Story by eniteris.
It rains, down in the city.
Lovegood watches through the grimy window, tracing the rivulets of water with his eyes, refracting the world beyond. The neon sign was upside down, but the red and blue was comforting, familiar. Just like the smell of curry.
Paule's Café. He spends most of his days here now, watching the daily casts. Az was a good kid, and, Lovegood had to admit, a better mechanic. Sure, Lovegood knew his way around bioroids like he knew the streets of the city, but Az was better at everything else. And after being blacklisted by HB, "everything else" was what had to pay the bills.
A bell rings, and the door to the cafe opens, letting in the cold and damp. Lovegood looks up at the man who just entered, out of place with the other clientele of the establishment, dressed in a dark pink suit jacket, high blue collar protecting his neck from the rain. His eyebrows were sculpted, as if he had something to prove, and his goatee...
"Excuse me, is this seat taken?"
Lovegood starts, and realizes that he had been staring, and the man's dark eyes stared back at him.
"N-no, not at all, feel free to take a seat." He was glad that his goggles hid his gaze.
The man shakes his suit jacket before sitting down, droplets of water falling hitting the tiled floor below. A quick look around shows many other empty tables. Why did he choose to sit here? Why is he here?
He pulls up the menu, skimming it quickly. "What do you recommend?" His voice is deep and smooth.
"Well, er, the curry is always good."
"Two of those then." he says to the waiter, who just arrived at their table. "One for myself and one for..." He gestures.
"Lovegood. Doctor Lovegood."
The man smiles. "And one for the good doctor. Make it quick now, chop chop."
The waiter scurries off, and the man turns to face Lovegood again, smiling. "My treat. Lewi Guilherme, at your service."
Lovegood takes the proffered hand. "Thank you."
"So Doctor," Lewi asks, leaning back slightly in his chair, "Doctor of what?"
"Mechanical engineering, mostly. Levy University, top of class, did a stint as a technician at HB, but they blacklisted me after they found out I was making unauthorized modifications to their bioroids. So now I'm down here, scraping by. What are you doing here?"
"Me? I heard this was a promising spot to find talented folk. Haven't been down here myself before and..." he looks around at the other patrons, eyes settling on a man in a street jacket and a glowing dragon tattoo "...honestly, I don't find it very welcoming."
"Someone like you, probably doesn't need to deal with people like us."
"No, not that at all. It just...this reminds me too much of home."
The curry arrives and is exquisite as usual, and even Lewi remarks on its complex flavors. He tells stories of his childhood, growing up on the streets of Jinja, the many meals he had in places exactly like these. He worked for his position, out on the streets, building up reputation without sacrificing his own integrity. And he made it, in his own way, with a reach spanning from the Docklands to the Underway, a constant thorn in the Corp's side.
"So with all that," Lovegood asks, "why are you here? I mean at Paule's. You said you were looking for talent?"
"Looking? I found it." Lewi looks Lovegood straight in the eye, and Lovegood averts his gaze. Lewi smiles for a moment longer, tapping his chin. "You said you worked for HB? Yes, I think that'll do."
"It's been a while, I've been out of work for--"
Lewi waves off his protests. "You're in the system, which is exactly what we need. Doesn't matter what your status, we can change that. But it's getting a bit late for business. Let me give you a ride home. We’ll talk business in the morning."
He pays for the bill with a press of a finger, and pushes himself off the table. Lovegood follows him outside.
The rain had stopped an hour ago, but that doesn’t stop the suited man from opening an umbrella as Lewi passes underneath. As the man opens the door to a parked sports hopper for Lewi, Lovegood spots the outline of a hidden gun beneath his clothes. Lovegood pauses for a moment, but Lewi shuffles to the far side of the hopper and gestures for Lovegood to get in.
As the hopper rises, Lovegood leans into leather seats, astonished by the luxuriant comfort. “So, where do I drop you off?” Lewi asks.
