[Note: All series references (cyberpunk, anime, or otherwise), music lyrics, and other materials in this section are owned by their respective creators and distributors, as well as anyone I forgot who stakes a claim.
This story's original elements, characters, plot, and locations, however, while incorporating copyrighted materials, are (c) No Tomorrow Productions
2nd Note: This is NOT an SI. Original Flavor, maybe, but no SI in sight, kiddies...yet.]
But yet another homicide - no matter how strange - wasn't all that was going on in the city. Indeed, when the unknown Libertarian Deist Commission took the reins of power amidst the chaos known as the 'New Cold War' of 2003, they had already made plans for this city's renovation.
Much was going on in San Trine that night.
In one unruly area of the great west coast city, for example, a fine young man was dodging bullets.
Rob ran at a breakneck rate, not even bothering to return fire as the blasters, submachine guns, and various other ordnance exploded around him. He quickly ducked out of the shooting gallery that Meph's Cantina had become while Rob had made a phone call and taken a chance. Rob sprinted to a side alley by the lot, and took cover. All the while, he cursed silently, thinking I shouldn't have come back.
He wasn't pissed. Not yet, at least. He'd have time enough for that later. Right now, he was trying to stay alive.
It had been at least a year since he had returned to the nightclub. A year since he had given up the business of being an E-Assassin; the few, the proud, the netrunnin'-mindfuckers. One of Fire Ants, Inc.'s best.
A year since he had met Emma. Around 365 days since their affair had changed everything.
But, as he had been told by the recruiter about 4 million years ago, there is only one way out of the mob business, and it ain't pretty. So much for the power of love, and other mass delusions...
He had come to settle his business. Unfortunately, some people just couldn't leave things be. No matter how long it had been...
When you were an electronic brain-fryer, your job consisted of finding the target online, and then infecting their brainware in whatever way possible. It was the worst (or best, depending on your opinion) kind of hacking, really. Usually it was just a technique used to scare some newbie off a board he'd been causing trouble on; but other times...Rob had seen guys who looked like they had just undergone primitive electroshock therapy; braindead, staring eyes bugged out, drooling all over themselves, choking on their own bad smelling vomit, and other signs of brain damage. Rob tried not to think about those net-heads often. Like, say, when he was eating...
The gun/laser/maser-fire pulverized the wall Rob took cover against. He crouched against it stealthily, remembering the skills he had learned from VR games and simulations. Rob wasn't used to combat in RL (real life); he supposed that the fact he wasn't dead yet meant he was competent.
Out of nowhere, an invisible pain like a rug burn gashed the side of his arm, ripping through his black t-shirt's cloth and tearing the flesh of his arm. He slid away from the edge of the wall, struggling to not cry out in pain. He had been nicked by buckshot; not a grievious wound, but still painful.
He pulled out the Zeta. A laser-sight, semi-auto handgun, straight from the land of the rising sun. The trapped merc's spiky green hair was as resilient as ever. Its laser flashed absently against the far, dead-end, graffiti-infested wall, as Rob checked the clip with a glance, then slipped it in. 12 rounds. It would have to do.
"C'mon, Otto, get over here..." Rob murmured as the hired guns stalked closer...
But Otto Matik was somewhere else.
Otto looked over the shoulder of his friend, who was slamming away at an old-fashioned typewriter. His friend had a rather arcane way of typing manuscripts; first, it would go through the ancient, carefully tended typewriter. Then, it would be scanned into his mainframe, edited, and re-printed. When asked why he did his typing that way, Otto's friend Darren would shrug and reply, "The typewriter helps me get ideas," with a small smile.
Darren was an aspiring writer, who worked at an art gallery part time. He had been Otto's buddy since middle school; a really laid back guy, who took things as they came and seemed really mellow, except of course for his infamous (in Otto's mind, at least) crush on the 'weather chick' on local FiberOptic DTV channel 9483. In truth, he was a very imaginative person who liked to write bizarre 'furry' fiction and objective biographies. So far, he had found no buyers for his stories.
But, despite his prose's lack of popularity, Otto did have a profound respect for Darren's talent. Here was a guy who could pound out pages and pages with someone looking over his shoulder, which amazed Otto to no ends with the openness expressed by that action. Otto knew he got paranoid just sending E-Mail on a PubliTerm outlet with someone breathing down his neck...
