Remember how I said you could make requests or ask questions and I would write stories in response? Well, that’s going really well! Here’s all the stories (and their respective prompts) that I’ve written over September and October.
The best place to make suggestions or ask questions is in the forum thread, but I’ll also accept them from discord, twitter, and tumblr.
“What about this job?” Dixie said, holding her phone up for Cleo to see across the table. “Codename Braum. Doing an art gallery in Topeka.”
“Why would we subject ourselves to driving through Kansas?” Cleo asked, not looking up from her smash burger combo. She was not helping to search because a hamburger required two hands to eat and she didn’t want to get grease on her phone’s screen.
“Wait, Topeka is in Kansas?” Dixie asked. frowning.
“It’s the capital of Kansas, honey,” Cleo confirmed patiently. Then, curious, she asked, “Where did you think it was?”
“I don’t know.” Dixie’s face scrunched up, wondering that too. “Not Kansas. How valuable could the art from Kansas be?”
“Well, hold on,” Cleo said. She tilted her head to the side, considering. “With a name like Brahm, he might have more insight on the Kansas art scene than we’re giving him credit for. If he’s named for the composer, maybe he’s not a complete philistine. Perhaps there’s something special moving through there.”
“Yeah, well, it’s spelled like the ice cream store,” Dixie said around a mouthful of Frito pie. Cleo shot a disgusted glance her way. Dixie swallowed her food before continuing. “Maybe he’s just a goth kid and Dracula and Alucard were already taken.”
“There’s a remote possibility that it’s a Legend of Sleepy Hollow reference,” Cleo mused as she swirled a french fry around in the puddle of ketchup on her plate.
“Wasn’t Brom the bad guy in the movie?” Dixie asked.
“More than Ichabod himself?” Cleo asked. “The man was trying to marry the girl for her money.”
“You wouldn’t name yourself after the dickhead in the movie though, would you?”
“You might if you thought he was in the right,” Cleo pointed out. Then she shrugged. “Or if Ichabod had too many syllables to be used as a codename.”
“Okay, hold up,” Dixie said, chuckling at this turn in the conversation and waving her hands in front of her to halt this line of thinking. “We’re forgettin’ the important thing here.
“We can’t tell anything about what this guy knows about the art scene in Kansas by his name alone, ’cause he ain’t the one who woulda picked it. His controller did and that don’t do us shit. The only real thing we know about Braum is that he’s going to Kansas for art.”
“Keep looking then,” Cleo said. She took another bite of her burger.
“Say Cairo, Sable and the rest come across another member of this Syndicate known as Bram. You think “reference to Bram Stoker”, right?
Well, after a bit of conversating, they find out he was trying to call himself “Brom”, like Brom Bones from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and now he’s all butthurt by the fact he can’t change that.
Nothing major, just thought it’d be a tad funny.”
– Paupers Run
“Ok, just realized you don’t pick your code names with Syndicate. Ok, here’s my revamp:
Brom wanted to go by, well Brom, and said so to whoever you talk to while becoming a part of The Syndicate. He got told that’s not how it works, and he’s thinking “Ugh, fine, whatever.”
Once his registration is done, The Syndicate picks Bram as his codename. He swears they did that on purpose.”
– Paupers Run
“Mmhmm, and what kind of weapon do you carry?”
“Weapon?” Cleo asked.
“Yeah-huh, your gun,” the bored controller seated on the other side of the desk elaborated. “You can’t rob a bank with just a mean face.”
“I’m really more of a burglar than a-”
“Ya still need a gun, hun.” The controller clicked her mouse of a couple times. “Look, go out, buy a gun, and come back tomorrow. I can save your application, but I can’t activate your account if you ain’t got your equipment.
“I have more than enough to buy it,” Cleo said. “I don’t see what your objection is.” It was a combat shotgun, the most intimidating-looking weapon in the racks at EZ Pawn. It had a sloppy, jagged engraving on the receiver that read “Nasty Gal”. Cleo considered the inscription damage and felt it should’ve made the weapon less expensive. The elderly shop owner thought the narrative it created increased its value however.
“My ‘objection’,” the elderly pawn shop owner said, making finger quotes at Cleo’s use of too fancy a word, “is that this ain’t a weapon for some Ivy League rich girl who won’t appreciate what she’s got. This was used as a prop in Black Beignets, held in the hands of Trini St. Romain, with a certificate of authenticity. It says Nasty Gal on it and you ain’t no nasty gal.”