“Hmm? Oh...um, do you know Az’s workshop?”
“Az...Az...Az..Mac’s son, right? Boomerang kid? Fun things, I’ve used them from time to time.”
“Yeah, him. I’m crashing at his place after I lost my apartment at Levy. Just a couple blocks from here.”
“Yeah, I know where it is.” Lewi makes a gesture, and the hopper begins to move, leaving the cafe behind.
The city at night is beautiful, especially from the air. The hopper moves slowly enough that Lovegood can roll down a window, wind whipping through his hair. Still wet from the rain, the streets reflect the lights of the city, painting its arteries in greens and reds. And the smell, second only to motor oil.
Lewi shouts over the noise. “You haven’t been up here much, have you?”
“Not since HB cut me out. I enjoyed the short hops. Haven’t really had the opportunity to go sightseeing since then.”
He makes a gesture, and the hopper starts to slow, banking slightly as it begins to make slow spirals around the massive arcologies. Lovegood watches the city unfold beneath him.
And Lewi watches his happiness.
The hopper scatters dust and debris as it touches down in the alley behind the Back.
“So, I’ll pick you up first thing tomorrow? We have a deadline to meet.” Lewi steps out of the hopper and walks around the back to open the door on Lovegood’s side.
Lovegood begins to step out of the hopper, but suddenly Lewi grabs his arm. “Watch your step.”
He guides Lovegood around a puddle and onto dry ground before releasing his grip.
“Bring a couple Boomerangs with you tomorrow. Tell Az to take it from my account. Oh, and one last thing.” Lewi reaches into his jacket and pulls out a small, black file. “I think this will be safer with you than with me. Keep it with you at all times, and don’t open it.”
Lovegood turns it around in his hands, a small envelope, the size of a postcard. He feels something hard and stiff, the thickness of one or two circuit boards, before sticking it into his jacket. “What is it?”
Stepping back into the hopper, Lewi takes his time before replying. “It’s what we all need. Time.”
The door closes, and the hopper rises into the air, leaving Lovegood alone in the dark alley.
“Hey, Doc, you’re back late.”
Az sits in a beanbag chair, fiddling with a screwdriver with one hand and an antique game controller in the other. Baklan lies in the other, apparently sleeping, but as Lovegood walks in, one of his eyes opens before closing again. A second controller lies on the ground, plugged into the console, and the virt shows a pause screen of some retro game from decades past.
“Yeah. Got a job, I think. Lewi Guilherme. Has an account with you?”
He doesn’t look up. “One of the bigger accounts, yeah, but not a regular customer. Oh, someone came poking around today asking about missing bioroids, you don’t have anything to do with that, do you?”
“Not for the past few months. Lewi wants a couple Boomers for tomorrow, says to take it from his account.”
“That’s going to cost him. I have three ready for another customer, but...there we go. She’s not picking them up until next week. They’re on my workbench.” Az flicks his hand and the screwdriver retracts into his arm, and he waves it in Lovegood’s direction. “Thanks for this, by the way. Great idea, as long as I’m fiddling with these relics.”
“Not a problem. Thanks for letting me modify your old prototypes. And letting me stay.”
Az pushes a button on the controller, and the game springs back to life. Baklan slowly rises up into a half-sitting posture before picking up the second controller and joining in.
“Wanna to join? There should be another controller somewhere around here…”
“No thanks. Have an early start tomorrow morning. I think. You two have fun. Night.”
Baklan grunts in acknowledgement, and Az replies with a “Night, Doc.” as Lovegood slips away to the back.
Lovegood’s half of the workshop is partitioned off from the rest of the Back by a wall of shelves, filled with haphazardly arranged boxes of loose hardware and scrap. Behind the shelf was an operating table that doubled as his bed alongside his workbench and equipment. It wasn’t much, but there wasn’t enough space to fit everything in. It wasn’t very comfortable, but he was used to it.
