A Long Day
Today was a long day. First, my ride breaks down on the way to the docks, so I'm takin' the subway for the rest of the day. Then the electronics are busted on the warehouse door, so I had to get in the physical method. And to top it all off, as I'm leaving with the data, a dockworker decides to come back for his hat and spots me. Poor bastard'll never see his family again.
As the elevator rides up to my floor, I take solace in what awaits me: Good Ol' Shmunguss. He's been my pal for almost 5 years now. Anytime life starts beatin' me down, I come home to see that funny little guy, and the world ain't so bleak. As the elevator doors open, and I start walkin' down the hall, I see the door to my Comp is wide open.
As I get closer, I unholster my trusty Armstech Four-Five once the smell of blood fills the air. Door isn't just open, either; The melted off handle suggests it was a Thermo. Here in the Jungle district, you don't really see too many of those. Once I step inside, gun at the ready, the first thing I see is a dead man in the kitchen, blood pooled around him. And that's probably the time I realized that I didn't live alone.
Immediately, I drop to the body's side and flip it over, only to confirm the obvious: It was Schmunguss Overdrive himself, blood leaking from his mouth, lifeless eyes now starting at the cracked ceiling. He was filled with bullets, the holes of which had leaked red through his ironic cat t-shirt and jean shorts. He died young, younger than me, and in a horrible way. The world will never again know his terrible dad jokes that made me smile every time, or kindness he showed to even the most deprived waster, or his dumb grin which would make one think that this world wasn't all that bad.
"Schmung... Come on, man... You can't be..."
He had a whole life ahead of him. A job he loved at the Co-Op. Friends who would miss him when he was gone. A woman he was planning to marry. Oh god, what am I going to tell Boo?
"... Schmung... Please..."
As I was thinking of how this could have happened to a man who had done nothing but good, I thought of the 'why'. And the disheveled state of the Comp, along with the distinctive shell casings on the ground, told me all I needed: whoever did this was after me. And they killed him instead. Therefore, I got him killed. I might not have pulled the trigger, but I was the one who led the ones that did here. My corruption, which I thought was pushed at bay by this kind man's goodness, was actually what tainted it and struck it down. Is this karma for what I do? The widows and orphans I make?
As the tears rolled down my face, I let out a pained, mournful shout of anguish, clutching the body of my best friend in my arms. The neighbors definitely heard it, but they'll ignore it all the same. Just like they ignored the gunshots. The police aren't coming, because they don't come here. If I didn't show up, his body would've stayed here until someone else showed up looking for him. Or until rent was due.
When the rivers finally run dry, all that's left is a scorching expanse of hatred. I gently set the body down and close his eyes, so that he doesn't see what comes next. Time to get my affairs in order. I head to the bedroom and check the drawers for my stash. Naturally, whoever sacked the place took my usual loot, but with a soft click, the false bottom give to show the real tools unharmed. Body armor, rifles, shotguns, grenades, charge packs and stims. All of it either goes onto my person or into the duffle bag.
After I'm properly equipped, and everything is in order, I take the last item out of the drawers: bottle of commercial ZoomJuice. It burns fast and doesn't leave much behind. Not like anyone will ask anyway. The firefighters might come to stop the Jungle from becoming an inferno, but they don't get enough funding to investigate. Just another thing this city sucks dry. As I pour the last of it just up to the door, I take one last look at the place, and at the pool of blood in the kitchen where the body once laid. I moved him to his bed, half for the arrangement, half 'cause he didn't belong on the floor. It's cleaner this way. And easier to tell people. But definitely not what he would have wanted for his final arrangements.
"... I'm sorry, Schmung."
I light the molotov and toss it in, walking back down the hallway as the Comp bursts into a raging flame. And still, it's not half as hot as the one burning inside me. Between the Thermo, and the quality of the shells, along with who'd actually want me dead, there's only one person I know who could have done this.
Tonight's far from over.
