by "A. Stone"
firstname.lastname@example.orgJudge's Note: I wasn't quite sure what to make of this story. The situations are a bit improbable to say the least. The one thing I can say for sure, though, is that it made me laugh. That definitely makes it more than worthwhile in my book.
The Seattle skyline hovered pleasantly before Alastair Stone, night glowing with a thousand restaurant and dancehall signs. He swayed minutely in the wind, a gentle breeze blowing across his face. From his vantage, Stone could make out the words "ortsiB s'luaP." It was really meant to be read "Paul's Bistro;" his fault in perspective can be traced to his current position.
Stone was upside down, suspended a hundred feet over the mingling upper-class nightlife. His stealth clothing, three sizes too small, blended perfectly with the sky; so perfectly, in fact, that no one could see him. Not that he could really see them, either; the helmet that Stone had been wearing had slid over his face, covering his eyes. Even if he knew the spell to cast to get him out of this predicament, he still wouldn't have been able to see anything but the building across from his to cast at.
Stone tried again to reach up and untangle his legs. The clothing stretched taut across his back, but it was far too tight and he was far too weak to rip its ballistic weave. He sagged back down.
In situations like this, the most dire of actions must be taken. Stone prepared himself for this task, took a deep breath, and activated the cellular phone in the helmet.
Across town, Ocelot was getting ready for his date. His phone began to ring, and though he had promised himself that he wouldn't answer it, he knew that whatever the call was about, was important. At least, it had better be important, or he would force-feed this herbal soap the sales clerk had recommended to the caller when he found them.
"Hi, Ocelot, it's me."
"Listen, I'm in a bit of a spot, chum."
"Is that it? I'm shaving, 'Hawk. Talk to me about it tomorrow."
"No, Ocelot, listen, this is pretty important. This is a situation that requires immediate attention."
"I'm got a shower that requires immediate attention, too. Call Joe."
"Ocelot!" Stone shouted. "Put your...," his voice lowered, "...libido aside, for a moment, and get me the frag off this building!"
"'Hawk, if I'm late for dinner, Kestrel will..."
"I'm going to splatter onto the sidewalk if you're late getting here!"
Stone felt the weight on the gunstrap holding his up shift.
"Alright, I'm coming. But this had better be quick, or Kestrel will skin us both."
"Jesus, 'Hawk," Ocelot said, craning his neck up to see Stone.
Stone grimaced. "I know. Could you just get up here and get me down?"
"I can't even begin to imagine how you did this, 'Hawk."
Stone closed his eyes and tried not to remember.
Stone was walking down the street, fingering the credstick in his jacket. His music shop had called; they finally obtained a copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall - in vinyl! - and he had already given up the rest of the day to listening to it.
It occured to him, after a short while, that he was being followed.
The man tailing him was tall, dressed in a bad fake beard, ducking behind a newspaper or a telecom booth whenever Stone turned around. He didn't know who his amateur trailer was, but he wasn't in the mood for any kind of foolishness today; not when there was Pink Floyd waiting.
Stone waited until a small crowd of people had passed between him and the bearded man, then he ducked into an alley and watched the mouth with his personal mirror.
Stone squinted into the mirror. The people passed by, but the bearded man was not among them.
Stone squeaked. Wheeling around, magic formula racing through his mind, he stopped short of casting the spell when he got a good look at the man.
It was Shadowraith, badly dressed.
'Wraith saw the look on Stone's face. "Had to get your attention."
The look didn't change.
"Couldn't risk calling you."
'Wraith fidgeted, took a quick look down either end of the alley, and pulled Stone out into the street.
Stone finally got into a frame of mind to say something.
'Wraith stopped, pulled out a phone and handed it to Stone.
Stone called up the store. "Hello?" - "Yes, this is John Smith. I'm calling about my record?" - "Ah yes, hold on a moment...our records show that you never ordered a record, Mr. Smith. I'm sorry." - "..." - "Mr. Smith?" - "...Yes, thank you." Click.
Stone leaned against a lamppost, and 'Wraith took the phone from him, then tried to herd Stone again.
"Where are we going?" Stone asked.
'Wraith looked over his back, down the street, and briefly met Stone's eyes.
"So why don't you just ask the bloody girl out?!" 'Wraith gave a minute shake of his head, and continued scanning the bar.
Over the course of a pitcher of water - the bartender didn't raise his eyebrows over 'Wraith's disguise; he just kept muttering something about "weird" - Stone managed to wrangle enough words out of the assassin to get an idea of what this was all about.