Pulling a blanket out of one of the equipment boxes, Lovegood lay down and tried to sleep.
Morning came quickly.
Lovegood had slept fitfully, mind worrying about the day ahead. He changed his clothes, brushed his hair, and slipped the boomerangs from Az’s bench into his jacket pocket before putting it on. His hand brushed against the package Lewi had trusted to him the night before. It was safer with him, Lewi said. Did that mean that it wasn’t safe with Lewi? Was Lewi in danger?
His heart pounds as he steps out of the Back and into the front room. Baklan lies across both beanbag chairs, dead asleep, with Az nowhere to be seen. Probably still not up yet. He writes a quick note on the room’s digital message board, and heads out into the light.
The hopper sits right outside, as it had the night before, with Lewi standing there, safe, breaking into a smile as Lovegood walks out.
“Morning sunshine. Though, unfortunately, we have some work to get to. How do you take your coffee?” He holds the door open as Lovegood gets into the hopper, and Lewi slips in, closing the door behind him.
“Two sugars, please.” The hopper takes off into the air.
“And a black for me.” A panel unfolds to reveal two cups of freshly brewed coffee. Lewi picks one up and passes it to Lovegood, who gingerly sips at it to avoid burning himself.
“Here, take a look at this.” Lewi says. He presses a button on his side of the hopper and a virt pops into existence, showing a news segment from Mars. “Tell me what you think.”
The two of them watch the cast over their coffee. Beth Kilrain-Chang on the front lines of the red planet, detailing a turn in the ties of the battle of the clans against the Corporations. The Corps were starting to deploy new weapons that could pierce the clans’ strongholds, last seen from leaked documents from Haas-Bioroid’s experimental weapons testing division. Combined with a recent crop loss from a novel gengineered virus, and the increased media attention by NBN, it seems like a coordinated push by the Big Four on wiping out the clans once and for all.
The newscast ends with blurry footage of a new form of warroid, blades instead of arms, stalking across the barren landscape.
“Looks like business as usual on Mars.” Lovegood said, as the newscast ended. “What does this have to do with us?”
Lewi put down his empty coffee cup. “It’s not the content. It’s the message. We have an opportunity here. Bring the people together. Drum up outrage. Warroids are illegal, both here and on Mars. We can press that.”
“Why would we want to do that?”
“It slows them down. Forces them to deal with the PR issue. They get distracted. Buys us time.”
“For the big score.”
Despite landing tens of stories up from the Underway, Lovegood feels that the elevator trip takes an agonizingly long time. His hands begin to sweat. He had never imagined ever going to such a fancy hotel in person, and the sensies hadn't done the experience justice. The lacquered wood, the crystal glass, the smell...the elevator was large enough for a dozen people, but it was just the two of them, and still it felt too small.
He stuck his hands in his jacket. "I think reception was staring at me."
Lewi looks over, glancing up and down. "Don't worry about it. Most of the people here are Corp suits, but they also pay for discretion in addition to luxury. I'll be getting you a suit anyways, so you can fit right in."
The elevator chimes softly, and the elevator doors slide open to reveal the penthouse suite.
Lovegood steps out, and gasps. One of the four walls had been completely replaced with a single pane of glass, overlooking the entire city. Hoppers buzzed between the buildings like bees, the early morning light glinting off their surfaces like showers of sparks.
"I saw you on the hop yesterday, and I thought you'd like a room with a view. It’s no Earthrise Hotel, but..."
"It's beautiful." Lovegood whispers.
Lewi looks at Lovegood, smiling. "I know."
The moment is cut short by the sound of a door slamming. The two snap their heads quickly to look at the intruder. She had been dressed in a well-fitting business suit, but was obviously uncomfortable in it; the suit jacket hung over her shoulders, and the top few buttons of her dress shirt were unbuttoned. Her facial tattoo shined in the morning light, framing her face with a grinning skull.
“You’re finally back.” she said, throwing herself on a chaise lounge. “Took you long enough.”