I'm standin' outside the Sparking Circuit, steeling myself for what's to come. The music is loud enough that I can hear the pound of the bass from across the street. The front is too packed, the line to get in wraps around the block, and they ID at the door. Not an option. Instead, I start walking towards the side alley, just in time for an employee to be stepping out the side entrance for his government mandated smoke break. Hefting the duffle bag, I casually walk up to the guy as he starts to struggle with his lighter, popping open my finger to offer the flame. Like a moth, the guy leans in and accepts the light. No questions for who I am or what I'm doing in this dead-end alley with a duffle bag. People like him don't ask questions, they just do whatever's best for themselves. Just the neighbors who heard the gunshots and did nothing, but ran and called for help when the fire started pouring in.
I close my finger, and the guy leans back and takes a big inhale of that sweet death. I take the chance to slam my palm into it, sending the burning cigarette into his mouth and covering it as his eyes widen in shock. The smoke shoots from his nose, and as he's disoriented, I slam his head against the concrete walls until the guy goes limp. I drop him, smoke billowing from his now open mouth, and use his keycard to open the door.
Inside the club, I was hit with a wave of pure hedonism. Loud music, stench of alcohol, haze of fog from the countless drugs. If you wanted to party hard, this was the place to be. But this wasn't the place I wanted to be: That'd be upstairs. Glimbo's office is on the second floor. I made my way through the sea of bodies, cutting through like a Jack through meat, until I reached the other side and a hallway to the next floor. There was a man who was waiting at the doorway just before the stairs, and he put up a hand when I got close.
"Hold it. Upper floor's VIPs only. You got a pass?"
"Sure, pal, here you go."
Dumbass probably thought I had my gun checked at the door. Last thing that went through his mind was made of lead. He slumped back against the wall and left a trail of red as he slid down. Didn't know if the patrons on the dance floor heard the gunshot or not over the shitty techno, didn't care, but the guys in VIP most certainly heard something at least. My suspicions were confirmed as another guard rounds the corner and takes a step down the stairway, before seeing me with a smoking gun.
Just as he draws his own, I shoot him in the leg that's lower on the staircase, and it gives out under him. He tumbles as a result, shouting in pain, before stopping halfway down at the landing while I continue up. As I pass him, I give another quick trigger pull to his head, painting the steps with his brains. From the shocked gasps of alarm up above, I'm definitely expected. So I keep climbing to the top, readjusting the duffle bag as I do.
Once at the top, I take a quick peek into the next room, only to immediately duck back into cover as a barrage of gunfire shoots past me. But it was enough to know what I'm up against: Two behind the bar, one behind a flipped table, one not in cover at all, and half a dozen scared VIPs huddled in the corner praying I'm not there for them. Almost too easy. I take a sphere out of my jacket pocket and give it a click, making it light up in red, before bouncing it off the wall at full speed into the room. Several flashes of white and loud pops fill the room, and the while the gunfire does go off, it's not nearly as accurate, as shown when I step inside and immediately gun down the idiot who's not in cover, one in the chest and one in the head.
As the gunfire starts to get more accurate, I toss the bag to the guy behind the table, hitting him and causing a stumble to the floor, and rush the two behind the bar. One manages to point a shotgun at me before I hit him three times in the chest. Close, but not enough. Would've just needed one if I wasn't running. The other guy raises his pistol, but I slide over the bar and dropkick him, sending him crashing into the booze. Before he can get up, I send a clean round right through his skull. Finishing things off, I pivot to the last guard, his improvised cover ineffective at this angle, only to see him already pointing his pistol my direction.
We trade. Both our shots hit in the chest. Glad I was wearing body armor, but it still hurt like a bitch. What's more, the other guy wasn't, but I could still see him crawling away towards his gun. Very sloppy of me. I was slowing down. Today had been long, but it wasn't over yet. After I took a breath, I hopped back over the bar and started walking towards him, picking up the discarded duffle bag along the way. Just as he got his claws on the pistol, I stomped his wrist and put a hole in his head. Seeing as how that was the last bullet in the mag, I took the time to reload and look over at the final group of VIPs.
"You all know how to keep your mouths shut?"
