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A Different Choice (Cyberpunk 2077)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by cliffc999, Dec 16, 2020.

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  1. cliffc999

    cliffc999 Well worn.

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    "Jack in your personal and make us rich!" T-Bug said into V's headset, as she stood remote overwatch through the Net on their heist. V jacked in as her and her partner Jackie leaned eagerly over the exposed safe in the hotel's penthouse suite, it's impossibly valuable treasure only one hacked lock away from being in their eager hands.

    V and Jackie were both members of a class of people that had once been called 'edgerunners' and were now so ubiquitous a part of Night City's atmosphere that they didn't even have a distinctive name any longer. Street mercenaries, freelance criminals for hire, ambitious and hungry young guns who were the deniable, expendable assets that every one of the million players, corporations, gangs, and random lunatics in Night City hired to rob, hack, kidnap, con, or kill all the other players of the game in an endless cycle. They were one of the newer odd couples out on the streets, having only been a working partnership for six months even though they'd been acquainted for years, and they were hardly the oddest Night City had ever seen. Although even in Night City the combination of a beautiful redheaded woman who was a disgraced ex-corpo counter-intelligence agent and a wisecracking Hispanic bodybuilder and ex-ganger from the back alleys of Heywood wasn't one you saw every week.

    But while they'd been making enough to eat regularly doing the various back-alley jobs and outbursts of random violence that paid, they were hardly the sort of top-tier street legend that got to ride in AI-chauffered armored limos, rent luxury suites at the most ultra-luxury corporate hotel in the city, or wear tailored synthsilk suits that cost enough to feed a Nomad family for a year. Except on this job they had done all that, having been picked by one of Night City's top-end fixers out of a crowd of thousands of other ambitious young mercs just like them for a shot at the brass ring. An ultra high-end heist versus an ultra high-end target, the sort of dream job that only came along once in a lifetime if ever. A job made possible only by a confluence of extremely rare opportunities all happening together, and one that would pay money beyond the dreams of avarice if it went off- and get them both splattered all over the pavement if it didn't.

    The target was Yorinobu Arasaka, only son and heir of the 'corporate Emperor' Saburo Arasaka. Who was owner and chairman of the board of Arasaka Corporation, the world's largest security corporation, banking firm, manufacturing firm, and several other "largests" all simultaneously. Saburo Arasaka was not only the most wealthy and powerful man in the world but also the oldest, kept alive only by being able to afford the sort of medical care that was measured in hospitals.

    And Yorinobu had lived his entire life as a frustrated princeling wholly eclipsed under the shadow of an apparently deathless tyrant. A man with an endless supply of literally anything that money could buy- and absolutely nothing else, such as freedom. Or respect. And Yorinobu chafed at it massively... or at least that was V's guesstimate as to why Yorinobu had risked stealing Arasaka's greatest treasure, some type of ultra-hush ultra-expensive experimental biochip, code-named "Relic", and was trying to sell it to rival megacorporation Netwatch.

    Which betrayal had created the window of opportunity that would allow two gun-toting gonks like V and Jackie any chance to steal the biochip at all, as normally it would be invincibly ensconced inside Arasaka's greatest fortress-arcology inside at least a dozen concentric cordons of the most heavily-armed and well-trained corporate troops on the market. As is, since Yorinobu's personal security was normally provided by Arasaka and Arasaka was exactly who he was trying to hide his activities from he'd staged a rebellious little rich-boy fit of going on a junket in Night City, one that 'coincidentally' let him dismiss most if not all of his personal security detachment.

    And while obviously the 'Arasaka Prince' couldn't be allowed to go around totally unescorted, the in-house security systems and guards on Konpeki Plaza - the Arasaka-owned ultraluxury corporate hotel chain - were deemed adequate to keep Yorinobu safe in the penthouse suite for a brief visit, and unlike his own personal detachment the hotel's security people- while still extremely formidable and deadly to those operating on Jackie and V's plane of existence- were nothing like Saburo's own hand-picked household unit. And more importantly from V's point of view, were much more easily intimidated by Yorinobu into allowing him a generous amount of privacy and personal space.

    Thus, the window of opportunity. For the several days that Yorinobu Arasaka would be staying here, the biochip would be vulnerable as never before. To reach it one only had to get inside Konpeki Plaza without tripping an alarm, then neutralize the sysop on duty on the hotel's automated security systems, hack into his terminal, and deactivate all of the automated security turrets and intrustion alarms guarding Yorinobu's penthouse suite. With the live guards all ordered off of the penthouse floor and the penthouse suite having no audio-visual pickups for Yorinobu's privacy, with control of the hotel's security automation you could literally just walk into Yorinobu's room, help yourself to his personal belongings, and then walk right out. So while there had been a few tense moments here and there as V and Jackie had checked into the hotel dressed in high-end disguises and fake IDs as corporate sales reps here for a meet-and-greet with a senior executive from the local Arasaka branch office, and then having to find a way to work an experimental military stealth spider-drone through the air vents into the duty netrunner's office to KO him and splice in the hack, it had all gone off without a hitch.

    And so, having spent hours on the setup, it was time for the actual heist. Walk in, pop the safe, grab the package, and take the elevator down to the parking garage and out. V and Jackie could smell the taste of all those eurodollars - 'eddies', in street slang - that was just ten minutes away...

    Which is, of course, the traditional moment at which all epic heists turn to shit.

    The sudden whine of turbines made Jackie turn to the window, V's gaze following behind him. Clearly displayed against the night sky was a formidable-looking black hover-transport, a top-of-the-line model armored executive transport. Flanking it were a pair of vector-thrust assault drones, nonsentient-AI-controlled mini-gunships. Drifting lazily yet arrogantly past the window, they were clearly headed for the rooftop landing pad... the one approximately fifteen feet above V and Jackie's heads. And V and Jackie were currently in the process of uploading a demon to the safe's electronic lock, and the progress bar of the software transfer seemed to crawl in slow motion as they both gritted their teeth and waited for the box to open so they could grab the target and go-

    "We got winged visitors! Bug...?" Jackie said curtly into his comm.

    "Dunno who." T-Bug, the team's hacker and the one who was currently using the Militech drone to remote-splice into all of the hotel's security systems, replied electroncially in their ears. "But staff's abuzz, all two hundred on their feet. Can't keep still."

