The ring of the phone was like a shrill needle to my mind, one that gleefully bore pain straight to every fiber of my being in a fiendish attempt to get me to wake up. I yawned, ignoring how tight my jaw muscles were, how sore all the laughing I'd done last night had made them. I kept my eyes shut, head beneath the pillow, knowing from prior experience with Serenity not to look out in the light just yet.

I tried fumbling my arm out from the blankets for the phone and hit something soft and warm before my hand managed to make its clumsy leap to the side table. Great, after last night's party I'd invited someone back to my place with me. That's another bad thing about Serenity, while you're on her, she makes everything seem like everything will be alright. But damn, does that shit like to fuck with you the next day. I just hoped it was at least a woman this time.

My hand continued to flop around on the side table, trying to find the source of the pain threatening to make my ears bleed any second. I'd be like this for another hour or two. Gritting my teeth against the pain I knew was to come, I poked my head out from under my pillow to see where exactly the damn phone was. The light seared into my eyes the instant I did so, forcing me to retreat back into the blessed recesses of my pillow. I had seen where the phone was at least, though it pissed me off.

It was halfway across the room. Halfway across the goddamn room and blaring jingling blades of music every inch of the way. So I did the only thing one could do in that situation. I rolled out of bed and prayed to God that nothing would get broken. A few moments of intense pain, perhaps thirty seconds of being blacked out and then a minute or two (as I swear at the phone which is still ringing) I finally manage to drag myself by the chin to get to the phone.

Hands clawing for the phone my eyes scream feebly attempting to adjust to the light beneath my slit eyelids. "Goddamn it, this better be good," I hiss while slamming my palm against my eyes to try and help alleviate some of the pain. However, I'd forgotten my relative lack of bodily control and ended up giving myself a feeble slap in the face. That's another thing about Serenity - boy does she love to play tricks with your memory.

I hope God enjoys his own sense of humor, because I know I sure as hell ain't laughing.

"Mr. Marshall, you always are such a trouble to deal with early in the morning, aren't you?"

My jaw threatened to rip free from my face and plummet straight toward the floor. On the other side of this telephone connection was Gordo Strilvenzi, Guildmaster of the Underground. Or so he's known on the streets. On the surface, Gordo Strilvenzi is nothing more than the owner of several small businesses which he uses as the covers for his shadier dealings. To the majority of our fair Capitol City of Vynam, that's all he is and will ever be.

He's managed to avoid the State Inquisitors, even the legendary Three Wise Men. A bag full of cash, a few threats, bunch of promises, both empty and otherwise and Gordo found himself leading several Guild Organizations. You're not supposed to able to lead more than one at a time, for some reason, but Gordo being Gordo, he gets away with it. And, as I personally know, his intellect is only matched by his greed and gluttony.

Funny story, ya see. Back in the day when I used to do jobs for the Torellan Family, Gordo was at the same party as me. Now, me being with my exquisite lady Serenity (as only any party should ever truly be attended) I was introduced to said Gordo and apparently made a reference between his name and body type. My friend told me my exact words were something like, "Heh, dude! You're called Gordo! Because you're fat! And like, Gordo is a name for a fat person. Heh. Dude, awesome!"

Hey, I never claimed Serenity ever aided me in public speaking or debate. She just makes me feel good and really what else should you ask for?

But to get back to the story, Gordo's hated my guts for years. Doesn't help that I'm the best damn thief in this city and he needs me every once in awhile. Normally I wouldn't accept jobs from someone like Guildmaster Gordo, but you see, he's a clever bastard, that one. He knows about me and Serenity, ya see? And his jobs usually pop up whenever I unexpectedly run out and need more.

Like the present. "Sorry, Guildmaster Strilvenzi" (I haven't called the porker Gordo once after the day three of his goons broke my right leg in seven different places. Some things just take time to learn you know? But man, that physical therapy I had to go through afterwards made damn sure I didn't forget anytime soon. My knee still aches when it rains.) "I'm not a morning person."

"How unfortunate for you, because I have a job that only you can do and it requires that you do it." I lay the phone on the floor beside me, keep my eyes closed and try to rub the pain out of my head. I only succeed in planting the seed for a full blown migraine down the line.

"And my usual price will be paid?" I know Gordo isn't going to let me turn down a job for him, so I might as well play along like it's my idea to get my ass out of the house this morning.

"On that point you are fortunate, Mr. Marshall," Gordo's voice is still managing to saw its way down my nerves even from miles away. "This time, we'll actually be paying you triple your average cost."

