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Date Night <Best Fan Fiction of the Year 2014 Award Winner>

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Braithwhite
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Date Night <Best Fan Fiction of the Year 2014 Award Winner>

<Best Fan Fiction of the Year 2014 Award Winner>

I've been working on this for a while.  Hope you (theoretical reader) enjoy!

 

 

Mission Title:  Date Night

Primary Objective: Obtain and eat Chinese food.

Known obstacles to objectives…

Amanda Cohen (known in some circles as “Expatriette”) looked away from the whiteboard she had been using to plan out the night’s operation.  The small apartment she shared with Pete Riske (known in costume and when she was annoyed as “Setback”), was golden from the uncharacteristically sunny Rook City afternoon.  Each had their own carefully demarcated zone- Amanda’s loading bench, planning board, and weapon racks were a “No Setback” zone, and Pete had turned the spare bedroom into a cave with his  TV, couch, and the tangled cords of the vintage NES she had gotten him as a birthday present. 

The kitchen, table, living room, and bedroom were their shared spaces, a concept that she was still getting used to.  They had been up late the night before with Fixer and Nightmist, trying to crack the enigma that was Revocorp.  She was sure that they were supplying weapons and tech to the remnants of the Organization, but still no smoking gun…but that was a problem for another time.  Tonight was their date night, and while Amanda was still getting used to the idea of being in love, she approached it with the same seriousness that she put into everything else. 

Late-afternoon breakfast was in the process of being made. Pete had laid out the table (1 cracked plate), made juice and toast already (minor electrical burns from faulty wiring in the toaster), and was whisking the eggs so that he could scramble them.  He was singing along (surprisingly in tune) to the radio. 

Pete (dancing now) accidentally knocked a bag of flour onto the stove.  He made a grab for it, which only resulted in some of the flour tumbling into the eggs he had been stirring, and a cloud of flour forming over the stove.  The cloud of fine particulates immediately went up in a fireball as it caught the pilot light. This caused Pete to stumble back from the flames, fall over and lose his grip on the bowl, which tumbled into the sink along with his morning glass of milk. Putting the finishing touch on the scene, one of the as-yet uncracked eggs rolled off the counter, fell on his head and broke.

She quickly wrote on the board:

Known obstacle to objectives: Setback

Pete got up, noticeably singed and covered in egg to check the bowl.  It had landed in the sink with the contents still intact, and was now settling into a rather good looking batter.  He shrugged, and said “Amanda?  What do you think about pancakes instead?  

She laughed.  She had wanted pancakes in the first place, but had dreaded the inevitable failure that would have resulted from actually having him TRY to make them. 

Smiling, she marked on the whiteboard:

Known assets to objectives: Setback

Operation: Date Night had begun.

 

Plan A

-Effect ingress through front door.

-Obtain table for two.

-Eat at restaurant.

-Enjoy romantic interlude.

Notes on establishment (The Great Wall):

Proprietor (Alex Chen) is known to Mr. Fixer, has provided operational rations for Dark Watch stakeouts in past, owes DW for past favors dealing with thugs from The Organization. Excellent dumplings and roast duck.   

The plan was straightforward.  Go out to eat.

There was a simple pleasure in walking the six blocks to the place, with one of Fixer’s spare hats concealing her purple hair, a set of shades keeping people from staring at her eyepatch, and her ballistic lined trenchcoat concealing her guns.  She scanned the streets, out of habit, but everything felt…normal.  It was early evening in Rook City, and the city seemed peaceful.  Sure, there was probably some sort of crime going on, but it seemed to be going on elsewhere for the time being. 

Pete took her hand.  The unplanned touch made her reflexively twitch for the guns nestled in their concealed holsters at her back, but she was proud of herself at how quickly she recovered.  Pete, naturally, was completely oblivious.  He just seemed happy (as usual) to be with her.  For a time, they just walked hand in hand down the sidewalk.   

