Thursday, December 5, 2013

Razor's Edge Pt. 3

It's oddly silent as Razor creeps back down the stairs of the dilapidated old office building. Another time, she might've considered this to be a bad sign. She might've taken more care to go unseen, so the ominous vibe radiating from the darkness all around her might be appeased by her due respect. But she is lost, wandering in a black place in the back of her own mind, so she doesn't think to pay proper homage to the bloodthirsty night.

She descends all that way, avoids the thuggish guardians between herself and the exit, and escapes the building undetected. All while thinking of the ghosts of a happy house, a loyal dog, and a child's carefree laugh.

The outside air is thick and sticks to Razor's lungs. The dank evening smells like smoke, old rubber, and rust. The ancient, disintegrating pavement crunches and crumbles under even her careful, light steps. She pauses for a moment in an alleyway to fetch her abandoned jacket. Shrugging into it, her armory of blades hidden beneath its dark wool, Razor allows herself to shiver.

She doesn't waste her time being furtive. She doesn't dwell on the fact that she's gotten a few drops of blood on her face sometime during her impromptu vengeance. She simply walks along through the twisted streets with her stained hands concealed in her pockets, wandering towards home. Still, even now the night seems too quiet for all the violence that had defined it so far. Razor notices the eerie stillness for the first time since her stealthy exit. But still, she pays it no mind.

Fog clings to the dirty ground and streams from her mouth. Broken buildings, the corpses of industry in the long-dead metropolis, line her way. Impenetrable smog hangs heavy as a death sentence overhead, hiding the waning moon and stars from sight. She's been walking for some time when memory hits her with the violence of a knife in the back.

'We never did anything to them!' Wails the childish thought in Razor's mind. With a sick sense of masochistic penance, as always, she grits her teeth and lets the echoing nightmare overtake her.

An old farm. A nice dog--a husky. Wolf; that was its name. Strong arms, a warm laugh, and gentle eyes. Safety. A warm bed.

A satisfying struggle to tame the tormented land, a child's faith in the love keeping her safe. But...

Fiends. Defilers. Thieves.

The Snakes' Head gang.

Fire. Ash. Cruel laughter.

Dead parents. Dead Wolf. Dead innocence.

Pain. Then blackness.

"It's her. Razor, from Long Knife."

Razor freezes in place. Her old memories vanish like startled birds taking flight. Her hands shift invisibly in her deep pockets, reaching through the false bottom...

"Evening gentlemen." She says, her voice calm and cool even as her nerves sing with nervous anticipation. Her body posture is relaxed, casual; shifting to put its weight on her right leg. "How can I help you?"

"Just came from headquarters." Says one of the five men surrounding Razor. They're somewhat winded, meaning they've had to hurry to catch up to her. Meaning Razor had allowed her memories to blind her to her surroundings, since hurrying is not all that stealthy.

She can already see Hammer kneading his temples in frustration at her carelessness.

The foremost man, dressed in dark browns and deep blues like his buddies, keeps speaking. "We just came from headquarters." He repeats, firmly, a clear accusation.

"Oh?" Says Razor with poorly feigned interest. "Which one?"

She knows which one it is. The man knows she knows, too. He voice tightens in anger.

"Same one as you." He growls.

"What's it to you?" She asks quietly.

The man doesn't bother answering with words. He prefers to let his shiv do the talking.

With her weight already on her dominant leg, Razor pushes off to the side in one explosive move. She yanks her coat open and throws two knives, which sink into delicate skin on two different bodies with deadly accuracy.

That leaves only three hoods to try and kill her. Significantly better odds than before, but still 'not awesome', as Hammer liked to say.

Razor can only see two of them as she comes to the end of her leap, then she ducks and whirls instinctively. She buries a third knife in someone's kneecap even as his arms close with a whoosh on empty air right above her head.

As he screams wildly, Razor jumps up yet again. Her right hand reaches back to slide her remaining kodachi blade--originally one of a twin pair--from its sheath.

"C'mon boys." She taunts, watching the two remaining combatants stare white-faced at their shrieking friend.

"You bitch." One of them breathes.

She replies only with what she hopes is a really infuriating smile.

Apparently, it is. Mouthy shoots forward with an enraged bellow, with Silent Bob right on his heels. They're used to fighting together against their opponents, that much is obvious.

As the first comes at her in a direct attack, the other edges around her side to split her attention. Razor grits her teeth and maneuvers quickly to get her back to a wall, like they knew she would. But before they can quite get set up to block her in and wear her defenses down, she reaches up to snatch her little pendant necklace.

She smashes it on the ground and thick, blinding smoke billows up through the still air. Razor's opponents grunt in surprise as she dashes past them, and through the impenetrable wall of smoke there is a harsh groan and the sound of a body hitting the ground. Silence reigns for a moment, then an unfamiliar voice, rough from the smoke, coughs out.

"Joe. Joe!"

Razor can hear uncertain shuffling. "Joe! DAMMIT! YOU BITCH! YOU FUC-" Silent Bob gurgles his way down to join Joe in death.

Razor exits the fog to gather her spent throwing knives, and hears an awkward shuffling behind her. She turns just in time to take a heavy punch in the guts from a limping Kneecap. On instinct, she returns the favor, following it up with a heavy slash of her still-dripping kodachi.

