Apologies in advance: I was going to do a much larger bit at the beginning here with the Shadowrun... but any author worth his salt can tell when a bit is going nowhere, and has the decency to wrap it up, fast.

This sense of decency carried over to my striking out an entire part of the story. It's tasteless, and lies on the cutting room floor where it belongs.

"But you were history with the

Slamming of the door

And I made myself so strong

Again somehow

And I never wasted any of my time

On you since then"

- 'It's all coming Back to Me Now', Celine Dion

Twisted Prophecy, Chapter 2

Michael Cordilla adjusted his cufflinks uncomfortably and looked at his wristwatch. He was promised some help about now. Michael, like many thousands of other people who work, was not happy with his job and was wishing to make a change of career. Unlike those other thousands, he was going to walk out with a prototype worth millions of Nuyen to bring to his new company. And the company would know, quickly, about it; likely before he even got out the door. He turned the simstim chip over and over in his hands. He was supposed to be testing it, and that was only for 30 minute checkouts. It was at the 20 minute mark now. His intercom buzzed. "Yes?" he spoke to it. "Mr. Cordilla, there is a man here to see you. Says Mr. Johnson sent him?" Michael ran his arm across his forehead. It was beginning. "Ok," he said, "Send him in."

His door open and in walked the runner. The runner wore a black leather trenchcoat, a Chinese looking red shirt, pants to match the jacket... and a mask. A shiny-chrome almost skeletal looking gas mask. The runner spoke, "My name is Kabal, I believe Mr. Johnson set us up a meeting?" Michael nodded, then looked Kabal over severely, "Aren't you more than just a bit obvious?" Kabal shrugged and said, "Not like we have much chance of getting outta here quietly once we get off this floor anyway. Besides, your receptionist didn't seem to mind. She thought I was cute." Michael looked Kabal over carefully, "I don't see any firearms, are you packing?" he asked. Kabal shook his head. "Shouldn't you have a gun? We have ARMED security here." Kabal shook his head again. "Well, you're the professional. And Johnson tells me you're one of the best." Kabal just walked out the door.

Michael gathered up the prototype hastily, nearly dropping it, and hurried after Kabal. Kabal had stopped in the front office, and was sitting on the receptionist's desk. She was braiding his hair for him. Michael, not quite sure if he was maintaining his grip on reality, stayed where he was and waited while the runner and his receptionist made flirty small talk. The braid was completed, snapped off with a rubber band, and Kabal turned to face the receptionist. "So yeah, I'll be sure to give you a call..." he made a waving motion at her with his hand, "Maria" she offered helpfully. Kabal raised his hand to stroke her cheek, "A perfect name for such an exotic beauty." He leaned forward on the desk, moving towards her for an embrace. One hand of his slipped to the release on her chair, letting the back fall to lay her back. Then his other hand raised, and knife-hand struck her in the temple. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she reclined in the chair, out cold. Kabal rolled off the desk and stood straight. Michael couldn't help but laugh, "Well, she won't be hitting the alarm. Never liked the bitch anyway." Kabal stared at him, gaze intense even under the mask. Michael's smile faltered, "Umm... let's go, eh?"

There were no hitches whatsoever. Kabal and Michael made their way easily down as far as the front security desk, where Kabal simply kicked the security guard, hard enough to completely shatter his skull, then kicked the front door open. Michael, dumbfounded at the oddity of the entire situation, transfered the nuyen to Kabal's credstick and left.

Kabal trudged tiredly up the stairs to his apartment. Four runs in one night. It was tiring, true, but well paying. In just the first two jobs, he had made 6 months rent on his apartment. It was a lucrative business. Other Shadowrunners complained about the danger of it all; Kabal himself did not. He found that his Kenpo skills were completely unmatched by anybody this dingy future had to offer up yet. What bothered him was his surroundings. This city, this "New Seattle" was the saddest place he had ever seen. The poverty was apalling, and the crime rate was downright sickening. Everywhere he looked, every step he took, he was surrounded by the worst urban squalor he could imagine. When he was a child he had read about some of the ghetto cities in poorer parts of America, but could not imagine how horrible it would really be. Though he was saving money to avenge his wife with, he found that almost all of what he made was being handed out on a daily basis to the poorest of the town.