    Oh crap. V's brain spun. Someone important is coming. Yorinobu? No, that's a long-distance AV transport, not a local airlimo-

    "Shit, can't say I like this." Jackie muttered. "How much longer, T?"

    "Shit, Yorinobu's penthouse bound!" T-Bug non-replied.

    Fuck! V raged inwardly, before some deep instinct within her mind began to stir. Wait, this timing is not a coincidence-

    "Fuck him! Open the safe!" Jackie raged, pounding the top of the offending object with the flat of his palm.

    So close... V fretted. Just give us a couple more minutes, please...

    "Almost got it... done!" T-Bug said, and the safe opened.

    "Preem!" Jackie said relievedly, as he hauled up the bulky briefcase with a visible effort. A specialized life-support capsule, the sealed case was necessary to transport the experimental biochip - its ultra-sensitive cryo-components would rapidly decay if exposed to room-temperature air. "Lemme look to this, huh?"

    "Relic intact?" T-Bug asked.

    "'Bioshard integrity 100%'" Jackie read off the case's status display. "Guessin' that's a yes."

    "Good!" V exhaled desperately. "Let's go!" as she and Jackie turned to sprint for the exit.

    "Fuck, too late! Yorinobu's about to walk in- find cover!" T-Bug called, just as V and Jackie almost reached the penthouse floor's elevator lobby.

    "Where?" Jackie called desperately.

    "Fat pillar! Try that!" T-Bug said, referring to the elongated elliptical support pillar that semi-divided the large open-air living room.

    A hollow pillar? V wondered, as Jackie burst out with a "You fuckin' kidding?"

    "No! Inside it, now!" T-Bug countered, as her and Jackie reached the back of the pillar and opened the semi-concealed door a few seconds before Yorinobu and his companion entered the room. As the pillar had apparently been designed as a hiding place for voyeurs, the exterior mirrored finish was revealed to be one-way mirrors as V and Jackie squeezed inside, to be greeted by a panoramic view of the living room they'd just left.

    "We're in." V muttered into her comm.

    "Which don't solve our problem, T." Jackie followed urgently.

    "I fuckin' know our problem's still there! Lemme think for a second, OK?" T-Bug replied curtly.

    The hotel AI automatically switched on the lights immediately before the room door opened, and Yorinobu Arasaka stormed angrily back into his suite. Striding calmly behind him was the towering metal form of a full-conversion cyborg, armored and armed so heavily as to be capable of fighting light armored vehicles on even terms and more than capable of turning both of the intruders into paste with an afterthought.

    Shit! V thought frantically. Had to come in unarmed on this heist to get past the lobby detectors- all we've got between us is Yorinobu's own sidearm I swiped from his beside table- fucking standard pistol rounds won't even scratch a heavy borg like that! If they even think they've got intruders then we are dead, plain and simple!

    "Is that- is that Adam Smasher?" Jackie said tensely as he clutched the life-support briefcase that kept the experimental biochip from self-destructing.

    "Bodyguard?" V's mouth ran away with her. Of course he's a bodyguard! V fumed to herself. What else would Yorinobu keep around a quarter of a metric ton of armor-played psychopath for, to serve canapes? You really sharpened that analytical brain back in Arasaka counter-intel back before you got bounced, didn't you V?

    "Worse." Jackie muttered back, barely disguising the quaver in his own voice. "Night City legend. Bleak motherfuckin' one, too! What's the play?"

    "We wait." V said, fighting for calm. Nowhere to go inside this cubbyhole, only one door out. Until they leave that room again, we got no other option.

    "Are they here yet?" Yorinobu's voice echoed in both their ears, the acoustics of the pillar's secret chamber funnelling the sound of conversation in the suite's living room directly to their ears.

    The rooftop air parade is coming here? Oh fuck me, was he selling the biochip now? As soon as he opens the safe to get it out for his customer and doesn't find it-

    "They approach from the landing pad." the hotel's limited AI responded to Yorinobu's question.

    Something's wrong. V suddenly realized with a chill. Yorinobu would never let the Netwatch fucks he's betraying his father to by selling the chip under the table to be registered in the hotel systems as an appointment, because Arasaka owns this hotel! And you don't arrive to a covert meet in a big-ass executive transport with gunship escort and make the entire hotel staff snap to attention as you arrive-

    "Fuck are they talking about?" Jackie asked angrily.

    "Bug, who we got incoming?" V whispered, hoping that T-Bug's taps into the hotel security feeds would allow her to see the landing pad even if Yorinobu had had all the security sensors in his own penthouse deactivated for the occasion.

    "Nuh-uh. No fucking way. This isn't happening-" T-Bug's voice sounded in both V's and Jackie's comms, tinged with an overtone of panic highly uncharacteristic for the usually emotionless techie.

    And then suddenly it all crystallized in V's brain, as she shook off the fog of her panic and her anticipation and reverted back to thinking like the icy-cold corpo counter-intel agent she'd been earlier this year, until Arasaka had ruthlessly terminated her employment- and came within a hairs-breadth of ruthlessly terminating her- for suspicion of being involved in her old supervisor's plot to assassinate his supervisor to move one rung up the promotion ladder.

    Fair's fair, V's brain drifted for a moment as her thoughts raced so fast that the world felt frozen in motion for a second. I actually was acting as bagman to contract a hit on that exec, even if I was only doing it because fucking Jenkins would have a bullet in my head if I'd balked. That whole situation was damned if I did, damned if I didn't, and damned if there was the slightest thing I could do to change it.

    Just like now.
    V sighed to herself, having gone beyond panic and gone beyond fear to the emptiness of total resignation as the door at the top of the stairwell leading to the rooftop helipad opened and an elderly Japanese man in a tailored ultra-luxury suit whose affected simplicity probably made it more expensive than if it had been studded with gem-quality diamonds entered, trailed by a single bodyguard.

    It's him. V sighed. The one man on Earth who could put a hotel staff that's used to handling high-end corpo execs every day and has had a whole weekend to get used to having even Crown Prince Yorinobu around into a total flop-sweat. And of course he shows up right fucking now. If you wrote this crap for a plot twist in a novel, the readers would throw it against the wall.

    "Saburo Arasaka?" T-Bug finished gasping in shock and recognition.