Desperately, there was nodding and sounds of agreement. Of course there were. I knew they wouldn't talk. Nobody ever does. But I chambered my Four-Five just to get the message across.
"Good. Grab something from the bar and scram."
That was all they needed to make for the stairs. One or two did grab some bottles, but the rest decided rightly so that alcohol was not worth getting possibly shot over. But I wasn't really paying attention to them as I made my way to the door that led further in. Wasn't really paying attention at all, or else I would have heard Bull charging just as I was about to open the door. The massive woman barreled through the two sets of doors, smashing them apart with her bionically enhanced strength, and sent me careening through the air and bouncing off a table. I was getting up, wind knocked out of me, and noticed the bag and my gun were both still by the door. When I looked for Bull, she was standing right next to me, and lifted me overhead.
"You made a big mistake, birdie!"
I guess the bounce wasn't enough, because she sent me straight through the tempered glass table next. If I wasn't a little bionic myself, that probably would have killed me, but it still really hurt. The air was out of my lungs, and Glimbo's bodyguard wasn't about to let any enter when she grabbed my throat next, picking me up again.
"Nobody fucks over Glimbo, bird. Let's see if you can fly!"
Winding up a throw with her artificial muscles, she catapults me across the room and directly into the mirror hanging behind the bar, shattering it into a thousand pieces. If my spine wasn't reinforced, it'd probably have ended up the same way. While she laughs maniacally, I see the shotgun beside the guard I'd killed earlier, and I reach for it. But Bull isn't having any of that, reaching over the bar easily and hoisting me up by the collar, slamming my back onto the countertop and holding me by the next with a forearm.
"As much as I wanna draw this out, Boss said to make it quick. Let's carve us a Raven!"
With her other arm, Bull clenches her fist and causes a wicked blade to extend from it. Looks like somebody's installed a Jack. She thrusts it towards me, and I'm barely able to hold her back with my own bionics. I risked letting the blade inch closer to grab around with a free hand, grabbing onto a bottle and smashing it over her head, to little effect except dousing her with alcohol and causing her to laugh at my desperation. As the Jack inches closer to my face, it's tip nearly meeting my eye, I take inspiration from this and manage to grab a mirror shard, plunging it into one of Bull's own eyes. She recoils back with a howl of pain and surprise, and I roll myself back inside the bar, landing with a thud.
"RAVEN, YOU LITTLE SHIT! I'M GONNA GRIND YOU INTO NUGGETS!"
Just as she returns to the bar and reaches over to grab at me again, I pull the shotgun into my hands and blast her. Bull is sent a few steps backwards from the force, struggling for a few moments to stay up, but does. As I stand up, she's just laughing as her skin graft lies in tatters, revealing a hardened black surface underneath. Figures she would have Subdermal. Bull stares her remaining wild eye towards me as the laughter dies.
"You really thought that could kill ME?!"
"... Worth a shot. So's this."
I rack the shotgun and blast her again in the same location, but this time causing a series of sparks on the armor. Sparks which ignite the fresh alcohol she's currently covered in, setting her ablaze. This, she was not expecting: her single remaining eye widens and she tries to frantically put out the flames, screaming in pain. Cyborgs and high temperatures don't mix well at all, and she is both very heavily Borged and very very warm. But she'll still probably survive even this, so with a quick intake of air, I leap over the bar, rush towards her, put the shotgun into her screaming mouth, and chamber another round.
The entire top of Bull's scalp explodes out, painting the ceiling a new shade as her body collapses. I drop the shotgun to the side of her still flaming corpse and take a few moments to breathe. Fuck, that could have been a lot easier if I was paying attention. I walk over to the duffle bag and pistol I'd dropped, picking them up as I continued through the smashed doors. I can see Glimbo's office just up ahead, the end of the day so close in sight. Nearly trip and fall as I'm walking, have to lean against the wall a moment. Can't go limping into Glimbo's office, won't give the right idea. So I grab my last stim from the inside of my jacket, twist the cap, and plunge it in my neck. I'll pay for it later, that's for sure, but right now, somebody else needs to pay.
