Disclaimer: This story was the introduction for a character in a Sprawl campaign. I stole the name Murder Sharp wholesale from the excellent Light Bringer series by Brent Weeks. His character gave me such chills I had to try out a Murder of my own!
Rain sounded different this high up. Murder closed his eyes as the downpour fell in sheets around him, beating against the colossal buildings or falling away entirely, landing silently far, far below his feet. He’d listened to rain hit the great oceans that lapped at the base of the buildings, no more effective than if they splashed the ankles of giants. This sort of rain was deafening there, colliding with the sea in a great and roaring hush. Here it barely hissed.
Murder’s eyes slipped open again as the throb of pulse engines joined the symphony. The vector was clear of other traffic this early in the afternoon, and he could hear the van before it trundled around the corner. Murder held his teeth apart in a too-wide smile at the sight of the IV Elements logo silk-screened on the hood of the hovering vehicle.
The driver’s squawk of surprise was cut short as his passenger side window imploded and Murder’s favourite paring knife found his jugular. Murder delighted in the control offered by the smaller knives, angling his down and away to direct the fountain of blood away from his suit. It really was the best blade for small prep tasks. Julia was right again.
Wires branched from the base of the driver’s skull like potato shoots, and Murder yanked hard on them as the stranger slumped forward against the innumerable confusion of buttons making up the van’s console. The cables came free on the third tug, taking a healthy layer of cherry gelatin with them.
The van lurched, veering down and sideways directly into one of the glass walled buildings hemming the vector. The heavy cargo van rebounded with a bone-jarring impact from the reinforced glass, leaving no sign of its passing beyond a spiderweb of fractures, quickly repairing themselves.
There was a yelp from the back of the van at the impact, almost lost in the sound of dislodged cargo. Murder held tightly onto the seat behind him, bracing his feet against the unsteady jostling of the van. The whole thing was starting to spin as it fell, safety protocols barely holding them right way up.
Hip holding him steady as the van swung into another wide arc, Murder drew the assault rifle slung across his back, and reached for the viewing hatch. A pair of watery, blinking eyes, wide with panic, stared back at him as he slid the hatch aside.
Murder lifted his rifle to the hatch and smiled wider, fingering the trigger. The worried expression on the unexpected passenger didn’t change, not even twitching as the gun was placed within inches of his face. The gun went off as they hit another building, a glancing blow that sent Murder off balance. The bullets flew wide, pinging twice around the cargo cabin before burying themselves in the ceiling.
The racks of IV bags rattled, their psychedelic charges slopping to the floor with a sound like milkshake on concrete, some punctured from the abuse. The cabin filled quickly with the mixing smells of bleach and strawberries as the chemicals reacted to air.
The stranger still didn’t move, swaying to the impact and blinking but otherwise oblivious. Murder pulled himself upright again and reached an arm through the hatch, poking the stranger roughly in the shoulder. Nothing. As Murder studied him more closely, he realized that his mouth was twitching, ever so slightly, as if he was trying not to chew something but it was too delicious to resist.
Murder ran a hand along the back of the stranger’s head and found it clammy with sweat. He had cables matching the drivers and as Murder ran them through his fingers he found that they attached to the van, just below his hatch. The pale little sprout was sending for help.
Murder snarled, bringing his rifle back to the hatch just as the van leveled out. The plummet stopped, the veering was compensated for, and the van began to hum back toward the safer vectors. Murder examined their route through the splintered safety glass, only turning back to the hatch when he was satisfied they weren’t returning to their original path.
The bean sprout was rubbing his eyes, returning to the world from inside the computer’s mind. He started when he saw the assault rifle and raised his hands. He tried to back away but was still tethered to the machine.
“Hey man! Easy!” he squeaked, his voice a patchwork of cracks intermingled with a dull whine. “I just wanted a couple of packs, it’s barely even illegal!”
Murder relaxed. Not an employee then. Just an ingredient. A toy.
“Besides,” the sprout continued, “I’ve just activated the fail safe in the van. If it stops reading my life signals, it explodes.”
Murder’s face fell into a frown. Perhaps not a toy after all. He turned, glancing at their route again.
“Where are you taking us?” Murder asked, trying to sound friendly and unthreatening. If it were possible, the sprout paled further. Murder wasn’t good at friendly.
“I-I was heading to a warehouse nearby. I know a guy who can get rid of the van, and the footage of us in it.”
“Footage?” Murder asked, glancing around for the tiny domed eyes of the computers. He didn’t see any, but that hardly meant anything.
“Yeah, they always – “ the sprout was cut off as the world was thrown sideways. Metal crunched and squealed as Murder’s feet lurched out from under him, sending him into an undignified tumble as the van slid along its side, leaving the IV Elements logo in smeared chips across a metal floor.
Murder found himself in the lap of the dead driver, the man’s blood dripping onto the arm of his suit. As Murder shifted he felt moisture spreading along his back too. Damn, this jacket was his favourite.
