"Hey, this isn't HWGA."

Nope, it isn't I'm afraid, but that doesn't mean work hasn't continued. Honestly, I always wanted to come back to GFL, I'm a big fan of the genre and have been on a big cyberpunk kick after playing some indie games. I didn't like the direction the first draft was going...so yeah, back to this redo shit again.

One of the things I kinda like with GFL is that there's so much in the world that isn't revealed. There are things we can only speculate as we get bits and pieces of lore. To me this is a chance to flex my writing muscles as I continue to work on my gate story. If HWGA was a swan song to service, this is a chance to try something different.

So without further ado, let's get into it.


2062 WEST VIRGINIA, ROSSART CORE TERRITORIES

"Hey wake up ya drunk!"

Benjamin Hatch snarled as he bolted upright with his gun aimed at whoever or whatever had woken him up from his alcohol induced slumber.

"Woah! Hey hey! It's me remember?! Played that gig with us?"

Staring back at Hatch and down the barrel of the tricked-out pistol aimed at him, a young man barely into his twenties stood at the foot of the couch Hatch had been laying on. He let go of one of Hatch's boots and raised his hands high into the air.

"The fuck-" Hatch paused and looked around confused for a few moments. Paperwork and ashtrays filled with cigarette buds littered the tops of old tables in front of aged currently occupied leather couches. Up above and nestled in the corner of the wooden ceiling an ancient heater hummed over the muffled beat of country music blasting from the bar area. The room reeked of cheap alcohol, tobacco, and sex. Hatch knew that stench anywhere, he was in the breakroom for The Last Stop Bar.

"Fucking hell what's wrong with you? Ty tupyy? Use your goddamn head" Hatch gave an anguished sigh, decocked the hammer, and returned the weapon to its holster underneath his bomber jacket. "Don't go waking people up like that."

"Well, you weren't getting up otherwise man, fuck." The would-be disturber of Hatch's slowly lowered their hands. "I didn't know you were such a heavy sleeper. Duly fucking noted!"

Nearby, nervous laughter broke out from other nearby couches. Groupies in various states of undress and young men with dreams of making it big.

"How long was I out for?" Hatch grimaced as his head started to throb. The nanomachines in his bloodstream had already kicked into overdrive as they started to sober him up, but it would still take some time before he was fully recovered. Not that he wanted that.

"Soon as we got done with that gig man. You bought a handle and just, fuckin' killed it."

"Hey man, Russians know how to knock that shit back you know?" Another younger man chimed in.

"He's a Uke you stupid shit."

"Oh, same difference right?"

Hatch ignored the ignorant comment and slowly looked to his right and at the coffee table separating him from other leather couches nearby. There, and sitting on its side, a half-empty bottle of whiskey stared back at him.

"Yeah, that was a few hours ago my guy."

"Fuck." Hatch winced as he ran a hand through his shoulder-length ashy gray hair. Now the burning taste of cheap whiskey had returned to his tongue and with it came the dry lips stemming from hours of open mouth sleeping. "There had better be a good reason why you woke me up."

"Some military guy and these soldiers landed in a VTOL like, 5 minutes ago. He said he was looking for you."

Hearing the bad news Hatch buried his face in his hands. "Did he say what he wanted?"

The young man shrugged. "Nope, but he said it was important."

"Great..." Hatch shifted himself and let his legs dangle onto the dusty carpet. Eyeing the half-empty bottle he then quickly snatched it up, popped the top off, and took a swig from the contents within.

One of the other younger guys nearby whistled. "Christ, that's 60% man!"

"Yeah, no shit." Hatch grumbled back as he put the bottle back down and slowly got to his feet. Carefully, he stumbled over to a nearby washroom and eagerly leaned over a leaky faucet to turn it on. Coldwater ran down over his calloused hands as he slowly rubbed puddles of it into his eyes a few times. Once he was finished, he turned the faucet off and took a long look at the miserable reflection in the mirror. A hawkish face with sunken sky blue eyes stared back at him from behind a face full of gray hair. The face of a young man trapped behind the visage of an older one.

"Priyvit, trainwreck." Hatch whispered before standing and hastily tying his hair into a bun. Satisfied he looked at least somewhat presentable, he returned to the breakroom and made his way to the exit.

"Hey man, you coming back?"

Hatch stopped and looked back over his shoulder at the kid who had woken him up. "Depends on what the news is."

"Well, if you don't, it was good playing with you, and good luck wherever you wind up next!"