Lewi cleared his throat before speaking. “This is my associate Miss Bones, professional scrubber. Bones, this is the good doctor.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” she replies, lazily raising a hand without an effort to leave the sofa.
“The Doctor here is our ticket into the arcology. Blacklisted credentials, but that won’t be a problem, will it?”
“Easier done than said.” Bones lazily turned her hands in circles. “Though this would have been easier with falsified credentials.”
“Yes, but our ‘Thomas Haas’ has found himself on the lam recently, and this is an opportunity we cannot afford to pass up.”
“Excuse me.” Lovegood raises his voice. “Can someone explain what exactly is the plan?”
Bones looked up at Lewi. “You haven’t clued him in?”
Lewi shrugged uncomfortably. “I haven’t really had the time.”
“Alright then, listen up.” Miss Bones rolls her eyes, then sits upright in the chair. “Ever since HB opened up their fabrication facility on Luna, they’ve been moving at breakneck speeds, pushing their projects out the door in nearly half the time they did before. Usually we like to steal their data from the deployment servers, but they barely take the time to deploy anymore. So we need new ideas to slow them down.”
“That’s why the newscast is such opportune timing.” Lewi flicks a hand, and a virt of the newscast appears, circling slowly in the air. “If we can get enough public attention around this, we can force them to divert their attention away. Slowing down their deployment pipeline.”
“And their projects build up in HQ.” Lovegood replies, nodding.
Lewi points to the doctor and nods. “Exactly. After two, maybe three, weeks of delayed deployment, their HQ will be filled with projects behind schedule, with nowhere to deploy them.”
“And that’s where you come in.” Bones looks directly at Lovegood. “After the headquarters are full to bursting, we need you to do the legwork. You just need to waltz in with your credentials, steal the data, and walk right out the front door. Easy pickings.”
“Waltz in?” Lovegood glances between Lewi and Bones. “As in, in person?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Lewi places a hand on Lovegood’s shoulder and gives it a light squeeze. “We’ll make sure it’s safe.”
“That’s my job.” Bones says, pointing to herself. “Prepwork, recon. Getting you off the blacklist. Installing some tapwrms, sifting through the trash, and keeping them on the back foot through all this. Honestly, you’re not paying me enough for this.”
Lewi squeezes Lovegood’s shoulder again. “And I’m in charge of organizing the populist rallies, drumming up outrage. The suits will be so distracted and focused on me that they won’t even notice when you slip out with all of their secrets.”
Lovegood walks to a sofa chair opposite Bones and drops into it. “That’s all I have to do? Just walk into one of the most heavily defended buildings in the entire city, steal their most closely guarded secrets, and just walk out again?”
Bones looks thoughtfully for a moment. “If you put it that way, yes.”
Lovegood looks up at Lewi, meeting his eyes. “I don’t think I can do this.”
Lewi walks over to the sofa and puts a hand on one of the arms before squatting down, levelling his eyes with Lovegood. “Look, Lovegood. I won’t force you to do this. You can walk away from this at any time. But I didn’t choose you just because you had HB credentials. Do you know how many technicians HB has screwed over? No, I didn’t choose you because of that, I chose you because I can see you. The want to fight back against an unjust system. The drive to subvert the corporations, to turn their own tools against them. I know it seems scary, and I won’t lie, it’s no sure gamble. But I know you can do this. Trust me that I know you can do it. Trust yourself.”
Lovegood glances over to Bones, who had taken the opportunity to drape herself over the sofa, before looking back to Lewi.
“Okay. I trust you.”
“Well,” Bones says, suddenly standing upright, “that’s it then. Time’s a-wasting. Here.” she reaches into her pocket and dumps a pair of prepaid voicePADs onto the table. “In case you need to get in touch. I’m going to get to work, and I expect the two of you to, as well.” She gives Lewi a meaningful look. Spinning around, she raises a hand in farewell as she walks to the elevator and disappears.