As he was slipping the key into the lock, he detected a sound... little girl whimpering. He turned and looked about for the source of it. Looking around the landing in front of his door, he spotted the situation. There were four metahumans, three orcs and a dwarf, standing over the face- down body of a girl who could be 13 at most. Kabal's eyes narrowed to angry slits as the dwarf hiked up the back of her skirt and began to unbuckle his pants. "Hey assholes! Get the hell away from her." he yelled. The orc in back looked up at him, "Shut up drek-head. Halloween was a few months ago, so you take your happy ass inside, take off your little mask, and go fuck yourself in privacy." Kabal fought back the rage from taking him over.. a martial artist's worst enemy was a lack of self control, and leapt down in front of that orc. The orc reached into his jacket and took out a rather large, brutal looking pistol. Kabal judged the distance and realized he wouldn't likely cover it in time to disarm the thug. Instead, he held his hands together and quickly gathered strength. The girl in question took this opportunity to fix her skirt, give Kabal a look of adoring thanks, then run off.

"Mouko-" he thought better of that. Instead he thought of his wife; his child, and the death always around him in this town. The hopelessness he saw daily in the eyes of the children who lived here.

"Shi-shi Hokoudan!" A blast of energy, fueled by anger, sadness, and despair shot forth from Kabal's hands. The crimson light struck the orc full on, and his entire upper body was torn to pieces. An instant later, blood hit the pavement; sound of so much bathwater thrown out a second story window. He turned on the remaining metahumans. "What the hell are you, chummer?" asked the dwarf as he fumbled his belt back together. Kabal smiled under the mask and remembered an old, cheesy line as he advanced on the threesome. "Tell me my friend, have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?" One of the orcs pulled his vibroknife and said, "You a loon, chummer." Kabal threw his trenchcoat down and rolled his arms a bit. "You're all going to die now. Let's dance!" As he said that, the orc with the vibroblade was hurled to the alley wall, stapled there by a black-bladed Colonial Marines knife. The orc reached to pull it out, when another object, small and silver, embedded itself in his neck. Kabal took this opportunity to rush the dwarf, tackling him with a wrestling spear, then flipping the dwarf over onto the ground behind him. Kabal whirled quickly and drove his fist downwards, caving in his skull and sending a fountain of brain matter spraying off to the side. He turned to the final orc, but the orc was already dead on the ground, slash marks in sets of three over his guts and throat.

Tina Kurosawa was in the alley with him. Extending from between the knuckles on each hand were three blades, and there was a trickle of green around each of them. The blades were surrounded with a green field of energy which lit the entire alley enough for him to see her face in detail. They retracted back between her knuckles and she smiled at him. "Well Kabal, fancy meeting YOU again! Howareya?" "Fine," Kabal mumbled, and walked over to the first orc Tina had downed. He pulled the object out of the orc's throat, and his suspicions were confirmed. One of her throwing spatulas was the instrument of death. Then he took the knife out of the orc's shoulder and turned it over in his hands a few times. "Nice knife." he said and handed it back. "Yeah," she said, "custom issue. Carbonite blade." "It must be nice to be a General." he said. Tina cleaned off the blade and put it back in it's ankle sheath, "It has it's benefits yes, but it's mostly just paperwork. Since Johansen died I'm now the highest ranked military officer alive. I don't like it much." "Yeah, well, have a nice life." Kabal said and began back up the stairs.

"What's wrong?" Tina asked. Kabal stopped moving, "Nothing that you don't already know about. I'm fine." Tina was havng none of that, "Look sugar, you can't bullshit a bullshitter. Something else is wrong." Kabal sighed... it was almost too eerie, like their teen years; she could always tell when something was wrong with him. "I really didn't want to see you again," he began, "I mean, I don't want to sound like an ingrate, thanks for the implants and all, but I really must be getting on with what I need to do." Tina crouched a bit, performed a moonsault, and landed in front of him, facing him. She poked his shoulder, "Look, ass," she punctuated each word with a poke to him, "there's something wrong and you really need someone to talk to about it. I can tell." Kabal raised his arms in protest, "I just want to be left the hell alone, OK?!" Tina took both of his hands. (Why did I just do that?) she thought. Then spoke, "Look, fine, you don't have to talk at all. You wait here, I'll go fetch some groceries and I'll make you dinner." He would have been able to refuse her, except his stomach chose exactly that moment to remind him that fast food wasn't very nutritious. It grumbled at him. Sensing victory, Tina smiled. "I know just the perfect thing. It's my specialty. You ever had a dish called Okonomiyaki?"

