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Writing Grand Theft Otaku


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[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][size=1][RIGHT]This is the same shit. Profanity, Sexuality, Drug Use, Adult Content.[/size]

[left]It's 2008 and Otaku City's gone downhill. What was once a city on the move is now a ghetto. It's gone from the haven of the artistic and intellectual to the place where crime has become a fact of life. The depression hit everyone hard, nobody made it through without visible marks. Everyone's lives have changed, even the police can't do what they used to do. Nobody can live safely and sleep soundly in their beds. Not with gangs and other organized crime all over the fucking place. Life in Otaku City, where you could once walk down the street without fear of being killed in a drive by shooting, is gone. It's the state of nature. Hobbes was right. Life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

And I'm Rai. I live with my brother Michael. Parents died the way a lot of people's parents have died. I'm trying to be an artist in a ghetto. My brother says I'm fighting a loosing battle, but he's the one that joined a fucking gang. I stay home when I can, and go to work in the middle of the day when it's safer. I don't like going out at night. Not even with my brother and his gang banger friends. We live in a two bedroom apartment on the West Side where there used to be a working District. That's gone now. So is the Square. That's not a good place to be now. Not if you're someone like me. Just because my brother's in a gang, that doesn't mean he can protect me from everything. Actually, I'm surprised we've made it this far. But I don't think our luck will last. Nothing this fragile can last for long.


This is a story that'll involve, thus far, me and Zen. If you want to contribute in some way, remember the over arching theme is going to be simply Crime. The stories don't have to connect in any meaningful way, but if you want to be part of this dysfunctional little family let me know. You can be in a gang, you can be someone trying to survive, or a police officer fruitlessly chasing down criminals. Anything that ties into the basic premise of a dystopian version of the Otaku City. PM me with ideas if you like, since it'd be sad if I had to get someone to delete a story because it made no sense in the setting I've laid out. [/FONT][/COLOR]
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[YOUTUBE="Grand Theft Otaku Vol. 1"]e6nvVURf9Dk[/YOUTUBE]


The streets aren't a place for weak people. That's the first lesson I picked up after my parents died. Me and D'Ann didn't get any breaks, all our two faced neighbors just let us get washed out in the way side. The government barely gave us anything to survive off of. D'Ann makes an honest living, works her ass off during the day to feed us. She's trying her best to get out, but that's a long ways off... and I knew that if I wanted anything for myself, I'd have to work for it.

Me and a couple of my boys, we built a name for ourselves out in our district. We called ourselves the Indies. There's an ass of gangs and crews running around O-City. But we weren't part of none of that, we didn't cut no shit for O.G.s. Nah, our money was our money, and we made money. Lots of it. We started slingin' rocks when we were all about 15. There were three of us originally, everyday, we'd switch off our shifts. I'd sell Monday, JR's hustle on Tuesday and so on. While we got our boy selling, the other two would watch the block for him. We protected each other. Not just from the cops but from other gangs trying to hustle off our corners.

Sometimes in this business, you gotta fight for your piece of the pie. We liked to keep to keep with throwing hands, but sometimes heat gets pulled and people get shot. Luckily I haven't had to do that yet. But I've busted some heads. That's the only thing I'm better at than slinging. I use my dope money and I take it to the gym, and I learn to do that ultimate fighting shit. I bust heads for fun, cats up there say I got talent, but I dunno. What's the chances of a ghetto kid like me making it that far? I don't think my fighting careers gonna go past my protecting my hood, yah mean?

But ya never know... maybe the possibilities will present itself. Until then I gotta sling this rock, make that bread, and protect my sister from all the dickheads and rapists running around trying to put their cocks in her. God knows I've whooped some ass over that shit. Sometimes I wish she was fat and ugly so I wouldn't have to worry about this.

Anyways. This is my story. They call me Lil' Z. You'll know the name next time you hear it.[/color][/size]
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[size=1][color=#8B008B]In my younger years, I was a dreamer. I dreamt of going to a place of diversity and difference. I dreamt of creating a name for myself and making my way to the top. I would be the CEO of a large corporation; I would be the owner of the greatest restaurant; I would be anything and anyone in place like Otaku City. And I was right. I was something and I was someone; I just wasn’t what I thought I would’ve been or who I would’ve been. I was everything and everyone but that.

If someone were to ask me who I was, I wouldn’t be able to tell them. I wish I could, but how am I supposed to answer that when I don’t even know myself? All I could really tell them was my name; which is Jae. It’s pronounced like ‘Jay’ and short for something you’ll never be able to pronounce. But because I emigrated from South Korea, had an unpronounceable name, and knew next to nothing of English, I was the brunt of every joke. Sadly, no one really knew me and was surprised that a four foot eleven, 110 pound girl could lay waste anyone who provoked her. After all, it was survival of the fittest in the city.

You see, if there ever was a place that was hell on earth, it was Otaku City. It was a place of pain and suffering, where dreams didn’t matter and your status meant nothing. In this city, it didn’t matter if you were a six foot two, 185 pound police officer with a gun; you’d be brought down no matter what. Why? Because the law didn’t run the streets; the demons did. They lurked on every corner and in every alley. And if you lived in the city, you lived on their territory. And when you lived on their territory, you worked for them. And when you worked for them, they owned you.

Thankfully and luckily, it wasn’t like that for me. I was lucky enough to work for a man who knew my father whom I knew as ‘uncle.’ Because he knew my father, I was treated better than the rest of the ‘workers.’ Even though I had to work a corner at night wearing six-inch heels and skanky outfits or even bare my breasts while sliding down a pole, my ‘uncle’ made sure I wasn’t sexually itemized. He made sure I was taken care of and treated rather as an escort, than a whore. I was thankful for that.

But with everything that’s been going in Otaku City, a person couldn’t really afford to be picky. I was willing to do just about whatever it took...even if it meant selling my own body.[/size][/color]
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[center][SIZE=1][B]Weight of the World[/B][/SIZE]

[LEFT][SIZE=1]My hand is cramping up from writing so much. In front of me is a rather large desk with stacks upon stacks of paperwork. Around me are similar desks, except their wastebaskets are full of paperwork. I shake my head in disgust. Glancing at the wall, I find myself reading the seal painted there again, our motto set in gold against a navy blue background.[/SIZE][/LEFT]

[SIZE=1][B]To Protect And Serve[/B][/SIZE]

[SIZE=1]Again, I look around the office. Some protectors. Some of the desks have build-ups of dust upon them. To most of the people I work with, there's no point. "Otaku City has gone to hell, and you can't beat Satan," they tell me. I listen to the screaming down the hall, where people are locked behind bars, far more in a cell than really fit. Perhaps I can't beat Satan, but at least I can slow him down.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=1]I let the black pen drop as I affix my signature to one last piece of paper. I stand and stretch, my fingertips brushing the 8-foot drop ceiling. A glance at the clock says its 4 p.m. Pretty fucking late, considering I started at 3 a.m. Good thing I don't sleep much.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=1]I head to the locker room, ready to get out of my uniform and into civilian clothes. I think of hitting the showers, but it's one of my workout days, so there's no point in it yet. I look around the locker room as I strip, wondering how it could be so empty. As I put my service Glock into my locker, I pull out two Mark XIX Desert Eagle .50 AEs (10-inch barrel) and tuck them into belt holsters that I'll soon be wearing.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=1]I have to chuckle as I close my locker and prepare to dress. It's kind of amusing that I can wield bigger weapons in civvies than what I can in uniform. Goes to show how behind the times we are. Of course, it's taken me sometime to learn to wield two of them, and it's not easy. I generally end up just switching to one instead of reloading. I only bring out two if it's REALLY messy.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=1]I tug a t-shirt over my head before stepping into a pair of cargo jeans with wide belt loops to accommodate an extra-thick leather belt that slides through my holsters, putting one on each hip. Spare mags sit in the pockets. I pull a pair of running shoes on as I leave, punching out at the clock near the door.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=1]The noise outside erupts into a fury as I step outside the office, no longer protected by soundproof walls and glass. Sounds like there's another gang fight to my left. I don't really have it in me right now, so I continue on. For now, at least, it's off to the Y.[/SIZE]

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[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][i]It was early enough to make Michael moan when I kicked his door to wake him up for breakfast. But who cares? Just because our parents weren't alive anymore, didn't mean I was allowed to let things slide completely downhill. Absentmindedly, I sifted cream of wheat through my fingers while I cracked eggs into a bowl with my other hand. A few whisks and a pinch of shredded cheese, and breakfast was ready in five minutes. By then my errant brother had slouched into the kitchen and was sitting down at one of the barstools, gulping down the orange juice I had set next to his bowl and plate. I ate standing over the sink, already dressed for work, feeling slightly overheated and wishing our apartment had air conditioning. Too damn hot for 7 in the morning.[/i]

"Do the dishes and I'll be home by 7 to make dinner. You'll be there right?"

"Yeah yeah...."

[i]I glared at him, and felt an urge to throw a blunt and heavy object at him, but shrugged my shoulders and turned back towards the front door, snatching the keys and my purse from the end table and hurrying down the stairs outside. When I wasn't inside a building, I always hurried. I didn't want to see the people around me, especially the ones staring right at my ass, even if I was wearing a loose skirt with my blouse. In the office for Social Services I sat at my desk and began working on the pile of papers that my boss had dumped in the In file. Dozens upon dozens, requests and requisitions and procurement. Sometimes I had a personal file to go through.

So many messed up kids that needed to be plugged into the system, or foster care. I knew that my job was just me standing on a cliff overlooking Hell and tossing in wet sponges, but it was better than ignoring it. And this is my life. Day in, day out. At least I have weekends to paint. And every evening before I go home to dinner I go to the local Y and dance. I even have a couple friends there, as much of friends as you can have in Otaku City. Out here, you loved small, didn't hang onto something that could just get ripped out of your hands at any second.

Closing time at 4 and I was out of the door before my boss could delay me with some trivial task. My beater of a Honda made it to the Y parking lot, where several kids were playing basketball, too young to have an interest in me, which I was a little too happy about. My duffel bag full of my dance clothes was in the trunk, the only thing in there besides jumper cables and a spare tire. I'd learned quickly that keeping anything of value in the trunk was stupid. Inside the Y, the AC actually worked, but considering the amount of kids and young adults inside, I guess it didn't really matter.

