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Angels.

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Critias

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« on: (17:46:29/09-03-10) »
Looking back, I wish I’d known that was gonna be the last even remotely normal day of my life.

At twelve, though, everything was either gravely serious (boys, mostly) or competely ignorable (my parents, my irritating toddler brother, or the public school my parents half-heartedly sent me to). I’d been in Redmond my whole life, and by twelve I even took most of the dangers of my neighborhood for granted. I was big, even for an ork. In the last few years I’d started to fill out in other ways, too, but what counted (as far as the walk home was concerned) was that I was nearly as tall as a fully grown smoothie, and that my babydoll tee was stretched just as tightly across my shoulders as it was across my boobs.

Just as importantly as my size, though, was the fact I lived there. People knew me. The block, a living, breathing, thing, was always watching. I might get a whistle or two, maybe a little grab-ass from a pack of younger kids that went roughhousing their way past me… but nothing serious. Nothing too bad. You look out for each other when you can, in a neighborhood like that. Even the Razors left most of us locals alone, when they weren’t tripping so hard on BTLS they couldn’t tell who was who.

So, imagine my surprise, when I got home from Marci’s and found my family’s little two bedroom apartment turned into a charnel house. I smelled smoke from the hallway, but didn’t think anything of it. My mom was never the greatest cook, and the soy-grub we ate most of the time didn’t cook very evenly anyways.

There was another smell I should’ve noticed, but didn’t. Death. Blood has a smell like nothing else, and when someone’s opened up just right by fist-razors, the smell of shit explodes out of them. It was the Manglers that did it. I’d learn, later, that they’d hit four other apartments that same evening, and swept out half of another apartment building that afternoon. The Manglers were a two-bit psycho gang, all chromed limbs (slick with blood) and metal eyes (staring at me, looking up from the ruins of my mother), cheap guns (two pointed my way) and drug abuse (riding the high as they’d gutted my dad and done worse to my mom).

I turned and ran, fast as I could (oh god oh god had that been my baby brother in pieces?), working my legs even while my throat spasmed and my mouth filled with vomit.

I heard three Manglers behind me, synth-voice boxes sending out barks and giggles and laughter like a pack of hyenas I’d seen once on a docu-trid at school. The sound of it (and the image of my family being used to paint the own walls that sticky-sweet brown-red) chased me down the dirty hallways and staircases as I ran, sobbing and puking.

I shoulder-checked the rear exit to the building, sending the steel fire door swinging wide open and slamming it against the brick wall it was mounted on. I made it maybe ten feet down that alley before a Mangler was on my back like a freight train tackling me; all metal and heavy, hot breath that smelled like beer and coppery blood, hard steel hands groping every soft spot I had. Then another was atop me, and a third. I shut my eyes, kicked and scratched and bit. Nothing helped. They kept giggling.  I knew what they'd done to mom.  I knew it was my turn.

Then, something incredible happened.

“Hey, fellas.”

"I'm kind of lost."  I froze up, the Manglers did the same. Their giggling stopped. Oh god thank you thank you I’m saved I’m saved I’m saved. Remarkably casual, the voice continued. “You guys know how to get to Jenny’s from here? Big party tonight, hot date waitin’ on me, an’ I’m a little lost.”

The Manglers were as caught off guard by the ridiculous question as I was. One climbed off me, and I heard knives slide out of his forearm. Another stayed wedged between my legs, the last one over me, pinning my wrists. I dared to open my eyes, and I stared down the alley at a demigod. Even for an elf, he was beautiful. Long golden hair like in an old Thor comic book, a body built like an Urban Brawler’s covered by skintight leathers and a t-shirt that looked painted on, impossibly blue eyes, and a face twice as handsome as one of mom’s trid-soap stars. An angel.

“Guys? Hello? Jenny’s? Little underground club, y’know? I’m not from around here, and my directions were crappy, and…not ringin' a bell, huh?”

He raised golden eyebrows, glancing from one serial murderer-rapist to another, amazingly incongruous question just hanging there. A little cherry glowed brighter as he took a drag off a cigarette, then looked down at me. I felt my heart pound in my chest.

“How about you, sweetie? You know where Jenny’s is?”

Terrified, throat too full of fear and bile to let me speak, I just shook my head ferociously from side to side. No, no, no, don't leave, don't leave. Please God don’t let him leave me here. Please don’t go, don’t go, don’t go!

The standing Mangler’s throat-speaker warbled and he barked at the newcomer, wrist-blades slashing through the air and making it clear he wasn’t wanted here. The one between my legs let out a hyena’s little laugh, and ground his hips. The stranger flicked his cigarette into a little puddle, and I watched it, still upside down, fly through the air like a shooting star. The elf shrugged, and turned to leave.

“Oh well. I’ll find it eventually.”

