Dedicated to two people, who by trying to be too perfect unfortunately inspired this story. May they have a better ending than the characters they inspired.
On through the dead of night
With the Four Horsemen ride
Or choose your fate and die
(Metallica, Kill 'em All, The Four Horsemen)
"Stop the car," He said to his beautiful girlfriend Edwina, "There's something I must do here." She stopped the car and they both stepped out. He closed his trench coat and put on his pitch black sunglasses to conceal his metallic cyber eyes. He picked up the single blood-red rose that was lying on the dashboard and started walking towards the cemetery, Edwina close behind him. His walk was still stiff, and he was still undergoing physiotherapy, but he was alive. He reached the lonely grave in the corner of the cemetery and kneeled on the ground next to it. Edwina remained standing a few feet behind him.
"Damn," he said, holding back the tears he was no longer able to shed, "Wherever you are, I hope you're happy. Mad and CJ are getting married today, you know? Don't worry, I'll wish them happiness for you. Rest in peace, old friend."
He laid the single rose on the grave, stood up, turned around and walked away.
"Are you O.K.?" Edwina asked.
"I'll be O.K.," He answered, "Don't worry about me, we've got a wedding to get to."
They got into the car and sped away.
He used to be known as Billy Oblivion. But now he wouldn't even utter that name. As far as he was concerned, Billy was dead. He was Allen Sky, and he was alive!
Twenty minutes later they arrived at Aina's manor. The butler opened the door for them and led them to main hall, where everyone was already in place, waiting for them.
"I thought you weren't going to make it," CJ rushed to greet his friend.
"And miss the two people most important to me in the entire world getting married?" Allen asked in a sarcastic tone, "Not in a life time!"
"Have you got the ring?" CJ asked.
"Don't worry," Allen answered, "I told you I'll take care of it all, didn't I?"
The minister conducted the ceremony perfectly until he asked the dreaded question.
"If anyone here objects to this marriage may he speak now or forever hold silent." He looked around and was about to continue, when the heavy door burst open and a man walked in. He was dressed in a worn out pair of army pants, a simple white shirt and a leather jacket. The words "Hell's Angel" were inscribed on its back. He was holding his trademark katana in his right hand. A long scar ran down from his left cheek down his neck and continued under his cloths. He was considered to be the most dangerous man in the world. He was called Hell Blade. He was also Mad's brother.
"I object!" He said, his katana ready if anyone would think of interfering.
CJ was stunned, unable to move. Allen looked around the room, hoping to see something that could be used as a weapon. Mad looked at her brother with the piercing gaze only she could. Ten short razor-sharp metal fangs popped out of her fingertips. "This in one thing that I won't let you ruin for me!" she said as she took the fighting position he had taught her so many years ago.
"Hot tempered as ever, sis. Always jumping the gun." He smiled, amused.
CJ was paralyzed in shock. Thoughts rushed through Allen's mind. Memories of the time he used to be Billy Oblivion. Memories of the last time he had crossed paths with Hell Blade. The last time he had fought Hell Blade, he had lost. He had been hospitalized for two months in critical condition. But he had given Hell Blade that long scar that appears in the nightmares of so many shadowrunners.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Mad asked, preparing to attack.
"Daddy couldn't be here," He answered, "So I thought that I should." He made no sign that he was going to attack, but he tightened his grip on the katana.
"Of course he couldn't be here," Mad was getting nervous, "You slit his throat almost twenty years ago."
"In front of my eyes." Both their minds completed the words she did not speak.
"As I was about to say," He continued cautiously, "I object to this wedding..."
Mad was ready to attack.
"... Unless I give the bride away." He finished.
Mad ran towards him, and fell on his neck, crying.
"Thank you." Was all she could say.
"Come on," He looked confused, "Don't cry. After all, you're getting married today."
Allen let out a sigh of relief.
The ceremony was completed without any further interruptions.
After the ceremony was over and the music began, Allen found Hell Blade outside, enjoying a cigarette.
"And I thought I made dramatic entrances?" He asked with a grin.
"The two damn guards tried to stop me." He shrugged, "Didn't anyone tell 'em who I am?"
"You didn't kill them, did you?" Allen was alarmed.
"Nah," Blade answered, "No permanent damage. Although they'll have a Hell of a headache tomorrow morning."
"By the way," He continued, "Where's Damn?"
"Damn's dead." Allen answered in a broken voice.
"Shit!" Blade blurted out. "I'm sorry."
"It's O.K.," Allen said, "You couldn't have known."
"Damn's dead, CJ just married my sister," Blade sighed, "I guess this is the end of the Four Horsemen."
"Everything dies." Allen said, trying to hide his emotions.
"You know there's always a place for you with my Hell's Angels." Blade said.
"Thanks, but no thanks." Allen said. "I've retired."
Somewhere, in the greater metropolitan once known as New York, it was raining.
"Come inside," Allen stuck his head out of the window and said to his girlfriend. "It's pouring!"
"Why don't you come out and join me?" She asked in a tempting voice.
"Come on," he pleaded, "I'm getting drenched."
His shaved head was cold and the water dripping into his artificial eyes was starting to hurt. Science could give him eyes instead of those that he lost. It could make those eyes see better than his original ones ever were. But for some reason, it could do nothing against the constant pain involved in merely keeping them open. And the rain didn't help at all.
"Yeah," she answered, "But you'll have more fun over here."
Her plain white shirt was getting very wet by now, and concealed nothing.
The doorbell rang. Allen went to the door and opened it. It was the pizza delivery boy.
"You ordered the pizza?" He asked in a tone that indicated that he would much rather be at home in this kind of weather.
