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Chibi-Czar
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Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2004 10:50 pm
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Post original works 1
So my buddy and I made a deal where he and I would write stuff, one story a week, and compare. I got a flicker of inspiration last week and wrote this. It's unedited, it's a style I'm very unused to writing in from both perspective and theme, and I need to add a lot of description. I will be going over and fixing grammatical and compositional errors, so don't mind about that. However, basic "like/don'tlike/why" responses would be appreciated. Plot, characters, setting?

*********************
Something about her always inspired the best in me. We were just kids, and nothing really happened, but somehow I always seemed to achieve greatness when I was around her. She was like Helen of Troy; every man wanted her, nobody could keep her.

The darkness that night brings to remind men of their mortality, in this city is banished. Neon screams frantically of man's panicky struggle with death. Wine, women, and song. And money. Always money. The air smells of celebration, of instant wins and faster losses, of the pall of death overlaid with strong perfume. Even the shine just makes the night blacker. I lean back, letting my coat open and spill back against the marble pillar of a modern temple to ***, and I let myself remember.

It was in high school. She had blonde hair, curly, and she played enough sports to tone a figure that didn't need the help. She smiled like an angel. There was nothing I wouldn't have done for her, but she never asked. Maybe I never offered. I can't remember. It's all in the past now. Or it would be, if coincidence didn't run the damnedest odds in this town.

"Hey, tiger." Her voice still grabs my hindbrain and throttles it. There's nothing throaty about it, nothing inherently sexy. It's smooth, and it's hers, and that's all I need. I turn around and I see her waiting, and I pause as I always do to catch my breath again. She's still got the blonde curly hair, and the figure, but she never wore a dress like that- short, blue, and suggesting all the wrong things- when we were in school. Can't say as I regret the change.

"Don't call me that. We're trying to keep this professional, remember?" It's a lie- I'd kill to make it personal, as personal as it could get, but something always stops me. Maybe I don't want to ruin that virginal dream I had of her back then. Maybe I'm still a coward.

----
I was in the lobby of the hotel a week ago when I saw her. She was dressed well but not expensively, and I knew it was her. Even after ten years, I knew. That hair, those eyes, that smile. For once I got up and said hello, and she remembered me. We've both changed since then. I was the fat kid with glasses, and now I'm the man; clothes, cash, and cool, I've got it all. She'd hit some rough spots, that was obvious, but she still had the charm and the guts and legs that wouldn't quit. Naturally, we struck up a conversation.

"So, Elena, what have you been doing? I heard you were working for a while out of high school."

"Oh, that!" She laughs, dismissing it. "I tossed around for a while, you know. I ended up running from a couple of bad scenes, now I just tour around. I pay my way here and there, hitch a ride, you know the story."

I didn't, but that never stopped me before. "Sure, sure. So what are you up to now?"

She waves vaguely. "This and that. More importantly, what are you doing these days? That's a pricey-looking suit!" She laughs again, and I can't help smiling.

"I work for a couple of companies. Consultant stuff, helping manage their people, analyse systems, find flaws and fix 'em." I pause, then in a retrogression to my terribly less-cool high school identity, blurt out; "You know, I had the biggest crush on you in high school." I freeze mentally, but keep the smile going, thinking shit, did I say that?

She blinks, twice, then smiles. She hoods her eyes- they're blue eyes, and sexy as hell when she does that- and leans in a bit. "You know, I did too. Why didn't we ever get together?"

The relief is like a punch in the gut. I feel sick and loose. "Probably because I didn't think you'd be into me. You know how I was back then. Geeky, not well packaged."

"But kind. I remember that, you were always kind." She shifts a little, then looks me in the eyes. "Are you still kind?"

She's asking me something else, but I don't know what. "Yes. Well, as much as I ever was. Plenty of it was hormones, I think."

She grins conspiratorially. "One's as good as the other. You want to help me with something? I could use an extra person, and you're just the man to do it."

"Sure," I say, before I can stop to think.

----
It's insane, of course. I'm well-paid, I have a good life, and no reason to risk everything. Maybe a pair of blue eyes, but if that's it then why am I not taking her up on her offers?

"Done looking? Come on, big man, we've got work to do."

She turns around- which doesn't do much for my staring- and walks off,
the blue dragging me along with it. Who thought colour would have power?

"It's a myth that these places never get robbed," she comments, heading for the slots. "They just never report it. People need to feel safe to spend money, and the aura of invincibility scares off troublemakers."

"So what are we?" I tear my eyes off her back and watch the crowd. Two, three security drones playing the tables. Five-digit password for the safe. Eighteen cameras, fifteen decoys.

"We're professionals."

Card lock for the staff room door. "I don't do this for a living." detector plates in the decorative brasswork of the doors.