I whimpered in renewed terror, then, and shut my eyes and tried to die before they got the chance to use me. Why couldn’t I swallow my tongue?!  What had I done wrong to deserve this?  I’d been saved, and the angel had just wanted directions and now he was leaving me here. I shook my head, eyes clamped tight against the unholy sense of humor the world sometimes displayed, and prayed to die.

I heard a strange little sound, and felt something hot splash across my chest and face. That same little noise – like a steel-wire brush shoved rough against wood – and the murderer between my legs collapsed on top me, dead weight. The coughing-brushing noise, again and again, and I heard a steel-limbed body hit pavement. Even in Redmond, the sound of silenced pistols wasn’t exactly common. Or, rather, especially in Redmond. Your average ganger didn’t bother being quiet about his killings. I felt blood wash over me, and struggled to breath. I was pinned beneath a steel-limbed jackal, but I could still twist my head and open my eyes.

The angel was standing there, a smoking automatic in each hand. Some trick of the blue-white streetlight behind him turned his longcoat into wings, the gunsmoke into a halo, an aura of purity. The three Manglers were dead, each one with two shots to the chest and one to the forehead. It might’ve taken two seconds.

I hiccuped.

Given how the last two minutes of my life had gone, I think it was fair for me to still be terrified. At that moment, all I could think was that he wanted me, too, and wanted me before the Manglers had taken their fill.

My angel promised me in a quiet voice that's not why he'd done it.

I wouldn’t know until a few years later, of course, when I humiliated myself by coming home drunk and throwing myself at him, that Deke wouldn’t ever be interested in me in that way.  
« Last Edit: (18:44:34/09-04-10) by Critias »

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« Reply #1 on: (17:52:11/09-03-10) »
Three years later.
“Lizzie, Blip needs five more seconds!” Deke hollered at me from across the office, machine pistol in each of his gloved hands, spitting fire. I pumped the action on my Mossberg and whipped around a cubicle wall, sending a rifled deer slug into a corporate security guard’s chest.

“Blip can kiss my ass!” Two bullets had creased me so far on this job, and the pain shoved past my bioware inhibitors, burning enough to make my cranky. I sent a second shot at the mass of guards that had attempted this latest rush towards our position, and they scattered into side-offices and left me the merciless queen of that hallway once again. “That bitch better do his shit right this time!”

We’d all gotten burned, took only half payment, from a job a month ago because Blip had gone and fucked up. Me an’ Deke had gotten his scrawny ass into the building (smoked a half dozen guards and two Hellhounds to get him there, natch) and then he’d just gotten his ass kicked by ice about four whole seconds after he’d jacked in. Deke’d covered us as I’d carried Blip out the building, the blood steadily pouring from his nose to dribble down the inside of my coat and down my spine. We’d made it to Skid’s van, stim-patched the skinny bastard back to life, and then we’d made it clear that shit would not be happening again, or he’d find a new crew.

Give your buddies one chance after a fuck up, Deke had said the first time one of his crew had let him down, but if they don’t outdo themselves on that next job, curb ‘em.

“Two seconds,” the elf hollered back, cybereyes and headware radio linking him with Blip enough that basic communication was possible. Deke let out a long burst from each of his pistols, then whipped back into view as he reloaded. There was a stack of empty magazines at his feet already, but unlike me he’d thus far remained untouched by returned fire. A recent move-by-wire upgrade, where I was still getting by with what passed for top-of-the-line boosted-reflexes, didn’t hurt his chances. Neither did the fact he had a good five more years of experience on me. Still, we were neck and neck on kills, I think.

My ears picked up the clatter and shuffle and muttering of hard-armored men mustering up the balls to rush a fifteen year old girl, and I decided that two seconds meant we were close enough to endgame that I could waste a few toys on these bastards. I sent a slug downrange to make ‘em duck back into their hideyholes for just a second, then my shotgun dangled from its sling and both hands sent grenades bouncing and rolling down the hallway. I grinned.

I turned and ran, groping for my Mossberg as I went, and just as I saw Blip’s skinny little hand unplug his deck from the manager’s jackpoint, explosions roared behind me. Well, my end of the room was clear! From the looks of things, Deke’s would be safe in a second or two. The elf had advanced around his corner, confident enough in how few opponents remained to leave his cover to clean up the last few. Deke didn’t fuck up; that meant the fight was almost over.

Two last bursts finished the patrols that had been sent to take the room from that side. Blip flashed me a geeky thumbs-up to let me know he had the data we’d been sent to retrieve. I triggered the radio tucked into my ear and spoke into the chin-mic, “Extraction in one minute, Skids.”

Deke gave me a confirming nod from across the room, and the three of us started for the staircase. Always avoid elevators, Deke had told me two and a half years earlier, when I’d come along on one of my first jobs, because security riggers are all assholes.