'Wraith wanted to talk to Stone - fine. 'Wraith wanted some advice - all right. But 'Wraith wanted him to spy on a girl he was interested in - this was going too far.
"Listen, 'Wraith," Stone started. 'Wraith's attention snapped back to Stone, waiting with poorly concealed eagerness. Stone sighed and continued, "'Wraith, you're going to need to realize that there's a certain way that social interactions occur. Boy meets girl, boy dates girl, and all that. There's a good reason it doesn't go 'boy meets girl, boy propositions girl for burglary contract.'
'Wraith blinked. Stone sighed.
"I mean, if the human race perpetuated itself like that, people couldn't make babies properly."
"Procreation," 'Wraith said, "would interfere with the mission."
"Mission?! What mission?"
"Operation what?! This is a date, not a war."
"Sun Tzu said 'All is war.'"
Stone, tensed to breaking for a moment, saw the pleading look in 'Wraith's eyes, and realized that this was the only way the elf knew how to deal with the world. Stone slumped back, and took another drink.
"Well, at least you're not mailing her a gun with "I love you" written on it," Stone said.
The wheels in 'Wraith's head began to turn.
"Don't. Just forget it. Forget I said anything," Stone said wearily.
Stone was on the rooftop, now, across from Paul's Bistro, where 'Wraith had arranged the meet. Apparently the girl was a well respected shadowrunner that 'Wraith had seen some footage of on the Matrix. He fell in love with her, and that was that. Of course, he didn't explain it in so many words; most of this was from what Stone could infer from when 'Wraith insisted they watched the footage together. To know their mark, he had said. Stone just sighed and dreamed of a vinyl record spinning in his player.
The plan went like this; 'Wraith would take his table now, by the window where Stone could see. The girl ("Objective A," as 'Wraith called her) would enter the bistro, take a seat, and the entire coversation would be transmitted from a bug planted under her seat. Stone was dressed in 'Wraith's stealth clothing, because they didn't have time to get to Stone's apartment to get his. Also, the only binoculars 'Wraith had that Stone could cast magic through were bolted to the top of a sniper rifle.
"Not loaded," 'Wraith assured him.
Stone just sighed again, and put on the helmet with the communications gear in it. It was bulky, but again, it was the only thing 'Wraith could give him.
Stone suspected that the only reason he was here was to make it feel like a run for 'Wraith. It was probably the only way that the elf knew how to act suave and confident.
'Wraith left him and began the operation.
"Testing, Eagle to Nest."
"I can bloody well hear you," Stone said irritably.
It happened simply enough. Shortly after the girl arrived, the bug stopped working; Stone assumed that she had turned on a white noise generator or something. Irritated, unused to sitting in such tight clothing, Stone tried to shift positions; but as he did, he tipped forward too far, and the combined weight of his gear and awkwardness send him headfirst over the roof.
For a moment, he hung in total fear, wondering when the pavement would rush up to end his life. Then he opened his eyes, and realized his was suspended in the air, feet probably tangled in the rifle's strap. After a minute, he didn't know whether or not to curse his luck.
The Seattle skyline hovered pleasantly before Stone. A light breeze swayed him slightly in the wind.
After Ocelot got Stone down, he tossed all of the equipment into his car. 'Wraith exited Paul's Bistro about the same time. He and the girl exchanged a few words, smiled, and Stone and Ocelot watched in amazement as 'Wraith strolled across the street towards them. The girl was already leaving in her car.
"What happened?" Stone asked.
'Wraith smiled and looked back at her car, pulling away. "Didn't work out."
"Why not?" asked Ocelot.
'Wraith turned back. "Didn't want the job."
Stone had had enough. "Is that it, Don Juan? Were you a total failure at playing Casanova? She wouldn't take the bloody job, eh? Did you think to ask the girl out?!"
While Stone was exploding, 'Wraith calmly opened up a pocket of his bike and handed the package to Stone.
"What is this?" Stone asked, as he ripped off the packaging. 'Wraith grinned.
It was The Wall, mint condition.
"Record dealer," 'Wraith said, "Your store couldn't have gotten it."
Stone didn't know what to say.
"You're welcome," 'Wraith replied. Then he drove off.
Ocelot burst into laughter. Stone icily reminded him that he was late to his date with Kestrel, and the samurai ran off.
(c) 2000 (Don't put your name here yet--I don't want to know who you are until after the contest is over). Used with permission.