The man falls, his larynx sliced in half, and Razor wipes and sheathes her signature blade. She lifts her free hand to nurse her aching ribs. What her fingers find is not the scratchy wool of her overcoat. It's smooth and hard, with a familiar leather-bound grip.

Startled, Razor glances down to check.

Yep. There's a knife impaling her, the hilt sticking out like a flagpole.

Cartoon-style, all at once Razor can feel the entire frigid length of the cold steel running through her, courtesy of the icy cold night. She nearly vomits as shock hits her system like a punch to the stomach that actually, upon reflection, ends up being a knife in the stomach...

Strangled, hysterical laughter bubbles from her lips before she realizes what a painful mistake humor can be at a time like this. She can't help it. The analogy is funny. Hammer always hates it when she makes such morbid jokes in serious times. But even he would have to admit, this was KIND OF hilar-

Razor vomits for real this time, her thoughts smothered by static and wind...

Razor blinks and coughs, surprised to find herself slumped over on her knees, forehead on the cement. She can feel a good-sized welt on her eyebrow, but her throbbing head can't hope to compete with the heavy cold agony in her torso. Blood stains the lower half of her shirt and is covering her lap. She can't stop shivering in jerky, erratic convulsions. Nausea and horrible pain twists her middle.

Consequences be damned, Razor HAS TO get the damn thing out of her.

She straightens up as best she can, managing only an awkward hunch. She sets her fumbling, tingling fingers on the hilt like she's a magician about to attempt some bizarre reverse-seppuku trick. She starts to slide the freezing, razor-sharp blade out of herself.

Razor has to stop after only a few seconds of struggle—the awful slicing, dragging, roiling sensation overwhelming her. She takes a shuddering breath, fighting the urge to squirm.

No, this is NOT awesome. At all.

Her jaw creaks with the force of it's grinding, and with a whimper she slides the curved blade the rest of the way out. SonofaBITCH. Razor is breathless as she stares at her own kodachi sitting in her wet, red-smeared hand. How...?

It takes her a minute to remember that she'd left one of her kodachi embedded in the Snakes' Head bosses' neck. These guys had been out for some poetic justice.

Sonofabitch. Razor clamps down on the wound by crossing her arms tightly across her stomach. The world continues to spin and blacken, and her hands are almost completely numb from blood loss.

She needs to get to safety. To Hammer. How?

"Never mind how." Says Hammer. "Get up."

Razor scoffs. I know this defies the laws of physics, but I never studied law?

"Shut up. It's not funny. ...and you quoted it wrong."

You're not the boss of me. She thinks, writhing miserably on the frost-covered ground.

"If you don't get help, you're gonna die." He says. The man has a point.

And you're a hallucination. She retorts. It's stupid to argue, but it HURTS, dammit.

"If you die before you get to me I'll find some way to bring you back to life so I can kill you again. Hallucination or not, you know that's true." Says Hammer. Razor mulls this over.

"We have a really dysfunctional relationship." Razor grumbles, uncertain if she's referring to her friend or her own psyche. Somehow she uses the alley wall to lever herself onto her feet.

"Less snark. More walking. You're lucky you got shanked so close to the Guild."

She doesn't bother answering, no matter how much the phrase 'you're lucky you got shanked' galls her. She just lurches forward.

Razor stumbles along way too slowly. In moments, (minutes? hours?,) she sees the distinctive shiny brass doorknob of the Long Knife Assassination Guild. She struggles to get it open, somehow manages it. She enters, and shuts the door carefully behind her. She turns to see Hammer staring at her, wide-eyed with horror, mouth agape. Razor collapses in relief...

Well...that was fun.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dear Casey D Hudson