Sixty four seconds later our happy little family was all assembled, burning rubber away from whatever-the-fuck corp office it’d been, Skids living up to his name as he played getaway driver. Smoke’s astral form chased his meatbody down and he woke back up, head snapping to alertness and body securely buckled into the back of Skids’s van. The shaman flashed us his own thumb’s up – he didn’t talk much, our Smoke – and Deke nodded with an air of confident finality. Blip’s deck was full of juicy information (with a backup in his headware, knowing Blip), I wasn’t dead, Deke wasn't dead, Skids had us on the road, and Smoke hadn’t spotted anyone giving chase. All was right with the world.

It was my twelfth run, and it had gone smooth as silk. For the first year after Deke took me in – or rather, after I’d followed him home and he’d eventually slept on the futon and given me his bed – I hadn’t taken part in the business directly. I’d hit his weights, practiced with his guns when he let me, asked every smart and stupid question about his job I could think of, and quietly fell in love with him.

Then was the night he came home a little shot up after a bodyguard gig, densiplast skeleton and dermal sheathing or not, the bullet wins when meat and unfriendly fire crash into one another. I’d patched him up, watched over him for the two months it took for him to get smooth and steady again, and then he finally let me come along on that next job. I’d been with him ever since; him still sleeping on his futon and my ork-big body sprawled all over his bed, and the two of us earning a rep as solid shooters about once every six or eight weeks. In the two years since, we’d only had two jobs really go sour on us; Blip’s fuck up, and a Johnson double-cross six months earlier.

But this job was special. It marked an even dozen completions on my part. Deke and I, we’d made a deal. Twelve jobs with him, twelve jobs where he got three-quarters of the pay instead of an even fifty-fifty split, and then he’d help me out with something I’d been planning. Free of charge. Extra muscle. Keep your word, Deke had told me, or you're done in this business.  It was the cardinal rule. I knew he would.

Twelve jobs with my new big brother, and now the two of us were going after the Manglers. Every nuyen I’d made that hadn’t gone into ammo or upgrades for myself had gone to informants, Fixers, snitches, and rats. I knew where the Manglers slept, I knew how many of them there were, I knew what guns they had and who they bought their drugs and BTLs from. I knew their girlfriends, their street docs, their prowling habits. I knew they’d hit my family (and a dozen others, that day) to send a message to my block’s Razors, and I knew they’d killed and cannibalized those Razors less than two weeks after the fact. I knew everything I had to know. I knew Deke and I could take them.

And, after this dozenth job, I knew he had my back.

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« Reply #2 on: (17:55:05/09-03-10) »
Two weeks later.

We took our time. I’d been stocking up on gear for this job for the last two years, but a few more upgrades were in our cards after that last successful data steal. We’d both gotten optics upgrades (I just had a new set of goggles) – Deke’s eyes had been cybered all along, but so real looking you didn’t know until you saw him pull them apart for a cleaning – and the flash-bangs wouldn’t bug us in the slightest. My new smartlink induction pad itched a little, but the rush of feeling my Mossberg grow into part of my arm was worth it. I wasn’t going to miss, not one single shot, against these animals. Deke’s latest boyfriend, Glass, had hooked us up with good prices, too. He was a street doc (Deke had a knack for finding usefull boyfriends), and a good one. We’d had money left over, and I’d invested it in explosive rounds.

I wanted this job to be messy.

But, sometimes things just go pear-shaped, Deke had once told me, no matter how prepared you think you are.

“Oh jesus oh jesus, baby, I’m so sorry,” I knelt on the ground next to my best friend’s ruined form, big ork-clumsy hands pawing at his chest and trying to stop the blood from escaping.

The Mangler chief had a submachinegun hidden in his left arm and I hadn’t known about it. Not my footwork, not Deke’s contacts, not Blip’s raiding of their street doc’s computers, nothing had turned it up. The gun either had to be very very old or very very new to have been missed on all our records, but that hadn’t stopped it from spitting forth a stream of caseless ten millimeter rounds right into my guardian angel’s chest.

“Don’t die don’t die don’t die please please.”

The fucker’d been lying on the ground with two deer slugs in his belly, I’d walked over to finish him off, and then he’d lurched and that arm came up, and Deke – my angel, my hero, my Apollo, my Superman – had appeared between us, caught mid-reload and unable to shoot the bastard, but quick Rikki-Tikki-quick enough to get in the ganger’s line of fire. I’d stomped on the Mangler’s skull until my boot was slippery, and a heartbeat later I was on the ground next to my Deke, trying to stop the leaking.

