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Part 4 of 9
Shades of Gray
Author: Brian Kay

The vidphone screamed to life, startling Eddie Gray back into the present. He somehow found the energy to get himself up off the piano stool and lumber over to the vidphone. He touched the keypad and Hannah Starke's face materialized on the screen. The picture was distorted; her high-band Netfone feed was wreaking havoc with his older model vidphone. The image spoke. And it wasn't happy.

"Gray. Finally, you've answered. Inspector Young has been trying to get in contact with you. He wants you in his office. Yesterday. Standby. He wants me to pick you up. I'll be there-"

"Negative Starke. I'm shot. I just retired that Slov Polchenk and it was a damn, bloody mess. Tell Inspector Young that you didn't reach me. I still have the bastard's blood on my clothes." Gray shot back with equal hostility.

"Look, Gray, I'm not going to play games with you. Young wants you in his office, says he has some important issues to discuss with you. He's been hounding me non-stop. I have better things to do then play messenger and delivery lackey. So standby. I will be en-route to your conapt and be there in 30 minutes.

Eddie Gray clenched his teeth and hissed at the jumbled image on the screen, "Be advised Starke, I will be showering and then getting drunk. I've retired 3 Replicants in almost as many days, so I think that sonofabitch Young can wait."

There was an uncomfortable pause, then Eddie Gray broke the silence. "Look, I'm gonna head to Chow Woo's in Chinatown sector south. If you want me I'll be there." Eddie Gray then stabbed the disconnect button. He knew Starke was upset and she would certainly be at Chow Woo's to collect him. It was time to drown out the screams of the Replicants he so relentlessly dispatched in copious amounts of Quatloo, the Chinese liquor that effectively numbed him to the horrors he visited upon himself. As he stripped off his blood tinged clothes and padded into the shower, he caught his reflection in the bathroom mirror and did not recognize the corpse that stared back at him.

Hannah Starke clenched her fists as she watched the 'transmission ended' icon blinking on her Netfone screen. She slowly opened her hands and then ran them through her short, black hair. Eddie Gray was as much as an enigma to her as she was to him. She had been partnered with him for almost a year and he seemed to be a study in contrasts. He could be compassionate to a total stranger in one instant and then unflinchingly brutal the next. At times, she thought, especially when hunting Replicants, he was like a man possessed. Driven by a murderous fury that was unmatched by any other blade runner she knew.

She was initially tempted to race over to his conapt before he left for Chow Woo's, but, she thought, it might be easier to convince him to go with her to division headquarters after he had time to get sufficiently lubricated. She would give him some time to take the edge off from the last few days. Not that she was afraid of him, she was afraid of no man or anything for that matter, but Eddie Gray was unpredictable. Consequently, she would exercise some caution when dealing with him, especially since he had retired a record number of Replicants in so short a period of time.

She walked away from the Netfone and made her way to the large window of her sleek, ultra-modern conapt. She pressed her head against the tinted, reinforced glass, welcoming its cool presence against her forehead. She closed her eyes and tried to remember the things she could not. Her memories of her turbulent, military brat upbringing; her troubled youth; the near disastrous flirtation with mind-altering narcotics. She closed her eyes tighter, forcing tears to slip down her cheeks, willing herself to remember all. The images appeared to her as if covered in a veil of gauze, shrouding them from her mind's eye. Her young adult life spent in the depraved off-world prostitute syndicate. She had fallen in with a group that trafficked narcotics and small arms, who made the fatal mistake, for some of her so-called friends, to sell arms to a group of fugitive Replicants. She survived the ensuing bloodbath, but she faced life in prison. If she was fortunate.

Then they came.

Men who claimed to be her "salvation" if she agreed to cooperate with them. Men who were part of a shadowy organization that had dark ties to the bloated monstrosity that was the U.N. She had to abide by their terms, none of which were subject to negotiation.

She agreed. One life sentence for another.

Hannah Starke was thus born. Her old life was no more. They saw to that. She opened her eyes and saw the darkness of the night staring back at her. Like looking into the abyss, she thought. She was assigned to "domestic" ops and her "insertion" into the L.P.D. as a blade runner was a carefully executed operation. For all intents and purposes, she was a bona fide repdetective. She went through all the training along with her "legitimate" colleagues and became quite proficient at her secondary profession. Her cover as a blade runner gave her the freedom to carry out assignments that were given to her by her "benefactors" and was privy to law enforcement sensitive information.

Now she was given the assignment of a lateral transfer repdetective from the L.P.D. to the N.Y. Metro Blade Runner division. She had little information regarding this particular assignment except to keep tabs on a cop and now blade runner by the name of Eddie Gray. She thought it was just a bullshit babysitting job and hated New York. It was cold here on the east coast and she enjoyed the warmer climate of L.A. All she could figure out was that Eddie Gray was planning something. And that something he was connected with was certainly significant.

She glanced at her watch and then proceeded to gather her raincoat and side arm. She removed the magazine that contained REPKILLER loads, which were used to bring down fleeing Replicants and exchanged it with a magazine of MANSTOPPER rounds. If Eddie Gray did something drastically stupid, fueled by an alcoholic rage, then she didn't want to put too big of a hole in him.

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