  In high school I watched a friend as he drew a picture.
   I was there, making suggestions (at the artists' request) and just enjoying the artistry from the very first line. After a few moments, I saw the lines become a face. A pretty girl. More lines suggested wistful sadness and determination. Flowing, floating hair lent the image a sense of mystical power.
   It was awesome to be a part of the process, even if it was his hand that held the pen. He incorporated my suggestions into the evolving image, and I cherished the opportunity to be a part of the making of such beauty.
   I was awed by the simple effect this image had on me. I'm not sure why it did, I can only guess that it had something to do with having been there, with my input being honored, to see the perfect mix of the artists' vision and my suggestions weave together to create such art.
   Then, he made what he saw as a mistake (it happens when you decide to draw with pens) and suddenly began making the picture dark and strange in a way that simply did not mesh with the original concept.
   The girl's ethereal beauty was made darker, harsher, one of her eyes sacrificed to make her visage more bitter and 'edgy'. Her hair was made black, stark, and lifeless. It lost the magical lightness it had before.
   The lines of her face lost the wistful wisdom and turned bitter and rigid.
   This pretty, sad, yet hopeful image was destroyed in only a few seconds, turned by the artists' hubris from beauty to unsatisfying ashes.
   What you, in your hubris, did to the last 10 minutes of Mass Effect 3 was infinitely worse. That artist, years ago, was simply drawing a picture to amuse himself. It wasn't his job to enrich or appease me, he simply meant to waste a few moments to cure himself of boredom.
   Mass Effect 3, however, was given to it's fans from the very moment it was said that "there is no canon" and that "the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome."
   Bioware used to be a company that cared what its' consumers wanted. Feedback was used. If the players were unhappy, the first response was "sorry! we appreciate your business, so what can we do better?" They would make like Arthur Conan Doyle and retcon Sherlock's death if it truly upset people. Not anymore, it seems. When did that happen? When did the collaborative game-making turn into "you just aren't smart enough to appreciate the genius that is our masterful ending? Also, ARTISTIC INTEGRITY."?
   And for the record, to see what the fans would have considered a "happy" ending, see the MEHEM mod. Note that it is still not "happy" per se (despite being called the 'Mass Effect (3) Happy Ending Mod'.) But it fits the definition of "bittersweet" far better than your original endings did.
   In MEHEM, though you 'win', though you do manage to destroy the reapers and even escape the Citadel with your life, there is no party, no celebrating, no wild sexual encounter with your love interest. Simply mourning the dead, and sharing a sad embrace with your lover. Roll credits.
   Ignoring the plot holes, the lore-abuse, and the constant insults to the players' intelligence, the endings Bioware came up with read like an angsty teenagers' diary, where any happiness is considered blase and cliched, and death and suffering inordinately glorified.
   To say that having Shepard survive the ending dishonors the sacrifices he or she made along the way is an over-simplification, proven by MEHEM. The universe is still in ruins. Billions of sentient people of all races still died. Beloved team members were lost to betrayal, or circumstance, or the very war we were fighting. And yet, to the completely dumbfounded shock of many of Bioware's most hardcore fans, the only endings you saw fit to deliver us are abominable. I shall explain.
   Control asks that I kindly just forget the entire argument I just won against the Illusive Man; that even CONSIDERING trying to control the reapers is insane. It also means just taking the word of the suspicious computer program who's made himself look exactly like the child I've only seen in my nightmares for the last several months. In other words, the very option seems ridiculous, and that's not even counting the other logical inconsistencies it casually brings up.
   Synthesis is worse. From the first words about it from the kid's mouth, I (and many others) were HORRIFIED. I wouldn't even give a friend a simple PIERCING without his consent. This is a bit more serious than a piercing. Let's try again; I wouldn't give a friend a tattoo without his consent. That's a little better for this analogy, but Synthesis is also far more serious than that. Basically you're asking us to enforce non-consensual universe-wide complete body modification. And since it is not properly explained in such a way as to tell us EXACTLY WHY it is completely necessary to DNA-rape the galaxy, (other than the singularity concept they brought up for the first time 5 minutes ago. even though that whole idea was just proven wrong by the fact that I united the Quarians and the Geth.) it simply remains abominable. So that's out.
   Destroy seems like the only logical, least monstrous alternative, and I think you knew that when you wrote it. I can only assume that that's why you decided, (to keep things even,) to force the genocide of an entire race of newly-minted full AI's and the animus ex Normandy. And while we're on the subject, a quick note; having only one ending in four where the beloved protagonist can potentially survive and then leaving him or her in the rubble, gasping for breath, and then essentially saying "you don't need to know the details. s/he's technically alive; that's enough right?" is another casual slap to the faces of the people who opted to end their trilogy on that note.
   Mass Effect 3 is the final chapter of this arc, and Shepard. Does it not strike you as a TEENSY bit crass to not commit to Shepard's fate? Not even counting the fact that Bioware is FORCING character death on Shepard in three out of four endings--(But wait! Weren't we supposed to get 16 "wildly" different endings? ...What? You're counting the entire game as the ending? Oh. 'Cause I was know...from the climax (Priority: Earth) and on. Like everyone else who wasn't using corporate doublespeak to 'win' all their arguments.)
   I digress. After 10 months, I am still this upset. Why the silence? Why the lack of proper response to peoples' perfectly reasonable grievances? Are you really going to just let over 60,000 of your (previously) most loyal, diehard fans slip away? We have stuck with you since Baldur's Gate; some of us since Shattered Steel. Does that level of customer loyalty mean nothing to you? Are you really going to let the shrieking of BSN trolls prevent you from addressing the real issues with Mass Effect 3 that are forefront in our minds?
   ...After 10 months, I am very sad to have to assume that the answer to the last two questions is a smug, self-satisfied yes.
   Find humility. Do better. Stop making promises you don't intend to keep.