I’d gotten his ruined vest off, and it had done a good job but not a good enough job. The dikoted trauma plates couldn’t be everywhere at once, I guess. A half dozen little holes polka-dotted his once-perfect chest, golden tan covered in blood, rippling abs awash in crimson. I slapped a trauma patch over his heart. “All my fault, all my fault, all my fault.”

I couldn’t stop crying. I was twelve again. Someone I loved was dying to these same bastards, and I was that twelve year old girl who was scared out of her skull, but this time no guardian angel was coming because he was busy dying and it was my fault. Tears fell off my chin and splashed into the blood on his chest. I knew Docwagon was on the way, but my heart told me they'd be too late.

“This…hurtsss.” His flawless white teeth were pink, he loved me enough to turn his head away before he spat out the blood to try and talk again. “Hurts bad. Got…sss…somethin’?”

I looked around, frantically searching the abandoned warehouse visually and wracking my brain at the same time. I knew every drug these fuckers had by heart. We’d been ready to find them stoked up on Jazz, riding the wave of Kamikaze, high on Nitro, you name it. I knew what they had. I knew their inventory better than they did.

Bliss. I broke my shotgun battering the crate open.

I scrambled back over to my angel’s side, blood pooling around him like wings, crying and hiccuping. I slapped another trauma patch over his heart, then grabbed his arm and put on a Bliss tab. He might die, but he wouldn’t hurt. Not my angel. His impossibly blue eyes still looked up at me, crisply in focus and his teeth gritted in pain. I gave him another patch of Bliss, further up his arm. He squeezed my hand urgently, stronger than me thanks to upgrades and hard work, and I was scared my bones would break. I gave him a third patch, just inside his elbow.

His grip loosened a little, his eyes softened. He smiled up at me, that perfect smile from that perfect face. He felt better. I’d made him feel better. I cried, and he bled.

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« Reply #3 on: (17:57:06/09-03-10) »
Four months later.

He was back on his futon, finally. My sweet, sweet, angel. Back out of the DocWagon hospital, back out of Glass’s clinic, back in the loft with me where he belonged. He didn’t even have scars, Glass had fixed them all up, smoothed them all over.  Of course.  Glass, of all people, wanted Deke to keep on looking perfect.  One lung had collapsed, one bullet had nicked his heart, two had torn through his belly to lodge in his spine, two others had fragmented and fucked him up even more; my Deke had been a royal mess. The first trauma patch, a DocWagon sales rep had explained to us once Deke was lucid again, had stuck it’s little needle in the bullet wedged against his heart. The second, though, had managed to snake in and do it’s job, keeping him alive until that Trauma Team had arrived.

The convalesence had drained Deke’s savings. He’d worked for five years to, just like every other Shadowrunner, get back out of the business. Every investment he’d made into a new piece of cyber or bioware, every calculated expenditure of ammunition, every pick he’d made on who to work with and what jobs to take, had been a carefully planned maneuver made to take him another step closer to retirement. One job, one hidden autogun, had pretty much fucked that up. My job.

I sat on the floor next to his futon, holding his hand and resting my head on his knee while we watched the trid. I’d missed him the most when I went to sleep at night. I’d visited him every day, but missed him those nights. The lights of the trid being on ‘till four am, the sound of the futon’s springs creaking as he shifted his weight, the dozen little things I’d so taken for granted when he was around. It had been a long four months, and I hadn’t been sleeping well.

I’d taken two jobs with just Skids and Blip and Smoke, and they’d gone well enough to keep the loft paid for and our crew’s rep alive. It’d been rough pulling double duty, trying to be twice the shooter I normally was ‘cause Deke wasn’t there and I was the only one worth a damn with a gun, but I’d managed it.

My angel had heard all about both jobs the very next days, lying on his back and hooked up to machines with little tubes and wires, and he’d smiled that heartbreaking smile and told me how proud he was.

And now he was back. We’d sparred that afternoon (and he’d kicked my ass), we’d gone shooting that evening (and he’d kicked my ass), we’d scrolled through instant mails and Shadowland bulletin boards, looking for jobs. My angel was back, our loft was home again, and our crew was whole again.
« Last Edit: (18:47:23/09-04-10) by Critias »

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« Reply #4 on: (18:00:05/09-03-10) »
Thirteen months later.

“You heard me!” I roared, arms waving, “I said ‘were you fucked up?’”

The loft was big enough it echoed, once. Deke tossed his head, looked like half of him wanted to stomp my face in, looked like the other half of him wanted to stomp his own. We’d lost Smoke about a half hour earlier. Our seventh job back together as one big happy family, and our shaman was dead.

“Fuck you, Lizzie! There was nothing I could do!”

“Answer me, Deke! You look me in the eyes and you tell me the truth. Were, you, fucked, up?” I’d kept my suspicions to myself for the last thirty minutes, hadn’t said a word to Skids or Blip about it, just like I hadn’t told them about the two times, previously, I’d found out Deke was Blissed during a job. “Is Smoke fucking dead because you were high?”

