Things must have been quite busy
during the VITAS epidemic. According to my father, morticians
weren't as affected as the majority of the population, even though they
were constantly in contact with infected individuals. Even though my
father liked to talk through his ass, I'd like to think the story was
true. Perhaps God just wanted to remind everybody of their own
mortality and figured morticians already had a good enough grasp of the
I've been picking apart corpses for about thirty years now. My
father taught me the trade, as his father taught him, as I will probably
teach my son if I can get him to turn his music down long enough for me
to talk to him. I never really had any aspirations to become a mortician,
but as the economy fell apart during the late 20s, I took on the job because
I knew it was secure employment. Nations will rise, nations will
fall – but people will always be dying.
However, this is not to say death hasn't gotten more complicated.
In the early 21st century, many nations were making concerted efforts
to implement mandatory organ donation plans. While most of these
measures failed to materialize into law, it was becoming clear that the
demand for body parts was going to require changes is organ donation procedures.
Body parts were now worth money, and a new industry was emerging to manage
their acquisition and distribution.
Hospitals remained the sole "point of acquisition" for organs into the
2020s, due to the need to immediately remove any useable organs before
they were rendered "unserviceable" by time. However, by 2030 new
and cheaper equipment was developed that allowed contents of a deceased
body to remain useable for extended periods of time. Middleman companies
began to emerge whose sole function was to remove and sell organs.
While rather inefficient, the conversion to this type of market was pushed
along by a number of hospital organ dealing scandals involving the quiet
murder of patients for their innards. A separation of services was
seen as necessary to prevent the reoccurrence of such events.
The establishment of for-profit agencies like Doc Wagon helped
to stabilize the organ distribution system. Organ ripping scandals
became less frequent, simply because an agency like Doc Wagon usually stood
to make more profit by keeping a patient alive than by letting them die.
Laws requiring that medical response agencies and hospitals allow clients
to choose who has the final say when it comes to the disposal of their
body and its contents are on the books in virtually every nation.
Without such laws, my profession may have ceased to exist.
Being a mortician now requires more than simply burning or burying a
corpse. We have contracts set up with hospitals, response agencies,
and individuals that spell out exactly what is supposed to happen when
a given person bites the dust. The contracts can be as simple as
"Place body in nearest dumpster" or involve elaborate plans involving where
each individual organ is supposed to end up.
Of course, if you die in the badlands where nobody can pick you up,
or even a few blocks away from your house, but your Docwagon watch gets
broken, you're pretty much the property of whoever picks you up.
Most runners have resigned themselves to the fact that this is simply what
happens should they buy it.
In recently years, however, it has been increasingly commonplace to
find a small microchip embedded in the bodies of deceased members of the
Shadowrun community. The chip is usually hidden in the depths of
the abdomen, mixed in amongst the digestive organs in such a manner that
only a thorough search of the cavity would uncover the device, specifically
the kind of search a mortician would perform while searching the body for
cyberware and useable organs. The chip may contain anything from
a simple message or request, to a full will. Almost all of the chips
contain an upload address, usually a location on Shadowland.
I'm not too sure what happens to the data once its set, but I've heard
rumors that there's a strange group of individuals on Shadowland who have
made it their business to make sure a runner's final requests are carried
out. Most morticians simply toss the chip in an incinerator.
I always make my best effort to relay the data.
If a runner has a Docwagon or similar contract, it is not uncommon for
them to specify what they wish to have done with their body should they
die. Some medical response agencies disregard such requests because
it usually means they don't get first crack at any ware or organs the body
contains. However, Docwagon, which likes to keep a clean rep, almost
always abides by the request, delivering the body to the location of choice,
but still requesting 25% of the value of any removed ware or organs unless
a previous contract had been set up with the deceased.
Several runners have set up requests with Docwagon to have their bodies
sent to me upon their death, probably because I had a good reputation for
respecting the wishes of the deceased. I'm not a complete saint,
however, as I request pre-payment for any services they wish to occur upon
their death. Much of my income is obtained in this way. About
25% of the time the runner will die in a location not covered by Doc Wagon
or will simply be killed in such a way that there isn't much left for me
to work with. I don't allow postmortem payment based on bodily value, because
I never know what will be left of the individual when they arrive.
Also, I don't accept requests that the body remain intact unless a surcharge
is paid. This may seem harsh, but in a world where organic and cybernetic
recycling is standard, I'd be considered sick if I passed on any opportunity
to retrieve valuable flesh and technology.
Some postmortem requests are simple and cheap, usually a simple burial
in a remote location where enemies won't try to piss on their grave.
Others, however, will shell out for an elaborate procedure of some kind.
Requests by Riggers and Deckers are consistently the most complicated and
the most expensive. Deckers often request a "virtual funeral" or
the creation of a matrix shrine, requiring that I outsource the project
to individuals more skilled at such activities. For virtual funerals,
I sometimes have to rent out a simsense studio and a director to coordinate
the presentation. Matrix shrines are usually established in a wing
of Shadowland known as the Digital Graveyard, where it seems that every
deceased decker attempts to one-up every other deceased decker. Once,
a extraordinarily successful decker left me fifty million nuyen and elaborate
plans for a full subsystem constructed to resemble an ancient Egyptian
pyramid, complete with secret passages and Black IC traps. So far
his shrine has claimed four lives and has yet to be successfully hacked.
It goes without saying that Riggers want to be buried with their vehicles.
Usually they request that the vehicle be restored to full operational condition
and themselves be placed in the driver's seat. This is probably the
easiest part of the request to fill, because all I really have to do is
call up a few mechanics. Finding a place to discretely bury a ten
million nuyen Banshee tends to be a bit more difficult. If at all
possible, I try to talk them into an "Into The Sunset" package, which involves
programming the autopilot to fly the craft West until it runs out of fuel
and crashes into the ocean. In one case, a rigger requested this
package, but also requested that his Banshee be filled with auxiliary gas
tanks. He made it from Seattle to Egypt before air defenses shot
Well, another stiff sits on the slab, awaiting my attention. Perhaps
that's the best part of my job: Unlike 99% of 2060 professions, I'm never
in much of a hurry. Toss them in the cryogen and grab some lunch.
It may sound sick, but at least I'm sticking knives in people after
Unlike some people.