Author: liralen. All the mistakes are mine.
RP System and GM: The GM was amberley, running a variation on "Don't Rest Your Head" by Fred Hicks.
Characters: Apricot (untrained street shamen by diony), Rei (Street Samurai for Justice by space_parasite), and Blanc (fight-happy razorgirl liralen)
Rating: PG-13, again mostly for violence
Word Count: 2883
Summary: The monster and mage track us down. We track the goblin girl down, finally...
A/N: This is Carl's version of Shadowrun, which is like a mashup of Shinto and Ghost in the Shell.
<< The Previous Chapter <<
When the last elf left, Rei pulled a pile of phones from his pockets.
"So we have this collection of phones and numbers now. Do you remember which ones came from where?"
"Well these four phones came from the goblin boys," I volunteered.
"I got this one from the bike of the feather boys that shot the leader," Rei said calmly. "I figured they had to have been called right before the job, so that they knew when and where to go."
"How about the girl you rescued?" Apricot asked.
"I think her phone was an implant. With that dress, where would she have carried it?"
Rei took all the phones, and compared all the numbers and looked up what information he could.
The flyer number turned out to be Kityatxunl Imports again. The number the girl had written on Rei's hand turned out to be registered to a Japanese girl. The phone he'd picked up from one of the feather boys that had hit the orc in the alley had yielded a number that could not be easily identified. And the number the elves had given him yielded a number to a licensed companion service with a mail drop box.
Apricot looked a little wilted after all that. "I really need a place to stay for the night. Rei... can you?"
Rei nodded. We headed for a hotel with solid rooms and a bathtub. Turned out they only had the honeymoon suite vacant, with a huge soaking tub. Apricot immediately started filling the tub.
"I'm going out," Rei said and whisked out the door in a whisper of black.
Apricot giggled. "We get the tub, then."
"Sure." I sprawled in a chair, as Apricot hummed happily to herself as she got into the tub. I picked up Seishin Bunretsu and turned her lacquered sheath about in my hands. I contemplated the layering before I turned her and sank her slowly back into my heart. It's handier than a hip belt, and gets her by securities I wouldn't normally test.
I still, sometimes, wonder if it was my blood that made the blood pact stick, when with any other gang it would have just been a way to get our morale up before the big fight. For a bunch of teens and early tweens, when you promise that you'll be together forever, you don't really have a good idea how long that could be. I should have known better, but I'd been so busy forgetting the magic inherent in my heritage.
"Hey, the tub's full."
It was good to hear Apricot sounding happy again.
I left my coat out in the room, and then went into the bathroom and stripped off. I carefully set my bullet charm on the countertop. I caught a glance of my water-colored eyes in the big mirror in the bathroom. The light gleamed off silver tattoos I'd had set into my skin all along my arms and shoulders. They and the ones I set into the skin of my legs simulated a razorgirl's mods, to explain my speed and strength, and wouldn't wash off. Nearly no one ever gets close enough to see that they were actually elven runes set so small and thickly that they were nearly impossible to read. I slid into the hot water and sighed and relaxed for the first time all day.
"Thirteen," Apricot said as she traced things in the steam on the glass.
I tilted my head attentively and waited for more.
"Thirteen. You've taken out the three guys on the street, the six Goblin gangers, and two of the elven fighters. You have to take out two more people and then we'll be done."
I blinked at her and shrugged and nodded. "Sure."
Apricot smiled and then we dropped into talking about the day and how weird it was and how cool Rei was, before washing each others backs and helping each other with our hair. My dandelion puff goes all flat and transparent when it gets wet, but she said that it felt silky underwater.
We got out of the bath, dried off, and got dressed in yukata for sleeping in.
I carefully put the flattened and distorted bullet on its chain back on. It was a bullet that had missed a man, and Apricot had once talked it into trying to persuade other bullets to miss me too. I like to think it works.
She sounded so happy when she settled in under the covers and in the bed that I had to smile. I settled by her and closed my eyes, and she giggled a little before turning over and settling. She likes watching me sleep, since elves don't need to. I've never figured out if elves never have to sleep because we have forever to sort our memories and forever to remember. Or, perhaps, since mortals sometimes use their sleep and dreams to practice their fears, that we don't have to practice. We just deal with them, or leave them to rot in time.
Soon I heard soft snoring.
I grinned and turned on the entertainment system with the sound off, flipped through the on demand menus and found and watched "Seven Samurai". The black and white starkness of the story always get to me. Old habits die hard, nearly as hard as some of these humans, so fleeting and so intense.