“You saw what happened!” He shoved me, then, hard-muscles and augmentations overcoming our size difference, sending me back three steps and thumping my back against a wall. From the look on his face, he’d have been crying if he didn’t have cybereyes. “I wouldn’t have been able to save him anyways!”

That much, maybe, was true. The red dot of a sniper’s laser had danced on Smoke’s face for a half second, then the astrally projecting shaman’s head had just ceased to exist. There wasn’t much we could’ve done to stop the fifty-cal from hitting him, and with his mind not in his body right then even yelling something wouldn’t have helped. It had been all we could do to get out of there in one piece, running to put the building itself between us and the sniper, aborting the mission and making it home with the rest of us alive. That wasn’t the point, though.

“So you were, you sonovabitch. You were fucked up.” I jabbed an accusing finger at him, part of me scared he’d reach up, grab it, and rip it off. I knew he could. “You were Blissed, and Smoke caught a fucking bullet!”

I’d thought something was up during just our second job after his hospital stay. Deke was still quick as lightning, but something had been…off. Once he got moving, he was moving fast as ever, but he’d been sluggish to start moving, slow to make decisions. He hadn’t been focused. I’d brushed it off, that first time.

Fool me once, shame on me. I’d caught him at it, seen him slapping a patch on as we were gearing up, before the third job. He’d promised not to do it again after that one, had looked all sheepish and smiled at me that irresistible way. And, natch, he’d made the same promise, after the next job, when I’d seen a little black patch nestled against that same spot.

“Fuck you, Lizzie!” He almost spat at me, and a part of me wanted to cry. “It was your fucking op, anyways. You were in charge, you took the job, you did the legwork. Smoke’s head is gone because of you, not me.”

“I can’t always stop bullets for people, okay? Fucking sue me.” I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut, but he didn’t stop. He took a step forward, pointing at me just as I’d pointed at him. My accusing finger wavered and fell, but he didn’t let up. “And since you know what happened the last time I tried that catch-a-bullet trick, maybe you should just shut the fuck up about what I feed my nerve endings. It’s my business, not yours.”

He advanced another step, and I pressed my back to the wall, scared he was going to hit me (really hit me, not like when we sparred) for the first time.

Instead he stormed past me, grabbed his longcoat off the hook by the door, then vanished down the steps. I knew where he was going, but I didn’t try to stop him. I just slid down the wall, and hugged my knees. He was going to Glass. Glass would tell him it was okay. Glass would hook him up. Maybe Zen, which I’d heard he’d tried once, but the Bliss for sure. Bullet fragments from one of those ten-millimeter rounds were still lodged near the base of his spine. He felt it, when it rained. We lived in Seattle; it always rained. Bliss took that pain away.

I cried, head rocking back to thump against the wall every few seconds. It was all my fault. Smoke, and my angel, both, were gone because of me.

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« Reply #5 on: (18:02:55/09-03-10) »
Seven months later.

When the tridphone chirped at me, I knew who it was. I hadn’t heard from Deke in a few weeks, which meant he was due to call. Aside from that regularity, though, I’d programmed the phone to a custom ring when it was Glass’s clinic on the other end. Skids, Blip, and I had been on another job a few nights earlier, and I’d been waiting on Deke’s call. The grapevine didn’t disappoint, and news of our success was sure to reach him, even at Glass’s.

He’d been staying there more and more lately. Since the night we’d lost Smoke, Deke had only been in the loft maybe half the time. He’d crashed at Glass’s clinic for a night or two, then a few weeks later had stayed there four or five days, then the month after that for a whole week; until, now, he was there at least as often as he was here. I knew he’d moved out – even if he hadn’t said it – when his collection of Morissey handguns had moved over to the clinic instead of staying here in the safe.

He’d only come on two jobs since the big blow up, since the night we’d lost Smoke. Deke’d contact us a few days prior to the action, call around and get me and Blip and Skids interested in a payday. Both times the offer had come right from Glass, one job to trash some other street doc’s clinic and another to raid an inbound autotruck full of medical supplies. I knew that, for all Glass was paying the other three of us in nuyen or our favorite corp scrip, Deke was just getting to shoot up for free and not pay rent. Bliss had him good. Glass had him good.

Aside from those few calls with job offers, I’d only hear from Deke after the three of us had pulled a job without him.

The Shadowrunner gossips did their work, and a day or two after each payday I’d get a call from Deke, asking for money. My growing rep was a double-edged sword. For all it got me bigger credsticks, it also meant news of my exploits spread through the grapevine (to Deke) that much quicker. I knew what he was going to use the money for, but I couldn’t quite say no to him. I owed him, and I loved him, and it was all my fault anyways.