She was considering resting her head on his shoulder (that was a thing that couples did, right?), when she was suddenly yanked off balance as Pete vanished, followed by a loud “Pop!”  She swiftly turned it into a smooth dive for cover behind a delivery truck and came up with Pride and Prejudice in her hands.  Peeking out from the corner, she saw no immediate threats, just an open manhole. 

She heard Setback (she just couldn’t think of him as Pete when he had these little mishaps) calling for help, and peering into the manhole (and wrinkling her nose at the smell) she saw that he had managed to twist one leg into the ladder rungs on the way down.  It was a wonder that it hadn’t been broken in the fall.  But at least he hadn’t fallen all the way down- sewer stench would have really wrecked the date.  She bent down to help him up, and noticed a hole in the cement where they had been walking.

“Can you untangle yourself?” she asked, “I need to go check this out.”  She waited long enough for him to give a thumbs up, heard him start to give a commentary on his ongoing efforts to unwedge his foot without falling in the muck below.  Still in threat analysis mode, she checked the sightlines.  Still seeing no immediate targets, she checked the hole.  It was distinctive.  The impact crater indicated a full size rifle round, but the lack of a firing sound was consistent with a low-velocity (sub-sonic) round from a suppressed weapon. The crater itself had some sort of stain around it- possibly a heavily modified tranq round. 

She also noted that it was exactly where she had been walking before Setback yanked her out of the way.  Custom weapons and rounds, she thought, combined with ambush tactics.  Ambuscade topped her list of potential threats, so she started looking for the flickers that his cloaking system would make against the garish neon lights on the rooftops round them. 

The night was becoming much more interesting. 

Setback was clambering out of the hole, grinning at having extricated himself.  “Hey, I made it out!  Lucky that I didn’t fall in, because that was really stinky down there, and I’m pretty sure I saw something moving.  I wonder what happened to that Plague Rat guy? ” He saw her guns, started to put on his more serious face, and said “Amanda?  What’s going on?  Is there trouble?”  She glared at him, and he said “Right! Serious time codename!”

The streets were starting to fill back up from their momentary lull, so she holstered the guns before they drew too much attention even for Rook city’s notoriously jaded pedestrians.  She hauled Pete in close and gave him a thorough kiss, then took the opportunity to whisper “Ambuscade is lurking.  Be careful.”

It was time to switch to Plan B.

 

Plan B

-In the event of plan A disruption (light enemy action, misadventure, or Act of Setback) that does not negate Primary Objective, effect ingress through front door, rear door, or roof as situation demands.

- In the event of enemy action en route, notify Sentinels (in the area for unknown amount of time, owe favor) and DW (mutual team support) so that they can collect prisoners/provide backup.   

-Obtain table for two near kitchen (source of improvised weaponry) or consult with owner about table near bar (Intel from Fixer suggests owner keeps pump action shotgun (brand unknown) under bar). 

-Eat at restaurant.

-Enjoy romantic interlude.  Maintain vigilance.

 

“Mainstay?  I need to call in the favor from when I babysat the kid”. 

“Anything for you, darlin’!”  Expatriette winced.  Mainstay was occasionally too familiar, but now wasn’t the time to bristle at him.  “Right”, she said, “Setback and I just got tagged by Ambuscade at the corner of 5th and Market street.  How far away are you from there?  I need you to get eyes on him and give us a heads up if he goes after anyone.”

“Sure thing, Exes! We’re about 15 minutes out, so we’ll start making our way over to you.  Oh, and the Kid says hi.” 

A ghostly image of the Idealist’s head appeared in the air overhead.  “Hi! You guys aren’t in uniform!  Hey, you’re holding hands!”

Expatriette immediately let go of Setback’s hand. 

Then, defiantly, she took it again.  “Yes. We are on a date. So holding hands is appropriate.”   

“Ooooooooo!” said the floating head of the Idealist.  “Are you gonna kiss? Are you going to a movie?  I want to go to a movie!”  The translucent head looked over its nonexistent shoulder and said “Aww, Uncle Jackson, I just wanted to say hi.  Fine.  Sooooorrrrry. ”  The idealist pouted and the image faded out.