Hours later, I switched to video games and hit the fifteenth level of "Stranglehold". Yeah, I'll admit I love those old games.
Then Apricot's eyes began to flicker behind her eyelids. Dreaming. I straightened, saved my progress onto my own 'stick, and turned the system off. Apricot's dreams are dangerous, sometimes. Sometimes people like Rei appear the next day. She still believes she dreamed him. I’m not quite so sure. Sure... magic plays us, but sometimes it's easier to have it just be fate, that maybe a guy like him needed to be on the street, making it cleaner, and maybe needed us to help him. Or maybe we needed him?
She started frowning. Then her breath caught, her eyes flickered faster and faster, her breathing got heavier, and her hands fisted hard on her pillows. Suddenly she started, hard, and I couldn't take it, I shook her gently.
"Apricot, wake up. You're having a bad dream."
She lurched out of sleep. "Oh!"
I held her quietly. Haltingly she told me that she'd gone to sleep wishing that she could help Rei get his eye back. Then she started by dreaming that she was Rei, as he went out and walked around, talking to people and looking for the girl. And then she realized she was also seeing from the monster's viewpoint, seeing a street, and then a hotel. And in the hotel, its viewpoint crawled into an elevator, and then out on to our floor of the building. It crept down the hallway and stopped at the door of our room.
"It was weird. It was a little like I could see from both of Rei's eyes. And both viewpoints were coming up to our room."
I sighed. "Well, I haven’t heard anything. You want me to check the hallway?"
Shivering, she nodded. "Please."
I did not say that I was doing it to show her that there was nothing there because, with Apricot, there often were things in the closet, under the bed, or, in this case, out in the hallway. And half of why she likes me around with her is because I act like I believe. It's too dangerous not to.
I walked to the door, put my hand on the doorknob; and a huge clawed hand came through the door and grabbed my throat.
I choked. But then I twisted my body, grabbed its wrist, planted my feet against the doorframe on either side, and used my legs to pull the rest of the monster through the door. Its tightening hold on my throat managed to keep me from planting my head into the floor, so I risked letting go of it with my right hand.
I pulled Seishin Bunretsu from my heart and sunk her blade into the monster's arm. It screamed and let go of me. I dropped and scuttled back. It bellowed in rage and pain, and finished destroying the door.
I did not I like what I saw.
There were four street samurai out there along with a mage in far too nice a lined coat. The samurai was far too well equipped for street sams. They were corporate ones with that heavy look and nothing on 'em to identify exactly where they were from. Someone had gone to the trouble of disguising them
To my relief, the elevator doors opened to release Rei. He attacked, curved blades whirling.
Then Apricot started talking, and everything got confused.
I thought I sliced open the head of the monster, and pulled out an eyeball the same brown with green shot through it as the one Rei had left. I tossed it to him. Then something happened, and the monster screamed and drifted away into mist on the mirrors of the bathroom.
That was when the corporate samurai started shooting at me.
"Damnit, It's bad manners to bring guns to a sword fight!" I yelled.
I switched up on them as much as I could. Combined with the close quarters and Rei's surprise attack, we threw them enough that I disabled two and Rei got the other two. Who knows? Maybe the bullet charm did its work, too.
As Mr. Smith would have said, a reality check was drawn from the bank of John Woo. Furniture, walls, and a few windows got trashed, but no one was killed, including us, which is always a bonus. My white coat soaked up the blood happily, and I saw Apricot's eyes turn to it. I wondered if she heard something I couldn't as it turned pristine white and mended itself.
Rei managed to get a lock on the mage.
The mage saw all his guys sprawled every which way around the room. He slumped.
"All right. Spill," growled Rei.
The mage spilled. Turned out he was freelance and on a job. Aztechnology wanted Yamako, the goblin girl he'd been harassing. They wanted her blood.
I shuddered. When they said that they meant it literally, heart on the altar and all that. They're... like that. They'd offered him a juicy contract to bring her in. And then he'd been surprised to find that Sabuto Knowledge Systems which was covered by Kiyatxunl Imports, had also put out a contract on her along with a few other companies. He was just sub-contracting through them as well.
Apricot ignored Rei's conversation with the mage. She was talking to the mirror. I looked into the surface and saw the monster with its dozen eyes. It had been busy since it had eaten Rei's eye.
I leaned in closer to the mirror, and saw tiny runes in liquid silver, running around the edge. They looked like binding and holding spells.
Rei had taken his eye-patch off and was staring down at the mage with both his eyes intact. I halfway wondered if it was Apricot's dream that had put it back, my cutting it out that put it back, or Rei defeating the mage that had made him give it back... and perhaps all those things are the same.