I’d tried to say no, once, and he’d tried to cry. His optics wouldn’t let him, tear ducts having long since been removed, but he’d sobbed at me over the phone and my heart had broken and I’d initiated a credit transfer.

After the fourth ring, I mustered up the courage to answer. I hoped the gossips didn’t know how big our payday had been; last night had marked our third job in a row from the same Johnson, and the eventual completion of the long-term task had come to us with a hefty bonus attached.

I had to do a double take when the tridscreen blipped on. Was it Deke?

“Heya, Lizzie.” Yellow teeth flashed at me, but there was no mistaking that voice. It was the eyes that had me confused, though. His impossibly real, impossibly blue, orbs were gone. They’d been custom Leupolds, Delta grade stuff, top of the line work. He had some cheap Russian surplus looking jobs, now, and the skin around his eyes was still pink from the recent surgery. I swallowed a lump in my throat, a mixture of pity and disgust; Glass had helped him trade his eyes down a few grades for extra cash. He was feeding pieces of himself to the Bliss.

“How’s biz?”

I knew where the conversation was going. I tried to say no that time, too. Like before, it didn’t last. I initiated a nuyen transfer, knowing it would be the only way to get his face off my tridscreen.  I cried, after it went black.

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« Reply #6 on: (18:05:38/09-03-10) »
Five months later.

I almost killed him. Quickly and brutally, a jerk-snap with one hand on the bony chin, the other hand grabbing that greasy-looking yellow hair. His neck would’ve cracked more easily than the movies make it look, and he would’ve dropped like a cut-string puppet. No one hugged me like that, that suddenly, from behind, in the middle of a crowded dance floor.

No one but him, and I almost hadn’t recognized him.

My modified adrenal glands roared and I heard the blood pump in my ears for a second, but then it hit me. It was Deke. The body felt all wrong when it’d draped itself over me from behind, but when I turned to attack I saw who it was. I hugged him, the first time I’d seen him face to face in most of a year, and wanted to cry. It felt like my arms could’ve gone around him twice.

I held him at arm’s length even as he tried to hold on, and that lump filled my throat again. It looked (and smelled) like he hadn’t washed in a week or more, there were a few barely-visible patches of missing hair, blood soaked his gums when he smiled at me and a few teeth were gone. His elf-high cheekbones were too high, his skin pulled tight over his skull and gone waxy where it used to be golden brown. His long coat hung on his scarecrow frame like a bad joke, his clothes weren't filled out right any more. Even just the weight loss from Bliss and Zen abuse couldn’t cause that much of a body type difference; God, had he sold back his own muscles?

I made myself smile, brushed aside my would’ve-been dance partner for the night, and held Deke’s hand as he guided me out behind the club. His grip felt so weak. So very, very, weak. I blinked away tears as he grunted to shove open the heavy back door, stood outside with him and wished the crackling, blinking, light overhead would die so I he wouldn’t look so angular to me.

“Heya, Lizzie.” He smiled, and I felt bile crawl up my throat. “How’s biz?”

He knew how my biz was, just like I knew about his. Glass had broken up with him, kicked him out. I’d punched some wannabe’s face into a ruined pulp when I’d heard the asshole snicker over at The Hollow Point the other day, telling a joke about my guardian angel and how he’d fallen. He used to be hot shit, the smirking smoothie had said while his jaw still worked, now he’s not even a hot piece of ass.

I’d let Skids and Blip pull me off him after my knuckles split open.

“Biz is okay, Deke.” I didn’t tell him that story. “How’s yours?”

“S’okay, Lizzie. It’s...it's okay. I’ve…listen, I’ve got some jobs lined up.” I wanted to shake my head, but couldn’t call him a liar to his face again. “And some money comin’ in soon. Glass ain’t, y’know, he ain’t holdin’ me back any more. I’m a freelancer again, takin’ jobs as they come, an’ I’ll have some nuyen comin’ in real soon.”

He spoke with the tone of someone who thinks saying something twice makes it true. There was a soft whir as his ugly Russian optics worked to keep me in focus. He was Blissed up, even right then.

“But, ah, you think you could spot me some? ‘Till then? I’m a little strapped for cash, and got some, uh, bills to pay.”

And I’m a big damned idiot. I gave it to him. Again. Hating myself as much as him, I handed over a certified credstick.

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« Reply #7 on: (18:10:26/09-03-10) »
Five weeks later

I was surprised to get the call this time. The special chirrup-chirp on the tridphone meant the incoming call was from Glass’s clinic (but only because I hadn’t bothered to change it). Why would that asshole be calling the loft?

When I answered it, I hated myself for hitting the accept call button. Deke stared at me, cheap cyberoptic lenses zooming grossly out of his sockets, each out of focus with the other but both glaring at the tridscreen. Blood was on his face.