    Well, Yorinobu, looks like your plan to steal daddy's greatest treasure and hock it to his biggest competitor wasn't such a secret after all. V mused to herself, her thoughs still racing. I wonder if the 'Crown Prince' will get his implants deactivated, his bank account repossessed, and his ass dumped out in the street wearing only the clothes he's standing in all in five minutes flat like I was? Or do they have a special family discount for fuckery in the Arasaka CEO's suite as compared to fuckery among middle-management?

    -wait. Saburo's like 150 years old. Even if the gene therapy and beyond-SOTA ware lets him function like a man half his age, half his age is still fucking geriatric! And he brought only one bodyguard- and a fleshy one, even if he's presumably a top-end Arasaka soldier with suitable 'ware- to confront a corporate traitor who's backed by fucking Adam Smasher? We'd have sent at least two squads of heavy elites to roll on an executive treason case, and we were just a branch office-

    "The 'Emperor'?" Jackie whispered awestruck, having only just begun to caught up to where V's frantically racing brain had already reached half a minute ago. "Yet another asslickin' legend-"

    Dammit! Saburo has to be here because Yorinobu's scam was blown. Which means that as part of spanking his wayward brat he's going to make Yorinobu open the safe and give the stolen cookie jar back to Daddy. Except that the safe is empty because we just emptied it!

    Cool it, V. she reassured herself. The chip's already stolen, remember? You're hijacking it from a thief on his way to meet his fence. So when Saburo has the safe opened and finds no chip, his first assumption will be that Yorinobu's already flogged it to the buyer. Yorinobu's whole 'Where it did go? I left it right there!' routine will be taken as obvious bullshit ass-covering, even if it happens to actually be true this time. So what should happen is Saburo immediately dragging his son off to be questioned - and they aren't going to use enhanced interrogation on Saburo's kid, so it will take forever before they start believing him - and that means we can still follow the plan and make like vapor as soon as they leave-

    I fuckin' hope so, anyway. Not like we've got much of a plan B right now.

    "Shush!" V whispered urgently. "I doubt this cubby's soundproof."

    Saburo and the extremely formidable-looking corporate samurai following him reached the foot of the stairs. The bodyguard started to slowly pace around the perimeter of the room as Saburo stood posturing in front of one ottoman set around the low glass table in the center of the living room, as Yorinobu slouched angrily in the opposite one.

    "I thought I told you not to meddle in my affairs." Yorinobu sulked at his father, the Japanese being auto-translated to English by V's implants.

    Saburo's bodyguard suddenly came into view, standing immediately in front of the outside of the pillar as he intently swept his gaze across every square foot of the wall.

    Shit! He's using his own cyberoptics to sensor-scan for lurkers like us! V thought.

    "Oh fuck-" Jackie whispered.

    "Ssh." V said flatly, clutching Yorinobu's stolen pistol a little more tightly as she debated the merits of trying to drop the one armed threat in the room before he could drop her and then play hostage stand-off with her gun against Saburo or Yorinobu's head, or just eat the first bullet herself to skip out on the whole 'tortured to death' interrogation chamber experience that Arasaka would give any suspected assassin who even remotely got this close to Saburo himself and was then stupid enough to be captured alive-

    "Leave us." Saburo said curtly, just before the bodyguard's scan reached where her and Jackie were standing.

    "Arasaka-sama, I still haven't done a full sweep." he replied, turning to face his boss.

    "This is my son." Saburo said dispassionately.

    "Of course." Saburo's bodyguard replied respectfully. "Should I retrieve what we came here-?"

    "I will handle it." Saburo interrupted him stolidly. "You may go."

    The formidable-looking man bowed deeply to Saburo in reply and left the room without another word. Adam Smasher, who'd spent the entire conversation silently waiting as a shadow in the corner, also followed Saburo's bodyguard out.

    "Whew, close." Jackie whispered.

    "Too close." V agreed. "If he'd sniffed us out-"

    I'd have had to either shoot you and then me, or else play hostage stand-off with the most ruthless corporate security on the planet and then somehow persuade Saburo it was all just a misunderstanding and he shouldn't spend the rest of my not-very-long life hunting me down to the four corners of the Earth- V finished silently to herself. As is, the obstacles between us and the exit are now reduced to two unarmed gonks, one very elderly. Suit Samurai and probably Adam Smasher will almost certainly be waiting just outside the door, though- no, we'll still try plan wait it out.

    "But he didn't. Now cool it." Jackie muttered back.

    The two Arasakas waited silently until they were alone, and then Saburo spoke. "Did you think I wouldn't know it was taken from me?"

    "Actually, I don't think of you at all. Ever." Yorinobu said sulkily, and then continued after drawing a deep breath. "You see, that's your problem. You think the world revolves around you. Arrogant."

    Wait, are you saying that Saburo Arasaka, the wealthiest, most powerful, and most ruthless megacorporate exec in the history of the human race, is arrogant? Holy shit! Somebody call News 54! V thought sarcastically to herself. Yorinobu, literally any other employee of Arasaka would have been shot in the head the instant the retrieval team entered the room for the crap you've pulled, so can you at least pretend like you want to persuade your dad not to have the living shit beaten out of you?

    "Yorinobu." Saburo sighed with toneless disappointment.

    "Why did you come?" Yorinobu asked heatedly. "To humiliate me? To personally see to it that your son knows his place?"

    "The nail that protrudes from the wall gets hammered." Saburo said, an obvious quotation even if V didn't recognize the source.

    Pretty sure your son wanted more emotional acknowledgement from you than quoting a fortune cookie, Saburo. V sighed inwardly. Fortune cookies aren't even Japanese! Or authentic Chinese, for that matter.

    "Couldn't think of anything original to say?!?" Yorinobu shouted frustratedly, before getting up and starting to pace restlessly around the room. Saburo remained standing where he'd originally planted his feet, by all appearances an emotionless old statue.

    Okay, this is them just rehashing a family argument they've only had about three million times before. V guessed . So why do I suddenly feel so-?

    "And do you think it 'original' to sell our greatest achievement to Westerners - our future to these... barbarians?" Saburo asked coldly.