As I walked in, Kenso, someone I'd known for at least a few months now greeted me with his customary, misguided, come ons. [/i]

"Heyyy Rai. What're you doing here?"

"What do you think? I'm not here to see you. Fuckass."

[i]My mock glare was met with laughter from him, another cop, someone else from work. And he gave me one of those looks, taking in the tight black jazz pants and the loose fitting shirt, and the braids. I flicked my middle finger at him, which made the guy sitting behind the desk laugh. He went towards the weight room while I trudged up the badly carpeted stairs to the dance studio, where my girl Jae was already waiting, leaning against the railing, looking sexy in a leotard and baggy jeans. Part of me wished she didn't have to do what she did for a living, but not everyone can work in an office.[/i]

"Yo Rai. How was work?"

"Wet sponges, you know the deal Jae. Let's do it."

[i]We sauntered into the studio, just a few other girls there, and three or four guys who could break dance pretty decent. They didn't object to learning a little jazz/hip hop fusion at the same time. She and I tossed our duffel bags into the corner and pulled out water bottles that were once frozen, but now condensating into puddles on the wood floor. Whatever. She slid on her dance shoes and I slipped my feet into the half soles I'd always felt more comfortable wearing, even if the floor sometimes tore up my toes. I looked around the studio, feeling better already. Black, White, Latino, Asians, nobody was a minority here.

As the music started, the subwoofer shaking the floor under our feet, I felt my problems drifting away from me one by one. Maybe it was the fact that Jae and I were shaking our assess without fear of being objectified. The guys in the class were more interested in polishing their moves than getting pussy. As I kicked my way across the dance floor, feeling the grain and grit of the wood heavy under my toes, I saw Jae doing the same in a series of lighting fast turns and mid air spins. The sweat began pouring, until the points of my braids were dripping down my back, making the space between my shoulder blades itch.[/i]

"Hey Rai, wanna call it quits for tonight?"

[i]At Jae's prompt I looked at the clock on the wall, which was miraculously working, and accurate and saw that it was almost 7.[/i]

"Shit. I have to go home and make dinner. I totally forgot about the time."

"Well you know, I'm pretty sure Lil' Z won't come home on time anyway."

"He better. If he wants to eat."

[i]Jae laughed at me as I grabbed my duffel bag and my water, headed down the stairs as fast as I could go. Kenso saw me on the way out and threw up a hand, which I tossed my shoulder at and made a beeline for my car, the sun already beginning to set.[/i][/FONT][/COLOR]
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[CENTER][B][FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]After Hours[/SIZE][/FONT][/B]
[B][FONT=Verdana][/FONT][/B] [/CENTER]
[LEFT][FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]It's barely three miles to the Y from the station, but in that span I'd been swung at twice, ran away from four times (including both people who swung at me), and nearly hit by a car once. Typical fare, nowadays. Unfortunately, being one of the few cops who tries, my face is fairly well-known. Alright, that's not the only reason, but I digress, at least for the moment. But cops aren't well-liked. We get attacked, a lot, especially if we try. The block or two area around the station is one of the most dangerous parts of the city, instead of the safest.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]I have to smile a little as I finally make it. A cute little girl I know as Rai is just showing up for her dance class. She works at Social Services, but we've probably said more to each other at the Y than we have on the job (which is saying something). I toss a greeting her way as I get close, turning it into a bit of a come-on. It's a silly thing, but she knows I'm going to, and I know she's going to respond in a negative. She's not interested in any guys that I know of. Makes me feel better. At least it's not just me.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]"Heyyy, Rai. What're you doing here?"[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1][COLOR=black]"What do you think? I'm not here to see you. Fuckass."[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]She pretends to glare at me and I laugh. It's funny and cute, and she probably knows it. I let my eyes wander, enjoying the dance clothes she's in. A man can't help it really. Of course, this gets me flipped off, and the desk guy laughs instead of me.[/SIZE][/FONT][/LEFT]
But frivolties are over at that point, and I turn to head for the weight room. The locker room is tucked in the back, and I head there. After all, it's really hard to work out when you're wearing rather large guns. I find an empty locker and tuck my belt and weapons in it. I'm not really worried about them getting taken, and there is no lock on the locker when I close it. Around here, nobody fucked with anybody. It was like the Y was some unspoken neutral zone, at least in the weight room. You left your grudges at the door.
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]As I step out of the locker room, I glance around. There's a lot of familiar faces, some of them enemies, other acquaintances with no special connections. I don't really keep friends. They keep dieing. I recognize some as being part of the Indies and nod their way, as friendly as I get. Though we're technically opposed sides, the Indies know I don't mess with them. It's a favor to Rai. I know her brother is one of the important folks within the Indies, so they're the one bunch I leave alone. If I can't stop them all, I can at least be selective about who can keep running, and as much as I oppose exactly what they do, they do it as cleanly as possible. Hell, to my knowledge, Lil'Z hadn't actually killed anybody yet. Damned impressive statistic right there.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]I step over to one of the all-in-one machines and kick up the resistance. I stretch first, knowing better than to start exercising without them. After ten minutes of stretching, I start on the machines, working through various exercises, doing my best to give every part of my body a workout. Well, almost every part. You didn't see too many women in the weight room. I've probably been exercising for about an hour when one of the martial arts instructors approaches me.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]I left the classes a while ago, but he wants to spar. Checking the time, I figure I'm cool with it. We go into the mat room, and I kick off my shoes. We both start relaxed, but he attacks first. For the most part, he's faster than me, and I barely respond in time to block. It's not that I'm slow, but the masters tend to move at insane speeds.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]But it's been a long day, and I want to relax. Spars are a good source of stress relief. Today, I'm stepping it up. I remind myself to focus more on him and less on the world around me. That's my biggest problem. I'm used to thinking like a cop, and that means I've got to watch everything. It distracts me, slows me down. But not in here. It's one-on-one, no reason to think otherwise.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]He's beating me against a wall, forcing his advantage, landing nothing solid but not giving me any openings. But now I want this. I can't lose. Some of the guys I'm going to run into on the streets are more dangerous than he is, and I don't want to rely on my guns. I decide to let a shot through, at least partially. Taking advantage of my reach, I step into a punch and swing. Off-balance, he can't respond. His blow catches my upper arm, sliding up towards my face, but the impact from my hit keeps it away.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]He doesn't waste time being shocked. Now we're both going with equal zeal. Some people are watching, waiting, as though class should've started. But we don't give up. I'm feeling exhausted, but so is he. As he aims for my face with a punch, I drop and kick his feet out, circling the foot I used up and back around, dropping it on his chest as he goes parallel with the ground.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]As he hits, my heel in his chest, he acknowledges defeat. Which is good, because I was fairly certain I didn't have much left in me for that, not without a break. Fighting one-on-one was so much damned harder than fighting against groups. We say our byes and I leave the room, realizing that class really should have started as I glance at the clock. I stop at the locker room for my belt and guns. Nobody questions those, not in this day and age.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]As I leave, I see Rai again, and wave. I'd love to ask her to dinner, just for a quiet night with someone, instead of the usual crap, but I know better. So it's just me and my cooking again tonight. Granted, I can cook, but I don't always want to. The walk home is only another mile. I just make myself some pork chops and rice, which takes me no time to eat.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]I glance at my guns and stand up to head for the door. Work might be over, but my night was just beginning.[/SIZE][/FONT][/SIZE][/FONT][/LEFT]
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  • 2 weeks later...
[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][i]Aaah, the 'taku Mart. My favorite bodega. The place to pick up any last minute items I'd forgotten for dinner. Like minute rice, or tomato sauce, or ice cream, or a case of soda. Tonight it was tomato sauce. Can't make spanish rice without it. I set the can at the register as I pulled a dollar out of my pocketbook, noticing the sun nearly gone from the sky. James leaned over the counter and gave me a characteristically paternal smile.[/i]

"Going home after this?"

"Yessir. Wouldn't be caught dead out there after dark."

"Smart girl. My wife and kids won't do it either. You be careful now."

Thanks James!"

[i]I snatched up the bag and ran for the door, hurrying to my car and locking it as soon as I was inside. Once I parked outside the apartment, I climbed the concrete steps quickly, turning the lock behind the front door immediately. A look around revealed that while my brother wasn't home, he had in fact remembered to do the breakfast dishes. I heaved a sigh, relieved to be home and safely indoors after a long day. Absentmindedly, I set down the can of sauce on the kitchen counter and put my purse in my bedroom.

A quick shower and a fresh change of clothes later, I stood at the stove, browning some lean hamburger meat, a cup of minute rice and a rack of spices ready and waiting. I kept one ear towards the door, hoping my brother would come through it at any second, and I could know that he was safely home from whatever it was that he did when he wasn't here. As the rice simmered on the counter I sent through the bills and balanced the checkbook. Nothing we couldn't safely pay. Once nice thing about never being home is that the gas and electricity and water would reflect that. I wrote a couple checks, endorsed the one from work, and set things down on the rack by the front door. Then I turned back to the stove and was just stirring it once more when the phone gave a sharp blast.[/i]

"Hello? Jae!?"

"Hey! Raiha! Can you pick me up from the corner of Smith and 17th? It looks like something's happening on 15th. I don't want to be there for it."

"What? Some kinda fucking cholo convention?"

"You know it. Southsiders getting uppity again with another bunch of- Oh shit can you hurry?"

"Yeah, I'll be right there."

[i]I turned off the stove and grabbed my jacket against the quickly cooling night. My pants were nondescript, and I made sure I wasn't wearing red or blue at all times. My brother was pretty helpful on telling me what to avoid and what places were hot. But he still wasn't home. I scribbled a note and taped it to the fridge, knowing he'd be heading right for the sodas and would hopefully reach it first.

Outside I could smell burning marijuana, hear the yelling of babies and adults alike. Avoiding the looks of kids skateboarding up and down the railings nearby, I headed for my car and drove around the speed limit the six blocks to where Jae was waiting. Several cops passed me as I drove through the residential area, and I kept my speed, pulling over as Jae flagged me down. She slid into the passenger seat, looking completely shapeless in the trench coat she'd tied loosely around her waist.[/i]

"Go back the way you came. I think they're going to turn on their sirens right about.... ...now."