Otto heard a small buzz. He checked his pager. It read #$$911#. That meant only one thing: Rob had f^cked up. Bad. Otto sighed at this. He had expected it. As if I'm not busy as it is...
Rob was also a friend of Otto's; one with a knack for computer terrorism that helped out at Otto's Garage, occasionally. Otto had asked him to not go back to his former stomping grounds (at least not without backup), but Rob hadn't taken his advice. Again.
"Listen, Darren, I gotta go; we'll talk later," Otto stated in his deep, deep voice, which was nothing like his actual, dredlocked, SoCal-style appearance (much like his name). He moved towards the door, but Darren never even looked up. "Yeah, seeya," Darren said absently as his fingers pounded the keys, making a satisfying, metallic sound with every click of the spacebar.
Things just got worse for Rob. At one point, one of the assassins had run into the increasingly claustrophobic alley, screaming, "TIME TO DIE, YOU $HIT!" Obviously a newbie, probably wasted on one drug or another to reduce anxiety. Rob put a bullet in the would-be assailant's throat more out of reflex than anything else; however, the attack caused another flush of adrenalin to drip into his system. The nameless assassin hit the ground in a red mist almost immediately. What a waste of lead, Rob thought.
He was anxious. Rob couldn't stay there much longer. And he was sure that the guys trying to kill him knew it. He realized that they could attempt to flush him out at any time. Frag grenade? Gas canister? Whatever way it would be, Rob would have to act quickly to avoid it. These men were of the type who would rip someone's face off and staple it back on, backwards. Rob knew this, because he had seen it done, a long time ago. Just a simulation? Maybe, but that didn't make it any less than another nightmare from the war which never really ended in his mind; one that consisted of about 15 hours straight online, and around 30 terabytes. It had been a big day for his 'company'; they were 'cleaning house'. That is to say, they were taking out as many of their marks as they could, and ending up with a fairly high braindeads count. The only problem was that each person had to dispose of whoever's body they'd mind-wiped... That fun little marathon had been intense; one of the reasons he'd been trying to quit.
Rob heard the guys in the suits come closer - at least 5, from the sound of the footsteps. Even Nys couldn't take on a wolfpack with less than half a clip, Rob realized. He was beginning to get nervous. Very nervous. Scared, even--
Otto was on his way, driving through the backroads in his old sedan. The musty air seemed breathable and barren as it was sterilized in the car's AC system. He had the radio on at a respectable volume, and it played a rather irritated radio shock jock from one of the popular stations which Otto barely heard as he searched for his friend.
Out of the midnight blue, a humanoid, dark shape flew past the car. Otto cursed and swerved hard to the right, barely escaping a crash with either the thing which almost swiped him and the concrete wall. He braked, and swore again, this time for good measure, and presumably directed at the interloper; who must have been quite large, Otto realized. It was then that he realized that the thing might have been a rogue buma. And that it was set in the direction of the Cantina.
And It was going in that direction; but only because of amazing coincidence. Amazing coincidences were going to shape this night much, much more before its end. It took large, flying leaps instead of steps; not jumping rooftops, but very close to it. Its objective was near. It had once had a name; Constructions Unit #00675-GHE/C. Now, however, It had been given no name. A name was not required for what was to come...not for a while, at least.
It almost passed the Cantina without shedding blood, as it were.
There were six of them - more than needed for the piece of trash, in their leader Ayn's opinion. She was the leader of this little group, who had been hired to teach this guy a lesson, one way or another. Rumor was that this mark had fried the boss so bad he'd pissed his pants, but Ayn didn't care much either way. What she did care for was offing this guy, getting out of the cold, and collecting her dues.
Dan had run in, stupidly, despite their warnings. When they saw his carcass hit the ground, Ayn couldn't honestly say she felt any remorse. Perhaps relief at one less drug-gorged gun-toting pathetic excuse for a professional hitman to look after.
Ed, however, was rather pissed at losing a comrade. For this, Ayn could forgive him; Eduard was newer to this job than Dan, and was likely just doing it to pay the bills (he didn't look like he had some major, costly, drug habit to feed, but you never know). Besides, Ayn rather liked Ed in a purely non-professional basis, despite never telling the kid (those sorts of relationships were usually fatal for newbies)...
"Dammit!" Ed started towards the fox-hole which held the little rat they had been trying to flush out.