Putting her phone away, Expatriette and Setback ducked into the alley to find a fire escape.  It was time to take to the rooftops.

“I keep expecting him to just pop up behind me, you know?” Setback remarked, as they picked their way across the roof next to the restaurant. The bright neon of the Great Wall’s sign lit up the scene.   “Like, poof, and then the stabbing!”

Expatriette nodded.  “That’s why he hasn’t done it yet. You’re ready for him right now.  He’ll wait until we’re distracted, and then make his move.”  She picked her way carefully along the nest of obsolete TV aerials strewn on the roof and eyed the jump to the restaurant.  “It’s those nasty little traps of his that I’m worried about.”  Setback took a step forward over a particularly jumbled bit of cabling, promptly tripping over it and revealing the mine that had been concealed underneath.   “Traps like that one,” Expatriette sighed, as she stopped and turned to help him extricate himself. 

Which is how she found herself face to face with Ambuscade.  He had been reaching out, cloaked, so that he could grab her and go for the quick stab, but her sudden turning had caught him off guard.  He lunged, but even surprised, Expatriette’s reflexes were up to the challenge.  She threw herself backwards, drawing her guns.  Ambuscade had barely reached for his handcannon before she landed on her back, safely out of reach, and had Pride and Prejudice drawn and aimed at his head.  She glared at him.  “Ok, Frenchy.  Tonight is special.  You get one warning.“  She shot him in the knee with her shock rounds, causing him to collapse as his cybernetics overloaded and the leg gave out. “I’m trying to have a night…”

Ambuscade didn’t let her finish.  He twitched his fingers and threw up his reactive armor, protecting him long enough to toss his knife at the nearby mine, which exploded into ear-shattering waves of sound. Expatriette, momentarily disoriented, fired off a few snapshots, but didn’t manage to connect.  Ambuscade brought up his gun, but Setback surged to his feet and barreled into him, taking them both off the roof in a tangle of cables.  Shaking off the lingering effects of the sonic mine, she raced to the roof’s edge to see that the tangle of cables had wrapped themselves around Setback’s leg, preventing him from falling. He was swinging back and forth, trying to grab the fire escape that was just out of his reach.  He managed to grab it as the cables snapped and fell away. 

There was no direct sign of Ambuscade, but the dumpster at the base of the fire escape had a noticeable dent in the lip, and there were shards of armor plating littered on the ground.  Seconds later, a text from Mainstay let them know that Ambuscade was being pursued. 

Setback pulled himself up and gave her a hug.  She forced herself to relax.

The smells coming from the air vents above the nearby restaurant promised deliciousness.  Expatriette took a moment to reload and check her surroundings, and then started down the fire escape.    

 “C’mon, handsome.” Endearments engender a strong relationship, she thought, and he really is, after all. “Let’s eat.” 

 As it turned out, the restaurant was the site of a cast party for some kind of pirate-themed musical.  Amanda’s eye patch was but one of many in evidence, and no one looked at her twice.  Then, as it turned out, the restaurant only had one table left- a corner one where she could put her back against two walls and see all the entrances.   Amanda wasn’t quite sure what to say after they had ordered.  She didn’t particularly want to talk about work, and she had never really gotten the hang of casual conversation.  At home, it was a lot easier to talk, but out in public?  So many people, any of which could an enemy in disguise!

Mentally, she began lining up targets and firing angles.

Pete bumped her knee with his own, and said “You’re doing the thing again.”  He wrinkled his nose at her.  “Hey! I know.  Tell me what your favorite gun is.”  And just like that, the conversation was flowing.  Talking about guns led into stories about Pete’s endless stream of jobs, then on into people they had met and places they been.  They were enjoying a quiet moment when Pete looked at her and said “I think I’m pretty lucky.  You’re kind of fantastic.” 

I’m blushing, she thought.  I didn’t know I DID that.   