   -A former fan

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Razor's Edge-Part Two

It was a dry, sterile building-full of silent offices. The windows were all dark, on all thirty stories. This building hadn’t been used for anything in ages: or, at least, that was what the people in the dilapidated, crumbling city were led to believe. 
The windows in the building had been darkly tinted before, but now several coats of black paint coated them like thick, impervious scabs from the inside. No one could see out or in, and no one wanted to. The current owners of the building were a powerful mob-like band calling themselves ‘the Snakes’ Head gang.’
The city’s population lived in near-constant fear of Snakes’ Head, except a brave few.
Every inch of the blade-wielding woman un-ironically called ‘Razor’ was covered in black, and her jet hair was drawn smoothly back from her pale face into a tight, efficient bun. She ghosted through a battered door with chipped white paint and mounted the stairs behind it. Her dancers’ shoes made not a sound on the old steps. She climbed fifteen stories, then slipped silently through another door to a long, lightless hall, utterly un-winded.
Razor closed the door quietly behind her and then ceased moving-still as a statue, she listened as muffled shouts met her ears from further down the hall. She turned her head almost imperceptibly, observing an artificial golden light showing from under one of the office doors. Like a shadow she started forward again, listening intently. The shouting had stopped, but the voice was still irate. 
A meeker voice muttered something in response as Razor drew closer to the office door, but the loud guy broke in again. 
“Get the hell out of my office, Gibson.” Commanded the brash tone of her target.
The second man hesitated an instant then complied. He was intent on escaping, walking so fast he didn’t notice her. 
Stalking up behind the retreating man silently, the black-shrouded woman struck like lightning. Drawing closer than his own shadow, she simultaneously slapped a hand over his mouth and stabbed him deftly in the neck, expertly angling her attack so that it killed him instantly, lowering the body silently to the ground.
There she paused, waiting in abject stillness as she strained her senses to their considerable limits to determine whether she’d been detected. After a slow count of twenty, Razor approached the door, making as much noise as a shifting moon-shadow.
In her mind, she went over her plan again. The Snakes’ Head boss would be at his desk, at the far side of the room. He was always accompanied by two guards, one stationed at the door, another at his back to the left. Both would be armed with keen short swords, and comparatively well trained in their use.
Razor rolled her shoulders soundlessly, feeling the comforting weight of the twin twenty-inch kodachi swords resting in their sheaths on either side of her spine. She confirmed the location of her throwing knives with a slow glance to avoid even the sound of faintly rustling fabric; the ten wicked, perfectly weighted blades belted casually to her lower back. Ten more, five on each leg, were bound to the outside of each snugly-clad thigh.
She rested her long fingers delicately on the hilt of her signature long knife and exhaled silently. Then, Razor veritably exploded into the room, barely glancing at the guard who flinched only slightly at her abrupt entrance, and drew his short sword with startling speed. Unfortunately for him, his split-second hesitation was all the time she needed, and the instant before he was able to attack, she thrust her own blade into his heart and ruthlessly twisted it.
A breath, a blink later, the boss completed his spectacular twitch of surprise, and his remaining guard fell dead with one of Razor’s throwing knives buried to the hilt in his eye. The poleaxed boss watched in shock as both guards hit the ground at approximately the same time, while Razor calmly slid the door shut and retrieved her knife from the corpse next to her. She glanced about the small office before approaching the only surviving man in the room with a disturbingly blank expression.
He reflexively licked his lips, the only outward indication of his nervousness besides the light sheen of sweat popping into visibility on his brow.
“Long Knife?” He inquired. Razor inclined her head slightly to indicate an affirmative response, approaching slowly. Not with trepidation, but like a stalking cat lazily anticipating a satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable hunt. The boss shivered, his breathing speeding up as he struggled to sublimate his desperate anxiety and rising panic.
“Who took out the contract? How much are they paying you? I can double it.” He said desperately, transfixed by her easy approach and disconcertingly relaxed posture. Razor didn’t respond at first, just trailed her delicate fingertips along the polished wood of his desk as she started to round it to get to him.
He was well aware that any sudden move on his part would end in his death, so he stayed seated in his chair, but couldn’t help but inch the rolling desk chair away from her slightly as she got closer and closer, her faerie-like features terrifying in their abject blankness. 
“No one’s paying me. I just really don’t like Snakes’ Head.” She said, a strange darkness in her cobalt blue eyes. “I had the night off.”
“You won’t survive this.” He blurted out. Razor shrugged.
“I’m pretty confident you’re wrong about that.” She stated in a calm, mild tone of respectful disagreement. He opened his mouth to yell. She blocked his windpipe with the blade of her knife, hitting its pommel with the palm of her hand to drive its point deeply into the vertebrae of his neck.
Razor turned away from the corpse.

(About bloody time I posted part 2, eh? Yeah. Sorry about that. Anyways, here ya go. Part 3 to follow. ...Hopefully to follow sooner than part 2 did. hahaha. As usual, please comment! It helps motivate me to write more, and boy oh boy do I need the practice!:->)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mass Effect 3 rant

howdy. haven't been on for that's an understatement.
in any case, unrelated to any stories i might post here, i need to vent a bit when it comes to the incredibly controversial (read: badly written, plot-hole-filled, and continuity-breaking) ending of ME3.
now, just typing 'Mass Effect 3' into Google will get you many, many articles detailing EXACTLY why the endings are simply and quantifiably sub-par, so i see no need to detail that here. (note; "A Logical Breakdown of Why the Mass Effect Ending Makes No Sense" Googledoc is particularly good if you're curious as to what exactly the fan's main points of contention are.)
i, personally, have posted the following to FaceBook to help summarize this viewpoint;
"Mass Effect 3--especially if you've played all three games--is like ~30 hours of "Braveheart" with 10 minutes of "Sucker Punch" or "The Fountain" for an ending. The result is, understandably, the fan backlash you've been hearing so much about lately."
Yup. That's pretty much how it is. If "LotR; The Return of the King" ended with Frodo and Sam trapped on the side of Mount Doom as it explodes, about to be killed by molten lava, you'd be upset. That's what it's like for die-hard Mass Effect fans right now.
The worst thing is how AMAZING the story is right up until the end. Then you go from a hearty and boisterous "Yippie-Kai-Yay, M*****f*****" to a depressed and utterly confused "WHAT THE F**K?!""