"Sure you do." I bump into her, having been craning my neck around. There's an instant of soft pressure on contact, and I back up before I forget why I'm here. She turns around, amused, and puts a hand on my chest. "You just don't usually get paid this much." She breathes and I can feel the warmth on my chin, but before I can decide what to do she's off again. I follow. Helplessly.

"I've never done this before." Elevators have card slots for employee access. She presses a button.

"But you've built systems like this." She responds airily and steps into the elevator. I follow. One man watching the lifts at all times, two more watching the lifts and the floor.

"It's dangerous." Two extra seconds between the third and fourth floor.

"Everything you do is dangerous. Writing air terminal software can kill thousands of people by accident." The doors open and I follow her out. The hallway, like the rest of the hotel, has plush red carpets, brass fittings, and white walls.

"I have teams to check my work." Janitors and maids have cards, universal access.

"But you said you've never found major errors. And I know what to look for, so I can be your eyes." She opens the hotel door, lets me in. I drop my jacket on the sofa.

"But... it's illegal."

She smiles over her shoulder at me. "Of course it is. That's why it pays so well." She starts unzipping her dress and I quickly start watching TV.

----
That night we go over the plans and the system. There's exploits- there's always exploits. I figure I could make a whole lot of cash, safely and legally, doing security system work. If I don't get arrested or shot, I should look into it. I ask myself again why I'm doing this, then Elena goes to take a shower ad comes out in a towel, and in my panic to get out of the room I forget the question again.

It takes three days to get all the information I need. She's broke, so we use a couple thousand dollars of my money to gamble. We win some, we lose some, and we learn a whole lot about how this casino runs. On the fourth day, I end up talking to some guy that walked in off the street and started napping in the lobby. Security was going to run him off, but I started talking to him and they left us alone. He's a cool guy, kinda scruffy, three-day shadow and a mop of brown hair. He's affable. Two hours later, Elena tracks me down. Annoyed.

"Where have you been? We've got work to do!"

"Elena." I gesture to the new guy. "This is Joseph. He plays guitar."

"I don't care what he does," she snaps. "why aren't you checking things out?"

"Because I'm done." I lean back. "I've got all the info I need, and I've got a route through the system. Elena, Joseph has very quick hands from playing the guitar."

She narrows her eyes at me, then at him. "No." She shakes her head. "No way. I trust you-" her look softens- "but not some stranger. How do we know we can trust him?"

"Easy." I stand up. "I think we can."

"But-"

"I trust you, and that's good enough for me. I trust him."

She stops arguing for some reason. She shoots Joseph another suspicious glance, but heads for the room without another comment. I gesture for Joseph to follow us.

----
"It's simple. Their cards are changed once every three days. We steal one in two days. Their keypad codes change every twelve hours, and for some reason they follow a simple mathematical pattern."

"Simple?" Elena looks skeptical. "They're never simple."

"Well, maybe not simple. But it's amazing what a calculator can calculate these days. All I need to do is watch security type in the code for the staff room, and I'll know every other code in the building."

Elena is astounded for a second, but just a second. Then she tackles me and wraps her arms around my neck. "You magnificent bastard! Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

"Well, you did say it was my job." I grin and allow myself to hug her back. It nearly kills me to stop there, and I decide not to let myself do this again. "I didn't want to tell you if I wasn't sure."

She disengages and sits back, patting her hair into place. "So Joe, think you can handle it?"

Joe shuffles a pack of cards in one hand and riffles a wad of bills in the other. "My dear friends, it's a matter of wrist action." With a flick, he sprays the cards onto the table. They land in piles according to suit.

We're going to be rich.

----
Joe, dressed in a rented suit, wanders downstairs to start cheating. He selects table six, and turns five hundred dollars into two thousand in the space of an hour. I, in my regular suit, and Elena, in a scarlet floor-length with matching makeup, arrive as he starts making and winning a series of thousand, two-thousand, and soon three-thousand-dollar bets. Three security goons (and, by logical necessity, four cameras) drift over to table six. The cameras are hidden, but I've done the math, and they have to be- must be- pointed away from the till right now.

I step up with Elena. We reach the registers just as the cash cart comes by. They dump it in the safe as I put my hand on the countertop- why they didn't cage the cash, I'll never know- and I slide over the waxed wood as they walk off, just as Joe starts shouting. Everyone's eyes are pointed away from me as I drop next to the safe, type in the code, and yank the safe door open. Massive stacks of bills sit, beckoning. I grab the UPS bags from inside my jacket, stuff in a cool half-million, and dump them into the postage chute conveniently located next to it. I close the safe. No alarms. Hah. Morons and retarded monkeys could set up a better system than this.

I slide back over the table just as Joe, signalled by Elena, starts kicking and screaming. The guards confiscate his winnings, throw him out, and head back to their positions secure in the knowledge they've protected their employer's money. I carefully keep a grin off my face.

----
Back in the room we open champagne, light cigars, and generally whoop it up.

