Author: Written by liralen. All the mistakes are mine, all the really cool lines were by the players or the GM. *grins*
Gaming System: "Don't Rest Your Head" by Fred Hicks, modified by Carl Rigney amberley to reflect Shadowrun concepts (where magic and cyberpunk collide) into "Don't Lose Your Edge". Carl ran the game.
Characters: Apricot (streetmage by diony), Rei (CLAMP Fighter for Justice by space_parasite), and Le Merle Blanc (wireless razorgirl by liralen)
Rating: PG-13 for some rather graphic violence to start, warning of an eye getting lost right off the bat.
Word Count: 3537
Summary: Our heroes try to rescue a little goblin girl and get pulled into all kinds of things due to trying to help out.
A/N: Quick character summaries can be found here on Carl's wiki page for his variation of the game. They're nice little nuggets of what really drives the chars and what's behind them. We're not quite a typical team. *laughs*
The monster's bulk pinned Rei to the hard concrete. Its pulsing proboscis reached out, and closed wet and warm against the Rei's eye socket. Rei's hands finally found and closed on the handle of his own curved blade but the weight of the monster pinned the blade up against his own flesh even as his left eye was sucked out of his head. The shock of it made his body writhe, but he refused to scream. With his remaining eye, Rei managed to see the blank skin of the monster's head ripple, pucker, and then an eye popped up, eye lids with lashes flickered, and then an eye the same brown as his own focused on him.
Rei growled at the swarthy magician behind the monster. "Do you really think this is going to stop me?"
Rei's words made the swarthy magician cower. The monster gave a bounding hop, chittering as it ran to its master's defense. Idiot. Rei's blade came out, gleaming.
"Y... you're not the girl I'm looking for!"
And the magician and his trick monster fled.
Rei was left holding his empty eye socket, cursing magicians with surprises in their pockets.
It had seemed so simple to start, just some swarthy guy in an expensive, lined long coat threatening a little goblin girl right on the edge of the squats. He hadn't even been carrying obvious weapons, which, out in the Sprawl, was a sure give away that the guy was a mage or just plain stupid. Rei had jumped in, intending to get the guy before he even knew what hit him, when the monster landed on him.
The goblin girl had disappeared.
At least that had worked, she was probably safe for another day. Probably.
Rei got up, steadied himself, and strode off for the free clinic. They cared a hell of a lot more than Doc Wagon, and he knew they'd be well equipped to at least stabilize his wounds. He knew because he paid a good deal of their bills.
It was the clothing and bag flying out of the third floor window that first caught my eye. The combination of lace and warmth, the particular timber of the "Oh shit!" out the same window, and the tone and vehemence of the rant that emerged from the apartment building moments later, all made me turn towards the noise.
Dressed in layers against the Seattle air, but in frills and covered with hundreds of tiny, beautiful things. Barrettes, braids, brooches, pins, bullet casings, keys, chips, tiny animals, beads, strands of ribbon, string, and metallic wire all woven, glued, and pinned onto her clothing, hair, and headband. Her apricot-colored hair was drawn back enough to show her black roots. The elf-lock she'd always worn glittered from the thin golden chain woven through it. Her black denim jacket glittered colors of all kinds from all the things she'd pinned or glued to it. She was a Renraku runaway, Japanese to the core of her, but wearing, thinning into Street.
She looked flustered, dark eyes wet, the side of her face red. Crap, the guy had hit her. I headed for the door, fully intending to go in and beat the guy up for her, when three idiots in green gang colors headed for her like a wolf pack scenting an injured doe.
"Forget that loser," said the largest of the idiots. "Come with us."
One of them grabbed Apricot's arm. "And, no, that's not just a suggestion."
In my head Lwazi and Mikazuki giggled and remembered Apricot talking streets into eating punks like that and wanted to see that again. I shook my head, borrowed some leg strength, and jumped on the head of the one that had grabbed Apricot's arm. It surprised him enough that she got free, and slipped into the shadow of the apartment building out of my way. Good girl.
Then we all moved together, ten times as fast. I landed, sitting on the ganger's shoulders. My thighs tightened as I put an elbow to the side of his head, and then I threw myself to the side. The choked gargle and then the sudden slump of the ganger under me seemed slow enough for me to put my feet on his chest, and spring off his bulk to aim a roundhouse at the next nearest gang guy's head as well.
