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The Work:
The arm of the record player swings into position on the old forty-five, and with a crackle, starts the somber notes of a blues song you'd have to be a connaisseur to know. The yellowing, peeling walls are stacked with shelves upon shelves of records. Everything you could think of, and a lot of things you probably couldn't. Jazz. Swing. Blues. All the good stuff. And we sit around and listen, me and Frank, in our loose ties and tilted fedoras. We select what we want and Frank tells me all about it. He's the real expert. He knows all the artists, he knows all the band members, where it was recorded, and any story it might have behind it.

"She's real bad/real bad news," croons some old black man with a guitar. I don't really care to ask Frank who it is this time. I just want to sit and listen, but there's this nagging feeling at the back of my head. Almost a distant pain, it feels like somebody smacked me on the back of the...

"Hey. Jackass. Time for work."

My perception shifts to a broken concrete ceiling, and dim neon light filtering in through the plastic covered window. Lady Expac swats me again, ruining my self-imposed dream world. LEx is a tough chick, and I seem to make a habit of relearning that every day when I "forget" to set an alarm. She was once a beauty queen, I hear, but she crossed the wrong people and now she's a nobody. Squatting with the likes of me in the bad part of town, making a living how we make a living. It's not good work. Nowhere near it. But it's good money. Good enough for hot tech like Frank and the hardware to run him. I can keep myself in ammo and keep myself fed, but I could never cross the line from a rich squatter to the middle class. Or even the lower class.

It's the work. It's all I've done for the past three years, since I was forced out on my own. No parents. No siblings. No extended family. None that I remember, anyway.

I grab my knife and my nine, tools of the trade. This part of town is dangerous, but in my line of work, it's flat out necessary. You gotta be sharp, you gotta be fast, and you gotta stay alive. I don't know how anybody would do this alone, so LEx and I have a deal. She doesn't shoot me in the back, and I don't shoot her in the back. It's simple.

We head out the door and down the street for some eats. You can't stay alert on an empty stomach, and mine was yelling at me, so that's two good reasons for some generic nutrient. It's packaged in some corporate label, designed by some corporate big wig, and sold in some corporate outlet for "value" prices in whatever flavor you want. I'm sure they make a huge profit on each one sold. Those that can afford this stuff work hard for the money, and those that can't afford it work even harder just to find food. Being one of the lucky ones that can afford it, I pay for a couple, chow down, and follow LEx through our rounds.

We check all the usual places. The alleys are empty, and the warehouse turns up nothing. Pickings seem to be slim today, which means one of two things. Either we're late and somebody got there first, or it's going to be a rough day. Unfortunately, we can't bail this time. LEx has some debts to pay. We need to score, or I'm out a partner. And like I said, you need a partner.

The church is always a good bet, if nowhere else hits, so we head through the greystones and office buildings until we see the half-fallen parapets and busted out windows looming above the all but abandoned street. I toss my extra nutrient to one of the fortunate that survived the night, getting no thanks except for the desperate tearing of wrappers and the ravenous breath of a near-starving animal. If he was smart, he'd save some, but he can't help it. See food. Eat. That's the way it goes.

A bullet hits the door as LEx opens it, and we duck reflexively to the sides, guns instantaneously at the ready. LEx gets the door. I shoulder-roll in and behind an old broken statue of some saint. I fire a couple shots into the room to cover for LEx as she flits in to the right. She gives the signal, and we advance to the last row of pews, on opposite sides of the room. Looks like this was the place to be for a score, and somebody got here just before we did. We dodge a couple more shots, advancing further. We still don't know who's here, or how many, but I figure it's just one, or there'd be more gunfire.

Somebody jumps me from the next pew, and all I see is the flash of a blade in front of my face. He's aggressive on the attack, skillfully jabbing and slashing with the blade, trying to guess my next move. He's better with a knife than I am, at least at this speed, but LEx has my back. I see her appear from where she was holed up, and two shots ring out. She only ever needs one, so that means there's at least one more of these amateurs.

If there's one thing that any in our profession know, it's to get out when your partner goes down. It's that simple. No partner, no work. Even amateurs know that, and this guy must be no exception. We search the place, only finding the dead. The unfortunate. Four of them.

Four livers.

Eight lungs.

Eight kidneys.

Four hearts.

Time to start cutting.


Edit: Removed a few sentences in the paragraph about the generic nutrient. I think it flows better now.

Edit: Hyphenated some words that should be hyphenated (forty-five, for instance), added two words to the last full paragraph.
Very good story overall. If you care for it, some criticism, though keep in mind overall it was very good:

* Good atmosphere, great job setting the tone
* This paragraph "I'm sure they make a huge profit on each one sold, [...] chow down, and follow LEx through our rounds." has some repitition going in it. The words "work" and "afford" appear too many times, it sort of reads strangely.
* If I understand correctly, the characters ae organ harvesters. If that's the case, why did they try to find people that shoot at them? Why not harvest the poor defenceless ones? And actually, why did people shoot at them in the first place? That might need some explanation, I don't really get it.
Thanks for the feedback. They are, in fact, organ harvesters.

I was going for the idea that they were looking around for homeless people that died overnight. The people that were shooting at them were other organ harvesters who found said homeless people first. Perhaps I was a little too subtle with the homeless guy that the main character gave food to. "One of the lucky ones" and all that.
Nice work man. Well written and amusing.
QUOTE (Kerris @ Aug 10 2008, 06:57 PM) *
Thanks for the feedback. They are, in fact, organ harvesters.

I was going for the idea that they were looking around for homeless people that died overnight. The people that were shooting at them were other organ harvesters who found said homeless people first. Perhaps I was a little too subtle with the homeless guy that the main character gave food to. "One of the lucky ones" and all that.

