The Fearful Symmetry
Warning: questionable moral/ethical choices, violence
Author: Lily Zen
Notes: Loosely set in the Shadowrun world. I'm not super familiar with the rules, so this is more character focused, not quite so game-driven. "Hai" is Japanese for yes, but culturally it is considered impolite to say 'no,' so even if they mean no, oftentimes they will say 'hai.' It all depends on the context. "Moshi moshi" is how the Japanese greet people when they answer the phone. "Ja mata ne" and "ja ne" are both Japanese farewells. 'Ja mata ne' is like saying "see you later," while 'ja ne' is more casual like a simple "see you."
Disclaimer: Shadowrun is not mine. This world and its rules are not my creations. However, the characters are. Don't make me stab you for using them without my permission. The opening poem, The Tyger, is written by William Blake.
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
in the forests of the night,
what immortal hand or eye
could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, and what art
could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
what dread hand and what dread feet?
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears
and water'd heaven with their tears,
did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
in the forests of the night,
what immortal hand or eye
dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
She'd never really stopped to wonder before if she was doing the right thing. That wasn't Kaoru's way. Long ago, she had set a goal for herself, and whispered, "By any means necessary." The goal, however, was a shining light in the distance, and it seemed that for every step she took towards it another obstacle blocked her path. Honor spurred her onwards, driving her when it seemed that the darkness might swallow her up. She wasn't swimming in the filth of the world, she was submerged in it; it was pouring out of her eyes and ears, her nose and mouth.
As she stared at the child's terrified eyes, Kaoru finally had to stop and wonder if maybe the end did not justify the means after all.
The door slid open with a quiet whoosh as she keyed in the code, and Kaoru slithered into her tiny apartment. Her window viewer greeted her, displaying a chipper view of false blue sky and sunshine. Outside there was no sunshine, not so that you'd notice it anyway. It was hidden away behind the smog in the sky, and the perpetual blanket of clouds smothering Seattle. It was a beautiful city once upon a time, Kaoru had to guess. She recalled seeing old texts as a child that painted such a picture. Now in 2074 there wasn't much that Kaoru would call charming about the metropolis. To see anything but gargantuan buildings and gray one had to drive for miles upon miles…and then drive some more.
The apartment door locked itself behind her and automatically turned its alarm back on. This wasn't a bolt hole or some safe house, and she didn't do undercover runs like Rue so there was no need for a false residence. No, this apartment belonged to her, and no one had ever seen the inside of it but Kaoru.
She knew where Rue lived. In fact, Kaoru made it her business to know where all of her contacts lived. Maybe that was paranoia, but she preferred to think of it as caution. If somebody tried to burn her, she'd turn around and hit them where it hurt the worst. Kaoru was picky about who she associated with, and didn't take betrayal lightly. She'd made that mistake once. Never again.
In the bedroom she stripped off her jacket, the midnight blue garment with the princess seams that she liked to think made her look a little bit taller, discreetly armored to prevent an untimely demise from a stray bullet, and started the arduous task of stripping off weapons. She wasn't a gunslinger, not really—Kaoru preferred her weapons long, sharp, and pointy—but she wasn't stupid. A cropped riding jacket wasn't really going to conceal two giant fucking katanas strapped to her back, and when she was walking around in the daytime it was better not to attract attention. The last thing she needed was Lonestar on her tail wondering why cute little 'Naoko Ito' was walking around armed to the teeth on her shopping venture. So she dropped her Hammerli on the bed, the extra clip following, and then started with the knives.
After locking everything up, Kaoru pulled off her riding boots. Her mother would have been appalled, but she'd given up her traditional mannerisms a long time ago. The Japanese were regular features on that side of the globe those days, but still she didn't want people thinking she was with them. Kaoru's mom may have been Japanese through and through, but her father was a foreigner, a white man…and they had never let Kaoru forget it, sneering out the word 'gaijin' in the halls of the prep school that they'd had to bribe the official to get into in the first place.