Kabal's stomach grumbled again, and in a tide of memory, his resolve quickly weakened. She still cooked okonomiyaki? Of course she did. "Can't... say that I have. Allright, I accept. You can cook me dinner." Tina released his hands and found herself supressing a giggle. "Ok, Kabal, I'll be back in 5 minutes!" she said. Kabal smiled, "I'll leave the door open." Tina dashed off, stopped at the corner, and waved, then dashed again.

She stopped halfway to the asian goods store. She realized that she was acting like a giddy teenager. She had not acted such (except literally ACTING, in a movie role) in a long, long time. A feeling was awakened that she had not felt in a long time, and she had trouble chasing it down. It was happiness. She was excited to be cooking him dinner; it felt so... right. She chided herself for her silliness. She was a warrior, not a boy- crazy schoolgirl. She was 96 years old, and a hardened soldier. Many saw her as an idol, a hero. All that good stuff. (So start ACTING it, girl!) she told herself. She willed herself to walk at a normal pace to the store. This did nothing to quell the feeling of overwhelming happiness though.

Kabal sat in his apartment, deep in thought for an indeterminate time. Then it occured to him that the place was a horrible mess. He opened his eyes and looked about. Dishes dirty from a few month's time, and whatever was in his fridge had likely mutated into something sentient by now. He wanted to clean the place up, he was embarassed. He'd never assumed on having company. He stood to do so, when Tina popped in the doorway. "Hey I..." she looked at her surroundings, "you know, you go take a shower, and I'll take care of this, eh?" Kabal started to offer his help, but Tina pointed firmly away from the kitchenette, "Go!" she said. Kabal sighed and did as he was told.

When the shower was over, he walked out, bare from the waist up, and sat at the kitchen counter. He placed his mask on the counter and set about drying his hair. Tina smiled at him as she finished off the last of the dishes. Kabal took the towel off his head and let it rest on the back of the chair he was sitting on, to be pleasently surprised by the condition of the apartment. In that 15 minute shower, Tina had cleaned tha apartment almost back to new. He pushed his hair back from his shoulders and favored Tina with a smile in return for hers. She looked at his face, and took in his features. Those eyes.. that face.. despite the scars, Kabal really DID look like her Ran-chan. She was still admiring it when Kabal put his mask back on.

Kabal braided his hair quickly and looked over at his stove (now immaculately clean). Tina was warming up a large grill attachment that was spread across all his burners. He saw all the familiar tools being used in just the way he remembered them. Then he took note of the fact that Tina was speaking

"-means 'as you like it'. What happens is I make the base here, and we can put almost anything in it. You have any particular preferences?" Kabal responded almost on autopilot "Two deluxe." Tina paused a moment, then said "I'm assuming by that you want a little of everything in there?" "Yes", Kabal said, "go heavy on the" -beef sukiyaki, he and Tina both thought at the same time- "teriyaki chicken, if you would?" "Surely," Tina said, "so, while I'm working here, why don't you tell me what's wrong?" Kabal sighed loud and long. "It's this place... it gets to me."

"How do ya mean, sugar?" Tina asked, flipping his oknomiyaki effortlessly, cooking the sides to a near crisp, while leaving the interior contents soft and chewy. "Everywhere I go, it's just so... wrong. I mean everyone is so... poor here. I mean, like Renraku makes enough money to pay a schmo like me 8 thousand nuyen to deliver someone's damn business memos, and the people at large can't even scrape 25 together to buy a damn turkey for their kids on Christmas." Tina nodded at him, "I know whatcha mean. It ain't right. Ya try and help, but there's only so much you can do." Kabal stood up and walked to the fridge. "You want a beer?" he asked. Tina pointed at the livingroom table, "I brought a few bottles of wine. Crack one open." Kabal looked over at them, then said, "I don't have a corkscrew, did you bring one?"

"Corkscrew? You know what one of those are? Heh, nobody's used one of them in 30 years, Kabal. Just tilt the bottle at a 45 degree angle, hold it there, and it'll start pouring after a second or so." Kabal did as Tina instructed him, and was somewhat surprised when what Tina said was true. Though the place he lived was not all that different from Nerima as he remembered it, sometimes new technology snuck up and surprised him. Culture lag. 6 months and it was still all so unusual to him. He poured two large tumblers full of wine and brought them back with him to the counter.

