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Title: Stardust and Shrapnel

Chapter: 1/?

Rating: T (Though possibly some Mature bits later?)

Character(s): Nostalgia Chick, Nella, Maven, Nostalgia Critic (This chapter)

Pairing(s): None

Warnings: Cyberpunk AU. Some mild language/violence.  References/Mention to torture.

Summary: What began as a quest to find a missing friend may soon place the lives of The Nostalgia Critic, Spoony, Linkara and many others  they'll encounter during their journey into the heart of a much deeper conspiracy.

Disclaimer: All characters/borrowed concepts are property of their respective owners. Therefore I do not claim to own them, nor do I mean any disrespect toward either characters and concepts, or their owners.

Author's Notes: Finally got around to beginning to post the multichapter Cyberpunk!AU fic that I had been meaning to write. Sorry, this took so long to actually post! I'm hoping to try to keep myself ahead on actually having chapters started.

-----

(2525-Chicago, United American/Canadian States (UACS)
   The heart of the city beat below her feet as she stood atop one of the many towering buildings that blotted the skyline of the city like a jagged scar along an otherwise smooth surface. Garish neon glimmered below her, as if trying to entice her into daring to venture from her shadowy path. But, she knew that down there was no safer than where she was.

    Like many of the people below, The Nostalgia Chick knew that that neon rainbow was nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing, so to speak. It’s was a pretty face trying to cover up the ugly that crawled within the recesses like roaches in trash.

    Speaking of roaches, she couldn’t help but compare the shuffling crowds spilling out into the streets to bugs.  Of course, given how back in the late 2050s, Chicago had been completely quarantined for two years due to an infestation of sentient bug spirits, this analogy seemed strangely appropriate.

    She shook her head as a faint twinge, like a mild electric shock, tingled in the back of her brain. It reminded her that she had little time for meaningless musings or pointless analogies.  She had a mission, it reminded her; a mission that was not quite finished with yet.

    In a way, she silently feared and hated the moments between missions. Those hours, sometimes spanning days at a time, felt like small eternities spent in hell, haunted by nightmares.

    She could hear her screams echoing inside her skull, ringing with a deafening loudness, but ultimately drowned out over the horrible sounds of metal, circuitry and, something else—she could never quite figure out what it was, but is sounded vaguely like a cross between static and the shriek of a ghastly animal.

    She could feel pain, burning like a thousand white-hot needles shooting through her body at once. And yet, that feeling was not the one that terrified her. After all, it wasn’t like getting cybernetic enhancements didn’t hurt, through perhaps not quite on that level.   No, this feeling had been cold and tingling as it wormed its way through her skull, spreading and slithering into every crevice of her brain.

    And then suddenly, everything was different. These memories felt as if they belonged to someone else. It couldn’t have been her, she thought, she had always existed like this.

    This was who she always was.
  A shrill beeping echoed in her ears, shaking her from her thoughts as she tapped the side of her ear.  Suddenly, an image of two women flickered to life inside the corner of her goggles. To Chick, these two women were as different as night and day. One was a human woman with a round, friendly face famed by many dark brown curls.  The other, by contrast was tall, blonde and had sharp, dramatic features that reminded one of a tragic character from a classic opera.

    But, unlike the other two, this woman was neither human nor elf, but rather was a vampire. But, whether she had been born a vampire—having descended from those who had been originally infected with the virus centuries ago, or having become infected through an attack by another vampire, was not something that Chick was certain of.

    “Where are you?” the round faced woman asked, her tone impatient, but more out of mild concern than anything else, “We were supposed to meet back at Headquarters at least twenty minutes ago."

    "Sorry, Nella" Chick replied, "But, I ran into some complications with my planned escape route, so I had to find another one."

    "Well," Nella said, "As long as you're alright. But still, I can't figure out why exactly they thought that we needed to directly retrieve the copy of that data? And for that matter, why we needed to be called in for clean up. I mean, they could have just called in Chick and not even bothered waking me and Maven up at all."

    "Well obviously," the vampire woman, Maven as they called her, spoke, "it must have been important and highly classified enough that even the mere possibility that some else knowing the contents of the file posed a threat."

    "Besides," Chick added, "We were given our orders, and you and I both know what would happen if we disobeyed."