He ducked, but too slowly and my foot clipped the back of his head, hard. He staggered. That was when the third guy got smart and while I was in mid-air, used a bat to good effect. I mean, if you can hit a 150 klick fast ball with a bat, a little wire girl just going hundred's not going to be much of a challenge, neh?
Crap, that hurt.
Stay on the ground. murmured Dean in the back of my head. Right, right, we can change direction easier on the ground.
I grabbed my shoulder, popped it back in, and nearly blacked out. Luckily I had nine other people watching my back, and Nada or Huyu, one of the really limber ones, took control and dodged, flipped, and slid to the side as the two remaining bully boys tried to take us out.
I thought about Seishin Bunretsu, but no edges were out, no need to escalate this little encounter. Dean growled at my assessment, stood us straight up, grounded, and switched from all our speed to all our strength behind one blow. I felt the shock through my bones as he used a straight tkd strike right through the jaw bones of the one unlucky enough to be nearest us.
I was glad he'd used the arm that hadn't been dislocated. The unlucky one fell like a stunned ox. I took back control and the guy with the bat stood back a bit, watching me warily.
I grinned and charged with just my speed. He swung, but this time it wasn't at my back. This time we all saw the swing, hesitated just that moment it took for the tip to go right by us, and then Dean wound up with all our strength and we all hit the baddy in the gut. The breath exploded from him and he cracked the wall behind him when he hit it.
Dust filtered down.
Apricot appeared from the shadows. She bent and picked up a key from the sidewalk. I'm not sure if the guy dropped it or not, but you never know with street shamen. She looked at me and shook her head. "You got hurt again."
I shrugged, or tried to, what that shrug did to my shoulder made me grimace instead.
I settled for saying, "It's what I do." Then I looked up at the now closed window, down at the pile of clothing on the sidewalk. "What happened?"
"He was trying to make me to introduce him to you. Stupid jerk."
"You want me to beat him up?"
"No..." Apricot said thoughtfully. "I think I hurt him enough, no need for you to, too. But I really need a place to sleep tonight. Stupid men."
She turned her face so that I couldn't see the side that had gotten slapped, and courteously, I ignored what she didn't want me to see.
I just nodded. Apricot once said, late at night, when she was a little drunk and thoroughly sleepy, that she'd left home so that the things she spoke to wouldn't hurt the ones around her. And after being around her for a while, I could see why. It pleased me that she thought I couldn't get hurt by what she conjured up out of her dreams. Okay... pleased and just a little proud, too, that she thought I could take care of myself against nightmares made real.
That was when Rei walked up, all tall and lithe muscle and handsome enough to make Apricot believe he'd dreamed him. I could see him hiding a stagger every few steps. His black long coat swayed behind him, and he held his hand to an eye that bled red all the way down from his high cheek bone to his hard jaw. Drips splashed on the concrete.
This time it was Apricot who asked, "What happened to you?"
"Oh, got my eye sucked out by a monster."
"You get the good fights," I muttered under my breath even as Apricot tched.
I slid under Rei's free arm, and he growled, but let me stay there and even leaned against me. Yeah, sometimes I do get lucky. We continued in the direction of the free Clinic we usually frequented.
"Oh! Did she wear black leather?" Apricot asked.
"No. It was an actual monster. I was by the Twelfth Street goblin squats when some well-dressed court mage tried to grab a little girl. I stopped him, and then the cheater pulled a monster out of his hat." Rei growled.
The door opened automatically, and I helped Rei in as Apricot chatted up the receptionist, asking about her day. Soon the clinic techs came and took Rei and I into the clinic's main examination room.
As we entered, a Feather Boy sat with his jaw and chest swathed with SmartSkin®. He turned towards us and I realized his jaw was oddly square and thrust forward like a jaguar's, and he'd had the spotted mask and dark line about the eyes of a jaguar tattooed onto his face, eyelids, and forehead. He sketched a bow to the tech and ourselves and slid out the door with enhanced grace.
There were rumors about Feather Boys. Aztechnology never acknowledge the rumors, but one found that if one told the boys something the Pyramids might be interested in, that data often found its way home.
The techs fussed over Rei, muttering about exposed nerves, clamping blood vessels, and brain shock from the injury. Rei subsided on the examination table, and after a while, they weren't working quite as frantically any more.