"Jeez Kabal-sama, are you trying to get me drunk or what?" Tina laughed. Kabal looked at the plastic glasses and said, "What?" Tina laughed again, "You've never had wine before, have you?" Kabal placed one of the glasses down and scratched the back of his head uncomfortably. Still maintaining a mirthful smile, Tina flipped his okonomiyaki onto his plate, and one for her. She looked at Kabal standing there like a buffoon, and couldn't help herself. She drew a big goofy face with small beady eyes on his okonomiyaki and signed it "Tina", with a heart dotting the I. She easily threw both plates onto the table, then threw silverware to line up perfectly next to the plates. "Time to eat, I guess!" Kabal said as he popped down into his chair. Then his eyes fell upon the okonomiyaki at his place. The silly face, it brought memories. Even the signature, though now it was a different name. He suddenly began to feel as if he was just fooling himself. Yes, his wife was dead. So was his child. He would never forget that, never forgive. But did it mean he had to die as well?

Tina sat primly across from him, and lifted up her glass. "A toast!" she said. Kabal raised his glass and toasted for her, "To old times, old friends, and love lost." "Kampai!" Tina responded, "and chug!" They both slammed their tumblers of wine. Tina savored the light warmth as it spread through her body, whereas Kabal smacked his chest twice with a closed fist, then let out a thunderous belch. "Sexy." Tina quipped, "Tell me about your wife and I'll tell you about Ranma." Kabal began to wince, then realized that she wasn't making him feel uncomfortable at all. She genuinely seemed to care. "Well, she was a sweet woman. The first thing I remember of meeting her, and the last thing I always will, is her smile." he refilled his glass, Tina did the same, then he continued, "When she smiled, it was one of those smiles, one that tells you everything is gonna be allright, no matter what your problems may be..."

A half hour late, quite pleasantly squiffed, he was still talking about her, and Tina was all attentive. They had since gotten through the second bottle of wine. "And she had a TEMPER on her like you wouldn't believe. I tell you, when we were younger, I couldn't do ANYTHING right in her eyes. Even saved that girl's life Amaterasu knows how many times, and still she had nothin but bad words for me." Tina laughed, "Highschool sweethearts eh?" Kabal nodded, "Yeah, those were the days. Me an alla my friends, fighting against demons, gods, and what all else!"

Tina smiled again, wistfully, "Sounds like me and my friends. We really tore up the roads when I was a kid. There was a kid... with peaches, what the heck was his name?" "Tomo?" Kabal offered, helpfully, then immediately sized up the human body's capabilities of kicking itself in the ass. "Yeah!" Tina said, "that was the little shit's name! He was... hey, how'd you know that?" She looked at him intensely. "Oh," Kabal said, waving his hand dismissively, "The legend of Tomo and the peach. I didn't really expect you to have actually met _him_." "Oh, " she said, "you know, you really do remind me of the man I loved." Tina said. Kabal held his drink up for another refill, "Tell me about him?" "Well, he did his hair like yours, but then, almost everyone who practices Kenpo does, it seems. He was... so sweet. Nobody else saw that in him." Kabal was confused, he thought 'sweet' was not a correct term to describe him in his olden days.

"I mean, he was rough around the edges, but, ya see, he grew up on the road with his father. Two men alone on the road don't teach each other much in the way of manners. But that was WHY he was so sweet. The guy would never lie to you. He hated it more than anything. He was wild, free, and didn't give a shit what anyone thought of him... except his friends. He tried so hard, he tried never to hurt anyone. Even Ryouga, who was always tryin to kill him. He was truly a man among men."

Kabal finished his glass, and slightly dizzy, began on another one. "So what ever became of him?" Tina looked down into her glass and swirled it about. "Well, he was in an arranged marriage, y'see. And he married her. I saw him again about 20 years after that; he was actually my Marine drill instructor. He was happy in his wedding, so I loved him from afar. Then well... he died. That's making a really long story short, but hey. We'd be here all night."

