Pieces Of You
By Blackjack [Blackjack's Shadowrun Page: www.BlackjackSR.com] [BlackjackSRx@gmail.com] [@BlackjackSRx]

Posted: 1999-08-09


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 subject.

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 him down.

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 they're dead.

Unlike some people.