[i]The scream of alarms reached our ears and I made a U-turn as quickly as was safe, zooming towards hearth and home where my brother hopefully was and things were a helluva lot quieter. Jae leaned back in the seat, her seatbelt across her lap. Just as we were about to turn the corner onto the street I'd been living on for years, a cop pulled up behind us and blinked his lights once. I immediately pulled over and steeled myself. Jae quickly sat up and pulled her hood down, pulling out my registration from the glove box as I fished in my pocket for my ID. The officer swaggered up to my open window and I looked up at the smirking face of someone a few years older than me, the glint of his badge looking somewhat tarnished to me.[/i]

"Do you know how fast you were going girl?"

"I believe I was going 25 officer."

"I have you at 45. That's not safe. Speed limit's 25."

[i]Oh shit.[/i][/FONT][/COLOR]
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[SIZE=1]The streets are quiet as I walk, at least as quiet as they ever get nowadays. Nothing big is going down, nothing to catch my interest. By the end of the night, I’ll probably take a few out just to get them off the streets, but when it’s early, they have to at least nab my attention somehow. A smile lifts my lips as I pass by an old decrepit basketball court where there’s actually a game going. Some things will never change, and that’s a good thing.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1]As I walk through Raiha’s part of town, I keep an eye open. Many gang members lived around her, and it wasn't hard to find their homes, and things can get a little messy. The main streets are loud and crazy, but nothing abnormal. Crazy shit’s always going down around here. I walk past an alley and notice a cop car down around the middle, with someone in a bulky-looking trench coat or something nearby it, and maybe someone near the hood. The alley is dark, so it’s hard for me to make out.[/SIZE][SIZE=1]

[/SIZE] [SIZE=1]But my instincts are already at high gear, and my hand is on my right gun as I make my way up the alley, slowly. As I get nearer, the scene shifts into focus. The first thing I notice is the cop. He’s standing by the hood, and his gun is out. He’s a big son of a bitch; probably does construction work in his spare time. Looks like he’s around 6’4”, 260 lbs, easy, and he’s got a gun pointed at someone.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1]By default, I follow the gun’s aim to the girl in the trench coat. The jacket hides most of her, so I can’t make out much, but I get the odd feeling I’ve seen her before. And I notice she’s not staring at the gun, but at something on the hood, so I follow her gaze.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1]What I see there brings my gun up, and fast. That face I know. The cop’s monster of a left hand is covering the side of Raiha’s face, holding her down to the hood. Her shoulder is bare, shirt shoved roughly aside in a slipshod attempt to get at some skin. As I take in the whole scene in, I realize her pants are off, apparently tossed to the side.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1]The cop has used his foot to shove her feet apart, pants at his knees. His member was straight up and hard, and he’d obviously had some time to get excited. I notice Raiha’s eyes, realize she sees me, and I can see the tears rolling down her face, though she makes no sound. It doesn’t appear the cop or the other girl has noticed me, too engrossed in the scene.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1]I yell, grabbing the fucker’s attention. He turns to face me, switching the gun’s aim to me. By the time he’s turned, my gun is aimed down, and I pull the trigger. That’s one problem down. At least he won’t have to worry about finding a woman ever again. He screams and drops his gun, clasping his hands over his wound, screaming any number of obscenities at me.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1]My approach is slow, purposeful. I take two more shots before I reach him, taking care of his elbows and most of that region of his arms. There’s an evil smile on my face as I get near him.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1]“Remember this face, asshole, because this will be finished when I see you in hell.”[/SIZE]
[SIZE=1]I place the cold metal of the barrel against his forehead and let him think about that for a second; just long enough to let the fear settle in his eyes. Then I pull the trigger. I watch as his body drops to the ground, and then turn to Raiha, trying to keep my eyes up to let her maintain at least some of her dignity. I’d grab her pants, but I don’t really know where they’ve gotten to.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=1]By now, the killing look has left my eyes, although I’m sure she already saw it. Hopefully, it doesn’t scare her away. “Anything else that needs to be taken care of?”[/SIZE]
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[size=1][color=#8B008B]It was still a bit early for me to leave, so I decided to stay at the Y a bit longer. Unlike Raiha, I didn’t have anyone to take care of, just me and myself. Besides, the Y was something like a safe haven to be. I was at peace there; I could think only about the music and the dance and nothing else. It was my escape from the outside world. But the guy at the front desk had to bring me back to reality when he announced he was locking up. It was only then that I realized what time it was- 9:50. I was going to be late.

A trail of swears- both Korean and English- flew out of my mouth as I juggled my things in my arms while I fumbled with my car keys. Once I managed to put everything in and turn everything on, I sped down the road to my uncle’s club. The clock read 10:01. Even in the somewhat safe confines of my car, I was wary. It was one thing to work the corners at night, but it was a completely different concept to be on a corner at night. I definitely didn’t want to be caught dead doing the latter. Literally.

I finally arrived at the club and parked my car in the back parking lot. Some of the girls were out taking a smoke break, teasing me as I hurried into the dressing room. I came back out wearing a hooded trench coat over a short black skirt and a low-cut red halter top with black ankle strap heels. One of the bouncers gave me a lift to my spot and wished me luck. Like I needed it.

Then again, maybe I did. Everything seemed to be the same old- small gang fights, drug deals, women yelling at men, men yelling at women, children crying. Nothing was any different from yesterday or the day before, everything was the same. Except for one thing. It was too quiet. When things got quiet on the streets, it meant something was going down.

I heard tires squealing and guns firing. I’d only been on the corner for less ten minutes and already, my ass was about to die. I dialed Raiha’s number and hoped to God she was home. The other receive clicked; she was home.

[B]“Hey! Raiha! Can you pick me up from the corner of Smith and 17th? It looks like something’s happening on 15th. I don’t want to be there for it.”

“Yeah. I’ll be right there.”[/B]

Raiha and I shared a one-minute conversation about the “cholo convention” that was taking place near 15th. I heard the faint sirens grow louder and knew they were going to come down this road. I watched the corners for red and blue flashing lights. Just as I was about to curse Raiha’s bucket of a car, I saw its headlights head towards me. I flagged her down and jumped into the car before Raiha came to a full stop.

The police were sitting like predators with their lights off. I told Raiha to go the way she came because they were about to turn their sirens on. She made a U-turn while I fastened my seat belt and clenched my coat tight around me. Right as she was about to turn the corner, sirens blared behind us. I sat up straight and pulled my hood over my head. From the corner of my eye I saw a policeman walk up to Raiha’s window. He tapped with the butt of his flashlight. When she rolled it down, he blinded us with its blinding light and asked Raiha a question.

[B]“Do you know how fast you were going girl?”[/B]

I rolled my eyes, thankful that he wasn’t able to see that. Cops always found some stupid excuse to stop people. Every cop had a superiority complex- they thought they were above the law and nothing could touch them.

Raiha replied with a slight nerve-racked tone, [b]“I believe I was going 25 officer.”[/B]

Being a cop, he said he caught her at 45 in a 25 zone. I cursed under my breath and watched as he told the both of us to get out of the car. Something about the cop gave me a weird vibe. Cops usually gave tickets and left; speeding never warranted for the people to get out of their cars. Something was up.

I stepped out as calmly as I could. Without a word, he grabbed Raiha and pushed her onto the front of the car. Her face was slammed onto the hood while the cop held a gun towards me. So many things ran inside my head- help Raiha and get shot; run and get shot; run and break my ankle; not run and watch Raiha get mauled by this bastard...too many things. I didn’t know what to do.

Raiha began to cry quietly. She began to plead with the cop but he wouldn’t have any of it. Still holding the gun towards me, he pulled her pants and threw them somewhere. With the gun still pointed towards me, he smirked and threatened to kill me if either of us did anything. I badly wanted to tell him to fuck himself in the ass, but I knew he’d hurt Raiha even worse.

I felt hopeless; all I could do was close my eyes. But the sound of a somewhat familiar voice made me look desperately in the dark. All I could see in the dark was the spark from the gun and the cop falling to his knees, dropping his gun. Raiha didn’t move from the hood of the car; she laid there as the man came up to the cop. She stayed on the hood of the car as he shot the wounded cop twice before reaching him. Once he came close to the cop and Raiha, he held the gun to the cop’s forehead and shot him.

Raiha was still on the hood of the car with tears rolling down her face. I began to pull off my trench coat as I walked towards Raiha. I wrapped her around it as I picked her up from the hood.

[B]“Anything else that needs to be taken care of?”[/B] was all he asked.[/size][/color]
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[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][i]As Jae gently picked me up, I pushed her off immediately, the coat heavy around my shoulders and staggered around behind the car. Falling to my knees, bending over double behind the trash cans in the alley, I heaved. My stomach writhed, the sudden fear of what could've happened to me over. I was dimly aware of Jae holding my head for me, while my throat constricted, nearly choking me.

She fished in her pockets and found a kleenex, wiping my mouth for me, tipping my head back so I could breathe again. My ears almost registered what she was saying but I kept hearing the cop's voice, over and over. Laughing at me. Threatening Jae. With strength I always knew she had but never fully appreciated, Jae pulled me to my feet and walked me back to my car, leaning me against the trunk, handing me my pants. I pulled them on automatically, hardly noticing Jae pulling my flip flops back on. I wondered who was talking to me when Kenso turned my head to face him gently and looked me in the eyes.[/i]

"You're going to be fine."


[i]...felt like a moron. Kenso had been nothing but nice to me. Ridden in on a pale horse and violently saving me from being raped a quarter of a mile from my house. I wanted to thank him but my mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton balls and left that way for a few years. Jae put her arm around my shoulders and I blinked like an owl on meth. Then my mouth worked again.[/i]

"Thank you for saving me. And Jae."

"You're welcome."

[i]His expression looked almost mournful, but he smiled at me still, his hand resting on the other side of my trunk, non-threatening. Safe. I was beginning to feel grateful, beginning to realize what he'd done for me, and how much trouble we'd be in if we stayed. Jae caught the look on my face and scanned the area leading up to my apartment.[/i]

"We shouldn't stay out here. Let's go inside Raiha. I'll drive."

[i]I handed her my keys and looked over at Kenso, hopefully inviting him with my glance, if only for awhile. He smiled as the engine turned over.[/i]

"Maybe a little later. I have to clean up here."

"Okay. There's food if you're hungry."