“Where did you even find her?” Lovegood asks quizzically.
“Recommended by a friend.” Lewi looks at the closed elevator doors. “Not really sure if she was the right call, really. But apparently she gets the job done. Anyways, to business. Take off your jacket, I need your measurements for your suit.”
The next two weeks pass in a blur. Despite vehement protests, Lovegood was given the keys to the penthouse suite, and he watched in luxuriant comfort as the plan began to come together. Lewi came to visit often but never stayed for long, keeping the doctor apprised of the situation, but he could follow Lewi’s work from the newscasts: the rallies held outside of the HB’s main arcology, demanding a stop to deploying weapons on civilian populations, and the guarantee that one's work would not be used for weapons of war. Lewi had negotiated the second point with various labor rights groups, and they threw their weight behind the protests themselves.
Miss Bones had sent Lovegood the blueprints of the arcology early on, lightly annotated with all the major target servers, with a line highlighting the route that Lovegood was meant to take. Updates from Bones were short and to the point, the occasional disrupted research division or installed backdoor, but the blueprint came with no message attached, the annotations of security to avoid and labs to stay away from had a clear implication: if you mess this up, you’re paying the price.
And so Lovegood had spent most of his time memorizing the blueprints from top to bottom, all the backup plans and security vulnerabilities. He had learned to walk and talk like a suit, practicing on the concierge of the hotel. Seeing the staff treat him as an executive, not as just some undercity scavenger, built his confidence, until he could join in the pratter with the other suits down at the hotel bar.
It is late one night when Lewi comes calling. He enters the penthouse, dripping wet from the storm, and drops into the sofa before Lovegood can ask what’s wrong.
“We need more time.” Lewi buries his head in his hands before continuing. “The rallies are petering out. The media’s moved on, and despite all this HB’s still progressing with their projects.”
“Then let’s do it.” Lovegood replies, taking a seat next to Lewi. “We can do it tomorrow. We’re ready.”
“We’re not ready. Not in this state. We’ve barely started the recon into the building’s netsec, let alone figured out a way around their ice. I should have been able to buy us more time.”
“Bones has gotten PAD taps installed. We have the goods, made the connections. You’ve done enough. I’m ready to do it now.” Lovegood reaches out and touches Lewi’s cheek, turning his face to face his. “Let me take it from here.”
Tears well up in Lewi’s eyes. “I don’t want to lose you.”
Lovegood cradles Lewi’s head in his arms. “Shhhh. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
“Are you ready?”
The moonlight filters through the tinted windows, the two of them in the back of the hopper. They had landed just outside the entrance to the arcology, and the remnants of the day’s protest were beginning to disperse. Hired goons stood outside the security checkpoint, shifting warily from foot to foot.
Lovegood slipped an earpiece into his left ear. “Good as gold. With you in my ear, I can’t go wrong.”
Lewi manages a weak smile, then grabs Lovegood’s hand in both of his and squeezes. “Come back safe.”
Lovegood opens the door with his other hand. “Don’t worry, I will.”
Lewi lets go, and Lovegook grabs his briefcase and walks out into the neon lights of the city. He shrugs in his suit, adjusting the fit, and begins to walk purposefully towards the entrance.
Lewi’s voice comes in sharp and clear through the earpiece. “Bones is running interference, but the security down here is off the grid, so you’ll have to find your own way through.”
Lovegood waves at the prisec as he approaches, and they give him a stiff nod in return.
“How’s it going?” Lovegood asks, slinging his briefcase onto the conveyor belt into the security scanner. “Hope the protests haven’t been too bad for you.”
A guard shrugs. “I’ve seen worse. It’s been pretty light the past few days. Learned to respect authority. Badge, please.”
Lovegood reaches into his jacket, and his hand brushes against the boomerang as he pulls out his badge. The guard scans the badge, then takes a step forward and begins waving a wand over Lovegood’s body. “I’ll be glad when we don’t have to go through all this every day.”