His refusal to sell was utterly ridiculous. She had the money, she would certainly pass the background check. And yet, she couldn’t buy the stupid gun because she wasn’t “nasty” enough.
Cleo would have debated, argued, and charmed until she brought him around to her way of thinking, but what could she really argue here? That she was, in fact, going to use the gun to get up to some nasty shit? He probably wouldn’t even believe her. And even if he did, she probably still wouldn’t be robbing banks in a nasty enough fashion for his liking.
No, there was a much simpler and more direct way to get what she wanted.
Cleo rolled her eyes and left.
She then spent the rest of the day waiting for the shopkeeper to leave, watching the shop from her rental car in an alley across the street,
She could have just bought a gun somewhere else. She should have. But now she wanted – had to have – this one. Cleo just couldn’t abide a world where she was denied access to anything, especially when she had the money. She knew this was ridiculous, that she’d let herself feel the same way to a prop from a movie she’d never seen and assumed was terrible as she would an artifact in a museum, if only because someone else was keeping it out of reach. She did feel that way though, and a mere pawn shop was not going to keep her out.
Cleo waited until the last shop on the street closed down. Then she pulled her car around to the back of the pawn shop. She reached up and turned the domelight off before getting out of the car. She left the door open for a quick getaway.
The front door and windows had bars, but in her experience, people didn’t often think much about the back door. She figured there was a good chance the heavy metal door could be opened with nothing more than a piece of stiff wire. Work the wire into the jam, slip the latch and pull-
The alarm sounded!
No matter. She knew where the gun was. Cleo cast a quick glance around the shop floor, looking for something blunt and heavy, and landed on weight bench with loose weights sitting on top. She picked up one of the weight plates, dashed to the gun case, and smashed the plate into the glass. She used the plate to break more of th glass out of her way, then grabbed the Nasty Gal from the case. Her first smash-and-grab! Cleo ran straight back to the back door, but she stopped in the doorway. She reached in her pocket and threw a wad of cash totaling $2800 into the store. The wad exploded into a shower of bills and wafted down to settle on the floor and counters. With that, she threw herself in her car and got the fuck outta dodge.
The pawn shop owner arrived on the scene minutes later, having been alerted by his alarm system. It was obvious to him who did this. Only one thing was stolen and it had still been paid for. Petty thugs didn’t leave you enough money for the stolen goods with change leftover to buy a new gun case. He rifled through the bills one more time, just to be certain of the amount. That’s when he saw the the handwriting on one of the bills.
In a tidy cursive, there was a note.
Who’s nasty now?
The store owner chuckled at the cheek of it. He stuck the bill in his pocket. He still had to call the police since it was a firearm that had been stolen, but he decided to keep that bit of evidence to himself.
I broke the forums a while back so I don’t have the suggestion verbatim, but it was from Paupers Run and it was basically “Weapon backstories?”
Method and Madness
“We should approach quietly,” Method said.
“You would say that,” Madness said.
“Of course I would,” Method replied evenly. “It’s the only logical way to go.”
“Except running in guns a-blazing and scaring the shit out of everyone so they don’t have time to think or fight us.”
Method started in on some deapanned reasoning involving fight-or-flight response and the variables it brought into the situation but Madness’ eyes glazed over. Cleo and Dixie glanced sidelong at each other, sharing a look of acknowledgement that they had brought this on themselves.
Twins. You rarely ever got the ones with the telepathic link that put them in perfect sync. Instead, you usually got a pair of fuckin’ Geminis, at odds on everything up to and including the hiest plan. Siblings – especially twins – were always way too comfortable with each other and not comfortable enough with anyone else. It created problems. A lot of times, siblings were so concerned with each other that they couldn’t fit anyone else into their awareness. Or like today, they’d be too busy arguing to agree on a course of action.
Cleo and Dixie usually avoided jobs where the other crewmates were visibly siblings. The jobs had been coming up dry lately though. The Syndicate had grown by several hundred agents and that meant the job distribution was thinner. So they took the job with these twins (whose codenames really ought to have been enough of a clue that it was a bad idea) and now they were gonna pay for it.
“They gave us zero point ones!” Dixie bitched.
“Obviously,” Cleo harrumphed, scowling at her own phone. “They have to explain why we came out with such a pitiful take and they weren’t going to downrate each other.”