“Lizzie! Lizzie!” One eye whirred, the other held still. He was trembling. “I need your help, Lizzie. Did a bad thing, a real bad thing. Opened Glass up, but I can’t open the cabinet up. Nuh-need your help, Lizzie. My Lizzie, Lizzie. Gotta get the cabinet open. Gotta get inside. You’re so strong, my Lizzie. Please, baby, help me get the cabinet open. Please. Please.”

I thumbed the end call button, so I could cry without having to talk to him. I grabbed my jacket and my big Ruger, and ran for the stairs down to where my Harley was parked below the loft. My angel needed me. Bad.

I opened the back door to Glass’s clinic with a nudge of one booted foot. This was the living area, the mini-apartment where Glass lived but didn’t work. The door was ajar, and I knew then that Deke hadn’t just been Blissed out of his gourd and making shit up.

Street docs were as paranoid as any ‘runner, and if that door wasn’t locked and shut, I knew Glass was dead. A few lights were still on, more than enough for my ork-eyes to make out the mess. The table and chairs were over, some dishes scattered on the floor, a blood trail left this back room and headed towards the business end. It had been a hell of a fight; that, in itself, saddened me. Deke used to be the best killer in the Sprawl. Glass shouldn’t have had time to put up a fight, shouldn’t have lived long enough to leave a blood trail.

My wheelgun led the way as I moved down the short hallway to the operating area proper. I stepped over Glass’s body – most of it – and saw my angel, my demigod, my hero, sitting completely naked on the floor with blood pouring from his hand and both Russian cyberoptics whirring and zooming, magnifying wildly in response to the warped stimuli from his chemical-addled brain. I smelled blood, just like that first time we’d met, and shit, and death. Glass as all torn open, like my poppa’d been. Some of the blood was from Deke, though.

He’d split his forearm open, some time after I'd hung up on him. The cyberspurs he’d used to open up Glass, he’d then used to open up the cabinet full of drugs. They weren’t made for prying, though, and his body wasn’t a tenth of what it had once been; the mounts on his forearm had given about the same time the medical cabinet lock must’ve. Compound fractures are never pretty. Deke didn’t seem to notice the blood. I knew he was beyond noticing he pain.

“Hiya Lizzie, Lizzie. Myyyyy Lizzie. Pretty girl. How’s bizzie, Lizzie?” He giggled at his own little rhyme, flashing a split lip when he grinned. I didn’t know if it was from Glass, or from Deke falling or slamming his head against the cabinet or anything else he might’ve done.
 
I let myself cry. Right in his face, for the first time since that day he’d saved me. I saw Bliss patches on both arms, like leeches or ticks. Up and down both forearms, inside the elbows, up the biceps that had once outmatched my own. He must’ve slapped on every single patch he could find, stripped down just to expose more skin to stick them to. I blinked, swallowed, saw them on his inner thighs, across his loose-skinned chest, one stuck on his neck like a vampire. A few were Zen-slaps, but most were Bliss.

He went on talking like I’d actually answered, like he was holding a conversation with another human being and not just talking to the drugs.

“I love you soooo much, Lizzie. Not like Glass. He said no, an’ you always said yes, my Lizzie. My little girl. Sooo sweet to me. You always said yes to me. I should’ve said yes. ‘Member that? That night?”

I looked away, tears falling. I didn’t want to think about that night. Fourteen years old, boozed up after my first big paying ‘run, high on celebrating the success, and thinking I was mature enough to seduce my guardian angel. It felt like it’d been forever ago. He’d laughed at my offer, then seen the hurt in my eyes, and explained. It's not that I don't love you, he'd said, touching my chin and lifting my face so I could see him smile.  It's that I'm not interested in your plumbing.  I’d been the naked one, then. He’d given me a kiss on the cheek, sent me to bed. He’d slept on the futon that night, and I’d taken his bed. Like always.

“Lizzie, Lizzie. I done made a mess, huh?” Blood splashed as he waved with his ruined arm, gesturing to what was left of Glass, his lover.  The sweep of his limb took in the trashed operating room, the knocked-over stools and trays, the scattered empty boxes that used to hold slap patches. I nodded. I couldn’t talk. His arm flopped back into his lap, and his head lolled back. His body spasmed, suddenly. Another of the patches must’ve just kicked in.

“Oh, wow, Lizzie. You don’t know what it’s like…this is…wow.” His eyebrows rose, military-surplus optics whirred and tried to focus. His whole body lurched, taut. “Baby, I’ve got a billion an’ one angels lickin’ on my ballsac. Woah. Jesus an’ all the saints, baby doll, are jackin’ me off right now.”