By the time the food arrived, the karaoke machine had been turned on, and the cast party was in full swing.  Pete was longingly looking at the stage, so she pushed him up and said “Go!  Sing something for me!”  The karaoke machine glitched during Pete’s song, switching freely from 80’s power ballad to Monty Python without warning.  He rolled with it, and she laughed along with the crowd at his rousing rendition of “Life is a Highway, I’m gonna/Aways look on the bright side of Life.”

Unfortunately, before he could start in on his sweet and sour chicken, Mainstay gave her the heads up that Ambuscade had evaded pursuit.  It was time to go. 

Carrying the leftovers, Setback and Expatriette started towards Fixer’s junkyard.  It was a long walk, but there were too many people around to take anything faster.  Ambuscade was more than willing to cause collateral damage and take hostages, so they used the roofs and alleys to stay away from the innocents. Setback spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out a way to shorten “Expatriette” into a nickname, each one earning him a glare.  Ultimately, it became a game for him to see just how bad he could make them before she started laughing. She couldn’t maintain the glare in the face of “Patty” or “Exxy”, and she cracked up when Setback ended with “Those were terrible.  But what do you think of… Triette?”    

A mile of lurking and dank alleys were starting to wear on them, and the edge was being ground off of their alertness.  They could feel Ambuscade shadowing them, but even though they could hear the occasional sound he didn’t appear.  When they went up high, he would go low.  When they went low, they would see a brief flicker against the sky, then nothing.

The moon was rising and the Rook City lullaby of sirens was starting to pick up, and they were walking down yet another alley.  Setback was opening one of the containers for a snack when one of Ambuscade’s concealed traps exploded beneath Expatriette’s feet.  The blast knocked Expatriette against a trash can, and rattled her.  She was trying to clear her head when she saw a blur at the end of the alley.  She drew her guns, but was still trying to find a solid target (and make her head stop swimming), but Setback charged. 

Ambuscade de-cloaked as he fired his explosive launcher at Setback. Without even thinking, Setback threw the leftovers at ambuscade splattering him with soup, sauce, and pieces of chicken. 

Expatriette tried to shoot the rocket out the air, but she was still groggy from her own fall, and the blast threw Setback into a dumpster and peppered him with bits of shrapnel.  

For a second, no one moved. 

 Ambuscade loaded another rocket, but Expatriette was back on her feet and put a bullet into the launcher’s muzzle, blowing the rocket up prematurely and giving Ambuscade a taste of his own medicine.  Setback was getting to his feet, bloodied but still able, and Ambuscade could see the fight shifting away from him.  He threw down another sonic mine to make his getaway, but the trap fizzled and made a miserable little pop instead of exploding, its microcircuits gunked up with duck sauce.  He activated his cloaking device, but it sparked and fizzed from being soaked in hot and sour soup.

“Merde,” she could hear him mutter as he pulled out his handcannon and started to run out of the alley, crossing the street and using the traffic for cover.   The pedestrians scattered and the drivers put the pedals down to get out of there.    

She could see Ambuscade taking aim from across the street as she exited the alley and stumbled back as her armored coat took a hit from his handcannon.  Whoa, she thought, think I broke a rib on that one. She ducked behind the wall as he sent shot after shot at her, tagging her again.  She returned fire, but the remnants of his armor plating and the moving van he was using for cover were keeping her from landing anything except superficial wounds.  It was a stalemate. He couldn’t escape without being shot but neither could they.  He had the better cover.  It was only a matter of time before he found one of his gadgets that still worked and managed to get away.  She was down to her last clips, she was having trouble breathing and she was seeing double.  Her phone had been broken in the earlier explosion, so no backup was coming.  She checked her last clips. Shock rounds, she thought, should have brought a clip of the armor piercing.

Setback was taking cover behind her and asked “Have you got a plan, Triette?  Wow, I these are terrible, aren’t they?  Ok, no more nicknames.”    She thought for a second and said “Yeah.  I just need you to cross the street.  Then we’ll improvise.”