[i]He was still smiling as I slid into the passenger seat, listening to my car complain just a little. As the car turned the corner I looked back and saw Kenso standing still, watching us as we made it to my parking lot. Both of us went up the stairs, I unlocked the front door, and then quickly locked it behind me and Jae, dropping the keys on the end table and shedding the trench coat. I dropped into a chair and put my head in my hands. My head spun, and I heard Jae walk into the kitchen, reading the note taped to the fridge. She brought me a glass of juice and I sipped it slowly, the sweet taste bringing me back. Jae tilted her head as I looked over into the kitchen.[/i]

"He didn't come home did he?"

"Michael? No. He would've trashed the note."

"Well fuck. I hope he wasn't there tonight. I was scared shitless."

"I don't think he'd get caught up in that. I mean I'd like to think that. You know?"

"I know. You're alright Raiha?"

"Yeah. Need a shower though. Do you think Kenso will stop by?"

"I kinda hope he does. I mean tomorrow's a Saturday. You don't have work. And he's a good guy. Never tried to hustle me."

[i]I smiled to myself, faintly. Not a full on grin. But I walked towards my miniscule bathroom, shedding my clothes as I went. The water turned as high as I could stand it, I stood at the mirror, staring into my reflection's eyes.[/i][/FONT][/COLOR]
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  • 4 weeks later...
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]I watched Rai drive away, following the movements of the car and the occupants until they actually entered the apartment, just in case. One incident was enough for tonight, and quite a while to come really. Realizing my gun was still in my hand, I slid it back into the holster and turned to the mess I'd made.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]One cop, two blasted elbows, a missing groin area, and half his skull missing....Yeah, that wasn't good. Granted, chances were good he'd never be reported, but leaving the mess still wasn't a good idea. Thankfully, alleys around apartments tended to have dumpsters, and this one was no different.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]Disposing of the body was easy. Getting rid of the car would be far more difficult. But then, chances were good that it wouldn't matter. The cars almost regularly got ditched by guys who just quit, so finding a cop car laying about wasn't entirely unusual. Fuck it, it wasn't worth it.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]Having taken care of the body, I started walking up the alley towards the apartments, and stopped dead as I glanced down at my clothes. Shit....Completely covered in blood. Well, at least my shirt was. I hoped nobody would mind too much, considering the circumstances.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]I jogged the short distance to her place, and knocked. Jae let me in, and the trail of clothes leading off gave me a pretty good hint as to where Rai was. I raised an eyebrow and smirked, feeling the need to lighten the situation a little, especially considering my stained shirt, which was quickly starting to feel real umcomfortable.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Verdana][SIZE=1]"Well, well. That's one hell of an invitation, ain't it?"[/SIZE][/FONT]
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[B]|24 Days Ago|[/B]

My eyes fluttered open for a moment, then shut by instinct as the first glare of light hits them. I groan numbly, a nauseous feeling of weakness quickly spreading across my body. My throat is so dry at this point even attempting to form words hurts like hell, instead I continue to made unintelligible sounds to attract attention. After a moments, the sounds of raised voices breask the silence.

"[b]Holy shit, he's awake ! Gav, Gav can you hear me ?! It's Andrew, can't you hear me ?![/b]"

He grips my hand solidly, more than a noticable amount of relief in his voice. I give it a brief squeeze by way of an affirmation to his question. I hear him sigh, cursing what he calls my "stupid heroics" again, and that one day he won't be around to drag my bullet-ridden ass out of the line of fire and back to safety. I smile unintentionally at the comment, my dry lips splitting slightly at the renewed movement. He hands me over a small cup of water that I drink down greedily.

I endure what seems like an hour of his frustrated mutterings before I manage to open my eyes again. My sight is still blurry, my left hand leaves Andrew's grip to seek my glasses which have hopefully been placed on the table next to my beside. I fumble for a moment before my fingertips hit the cold metal, quietly I place them back in their usual place as the room slides into focus.

"[b]Much better.[/b]"

Dragging myself up in the bed, I notice the bandages for the first time, my entire torso seems wrapped in white marked by the occasional patch of crimson, for a moment it's disconcerting. As I begin to prod my chest, Andrew chooses to chime in.

"[b]You took two rounds to the chest covering those civvies from the rebels. Doc says they missed your vital organs by only centimetres, if they'd connected, we wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation.[/b]"

"[b]I get it.[/b]"

There's a trace of frustration in my scratchy voice, I don't need him to tell me how close I can to dying, I can see it myself. Andrew though seems to think otherwise.

"[b]No. I don't think you do Gav. The whole unit was freaked over it, we thought you were dead. Annie was bawling her eyes out for a solid five minutes when they brought you in. And this is Annie we're talking about, the same chick who could beat the crap out of you, me and most of the rest of Rangers here...[/b]"

He paused, sighed again and rubbed the back at his evident stress.

"[b]I mean, seriously Gav, we all know you go in for that chivalric "defend the innocent" shit, and it's not as if we don't, but, seriously man, you're not a fucking Jedi who can just dive headlong into the action and expect to walk away without a scratch. I'm just saying, hell man, I'm begging you, be more careful in future, OK ?[/b]"

It's my turn to sigh, I never knew he was that good with words, fucker should've been a diplomat.

"[b]Yeah, alright. I'm sorry man, I didn't mean to worry you guys...[/b]" I look around conspiratorially narrowing my eyes, before smiling and rubbing the back of my head. "[b]...Uhh...Where's Annie ?[/b]"

He grins, something predatory about the smile.

"[b]She's back at the base, told me she was going to wait until you're semi-healed to beat the crap out of you for your latest stunt... She also asked me to tell you, don't run, because she will find you.[/b]"

I blanch slightly, feeling significantly worse.

"[b]Oh crap...[/b]"

He lets out a big guffaw, before the door slides open and Neil walks in. Both of us salute, mine looking significantly rougher than my comrade. The captain gives me a quick look before nodding slowly.

"[b]Good to see you awake Gav. How're you feeling ?[/b]"

"[B]I've felt better. How long am I going to be stuck here ?[/b]"

"[b]Medics say about a month, maybe less. That's not why I'm here though... I hate to do this Gav, but this is the third time you've been injured while on active duty. Colonel ordered you to be put on leave for a while to recover properly. When you're discharged from here, you're on three-month leave-period.[/b]"

"[b]WHAT ?![/B]"

I break eye-contact with the captain, pinching the bridge of my nose and sighing in frustration.

"[b]I'm sorry Gav, I really am. I asked the Colonel to reconsider, but he point-blank refused. Look at it this way though, you can head back to Otaku City for a while and see Rai and Mike, I'm sure they miss you.[/b]"

Lying back in the bed, I stare a the ceiling for a few moments before answering.

"[b]Yeah... I suppose you're right. Thanks Neil.[/b]"

He shrugs indifferently.

"[b]Don't worry about it. Anyway, we're going to give you a bit of space to relax. But we'll visit while you're here when we can. Come on Andy, let's give him some time to think.[/b]"


"[b]Later then guys, thanks for calling.[/b]"

"[b]Don't mention it, see you soon Gav.[/b]"

"[b]Three months huh ? Great...[/b]"

|[b]Current Time[/b]|

The taxi pulls up just outside the house, it's already well into the night. I shift uncomfortably in the backseat, simply looking at the building I left over a year beforehand.

"[b]That'll be ten dollars buddy.[/b]"


I pull out the equivalent note from my wallet and toss it to the elderly cabbie as I exit the car, lugging my kit bag up on my shoulder and taking the few tentative steps to the door. I reach over to touch the doorbell when the blood droplets on the ground catch my attention...

Reaching into my bag, I remove the unloaded pistol and quickly shove in a clip before motioning to the driver to get the hell out of here. I guess my uniform was enough to tell him I was one of the supposed "good-guys" because he just nodded and drove away normally. Internally I thank him, the sound of squealing tires might've drawn unwanted attention.

I give the doorbell a single ring, my gun sitting in my left hand, ready to be used at a moments notice. The door opens slowly, creaking on it's hinges Rai's friend Jae coming into view behind the wooden barrier. Right away, I see the surprised look in her eyes.

"[b]Gavin ?[/b]"

"[b]Hey Jae, you guys OK ?[/b]"

She gives me a strange look I can't really figure out at that moment before nodding slowly.

"[b]Yeah...what're you doing here ? I thought you were still with the Rangers ?[/b]"

"[b]I was. I had some leave coming up so I decided to take it.[/b]"

An embellishment rather than I lie, I didn't need her worrying about me when she looked scared herself. I'd already pushed the pistol into the back of my trousers, she looked as if she'd freak at the sight of a loaded weapon at that moment.

"[b]Jae, where's Rai and Mike, I'd like to see them if they're around ?[/b]"

Little did I know the landmine I'd just walked into with that question.[/SIZE]
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[size=1][color=#8B008B]The sound of the water running seemed to soothe me somewhat. I still felt shaken and I hated feeling that way. I reached for a drink in the fridge when the door knocked. With my eyes on the door, my hand reached for the switchblade hidden on my inner thigh. I flipped it open and asked who was at the door; even though all of me knew it was Kenso. And it was. I let him in and threw him a drink from the fridge. He walked further into the apartment and immediately saw the trail of clothes.

[B]“Well, well. That’s one hell of an invitation, ain’t it?”[/B]

Immediately the protector in me erupted. [B]“Don’t even think about it, Kenso. I’d hate to have to shank you for doing such a lowly thing like that.”[/B]

He merely chuckled and picked up her clothes. I chuckled as well and took a drink of my Coke. Just as I was about to sit down, the door knocked again. My eyes shot towards Kenso and then to the door. My first instinct told me it was Mike but as I crossed the small walkway towards the door, another instinct told me otherwise. I stood near the door with my switchblade out again. My heart raced as my free hand grasped the doorknob. I opened it enough to see who was outside. It was that sliver that made me drop my blade to the ground.

[B]“Holy shit. Gavin?”[/B] And here I thought he left the City for good; but it seems I was mistaken.

He looked at me with concern, slowly putting the gun in the back of his pants. We exchanged a few words, most of which were a bunch of mumbles, to be honest. All I could think of was how he could be standing in Rai’s apartment. It baffled me that he was even capable of standing here; was I dreaming? I couldn’t believe Gavin was in the City in Raiha’s apartment talking to me as if nothing had ever happened. I stared at him in a dream-like state, Gavin managed to bring me out of my daze.