    The three women gave an involuntary shudder as the unpleasant thought crossed their mind. While they themselves had been fortunate to have avoided such punishments, but they had heard the rumors, spoken in silent subdued whispers, of what happened to those who were insubordinate. 

    They knew these rumors weren't just entirely gossip either. They had seen subtle change in their comrades who came out from behind the locked metal doors in the facility's basement. They had seen the cold steel glinting in their eyes, the unnervingly cool aloofness in their posture and manners; things that had had not been quite as prominent before.

    Subconsciously, Chick's hand moved toward the two small datadrives that she wore on a chain around her neck. She knew that it would have probably been safer for her to have stored the data somewhere in one of the data storage implants in her brain, but there was something comforting to her about being able to hold a more physical copy.

    Besides, she noted, for some reason the guys at headquarters were adamant about her or the others not possibly so much as glimpsing even a byte of it. And while she told herself that she wasn't one to disobey direct orders, she couldn't help but feel that perhaps that somewhere within the zeroes and ones that made up the files code, there lied some sort of answer to every question she ever wondered about herself and the others, every truth that she feared had been kept hidden from them for years.

    But, she wondered, if that were the case, could she dare to open what might potentially be something of her own personal Pandora's Box? Could she stand to face what secrets lay hidden with?

    Behind her, she heard a loud noise, jerking her awake from her reverie. Quickly, she looked behind her to see that several people in black and silver bodysuits and lightweight armor were chasing her.  Of course they were, she reminded herself, they had been after her for the past few blocks, and she and the others had fought a few like them during their escape.  They were probably either other runners in the group that her former target had been a part of, or had been hired for security.

    As if guided by some psychic instinct, she quickly dodged their shots, firing a few of her own in return, aiming carefully to disarm rather than kill. A stray bullet zipped past her, tearing through the chain of her necklace as it grazed her. Hurriedly, she scrambled to catch the chain and the two datadrives before either could possibly hit the ground.

    She breathed a silent word of thanks within her curse of pain as she noticed that the bullet had only managed to leave a painful, but survivable gash, that probably would have been much worse had it not been for the tough fabric of her outfit.


    Quickly she glanced down at the alleyway below her and the crowded main street that it connected with. She knew that there were probably a few more of their group on the street below, and the crowd would probably slow her down a little bit. But, on the other hand, she could probably put more distance between herself and them much more easily in this crowd.

    With catlike grace, she jumped from the roof, skillfully twisting her body in such way to ease her descent. A coil-like device sprang from her boots as her feet touched the ground, softening her landing before retreating back into their compartment.

    However, she took no time to check to see if any of them were daring enough to jump after her, as she took off into the crowd.

    It was weird, she would reflect much later, just how many small things had built up to lead to that moment, and how easily everything could have changed had even one of those things had not had happened.

    She didn't know that at that exact moment, on the same street, a letter was being delivered to a man. She didn't know that, somewhere in the depths of her static-y dreams and doubted memories, she knew  this man, with his round blue eyes and his balding black hair hidden beneath a worn black cap, and that he knew her.

    Had either the letter been delivered a second later, or if she had passed by the bar a second earlier, she never would have bumped into him as he was leaving the bar.

    Had that one bullet not broken the chain of her necklace, one of the datadrives wouldn't have accidentally slipped out of her pocket as she bumped into the man, almost knocking him back inside.

    "Hey," he shouted after her as she vanished into the crowd, "Watch where you're going!"

    But, it was a fruitless effort, as that she was already too far away for her to have heard him over the crowd. However, he looked down as his foot bumped against the small datadrive laying on the sidewalk. Curiously, he picked it up, examining it for a few moments before slipping it into his pants pocket.

    It probably wasn't anything that was too important, he thought.  If she was a shadowrunner like himself, and a fellow decker no less,  she probably would have already at least created an extra copy of it.

    He'd probably check it out later, he thought.

    He thought that would have been the end of that, as he continued the trek toward the subway station that would take him toward the part of the city he lived in.

    But, nothing could have been further from the truth; for unknown to him, the seemingly insignificant piece of plastic and metal contained a secret so big that it's previous owner had been ordered to kill just to protect it.

    For him, and many others whose paths he'd cross and whose lives he'd find forever intertwined with his own, this was only a small piece of the beginning of something much greater.
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