"Yeah," Allan answered, "Sorry to drag you out in this weather." He gave him a sizeable tip and closed the door. He put the pizza down on the dinning room table and went back to the window.
"Pizza's here!" He declared.
"O.K., I'm coming." Edwina answered.
"Thank god!" He thought.
"Let's eat!" She came in, taking the towel Allen offered her.
"I'll be there in a second," he answered, "I'm just going to the bathroom to put some disinfectant on my eyes."
"They bothering you again?" She asked. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Nah," he answered, "It comes and goes."
He went to the bathroom and locked the door. He wiped his face from the water and looked in the mirror. The agonized red scarred tissue around his eyes looked straight back at him.
"You are disgusting." He told his reflection. "Lying to the woman that you love. Why can't you just tell her the truth?"
"Because I can never do or say anything that'll hurt her." He answered himself.
He took the bottle of alcohol, looked upwards and held his eye open with his fingers. He squeezed the bottle and a single drop came out of in and slowly dropped onto the metallic surface of his waiting eye. He bit his lip against the shearing pain. He heard the telecom ring, but he ignored it. He repeated the procedure for the other eye. He stood there a few seconded and got his breath back. He washed his face and came out of the bathroom.
"Who was it?" He asked as he sat down.
"A wrong number or something," she said, "Someone looking for a Billy Oblivion."
"Yeah," he said, taking a deep breath, "A wrong number."
"The bottle was empty," he said, "I'll just go to the bedroom and get the other one."
He got up and went to their bedroom. He stepped in and locked the door behind him. Then he took the chair that was standing in the corner and positioned it under the door handle. He sat down on the bed, picked up the telecom, took a deep breath, and pressed redial.
Someone answered on the other end. It was a voice only call, and whoever was on the other side was using a voice scrambler.
"Who is it?" it asked.
"You phoned me," Allen answered, "Who is this?"
"Billy?" The voice asked with surprise.
"Billy Oblivion is dead." He answered with a sure tone. "Goodbye."
"Wait!" The voice shouted. Suddenly, an image appeared on his telecom screen. It was Mad. She didn't look good. Her hair was untidy and her makeup was running, as if she'd been crying. Mad was always a smart dresser, but now she only wore an old bathrobe.
"Billy!" She said ad her eyes lit up, "It is you!"
"Billy is dead." He closed his eyes, trying to keep his emotions under control.
"Billy," She said, ignoring his last statement, "I need a favor."
"For you," He said with half a smile, "The world and more."
"It's my son, Andrew." She said.
"What's up with him? I haven't seen him since he wet on my best pair of pants." Allen smiled as he recalled that day.
"He ran away. To Seattle." She answered.
"Say what?" Allen wasn't smiling anymore.
"He's trying to be more like his father, I guess," She said, "He's been like that since his father left us."
"What?!" Allen almost choked.
"Didn't you know?" She asked, "CJ and I broke up almost two years ago. Now he's a big deal Militech corper."
"How could I have known, when you never come visit or at least write or call?" He asked in a blaming voice.
"I'm sorry, Billy," She said, crying, "But things haven't been going well lately."
"It's O.K.," He said, trying to find the right words to apologize, "What favor do you need?"
"I want you to go back to the streets and bring me back my son." She said.
"No!" Allen said, petrified, "You don't know what you're asking for!"
"Yes I do." She said.
"What? Who? How?" He was astounded.
"CJ told me." She said, "Just before he left, he told me that if there's anything I need, to look you up."
"The son of bi..." He started, but changed his mind. "O.K., I'll do it. But I'm not doing it for him. I'm doing it for you."
He hung up.
He got up and walked over to the closet. He pushed some cloths aside and located the secret panel hid behind them. He entered the code, and offered the machine his finger print. It beeped once, and the backboard of the closet slide aside, revealing a small secret chamber. He walked in. All of his old running gear was stored inside. He took a long hard look at the pair of modified Ares Silverstrikes he carried at all times, at the leather jacket Mad gave him, at the dagger he started carrying after a certain run had failed because he ran out of ammo, at everything that made him Billy Oblivion. And then he walked by them like he just didn't see them. He took off his cloths and put on a pair of old army paths, a short sleeved gray shirt and a pair of heavy boots, resembling Billy Oblivion's all black attire in absolutely nothing. He topped his outfit up with a large, gray, featureless trench coat. He picked up a small Predator pistol, examined it to be sure it was loaded and then changed his mind and put it down again. "This time, nobody dies." He said to himself.
He went out the chamber, and locked it behind him. Forever, he hoped.
"Allen! The pizza's getting cold!" Edwina's yells echoed through the house.
"Allen! Where are you?" She walked around, checked all the rooms, looking for him. Finally she arrived at the bedroom. She opened the door and walked in. "Where could he be?" She asked herself. Then, she saw the note.
I am sorry I left without saying goodbye, but I knew that if I would, I would see you one more time, and then I wouldn't be able to leave.
An old friend of mine needs my help. It is matter of friendship, and of honor. Moreover, it is something I must do so I can live in peace with my past.
Please, don't try and follow me, you deserve better than to be dragged into this. If I am still alive when this matter is concluded, I will come back, and will never leave you again.
I love you,
When she read the first few lines, her hand was trembling. When she got to the last lines, she could no longer hold back her tears. She collapsed on the bed and cried herself to sleep, the note still firmly clenched in her hands.
He drove around the streets of Seattle for a while, as if he was seeing them for the first time of his life. He paused, taking a deep breath of the stinking city air. With the air, came back the memories. Memories of a different man, a different lifetime. Memories of running the cold streets of the city at night, with his friends beside him, joining together to take on the world. Memories of the time he was truly alive. Memories of war, memories of liars, memories of demon's fire. Memories of dying. Slowly, he exhaled, blocking out those painful memories, focusing on the task ahead.