"Do you miss him?" Kabal asked. Tina looked up, and he could see there were tears forming in her eyes, "Yes. More than anything." "And you never loved anyone else?" he asked. Tina rubbed at her eyes, "Oh I tried, but I couldn't. There were.. partners here and there, and I have a few kids, all full grown now, but nobody could ever measure up to him. He was kind, gentle, noble... he never wanted to hurt anyone, and his dopey smile just melted my heart. The way he looked at the world, he was just a big kid. Quick to hurt, and just as quick to love. No matter what, he never lost that wide-eyed innocence." Kabal could not resolve that with what he actually thought of himself. "No," he said, "I'm sure he wasn't like that. He couldn't be all that, I mean.. he left you. He hurt you." Tina stared daggers at him, "You did not know the man. He tried everything he could to not hurt anyone. I lost, I gotta live with that, the sheer numbers stacked the odds against me, but it was not HIS fault that I hurt, it's mine for loving someone who was already taken. He didn't want to hurt me or any of the others who loved him" Kabal shook his hands in frustration, "How can any man be so damn perfect? You're exaggerating. I mean, way I see it, he was a womanizer for juggling all of you like that." Tina glared harshly at him, "Again. You did NOT know the man. Now, you keep this up and I'm gonna have to say goodnight."

"But.. I'm not.." he caught himself, "I don't want you to go. I haven't... talked to anyone since I got here. I miss... people. I'm..." Tina tilted her head in pity, "...lonely?" she asked. He nodded, unable to meet her eyes. "OK then," she said, "whenever my Ran-chan got lonely, there was a song he always used to listen to. Want me to sing it for you?" Kabal nodded; he realized it was true, he was desperately lonely, and this was a dark and evil world to be alone in. Anything to make her stay a bit longer. "You... can sing too?" he asked. Tina giggled again. "Yes, silly. You have one of my recordings!" she pointed to the entertainment center on the rack. Kabal looked where she was pointing, a music disk by Ariana Saotome was open, with the data in the player. "That's.." he said, to be cut off by her, "Me. It's a stage name, you jackass!" Kabal laughed, "Oh bullshit!" Tina looked offended, "No, really! Go look at the jacket!" He retrieved the case.. and sure enough, there was a picture of Tina, scar on the left cheek and all, with a microphone headset on. "Well, I'l be dipped in horeshit! You're a star!"

Unknown by either of them, they had an audience. This audience turned to the rest of her friends and said, "Now is probably not the best time. They're a little... busy right now."

"Yeah!" Tina said, rising to her feet and swaying a bit, "now why don't you just sit right there and enjoy a private performance of Ran- chan's favorite song... 'I look up when I walk'." Kabal tried not to visibly react to that. Yes, indeed, Sukiyaki was his favorite song. Tina cleared her throat, cued his entertainment center to play without lyrics, sang a few notes to find her key, then began: (English translation added here, too)

Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk

Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall

Omoidasu haru no hi Remembering those happy spring days

Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone

Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk

Nijinda hoshi o kazoete Counting the stars with tearful eyes

Omoidasu natsu no hi Remembering those happy summer days

Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone

Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni Happiness lies beyond the clouds

Shiawase wa sora no ue ni Happiness lies above the sky

Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk

Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall

Nakinagara aruku Though my heart is filled with sorrow

Hitoribotchi no yoru For tonight I'm all alone

Omoidasu aki no hi Remembering those happy autumn days

Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone

Kanashimi wa hoshi no kage ni Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars

Kanashimi wa tsuki no kage ni Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon

Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk

Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall

Nakinagara aruku Though my heart is filled with sorrow

Hitoribotchi no yoru For tonight I'm all alone

Kabal had his head cast at a downward angle. There was a bit of moisture that had trickled down onto his bare chest. "Oh my..." Tina said, "Are you... crying?" Kabal quickly shook his head, and faced away, removing his mask and fiddling with it. "It's.. I got some stuff in my eye." Tina smiled at it all, almost crying herself. (Why? How is this guy getting me so damned emotional?) He turned back to her, mask still off, and made eye contact with her. He had been crying, it was obvious. And it was just as obvious that he was trying to make it look like he hadn't been. His eyes were so...

"Will you sing it for me, again?" he asked her. She took his hand and raised him to his feet. "Dance with me and I will." Kabal hesitated and tried to sit back down, "I don't..." Tina placed her finger on his lips. "Just hold me. Move if you want to." He did so, and she pawed at his entertainment center, setting it to go again, at a slowed tempo. This time she sang the words directly into his ear, slow and sultry, filled with the bittersweet pain of her own love. Halfway through the song she opened her eyes and saw a tiny birthmark behind the ear she was singing into. She almost lost it and went hysterical when she connected with what that meant. Instead, after a brief pause, she picked up the song again, singing with all her heart had in it. The tears flowed from her eyes as well... because now she knew.