Renewed, I stride up and kick open Glimbo's doors. The shithead pretends not to be intimidated, but I saw him flinch. Glimbo Wifi, one of the biggest crime bosses in the city, sits with a smug grin as I point my Four-Five at him. He's not THE biggest, but his name is enough to mean something, so by all means to effort I've put into this whole thing by myself is next level.
"Ah, Raven. So you've finally arrived. I knew you'd come straight here, but you took a bit longer than I thought..."
"My car broke down this morning. I'm guessing this whole thing is about the BingBong NET files."
"Of course it's about the BingBong job, Raven. You knew that I am a major shareholder in BingBong, and yet you still stole from them. My shares tanked, and it cost me a FORTUNE! I couldn't simply just let that go unpunished. Shame about your friend, but it seems you were a bit late coming home..."
I level the pistol towards his head, setting the duffle bag down and pulling up a phone, but the fat fuck retains his smug little grin. He thinks he has everything all figured out.
"You going to shoot me for killing your friend, Raven? You already know that would be a bad idea. Even if I die, in my publicized will I've listed various inheritors of my incredibly legal empire to carry on my-"
"Check your bank account."
"Bank account. Now."
I raise the gun a little, and Glimbo complies, navigating to his banking interface on the computer. By his shocked look a few moments later, I'd guessed that he saw the big goose egg on his screen.
"I steal information for a living, Glimbo. You think your banking info was safe? It was the easiest thing I've done today. You and all of your offshore shell accounts have made some considerable donations."
From that moment onward, he seemed a lot more aware that there was a person pointing a gun at him. The next part was what I was really expecting, and had come fully prepared for. The panic in Glimbo's voice was notable.
"Wait, even then, you also know that killing me won't stop anyone else from taking my place and then just hunting you down. My lieutenants-"
The duffle bag lands directly in the center of Glimbo's desk, and he stares at it with a stunned expression, unsure of what to make of it. I raise the gun.
I cock the hammer back to make myself a little more clear.
Glimbo looked between the gun and the bag, and slowly reached over, unzipping the duffle slowly. Once it was unzipped, a rank stench filled the room, and once Glimbo saw the contents, he shot up out of his seat, backing away instantly.
"JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH!"
"Come on, Glimbo, take a closer look! You recognize them?!"
I use a bionic kick to knock over the wooden desk, spilling the duffle bag out onto the ground in front of Glimbo. Several familiar heads roll towards the crime boss, each one belonging to one of his underbosses. Glimbo begins to well and truly panic at this point. I take the moment to relive each one.
"... But... You just..."
The first was easy. He posted on social media that he'd be going to his daughter's school play. I caught him halfway on his route, in the elevator leaving his mistress' Comp. One shotgun blast. He would've missed the show anyway.
"... I... I-I don't..."
The second was a bit harder. She was constantly in public with bodyguards, and it took a good 15 minutes of trailing before she decided to ditch the guards and go for a walk in the park. Once I had her alone, took her off the path and executed her in the brush. Hid the body in a leaf pile.
"... How... Did..."
The third was truly satisfying. Like Glimbo, after killing all his guards, he also thought he was safe from me in his little panic room. A little Thermo to the door hinge and a charge pack boosted bionic pull ripped the steel door right out. It was like opening a present that said you couldn't open it. I cut it off right then and there.
"... The hit team reported in five hours ago! You killed..."
"I killed them, Glimbo. All of them in less than five hours. And then I came here and killed all of your honor guard. Now there's nothing stopping me from killing you."
"Wait, WAIT! You're the one that betrayed ME here! I was in my rights to strike back, and I DID! You've taken everything from me, and you're going to kill me too?! How is that fair?!"
"You could've killed me, Glimbo. You could've hired a real professional to do it and nobody else would've had to have been involved. But you didn't just have your group of fuckups do it to show your power. You didn't just kill any random bystander in your sorry excuse of a hit."
I point the Four-Five at him, knowing that this clip is all the ammo I have left, and by god, I'm going to use it.