He gave her a quick kiss, launched himself out of the alley and across the street.  A station wagon nearly hit him, but he vaulted over it.  A shot from Ambuscade grazed his arm, but he took it and ran up the side of the delivery van so that he could strike from above. 

In a perfect world, Setback would have landed on Ambuscade and managed to knock him out.  What actually happened was that Setback caught his foot on the top of the truck, fell, and landed badly on the fire hydrant NEXT to ambuscade, breaking it and sending water flying everywhere.  He struggled to get up but before he could make it to his feet, Ambuscade grabbed him and twisted his wounded arm up behind his back.  Holding his gun to Setback’s head, he hauled him to his feet and used him as a shield. 

“So,” he said, “the hunt is finished.  I go my way with l’idiot, you get to live.” He raised his gun “The client wants the buffoon alive, but you?” He paused, then said “It was an amusing chase.  Perhaps you rescue him later, non?”  He looked at his sauce-covered outfit and said “but then again, I am sure that someone would pay for your death, and cleaning is tres expensive, so I think not.”

Expatriette glared at him balefully.  She was banged up from the explosion, had trouble drawing a full breath and though the coat had absorbed the worst of the impact of his customized rounds, she was on her last legs.  Still, her aim never wavered as she kept her guns trained, waiting for an opening.  

“L’amour should be respected. Last words?”

Setback yelped as Ambuscade twisted his arm even higher.  He looked at her and said, “From the moment I met you, I could feel the sparks fly.”  Then he winked and dropped his weight all at once, dislocating his shoulder and pulling Ambuscade momentarily off balance.   Expatriette fired at him, shot after shot until her clips ran dry, the shock rounds arcing over Ambuscade and Setback both.  Flickers of lightning filled the water with lightning and fried what was left of his gear.  The custom handcannon had made it through the earlier sauce dunking, but the combination of sauce, water, AND shock rounds proved to be its undoing.  The capacitors made a sharp crack as they discharged all of their energy at once, and Ambuscade could barely managed to drop it in time when the gun went critical. The explosion knocked him backwards and his head collided with the brick wall behind him.  Setback fell along with him, the shock rounds wreaking havoc on his muscle control. He landed heavily atop Ambuscade shoulder first, at just the right angle to pop his shoulder back into place. 

Ambuscade was down, and there were no signs that he was going to get back up again anytime soon.  Rook City being the mess it was, the nearest public phone didn’t work, but enough people had called the police that they were there only half an hour after the incident, which was blinding response time by RCPD standards.  Ambuscade twitched a few times, but Expatriette and Setback had stripped him of all his toys and used him as an impromptu bench while they waited.  Whenever he tried to move, Expatriette clocked him with the butt of her empty gun. Fortunately, the Sentinels had been monitoring the police band, so by the time the cops finally showed up, Ambuscade was thoroughly trussed in Mainstay’s chains and Expatriette and Setback were feeling much better under the care of Dr. Medico.  She could feel her ribs popping back into place as he applied his healing energies, and Setback was looking positively cheerful as they handed the villain off. 

Walking home hand in hand with Pete, Amanda couldn’t stop smiling.  She didn’t really have a plan for the rest of the evening, but she felt confident that she could…improvise. 

phantaskippy
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I love this.

Great job, just fantastic at capturing the characters.

Donner
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That was awesome!


"Deja-fu? You've heard of that?"
- Lu Tze, Sweeper, Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

Powerhound_2000
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Great story


Crush your enemies, drive them before you, and laminate their women! - Guise, Prime Wardens #31

 
Rabit
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Seriously, so much about that was awesome! Thanks for sharing, Braithwhite.


"See, this is another sign of your tragic space dementia, all paranoid and crotchety. Breaks the heart." - Mal

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Estelindis
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That was awesome.  My favourite bit was when Setback threw the leftovers at Ambuscade.  :)

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I don't usually read fanfic, but I'm glad I read this one. Great work!


Just assume I'm always doing that.

Damn it, Ronway!

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Great job. Setback should just use the one we all use:ExPat. I also really liked the shock rounds allusion