"Once, I would have had CJ hack into the police's mini-choppers and scan the city, but now CJ is part of the problem, not the solution. So now, I guess I'll have to do it the hard way. Where would a spoiled brat dreaming of being a runner go?" He thought to himself. Like a blast from the past, the answer came. "The Penumbra."
Ten minutes later, he was already parked outside. He opened the door and paused for a second as the noise, the bright lights and the all-to-familiar smells hit him like a wave of memories from a past he would rather forget. He scanned the crowd with his eyes. It didn't take him a long time to notice a young man sitting at the corner table. He seemed to be watching the dancing girls, but Allen knew he wasn't. His eyes were dull and he was obviously concentrating on what ever he perceived through the cable that went from the side of his head to a laptop computer that was lying on the table. A troll and a scared orc were also sitting at the table.
Allen walked in and headed towards the corner table.
"Hay chummers, what's up?" He said, trying not to betray his uncertainty.
"Who the fuck are you?" Asked the orc.
"And why the fuck are you here?" Added the troll.
"Do you see the cute orc-woman over there?" He asked as he pointed to the other side of the club.
"Nope." Answered the orc.
"Ah-ah." Agreed the troll.
"Are you blind or just dumb?" Allen pressed on, pointing to the same place he pointed earlier, knowing there was no one there.
"Oh, that orc." Said the orc.
"Yeah, I see her now." Said the troll.
"Well," Allen said, "She asked me to tell the two of you that she finds you two incredibly attractive and to ask you if you are interested in some 'indoor sports', if you get my drift."
Before he could finish the sentence, the two of them were up and on their way to where he had pointed.
"Nincompoops." He muttered to himself and sat down.
He sat there for about half a minute just looking at the decker, who looked very much like CJ. Then he decided to take a more direct approach. He reached out and unplugged the wire from the decker's head.
"What the frag?!" He gasped as he came down from the technological high he was in.
"Andrew McQuin, I assume." Allen said.
"Yeah," He answered angrily, "Who the fuck are you?"
"Lets just say I'm an old friend of your mother's." Allen said diplomatically.
"So?" Andrew asked.
"She wants you to come back home," he said, "she's worried sick about you."
"That's her problem," Andrew said, "I'm happy just the way I am. I'm set up nicely here. Got myself a bunch of runners, a Johnson, even a girlfriend."
"For your sake I hope your taste in women is a good as your fathers." Allen said.
"Who the fuck are you to come barging in here talking about my father? Andrew's face was changing colors faster than an awakened chameleon, "Get lost!"
"Look, smart aleck," Allen raised his voice, "You have to choices: to go back home with me, or to be dragged home with me. Your choice."
He felt a warm breath on his neck, and turned around to find himself facing a very angry troll and an even angrier orc.
"Scar, Mongo" Andrew smiled, "Take our friend outside and show him what we do to people that threaten us. When you're done, meet me at the normal meeting place."
Allen was unceremoniously hauled to his feet and dragged outside.
A hard right hand caught him on the jaw, sending him down to the ground. Vicious kicks were hitting him in the ribs, in the stomach, in the head.
"Please, stop," He muttered through the blood that filled his mouth, "I don't want to hurt you."
He could feel his muscles bulging under his coat.
"You aren't in a state to hurt anyone!" He heard a wicked laugh as he was picked up and thrown against the wall.
A crimson mist filled his eyes.
"How do you want it," The orc said a he drew a long knife, "Short and painless or long and pleasurable?"
The world felt like it was in slow motion. He saw the hand with the knife being drawn back, and then being thrust towards his stomach. Something inside of him erupted. He could feel his muscles tearing his shirt. His fingers grew longer and turned to claws, his teeth to fangs. A pure and primordial killer instinct led his actions as he lowered his hand to intercept the the knife, catching it inside the muscle of his forearm. He smiled at the orc's horrified look, revealing his fangs. His other hand clenched to a fist, which stuck the orc on the side of his face. He fell, and stayed down, lying in a puddle of his own blood. The troll started to draw a gun from his belt. That was the first and last mistake he made that evening. Like a huge cat, Allen pounced on him, knocking the gun out of his hand. Before the troll knew what hit him he found himself on the receiving end of Allen's fist the was buried in his stomach. Allen followed up with a series of knee strikes to his ribs and finally to his head, knocking him unconscious. He turned around to face the orc that was starting to get up. Allen didn't wait till he did, and swept his legs from under him with a quick kick. Allen bent over him and caught him by the collar. He opened his mouth and growled a growl that wasn't entirely demonic, but that was not his own either.
"This time, nobody dies." He said and slammed the Orc's head into the pavement. He could have easily cracked the Orc's skull open, but he didn't. He used only enough force to knock him out. He looked around the alley, looking for more victims to satisfy his blood lust. Recognizing that they were none, he relaxed, his body reverting back to its usual form.
"Well, what now?" He thought. "Where would a little prick like him hide? Hmm... Somewhere with some heavy duty bouncers. I've got it - The Underdark."
"Sorry," the bouncer announced, "We have a dress code here."
"Look buddy," Allen was trying not to resort to violence, "If you don't let me in, you'll have the Civil Rights Movement all over your ass, and believe me, you don't want to mess with them!"
"Look mister," the bouncer was losing interest, "I don't care if you're human, elf, dwarf, orc, troll, black, white, red or yellow. Hell, I'm half elf and half Japanese. But you just can't get in looking like that."
"Lets try this in your own language." Allen walked back half a step
"Vocale Elfheim?" The bouncer asked if he spoke Elvish in his native Elven tongue.