"Ed, stop," Ayn warned him, as she put a hand on his shoulder. Her voice, while accented in Gaelic (as Irish-American was her nationalty), also had a slight lisp to it. This was from her forked tongue, of course. The story on how she ended up splitting the tip of her tongue into two little sections was a rather amusing anecdote (along with her blood-red eyes) - except to Ayn, of course, who remembered the blood, and chaos, and the struggle to relearn how to speak that came afterwards.
"C'mon, Annie!" This was Ed's pet name for her. If anyone else had said it to her, she would have ripped out said person's trachea, deep-fried it, and ate it with tartar sauce in front of them (though some preparations would be needed for that exact scenario). But, as stated before, Ed was new. And Ayn liked him; quite a bit.
Eduard turned to face the blond hitwoman; the others just stood back, observing whether or not the rumors were true and Ayn liked the guy, or they were false and she would break his arm for insubordination. "Can't we drop a frag grenade?"
"What, and get the cops on our asses over just one man?"
"How about a flash grenade?"
Jason (no relation to the young man killed less than an hour before) Arnlen, another member of their merry little party, spoke up. "I got a flash grenade."
Ayn glanced at Jason, and took a little under a second to consider the options.
Then, she replied, "Okay, let's do it," while pushing back a strand of her dredlocked, strawberry blond hair. Ayn was more punk than pretty, but somewhere under the flesh, there was more good than you would find in most killers.
The team of currently 5 moved into a rectangular formation; their weapons were readied, while Jason set the grenade's fuse, and prepared to throw it...
Rob, who had been trying to make sense of the distant voices, saw the red target lasers hover on the far wall, and crouched, holding out his handgun like a Marine, and said a small prayer to whatever would listen...
Ayn thought she heard a car (or some other sort of vehicle) begin to drive by the bar. She dismissed this, thinking that this job would be over in a few seconds anyway...and in a way, she was right and wrong...
Jason pulled back his arm, like a baseball player, gripping the live grenade...
And then, all hell broke loose; as it often does when one of that place's denizens is loosed in the city.
James felt happy. This was not an emotion that was felt often, in his case. Usually, the closest he (or anyone else in the city, for that matter) got to such a feeling was temporary contentedness. But as he watched Meagann sleep, he found that he was actually happy to see her rest. Of course, it wouldn't last; these days, finding happiness was like running a tightrope. Quite the rush, but it's only a matter of time before you Fall.
These days, all she would do was scan the channels through that little black wire that plugged into the outlet on the side of her skull. James knew that she was just trying to escape what had happened to her brother, but he wouldn't intervene. He kept faith, though, that she would come out of it, and just hoped it wouldn't have any effect on what she carried within her. She would have to sleep, eat, do something...she'd have to live. And after about 18 hours, she did.
Dinner had been a quiet affair of some food he'd ordered on the way home that looked like shit and tasted only marginally better. Meagann had chosen to sleep on the old, beat-up couch in front of the TV, and James hoped that the noise he'd heard before was the TV's comforting hum of technology, and not anything so genuine as crying.
He sat down next to a dozing Meagann who was wrapped up in a blanket in front of the TV, which was playing some stand-up comedy piece that wasn't that funny. The room was small, and stuffed with James' belongings, as he had moved in only a few days before his girlfriend's brother's suicide changed oh so many things. The walls were barren, save a few covered windows, and grey; illuminated by flashes of light from the HDTV. James found the remote, switched the channel to a news station. Yet another senator had been assasinated by disgruntled taxpayers. Go figure.
James stared at the tattoo of a dragon flanked by kanji on his inner forearm, right below the wrist, and crowned by the veins and their various scars. It was the symbol of his new family, the symbol of his guilt. It was his fault for Meagann's brother's death, he was sure; no suicide. He should never have brought the people he loved into the business of his sect. There were never supposed to be any losses of life; never any casualties at all. But they were stuck now; they were essential to the plan. Hopefully, within 24 hours, it would be all over. The world would be changed, and their sacrifices justified. But for now, they waited.
Meagann awoke, sat up next to him.
As she went to her room, it weighed heavily on James' mind that she had said "I understand." Not "I forgive you" or even "I love you." Which was, of course, more than he deserved.
James tried to placate his self-hatred in the HDTV screen, and waited for the next day - and all it would bring - to come.
The day was anything but over, though, for the 8 people who were soon to change everything about James' plan.
NEXT: Part 3. "Meet The Creeper"
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