“That is such a load of shit though,” Dixie said. She slammed her phone facedown on the diner table in disgust. “Madness was the one who deviated from the plan and created a panic.”
“You would think by now, Method would have figured out how to reign his sister in,” Cleo huffed.
“Or, you know, they could work separate of each other,” Dixie said. “It’s fuckin’ weird to still be joined at the hip when you’re out of school. Hell, it’s still weird in school, but at least there I can understand. I mean, who’d want to be friends with those two?”
Cleo and Dixie are working a job with a pair of siblings (gender is at your discretion). These two are constantly bickering and sniping at each other, with C and D (maybe the driver as well) being stuck in the middle of it.
– Paupers Run
“Is this where I can sign up to be a bank robber?” Chester asked timidly. He held up a cellphone with a Hole-in-the-Wall app profile open on it. He was sure it was not clear what he meant, being that this was the headquarters of a cellphone app that catalogued dive bars. The receptionist’s eyes widened and without a word, he immediately punched in an extension on his phone. He stared down at the panel of lights until one lit up.
“Take that elevator,” he said, pointing to the first in a bank along the wall. “Don’t press any buttons. It’ll take you where you need to go.”
“Thank you,” Chester said, giving the receptionist a grateful smile and he turned for the elevator. He pressed the call button and boarded when the doors opened.
Standing there, he wondered why he was not given a floor. Where was he supposed to go? The building had six floors. He was about to just pick one at random so he could get off and ask for better directions, but the elevator began to move, not up but down.
A secret basement, he thought to himself. Neat!
When the doors opened, he was greeted by a severe woman in a prim skirt suit. She took the phone from him and gestured for him to follow her.
“Where did you get this?” she demanded.
“I found it on the floor of my bank,” Chester answered, quailing under the harshness of her question. “Behind a potted ficus.”
“And how did you get into the backend of the app?”
“It just opened to it when I unlocked the phone.”
“There wasn’t any kind of passcode or swipe pattern on it?” she asked, incredulous. She leaned forward, bearing down on Chester, as if it was his fault the phone’s previous owner didn’t secure it. Chester shrunk into his chair and shrugged.
She pressed the power button on the phone and, sure enough, it opened the Hole-in-the-Wall app, bypassing the frontend and automatically logging into the backend. She navigated to this fool’s profile to find out who it was who was threatening their entire operation. The profile loaded, revealing the phone’s owner to be an agent codenamed Clippy. His profile photo had a black-and-white filter, though, meaning the agent had been reported as deceased. Pity, she thought. No one to make an example of.
“Um, look, ma’am,” Chester ventured. “I don’t care that all this is illegal. I’m not gonna tell anyone. I just want in on it.”
She gaze snapped up from the phone to examine Chester’s face for motive.
“Have you ever committed armed robbery before?” she demanded to know.
“No, but I’m not afraid! I could be a great bank robber!”
Her eyes practically rolled out of her head, but then an idea flashed across them.
“All right. In recognition of your service here today in bringing this grievous breach of security to our attention, I will put you on a crew. It’ll be an easy introductory job. I’ll even have a firearm requisitioned for you.”
Chester’s face broke into a bright grin.
“Thank you, ma’am! You won’t regret this!”
She didn’t acknowledge his thanks, ignoring him to bend down over her desk and scribble a note on a post-it note. When she finished, she ripped it off the pad and handed it to him.
“Take that to the end of the hall, turn left, and go through the third door on the left. The controller in that office will get you set up.
Chester hopped out of his chair and accepted the post-it note.
“Thank you again, ma’am! I’m really excited about this!” He waited for a response, but gave up and left when he realized she was finished with him.
He shut the door behind him and read the post-it note.
For immediate assignment on Accounts Payable team. – Verdandi
The controller let out a low whistle when he read the post-it note. Normally with a novice he’d ask why they were interested in the work and make sure this wasn’t going to be a waste of time, but in this case, he would get in trouble if Chester backed out now. So instead he sat back down behind his desk, gestured for Chester to take a seat opposite, and started setting up his profile.
Chester looked around while the controller filled in the information on the computer. He read the name plate on the controller’s desk – his name was Zeppo – and took in the books on the shelf behind him. Mark Twain, William Faulkner, James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, H. L. Menken.
“So…” Zeppo said. “You ever rob a bank before?”