now, i consider myself to be a certifiable, hardcore, never-sees-the-sunlight gamer. to my husbands' great confusion, i find the ending of ME3 is SO terrible and--(dare i say it,) traumatizing--that i have hardly touched ANY video games since beating it.
compare this to my usual 2-3 hours of daily gaming before i beat ME3. so, not only have i only beat ME3 once (when normally i finish a play-through of a new game and immediately upon beating it begin another run to re-experience the joy of the storytelling again,) but the ending was SUCH a literary, conceptual, and self-implosive DIS-pleasure to experience, i have hardly touched ANY game since.
for me, this is unprecedented. in a month, i have gotten more useful, practical things done than i have in the past six. (hahaha, #yesihaveaproblem)
i LOVE stories. i love to experience them, meditate upon them, and play that great philosophical game of 'what if' with myself while i read them. the only video games i play--with very few exceptions--are the ones with a good and thought-provoking storyline to them. i like to pick them apart, learn the internal rules governing the different 'universes', (theoretical physics, anyone? :->) and enjoy a good yarn coming to a logical and internally cohesive--yet innovative--ending.
Mass Effects 1 and 2 did this with flying colors. they were internally cohesive, respected the 'laws of physics' attributed to them--which, scientifically speaking, are theoretically plausible and therefore all the more enjoyable--and did not skimp on the ethos and pathos of their respective characters.
technically, Mass Effect 3 did this too, all the way through--but not continuing past--the last 10 minutes of the game.
then it suddenly goes from 'Star Trek'-style exposition, character development, and logical techno-babble to unexplained and arbitrary philosophical nonsense which has no bearing on the larger story arc, and even contradicts well-established universal 'laws' stated clearly and repeatedly throughout all three games in the series.
this is ignoring many other problems with the ending, not the least of which is character choice, the primary modus operandi of the entire series. to quote a Bioware Social Network forums;

"ME1: Shepard is told Saren is loyal. Shepard proves otherwise. He is told that Sovereign is just a ship. He proves otherwise.
ME2: Shepard is ignored. He fights on. Shepard is alienated. He fights on. He is told that the Reapers are coming. He fights on.
ME3: Shepard is told that he has 2-3 choices of how to change the cycle. He says ‘ok’ and mindlessly goes along with the nonsensical options without questioning it.
...Am I the only one confused by this?"
To make things worse, in response to the fans' non-assailable and entirely reasonable problems with the ending, Bioware has essentially stated (paraphrase) "The endings will not be changed. We will clarify the endings since no one seems to understand them"--(implying that we're idiots for not seeing sense in their well-documented self-contradictary nonsense)--"and will not address the obvious plot-holes or continuity-breaking errors."
worst of all, Bioware used to be a company which listened to their customers, often changing game mechanics or story aspects which were unenjoyable to large portions of their fanbase. now that we have well-documented, substantially game-breaking grievances, they choose to ignore us?
...yeah. it really is that bad. i'm more depressed now.
but at least i got out some frustration.
be back soon with angsty fanfic to help assuage my sorrow. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Razor's Edge-Part One

(Hey guys. I'm not sure about this one. Let me know if you like it, if you want to read more, all that jazz. I want COMMENTS. You readers have been slackin' on that particular point. :-> Anyway, here 'tis.)