Her real name was Kaoru Hayes, but she'd gone by her mother's maiden name, Kato, since she was twelve—though for a brief time she'd been Kaoru Yee. It was safer to go by her mother's surname. It was less recognizable than a Japanese woman with an American last name. It wouldn't take much to put two and two together after that.
At seventeen she'd come to North America by way of the Filipino elves. They'd owed her mother a favor and more than paid their debt. Kaoru hadn't contacted them in ten years, and they were probably glad to be done with the association.
The West had been good to her. She'd refined her skills, and made a decent living shadowrunning, and step by step she grew closer to the inevitable end.
Kaoru hit play on her vidphone, which was kindly informing her that she had several messages.
"Hoi, Kaoru!" Rue's cheerful voice rang out. There was a shuffle and then her head popped up over the edge of the desk, her artfully arranged up-do of dyed, cherry red curls showing up a couple inches before she did. In all the brilliant curls there were strands of iridescent implants, as glaringly false as her hair color. If it weren't for her addiction to hair dye, Rue had the kind of beauty that not only attracted people, but made her likable. Her face was round with large, green bedroom eyes, and a cherubic smile to match. A thin, white scar bisected one eyebrow, marring the soft perfection of her Renaissance beauty, like Psyche had taken a stroll amongst the modern world. It somehow made her look more real. "You will not believe the job I have for you! Only thing is it's definitely a team sort of deal. None of your lone wolf I-am-woman-hear-me-roar bullshit, you got me? Call me for deets. I need to hear from you tomorrow at the latest though. This thing has a timeline, and if you're not going to jump on it then I've got to slip it to somebody else."
She hit the call back, and was pleased when Rue picked up on the second ring saying, "Hoi there, Callahan Shipping. How can I help you?" without even looking at the screen. Then her green eyes came up, narrowing as Kaoru's lips twitched in the barest hint of a laugh. "Shut up," Rue stated.
"I haven't said a word," Kaoru drawled.
"I can see what you're thinking. You forget I've worked with you for years now, Nanashi."
Rolling her eyes, Kaoru muttered as she always did, "Please don't call me that."
"It is rather silly, isn't it?" Rue replied lightly, a hint of airy superiority in her tone.
"Yes," Kaoru gritted her teeth. "The American penchant for street names is quite annoying. I'm not a tights-wearing superhero; I do not need a vigilante nickname."
"Apparently you do," Rue teased her in reference to the fact that Kaoru had been named by a Fixer after pulling off a few jobs anonymously. He'd said, 'they have to call you something.' To which Kaoru replied, 'no, they don't.' That was before she'd met Rue, who had proved to be more reliable and have better connections than the previous Fixer.
Growing annoyed, Kaoru slid into a chair at the breakfast counter, and growled, "So what's this job?"
"Oh, yes," Rue murmured as she was reminding of the task at hand, "The job is, well, it's a little squicky, not gonna lie. However, the client is high-ranking yakuza, which I know you will be all over like white on rice."
Kaoru made an impatient wheeling gesture with her finger, urging the redhead to get on with it.
"Okay, okay," she muttered, "Apparently his wife took off on him, took their kids and everything. Boom, outta there. He wants them back. Only he can't get them back because they're holed up here in Shiawase housing under the protection of her family."
Truthfully, Kaoru hated yakuza. They were pests in her mind, a plague of locusts upon the world. The only reason she took jobs from them was because it ingratiated them to her, growing her contacts within the organization more and more. Eventually she'd make her way to the top, the untouchable pinnacle of the organization, and then…
Shaking herself out of those thoughts lest they begin to show on her face, Kaoru focused on the job itself. "So basically I have to break into Shiawase."
"Yep," Rue agreed. She had a pen in her hand, something ridiculous and girly with a long purple feather on top, and was subconsciously running it over her cheek.
Kaoru thought it was just too quintessentially Rue, like an awkward fairytale. "That… You're right, that is not a solo job." She tried to get her mind to refocus.