[B]“Jae, where’s Rai and Mike, I’d like to see them if they’re around?”[/B]

I walked past Gavin and picked up my switchblade, putting it back in its rightful place. My eyes stayed on the ground as I reached for a drink and threw it to Gavin. I stayed hidden from his view behind the fridge door. He called my name again and I had no choice but to look at him.

[B]“You might want to sit down. By the way, this is Kenso. He’s one of the decent uniforms in the City.”[/B]

The two exchanged a nod and drank their drinks. I looked to the bathroom door and back to Gavin. He took a seat, as did Kenso. I leaned against the fridge and put a hand to my mouth, wondering where I should start. After a few moments of silence, I closed my eyes and started with when he left, told him how everything went to hell and how everything began to rot around us. I told him about how Rai and Mike were surviving, how I was surviving, how everyone was surviving. I told him everything that happened and was happening.

[B]“And before you showed up, something was going down on 15th. I called Rai and had her come pick me up but just as soon as she did, some prick cop pulled us over and...”[/B] I couldn’t go on but I had to tell Gavin the story. He had to know. [B]“He tried to rape her, Gav. That dumb fuck tried to rape Raiha.”[/B] As calm as he looked, Gavin was struggling not to explode. I quickly added, [B]“But thankfully Ken here saved the day like regular old Superhero or some shit. If it wasn’t for him, Rai and I would be dead and none would be the wiser.”[/B]

Gavin took a gulp of his drink and set it on the table. He never took his eyes off of the bathroom door; he probably wondered what Raiha would think. I answered that question for him.

[B]“Raiha thinks you’re dead, Gav. We heard news that you died. She really thinks you’re dead.”[/B][/size][/color]
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?Romeo y Julieta, eh? Not too bad.?

I stand outside a large iron door with my associate. He adjusts his suit before he reaching into an inner pocket for a lighter. He lights my cigar and I enjoy the fine taste of tobacco.

?Wonderful. Thank you very much, Victor.?

?This guy in here, this.. individual, where'd you pick him up?? Victor asks me while lighting his own cigar.

?He's a detective. He asked some questions that arose the suspicions of some people on my payroll. Fed him a false lead. Lambs to slaughter, you know?? I grin. ?He woke up around an hour ago and I suppose I have to talk to him.?

?What did you do to him?? Victor arches his eyebrow at me, oozing with curiosity.

I chuckle and look down at the cigar.

?You know I do not like to go into details, Victor.?


The room is dark, barring one harsh light upon my prisoner.

?Detective Albert Richtoff.? I look at the handcuffed, tied-down figure in the chair who has a long black hood over his head. ?You were very cooperative earlier in the day and gave us a great deal of information regarding your investigation. Your nails should grow back eventually and the wounds across your body will heal, however, I suppose you've noticed, but you have lost your tongue sometime in the last five hours.?

I smile at the detective's muffled exclamations.

?Yes, I know, we failed to mention that to you as you divulged all you could to us regarding the police's interest our organization's activities. I am very sorry that you were the one to come stumbling into the lion's den, but, unfortunately, times are very harsh, as you know ? the economy is sour, illicit activities are rife throughout the city, and only the rich still have the means to play more than work. They need my product, you understand? The people I sell end up as servants, mistresses, or whatever my clientèle want. Pre-teens, teens, adults ? all categories are available at the proper price.?

I pause and rub my chin, watching the figure of the detective. I approach him and pat him on the shoulder which makes him jump.

?You were a problem. I solved that problem. Now you won't be asking many questions, hm??

He is sobbing now; he is alone and scared in a pitch black reality with only my soft voice lilting into his ear.

?Well Mr. Richtoff, that's all I wanted to you, really. A mere update on your situation, you know?? I turn and grip the door handle before a let out a soft 'ah!?. I turn back to the detective. ?Mr. Richtoff, amongst the many things you write down during the police investigation into this incident, do remind the department that some elements in Otaku City have the means to do a great deal more than illicit business if pushed so far.?

I put out my cigar and nod to the detective. ?That's all. Good night, Mr. Richtoff. You'll find yourself in much friendlier hands by morning.?

I exit the room and, as I close the door, I hear his muffled sobs behind me.

A tall, dark gentleman greets me as I walk down the hallway. I nod to him and gesture back to the metal door.

?Drop him off. Give him back his personal items.? The gentleman nods at me and starts to walk by, but I grab his shoulder. ?Oh, one more thing.?

I reach into my suit pocket and take out a small rectangular box held together by a yellow ribbon.

?This is a gift for him.?


I jog down the white corridors, past a nurses station, and towards the navy blue uniform I see down the hall. The police officer looks up at me and nods.

?John.? I shake his hand and look into the hospital room. ?Fuck, I can't believe it.?

?Yeah. He was picked up about an hour ago in front of the women's shelter.?

Albert Richtoff, best man at my wedding, drinking buddy, and good friend is laying on a hospital bed in the room. I stare at his sleeping figure and shake my head.

?How bad is it? What did they do to him??

John shook his head. ?Too much. Tore out his toe nails and thumb nails. Chunks of his flesh are gouged out. Numerous bruises.? He rubbed his forehead. ?They cut off his fucking tongue.?

A look of horror flashes over my face. ?What? Are you serious??

?Yeah. Yeah, his tongue is gone. It was clean though, I mean, it was like they did surgery on it. Closed up the wound and everything.? He swallows hard. ?Fuck, David, they fucking cut his tongue off and that isn't even the worst part of it.?

I stare at John.

?When they picked him up, he was holding a little box, wrapped like a present or something.? He looks at me straight in the eye. ?Pieces, just pieces. Pieces of it.?

?Of what? Pieces of what??

?His [i]tongue[/i], David.?

My mouth goes agape.

?Jesus fucking Christ.?


I sip my orange juice and look up as my butler enters the room.

?Sir, I thought you would like to see this.?

He sets down the newspaper and I smile at the headline ? [b]POLICEMAN TORTURED, ASSAILANTS AT LARGE[/b].

?All the city is talking about Mr. Richtoff, but do you know what the funniest part of that is??


?He can't talk back.?[/color]
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[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][i]I heard voices in the other room, after the shower, washed clean of blood. No more smell of his bad cologne on me. No more smell of engine oil on my skin. I felt empty and drained, somehow hollow even though I could hear the blood rushing in my ears, reminding me I was still alive.

Even though I'd seen my death staring at me in the reflection of the squad car, I could see my own life back where it should've been. If not for Kenso's intervention, Jae would've been face down on the concrete slab like me. Maybe not the same death, but dead like me. I turned and dried myself too vigorously, scrubbing my body dry of all moisture, too much like his sweaty hand on my face. I pulled on a simple white nightshirt, ordinary and uninteresting, my hair clasped back with two clips made of wood. I looked in my reflection and saw the yellow pall of my asian skin in the poor fluorescent glow of cheap light bulbs.

There were only empty dreams here in the mirror. Not sure if Kenso would stay, or if he just wanted to talk like I hoped, I picked up the glass of water I'd taken into the shower and opened my bedroom door back to the kitchen.[/i]



[i]For a second, the glass seemed to float in midair, and then crashed to the hardwood floor, sending shards skittering all the way to the counter. My feet seemed to have trouble registering the hardness of the floor and I felt myself sinking into the ground. Kenso moved faster than Gavin, catching me seconds before my head collided into the floor, while lights danced in my vision. In a quick movement, his feet safely shod in black boots, he carried me across the shattered glass and eased me into the only unoccupied wooden chair at the table.[/i]

"You're not dead."

[i]My eyes were having trouble focusing, and every word that floated into my mouth seemed to fall back into the roiling chaos that was eclipsed by two words. 'Gavin died.' Everyone at work had told me to move on. The government had said that everyone had died in that operation overseas. Maybe they were right. I had no way of knowing. He didn't reach across the table to touch my hands, and for that I was grateful. My fingers weren't visibly quaking, but I could feel them moving without my help. Jae put a hand on my shoulder, her fingers warm on my bare skin. Kenso didn't look surprised, a mirror of Jae's face, while I suppose all the color had drained from mine.[/i]

"No, I'm not. I don't know why they told you I was dead."

"I should've known the government had lied. But I can't live on false hope. But then again, there's nothing to live on right now."

[i]Jae sat down next to me, close enough to hold me while I shook quietly, mind almost empty under my skin. I forced the words out of my mouth.[/i]

"Mike's in a gang now. He runs with some kids down the street. Fights in the club, runs drugs to bring food to the table. I can't stop him from doing it anymore than I can stop myself from just going to work every day."

[i]I told myself I wouldn't break down in front of Kenso and Gavin. Two men I respected. One I always knew was alive. One I had been conditioned to think was dead. The only person I didn't mind really was Jae. She'd seen me cry once before, when I found Mike washing the blood from one of his shirts. When I'd pulled a bullet from his side. And now? Gavin represented an entire lifetime I'd divorced myself from. It wasn't me that had loved him body and soul five years ago. Was it?[/i][/FONT][/COLOR]
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  • 3 weeks later...
[YOUTUBE=It Ain't Hard To TellTo Tell]_-_IFAt8ka0[/YOUTUBE][/center]

Running... panting.... I heaved hard while I stumbled my way home, still bleeding from the several bullet wounds left in my side and hip. I was alive though, and I was lucky. I can't say the same for J.R. and Eric though. They got it, they got it good, but I dunno from who... who would do something like that? More importantly why? These motherfuckers weren't young enough to be pushing on blocks like ours, they didn't wear any colors, and they didn't wear any cop uniforms either.

Who could it be then? Mafia? I didn't know. I was bleeding to much to think straight while I half-ran, half-limped to my home. Oh, but I wasn't running away, nah, I was retreating. I hit one of those fuckers hard, on good one, put his head into a wall with a kick. He might be dead, he was bleeding enough. And his other homie caught a broke knee from a stomp kick, but the prick shot me all up while he was on the ground. Then a couple other suits came around the corner, packin' also. JR had taken one in the dome from the first asshole. Eric, man... Eric got all fucked up, bled out while screamin'.

I don't know who those motherfuckers were, but something told me they weren't gonna stop lookin' for me. But I wouldn't be hidin' neither. Nah, no one fucks with me. No ONE! I'll figure out who they hell they were, cut out their fucking tongues thats what I'm gonna do.