Hammer was a violent man. Not by choice or by merit of a volatile nature, but by circumstance. The cruel, cruel world did not, at present, suffer the peaceful to live. And luckily for Hammer, he did not outwardly look nearly as tender-hearted as his kind and gentle temperament might indicate.
His eyes were nearly black, and pierced deep with intense focus, for he had a passionate scholar’s mind. His face was angular and broad, marked by harshly knitted brows, for he had an artists’ determined focus. His body was not unlike that of a lifelong blacksmiths’, with the attendant scars which bespoke that profession’s labors.
But those, at least, were simply the visible evidence of a life lived in a world of strife. A coincidental camouflaging of his truer nature as opposed to marks earned in the honorable pursuit of an honest profession. For though Hammer was in his deepest self a truly soft-hearted and generous spirit, neither was he incapable of adapting to the dark and deadly realities of daily life in this evil place.
It was necessity that kept him alive, working for the Long Knife assassination guild. Working with Razor, as her support and, when necessary, her bodyguard. Truly, she was quite capable on her own, one of the guilds’ best blades, but her appearance often invited trouble, and Hammer was never slow to return such attention in kind.
Hammer sat at his desk at the front of the guild headquarters with his chosen weapon in hand, oiling the punishing wedge of steel with precision, as he did all things. The head of the deadly sledge hammer shone, its’ unbroken, unmarred surface a testimony to the excellent quality of the metal. Its’ haft was solid, resilient ironwood, and it bore the unbroken polish of constant yet solicitous use. Hammer worked the oiled cloth along all the planes of the weapon’s metal head, thoroughly lost in his task.
A dull thud sounded from the other side of the door, then the knob clicked and creaked as someone fumbled with it. Finally it opened and Razor stumbled in, one arm tight about her middle and the other gripping the doorknob in a white-knuckled, red-smeared fist. Hammer leapt to his feet, alarmed, and stared dumbly at her for a moment as she pressed her weight against the wall, closing the door carefully. Then her knees gave out and she slid down the wall into an awkward heap, leaning bonelessly against the wall.
“Well.” She said breathlessly, her blue eyes glassy and distant, a disconcertingly weak smirk playing about her bone-white lips, “that was fun.”
Hammer crossed the room with a speed that was startling considering his thickly muscled bulk, dark eyes taking in her ghostly pale skin and the large carmine stain bleeding down her front. There was an impressive thunk as her trademark deadly knife slipped from her slender fingers to the floor.
“I–are you alright?” He asked in shock, inwardly wincing at the ridiculousness of the question. He was simultaneously amused and disturbed by her glib yet frighteningly faint response.
“Yeah, I’m great. I didn’t need all that blood anyway.”
“Jesus, Raze.” He breathed, half fearful dismay, half prayer, pulling the arm obstructing his view of the wound out of his way. Her limb offered zero resistance, and Hammer paled slightly at the sight of the deep, wide puncture in her gut.
Razor had always been small, with her slender frame barely cresting five feet, and long elfin limbs. Now, slumped like a discarded jacket against the wall, already leaving a slowly widening red puddle on the floor, she had never looked more delicate. Delicate, and fit to fade in the next few moments.
“Jesus.” He repeated with more entreaty, as she chose this unfortunate moment to cough, causing a sudden gush from the wound. Jaw clenched, he pressed one of his big hands firmly over the hole and scooped her up.
“Ow.” She remarked faintly.
“It’s your own damn fault.” Hammer said, breaking into a near-run towards the back of the room. His voice was calmingly smooth while his face contorted with worry. “I keep telling you; the pointy end goes into the other guy.”
“Bastard.” Razor choked out with reflexive, humorless camaraderie, shaking as she struggled–unsuccessfully–to not cough again. Hammer pushed through the cloth doorway and dashed down the concealed hall.
“Snakes’ Head caught me...on the...on the tail-end of the job.” Razor explained in a wheeze between choking fits.
“Shut it.” Commanded Hammer in a terse voice, hurrying past the shocked faces of their fellow guild members. The buildings’ small clinic was within sight, and one of the others ducked through the door before them. Seconds later, Hammer was there, and the doctor was already up and hurrying towards them.
“Here.” Said the older man, Donnal, directing Hammer to lay Razor down on a flat table, observing the small woman’s deathly white skin and red-stained clothing with a critical eye. Hammer set her down gently as the doctor moved her blood-soaked shirt away from the garish injury with practiced hands.
“Isn’t the general point of wet work for the assassin to cause horrific bodily harm to the target, and to avoid it for herself?” Donnal mused, speaking quietly, as if to himself, as he surveyed the damage.
Hammer gritted his teeth. Razor alone having the blasé attitude about her life-threatening injury was bad enough. Hearing it from the doctor as well had him alternately clenching and unclenching his fists, until he noticed the drying blood on his hands was making squelchy, sticky noises. Hammer backed off to give Donnal room to concentrate, but at a sharp cry from Razor he bounded back to her side.
“Get that for me, would you?” Donnal requested mildly, jerking his head toward a sealed glass container with a damp rag inside. He probed the injury with clinical distance, paying no mind to her squirming, semi-cognizant distress. Donnal never paused in his task, completely confident that Hammer would obey him.
And he did. Hammer tolerated Donnal’s coldness because he knew the man, knew that he wasn’t really a heartless jerk, just an incredibly sensitive man who only treated his wounded patients like malfunctioning machines because it disturbed him deeply to see people hurt. Understanding the odd doctor didn’t make Hammer like him any more. But it did help him to resist punching the man in situations such as this.
Hammer unscrewed the cap on the container, keeping his head averted and holding his breath. He laid the moist rag over Razor’s nose and mouth and bid her by rote to breathe deeply. Breathing deeply was a task that was quite beyond her at the moment, but she did manage to oblige him by inhaling deliberately–if shallowly.
Razor’s glassy eyes found his and sharpened just before the soporific took effect.
“I...won’t...die.” She told him in a hazy voice, holding his gaze, fighting the drug all the way down to oblivion. He stared down at her until her spirit was fully cloaked by unconsciousness. Then, he realized, she looked even more like a corpse; her eyes only half-shut, all her muscles suddenly slack. Numbly, Hammer slid her eyes the rest of the way shut and removed the rag from her face, returning it to its container. Donnal was already hard at work, calling over an assistant and determining the best course of action to mend the dying assassin.
Hammer shifted gears to autopilot, walking over to the clinic’s sink and rinsed the blood and the slight traces of the crude anesthetic from his hands. Mechanically he cleansed them, dried them, and turned back to the busy medics, folding his arms. The familiar weight of his folded limbs against his muscular chest was melded with the uncomfortable pulling of cloth stuck to skin. Glancing down at himself, he saw the red-stained fabric of his shirt molding itself wetly to his flesh.
Nonplussed, Hammer quickly mastered his rising nervous energy and contented himself by glaring down at the offending garment, peeling it away from his person, and muttering “damn it, Raze.”

(Thanks for reading! Let me know if you want me to write part 2! ...and COMMENT.)

