stare at one another for a moment. He asks me where I’m going, and I tell him the street. He knocks on the partition, and when it goes down a bit, he tells the driver the place. So I’m a bit on edge, naturally. He’s a corp. He just had me shoved into his limo after a random firefight. Now I’m not stupid, I know that if he thought I was one of the booster gangers, I’d be dead already, but there’s still all kind of ways this could turn out. Limo comes to a stop, he hands me a business card, says to show up at the building on the card tomorrow at noon and tell the secretary ‘The blue king is in need of a rook.’ Cryptic, right? Then I get thrown out of the limo as quick as I was thrown in, and it speeds off.”
Iron Wolf took a few bites of his food, and toked a bit more on the stub that his cigar was becoming. Jim spoke up: “Did you ever wind up getting those cigars you’d been going for?”
“I did. Turns out they dropped me off not too far from a fag shop. But for what I was about to be getting, I might as well have been throwing my money into the trash.”
Ezekyle paused as he stamped out and threw away the remains of his cigar. Then the giant of a man stood, and walked towards the entrance to the room leaving his hat and his half-eaten food on the table. “Where’s the pisser in this joint, Jim?”
The detective glanced at his watch. 11:47 pm. “Down the hall, to the left. If one of the boys hassles ya, tell ‘em you’re with me.” As the door clicked shut behind the Iron Wolf, Jim poured himself another cup of coffee, black.
By the time Zeke had returned, most of that cup was gone.