Nice vignette. It was not too subtle; I thought it was just right.
I can't remember what it read like the first time, but the edit was such that you lost nothing of what I remember. The mood and the content are as I recall them.
That's a good sign that it was nothing valuable then smile.gif

Thanks for the compliments!
Edit: Grammar corrections
Good work. I would like to see more of these two to see how they "turn out" as it were.
Fragging awesome. Perfectly captures that great noir feel--especially the bit with Frank, and the line "I'm sure they make a huge profit on each one sold."

Seriously, you've got saxophones stuck in my head right now.

As for the complaints about repetition, that's part of the noir genre: The work becomes almost like a poem, using meter, cadence, and repetition the same way a song does--to reinforce the concepts and evoke a slightly "off" mood that is distinctly noir. It's a hard thing to get just right, and this story's got it in spades.

I loved your depiction of the squatter outside the church, and the animal state his mind had been reduced to. It plays well off of the survivalist mindset of the characters, showing that the difference between them is really only how many cylinders they each have to bring to bear.

I got that they were looking for bodies to sell. Not immediately, but that's another hallmark of the noir genre--and good writing in general: Presenting a scene but keeping you in the dark about what's really going on until the last moment. You get a suspicion, and it grows, until finally you're hit full in the face by it. It builds a basic premise of the story like a mystery, maybe you're surprised by the answer, maybe you knew it all along, but it's got that same build up and payoff without the cliche feeling of a whodunnit.

Excellent work, omae.
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

I may or may not write another piece about these two characters. This was kind of intended as a one-time piece (for these characters, at least), intending to explore the cyber-noir world in which I want to run Shadowrun. I will likely be writing more pieces in the world, though not necessarily with these characters.
Also, I'll probably keep it generically cyber-noir. No actual SR elements (metahumanity, magic, dragons, etc.).
Nope, not just bumping. I've written a prequel to the piece, posted below. It's Lady Expac's backstory. I've kept it really vague, but I think SR players and cyberpunk fans in general will get where I'm going. If you haven't ready the original piece above (The Work), don't worry about it, but feel free to read it and see where the character goes.

Oh! Warning! Explicit content!


Steady. Steady. Breathe. Hold. Squeeze. Bang.

One Hole.

It all seemed so real. The clothes. The men. The fame. Patricia was a star. The belle of the ball. The queen of the catwalk. When she walked into a room, everybody looked at her. And everybody wanted her.

Steady. Steady. Breathe. Hold. Squeeze. Bang.

One Hole.

She'd wake up in an alley, cold and wet, even under her thermal blanket. Her sole remaining possession, nevermind the clothes on her back. Just automat flats. Not like she's used to. Every morning, as dawn broke over the cityscape, she'd fold it up, stick it in her pocket, and walk the streets. She was out of cred, and out of things to pawn for more. Except the blanket. Too proud to spread her legs for a buck, she had a choice: She could buy herself more of the good life, or she could keep the blanket.

Steady. Steady. Breathe. Hold. Squeeze. Bang.

One hole.

She was back on the catwalk. Living the good life and loving it. The clothes. The men. The fame. Patricia Ann Cellers. The mistress of Milan. The princess of Paris. She had it all, and it felt good. Everything was perfect again. But not quite. There was a sense of dread. Somehow, this one wasn't quite right. The thrills were cheaper, not as genuine, and she didn't feel like she'd felt before. Like she was in a different body. It was the same scenario, for sure, but there was something lurking in the background. A harshness.

The afterparty ended eary - sooner than normal - and she was left in the dressing room alone. She didn't hear the door open, but soon he was behind her. She was afraid. Shocked. Alone. He took hold of her, and suddenly she was all too aware of her nudity. She could not resist. She was unable, no matter how hard she tried. Soon she felt him inside her. She felt dirty. Too proud.

Soon her breaths were coming short and fats. Gasps of resistance and futility. She tried to scream out, but she felt his hands around her throat. Squeezing. Cutting off the sound and her breath. Her vision blurred, and her senses dulled, even amidst the intense flashes of pain. She blacked out. And she died.


A hand on her neck. Warm and soft, just two fingers.

"She's alive. Help me get her up."

She opened her eyes. Waking from death. She felt the cardboard as it slid of of her, exposing her more, though she couldn't have been any colder.

A shot. Two shots. Two more. The warm hands disappeared silently, leaving her to sit up on her own.

"Stay down!"

She didn't have the presence of mind to obey the command. She was still trying to figure out why she wasn't dead. Still reeling from the experience of death, and utterly confused at the prospect of waking from it. She was sure she died in that room. She could still feel the hands on her neck, his dick inside her. But he wasn't there.

Two more shots, and the protective voice.

"We gotta jet. Here."

He handed her a gun and a knife, and lifted her off the ground, almost shoving her down the alley.

"Looks like you're my new partner. You know how to use those?"

She didn't answer. Only stared.

"Right. Let's move."

And she did.


"Steady. Steady. Breathe. Hold. Squeeze."

Bang. Another hole.

"Good. You're getting better."

His kind voice, his friendly eyes, his warm hands. She still hadn't told him her name. It didn't seem right, anyway. Patricia Ann Cellers didn't really exist anymore. Miss PAC died that night. He didn't seem to care, and that was comforting. He trusted her, though she didn't know why.

He had given her a gun and a knife. Two possessions. Tools of the trade. One for protection, one for work. She had to learn them both, out of necessity of course, but out of pride as well. These were her sole possessions, nevermind the cloths on her back, and she would learn to use them well. No longer would she be helpless. No longer selfish. No longer living an artificial life.

Steady. Steady. Breathe. Hold. Squeeze. Bang.

The same way every time. The same place every time.

One hole.
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