    Nice to see that all those rumors that Saburo really is as much of a flaming Old Japanese racist as he is an Old Japanese traditionalist are true, V sighed. And after 150 years I guess the habits of thought get really inflexible-

    "Our future? Ours?!?" Yorinobu laughed mockingly as he continued to pace, and rant, and punctuate himself by accusingly pointing at his father. "You are mistaken. You've only ever cared about yourself... and your sick schemes."

    People who live in glass penthouses shouldn't throw stones, Yorinobu. V sighed. Because I'm sure you were a total humanitarian, or that when Saburo finally stops being able to bribe the Grim Reaper you'll totally turn Arasaka into a charity. Sure, and I'm Johnny fuckin' Silverhand! V raged inwardly.

    After a moment of silent reflection, Saburo gave his first sign of visible emotion since entering the room- a dejected slump of his head. "I knew this day would come. That sooner or later your impudence would cross the line."

    You know what, kid? I hope your dad does toss your ass out just like I got burn-noticed. Deactivate all your implants, repossess your bank account, cancel your access to anywhere Arasaka ever, and ditch your ass on the street only in the clothes you're wearing. Maybe you'll learn about the real world then. Shit, I lost some illusions out there in the last few months and I hadn't thought I'd even still had any of those. Because kid, virtually everyone fucks virtually everyone out there. If you're lucky you've got a few close friends or family who actually give a shit about you. Jackie's the only reason I'm not dead now, and looking at your spectacular failure to be a human being your dad's the only reason you're not dead already.

    Saburo had broken his pose of immobility and slowly paced over to a now-immobile Yorinobu, leaving them standing face to face approximately six feet apart from each other directly in front of the one-way mirror. "There is much for which I could forgive you, but for treason- no." he said resignedly to his son.

    And suddenly V's already ice-cold blood turned to liquid nitrogen.

    Treason. she thought to herself. Saburo actually called it corporate treason, out loud. And there's only one penalty in Arasaka for that crime-

    "Jackie, get ready to move." V said urgently. "This situation might be about to go totally south-"

    As in someone just got told he's already a walking dead man with nothing to lose! And Saburo, you idiot! Aren't you aware your son had the room sensors deactivated? You're in this room alone with a man you just condemned, and the security AI won't page the guards outside if it detects a threat in progress because it can't see you here! You've lived in the bubble so long you haven't noticed leaving it-

    "Move? Move where?" Jackie asked V confusedly. "They're right in front of the fuckin-"

    "I'm just glad your mother didn't live to see this. The heart should break but once." Saburo sighed, and V saw Yorinobu's face twitch as he nerved himself up-

    "Jackie, you remember that story you told me once about you and your dad?" V said desperately, already reaching back to open the secret door.

    "V, what are you doing?" T-Bug asked urgently.

    "... holy mother of God!" Jackie gasped as he finally came to the same realization V had had. Because Jackie's own father had been an abusive asshole, until the day Jackie finally grew big enough to-

    "You shall never have to forgive me for anything ever again!" Yorinobu spat venomously as he sprang forward to grasp his own father around the throat and bear down as hard as he could.

    But V and Jackie had already burst free of the pillar and were frantically scrambling around to the other side. So while they hadn't actually seen Yorinobu's lunge, they'd heard his reply to Saburo and the thud of Saburo being slammed up against the wall, and came around the corner of the pillar just in time to see Yorinobu choking a feebly struggling Saburo with both hands around his neck.

    "Need them alive!" V called desperately as they both lunged forward. Yorinobu looked up in surprise just in time to catch almost 120 kilograms of extremely large ex-gangbanger in the face, as Jackie expertly broke Yorinobu free from his victim and brought him to the floor with a flying clothesline.

    "Mr. Arasaka!" V called urgently as she caught a falling Saburo and lowered him gently to the ground, leaning over him. "Mr. Arasaka, can you speak?"

    "Room-" Yorinobu gasped out from where Jackie was kneeling on him, trying to tell the voice-activated housekeeping controls to sound the alarm.

    "Fuck that!" Jackie interrupted him before he could even finish the first word, cold-cocking him with a single massive fist. "Piece of shit! At least I only beat my dad's teeth out for beatin' on my mama, I didn't fuckin' murder him!"

    "I-I..." Saburo gasped feebly.

    "Hold on!" V said with professional urgency, pulling the interface cable out of her palm. "I'm going to jack into your bio-monitor-" she continued, connecting the cable to Saburo's interface jack. "Heartbeat, blood oxygenation- okay." V said relievedly. "He didn't have time to crush the trachea, you're just in shock. I'm going to give you this airhypo-" V said reassuringly, while pulling out one of her emergency first aid injectors and jabbing it gently into Saburo's thigh. "And that should stabilize you. This room has anti-surveillance blocking up- that's why your bio-mon didn't trip distress alarms, and why the room AI didn't flag a violent event automatically."

    "I see." Saburo Arasaka said faintly, but in full possession of his senses. "I do not recognize you- are you with the hotel's security staff?" he asked.

    Shit, that's right, we're still in these corpo suits! V thought to herself. Okay-

    "Have you both completely lost your fucking minds?" T-Bug shouted. "You know what? To hell with this! You've blown the job completely and I am out! I'll leave the turrets off, but good luck dealing with the rest of hotel security without me!"

    "Uh, V?" Jackie broke in desperately. "T-Bug's right. Why the fuck did we do this?"

    "Because if Saburo Arasaka had died tonight, they would absolutely have killed us." V replied. "And fuck, Yorinobu would probably have pinned his death on us! Now, they-" V sighed. "Only probably will kill us."

    "Not with the hotel, then." Saburo said coldly. "But intruders. Even with the automatic alarms disabled, I can still bring death upon you with a word into my commlink. Why should I let you live?"

    "We saved your life, and spared your son's." V replied. "And even a lowly thief can still be owed a debt by an emperor. Giri is giri, regardless of station."

    "Two lives for two lives, then?" Saburo said. "You wish to go free?"

    "Free?" Jackie said. "Free to where? Free to starve? We risked everything for this! We give his stuff back and he lets us walk, we're back at zero! Worse, because D-"

    "No names!" V reminded him.

    "-our fixer and our client want us fuckin' dead!" Jackie finished.

    Saburo nodded from where he lay with his head still in V's lap. "Why would two such as you be hired to come here? Only one answer presents itself."