I rubbed one hand across my eyes, brushing away tears. My angel needed me. My shoulders heaved with a big sigh, and then I lifted the big Ruger .44 and shot him in the head.

I turned around, out of tears, and walked back to where my Harley was waiting.  I was done crying.

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« Reply #8 on: (18:11:39/09-03-10) »
Found this old one on my hard drive (along with some other SR fiction), and thought it'd be fun to post it.  Some of you might have read it from the old DS fanfic contests, but since I stumbled across my old fiction folder I thought I'd share it again.  As a break from grad school, I'll probably post a few of the other old ones up, from time to time.

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« Reply #9 on: (18:00:34/09-04-10) »
I don't quite remember all of this (just the beginning), but I look forward to re-reading it.

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« Reply #10 on: (23:28:46/09-04-10) »
I wasted several hours yesterday, just looking through my old folders, re-reading a lot of my stuff.  I fixed a typo here and there, mind, but I'm always hesitant to go back and edit too much.  I kind of like being able to compare my first Connor fic -- just as a for instance -- to my more recent stuff, to see how it feels, and to not restructure sentences or rewrite whole paragraphs to "fix" things. 

I imagine artists do kind of the same, rolling their eyes a little at some old scribble but never erasing it to draw it over again.   ;D

At any rate;  I don't want to speak for the other fanfic posters, but for the record, comments are welcome on any thread I toss up something. 

Don't feel like I'm trying to create some sort of fiction museum, here, where folks can look but not interact at all.  Questions are great, feedback's fine, first impressions, later impressions, whatever.  Heck, I've got character sheets for most anyone involved in my fiction -- at least half my stories start out as character backgrounds, and I can't help but stat folks up for the other half -- so even making requests is allowed.   ;)

Post, people!  It's a forum, not a library.  Make some noise! 

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« Reply #11 on: (04:32:55/09-05-10) »
Well, I really enjoyed the work you've put up so far =)  Though, I admit I get a little depressed at reading SR fanfic sometimes, since it seems like 90%+ of it ends on a similar note to this =/

Great writing though.

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« Reply #12 on: (11:08:47/09-05-10) »
Bleak world, Mooncrow. You get a lot of bleak endings.

My own SR worldview being a bit skewed to what many consider normal, I've discovered that a lot of my fic tries to end on a less grim note. I don't succeed very often. I'm also embarrassed enough about most of it to not bother posting it, though I do have a character sketch around here somewhere for an SR4 game I never got to play that I might post that.

Crit: I wasn't as wild about this one as I was about the others you've posted so far, but damn, it was well-done.
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« Reply #13 on: (18:51:10/09-05-10) »
This is one of the few of mine that isn't just a backstory for a character, actually.  A couple years ago Tisoz had another fiction contest going, and I didn't have any ideas about what to toss into the ring.  I'd been reading Kevin Smith's blog, of all things -- the big section of it dealing with Jay's addiction -- and that, combined with Shadowrun's always-harsh addiction and drug abuse rules, just got the ball rolling.  It amuses me to no end that probably the most serious of all my little fiction pieces came from the real-life issues of Jay and Silent Bob, of all fucking people.

I sat down and typed it up in one sitting, give or take a few quick edits (since then), right there in the Dumpshock browser window to send as a PM to the organizer of the contest.  I just started typing and let the story pour out, and was pretty happy with the result.

The subject had to be a too-perfect Elven demigod of physicality and athleticism, to make the fall and the physical degradation that accompanied it that much more painful.  People don't freak out if a Troll's gums bleed or his eyes get rings around 'em, and no one cares if an Ork's hair falls out.  Deke had to be...well...a lot like Connor, a favorite character of mine, in that he had that Elven "it" to him, the confidence, the physical presence, the vanity and the tremendous physical ability to back it up...right up until he threw it all away, a bit at a time.

The speaker turned into an Ork as soon as I sat down and started typing, because I wanted someone who'd be a counterbalance to the declining, disintigrating, Elf.  She could grow as a person, pass points of physical and emotional maturity, and come into strength, power, and confidence even as he was losing all of his.  They age so fast and get such great physical stats, it seemed like a natural fit.  A good counterweight, who could have a meteoric rise even as her mentor was stumbling and falling.

All in all, I liked it but wasn't sure if anyone else would, when I got done writing it.  I was content that I'd like it when I hit the submit key, because I really liked some of the other entries, too, and didn't know how well received Angels would be.  Several of the other entries in Tisoz's contest were from guys I respect quite a bit and had been playing on-line with -- that is to say, writing collaborative fiction with -- for years and years. 

Needless to say, I was quite pleased with the reception it got.

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« Reply #14 on: (13:33:35/10-10-10) »
I read this years ago, and just reread it yesterday.  It is a great piece of writing.  Its a piece that I will refer to my players as moodsetting as I launch my next campaign.