"I can't believe I did that! I can't believe we did that! We did it, didn't we?"

Elena nods, eyes sparking. "A hundred and fifty thousand, plus change. Not bad for a week's work, eh?" She nudges me in the ribs. I laugh expansively and drape an arm across her shoulders. Life is good.

"So what are you guys going to do with your share?" Joe is half-lying in the overstuffed smoking chair, blowing lazy smoke rings at the ceiling, suit returned and hair re-messed. Security didn't even notice him. "I'm gonna buy a house in Mexico, sock the rest away to pay for food and cheap servants, and live like a king until I die."

"I'm going to travel everywhere." She's smiling. It's her dream come true. "Paris, London, Tokyo! I'll see the world!" She drains the rest of her glass and looks up at me. Her eyes are smoky. "What are you gonna do?"

I look at her for a while, then at Joe, then I flop back on the couch. I hadn't thought about it. "I guess..." I glance at her again. "I guess I'll switch jobs. The cash won't last me forever, but I think I've got a taste for the danger now. I don't know if the money was really the point of it, for me."

Elena and Joe stare at each other, then at me. "Not the point? But that's the whole point!" She drapes herself over me. I find myself strangely comfortable.

"Nah." I look up and smile. "I think I'll buy myself a '67 Cobra, though. I've always wanted one."

"That's the spirit!" Joe refills all our glasses. "A toast! To ill-gotten gains and the fine pleasures of life!"

We drink to that. Several times.

----
The next morning I drink a lot of orange juice and call down to check out. The clerk seems surprised that I'm doing so, but clears me out and sends a porter up. I shower, then knock on the door connecting my suite with Elena's. There's no answer. She gave me her card, so I open the door-

It's empty. The room has no clothes, no suitcase, nothing. I call the front desk again.

"Hello?"

"Yes, did Elena Carther check out? Her room's empty but we weren't expecting to leave-"

"Yes sir, she dropped her keys off five minutes ago-"

I drop the phone and run. Maybe she's still outside. No time to check the windows. I realize, as I bolt for the elevator, that it's not the money I'm concerned about; it's going to her address, sure, and I'll never see it again, but I have this sick worry that something's happened to her, something's wrong-

I bash through the brass-worked doors. She's standing right there. Next to a limo with an open door, and Joe. She's on his arm. It hits me like a punch in the gut- now a familiar feeling. Joe has the grace to look embarassed.

"Rich-" he begins, but I've already made my decision. I take two steps, yank Elena off his arm, and kiss her. Hard.

Time, they say, is just the human perception of entropy; we need a concept to stop everything happening all at once, and a way to order the slow death of the universe. I think that's why, when you experience a perfect moment, time stops. There's only one thing happening in the universe, and the death of the universe is stopped in its tracks.

Her mouth tastes like cinnamon. It's her gum, which becomes my gum for a while, then hers. I think we slam up against the limo and I pin her there for a bit, both of us clawing at the other in naked hunger. It's like I'm falling into a well. I know there's a bottom to it, but until I hit it I'm in the cool and the dark and the air is rushing by my face and I can't care.

Finally, eventually, time starts again. My whole mouth is cramped. Strangely, my body isn't demanding more. The kiss was more than a kiss, like the robbery was more than a robbery. The physical pleasure wasn't the point. We both feel it at the same time, disentangle ourselves, and step away. Now she looks embarassed.

"Richard- I-"

I smile. She doesn't get it. No problem. "It's cool." I smile at her and Joe. "I told you the money doesn't matter. That's not the point."

----
Life's funny like that. You set out do one thing, and you get something else in the deal.

_________________
Why carry a gun? Because a whole cop would be too heavy.


Sat Dec 04, 2004 11:24 am
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Chibi-Czar
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Joined: Wed Jun 09, 2004 9:14 pm
Posts: 2769
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The darkness that night brings to remind men of their mortality, in this city is banished. Neon screams frantically of man's panicky struggle with death. Wine, women, and song. And money. Always money. The air smells of celebration, of instant wins and faster losses, of the pall of death overlaid with strong perfume. Even the shine just makes the night blacker. I lean back, letting my coat open and spill back against the marble pillar of a modern temple to ***, and I let myself remember.

Something about her always inspired the best in me. We were just kids, and nothing really happened, but somehow I always seemed to achieve greatness when I was around her. She was like Helen of Troy; every man wanted her, nobody could keep her.

It was in high school. She had blonde hair, curly, and she played enough sports to tone a figure that didn't need the help. She smiled like an angel. There was nothing I wouldn't have done for her, but she never asked. Maybe I never offered. I can't remember. It's all in the past now. Or it would be, if coincidence didn't run the damnedest odds in this town.

Set the backdrop first, then the situation and then the characters. The way you had it messed up the flow.


Sat Dec 04, 2004 1:31 pm
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