Fuck I'm dizzy... But I'm almost there. Damn it, those assholes fucked up my favorite pair of pants, god damn it. And my shoes man, these shits were new... Ugh. Man, why am I thinking about this...

Fuck, I forgot I got stairs... these are gonna be a bitch to climb. I might have to crawl... Almost up, one at a time, come on. Good thing we live on the second floor. I crawled up to the door, and stood up real careful. I turned the handle, but the door was locked. I knocked once.

Shit, what's D'Ann gonna think? She'll be pissed, that's for sure.... Shit, D'Ann! What's gonna happen if they come looking for me and find her? I can't stay here! I gotta leave, gotta stay somewhere else... but where?

I... man, I'm dizzy. I think I'll just... rest. *thunk*

[b] "Michael? MICHAEL?!"[/b] I think I hear D'Ann... I wish she would shut up... so loud.[/color][/size]
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[SIZE="1"]My first instinct is to hold D’Ann. A prior lifetime of intimacy between the two of us floods back into my unconscious movements in an instant. Her hands are already slick and crimson in the blood flowing out of Mike’s side, as she desperately applies pressure to his wounds. I barely catch the whispers escaping through her lips, just enough to know she’s praying. Strange that I don’t panic, I’ve known Mike since he was just a kid and I’ve always cared about him like he was my own flesh and blood…I imagine that I should be panicking, despite all my training, despite seeing this kind of scene a hundred times before, because it’s Mike, and it’s so personal.

Instead my hands drift in to replace D’Ann’s, as she clutches the right arm of my uniform and sobs in both anger and fear. Kenso is already calling from an ambulance, though he’s only a couple of feet from me, his frantic voice is oddly distant to me. Jae is out in the kitchen, practically tearing down cupboards looking for bandages to prevent Mike from bleeding to death in my arms.

Three entry points, all in the abdomen, one of them perilously close to his ribs. My right hand moves in under his back, looking for the exit wounds, the first, just above his right kidney, the second a few inches away from it and closer to his spine… After a few seconds, when I fail to find the final, I accept that there must still be a round in his body… I don’t want to think about where it could be, right now I simply have to keep him alive until the medics get here.

Looking to his face, I realise that Mike hasn’t changed a lot in the five years I’ve been away… his facial structure has changed from when he was a kid, more masculine looking, I can see faint stubble around his chin and cheeks. His hair is shorter than I remember it too, cut in a style I don’t recognise…But it’s all unmistakably Mike, the same bright eyed kid who’d bug me to teach him my martial arts when I picked up D’Ann…The same Mike who I was going to officially adopt when I married his sister…Don’t you die on me…You hear ?

I imagine somewhere, my dues to karma have been paid up… Less than a month ago I was the one in this situation, forcing my friends to drag me out, bloody and unconscious, Annie sobbing into Andrew’s chest begging me not to go. The regret twists up my gut along with a dozen other emotions, right now though, I can’t focus on it.

Jae runs in and hands me the bandages and the first-aid kit, I tear the latter open, pulling out five piece of gauze dressing, clean the wounds and apply the dressings individually, along with enough bandage to ensure the pressure holds. It doesn’t take long for the first spots of red to penetrate the white…all I’m left with is to pray the paramedics arrive soon.

They do, thank God. I hear the siren only about half a minute after I’ve finished the bandages, soon the shifting red and blue light comes through the window along with the new sound of hurried footsteps. Two men and a woman…Mike is lifted out of my arms and into the ambulance…I’m talking without even realising it, giving approximations of blood-loss, the locations of the entry and exit wounds, the fact that there’s still one in there…D’Ann walks towards the ambulance, our hands still together, when the distance strains our grip, she simply looks back at me and slides her hand out of mine and continues to walk towards the ambulance.

I don't move for a moment, nothing seems to, there's just a slight ache in my heart, a regret built from years of expectations, of waiting to come home suddenly brought to nothing. My feet move of their own accord, drawing my towards the ambulance, I get in wordlessly, close the doors behind me, then simply interlock my fingers and pray that everything will be OK. As the engine starts I'm left with only a single line of thought...

I swear Mike, when you come out of this, you and I are going to have words. [/SIZE]
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[SIZE=1]This was just not my night. Corrupt cop, attempted rape, messy kill, and now this. And just after Rai invites me in for dinner! As if Gavin (who's apparently supposed to be dead) showing up wasn't enough of a monkey wrench in things, Mike stumbles in bleeding to death. No offense to either of them - the more good folks we've got alive the better - but for the love of all that is merciful, when does it stop?!

As Gavin took control of the medical situation (thank the gods, as it's not one of my strong suits), I was already calling an ambulance. I gave them my ID number and all the details I could, knowing that at least with the medics, a cop still meant something. I told them it was a friend, but failed to mention said friend wasn't another cop.

Rai goes for Gavin's uniform, clutching it as she sobs, and I can't help but be a little bit jealous. Of course, I get the strange feeling there's more to it than I know about, which may or may not make things worse. Just because I know I don't stand a chance doesn't mean I wouldn't still like that dinner.

I hold back behind everyone, almost feeling out of place. Sure, I know Rai, and just saved her and Jae, but damned if I don't feel quite right. I watch Gavin and Rai follow the medics hand-in-hand, but try not to focus on it as I grab a set of keys off the end table near the door, taking the time to lock up behind us. Leaving a gang leader's door unlocked was NEVER a good idea. At least if someone broke in this way, we'd have warning before entering.

I quickly follow to the ambulance, hopping in, though it's getting tight. I glance at Mike and then at Rai, wishing I could lighten the situation a little bit.

"What do you think Mike's gonna say when he finds out I told the operator he was a friend?" I'd heard that Mike didn't like me much. Probably the whole cop thing...
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[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="1"]I rush along the crowded corridors of the disinfected hellhole of my life. Fresh out of med-school and the only place I could get an internship is in the infamous Otaku Public Hospital. Lucky punks I graduated with decided to not tell me when options opened up.

Every student for themselves when it comes to a placement. Everyone got cushy jobs in cushy hospitals in outer suburbs. I find so late that my only option became OPH. Hell, I didn?t want to come here, I want to help people. If I want to help people...then I?d better start here as an intern.

One of five interns stupid enough to choose a hospital that has the highest demand for blood donation in the region. One of five interns that used to have a glimmer of hope about bettering mankind. One of five interns that are either going to get knifed by a patient, killed by a mugger, commit suicide from stress, or survive it all and die from a heart attack before their thirtieth birthday.

What am I thinking? How rude of me.

I?m Liam. I?m the intern that runs the hospital.

Don?t think I have delusions of grandeur or something, because I don?t. I?m just stating the truth. The resident that?s supposed to be mentoring me always disappears like some kinda ninja. Doesn?t spend any time in the wards, if he can help it. All the other docs are pretty much the same, too. They phone their work in. Don?t ask me how they do it and still get paid.

The second my internship is up; I?m out of this town. I don?t care if I?m needed, or if me leaving makes life harder for the other interns, this job is killing me. I don't sleep any more, and I'm not even noticing.

I?m ordering nurses around that know more about practical medicine than I ever will, I?m using equipment that has been stolen and re-bought from gangs so many times that we could be renting it, and I?m retrieving diabetes medication from a pharmacy that has more steel and bullet-proof protection than Y2K nut?s bunker.

?Doctor, we need you.?

Not someone else, apparently. They need me. We?re down to three interns now, the other two cracked and spend their time in the morgue, and they?re busier than we are up here. I need to get insulin to kid that?s already in shock, and if I don?t inject it myself I?m pretty sure her crackhead mother is going to put it in her own veins before you can say ?surprise!?

?It?s a kid, face got cut up real bad. Looks like he?ll lose sight in one eye.?

I hand the chart back, ?stop the bleeding, stitch him up and send him home.?

The nurse gives me a cold look that makes me wish I hadn?t opened my mouth, or come into work today at all. ?Doctor, I know that, I?m telling you because his face got cut up by some idiot with a filthy old beer bottle.?

I stop mid step. ?Have you taken samples from the wound site??


?Do you have them??

?Mmhm. Here you are, [i]Doctor[/i]? Sarcasm drips off her every word, putting a special emphasis on Doctor.

OPH used to have a microbiology lab, used to have a biochemistry lab, too. Local gangs heard the word ?lab? and proceeded to bust up the joint and steal all our equipment to use to make meth. The scientists that used to be in the lab got cut up bad, and they weren?t even trying to stop the punks. Now uni grads desperate for a job to pay off their student loans are still too wise to fill the empty positions.

Enter me. I did a bachelor degree before medicine that specialised in all the tests that our scientists used to do. Because we don?t have any scientists, and because our equipment gets swiped so much, the City Health Department dug up lab equipment so old that even the theiving punk?s granddads around here wouldn?t recognise it.

Lucky for a few of our patients here, I actually trained on it. I?m an intern that doubles as a scientist on the side, I spend every night brushing up on old tests and old methods to use old equipment to find out what microscopic things are killing people here.

?Okay, put the kid on fluids and send him to paediatrics. There aren?t any beds so you?ll have to improvise. I?m pretty sure the residents won?t miss their couch from their on-call room so you have my permission to use it.? I try to deliver my instructions as quickly as possible, knowing that I don?t have much time left before this insulin is going to be useless. ?Do not start general anti-bacterials, it could be a mycological infection. Hell, he may even be completely clean if we?re lucky. Tell the nurse on ward duty in paediatrics to keep a watch for septic shock, if she can?t do it, tell whoever brought the kid in to keep an eye on him and watch for fever or a jump in heart rate. If he goes into shock, then you can page me. But right now, I need to deliver this injection?

?Yes Doctor.?

[i]?Crash cart coming in!?[/i]

Damn it.
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[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][i]I didn't say anything. My face was blank enough to be carved and that was fine with me. Part of me was grateful to Gavin for jumping in to help me. But now the orderlies were helping him. Stabilizing him? Gavin looked over at me but I didn't acknowledge.[/i]

"What is it Raiha?"

[i]I shrugged silently and turned back to look at my brother. He was out of it, and I guess that was a blessing. As the ambulance turned the corner I saw Jae behind us in my car. That piece of shit could barely keep up, but I could still see her. As we poured out of the ambulance to make room for them, I stepped back and then automatically filled out the paperwork handed to me. Jae had already parked and run over with a duffelbag slapping against her hip as she did.[/i]

"I brought your purse!"