My eyes open wide in surprise. Which in turn causes me to swear out several obscenities as the light blares my eyes straight to hell. "Fuck!!" I scream as I clumsily attempt to position my arms into giving me some much needed shade. I hiss the pain out through my teeth while attempting to take several deep breaths.

Gordo, that fat goddamn bastard, was laughing. "I'm glad to hear you so excited, Mr. Marshall." A few more moments of that arrogant self satisfied chuckle. "Because you'll need to get here within the hour, understand?"

"You gotta be fucking kidding me," I know my headache was about to hit another five levels on the Richter scale. "There's no way I can drive myself over there for at least a couple of hours. I'm sure it can wait that long."

"Mr. Marshall, may I remind you who you're talking to?" He wasn't laughing now. Gordo was kind of a psycho like that. One minute he could be seen laughing and slapping his knee at what a good joke something was, the next minute he had his buddy's knife at your throat telling you that if you ever said anything like that again, he'd be cutting off your balls and feeding them to you. Psycho, man. Seriously.

"Sorry about that, Mr. Strilvenzi. As I said, mornings are always a bad time for me." I glance at the clock and notice it's actually five o'clock in the afternoon, but that's close enough to morning for me. "Perhaps we could reschedule for another time?" I hope he can hear me from my huddled fetal position about three feet away from the phone.

"If you are unable to drive yourself than hail a Pacella. Or get a friend to drive you. Surely you have some friends, don't you, Mr. Marshall?" The line went dead before I could answer, but that didn't matter. Most of my current acquaintances were merely people I partied with. Dealers and pushers that thought I was fun to have around. The great 'Eddie Marshall' reduced to hanging out with thugs and whores. Ah, who am I kidding myself, I was never great. I've pulled off a clever heist or two, but most of my shit went through with just dumb luck and a lot of hauling ass.

And yet Gordo Strilvenzi wants me to do this for him. Son of a bitch has at least three ounces of Serenity to give for this job, along with a nice little bundle of cash so I can get some food in this place.

I stay huddled on the floor for a few moments, trying to collect myself as much as I can for the meeting up ahead. I manage to call one of the few people I know that would be able to help me out in this situation and then struggle into the same pants I was wearing last night along with a shirt I find next to it. I can't quite tell if it's mine or not, but it'll do for the time being.

Gordo's known what I am ever since he first met me,Don't see why I should start trying to impress him now. A few sirens sound from outside in the distance, far more than you'd usually hear this early in the morning (well night, rather, I reminded myself), but I ignore them. They're too far off to be of any concern to me and Gordo called too recently and the bastard's just too slimy to get caught. For once, something was not my concern. It might be a good feeling if my head still wasn't still threatening to split apart.

I decide that I might as well stand up and try to find some shoes. A quick stumble through the room that ended with me flat on my face once again revealed that full motor processes had not yet been restored to me in totality. But from where I'm lying on the hardwood floor, I manage to spy one of my sneakers buried beneath the dresser. After a few minutes I crawl over and fish it out, muscles screaming protest with every stretching second.

It would be another five minutes before I realize that my other shoe was on top of the dresser somehow and completely out of my reach. After tiring myself out attempting to think of some way to procure it, I fit my naked foot with a sandal and then sit down in the nearest chair while waiting for my ride to approach.

My eyes found themselves hesitantly sneaking to the bed, cautious to learn of whatever monstrosity I might have brought home last night. There's nothing to fear of leaving a stranger in my home; there really isn't anything in here that I can't replace with my next check. Most of my money doesn't stay in my hands too long if Serenity's not around. I just missed her too damn much. Even if she was the reason behind such predicaments as this.

However, despite her cruel nature in the past, this time Serenity had kept me from making a total jackass of myself. The creature that was currently resting in my bed was by no means a monstrosity. In fact, she seemed like quite the looker. Not too bad, Eddie my boy, I told myself. Perhaps if you get back in time you can have another go at it. Maybe this time actually remember the experience.

But sex on Serenity was so… divine. Even if you forgot almost everything afterwards. Plus, if she'd been hanging out with me last night, doubtless she'd at least tried Serenity once or twice. Seemed like everyone I knew did it nowadays.

The engine I heard pulling up in my driveway below reminded me that this wasn't strictly true, even if said people were strange enough without any brain altering chemicals. Shrugging to myself, but knowing I'd at least found someone reliable, I headed out the door to meet my ride.