I shot upright in bed. The chirp of a bird echoed into silence in my head, and I looked around the dark room in confusion for its source. The only thing that caught my attention was the glowing display of my cellphone resting on the bedside table. Still shaking out the cobwebs of sleep, I began to recognize that there were no owls roosting in my bedroom. I picked up the phone to see who was calling.
I fluttered my eyes to try to bring focus to the caller ID on the display, then realized it didn’t matter. My Owl totem must have wanted me to answer the phone, which I would’ve otherwise blissfully slept through since the ringer was off. I tapped the receive key and mumbled out a dry, “hello?”
The voice on the other end was my friend, Rajiv. “Do you remember my saying that I had a shadowrunner friend?”
“Um, I do…” I tried. Still trying to get my bearings, I scanned the room again and settled on my alarm clock, which read 8:27am. Maybe I should get some water, I thought, but then I didn’t want to get out of bed for it. I quickly dismissed the idea of having Nisse fetch me a glass. That would be beneath the hearth spirit’s dignity. “Yeah, I think you said he was getting married or something,” I tried harder. Rajiv knew I was never up this early, not to mention Owl’s subtle hint, so I knew this call was more than social.
Rajiv seemed satisfied with that and continued, “He has been arrested by the Ute Nation, and I think he is needing help. My mother is very worried about him. So, I was wondering if I could ask you a huge favor?” Rajiv knew that I was curious about shadowrunning. When he first mentioned this friend of his, I had told him that I thought shadowrunners were whizbang. I only knew what I had seen about them in trids, of course – meeting with “Mr. Johnsons” in dark alleys, sneaking across rooftops past security guards, jacking into terminals to steal corporate data, guns, explosions…that’s usually when the idea started to lose its luster as far as my trying such a thing. Not to mention that I didn’t have a clue how to get started. What do you do, walk up to the corporate receptionist and ask for a job? I doubt that’s how it goes.
I wasn’t sure how to respond just yet, what kind of help could I…”Anything, Rajah. What is it you need?” He professed to hate that nickname, but I always saw the smile in his eyes when he said so. I was pretty sure that Owl hadn’t snapped me awake just to say no. I pulled back the bed sheets and stepped across the room to the kitchen sink for that water.
This was a side of Rajiv I hadn’t seen before. It was like my humble waiter friend had suddenly dropped the dinner tray and said, “Bond, James Bond,” as he straightened his tuxedo tie. He ran through the plan like it was a briefing: I’d receive a phone call from someone code-named, “Dorothy.” Dorothy would pass on my contact information to a group of shadowrunners. If they were impressed enough, I could expect a phone call with further instructions. I mumbled acknowledgement as he rattled off the plan, unsure how to respond to it all. I threw in an occasional “drek” when the pitch of his voice seemed to warrant it. When the phone call ended, I set the phone down and slowly slid back under the covers and closed my eyes.
I sat back up. “Nisse, wake me up if my phone rings again.” I plopped back onto the pillow and was asleep again a moment later.
“Subtle,” I said, as I watched all of my bed sheets flutter to the floor at the base of the bed. I leaned over and tapped the receive button on the incoming call. I was wide awake and alert, not only because of Nisse’s little stunt, but because I’d been dreaming about the call non-stop. I only hoped that the voice wasn’t the “wuh-wah, wah wuh wuh wah,” of a muffled trumpet that I’d heard each time I answered the phone in the dream.
“Is this Mr. Martin,” the voice asked. As thankful as I was not to hear trumpet noise, I felt a bit let down that it also wasn’t a deep, synthesized, voice-masked one. Instead, it was a woman’s voice with a touch of an Indian accent, much like Rajiv’s. “Yes, this is,” I affirmed.
“Mr. Martin, my name is…Dorothy, and our mutual friend Rajiv asked that I give you a call.” ‘Aha,’ I thought, ‘it was a code name!’ I started to feel like maybe I had a knack for this shadowrunner stuff. “You can call me…Gray Owl,” I intoned with import, then groaned inwardly at how lame I must have sounded to this master shadowrunner.
“Mr. Gray Owl,” she continued on in a business-like tone, “