“No,” Chester admitted. “But I’ve seen it done in movies. It can’t be that hard, right?” It was clear he needed reassurance.
“Nah, it’s a piece of cake,” Zeppo lied. “All right, so your codename will be Mitty. Now that’s your new name basically, so forget your old one. Your crewmates are only to know you by your codename.” He pulled a cellphone out of a box of them, poked and swiped at the screen for a few minutes and then handed it over.
“I’ve already set you up for a job on there,” he said. Mitty took the phone and looked at the screen. The job was a bank branch in Montana with three crewmates. Cleo, Dixie, Frenchy.
“All ladies, huh?” Mitty said, both nervous and pleased.
Zeppo smiled. “Hey, if I managed to get you a date too, you can thank me later.” He knew Mitty wasn’t going to bag any of those chicks. He stood and directed Mitty out the door. “Head back to the elevator and I’ll have it send you to Wardrobe. They’ll get you your uniform and take your profile photo.”
“Thank you so much!” Mitty said.
“Don’t mention it.”
Zeppo watched Mitty head back down the hall and turn the corner. Assigning a fresh recruit who hadn’t even had the chance to disappoint yet to an Accounts Payable team? The cruelty of it weighed on him.
He looked forward to forgetting what Mitty looked like.
No request this time; I just wrote this on my own.
How did Sable and Cairo meet?
“So Dixie? That’s a pretty…” Cleo twirled her hand around, pretending to think of the right word, “Confederate codename.”. She was curious to know if Dixie was aware of or oblivious to the implications behind it. She knew it might be unwise to start this conversation in the van on the way to a robbery, but if Dixie’s codename implied what she thought it might, then she’d probably never work with Dixie again. It’d be better to know if she should be watching her back now than be betrayed later.
Their crewmates on this job, a man called Savoy and a woman named Chartreuse, looked upon this disaster in the making silently. Savoy had a look of deep “oh no” on his face, but Chartreuse looked like she had a ringside seat to a sold-out fight.
Dixie raised an eyebrow at the question. “Are we really gonna talk about this now?” she asked.
“All right, well, my controller wanted to call me Plantation Slavery but it got cut off in the computer,” she said. Chartreuse snorted at this snide remark, but then stifled herself quickly when she saw no one else laughed. Dixie shrugged, spread her hands, and gave Cleo a what-do-you-expect-me-to-do-about-it look. Savoy’s eyes darted between Dixie and Cleo, waiting to see where this was going to go. No one said anything.
Dixie was aware of what her codename suggested, but thought it was rude to be asked about it by someone she’d only just met. Especially someone who knew Syndicate agents didn’t pick their own codenames. Obviously, the appropriate response to such a lapse in manners was to be equally rude back.
“So I saw on your profile that you’re kinda new to the game, Cleo. The phone psychic thing not workin’ out?”
To Dixie’s surprise, Cleo actually snickered. Dixie stood down, shifting into an affable smile.
“You know controllers ain’t got no imagination,” she said. Savoy and Chartreuse visibly relaxed at the situation’s defusing.
Cleo nodded. “Mine called me Cleo because I said I studied Egypt in college.”
“Yep. And even the most urban Texan accent sounds like ‘dumb hick’ anywhere else. Thus ‘Dixie’.”
“There must be, like, fifty pigs out there,” Savoy said.
“I hate when they just sit there like that,” Chartreuse said. “Like they plannin’ somethin’.”
“Surely they wouldn’t move in on us when we have ten hostages,” Cleo reasoned. “It’s too dangerous.”
“I think staying here any longer is getting dangerous,” Savoy said. “There’s more cops showing up by the second. Maybe we should leave right now?”
“Without the score? I don’t think so,” Cleo scoffed.
“Dixie’s takin’ her sweet-ass time,” Chartreuse noted, checking her watch. “But it ain’t even hot yet. Calm down, Savoy.”
“No, we need to leave,” Savoy said. “A fucking SWAT van just pulled up.”
“We’re not leaving yet. Dixie isn’t finished,” Cleo said.
“Fuck it, leave her then. We’re all gonna get pinched if we stay here any longer!” Savoy said. He started to walk to the side door, but Cleo grabbed his arm.
“No one is going anywhere yet,” Cleo barked. “If you go out there by yourself, they will catch or kill you. We stay together and we leave as a group like planned. Both of you wait here and guard the hostages while I see what’s keeping Dixie.”