    "Two thieves were going to steal from a thief." V acknowledged. "But we made a different choice just now."

    "Because necessity forced you to it. Not honor." Saburo countered.

    "I had honor once." V said, starting to get nettled at Saburo's total lack of empathy herself. "As an Arasaka soldier, even, one of yours. But then I was made ronin, because my superior lacked it. I could either disobey him and be executed as a traitor, or obey his command and be a traitor. Tell me, Arasaka-san, how would you solve this dilemna?"

    "That is a very old tale in our history." Saburo smiled slightly. "And the traditional solution is to die with honor."

    "Yeah, well, Arasaka's own security took even that choice away from me." V spat back. "Before I could even make a decision, they already found out about my superior's plot and terminated me for my involvement in it." V shrugged. "So I literally got even that option taken away from me."

    "And they would have terminated her with an actual bullet to if they hadn't been stupid enough to try that shit in my favorite bar!" Jackie cut in irrepressibly.

    "Hmmm." Saburo said, musing to himself. "Your name? Your actual name, that is?"

    Fish or cut bait, V. Either zero Saburo and Yorinobu right now and vapor trail with the case before the bodies get cold enough to be found, or tell Saburo enough that you can't possibly escape death in the hope that you can finesse his old-school samurai bullshit enough to get another chance at life.

    "V, are you doin' what I think you're doin'? Askin' to go back?" Jackie said. "I thought you got free of that shit, remember?"

    "Did you not hear what I just said?" V replied angrily. "I didn't get to decide to give it up, they tossed me the fuck out before I could even say a word! And yeah, I went with you to go find a new life on the street - and meant every word of it - because that was the only choice I had! But now something impossible is maybe happening, and maybe I actually have another chance!" V finished. "Jackie, please. Aren't you the one who told me that we should never be afraid to go after what we really want, even if it means maybe dying?"

    "Holy shit." Jackie sighed. "Yeah, I did. But is this what you want?"

    "Well I damn sure don't want my old desk and my old boss back." V agreed vehemently. "All that job stress was absolute shit."

    "You wish new lives, in return for the lives you have saved tonight." Saburo Arasaka nodded. "You may be lowly thieves who live in the dirt, but at least you have the grace to realize men should not live there. Very well. I will acknowledge my debt and pay it. Even to such as you."

    "Hey now, I damn sure don't want to wear the suit for the rest of my life!" Jackie said urgently. "Wouldn't remotely fit in! Just a pile of eddies at least as big as the one I expected to see for this heist, so I can set my family up somewhere nice and safe for the rest of their lives- I'm good with that."

    "And you? How high would you wish to go?" Saburo asked. "My right hand, perhaps? Or a new princess to replace a fallen prince?"

    Trap, V! she thought to herself. That is such a trap!

    "You have loyal soldiers to serve you, and a most loyal samurai to personally guard you." V said, trying for the best corporate charm she'd ever charmed in her entire life. "A man who even tonight was only not here to save you because of your express command to leave. But he has to stay by your side at all times, and so his vision can only see the threats close to you. And with treason like what you've just experienced, perhaps you could use not another hand but another eye." V said, tapping her tinted shades. "A personal counter-intelligence agent, an extended security asset that reports only to you. Not just more Internal Affairs bullshit but a personal auditor for only the most sensitive cases, someone you can absolutely trust to always uphold the first duty of an Arasaka soldier- to tell only the truth to their superior, even when the superior doesn't want to hear it. Especially the truth about things hiding beyond your immediate range of vision."

    "The life-debt I owe you allows you the opportunity to ask me for such a position." Saburo said. "And I am not unaware that you place your lives into my hands yet again by stopping to ask me, instead of simply removing both witnesses to your crime and absconding with the Relic. But why should I believe you qualified to be such an eye?"

    "Jackie?" V looked at him. "I won't drop us into this if you say no."

    "I told you to live the life you wanted to live, and to never flinch." Jackie said. "Not gonna make myself a liar now."

    "Thanks." V said, her eyes misting. "Valerie Weyland." she continued to Saburo. "Former Arasaka counter-intelligence division, Night City branch office... until about six months ago."

    Saburo nodded, and then quietly sent a data-request through his internal neural processor into the local network and nodded again at the dossier that scrolled up on his internal optics display. "No wonder you asked for a position in counter-intelligence. You had the sense to request that which would make you most useful to me as well as enrich you." he nodded. "And... yes, a review of your superior's work suggests that you were more responsible for his successes than he was. No wonder he set a course of action that would remove you as it simultaneously removed the woman above him so he could be promoted. If given access to his former rank, you would have soon been able to remove him in turn."

    God dammit, I just agreed to work for another soulless Arasaka psychopath. Oh well, at least this one I'm damn near guaranteed to fucking outlive, and with his son out of it that just leaves the daughter-

    "Wait, Weyland?" Jackie asked. "Any relation to Andrew Weyland, the old Night City legend-?"

    "No, it's just a coincidence." V snapped at him. "Sorry, but there's a reason I went by 'V' even when I was still back in the office." she continued apologetically. "Seriously, If I had an eddy for every time I got asked that then I'd be richer than my new boss." V paused embarassedly and continued hurriedly. "Hoped-to-be new boss."

    "I accept your renewed service to Arasaka." Saburo said quietly. "And your associate shall also receive the reward he asked for."

    "Yes!" Jackie exulted, almost lunging forward to hug V until he realized he'd have to step over Saburo's prone body to do it. "Chica, I cannot fuckin' believe what you just pulled off-"

    V waved him down frantically, outside of Saburo's field of vision. Touchy old zaibatsu relic isn't quite ready for the Jackie Welles experience, m'man!

    "Let me help you up, sir." V said. "And shall I go fetch your bodyguard and the hotel staff? You should probably get a medical checkout before tonight ends as well."

    "One moment." Saburo said as he creakily got to his feet with V's assistance. "Allow me to explain the situation to Takemura-san first. Room AI- summon my bodyguard."

    "Yes, Mr. Arasaka." the room AI replied obediently, and in a few moments the door opened to allow the formidable-looking suit-samurai V had seen earlier to re-enter the room. He startled at seeing the two strangers, one standing over an unconscious Yorinobu Arasaka, and immediately reached for his weapon-

    "Hold!" Saburo barked weakly and then coughed. "My son... assaulted me. These two saved my life. Summon security and have him restrained. Take no action against my honored guests."