The other musicians nodded and clanked half-empty glasses of alcohol with their new females doing the same.

"Yeah, you too."

Upon entering the dull red glow of neon lighting, Hatch's head throbbed more as it was bombarded by a cacophony of noise. The spacious bar area pulsated to the tune of synthetic music playing over loudspeakers. Crowds of people stretched for as far as the eye could see constantly chattering and breaking into laughter as people enjoyed their evening. The musty smell of alcohol and tobacco lingered in the air as clouds of smoke floated throughout the room. Another typical night at The Last Stop.

Hatch's boots creaked over wooden floorboards as he pushed through groups of people. Every so often his progress would be impeded by some dumb city girl trying to get an autograph or another drunken regular yelling at him to come join in the drinking festivities.

At the far end of the bar and on a stage bathed in multi-colored lights, a Lilim in a skimpy cowgirl outfit sang as she swayed to the beat of her haunting tune. Easily picking out Hatch in the crowd, she extended an arm and beckoned him to come to the stage.

Ordinarily, he would have taken her up on the offer. Hell, maybe even come on stage with his guitar to perform alongside her. Not tonight.

Eventually, Hatch made his way to the back of the bar where the relatively quiet dining tables were. Each table was arranged in a half-moon design recessed into separated booths. Perfect for those who wanted to dine in relative quiet.

Sitting in the rear corner of the dining area, an older balding man in a drab military uniform festooned with ribbons and medals quietly beckoned Hatch to join him.

Next to him and standing quietly with arms folded behind their back, a bodyguard in a crisp black suit stared at Hatch from behind his dark shades.

"Crawford." Hatch slowly sat down across from the man. "Long time no see."

"Ben." The officer folded his arms. "You look-"

"Like shit? Yeah, I feel like it too Joe."

"Well, I can't say the gruff look suits you." Crawford chuckled. "No Uncle Joe either?"

"I'm not a little boy anymore."

"Oh, I can see that."

"Ass." Hatch shook his head and reached into a breast pocket to pull out a pack of cigarettes. He lit one and took a few puffs. "Besides you're in hot water Mister important Rossart General."

Crawford raised his hands defensively. "Hey, I said hi to your mom."

"Oh, and you landed the VTOL on the field again." Hatch rolled his eyes and scoffed. "I'm sure she was happy about that."

"Mildly."

Both men exchanged tired laughs.

"So, what brings you back to our boring neck of the woods?" Hatch blew some smoke out of his nose. "Get bored over in the Capitol?"

"No, I came here for you." Crawford pointed at Hatch. "Give you a chance to make something of yourself again."

"How do you know I'm not content here?"

"Oh c'mon how daft do you take me for?" Crawford interlocked his fingers, his expression turning dour. "You've got your father's blood running through your veins. Getting drunk in a shit bar and doing odd jobs isn't you."

"Nothing gets past you does it?" Hatch took another drag and followed it with another puff of smoke. "Okay old man, I'll bite. What is it?"

"Let's just say I have a job opportunity for you."

"With who?"

Crawford folded his hands again and leaned back in. "Are you familiar with Griffon and Kryueger?"

"Christ, Joe?" Hatch fought back the urge to choke on his cigarette. "More goddamn merc work? You want to open that door again?"

"Now Ben listen to me damnit, this is good work. Pays well too-"

"Alright, ladies and gentlemen! Give it up for our Lilah!"

Crawford's voice was drowned out by an announcer on stage and the roar of applause that followed. Up on stage the Lilim that had been performing waved and blew a few kisses at the crowd as she stepped off.

"We've got some more tunes on the way, so don't be goin' anywhere!"

Hearing the announcer, Hatch furrowed his brow and sunk into his seat. He knew what was coming next.

"Hey, sugar! Runnin' from me again?!~" The Lilim jubilantly strutted up to the table and grinned at Hatch, her golden irises shining in the dark all the while. "I'm not interruptin' anything am I?"

"Actually-"

"-Please please, it's no worries." Crawford interrupted Hatch and gestured for his bodyguard to stand down, prompting the Lilim to eagerly slide in next to the disgruntled Hatch.

"Lilah, "I'm kinda busy." Hatch mumbled and reluctantly wrapped an arm around the Lilim's exposed metallic hip as she got comfortable.

"Hush I'm gonna enjoy myself whether you like it or not." Now with her head nestled softly against Hatch's shoulder, the Lilim raised an eyebrow at Crawford. "Who's the soldier?"