“Yeah, me too.” The guard completes his scan and takes a step back. “All clear. Have a good evening.”
Lovegood steps through the gate and picks up his briefcase before continuing to the atrium. He surreptitiously taps his earpiece. “I’m in.”
“Good. The upper floors are shielded against RF, so I’m patching through their network, which should work as long as they’re not looking out for it. Labs on floors 47, 49 and 53 seem to be empty at the moment, but you should take the elevator up to 45 and then the stairs. 46 seems busy.”
“Got it.” Lovegood presses the call button for the elevator, and as he waits, another suit walks up to wait alongside him.
“Nice goggles.” he says, and the elevator chimes as the doors slide open. “Don’t think I’ve seen you around though. Would have remembered the goggles.”
The two step into the elevator. The other man presses 46, and Lovegood wipes his hand against his jacket before pressing 45. The elevator rises.
“Doctor Lovegood, senior technician.” Lovegood recited. “I’ve only been transferred from SanSan last week.”
“Yeah, they’re pulling in everyone for the project. Calling us in for the midnight shift too. And the goddamn protests, man, like we’re not doing crunch already. You get them in SanSan too, right? Those damn university students with too much time on their hands? Yeah, well, they don’t usually come all the way down here, but the past few weeks, man, that was something. Couldn’t come in on some days it was so bad. Got chewed out for that, too. It’s cute though, what they’re protesting. As if that’s the worst thing to come out of this building.”
The man laughs a loud, grating laugh, and Lovegood forces out a small chuckle.
“Sorry to interrupt your new friend,” Lewi says, “but they’ve discovered that their scanning wand was fried. Not raising any alarms yet, but thought you should know.”
The elevator chimes, and the doors slide open on 45.
“...doesn’t make any sense, but if that’s when they want to test, then everyone has to come. Anyways,” he looks quizzically at Lovegood as he begins to leave, “you’re coming up, right?”
“Yeah, left something in my office. I’ll be up soon.” Lovegood forces a smile. “Don’t let them start without me.”
The suit gives a thumbs up, and the elevator doors close and continue their ascent. “Emergency stairs to your left. Bones cut the alarms, so it should be safe.”
Lovegood pushes the door open and ascends, leaving the remains of the fried boomerang in the empty stairwell.
The first lab had no one home, save for the racks of bioroid shells, silent in hibernation. Lovegood downloaded the data and wiped the drives. It doesn’t matter what the project was, it wasn’t going to be completed.
The second lab was locked, but Lewi had given him a lunar passkey, which unlocked the door with ease. Lovegood skimmed the files as they were downloaded. Some testing project outsourced from Cyberdex. Another project, deleted.
Lewi contacts him halfway up the stairs.
“Bad news. Someone from 46 went down, and seems to be searching the offices, though it’ll take a few minutes before they sound the alarm.”
“That’s fine.” Lovegood pulls open a door. “That should be enough time for--”
He stares into a blinding light. The camera drone stares back.
Lovegood reaches into his suit to pull out his second boomerang, but the drone immediately starts backing away. He throws the boomerang as hard as he can, but even with the ejectors it falls short, clattering loudly on the tile floor.
“Shit, everything’s lighting up.” He could hear the panic in Lewi’s voice. “They know you’re here, open the file and get o--”
Lewi cuts out.
“Lewi, are you there?” Lovegood yells. The drone stares from a distance, unblinking. He hears footsteps on the stairs. He retreats deeper into the lab, a maze of servers and half-completed bioroids.
Lewi’s voice cuts in and out. “Can--much longer--get you--the file open the file.”
Ducking under a desk, Lovegood reaches into his jacket and pulls out the small envelope Lewi had handed him a month prior. He breaks the seal and pulls it out; a small printed circuit board, the size of a postcard, with a matte black finish. Printed across the center were small glossy black letters, barely visible even under the harsh fluorescent lights.