His answer was a kick to the bouncer's throat, another kick to the abdomen that folded him in half, and a cycle kick to the back of the head that sent him off to never never land.
"Catholic's Elfish." He answered before stepping over him and inside.
He spotted Andrew and a tall brunette he thought he saw dancing at the Penumbra sitting at a corner table. He went over, pulled up a chair and sat down. Andrew saw him, and his hand jolted towards his jacket's pocket, and emerged with a gun.
"Don't even think about it." Allen's hand shot out and intercepted Andrew's hand as he was raising the gun. A slight turn of Allen's hand, and Andrew was on the floor, squealing. Needless to say he no longer held the gun. "I've had a bad day as it is." Allen completed the sentence. That movement made what was left of his torn sleeve to roll up, and to expose his tattoo.
"If I let you go do you promise not to try any more dumb tricks?"
"Yes! Yes!" Andrew was squealing like a decapitated chicken. Allen let him go.
"You almost broke my hand, you stupid son of a bitch!" He shouted.
"Consider yourself lucky." Allen answered, quite tired of this game.
Allen picked up the gun and examined it for a few seconds. He would recognize this design anywhere. CJ designed it himself. He gave it to Mad as a wedding gift.
"Where did you get this?" Allen asked.
"My Johnson gave it to me as part of my salary, O.K.?" Andrew answered.
"CJ, you son of a bitch!" Allen mumbled under his lip "Now, are you coming home, or do I actually have to break something?"
"I can't," he answered, "I've got a run to run."
"Don't argue with him, you idiot, don't you know who he is?" The brunette asked.
"Of course I know who he is," Andrew answered, annoyed, "He's a friend of my mom's."
"No, you retard!" She said, "Don't you recognize the tattoo?"
"Babe," He said, "You know I'm new to the business, so just give it to me straight, would you?"
"He is Billy Oblivion." She said, a tone of respect and admiration in her voice.
"Oh." Was the only answer he could give.
"Half of your team is hospitalized in Our Mother Of Mercy," Allen answered, "And it doesn't seem like they're going to be out of there soon."
"But," Andrew resorted to excuses, "If I leave town now, my Johnson will hunt me down for not fulfilling our contract."
"If we come to that," Allen said, "I will take care of him."
"O.K.," Andrew said, defeated, "But on one condition."
"You are in no place to make con..." Allen started but stopped as he remembered he was supposed to bring this kid home, not to take him apart.
"My girlfriend Abby comes with us," He nodded towards the stripper from the Penumbra that was sitting next to him. "I don't want the Johnson to come after her while I'm gone."
"Alright," Allen agreed, "Just one question. Weren't you a blond when you were dancing in the Penumbra?"
"I just love wigs," she answered with a sluty smile, "Don't you?"
They drove for about an hour and a half when Allen decided it was just too dark and he was just too tired to keep on driving. They drove on for another half an hour before they came by a place to stop at. "The Traveler's Rest" the sign said. Allen pulled over into the parking lot. They stepped out of the car and went inside.
"I'd like a two rooms," Allen approached the bored receptionist, "A double and a single, please."
"O.K., Sir," The receptionist tried to hide a yawn, "How will you be paying?"
"Charge it," He answered as he drew a credit card, "The name is Allen Sky."
She took the card and ran it through the machine. The machine beeped. "I'm sorry," She said, "Your card isn't valid."
"CJ" He thought, "Try this one," He said as he drew another card.
"Would this be on the same name?" She asked.
"No," He answered, "This one is on the name of Billy Oblivion."
"Oh my god," Her eyes looked like they were going to pop out. She took the card and ran it through the machine. It beeped again.
"Number 512 is the double and number 674 is the single," she handed him two sets of keys, "Have a nice stay."
"Reputation does have its benefits." He thought to himself.
"Here your keys." He tossed a set of keys to Andrew. "Lets meet here for dinner after we get settled. O.K.?"
"Sure." Andrew answered,
"I'll be looking forward to it." Abby said.
They ate silently. When they were done, Andrew got up and said, "I'm going over to the bar to get a drink, anyone want anything?"
"No thanks." Abby replied.
"I don't drink," Allen said, "You never know what could happen when you're drunk."
Abby took a cigarette out of her purse and lit it.
"I wish you wouldn't do that." Allen said.
"Oh, and why is that?" She asked, sexily blowing smoke in his face.
"Have you ever tried to kiss a woman after a cigarette?" He asked dryly.
"No," She said, surprised, "With another woman?! Don't be disgusting!"
"I've tried." He said with half a smile, "It isn't nice."
"You sure you don't want to try again?" She asked as she blew another cloud of smoke into his face.
"No thanks." He said, as his hand shot out and took her cigarette from out of her lips and put it out before she could do anything about it. The look on his face convinced her not to light another one.
Half an hour later, Abby lit another cigarette. This time Allen said nothing. He just sat there silently, watching her smoke.
They sat like that for almost fifteen minutes, when Abby finally decided she had had enough of this. "I'm going to get him." She said.
"Good idea," Allen agreed, "You take the left part of the bar, I'll take the right."
He walked around a bit, until he noticed Andrew. He was sitting at the bar, a shot cup in his hand. A couple of empty bottles were rolling on the floor beside him, and a curvaceous blond was sitting on his lap and sucking on his neck. Allen stood there for a second, trying to decide what to do, when he saw Abby coming.
"Did you find him?" She asked impatiently.
"Yeah..." He started, "But I wouldn't..."
She noticed Andrew before could finish the sentence. Angrily, she approached him.
"Andrew, you son of a bitch!" She confronted him. He pushed the blond off his lap, and struggled to his feet. He wobbled a bit, but finally he got up, leaning on the bar.
"Abby... I..." He tried to explain.