"Joseph Crawford, close friend of Hatch's family." The officer answered. "And you are?"

"Lilah Weathers, the main attraction of this fine establishment!" Lilah boasted as she ran a hand through her synthetic blonde hair for dramatic effect. "And a very close friend of Ben's."

"Knock it off." Ben's lower lip curled as the Lilim continued to tease him.

"Oh? That's new." Joe responded flatly. "Ben didn't tell me he was seeing anyone."

"It's complicated." Hatch and Lilah responded at the same time causing the latter to giggle and snuggle closer. Feeling his headache start to lessen, Hatch found his excuse to get some privacy back. "Hey Lilah, be a doll-"

"Don't call me no doll Ben. You know I ain't some dumb automaton." Lilah's facial expression turned serious as she glanced at the bodyguard. "No offense."

"None taken, ma'am."

Hatch nervously rubbed the back of his head. "Right, my bad. Get me a glass of whiskey huh? My tab's open so go ahead and treat yourself." Hatch brought a finger and thumb to Lilah's chin. "And no ice this time."

"Okay, how about your friend?"

"Oh nothing for me. Still in uniform and all." Crawford responded cautiously.

"Suit yourself, be back soon boys.~" With that Lilah slid out from next to Hatch and pushed through the throngs of people towards the bar.

"I see your taste in women hasn't changed." Crawford chuckled. "I didn't think Lilim came out this far. Let alone a King Class."

"Yeah, long story." Hatch took another drag and rolled his eyes. "So, back to the stupid idea of yours."

"Right right." Crawford rapped a few fingers on the top of the table. "GnK, look, I think it'd be a good opportunity."

Hatch sighed and rubbed his temples. "You really want me to go down that road again?"

"Ben GnK isn't like the White Knights or some other corpo enforcer outfit. They do good work-

"-Still merc work and last I checked Sangvis Ferri was kicking their asses."

"No, that's not true. The lines have mostly stabilized now." Crawford corrected Hatch. "What's this hesitation? You fought for the homeland during the war alongside your blood brothers-"

"Different times, different enemy."

"Because rogue AI isn't worse than communists?"

"No Joe." Hatch narrowed his gaze. "Not even fuckin' close."

"Ok, then let me ask you this." Crawford put a finger under his chin. "Not even if it's to support your mom?"

"Don't bring her up Joe." Hatch responded with rising irritation.

"Why not? You used that excuse when you ran off to Glitch City, what's stopping you now?"

"Yeah and how'd that turn out? I lost everything, no fucking thanks to you."

Crawford slammed a fist on the table attracting the table of a few nearby bargoers that had been within earshot. "Don't lecture to me about loss boy! I know damn well better than anyone else about loss and I was not about to lose you to fucking lynch mobs in a shit city!"

"Idy na khuy!" Hatch lost his patience and slipped into his native tongue as he got up from his chair to leave. Both men had just crossed a line and they had known better than to do so. For a few moments, they both sat in shamed silence. A few bargoers nearby cautiously stepped away knowing better than to question or otherwise get involved. Meanwhile, in the background synthetic music and the constant chatter of various groups of people continued.

Hatch unclenched his fists and sat back down. "I'm...sorry."

"No, it's my fault." Crawford grimaced. "Look, when I made that promise to your dad I didn't expect I would have to keep it. Seeing you like this, it..."

The officer sighed. "I don't like it, you're meant for more than this."

"No, this is where I belong." Hatch lit another cigarette and took a long sorrowful drag. "It keeps me busy."

"No this is rotting away." Crawford responded reassuringly. "And GnK is your chance to break free."

Hatch blew another cloud of smoke and considered his options.

"You know I'm right Ben. I can still see that fire in your eyes. You're a warrior, not some fucking drunk deadbeat."

Hatch remained silent for a few more moments before finally giving up."...Give me some time to think about it, you know mom is going to need some convincing."

"Well, that's a bridge we'll have to cross later." Relieved, Crawford smiled and leaned back against his cushion. Then, a look of confusion registered on his face. "Didn't your friend say she was going to get you a drink?"

"She did, yeah." Hatch scrunched his face and turned to look at the bar. That was when something caught his attention. Then came the look, the look Crawford had seen too many times.

"Ben, wait."

"Fucking goddamnit."

Too late. Hatch had already put his cigarette out and stormed out of the booth and towards the bar. He angrily pushed through people, ignoring the angry responses as the occasional drink was spilled and cigarettes put out haphazardly.