Apricot sighed after her murmurs. "I can't... it's made of... yuck. It's a spirit of atrocity, hungry. It's not really good or evil in and of itself, but it was made by doing something really, really bad. I can free it, but it'll probably just eat the mage since he did the sin that created it. I could banish it, but then justice wouldn't be done by it. And I can't be the one to let it just eat the guy, that would be killing him."
The mage sneered at her. "You don't have the guts to deal with it?"
"No." Apricot said simply. "It would cost me too much. I know when not to get in over my head."
She thought for a while and I couldn't help her with this one. Finally she said, "Would giving him to the elves be okay?"
I blinked at that, taken aback and then thought about it. "Well, they'd probably do the right thing, and it would be on them to correct the balance, not us anymore. Shadows, they might even look on it as a favor."
Rei handed Apricot his phone, the number for the elves we'd met already punched in and ready to go. She hit "Send" and five minutes later, a whole band of elves showed up.
They took the mage with them, and carefully took the mirror in the bathroom off of the wall. The leader gave Apricot a small hand mirror as a token of the boon that they owed her, in return for the lovely monster and the mage upon whom they could wreck a right and thorough justice. Or maybe art. He slurred it and looked at me, and I could have sworn...
I went and broke the DocWagon bracelet on each of the downed samurai. Each one I did sent a little coup ticker to my 'stick. Not a bad way to make a profit. They would be taken care of.
Apricot cocked her head at the bodies and she grinned at me. "Didn't I say? Two more. Thirteen. We're done for tonight, I think."
I blinked and then nodded. "Good. 'Bout time."
The attack had happened at dawn. Apricot didn't say, but I know that some favors run out when the sun rises. In any case, since it was already morning, we gave up on our wrecked room and went to a diner.
Over coffee and eggs (even a Ghost Chicken is still just a chicken) and toast, Apricot asked Rei, "How did you know we were in trouble?"
He frowned. "I started seeing things. Things that weren't in front of me. When I caught a glimpse of that mage, I figured I was looking out of my other eye. When I recognized the hotel, I ran."
"Thank you," I said.
Both his eyes flickered up to look at me, and then he smirked and bowed his head. "You're welcome."
Rei went out to look for the girl again, figuring she would need some help and with his little gift of being where he was needed, it would bring him right in on her.
He was right. Before we were even completely done with the free breakfast, he called Apricot. "I found her." He sent the GPS coordinates, and we went there directly.
"Hey," I asked. "Why didn't you do that in the first place?"
He shrugged. "I suspect that if my eye was still the monster's, that I would have led it right to her as well."
Apricot, as always, got her to talk. Sometimes I think Apricot could have gotten a rock to talk and tell her its life story.
Yamako was a twelve-year-old goblin girl. She was big now, with the big ears, raw bones, warts, excellent night vision, and great big fangs. The ruder ones would have called her an ork, as she was a smaller goblin. If I had to guess, I would have said she might have been a mix of Hispanic and Japanese ancestry.
Her birth family gave her up before she could remember, and she'd always been a goblin as far as she knew. The Clarks, her last foster family, had been good to her. When people started trying to hunt her down, she'd left that family as well, to keep them safe.
Yamako looked up at Rei, eyes wide. "I'm sorry I ran away when you were trying to save me."
He just shrugged. "There was a monster."
"S'all right." He awkwardly patted her on the hair.
She smiled at him.
Rei showed her a picture of Ruby, and Yamako squeaked. "How do you know her?"
"She your sister?"
"Well, yeah! She was with the Clarks, too."
"She was looking for you."
Yamako's big brown eyes got even bigger. "Oh no... She was out here looking for me?"
Rei nodded. I relaxed a little, at least the little brat knew something of how dangerous it would be for her sister.
"Maybe tell her you're okay and to stop looking?" Rei looked a little dubious.
Yamako sighed. "If she knows I'm alive, she might not stop."
We all nodded at that. But after a few moment of silence, Apricot hmm'ed softly, tapping her toes.
Apricot caught the little girl's gaze with her own, and asked, "Well, what do you want to have happen?"
Yamako blushed. "I... I really want my real parents to show up and save me. But... I guess that's not going to happen."
We were all a little silent at that, but Apricot was bravest and nodded. "Probably not. But we can look for them if that's what you really want."
The dark eyes in that bone marred, big-eared face nodded. "Yes, please."
Thanks for reading... there may well be another session in the future, to figure out if Yamako gets her wish...