"Don't bother." She said coldly. She turned around and walked away.
"Abby, wait!" He grabbed her shoulder. She spun around and slapped him across his face. He fell to the floor with a thump.
"Don't ever touch me!" She yelled at him and walked away.
Allen rushed to him and helped him to his feet. "How much did you drink?" He asked with a worried expression on his face.
"I don't know," Andrew replied, "I stopped counting after two."
"Two shots?" Allen asked.
"Two bottles." Andrew said,
"Oh shit!" Allen exclaimed, "Your mom's going to kill me."
"Don't worry," Andrew said, a drunken smile on his face, "I'll talk to her." He passed out.
Allen picked him up by his shoulders and dragged him to the elevator.
Andrew woke up to the sensation of cold water hitting his face. He shook his head, trying to get a grip on reality. He looked around and saw he was in a shower. With great effort he stood up and turned the water off.
"Were the hell am I?" He thought, "Of course! That blond in the bar... What was her name? Plenty? Chesty? What ever."
He stumbled out of the bathroom.
"Hey baby! I knew you wouldn't leave me there!" He shouted, "You up for some fun?"
"Hardly." He heard Allen's cold voice.
"What? Who? Where? Andrew was startled.
"Well, you couldn't really go back to your room with Abby, could you?" Allen asked, an accusing tone in his voice.
"Yeah, I guess you're ri..." He couldn't finish the sentence because suddenly he felt a terrible need to throw up, and had to rush back to the toilet.
A few minutes later, Allen heard a knock on the door. He got up and opened it. It was Abby, dressed in nothing more than a towel.
"I'm sorry," She said, "But the shower in my room isn't working, could I use yours?"
"Ehm...I don't think that would be a good idea." He said.
"Why?" She asked, "Is it because of Andrew?"
"Well," He answered, "Yes."
"Don't worry!" She said with a smile, and took the towel off, throwing it at Allen, not even trying to hide her nudity. She walked towards the bathroom.
"Abby, wait!" Allen yelled, "Don't go in there!"
But it was too late. She had already opened the door and was on her way in. She froze in her place when she noticed Andrew kneeling on the floor throwing up into the toilet.
"I'm sorry, Abby," Allen said, "I tried to tell you."
Without a word she turned around and walked out the room, not even bothering to take the towel from the stunned Allen.
"I would go after her if I where you." Allen advised Andrew.
The morning came and Allen woke up, a feeling that his mission's end is near filling his heart. Apparently his two passengers disagreed. They were both grumpy and did their best to avoid each other during breakfast and the entire time they loaded their bags back into the car. After half an hour of arguing Abby excused herself to the lady's room to powder her nose. Allen approached Andrew.
"Didn't go to well last night, eh?" He asked.
"Can't you see?" Andrew wasn't in a mood for talking.
"Don't worry," Allen said, "I've seen your folks go through worse."
"Yeah, and look were it brought them!" Andrew blurted out.
"Yeah," Allen said of a moment of thought, "sorry about that."
"It's O.K." Andrew said with a tone of malcontent in his voice.
"Before she comes back," Allen said, "You'd better cover up that hickey."
"What?" Andrew asked, surprised at the change of subject.
"Have you taken a good look at your neck since last night?" Allen asked him.
"Nope." Andrew said, not sure where Allen was getting at.
"You've got a mark on your neck the size of a corporation." Allen explained.
"Oh, shit!" Andrew said, "No wonder she won't talk to me."
"Here, put this on." Allen took off his scarf and handed it to Andrew.
Half a day later they got to the place that Andrew used to call home. Hesitantly, they climbed up the stairs to the seventh floor where Mad lived. Allen took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
"Who is it?" Came the voice from inside.
"The Easter Bunny, who the fuck do you think it is?" Allen said angrily.
"Billy," She was uncertain, "That you?"
"No, it's fucking Santa Clause!" He said. "Of course it's me!"
The door opened slowly. She was wearing an old pair of jeans and a cut-off T-shirt. The short sleeves of the T-shirt didn't hide her tattoo. A skull with two intertwining roses growing out of the eye holes. One blood red and the other pitch black. Although neither of them knew it, the two roses stood for her two biggest loves - CJ McQuin and Billy Oblivion.
"Andrew!" She fell on her son's shoulders and hugged him, "You're back!"
"Yeah," He half smiled, "Allen here knocked some sense into me."
"Billy!" She kissed him soundly, "Thank you!"
"Ehhm!" Andrew coughed, "Mom, this is Abby. She is..."
"Was." Abby intervened.
"...My girlfriend." He finished the sentence. They exchanged formal greetings.
"Are you staying here overnight?" Mad asked Allen.
"No, I don't think so." He said, not sure what she was offering "I had better get on my way."
"Be logical," Andrew stepped in for his mother, "You've been driving for half a day!"
"And besides," Abby added, "It'll be dark soon."
"For old times sake?" Mad asked.
"O.K." He said, defeated.
"Could I take a shower before dinner?" Allen asked Mad, "I need it."
"Sure," She said, "Just don't expect it to be like the last shower you had in my house."
He didn't even dignify that remark with an answer. He walked into the shower and turned on the cold water. The freezing water woke him up, sharpened his senses and restored his grip on reality, making the past go away. It restored his grip on Allen Sky, forcing Billy Oblivion back to the corners of Allen's mind. He closed his eyes, allowing the water to wash away the sweat and the dirt of the ride.
He heard the door open. He tensed up, his old killer instinct taking over again. He froze there, listening to the footsteps coming nearer. When he was sure whoever it was in arm's reach, his right arm shot out the shower's curtain, like a snake ready to bite, and caught the figure around the neck. His left hand quickly came from the other side, catching the upper part of the head, threatening to snap the neck like a dry twig. He stuck his head out, to see who it was. It was Abby. She was completely naked.