[i]There were times when I was very happy I worked for Social Services. Even though everyone thought I was in shock, but I had seen this before. They just didn't know it. I filled out the paperwork automatically, the numbers in my head leaping down to the paper through my fingers. Then I turned and handed the clipboard to the impassive nurse at the desk along with the insurance card from Jae. By the time I'd finished checking in my brother, Gavin was standing at the window in the waiting room and I went to the bathroom instead of walking over to talk to him.

It was then that I realized I was wearing thin flip flop sandals and just my nightshirt. I was also bloodstained. All of a sudden, with the realization that my brother was in the ER, and I could do nothing for him, I wanted nothing more than to go home. Even if it was unsafe. I could even see what had happened to my little brother. He was shot in the hip because wannabe gangsters all had that stupid habit of shooting with their guns cocked to the side like it made them look cooler. No. It just fucked up your aim. They could've just gone for him in the head. But they missed. Or maybe they were just having fun with him. Why was I even trying to piece it together? I wasn't a cop. Kenso was the cop.

The bathroom door opened and I jumped up from the bench by the sinks. Jae stood at the door with a closed expression on her face. She dropped the bag at my feet and stood at the sink.[/i]

"My uncle called me on the way here. He needs me to go to Seoul with him on business. I might be gone for a month."

"If you have to go, you have to go."

[i]I looked up at Jae, my expression as Spartan as hers. Expressing a gentle pity was something she might've done if she hadn't just told me she would have to leave. I thought of telling her to just abandon me but she'd already told me. She couldn't be abandoning me. And 'in my time of need' was rich, considering Otaku City existed in a perpetual time warp of need. She sat down next to me and leaned against the cold tile.[/i]

"I'm sorry about Gavin coming back."

"Why are you sorry?"

"You seemed like you weren't happy to see him."

"Well he'd ignored me for so long and I'd spent so much time believing he'd simple died face down somewhere..."

"It's fine. You don't have to explain anything to me now. I'll bring you something from Seoul. A new nightshirt for one."

[i]She smiled at me briefly and clasped my hand in hers. I held them up for a minute. Both were small. My flesh yellow compared to her peal colored white. Then she stood and shook her head.[/i]

"Our plane leaves in two hours. I'll take a cab."

[i]I stood as well and we kissed. Then she left.

Dressing myself on autopilot, I picked up the bag holding my dirty clothes and my purse, and stepped outside where a bored looking nurse and a cop were waiting for me.[/i][/FONT][/COLOR]
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[SIZE=1][B]"Gunshot wound to the chest, gunshot wound to the head, gunshot wound to the neck," [/B]I said, quickly ascertaining the cause of death of the three cadavers that had only been brought into the morgue a few minutes ago. Coroner in Otaku City is, without a doubt, the easiest occupation in the world.

[B]"Don't we need to do anything else? Follow proper procedure?" [/B]asked one of the interns, his voice quivering, trying desperately not to look at the array of dead bodies sprawled out on slabs in the cold basement.

[B]"Look, kid," [/B]I said, pulling my glasses off and pinching the bridge of my nose, [B]"Nobody cares about the stiffs that end up down here. If you want to waste three hours filling out the forms for these three then please be my guest. Hundreds of people get killed in this city, and if we're supposed to log each and every one of them then we're never going to get any downtime. Oh, and you might want to learn to look at corpses if you're working down here - it's kind of an important part of the job description." [/B]I turned round and strode into my office, dropping into the crappy swivel chair and placing my feet up on the desk, as I pulled a battered packet of cigarettes out of the pocket of my lab coat. I twisted one into the corner of my mouth and began patting myself down to find my lighter.

[B]"God damn it," [/B]I exclaimed under my breath, [B]"Oi, interns! Any of you got a lighter?"

"Should you be smoking in here, sir?" [/B]asked the same intern shakily, nevertheless pulling a small Zippo from his pocket and throwing it to me.

[B]"I don't think the patients mind," [/B]I replied, sparking the lighter and holding it to the end of the cigarette until a lungful of smoke entered my body, then flipped it shut and threw it back to the intern.

I exhaled the smoke, and ran my hand through my short brown hair, leaning back in my chair. It was a reasonable job, once you got used to the smell of bodies that clings to you until you chang your clothes. It messes with your head a little, but you develop ways to get over it - some people turn to drugs, some to alcohol, some to "ladies of the night." I, however, found a different route to go down - humour. And drugs. And alcohol. But those are only in the evenings.

Another problem with this job is the pay, or rather the almost total lack thereof. So you have to take side-jobs to make your money. I choose to do this by performing medical procedures on people who don't wish to have their names and details put into the hospital database. I make a pretty good living off it, enough to keep me in beer, valium and Hawaiian shirts anyway.

My latest "paycheck" had just arrived on my desk, and by "paycheck" I mean a battered tan-coloured envelope stuffed with slightly blood-stained bills. It might sound horrific, but living in Otaku City you get used to blood-stained money.

I grabbed the envelope, quickly flicked through the money, making a brief count of it, then pulled fifty dollars out and shoved the cash in the pocket of my jeans, then put the rest away in the small safe under my desk.

Some might think doing stuff like this is unethical, but a living's a living, eh?
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[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="1"]I lean over the young man, checking the dressings that are already far too red. The kid in front of me is completely out of it; someone saved his life, though. He?s breathing, fast and shallow, but it means his heart is still working. Pulse is very low, I?m having to check right on his neck. Son of a?

?He?s in shock.? I?m already preparing CPR, in the corridor. A nurse comes towards us, wheeling a prepped defibrillator. Cardiac arrest in three? ?Cardiac arrest! Clear!?

I imagine the pulse of life going through the paddles and into this kid?s struggling heart. He?s lost way too much blood, and it?s still draining out of him like a leaky bucket. No time, no time! I charge again and a nurse puts more pressure on the worst of the dressings. It?s not kicking back in, son of a-


Another pulse, the kid coughs. Good sign. Pulse is back, even better. Another bag of fluids is hooked up to give the body?s peripheral resistance a shot at getting the cardiac output up. His heart?s working too hard with too little. It?s shutting down again, I can feel it.

?Clear!? All hands off, the stretcher stops again. All eyes are on this boy, and then his heart does what I?ve been praying all this time for it to do.

We?ve finally got enough fluids to stay in his body. Total peripheral resistance is up. Vasoconstriction, blood pressure is up, cardiac output is up?lucky bastard. I think he may actually be stable.

I lean in to his face, noting the blueing around his lips, ?you bloody better stay this way, you hear me?? I allow myself a small smile at his victory. He?s breathing remarkably well for someone who?s already had his heart stop twice.

I focus on his heart, nothing else. He?s breathing, he?s stable. He?s unconscious, but the last thing I want is for him to wake up screaming and put himself in another heart attack. We?re almost at the OR. He?s almost out of my care, the relief is oozing off me but I keep focused, I keep my finger on his faint pulse.

The swing doors crash open, the orderly opposite me and myself bear the brunt of the blow of the doors as they crash back again. The kid is still stable. Stay stable. Stay stable. Keep breathing. [i]Keep breathing![/i]

He?s not breathing.

I?m not breathing.

?Don?t you dare.? I mutter, every word almost a scream in this hellhole of a world.

He [b]breathes.[/b]

I breathe.

I see The Surgeon standing in his room, next to his workbench. Both of his gloved hands are upraised, as though guiding in a lost plane to a darkened runway. I?m locked to the kid?s pulse. He?s not much younger than I, but they all look so small, when they lie here. Otaku City claims more of her children.

Strong hands pull me back; prying the one I saved from my grasp. It?s a relief, but part of me screams in frustration to be allowed back. The voice screams to hold that young life again, and to be allowed the right shield that heart from almost inevitable death.

?Doctor. You need to scrub up.?

A nurse has already put clean green scrubs over my bloodied blue ones.

I don?t understand, my job is done here. Why do I need to scrub up?

The Surgeon speaks, ?Liam, I need you to stand in as anaesthesiologist.?

I swallow. I breathe. Life surfaces again.

?Hit it.?

A stereo starts, the music of the street flows into the room, caressing the broken body of one of its own.

We work, we cut, and we sew. The bullet is found, internal bleeding halted. I keep his brain out of it, keeping an eye on the gauges as the Halothane flows. Despite myself, I grumble at the anaesthetics we have. Halothane isn?t used in the bigger hospitals, the better funded hospitals. We have Halothane because it?s on the WHO list of minimum requirements for a basic hospital, and that?s enough for Otaku City.

I?m afraid. I?m afraid because I haven?t studied anaesthesiology. I?ve only hobbled together a basic understanding of it, and understanding only taken from observation and research.

I?m afraid because Halothane has a history of triggering cardiac complications, and given the circumstances of this patient?s arrival, it?s not the best thing to use to keep him out of it. It?s all we have though. I shouldn?t worry, it looks as though this kid?s decided he?s going to stay alive. A Golden Patient, if there ever was one.

The Surgeon is done. We?re done.

I breathe again.

For once, the stress is gone. I?m free.

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[COLOR=darkslategrey][FONT=gothic]Bruises were interesting things. They were like life, in a way. A swirl of darkness that slowly faded to a sickly green. Prod them, they slide away, only to come straight back. Leeches sucked them clear. They were inflicted in a twisted mix of hate and love. Bruises were never quite the same, no matter how many you saw.

In the old days, the bad days, the days when the shells rained down and men walked with gas masks in one hand, I saw a lot of bruises. In his time working in Otaku City, I've seen even more. Bruises, black eyes, splints... I've seen a lot of injuries, though they're rarely fresh. I've never seen someone pained by them though. Only a dull acquiescence, and even sometimes a warped acceptance.

The only pain I ever see, I see in people eyes.

I can see a lot of it now. She's a pretty young thing, no more than 8. Still far, far too preciously young to have learned the realities of life yet. I intend to show her some of them tonight, as only I in Otaku City can. She looked up at him, her deep, liquid eyes rippling my reflection over her unshed tears. What I see makes me sigh. Prematurely aged by 28, with tight lines around his eyes, and the wary set of someone who keeps still and quiet because to do otherwise was to make oneself a target. I never picked that up during the war. No, it was my time here, with these people, with my new activities, that lent me that cast.