Hatch reached the bar and stopped. Sitting outward from the bar and towards Hatch, an estranged Lilah was boxed in by two men in clean office attire. One sat on her left side and the other stood in front, both were uncomfortably close.

"Gentlemen, there some sort of problem?" Hatch stepped in and interrupted whatever conversation they had been having.

"Problem?" The oldest of the two slowly turned around and glared at Hatch with glowing red eyes. "No, just making conversation."

"Is that why you have my friend boxed in there?" Hatch pointed at the three of them. "Doesn't seem like conversation to me."

"What's it to you, old man?"

That was when one of Hatch's hands started to ball into a fist. "Ain't no fuckin' old man."

"Ben, it's fine! They're just drunk-"

"Don't care, let's go." Hatch signaled for Lilah to follow him back to the table.

"Hey, c'mon now." The older man got up from his stool and started walking towards Hatch with his hands up. "What's the rush?"

"Me, I'm the rush and I'm tellin' you to get lost."

"Oh, are you?" The man stopped just short of Hatch giving him a better look at the cyberware on his face. Dark lines of circuitry were etched deep into his flesh and connected to his nervous system at various points. "What if we don't cooperate?"

"You two must not be from around here, corpo types right?" Hatch glanced at the man's friend then back at him.

A sly smile grew on the man's face. "How'd you know?"

Hatch's gaze narrowed. "Used to work for dumbasses like you. Still don't know when to fucking back down."

"Oh ho?" The man started hunching his shoulders forward as he squared up. "And it seems you don't know when to listen to your betters. So why don't you go back to your vodka bottle and do your silly little dances?" That challenge had been mistake number one.

"Pankivsʹka suchka. How about I smash it over your fucking head huh?

"What was that?" The man raised an eyebrow. "I don't speak slav."

"Come closer and I'll spell it out for you."

Seeing a crowd of curious onlookers start to gather, Lilah got up from the bar in an attempt to break the tension. "Ben it's okay we can go!"

No sooner did Lilah get up, the other man grabbed her wrist and yanked her back. "Where the hell do you think you're goin?! They're just talkin'!" That had been the second mistake. The third and final one was the lazy sucker punch thrown at Hatch's face when he broke eye contact with his adversary.

Hatch backpedaled slightly, evaded the lazy blow, and delivered a swift haymaker to the side of his assailant's head with a loud whack. It had all happened so fast nobody had reacted until Hatch's assailant crumpled onto the alcohol-stained floorboards. That was when the music stopped and the bar got quiet.

His attacker dispatched, Hatch looked at the other man with hate-filled eyes and clenched fists, one of which still throbbed in pain after colliding with circuitry and bone. He had only taken one step forward when suddenly the man put his hands up in the air.

"Jesus fuck, Okay you made your point!"

His eyes glowed a bright blue as he got off his stool and backed away from Lilah. "It was just a couple of drinks-"

"Shut the fuck up!" Hatch snapped back as he knelt and started searching through the fallen man's coat. Upon finding a neatly folded stack of bills he got back up and slammed the stack on the bar counter.

"Hey Jill, these two are closing my tab."

"Got it." A middle-aged woman behind the bar responded calmly as she continued to clean glasses."You have a good night Ben."

"Yep."

Hatch grabbed his glass off the countertop and downed it in a single gulp before turning on his heels and walking towards the exit, ignoring the crowds all the while. On his way out he waved at Crawford.

"Night Joe!"

"Yeeah...be seein' ya Ben!" An embarrassed Crawford yelled back as he shrunk back into his seat. Once Hatch pushed through the double doors, the rest of the bar huddled around the body on the floor in stunned silence for a few moments more. Only to go back to enjoying the night as the music started again. Left to pick up the pieces, the Unconcious businessman's partner knelt by his friend and tried to wake him up.

Back at his table, Crawford rubbed his temple as his bodyguard slowly removed a hand from under his coat.

"I could have handled it you know."

"Yeah, I know." Crawford watched as Lilah ran back to the breakroom and emerged with a guitar in her hands. "But then there'd have been two bodies."

The bodyguard relaxed and went back to his previous position. "So, you think he'll join?"

"Of course, he will." Crawford fetched his cover off his bench seat and got up from the table. "As for us, we need to get going. Wife's gonna be pissed if I'm not home in time."

"Roger I'll get the VTOL spun up."

Crawford put his cover back on and started towards the exit and the uncertain series of events ahead. "Good, I'm flying this time."