"What the fuck?" He inquired.
"I didn't know you were here..." She started explaining.
"Bullshit!" He demanded.
"What is it?" She was almost crying, "Don't' you find me attractive?"
"Hell, yes," He said, moving back behind the curtain, "But I'm not the one you want. Believe me."
"But you're Billy Oblivion," She argued, "You're a living legend."
"You wouldn't say that if you really knew me." He said, employing a slight touch of Billy's power, "Besides, the man you really want is Andrew."
"No way!" She said, "You saw what a jerk he is!"
"Yes." He agreed, "But you still love him. I can see it in your eyes." He grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist. "Shower's all yours." He said and walked out.
"Andrew!" He knocked on Andrew's door. "There's a minor emergency in the bathroom that demands your immediate attention."
They sat around the table, eating dinner. Or, at least some of them were. Andrew and Abby seemed somewhat preoccupied with each other's anatomy and didn't really pay much attention to eating.
"So, what have you been doing since the last time I saw you?" Mad asked Allen, trying to start up a conversation.
"Not much." He answered, trying as hard as he could to stop this conversation before it even started.
"Are you still shacking up with that Elven slut?" Mad asked with a wink.
"That 'Elven slut', as you call her," Allen chose his words very carefully, "And I have been living together for the past five years."
"Shit!" Mad didn't mean to put her foot in it, "I'm sorry."
"No, you aren't." Allen said, a cold tone creeping into his voice.
Luckily, Andrew's portable computer beeped.
"Oh," Andrew said, relieved at the opportunity to get away from that argument, "That's for me."
He went over to the corner where he had left the computer, opened it, and decked in.
"No! No way!" He said to someone on the other end, "I told you the deal is off!"
"I think I'd better step in." Allen said. He picked up an extra VR helmet and decked in too. He could feel his old virtual form materializing around him. The good old Skull of Oblivion, but with one important difference. The Skull of Oblivion had two open eye-sockets, with fire constantly flowing out of them. This time, two metallic, lifeless, cybernetic eyes filled the eye sockets. Andrew was there, symbolized by a big silver wolf, and so was his Johnson, symbolized by a cyberneticaly-enhanced skull with wires coming out of it all over.
"This run has just been terminated." Allen said.
"Wrong." The Johnson said, "I have a signed contract with him."
"A piece of paper is worth nothing." Allen answered him, "Now, be gone or face the wrath of Oblivion."
"Billy," The Johnson sounded surprised, "Is that you?"
"Was." Allen corrected him, "Who the frag are you?"
"It's me," The Johnson answered, "CJ"
"Long time on see." Allen said in a voice completely empty of all emotion, "What are you doing here?"
"I've come to take my son back." C.J answered.
"You omitted any right over him when you walked away two years ago." Allen said, still with no emotion.
"Billy," CJ said, "This isn't your fight. Step aside and go back home. I don't want you to get hurt."
"It's been my fight ever since your wife dragged me into it." Allen answered, "And I don't think that I will be the one that gets hurt."
"I'll give you one last chance." C.J said, "Will you step aside?"
"Goodbye," Allen sighed, "Old friend." He decked out, taking Andrew with him.
"Who was it?" Mad asked, a concerned tone in her voice.
"Never mind." Allen said, "But I think I fucked up. Do you any weapons in the house?"
"No," Mad said, alarmed, "I stopped running when Andrew was born."
"Oh, shit." Allen said.
"What the hell do you mean by 'oh shit'?" Mad asked.
"If I 'm not to far off target," Allen said, "Any minute now we're about to be attacked by some of Militech's finest SWAT agents."
"Oh, Shit." She responded.
"Anyone else have any weapons?" He asked.
"I've still got that Predator." Andrew said.
"One pepper spray." Abby said.
"Only these." Mad said as ten razor sharp fangs popped out her fingertips.
"Mad," Allen said, "Do you remember that run when we infiltrated Militech headquarters?"
"Sure." She said shortly, "Do you want to use the same strategy?"
"No." He said, "I have a feeling that they studied that strategy, so..."
"...If we would do exactly the opposite..." Mad continued.
"...We'll get them right where they don't expect it." Allen finished off.
The SWAT team ran up the stairs and took positions around Mad's door. They were the five best assassins Militech had ever trained. They had more than two thousand confirmed kills during the corp-wars. They had never failed a mission. On the other hand, they had never encountered Billy Oblivion.
Their leader raised his right hand and pointed at two of the team members, indicating that they should go in first. He counted with his fingers. "Two. One. Go!"
The first one kicked the door open and pointed his gun in, making sure no one was ambushing them behind the door. The second one carefully proceeded inside.
"All clear!" He signaled. The others proceeded inside too.
"Nottingham, Robins, check the kitchen. Marks, check the bathroom. Florence, check the bedroom" Their leader ordered.
Nottingham and Robins entered the kitchen and looked around. They saw nobody. However, the dishes on the table still had hot pieces of pizza on them, indicating that someone had been there recently.
"Hungry?" Nottingham asked, amused.
"Maybe later. First lets finish 'cleaning'." Robins answered.
"Check the closet." Nottingham said, all trace of amusement disappeared from his voice, "I'll check the pantry."
"O.K." Robins agreed.
He opened the closet slowly. He was shocked to find a woman sitting inside it.
"Hello," Mad said. He opened his mouth to scream a warning to his partner. Five stainless steel fangs tore his vocal chords out. He fell to the floor, bleeding from his throat. Mad picked up his gun. It was a professional's weapon, no doubt about that. Uzi mark III, equipped with a state of the art silencer and an infrared telescopic sight. She walked behind Nottingham.