At my sigh, she hugs herself close. Her arms are so pale, so flawless. In a few short years, they'll be marred by those thin, vertical scars I'm so used to spotting. It's almost a reflex by now. Her hands are twisting in her little blue dress, the callouses on the back of her knuckles telling me her skinniness isn't just due to a lack of food. She's bulimic, and has been for nearly a year, if I'm right. She's scared. Scared of going home, scared of staying here, scared of me, scared that I'll hurt her.

She doesn't know how right she is.

I sigh again, and sit down. She takes the chair opposite me, relaxing slightly at the sight of the coffee table separating us. I catch her eye, smile slightly, and lean back, crossing my arms. She holds my gaze a moment, and drops it. She's used to showing submission. That won't help her here, not at all. When she doesn't look back up, I lean forward, and finally start to speak.

"Your name is Sara, isn't it little one?"

She looks up, and nods, hesitantly. I wasn't really asking. I know her well. I've watched her for months now. I knew her elder sister, I knew her mother, and I knew the reason why her relations were no longer with her.

"Do you know who I am?"

"...Mr Kastor?"

I smile, warmly now. She knows who I am. She knows she's not here by chance. That's good. It makes things easier.

"You can call me Vadim. I'm only Mr Kastor to people I don't know."

"But if you don't know them, how do they know what to call you?"

My smile widens. She's sharper than either her sister or her mother. It might help her. It might not. That entirely depends on how the next fifty five minutes go. She'll cry, she'll scream, she'll suffer like she never has before, even in this city. At the end of it, she'll come out either broken or a new person, and not even I can control which. I answer her question with a shrug, and move straight to business.

"Sara....What you do, when you put your fingers down your throat... Do you know why you do it? Do you know what makes you do it?"

Living in Otaku City is tough. You do what you can to survive. Quite often that involves hurting people. I pride myself on my ability to hurt people. In my soldiering days, I hurt people with guns, and knives, and even my hands. Now, I use my mind. I make people see what they don't want to see about themselves. I take them to the brink of collapse, and sometimes back again. I make them see the dirty ugly truth about this place, and I make them see that there really is something better out there; that what's happened to them isn't fair or just or good. Sometimes that hurts them the most of all.

Being an ex-soldier in a city worse than any warzone is tough.

Being a psychologist here is even tougher.[/FONT][/COLOR]
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[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][i]The officer was young, perhaps bored out of his mind, but he still made a semblance of asking me questions. The nurse merely handed me extra paperwork that I blazed through. Once you've signed one wavier, and read it too, then you've done it all. After I let the cop propel me towards a poorly maintained window seat and sat there primly, with the duffel bag at my feet.[/i]

"Now Miss...?"


"Yes. Miss Grace. You say your brother just turned up on your doorstep bleeding profusely from gunshot wounds?"

"Yes Officer. I had expected him for dinner at 7 but he didn't show up until 10:45."

"Did you call?"

"We can't afford cell phones."

[i]The cop's tone became almost patronizing, so much so that it made my teeth hurt. I saw Kenso shoot the cop a dirty look from the corner of my eye. It went unnoticed but it soothed me anyway.[/i]

"Of course you can't. So you have no idea what he was up to?"

"For all I know Officer he was handling snakes at the church on 10th and McKenzie."


"Yes, some of the believers use it to prove their devotion to God."

[i]You would've thought by now the cop would've realized I was dancing around him in a merry jig of intellectualism but instead he seemed interested. It wasn't until the nurse came back and cleared her throat for my attention that he began to wrap up a rather long winded lecture on the importance of looking out for my younger brother.[/i]

"As I was saying, he was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time Officer. But you will have to ask him yourself when he's fit to answer questions."

"Of course. We'll be in touch."

"If you'd like to go in Miss Grace, you can see him."

[i]The nurse was young, her eyes slightly bewildered. I could tell she was already having second thoughts about her choice of profession, but no other job in this city would've made her feel like she was making a real difference, save mine. I stood up and followed her, leaving the cop to turn on Gavin and Kenso, hoping vainly that they would be more forthcoming than me.[/i]

"He's recovering, but the doctor can tell you more once he comes back from scrubbing."

"Thank you Mayella."

[i]The nurse turned to me at the door, tears smarting in her eyes. I had learned from years of work, that nobody likes anything more than the realization that the some people still care enough to read name badges. And take the time to use the names read on them. I gave her a reassuring glance to cowgirl up my feelings and then stepped in my brother's room.

A beeping sound was a constant in the background, and I reached for the remote at the foot of his bed, turning off the jangling sitcom blaring on the TV. Michael looked almost grey, but I took his hand and could feel his pulse strongly through his thumb. A swath of bandages, and that ridiculous hospital gown, but I didn't care. Instead I bowed my head and mumbled off the first twenty lines of the Lotus Sutra for him before I choked on tears. We might have had our differences, but I'd still say a prayer for him for the religion he had taken as his own. I imagined Jae standing next to me, chanting as well. Her tongue was able to bend through the syllables far more effectively than mine. Either way I then switched to muttering the end of a benediction for him from my own chosen religion and then turned back to find the young doctor coming in. [/i][/FONT][/COLOR]
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[FONT="Trebuchet MS"][SIZE="1"]I whistle to myself as I wash my hands carefully under the taps. I may be more than zealous when it comes to cleaning, but it?s with good reason here. Even if we don?t have the equipment and even if we?re only just up to WHO minimum standards, we can still be clean.

The last thing I want to do is spend the rest of my rounds smelling like an operating room. Patients tend to be put off by that sort of thing.

I?ve already removed my operating gown and cap, just washing my hands. Taking my time washing my hands. Enjoying the little wave of exhilaration that comes from a successful surgery.

I turn off the water, and then realise I still have my bloody medical scrubs on underneath.

?Great. Just great.?

?Doctor, the family is here now. They?ll want to see you.? One of the nurses looks at me from the door, ?and you?re needed again upstairs. Tracheotomy patient is ready for decannulation.?

I look around, in a vain hope that The Surgeon is free. No such luck. The only way The Surgeon has survived here was by refusing to leave the OR and refusing to visit with patients. He keeps it totally impersonal and just works like a mechanic. Totally unprofessional behaviour, but it works for him. And no one is going to call the last OPH surgeon on his bedside manners.

?Thank you nurse, I?ll be right up. What room?? I take off the bloody scrub top and toss it in with the used surgical ones.

The nurse throws me a green surgical one from the shelf next to her. ?Room 241.?

?I?ll be right up.? I pull the green surgical scrub shirt on, ignoring the clash it has with my blue medical scrub pants. ?Anything I should be worried about with the family??

The nurse turns to leave, ?well he was admitted by police, and his sister is social services, and they were all accompanied by a soldier. Interesting bunch.?

Soldier. That explains the dressings. Oh well. Social worker. Damn, I?m hoping I don?t recognise her.

OPH Doctors don?t get along with Otaku City social workers. Probably because we?re not available for useless conversations about a patient we had to discharge early for faking ill health and stealing drugs.

?I?m on my way up. Tracheotomy patient still in 312??

?Yes Doctor.?

It takes a few minutes for me to get from the OR to the ward that the kid-Michael according to the chart I picked up somewhere-is recuperating in. I don?t even pause at the doorway, but march straight in. I learnt fast that the last thing you do is allow yourself an opportunity to be caught waiting outside a patient?s room. Family don?t like their relative?s doctors hiding in corridors, and nurses assume you?re free to do something.

?You must be Michael?s sister.? I flick open the chart, speed-reading notes that I dictated not more than thirty minutes ago. ?I?m not going to ask how he got into this state, nor am I going to press details. None of my business. Suffice it to say that Michael is allergic to bullets and he should avoid environmental exposure.?

I try to smile, but the sister just stares at me, unimpressed.

I hide behind my chart, like any good unnerved intern. ?We?ve pulled out the last bullet, which was here,? I hold an x-ray up to the light, ?which caused significant internal trauma. He?s lost a lot of blood, but we have him on fluids and we performed a transfusion in surgery. His heart took a hell of a lot of damage, but he?s a strong guy and he pulled through.?

I flick my eyes up at the still unimpressed and silent sister. I sigh and close the chart, tossing it to her. She catches it, looking surprised.

?If you?re interested, it?s all there. You know he?s going to be here for a while, you probably know everything you need to.? I put my hands in my pockets. ?In this place, he?s out of my care until something goes wrong. Page me if you want, Lord knows everyone else does.?

?Shut your white trash mouth, get back here and tell me what the hell is happening to my brother.?

I notice the boiling rage behind her eyes. Ah well, I?m on familiar ground here.


?The whole unvarnished truth, or I?ll give ?invasive procedure? a whole new meaning for you.?

For the first time I notice the other people in the room. The soldier, and the very unhappy looking policeman who seemed all too ready to exercise his right to be over-protective of this woman. I sigh, knowing that I?ve let the rush of this place get back into my bones all too fast.

?I?m sorry,? I manage, regretting how quickly I?ve forgotten myself again. ?May I sit down??

There?s a curt nod. My about face of attitude has probably given her reason to pause. I?m not used to people actually wanting to know what?s wrong with their loved ones, but from the looks of things, this isn?t a normal case.

?Your brother, Michael, he?s in a serious state. From the front door crash cart to the surgery, I?ve been monitoring him. He?s a strong kid that wants to live, and that?s the only thing that?s keeping him going.?

The room remains silent, so I fill the gap.

?Like I said, he has lost a lot of blood to internal bleeding from the bullet we had to retrieve, and a lot more to the bullets that went straight through. We?ve put him on a transfusion in the surgery and we have him on fluids now, as I said. My concern is that, while he [I]is[/I] alive, the damage has already been done.
[pindent="1"] ?I?m sorry to say this, but there is a chance of brain-damage. His heart stopped twice on the way in, and with his amount of blood loss, his brain may have been severely oxygen deprived.[/pindent]
[pindent="1"] ?I started his heart again very quickly in both cases, so I may be expressing baseless fears?but with the blood loss?it is likely. Another concern is his severe pre-renal acute renal failure. Severe hypovolemia combined with the abdominal haemorrhaging and one of the bullets actually nicking the kidney?I?m afraid Michael is most certainly not out of the woods yet.?[/pindent]

I hate delivering bad news to people who understand it.
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