    "Yes, Arasaka-sama!" Takemura bowed, and with a few frantic sentences into his own commlink the full might of the Arasaka corporate empire leapt belatedly into action.

    * * * * *​

    "So here we are." Jackie said expansively as he leaned back against the railing of El Coyote Cojo, the bar his mother owned. "It's been like a week. So, how you settling back in at your old place?"

    "Personal counter-intelligence specialist for Saburo Arasaka himself?" V said cheerfully. "That's a pretty far jump up from 'my old place'." she said, before continuing on more soberly. "And yeah, it's not gonna be a rose garden- my first assignment is to track down fucking Adam Smasher, can you believe it? Tin fucker rabbited as soon as his own internal comms picked up that Yorinobu had gone down, and Saburo wants him back to be peeled open for what he knows about what Yorinobu had going."

    "Speaking of, what's gonna happen to the kid?" Jackie asked.

    "It's already happened." V nodded. "About what you'd expect."

    "Shit, if they were gonna pop him then why'd you be so urgent about me taking him alive?" Jackie asked confusedly.

    "Remember when the desk clerk was about to blow our covers with that phone call and how I talked her down?" V replied. "And what I told her? At Arasaka, the bosses hate it when employees do things 'the boss was going to do anyway'. They want it to happen not only what they want, but on their schedule."

    "I still think you were crazy to go back. You should have just asked for a pile of eddies as big as mine!" Jackie replied. "Let me tell you, as soon as mama finishes making arrangements to sell this place to someone who will treat it with respect, we are gone! Me, her, and Misty are gonna be off to livin' in paradise! You coulda come with us as well!"

    "Oh, working for Saburo's gonna make me bang my head on the wall in frustration at least a couple times, I already know." V said. "But..."

    "But?" Jackie said.

    "Back when I was on the cusp there, y'know? And it was either just KO the Arasaka family and run the case back to Dex, or go all-in-double-or-nothing on asking the 'Emperor' to owe us a solid? You know what tipped me, broke the tie?"

    "This I gotta hear." Jackie said.

    "If I'd just taken the eddies and run- and I'm not knockin' you for your choice, you said it yourself. You couldn't have lasted a day in the corpo viper pit, you'd have gone straight up the wall. Take the eddies and retire was your only path. But it wasn't my only path-"

    "Man, the road not taken is just a poem, y'know?" Jackie said. "Still not seein' why you took it."

    "The future." V said. "I go with you, yeah, sure, we got out of Night City, we got better lives. And even a couple of the people we like- such as your gal Misty and your mom- could get out with us. But we'd still be leaving so many behind."

    "And you're not? No time for the street from the Tokyo executive suite, is there?" Jackie replied.

    "My point is, I suddenly realized it wasn't just my life I wanted to change. You know Dexter DeShawn, our 'big shot fixer' buddy who set us up for that fucking job in the first place? You ever hear his 'quiet life or blaze of glory' rap?"

    "T-Bug told me about it once. Oh yeah, and she says 'fucking thank you for not consulting me at all on your big decision despite my being on the squad', by the way."

    "The hell's she beefin' about, I made damn sure Arasaka would have zero come-backs on her for anything she did! And we still gave her the eddies she was expecting as her original cut from the job!" V replied.

    "I think she's beefin' about Dexter gettin' popped in the head by Arasaka security." Jackie replied. "And seriously, burning our fixer? Like I told you, V, that viper pit keeps making you do shit you don't want to do."

    "Oh, I wanted to do." V replied firmly. "Did you know that I found out that his whole 'first-timers only get 30% of the payoff' rap he laid on us was bullshit? Fucker was ripping us off the whole time."

    "You only found that after you burned him, didn't you?" Jackie said knowingly.

    "Well, yeah." V said. "Still, it means I'm not feelin' even a little bit guilty about it, and neither should you. And hey, at least we kept Evelyn's name out of it."

    "If Dex was really trying to fuck us on the split? Then yeah, fuck him!" Jackie agreed. "Oh, and to circle back to the original question...?"

    "Dexter kept asking if I wanted to die old and obscure in bed, or be a Night City legend but be dead before I'm thirty. As if those were the only two choices in the entire world." V groused. "And I never answered his question because that was bullshit. There should totally be a third option. And I think I just found it."

    "Wait... you're sayin' that you went corpo again to shake the pillars of Heaven? To change the world?" Jackie said. "Seriously? Not a chance in heaven, chica!"

    "Jackie, think." V said tolerantly. "Nobody from the Street is ever really gonna change shit about the rat race. Fuckin' hell, Johnny Silverhand goddamn nuked Arasaka Tower and the fucking corp barely even broke stride. Fifty years now and you can't even see the scars. And nobody from the executive suite is ever gonna change shit either, because by the time you've climbed that high you've already sold the soul you'd need to care."

    "But?" Jackie said, beginning to be drawn into V's intensity.

    "But, like I said that night, a fuckin' impossible thing was happening. I was a rat in the corpo maze, then I got kicked out on the Street- where a living saint named Jackie Welles saved my pretty pink ass, I will admit-"

    "Damn right you should!" Jackie laughed.

    "And now I'm going right to the top, without having to climb the rungs along the way. It's a perspective I don't think anybody else has. Or will ever have again any time soon." V shrugged. "So yeah, at least one person at the very top of Arasaka will actually have a point of view that remembers the little people like Misty, or Victor, or Judy, or the rest. And that actually knows how their lives are affected by Arasaka's decisions. Because they sure don't fuckin' know."

    "Chica, it's a lovely dream but you're just a fetch-and-carry girl for the big man, remember? He's not gonna take your advice. Shit, he's so far gone he barely even hears the real world when it talks to him anymore. That's how he was so blind to shit that his own son almost murdered him." Jackie said.

    "Yeah, but Saburo is older than shit." V replied. "I don't care how much corpo tech they shove up his ass, I'm not even 30 yet and he's 158. I will definitely outlive him, but he'll still live long enough that I'll be a familiar face around the shop- a long-running part of the team- by the time he drops. And then-"

    "And then some new suit comes in who doesn't know you from a rat's asshole." Jackie said cynically.