"You killed Schmunguss. And that's unforgivable."
Glimbo is riddled with bullets, and I'm pretty sure he was dead after the first 3 or 4, but the gun's still not empty yet. I walk right up to his bleeding pig body and put the last two rounds in his head. Finally. The bastard is dead. But there's a few issues to address.
"... I know you're watching, Code. I bet this is exactly what you wanted. Me or Glimbo to kill each other. Lot sooner than you expected? Just in case it wasn't clear, let me spell it out for you."
I step right over to the fallen computer, holding up it's seemingly disabled monitor camera. I know that Code can still probably hear and see out of the thing. It's how they knew every little detail of my life, including the illegal thefts. So I give the camera a death stare.
"I dismantled Glimbo Wifi's entire operation in five hours. You want to see what I can get done in an evening? A whole day?! A WEEK?! If you EVER contact me again, with another 'offer you can't refuse' blackmail trick like you did with BingBong, I'm coming after YOU! YOU HEAR ME?!"
I smash the monitor to the ground. They probably got the message. I was so, so tired. I was done with everything six hours ago. All the shit I've been through today was starting to catch up. I was in the final stretch, but I wasn't done just yet.
One last thing to take care of.
I ring the Comp's doorbell again, and double check that this is indeed the right one. As it said the last time I checked it 30 seconds ago, the name still reads "Boolean St.George". Right. Just... Don't want to slip up on this one. The day has gone on for so long already, and it feels longer than it really is.
Just as I'm thinking of ringing again, or maybe even knocking this time, the door opens, and the subject of today's visit appears, smaller than average with pigtails and a bohemian clothing style. A perfect match to his own.
"Rave? What are you doing here? Nevermind, have you-"
"Can I come in?"
"Huh? Oh, sure. Come in."
I step inside, and Boo locks the door behind me immediately. Good instinct, never give any openings. Just hope she'll be fine, one day. As we make it to the living room, she pushes past me and turns to get my full attention.
"Anyway, have you heard from Schmung? He hasn't been answering my calls or DIMs."
"Take a seat, Boo."
"I don't want to take a seat, did something happen? Do you know anything? Why are you here?"
Here we go. It's time for the sweetest lie I'm ever going to tell.
"... There was a fire."
As soon as the words leave my mouth, Boo has stopped. Usually so animated, and these four words just turned that off. Threw me off guard. But I kept spinning the tale.
"... It started in the kitchen while Schmung was asleep in his room."
"... No, no, no, no..."
My tongue was gettin' heavier by the second. And now the biggest part. The most untrue. But the one that might bring her the most peace, in time. Sorry, Schmung. Just cleaner this way.
"He didn't suffer. The smoke got him before the fire did. It was painless."
"NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!"
Boo started to beat her fists against my jacket, as if me speaking it was making it true. And for her, for all extents and purposes, it was. Schmung was dead, either way. She'll just think he died without harm. As she began to cry and the beatings slowed, I followed the biggest lie with the closest truth she'll ever hear about the situation. But it was definitely the hardest thing I've ever admitted to.
"... My car broke down this morning, so I was late... By the time I got back, it was already..."
The dried rivers had began to rehydrate again, replacing the scorching land with a flood of sorrow. And the way Boo was looking at me, her eyes completely hinging on everything I said, did not make it easier. Would she hate me? It's what I deserve for what I've done to Schmung. And how I'm lying to his girlfriend.
"... If I had been there on time, maybe I could have..."
I didn't even have the chance to continue before she hugged me tight, crying into my jacket. And I couldn't find the strength to go on myself. So I just hugged her back, and tried not to cry as much. Didn't really work. After we were both done, I helped her make arrangement plans for his funeral. Called all the necessary people to confirm his death. She let me sleep on the couch and offered it for as long as I wanted it. I could hear her crying through the wall when she went to sleep for the night. The stims had finally caught up with me, and I could feel the ghosts of wounds ache throughout my body, but I was simply too exhausted to care. Finally, I let my eyes close fully.
Today was a long day.