The van shook as the cargo door fell open, and the sounds of the sprout coughing and clambering out could be heard. Not wanting to be caught unaware Murder forced himself to his feet, stepping on the body for leverage with just a hint of regret at ruining perfectly good ingredients.
He left the van using the same battered window he’d entered through, hopping out in two quick steps to stand on the frame of the door, assault rifle at the ready. His hand itched for his machete.
“You two don’t look like the usual camels.” The voice was confident and friendly, with just the barest hint of threat. Murder took mental notes as he found the speaker. It was a good voice.
They were still moving, Murder could see the reflection of a garbage truck in the mirrored windows of the buildings they passed, a sliver of the outside still visible through the closing garbage hatch they had driven through. Murder sniffed, impressed despite himself. The truck would have needed to be driving skyward without protocols on to intercept them, and the timing would have needed to be perfect to keep both vehicles intact.
His eyes finally found the speaker, leaning casually beside a small doorway into the front cabin. It was a man, tall, and squeezed into a leather outfit with the same colour and shine of blackberries. He held no weapons – he was an ingredient.
As Murder set his rifle to his shoulder, lifting the barrel with a deep glee, the blackberry raised a finger. Murder felt his joy plummet, sitting heavy in his stomach as he followed the leather man’s gesture. A pair of drones hummed in near-silence to either side of the garbage bay, mini machine guns hanging underneath locked on Murder and the sprout.
Begrudgingly, Murder let the barrel of his own gun slip from the blackberry's head, leaving it in place to blow out the man’s knees if things didn’t go well. At this rate he would only get to kill one person today, and that not even a masterpiece.
“Hey!” the sprout cracked, “don’t I know you? From the Jeeves job?” He was speaking to the blackberry, who squinted at him for a moment before his face lit into a smile.
“Spook! Hey, man. Didn’t expect to find you in the back of a van with a psycho.” The leather man glanced at Murder, “no offense.”
Murder shrugged, keeping quiet and watching things. If he moved fast enough he might be able to shoot the drones and roll before they could re-target him…
“He’s not my psycho, just ran into him. Seems a lot of people are interested in this stuff.” Spook replied, waving his spindly arms to indicate the green and purple liquids soaking his shirt.
“It needs to be destroyed,” Murder offered, aware that the second mini-gun was no longer tracking Spook but was trained on him too. “Julia doesn’t want it.”
“Julia?” blackberry asked.
“Uh-huh. Well this stuff is pretty valuable, and I’m sure both Spook and I have a line of customers
waiting for a new high. So yeah, we’ll ‘destroy’ it all the way to the bank.” The leather man said, clawing the air with both hands as he said the word destroy. It was a gesture that Murder had seen many times.
Apparently it meant that he was being quoted.
“Good. I don’t know what measures the bank has in place, but if they can get rid of it then that’s for the best. I was just going to let the van sink.” Murder nodded thoughtfully as he spoke. He’d prefer to do the job himself, but if outsourcing was a compromise that would keep his brain free of bullets he was willing to go with it. If you’re afraid of butter, use cream. The end result would be the same anyway, and that was the important part.
The leather man and the Spook were looking at Murder strangely. They exchanged a glance, quizzical smiles touching their mouths as they laughed at some shared joke. Murder hated looks like that.
“Really? I mean, yeah, great. Cool. We’ll ‘destroy’ that stuff and make sure it never reaches an unsuspecting picc.” Spook was bobbing his head and clawing the air like the leather man had.
“Good. I’m glad we’re all on the same page.” Murder slowly holstered his rifle, breathing a little easier when the miniguns took their aim from him in exchange.
“Yup, definitely on the same page.” The leather man winked at Murder, gesturing for everyone to come to the cabin.
The next few hours saw them meeting with contacts of the leather man and the Spook. Perhaps intuiting Murder’s best role, Spook asked him to keep watch and kill any unwelcome listeners. Murder would have liked to hear how the Bank was planning to dispose of the IVs, but he got to kill three more people, one of which was a masterpiece, so he wasn’t about to complain.
When the day was done Spook and the leather man even paid Murder for helping destroy the IVs. As Murder sharpened his machete, and Spook threw up at the sight of his masterpiece, the leather man wired him some credits and swapped contact information with Murder. Murder found that he was okay with this. Even though they weren’t ingredients, he thought Julia would have approved of these strangers.
Murder was a very fun character to play. He had this habit of walking directly into gunfire. Worked out surprisingly well...
If you're curious, the Julia mentioned in the story is Julia Child of cook book fame. One of Murder's directives was to listen to the advice of someone. For some very long-winded reasons, his particular brand of insanity involved worshiping the celebrity chef and applying all her advice to his violent adventures.
The creepiest quote that came up: "It's so beautiful, you can just tell someone's fingers have been all over it."