    "Hanako Arasaka." V said. "CEO of Arasaka- well, Saburo's running everything right now and she's just a puppet CEO, but she'll be one for real when he drops. And she's the only kid he's got left now that Yorinobu finally got himself killed, so she'll be the new Empress." V smiled. "And if she's taken the same 'daddy makes you a powerless princess' crap that drove Yorinobu crazy and is still smiling after this long, then either she's the most patient fuckin' person alive or she's actually as nice as her public image. And either one of those personalities will have the sense to listen to the old CEO's personal investigator, counter-intelligence person, and all-around advisor who knows from real shit, because neither is arrogant enough to pull a Yorinobu. Or a Saburo. Plus, I've already got an in."

    "Fast work, V." Jackie raised a glass to her.

    "Fell into it by pure luck." V admitted. "Takemura, the bodyguard that Saburo sent outside right before Yorinobu flipped? He's Saburo's personal samurai, just like I'm sort of his personal ninja now. And I hadn't considered the size of the debt he feels he owes me, for being the only reason the guy whose life he's sworn to protect didn't die on his watch. Seriously, Takemura is so deep into giri to me that if I asked him to pull his own soul out of his body, I think he'd actually die trying."

    "And-?" Jackie asked, fascinated.

    "And he has this whole samurai rivalry/friend thing going on with Hanako's personal samurai. And there is a whole fuck-ton of back-channel shit that gets done at the top-top levels of Arasaka in between all the personal retainers. So I've already gotten a friend-of-a-friend introduction to Hanako, and am working off of her gratitude for saving her daddy's ass while at the same time I impress her as being good to talk to." V smirked. "Besides, she doesn't really have many female friends near her own age. Or many friends at all. You get that high in the corpo atmosphere, you kinda forget the concept. Except I didn't."

    "Fuck me." Jackie said. "So you'll be the Princess' right-hand woman when she finally becomes Empress. And then..."

    "And then." V smiled. "And even if it doesn't remotely work out like I expected, and all collapses into a pile of fuck? Well then-"

    "At least I/you tried!" V and Jackie chorused together joyously.

    "OK, this deserves the tequila!" he continued happily, leaping to his feet and going behind the bar to pour. After he finished he took his seat again, and they both grabbed and raised their glasses.

    "To the future!" they said, and drained their glasses in one long swallow before settling back for a long, contented sigh.

    "Hey, Jackie?" V asked after a pause.

    "Yeah?" Jackie replied complacently.

    "I'll probably be way too busy to call that often in the next couple of years, but if I get fired again, and, y'know, actually survive the process... can I come crash on your couch?" V asked humorously.

    "Sure!" Jackie chuckled. "But you'd better bring some cash again like last time, so you can pay rent."

    * * * * *​

    Author's Note: To be honest, I'm only a little of the way into Act 2 by now so I don't even know how the game ends. But while I understand that a video game has limitations, I was playing Corpo V and I was wondering how she'd really react to seeing Saburo Arasaka die in front of her eyes, as he canonically does during the final quest of Act 1... and how she'd know this would drop her into a shitstorm she and Jackie almost certainly wouldn't survive. And if you're dead anyway, then why not take an impossible chance?

    And when I get a mental image this strong in my head, I get an urge to write it. And this is what fanfic is really for, to explore the roads not taken because it would be impossible to take them in the original canon because limitations of the medium. And so here we are.

    And to be honest? I'm not sure if my V actually succeeds in her dream either. But at least she'll try!

    Oh, and female V's real name in C2077 is Valerie - you find it out in a quest - but there's no canon last name, so I picked one.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2020
  2. Simonbob

    Simonbob Really? You don't say.

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    Nice.

    When you have nothing to lose, you also have everything to gain.
     
  3. Zapjack

    Zapjack Getting out there.

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    I really want this to continue but I feel like it's just a oneshot
     
  4. nick012000

    nick012000 Experienced.

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    Odds that Valerie will still wind up doing a bazillion side quests anyway, just on a corporate payroll?
     
  5. TriedgeThePK

    TriedgeThePK My arm is tired.

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    Ya know, I may be late by a few days, but holy crap this is awesome. I know it was meant to be a one-shot, but I would love to see this story really fleshed out into, maybe not a full length story, but maybe a novella kind of set-up? Food for thought and I guarantee people will eat it up.
     
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  6. cliffc999

    cliffc999 Well worn.

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    Sadly, the more I find out about the C2077 endings the more I realize that V has really dead-ended herself here. Frickin' advancing continuity does it to me every time.
     
  7. Darkenning

    Darkenning Pervert. Also, possible world-destroying monster.

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    Cyberpunk is film noir set twenty seconds from now. And what sort of film noir is it if the protagonists have good options instead of less bad ones?
     
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  8. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    This is a good alternative take on the Corpo lifepath!

    Now if only the one in the actual game is the same thing...

    I do wonder how V's former bosses and colleagues will react once they find out how she's been "re-hired" in the company in a much higher position than she was before...?

    :V
     
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  9. litaispe

    litaispe -

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    At this stage V , doesn't realize the mind upload tech exists, as well as the mind-download tech which puts canon-V on the clock. There are also some suggestions that the setting has full-body cloning that is nearly viable.

    V's story might as well be "bad life choices, a (bad) musical"
     
  10. Joker555888

    Joker555888 King of Potatoes

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    Is this a one-shot, or is it being continued?
     
  11. DEofWs

    DEofWs Getting some practice in, huh?

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    Hi, cool fanfic.
    May I translate it into Russian?
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2020
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  12. Horvus

    Horvus Thread Archeologist

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    This is everything I've been waiting for :p
    Also a corpo main and I'm sad the lifepaths are just glorified prologues.
    As others who asked before, I'd be sure to read it if you continue this story.

    Changing a corpo from the inside... interesting times indeed.
     
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  13. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    That will be hard since Saburo is going to turn himself into Arasaka's eternal CEO.

    :V
     
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  14. Mashadarof402

    Mashadarof402 Experienced.

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    But not impossible for someone serving as their spymaster/ninja.
     
  15. cliffc999

    cliffc999 Well worn.

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    To be fair, without V ever getting the Relic triggered in their head it will be years before they figure out how to make download work reliably. Because in the game, they hadn't solved that yet. V was a freak accident... and her download was unstable, for that matter.
     