BREAK IN CASE OF EMERGENCY.
Lovegood snaps the board in two.
The lights go out, plunging the lab into darkness.
The camera drone falls out of the air, crashing onto the floor. At the same time he hears a commotion on the stairs, a scream of pain, and much swearing. He hears the door open, and the sounds of a discussion, before the door closes again.
“Lewi?” Lovegood whispers, “Lewi, are you there?”
Silence. He stands up quietly, and switches his goggles to night vision. Nothing. Goggles were dead, leaving the only illumination from the moonlight streaming in from the window-wall at the far side of the lab.
No city lights. Only moonlight. Not only was the power in the building dead, but the entire city was dark.
Breathing heavily, Lovegood looks around. There’s no one else on the floor, and whoever was in the stairwell had decided not to come in. But the elevator looked dead as well, leaving that staircase the only way in or out.
He walks over to the elevator, and tries to pry it open. No luck. And even if he managed to get the doors open, they would be expecting him. He was trapped.
“Lewi? Now would be a good time for help.”
There were noises on the stairs, and Lovegood went back to the desk, keeping an eye on the stairwell. There was a short discussion, a command, then the door swings open, and something slips inside, before the lab returns to silence.
He only catches the silhouette of the creature for a moment before the door slammed shut, but the silhouette was enough: the vaguely human-like form, the scything arms, the single, luminous eye.
Lovegood ducks back under the desk. He can’t see the warroid, but he can hear it, the slow taps of its footfalls and faint whine of its servos. He holds still.
Lewi’s voice bursts in his ear, deafening in the silence. “I’m inbound. Thirty seconds. Get ready.”
Lovegood barely has time to register the words before he hears a rapid tapping and rising whine. He dives out of the way just as the warroid barrels through the desk, slicing it clean in two, before it disappears behind a rack of servers.
He freezes and holds his breath. The footfalls of the warroid resume their slow, regular tapping.
Getting to his feet as quietly as possible, he backs away from the servers. Get ready? For what? How?
Suddenly, a light appears above one of the servers, and Lovegood ducks down. The light sweeps from side to side.
A faint light appears in the window, quickly growing larger, and the warroid swings its eye at the intruder. A hopper on approach, and Lovegood could make out Lewi, hanging out of an open door, beckoning him to come.
He didn’t think. He breaksinto a mad dash towards the window, and feels the light on his back as the warroid turns on him. He runs, and hears the crash as the warroid jumps down from the server racks, and the rapid footfalls and a rising whine as it begins its pursuit.
The hopper pulls up next to the window, and Lovegood barely registers the glint of silver in Lewi’s hand before its muzzle flashes. The first three bullets only crack the window, hiding Lewi behind a spiderweb of cracks, but then the window shatters, drowning the room in noise.
Lovegood keeps running as fast as he can, towards the oncoming bullets. He can no longer hear the sound of the pursuing warroid, or the sound of the bullets bouncing off its armor.
The hopper is close enough for him to jump into, but Lewi catches him in both arms, and the two roll into the back seat. Lewi slams his hand twice into the back of the driver’s seat and yells something and the hopper peels away. The warroid’s single eye tracks them as the hopper pulls away.
He’s crying behind his goggles, and Lewi is talking, but he can’t hear anything from the ringing in his ears. Lewi pulls him into a hug, and Lovegood finally works out what Lewi has been repeating.
“Don’t you ever leave me again.”
Lovegood puts his hands on Lewi’s shoulders and pulls out of the hug, to look him in the eye.
“I’ll never leave you.”
They embrace again, and the moonlight shines through the open door as the hopper continues to fly over the silent city.
This deck doesn't work. But if it worked, it would work something like this:
What could possibly go wrong?
Big thanks to the sillies in GLC #general who brainstormed this idea with me, and mega huge thanks to eniteris for creating actual art out of our evening musings.
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