Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Ish for the New Year

So I actually polished this off like a week ago...and then promptly forgot about it. Rather, I kept thinking about what to do with it, whether there was more of this to dig up, whether it was decent enough to bother, etc. I've answered none of those questions, but in the sake of actually saying I've gotten something done, here it is.

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“Got no wings, now do ya, sug?”
His voice drifts into her head as she stares into the mirror of the Regal Hotel's penthouse bathroom. It's his favorite thing to say, and it always pops up when she starts getting nervous. He was right, she thinks, she doesn't have wings. She's got her flashy evening dress and the matching heels, both newer-than-new. Tek says they're not even out yet, says their from that French designer who's got the name that's all consonants just so no one can pronounce it. She's got her doubts, but the opalescent fabric looks kinda like a halo, and maybe real angels were more about the halo than the wings, anyways.

She turns to the door, the hand she places on the brass handle vibrating with the deep bass pulse of the party still raging on the other side, but she pulls it back, opting to put a fresh coat of lipstick on before she leaves. The color, according to the stick, is “Cherry Blossom Breeze.” She doubts that too, but all she's ever seen are the hologram cherry blossoms that blow around on the Daitetsu building all day, and they look about the same for all she knows. She also knows she's just stalling, but even she has no idea why.

Stepping back out into the party, she remembers how drunk she's supposed to be and stumbles, forcing giggles out of herself as she wades through the nameless faces. They're all the same, these ultra-high class events—people drunk on booze more expensive than her apartment and tweaked on all the latest and greatest chems. They dance and talk, forming these tiny cliques like little cells within the living being that is the party. A terrifying, ravenous being, feeding on youth and lust in plain sight all over the city. She used to think the lifeblood, the very nourishment these creatures lived on, was the drugs, the booze, the girls, or something she was just too broke to understand, but it was nothing so fancy. It was money, pure and simple. And nobody understands money quite like the people who don't have it.

She sees her man hanging out of the bedroom door, beckoning for her and holding onto the wall for balance. He's so greased at this point, he probably doesn't even realize he's standing in full view of his own party bare-ass naked, and at half-mast, no less. She laughs, coyly and playfully for his benefit, and dismally because she knows she's the only one sober enough to even notice.

She passes by one of his goons, a guy built like someone carved him out of granite. Hard to tell in the dim, pulsing light of the party, but she figures he's at least half mech, arms and legs at least. Eyes too, no way he could see shit in here wearing those tacky designer shades otherwise. She runs the count of all the others as she pretends to struggle to find her way to the bedroom. Two outside the front door, those Russian micro SMGs in their coats, the kind that fire the high-velocity rounds designed to chew through even military-grade cybernetics. She'd seen pictures of what happens when they unload on flesh and blood—that was as personal as she'd like that relationship to ever get. She just slipped by Mountain Man, and she's neither seen evidence he has a weapon, nor evidence he needs one. There's the guy trying to dance with some of the other guests, but he lacks the practice or the blood alcohol level to blend in half as well as he thinks he is. No doubt he's strapped too, something smaller and quieter. Probably the guy with non-lethal, probably shock gloves the way he keeps his hands in his pockets. And last but not least, the guy in the bedroom closet. She hasn't seen him, but he's always there. Poor bastard.

When she gets to him, he lurches forward, his balance little more than a fond memory at this point, and she just barely manages to catch him. Summoning up all of her strength to haul him to the giant bed, she pulls his arm over her shoulder and kicks the door closed behind her while he mumbles incomprehensible nothings in her ear. For the first time tonight, she finds herself thankful for the deafening music that drowned out whatever stomach wrenching game he was trying to lay down. After an eternity of struggle, they reach the bed, and she lets go, simply letting gravity and intoxication do the rest of the work. Like clockwork, he tumbles backwards into the bed, and, like they always do, he grabs her and pulls her with him. Movies have taught every guy to do the same things, endearing while sober, miserable and embarrassing drunk. She falls on top of him, giggling because oh my god, she can't believe that, like, totally just happened, and he leans in for the kiss. His tongue slides against hers, dry, sticky, and tasting distinctly of death.

She doesn't even flinch. Not then, not when he clumsily slides one of his dirty hands up her thigh, not when he tries to playfully bite her neck and really just bites her, not even once. This is the game, it's just how it has to be played, and there's no one better at it than her. She puts her hand on his chest and pushes his back to the mattress, biting her lower lip and giving him the big bashful eyes—guys eat that shit up. “You know, I don't know if I can really, like, get wild with you if your friend in the closet watching like that...I'm not that kinda girl...” she says in the voice Tek nicknamed “Daddy's Little Hooker,” running her fingernails slowly, gently down his chest.