  16. Psyckosama

    Psyckosama Well worn.

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    About Hinako Arasaka's age...

    She's in her 80s
     
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  17. Homer Simpson & The Brain

    Homer Simpson & The Brain Not too sore, are you?

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    Considering how Smasher made himself scarce the moment things went bad for Yorinobu, despite ostensibly being present on the scene only due his role as a bodyguard, there's a strong possibility this version of Saburo's son actually knew who was on that biochip and paid Smasher extra to make sure it made into someone's recently vacared brain if Plan A, plant it inside NetWatch, fell through for any reason, without telling him anything else. Smasher would have likely destroyed the biochip himself otherwise.
     
  18. cliffc999

    cliffc999 Well worn.

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    At that point in the game, Smasher is a Night City mercenary that Yorinobu hired to watch his back. Smasher only hires on as security chief of Arasaka after Yorinobu inherits the throne - an event that obviously won't be happening now.

    And when you pick up on your internal commlink that the guy who hired you just got nicked for the attempted murder of Saburo Arasaka, you fuckin' run.

    Where is it even implied that Yorinobu didn't know all along? Remember, he was trying to sell the chip to Netwatch. Netwatch has no real urge to complete with Arasaka to sell digital immortality... but it has a definite reason to want to lure the Alt Cunningham AI into a trap, and only Johnny's engram is suitable bait for that lure. They wouldn't be buying any old Relic chip, they'd only want Johnny's.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2020
  19. Renko

    Renko Demon Lord of the Sixth Heaven ~☆

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    Eh? And?

    Kerry is in his 70s and you get bang him!

    Your post really reminds how Corpo V doesn't have a life path based romance option and Merdith's one night stand doesn't count!

    :V
     
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  20. Psyckosama

    Psyckosama Well worn.

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    In the story it was pointed out that she was young. She isn't.
     
  21. Mashadarof402

    Mashadarof402 Experienced.

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    Makes Yorinobu's actions a tad more understandable if he's the same age.

    Imagine living in your father's shadow for 80 years, every aspect of your life micromanaged under his will.
     
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  22. Psyckosama

    Psyckosama Well worn.

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    He's like 5 year older.
     
  23. Mashadarof402

    Mashadarof402 Experienced.

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    80, 85, not much difference at that point. Yorinobu would have been a bundle of overstressed neuroses ready to pop at any time.
     
  24. cliffc999

    cliffc999 Well worn.

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    No, it wasn't.
     
  25. Psyckosama

    Psyckosama Well worn.

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    "Besides, she doesn't really have many female friends near her own age.

    This implies it
     
  26. Mashadarof402

    Mashadarof402 Experienced.

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    Obviously V is also an octogenarian, making her the oldest FPS protagonist ever. :p
     
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  27. Homer Simpson & The Brain

    Homer Simpson & The Brain Not too sore, are you?

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    Actually, no. Saburo kept Hanako very sheltered when she was young, so it's not a stretch to assume she has very few friends in general, let alone female, belonging to her own generation or both.
     
  28. cliffc999

    cliffc999 Well worn.

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    I have no idea why the heck you'd want to make an issue of this at all, let alone be so hot over it that you'd deliberately quote me out of context, but so much as including the next few words would have revealed that V was being sarcastic.

    Which she is. In the game. A lot.

    But no, for reasons I can't even begin to understand it is so damn important you score a fucking point on me that you dredge this bullshit up and play games with selective quoting to try and enforce it. What the fuck is so empty about your damn day that trying to one-up on me in the single pettiest fashion possible is even worth it?

    Don't answer that.
     
  29. Psyckosama

    Psyckosama Well worn.

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    It sounded strange. Very strange that she'd even say on any level that a 78 year old woman would need friends hr own age during a serious conversation with her best friend about her grand master plan."

    What the fuck? What the actual fuck?

    How about you pull those nails from your damned wrist and grow, I don't know, some skin?

    It was intended as honest criticism because if sorta confused me. But its clear you just want to have your fucking ego stroked and if you don't get that you're going to put on a big fucking show like daring to point out something I saw as weird is some grand personal insult.

    Well fuck you too.

    That I won't disagree with. Reason I brought it up was because while it would have been extremely accurate in CP 2020 (and god forbid CP 2013), 2077 I don't think it really would be... esp the age thing
     
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  30. cliffc999

    cliffc999 Well worn.

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    In case you somehow missed it, I'm the person who wrote the story. I know what my intent was, and I know what my characters actually meant by what they said.

    So if you're ever unclear on the topic, you ask me, and I'll tell you. But you don't keep teliing me that no, I'm obviously wrong and you're obviously right about what my own characters were thinking.

    Jesus goddamn wept, readers like you are one of the largest reasons that authors get burnt out and abandon shit. You don't care about enjoying the story, and you don't care about letting others enjoy the story, you only care about making yourself feel smarter by trying to find the stupidest excuses to pick shit apart - even if you have to quote out of context, make shit up, and straight up tell the person actually writing the story that he didn't know what his own intent was. Can't write yourself, so you can only feel better by tearing down people who actually can write.

    Ah yes. If somebody reacts badly to anything you said - however out of line - it can't possibly be your fault. You would never say anything except the purest, most kindest of intentions. It's always the other guy's fault.

    And before you whine about how I came out the gate swinging, scroll back up and read. You said something about my story, I told you you were wrong. Which, since I wrote the story, should have settled it. I didn't insult you, I didn't flame you, I was entirely matter-of-fact.

    Then you replied with the crap of yours that I went off on. It wasn't just being disagreed with that lit my fuse, it was how.

    Bullshit.

    Honest criticism doesn't play context games. You selectively quoted. Do you get that? You played games with context to give a deliberately misleading impression. You left off the next sentence because that would have shown that V was being sarcastic and not literal... which would have meant you were wrong. You deliberately buried the evidence contradicting your point.

    In short, you fucking lied.

    And that's when I got rude. It's not because I'm oversensitive, it's because you're a fucking liar who deserves nothing less. "Honest" criticism is, y'know, honest. And you were not.

    Now fuck off and get out of my thread with this bullshit. I'm all 2020'ed out and I have no patience left for 2021.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2021
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