That's when one of them came to see to me and my shoulder. I got prodded around the aching joint. Mutterings about impacted joint, inflamed bursae, ligament stress readings (no razor girl would leave stupid ligaments unreinforced), anti-inflammatory drugs, joint stabilization, painkillers, and they stuck stuff into me, and suddenly my shoulder felt all better when they were done.
The girl tech said, "You really shouldn't do anything with that arm or shoulder for the rest of the week, Blanc, but knowing you..." She just shook her head and trailed off and gave me another pill and hopefully slung a sling over my shoulder. I gently gave her the sling back. She rolled her eyes, but took it. They could use it on someone else.
I took the pill. The techs at this little shop had never steered us wrong, though sometimes they looked at Rei a little too often. She was glancing at him now, as he got smoothly up from the examination table. I wondered, sometimes, if he had a deal going with them. I rubbed the scar on my rounded ears as I thought. I moved in, and he grinned lazily at me and gave me the smallest shake of his head. I relaxed and hung back. I trusted him to know what he didn't need.
Apricot muttered as we left. "I really need a place to sleep tonight, but until I find one, I guess I need a place to put my stuff. How about we go to the Savage Garden. They're nice about keeping my stuff behind the bar."
A few hundred meters down, Rei stopped to look at a poster on a lamp post. "Hey, that's her!"
"Her?" Apricot asked.
"It's the goblin girl I saved from the wizard." Rei pulled out his phone, got the picture, number to call, and reward amount all in one go. "Price is pretty big for just a kid."
We walked into the seedier part of the Sprawl, and found the Savage Garden looking a bit worse for the wear. It was a low-end bar that had some street cred with the kids in town. The wannabees hung out sometimes, but enough of the real kids stuck with it that the business was okay there.
The bartender and waitress both craned their necks as we came in.
"Yay! It's Apricot!!" cheered the waitress.
"Yeah. Good thing Blanc and Rei aren't scared of Seraphim."
I looked at Rei and his remaining eye looked back at me. One of those looks. Seraphim.
There are orphans in the Sprawl, there always were, and a lot of them had people that would take them in. Families, friends, and even fighting buddies of the parents would all provide homes. The corps would always take in the orphans of employees, the life insurance clauses often specified crèches or even boarding schools that would take kids in. But there were always some kids that fell out of the corps and out of the usual social nets.
Those were 'caught' by the Seraphim. They'd just show up, and if no one claimed a kid, they'd accept the kid for their own. And then later, the kid would show up with a surgical mask over their mouths, marked with a weird symbol, kanji like, but no kanji anyone could read, and never say a word again.
Never. Just silent as a tomb. No wonder they spooked other folks.
Some people claim there's nothing under the mask, or that if you peek under it something dreadful will happen to you; but that's just urban myth. Right?
"Hey, can I put my stuff in the storeroom? And do you have an empty box for my stuff?" Apricot asked, cheerfully.
"Sure, there's lot of old liquor boxes in the store room, help yourself."
She went back into the storeroom and crouched by one of the boxes, a really old one, so old it looked like it might have been made of wood. Ever since the trees Woke Up and their spirits started inhabiting everything that their wood was made into; and enough of them started screaming about sappy murder, there's been a lot fewer wood, cardboard, and paper anything than there used to be. She crooned happily to her found box. Then she plopped her bag of stuff into the box and closed the lid. "There. It's now happy."
The bartender groaned as someone came in the door. "Oh, no, not more of them..."
I turned to look as what seemed a fair-sized number of people came in the door. Then I saw the marked masks on their faces. They filed in quietly, a few settled around the bar, at the tables, in the chairs. A few simply stood about, staring into nothing, all at odd angles to each other. Seraphim. Where there's one, there's five, I remembered someone once saying. I counted. Seven of them were here.
One had walked right next to Apricot, standing just a bit too close to her for my comfort. She seemed fine with it, though.
The door opened again, and bright green hair poked through the gap in the door. "Oh, man, those quiet dudes are here again..." The hair disappeared and the door shut.
The bartender put his head in this hands. "Apricot, I'll give you a free drink if you can make them go away...."
"I dunno if you should have 'em do that." The waitress sounded pensive. "I know a guy that tried to rob 'em and he ended up walkin' in front of a bus. A movin' bus if you know what I mean."