Savoy didn’t appear completely convinced, but he was cowed enough to stay put. Chartreuse nodded and swept her gun across the array of zip-tied civilians on the floor to remind them to remain still.
Cleo made for the back office. When she turned the corner and looked in, she found a security guard had Dixie pinned to the floor, knee in her back and hand over her mouth to keep her from calling for help while he called his catch in over his walkie-talkie. The guard’s back was to the door, but Dixie saw Cleo and her eyes went wide in friendly recognition that lacked concern with her present predicament, as if she’d only been waiting for someone to come check on her.
“Yeah, I’ve subdued one of them. There’s three more in the front,” the guard said into his radio. He didn’t hear Cleo creep up behind him and raise her shotgun. She slammed the stock into the side of his head and he went limp and fell over.
“My hero!” Dixie said from the floor. “Did you get a psychic vision that I was in trouble?”
“No, we all thought you were taking too long.” Cleo smirked down at her. “The others wanted to leave without you.” Cleo helped Dixie to sit upright. She saw then that the guard had tied Dixie’s hands behind her back with his tie.
“How resourceful,” she commented.
“Yeah, he’s a real MacGuyver,” Dixie said. “You don’t understand though-”
“What? Is it not what it looks like?” Cleo guessed.
“No, it’s exactly what it looks like,” Dixie admitted. “But this fuckin’ guy, man! He hid behind that door and fuckin’ watched me crack this safe for like ten whole minutes. Had the drop on me that whole time and I never even knew he was there. He waited until I had the safe open and was pulling the gold out and then he grabbed me. Like he was lettin’ me build up charges or something.” Cleo moved to untie her, but Dixie pulled away.
“Whoa! Aren’t you gonna take a picture first?” she asked.
“Of you? Tied up like this?” Cleo asked to confirm. “Isn’t that really embarrassing for you?”
“Totally, but that’s part of the fun. Everybody does it. When you save someone from a shameful situation like this, you get to take a picture.”
“I’ve never done that,” Cleo argued.
“Well, today’s your lucky day too then! Come on, we ain’t got time to fuck around.”
Cleo was going to argue that taking photos during a robbery was fucking around, but then realized that it would be quicker to just take the damn picture. She pulled out her phone, opened the camera app, and said, “Say cheese.”
Dixie put on her most winning smile. Cleo couldn’t help but laugh.
“All right,” she said as her giggles trailed off. “Let me untie you now.” She put her phone back in her breast pocket and knelt down to untie Dixie’s wrists.
“What is the point of taking a picture like that?” Cleo asked. The knot was really tight so she reached up to the bank manager’s desk to grab a pen to work under the loop.
“Well, for one, they’re just funny,” Dixie explained. “Also, if you roll with someone on the regular, you can bring it up all the time and embarrass each other by showing them to people. But mostly, it’s nice to have a collection so that when it happens to youuuu,” Dixie frowned sheepishly over her shoulder for emphasis, “you can go back through them and be like, ‘Aww, well, it happens to everybody at least once.'” Truth told, it happened to Dixie quite a few times, but Cleo didn’t need to know that.
Cleo finally got the knot loose and the tie fell away. Dixie shook her arms out and rolled her shoulders.
“Where’s my gun?” she asked. The two of them glanced around.
“Here,” Cleo said, reaching under the desk to grab the pearl handle she saw peeking out. She handed the hefty revolver over.
“Thanks. And thanks for coming to get me.” Dixie raised her voice so her crewmates in the front could hear her. “Instead of leaving me to rot like some other chickenshit motherfuckers I know!”
“We still here, ain’t we?” Chartreuse called back. “You get that fuckin’ safe open yet?”
Thanks to some social engineering and grand theft auto on the part of their driver, they were now making a chill, unnoticed escape in the police SWAT van instead of the white van they arrived in.
“Ha! You got arrested? By an unarmed rent-a-cop?” Chartreuse cackled. “Did you get a picture?” she asked Cleo.
Dixie gave Cleo a didn’t-I-tell-ya look and Cleo snorted.
“Go on then,” Dixie said. “Show ’em.”
Cleo got out her phone and showed Chartreuse and Savoy the photo Dixie made her take. They laughed at Dixie’s silly face.
“Oh, I got toooons of those of Savoy,” Chartreuse said, getting her own phone out. Savoy blushed hard, but he chuckled along with the rest of the group as Chartreuse showed everyone her collection.