A plan was already coming together in her mind. Kaoru smiled. If she could get him on board with it, they'd be golden. "Give me 'til tomorrow," she told Rue, "I've got to see if I can put together a team."
With a stern look in her seaglass eyes, Rue said, "You have until noon. If I don't hear from you then, I'm taking it to somebody else."
Kaoru nodded and made a small, subconscious bow. "Noon. Ja mata ne."
The transmission was ended, and Kaoru spent a moment tapping her nails on the counter top. She was loathe to do this, to place the next call, but it had to done. If she showed up on his doorstep she'd probably get her head shot off. That wasn't exactly ideal. Five minutes later she'd finally overcome her reluctance, and subconsciously straightened herself before the receiver was picked up.
The elf who picked up the vidphone looked stern and implacable, but there was a devious twinkle in his eye that belied the firm set of his mouth. There was no room for argument when all he said was, "Come over."
Shit, Kaoru thought.
Kaoru struggled out of bed from the python-like hold of his arms and legs, a feeling of disappointed resignation taking over the post-coital glow that lingered in her limbs.
It wasn't that Aiden was a bad lover, far from it actually. It was just annoying how he was capable of giving her a certain look, and the next thing she knew she was on her back (or knees, or the kitchen counter, or in the shower, or contorted into some other odd position or location) moaning like a bitch in heat. That, and the smug look on his face afterwards like he'd just managed to get one up on her was infuriating.
She sneered at the laconic elf as he stretched out in bed, displaying his lanky muscles. Aiden was pale like herself, but with a shock of white-blond hair that he had a tendency to do in lazy spikes, leaving his pointed ears bare. His eyes were a vibrant blue that in the right lighting looked almost violet. He was incredibly handsome, which probably explained her unfortunate tendency of falling into bed with him.
Pulling on her jeans with stiff, economic movements, Kaoru got down to business. "So there's a run I want to pull. It's for a yakuza guy, so you know the pay is good."
Aiden was all about the nuyen. Not that she minded. People like that were rather predictable.
"Mm?" Aiden made a small questioning noise, turning over on the mattress. The sheet over his hips slipped precariously lower, revealing the beginning of his slightly darker pubic hair.
She jerked her eyes away, focusing on a graffiti poster he had tacked up in one corner of the room. Taking his wordless inquiry as permission to continue, Kaoru elaborated. "We'd have to break into Shiawase company housing. It's a retrieval. A woman and two children."
"So," the mage drawled, "You'd need me for distraction and possible manipulation, and my hacker friend for the systems, a get-away driver, and another enforcer. I know a street sam who might be down for earning some nuyen. Hm, so remind me again why I need you?"
"Because it's my job," Kaoru stated coldly as she snapped her bra back in place, "And if you try to cut me out, I will hurt you very badly. I may even cut off your favorite body part." Tugging her t-shirt over her head, she quirked an eyebrow at the elf.
With a cocky grin, Aiden replied, "Your favorite part too."
"Infinitely better than your vocal chords," she agreed breezily, shrugging back into her dark blue jacket.
With a sigh, the tall man slipped off of the bed and started walking toward his vidphone. "You really need to get a runner team of your own, Kaoru, so you quit borrowing mine."
Rolling her eyes, she shot back, "Yes, but then I won't have occasion enough to sex you up."
At that the elven mage paused, a slight pout appearing in his plump lower lip. "True. I would miss your—"At her glare and the low, rumbling growl she released into the air, Aiden changed what he was going to say, finishing with, "—charms." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, leaving no doubt as to what he was referring.
She wasn't as annoyed as she was pretending to be, and that annoyed her even more. "What are you doing?" Kaoru hissed when he began bringing up his call list.
"Making phone calls," he replied in his best 'duh' tone.
"At least put some pants on!" she nearly shouted.
"Oh, like they don't already know we're fucking," Aiden grumbled, but he walked back to the bed and found his crumpled jeans on the floor. He even put on a shirt without having to be told.