"Well, we're not going to rob them." Apricot gave the bartender a look and then glanced meaningfully at Rei and I. The bartender rolled his eyes, "Oh... all right. I'll give all of you one free drink each, then. But not the imported Scotch!"
"Aw, man!" I said. Rei echoed me from the other side of the room. Apricot doesn't much like scotch, but she knows that we do.
Apricot turned to the one next to her, he looked, uhm... young. Twelve or thirteen, maybe? I'm not good at age guessing, but he was really young, shorter and more slender than Apricot herself, which is saying a lot as she's on the Street Diet.
He looked up at her, and she asked, "What do you want?"
The boy abruptly headed for the door.
His entire... pack? Flock? What do you call... oh... hm... choir of Seraphim V'ed in behind him.
Rei and I looked at each other. He was the one that shook his head. But we got up, even as the barkeep poured three cheap beers into disposable cups. Apricot beamed and took hers. I rolled my eyes at her taste in beer, and took mine. Rei left his to a mutter of "What, not good enough for ya?" from the barkeep.
As soon as I got out the door, I poured my beer on the street for the spirits. Apricot once observed that you never know who might be grateful. I had to agree.
The choir of Seraphim moved up along the sidewalk, nearly in a V-formation, and people got out of their way quickly. Rei and I consciously worked a V-formation behind Apricot. I liked rearguard action, and he was good at looking forward and getting a good idea of what was coming.
The little kids led us to an alleyway. And from the alleyway came very low, growly voices. Then there was a very feminine, high-pitched scream.
Apricot rounded the corner at a run. We followed.
There were six teenage Goblins, big ones. Not quite as big as the Trolls but big enough. They were dressed in the teal colors of one of the really minor street gangs, and they'd cornered a pretty girl in clothes way too good for this part of town. Her hair shone deep, brilliant red.
They were teasing her, touching her as she fled from side to side in the end of the alley.
Apricot planted herself and said, "I think she's not enjoying your attention, boys. Leave off."
The leader sneered as he turned. I looked to Apricot and mouthed, "Go?"
I hit him before he'd even drawn breath for his comeback. Given the size and power of my opponents, I pulled Seishin Bunretsu from my heart, but left her in her sheath. The reach and weight and heft of her would be good enough.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw darkness flicker into existence by the red-headed girl, it enveloped her, and disappeared. Good old Rei. With the innocent out of the way, I got down to my part of the job.
Moment later, the alley was clear of all the goblins but their leader, most of them had run after they felt exactly what I could bring to the party. Still, one of them had cracked some of my ribs, another made it hard for me to walk without a limp. He'd gotten my knee harder than I liked. But I grabbed the back of the jacket collar of the leader of these rock-headed gangers, and dragged him, scrabbling and cursing, to Apricot.
She started questioning him.
"Why did the Seraphim lead us here?"
"Uhm... dunno. She ain't one of 'em. The pretty was askin' about some goblin girl and wavin' reward money around. So... uhm... thought we'd have a little fun and get loot. Didn't mean any harm!"
"You're stupid! You don't mix pleasure and business!"
"Uhm... we weren't doin' none a dat! Uhm... I don't think."
"What do you do with money when you get it?" Apricot was more patient than I ever could have been with the big bruiser.
"Uhm... buy beer, party, eat lots, and... go out wit da girls!"
"Okay, so you were tryin' to go out with the girls and make the money at the same time, that's all I'm saying. You can't mix the two."
"Oh! I get it now. So no mixing making the money with spending the money, huh?"
"How are we supposed to make the money if you steals the girl? And it's not fair bringin' in an elf to a goblin fight!"
I rolled my eyes, pushed back my hair, and fingered the rounded top of my ears.
"Oh, MAN! Beaten by an elf-poseur!" The big guy slapped himself on the forehead so hard I almost thought it was a gunshot. "Promise me you won't tell the guys?"
Apricot laughed. "Just say 'thank you, Apricot' and you can go on your way."
The big guy started patting down all his pockets. "Now I gotta give you somethin', right?" He pulled a key from one pocket and handed to Apricot, who dimpled and pinned it to her jacket in formation with the key she'd gotten from the other ganger as well. He gave her a half-decent bow. "Thank you, Apricot."
He walked out of the alley way. A shot gun blast boomed. The shot took him right through the chest.
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