"Excuse me?" She said. He turned around surprised by the unfamiliar voice. Two precise shots hit him in the head. He was dead before he even hit the ground.
Marks kicked the bathroom door open and stepped in. He took a look around and saw no one. The door slammed shut behind him. He swung around only to get a face full of pepper spray. Andrew kicked his hand and sent the weapon flying. Andrew dove to the floor and retrieved the gun.
"Didn't your mama ever teach you to knock before you go into a bathroom?" He asked. A single shot sent Robins to meet any god he might have believed in.
Florence walked into the bedroom, scanning it. To his surprise he found the lights dim. To his greater surprise he found a young woman laying naked on the bed, hardly covered by the pink sheet.
"Do you feel like joining me?" She asked in a seductive voice. "Might as well have some fun before I kill her", he thought as he lowered his gun and started unbuttoning his belt. Her hand went under the sheet, drawing a small Predator pistol. His hand went down to retrieve his own weapon. As an act of desperation, Abby emptied the entire cartridge into him, hitting his in the chest and the stomach. Needless to say he died.
After fifteen minutes, their leader started to get pretty uneasy. "Where the hell can they be?" He thought aloud.
"They can't hear you." Came a mocking voice from all around him.
"Who is that?" He shouted turning around, looking for an opponent.
"You came all the way up here to find me, and now you don't recognize me?" The voice inquired.
"What?" He began to loose his self-control, "Where are you?"
"I am here." The voice said as a sharp pain ran through his back. "Or here." He folded in half from a hard blow to the stomach. "Or maybe here." Something hit the side of his head.
"Come out and face me like a man, Oblivion!" He gritted his teeth together.
A man draped in gray materialized before him, his hand extended sideways to show he was unarmed.
"I am not afraid to face you on equal terms. Are you?"
"Only a fool renounces an advantage." He said, tightening his grip on his shotgun.
"It's a thin line that separates a fool from a hero." Allen answered.
The assassin raised his gun and fired. Allen stepped left and forward, easily avoiding the shot. The assassin fired again. This time Allen sideswiped right and forward, again easily avoiding the shot.
The assassin raised his gun to fire for the third time. A quick roundhouse kick from Allen knocked the gun out of his hand. Allen continued the movement, sending a spinning heel kick right to the assassin's face. He fell down like a ton of bricks, blood flowing out of the side of his mouth.
"Do you yield?" Allen asked.
"Never." The assassin answered and stumbled to his feet.
"Have your way." Allen said in a tired voice.
The assassin sent a hard punch Allen's way. He easily ducked, kicked the assassin in his ribs, and moved away. The assassin tried a kick of his own, but that didn't work either. Allen caught it, and with a vicious short kick broke the assassin's other knee. Again he stepped away. The assassin lent on a chair and painfully pulled himself to a standing position. Allen tried to kick his other knee, but the assassin quickly moved his leg back, trying to avoid contact. That was a bad decision. Allen spun around in mid air, hitting the back of the assassin's head with a spinning kick. He didn't get up again.
"The last of the cockroaches has been stomped on, you can come out now!" Allen's shout echoed through the apartment.
One by one, they all came to the living room, to see how Allen's confrontation with the assassins' leader went.
"Ouch," Andrew commented, "That'll sure leave a mark."
On the floor, the assassin's cyberware started to kick into action. Sub-dermal pumps located all over his body recognized the fact that he was unconscious, and flooded his body with adrenaline and painkillers. Slowly he opened his eyes. An almost unnoticeable flexing of the muscles of his right arm triggered a concealed mechanism with slid a little pistol into his palm. Gritting his teach against the pain, he slightly raised his hand and pointed it at Allen's general direction. He squeezed the trigger.
"Look out!" Mad shouted, shoving Allen out of the way. The bullet hit her in the chest tore her left lung and then came out her back.
"Die, motherfragger!" Andrew shot three precise shots, hitting the assassin in his gun hand, his stomach and finally in his head.
Allen fell to his knees, broken. "It's all my fault."
"No!" Abby said, "You saved us. If it weren't for your strategy, they would've killed us all."
"My pretentious refusal to kill did this to Mad, and endangered us all." He answered, still on the floor.
"No!" It was Andrew's turn to contradict him. "I don't know anyone else who can stick to his path like you. I admire you."
"When people you love start dying because of your ideology," He got up and said in a determined tone, "It's time to change it."
Andrew and Abby stared at him, somewhat amazed, somewhat frightened. If he still had eyes, they would have been as blank and emotionless as the metallic eyes he really had.
"Abby, my backpack is in the other room. Go get the first-aid kit and the leather jacket from it. Andrew, guard the door."
He went over to the phone, picked it up and dialed a number. After a short conversation, he put it down again. Abby came back into the room, handed him the jacket and started attending to Mad's wound. She was alive, but only barely.
"You two stay here 'till your uncle arrives. He'll take care of you." Allen said as put on the jacket.
"And where are you going?" Andrew asked.
"I," he picked up the shotgun and cocked it, "Am going to harvest a harvest of Oblivion from anything that has even a remote connection to your father."
In the following two weeks, ten research facilities, labs and factories owned by Militech where attacked. They all had some connection to the cybernetics research done by Dr CJ McQuin. In all of them the entire staff was injured severely, but no one was killed. In all the crime scenes the only evidence found was a phrase written on the wall in blood: "Oblivion is a flower that blooms on graves".
He had hit his old friend where it hurt most - in his research. If there was one thing CJ was proud about it was about his creations. He had hit ten facilities, and frankly, he was running out of places to hit. And all that time, his own personal demon was whispering in his ear: "Come on, kill him... I can already feel the taste of his blood on my lips... you know you want it too..."