Friday, July 8, 2011


I have another story I'm currently working on, right now I have it written to the point of a cliffhanger. I'll finish it soon, then post in (hopefully) a few days.
It's set in a clichéd dystopian future with gangs and guilds and sharp words. (see what i did there? italics. gotta love 'em.)
Anyway, I started this blog hoping it would help me build up my motivation to write again, and constructive comments from any readers would be GREATLY helpful in encouraging me to keep writing and posting new vignettes.
Cheers, tell your friends about me, and as I said, don't forget to comment!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


(I realized a while ago (months, actually,) that I haven't been writing practically anything, which is particularly bizarre considering my love of writing in general, and the fact that I have been 'in the process' of writing a novel since high school. I love playing the Mass Effect video game series, so I decided to write a little scene based on a particular relationship portrayed in the game. 
**Be aware, the story contains some Mass Effect spoilers, and while those who have not played the games may not get some of the references, I did my best to make it understandable even for those who have not played the games.
Note: There are some swear words in here.
Here 'tis. Enjoy, and review it for me if ya like. :-> )

The bulkhead’s solid strength was a comfort at her back. Her well cared-for uniform served to put her mind at ease, as did her practiced commanding persona; both served as a sort of  familiar battle armor. Constant, calming facts of life, as easy as breathing, but they couldn’t quite meld with with the guttural boiling of her current dark mindscape.
“ ‘How am I’ ?” She echoed him, subdued wryness tinging her words with grey. She was sitting on her haunches against the office’s taupe wall, hands lightly clasped, head tilted up toward the cold illumination of the ceiling’s singular light fixture. Her muscles were oddly tense for the seeming casualness of her crouched position, her face oddly blank.
“Was that a rhetorical question?” She continued, opening her hazel green eyes to stare calmly at the tall man, a fellow marine, who was standing before her. He fidgeted just slightly under her steady gaze, an odd movement coming from one whose rank insignia marked him as a commander, when she was only a lieutenant-commander. Both bore the delta-shaped badge of N-7 special ops training on their dress blues. Nevertheless, he seemed to consider his words very carefully before responding.
“No. No it wasn’t. I hadn’t heard from you since–” His breath caught softly, then he continued in a quieter voice. “...since I sent you that letter. You never responded.”
She stood, folding her arms as she did so, a glint of animosity entering her formerly emotionless expression.
“No. I didn’t.” She replied flatly. “I was a little preoccupied at the time.”
The man flinched slightly as though he'd been slapped. He focused his angry brown eyes on the far wall, and when he looked back to her, he wore an expression that was as intentionally blank as hers. “You could have died.”
“Yes, well, I knew it was a suicide mission from the beginning.” She retorted. “Besides, I already died once. I figured the second time around wouldn’t be so bad.” Her counterpart’s jaw was clenched tight now, and as he spoke, his voice grated.
“Two years you’ve been gone." He ground out between gritted teeth. "Two years I’ve mourned, and you’ve been working for those terrorists this whole time. You betrayed the Alliance, you betrayed everything we believed in. They murdered Admiral Kahoku, they experimented on people, and on Akuze–” He had to stop, his anger flaring in the form of a sharp pain just behind his eyes. He briefly pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, then continued in a growl.
“All Cerberus has done, all the bigotry, sedition, and terrorism, and you side with them because...what?  They foot the bill and don’t ask too many questions?”
He might’ve continued, but suddenly the left side of his face burned, then the sound of her slap reached his ears. His shock was a metallic tang in his mouth, the pain in his cheek and neck bright and throbbing.
Her expression was violent and hurt, the muscles in her jaw standing out in sharp relief. They stared hard at each other, studied features once so familiar to them. To each, the others’ face represented both their most treasured and most haunted memories.
“You’ve never given me the chance to explain. If you really want to talk, then let’s talk.” She took a deep breath, then continued in a low hiss.
“But if all you want is to scream at me to make yourself feel better, you can go fuck yourself, cuz I won’t just sit here and take it.”
A silence settled over them, palpable and electric. Kaidan stared through her, his eyes on hers but not really seeing her as he fought mightily against all the cruel things he wanted to say. As he stared, she simply met his gaze and waited, wearing a very particular implacable expression. He'd seen it before when he'd served under her–usually she directed it at people she didn't particularly care for in tense political situations.
The person who it caused it the most was Ambassador Udina, a slug of a politician with zero tact or grace. It hurt Kaidan more than he’d ever admit to find that look leveled in his direction. Once, he’d admired her ability to cow others with the simple force of her personality, but now it left him with a sour taste.
She sensed his reaction, felt him pulling back from her and into the protective armor of his anger. The fire in her eyes died down, the bright light of her spirit dulling into glassy hopelessness. She dropped her gaze, her ramrod posture slumping. She gave up.
Something buried deep in Kaidan flared distressingly, and he found himself greatly disturbed by her uncharacteristic surrender. His anger died down. He ran his fingers through his hair, perplexed by an uncomfortable emotion somewhere between nauseous anxiousness and fearful hope.
“I...don’t know what to believe. You died, or you disappeared, and then you came back, working for the enemy. I–we had something, and then you...were gone, and...” Frustrated, he raked his fingers through his hair again, annoying himself with his nervous habit.
“Look." He said, "You were working for wanted terrorists.”
She was quiet for a short time, then murmured, “with.”
“What?” He asked.
“With. Not for. I never worked for Cerberus. But I sure as hell never had a choice about working with them.”
Kaidan felt his ire rising slowly from it’s manageable simmer.