Of course, he doesn't even think twice about dismissing his last line of defense in favor of cheap party sex he wouldn't even remember in the morning. “Goddamnit! Snyder, get the fuck outta here!” he barks, and poor Snyder slides the door opens, gives a quick nod, and leaves. She shudders to think of how often that unlucky guy has to watch his boss—no, not even his boss but some rich, spoiled bastard that pays his boss—get busy with some random skank. She smiles to herself, though; today at least he doesn't have to suffer that terrible injustice.

Now the guy is getting all handsy, trying to both get a handful of her breasts and get the dress off her at the same time and accomplishing neither. She gives one last look around as she lets her hair down to make sure she's accounted for every last bit of muscle that might pose a problem, then leans in. Her hands meet his cheeks as she plants a brief kiss on his lips, then slide down his neck to his shoulders. Of course, he's still much too far gone to feel the two needles extend briefly from under her fingernails, and the cocktail of tranquilizers cruising through his bloodstream will just feel like maybe he shouldn't have taken that last hit of PlAcid before calling her in. She makes her way slowly, very slowly, kissing down his chest to his stomach, and he's out by the time she hits his belly button.

Game time. This is where she shines, where not a single jacker or shadow in the biz can even touch her. She rolls off of him and grabs her purse from under the bed. It had made sense to everyone to store it their, since, well, no question where she was ending up tonight anyways, right? Ripping out the fake bottom, she fishes out her dummy barrier, jacking it into the back of her head. She takes one deep breath, then rolls her passed out mark over, tilting his head so he doesn't suffocate in the bedding—no, no, can't have that—, then another as she slides open the ports on the back of his neck. This one's easier than most; lots of these rich types get real paranoid and start wearing covers for their in's and out's, even to sleep.

As soon as they're safely connected through the dummy, she goes to work. Personal information, passwords, biometric data, even raw memories; every last facet of this asshole's life condensed into a flood of raw data and copied into the dummy by her invisible hands. Such intimate contact with the sum total of another person's life is dangerous, though its an occupational hazard she's come to accept. She's used to it, and the dummy keeps them 99% separate, even though every now and then something slips through or his consciousness line will run just a little too close to hers. Her mind strays to the horror stories of people who've tried to do this without going through a proxy, only to end up unable to keep themselves separate from their mark, both ending up drooling vegetables at the local hospital. Then she feels the line between them start to blur a little—god, did she ever miss Panther, but, no, no, no, she'd never had cat because she hates them, but he was the most adorable little thing! She bites down on her tongue hard in reflex, the pain pulling them apart and reminding her to focus.

Ten minutes later, she disconnects. While she packs her things back up, she pushes the bed into the wall in a quickening rhythm, tossing in a few dramatic moans here and there for good measure. The suggestions she'd left in his head would make him think he absolutely ravaged her when he woke up, and she made sure she looked the part when she stumbled out of the room. She took a bit of pride in her work when the party clapped and hollered at her dazed and disheveled appearance as she left.

Once she was safely out the door and in the lobby, she straightened out her dress as best she could and quickly fixed her hair up. Tek always made fun of her when he picked her up after jobs like this, and sure enough, he pulls up right outside, flashing her a smile that made her melt a little more than she'd ever care to admit from the inside of his old beater, yelling, “Hey, sweetheart, how's your date?”

She jumps in the car and socks him one in the arm, like always, and he pretends it hurts, like always. He doesn't bother asking her how it went, probably because he knows if it went poorly she'd be in a few black plastic bags being driven out to a few out of the way places to be dumped. Instead, he just looks her over as they pull out, and says, “Y'know, Angel, for a low-down, dirty thief, you look positively radiant. Still ain't got no wings, though, do ya?” And that smile. Goddamn, that smile.

She smiles back and thinks of a school play where she did have wings, back when people still called her Monica and she had no idea why anyone would replace their perfectly good human hands with mechanical ones with poisoned needles hiding just under the fingernails. She had pretended to be an angel then, in a play about Christmas, and she'd been a good girl. Now she stole people's whole lives, her hands were made of everything but human, and she felt like maybe she didn't have to pretend anymore.

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