It had become exceedingly hard to ignore his pleas. He couldn't wait for CJ to reveal is hideout much longer.
Then on a cold and stormy night, when he was planning his eleventh attack, his pocket secretary beeped. He switched it on and waited for the person on the other side to start a conversation. It was on voice-only mode.
"Billy, is that you?" The voice asked. It was a metallic and inhuman voice, but for some reason, it sounded extremely familiar to Allen.
"This is Oblivion." He answered.
"All of these attacks of yours are really childish, you know?" The voice was not amused, "We need to meet. Come to the Militech headquarters on Main Street. Say you need to see Dr. McQuin. The password is Grey Race. The guard will let you in."
He hung up.
It was a boring night shift for the guard at Militech headquarters. He had been outside, next to the door for almost five hours, and nothing had happened. Not even people walking in and out. And to make things even worse, it was raining. That was all about to change.
Suddenly, he saw a pair of headlights in front of him, and they where closing in fast. He waved his hands, signaling the car to slow down. The driver ignored him, and drove right through the glass door.
The car's door slowly opened and a tall figure stepped out. The guard drew his gun and pointed it at the figure.
"This is private property," His voice was trembling, "You can't just come driving in here."
The figure started walking towards him.
"Don't come any closer or I'll shoot!" No he was really petrified.
The figure walked another two steps. He raised his gun to the level of the figure chest.
"Stop right there!" He was almost shaking.
The figure seemed a bit amused by his threat. It raised its hand and knocked the gun right out of his hand. The gun flew threw the shattered door and lay on the wet road a couple of hundred meters away.
The figure's other hand clamped his throat and picked him up with one hand. The figure shoved him into the wall. For the first time he got a good look at its face. Its skin was white, almost too pale to be real. The mouth was contorted in a horrid half-smile. And the eyes. He would always remember these eyes in his worst nightmares. Two metal objects, clean of all emotion staring right into him, as if they where looking into his soul. He could see his reflection in those eyes. He could see his fear in those eyes. And, worse of all, he was sure he could see his death in those eyes.
The figure opened its mouth revealing to long fangs, definitely not human. And then it howled. The sound was terrible, like the sound of a thousand tortured souls crying at the gates of hell, begging for a way out, but knowing that there was no such thing. Actually, it was only one of those souls.
Then, the figure spoke.
"I have an appointment with Dr. McQuin." The figure uttered the name with a tone of detest.
"Yes sir." The guard was struggling not to faint.
"You will take me to him." The figure continued, increasing the pressure in the guard's neck.
"Yes sir." The guard had a hard time breathing.
The figure released the guard's neck, leaving five bleeding claw marks.
"Follow me please." The guard led the figure to the most secure lab in he building, thanking all the gods he had ever heard of that he was still alive.
"He is in here." The guard motioned towards a heavy steal door and then turned around and ran like he had never run before.
Allen gathered his will and focused it at the door. "Break" He commands. The door shattered into thousands of sharp metal shrapnels. He picked one up and looked at it, amused. "They just don't make doors like they used to." He thought.
He cleared his mind from such thoughts and focused on the mission at hand. He took a deep breath and walked in. The room was sterile white and silent as a grave.
Suddenly, a sound caught his attention. Hands clapping to his right. He span around, ready to face any threat. It was his old friend CJ "Nice entrance." He said.
But he wasn't the CJ that Allen remembered. Black cybernetic parts had replaced most of his body, and all sorts of cables and wires connected him to the big computer next to the wall. There they where, the to old friends, two of the most infamous shadowrunners of all times, none of them quite human anymore, and they just stood there and stared at each other.
"You almost killed the one woman you ever loved, just to beat me in a stupid power struggle." Allen said.
"That was a mistake," CJ said, no remorse creeping into his voice, "But I'm trying to serve a higher cause."
"What cause?" Allen's voice sounded like a lash of Satan's whip as he tortured the souls of those unfortunate enough to be sent to his realm.
"The Four Horsemen can live once more!" CJ almost shouted.
"The Four Horsemen are dead!" Allen answered.
"We can revive them!" CJ did not give up. "My son, his girlfriend and the rest of his gang. They could be the new Horsemen! But they lack the experience to be good runners. They need a strong leader. Would you join me?"
"The Horsemen are dead." Allen said in an ice-cold voice.
"You and I can bring them back!" CJ was getting frustrated. "Just like in the good old days."
"Those days are over." Allen said, "I am walking out. Don't ever contact me again."
A small gun popped out of one of CJ's many implants.
"You understand, I can't let you leave." CJ said.
"I am going," Allen answered him, "You do what ever you think is necessary."
He turned around and slowly started walking away from the last friend he had. A single gunshot echoed through the room. Out of instinct, he dropped to his knees and span around, throwing the metal shrapnel at the direction of the shot. CJ looked at him, amazed, as his blood slowly dripped out of the wound in his neck, together with his life.
"Good bye, old friend." Billy took his jacket off and covered CJ's body. He had just killed the last friend he had in the world. Slowly, he walked away, forever doomed to face the consequences of his actions alone.
But then, aren't we all?
The door slowly opened.
"Who is that?" Came a woman's voice from inside.
"It's me." He answered.
"Allen?" She asked.
"Yes." He answered, "It's me."
And for the first time in a long time, he actually believed it. She wasn't sure that she did. She looked up at him. She saw a merciless killer. She saw a man that had just killed his last friend. She saw a broken man that had done something that he would forever regret. She saw a man that was whole once again. She saw the man she loved. Silently, they fell into a deep kiss.
"Finally," he thought, "I am happy."
"If I could only stay like this forever."