“I don’t see much of a difference.” He said carefully, trying his hardest to keep a firm grip on his emotions.
“Do you want to hear what I have to say, or not?” She asked him tiredly, leaning back against the wall. Kaidan wasn't sure he did want to listen. But a tiny voice in the back of his head, the one that had lead him to first admit his love for her, so long ago, spoke softly to him. He nodded.
“Did you know that Joker has never mentioned anything about our days on the SR1 except to refer to the whole Saren chase as ‘the good old days’?” She remarked tonelessly.
“When the Normandy was being destroyed, I knew he'd be too stubborn to abandon ship. I was so pissed at him I didn’t remember to be gentle as I lifted his sorry crippled ass right out of the pilot seat. Probably fractured his arm.”
She had, Kaidan recalled numbly. Kaidan had treated Joker himself in an effort to ignore the massive hole through his chest made by the confirmation of her death. He could only stare at her as she continued to speak.
“I got him into the escape pod right before an explosion threw me back. I barely had the presence of mind to hit the emergency eject.” She did not vary her tone, pitch, or cadence, even speaking of things that turned his stomach. 
“I hit a bulkhead hard, then drifted through the debris of the ship, wondering how long I’d have to wait for pick-up when I realized I couldn't breathe. Hardsuit breach. I couldn't find the leak and I. I just faded." She was expressionless still, but paused for a moment to clear her throat. A flash of the nightmarish memory haunted her pale face for just an instant before she went on.
"When I woke up again, I was lying in a besieged medical facility, confused as all hell and sore as day two of boot camp. Someone was yelling at me over the PA system to get armored up and fight my way out.” She snorted, a grim and humorless smirk on her lips.
"I won’t bore you with the details. Long story short, Cerberus showed me proof of the Reapers' activity and informed me that I had no choice but to work with them. As soon as I had control of the SR2, which I was given to command, I went to the Council for support. They immediately considered having me tried for treason until Anderson intervened. They said that since I was working with Cerberus I was banned from Council space, and their version of lending me their support was by not arresting me for my association with Cerberus.” She glared briefly at the wall to express her irritation, clenching her jaw.
“So that channel was closed. I'd get no help from the Council. I asked Anderson where you were, but he wouldn’t tell me anything, again, because of Cerberus. I had no choice but to work with them, since they were the only ones willing to investigate the movements of the Reapers, or even admit that they exist.
"So I built my ground team one by one. Eventually, the Illusive Man sent us into that trap he’d sprung with you in it. You should know all about that. Unless you have more to add? I don’t think the whole ‘betrayer’ bit is quite old enough yet. You could probably stand to mention that a couple more times before I’d decide to knock you on your ass. Sir.”
She couldn’t help herself, she put in that last bitter word because, if she hadn’t died, by this point in time they could easily have been together in reality, without having to sneak around the regs. Kaidan didn’t miss her meaning, and immediately exploded.
“You had two years to get in contact with me. Two years you let me think you were dead. And you were just-” He started, his voice harsh with emotion, and she put her nose right in his face, practically screaming.
“What part of ‘I was clinically dead’ don’t you get?! I suffocated. I was exposed to vacuum. I hit atmo. Eventually I hit the surface of Alchera. The only thing that kept me from turning into nothing more than a red smear on the surface was my hardsuit! It took Cerberus two years to fix me. My eyes are fake. My bones had to be rebuilt from splinters. My organs were cloned–”
Abruptly it hit him that he knew she was telling the truth. Kaidan rocked back on his heels, turned away from her. She cut off, breathing hard. When she continued, her voice was soft and slightly hoarse.
“I died on that meaningless geth-hunting mission when I should’ve been hunting down ways to defeat the Reapers. And I was brought back to life because the galaxy that didn’t waste one minute before slandering my memory just couldn’t let me rest in peace.”
He didn’t turn back to look at her, just pressed his face into his hands, struggling to come to terms with what he was hearing. Kaidan didn’t see it, but one of her hands lifted halfway from her side, reaching for him, before she stopped herself. Instead, the hand slid over her dark brown hair to smooth the regulation bun on the back of her head.
“I did the impossible. All of my crew survived that so-called suicide mission, and later I went on to stop the Reapers from returning early. Three hundred thousand Batarians died because an Indoctrinated scientist prevented me from sending out an evacuation order." She shook her head, continuing in a rasp.
"Because of that one fanatical victim, I’m going on trial when what I did in that system saved the whole galaxy. There were no other options, and there’s no other scapegoat. And still, the whole universe is pretending that there’s no such thing as Reapers, that they’re not on their way to destroy us even now.”
She fell silent, and the room was filled with depressing, determined rumination. Kaidan turned slowly and studied her face, and found it to be locked in that impassive, implacable Commander Shepard mask.
“So, how am I?” Asked Jane Shepard, meeting her former lover’s eyes with a soldier’s calm.
“I’m...” She stopped, exhaling heavily, massaging her temples. Kaidan hated all the universe for giving her all these trials, for expecting so much from her. He turned to face her fully, aching that he had not been there to help her with her burden, acutely feeling her weariness, her bitterness, and her unspoken anger at the ongoing struggle that was her everyday existence.
He watched as Shepard’s countenance darkened, and fought mentally with himself, wondering if she would accept him if he were to try to comfort her as he so desperately wished to do. And then she finished her sentence, and he was floored. Commander Shepard raised her defiant green eyes to his.
“I’m not sure how I’m going to save us, but I will.”
Kaidan’s heart gave a painful swell of equal parts pride and sorrow at how easily she took up her burden, asking for no help, and worse, expecting none.
His eyes softened, and he went to her.

(Characters and paradigm belong to Bioware)