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Archangel Protocol

Fallen Host

Messiah Node

Apocalypse Array


After Archangel Protocol

Dee [vignette]



"Missing" from Fallen Host
Em and Morningstar


"Missing" from Apocalypse Array (in .PDF format)



Non-Mouse Fiction:

Alternate Beginning of Fallen Host

To Catch A Gene Thief



het slash


by Nicole Lorenz

Smells are difficult. You can record and upload audio and visuals easy as cake, and to a degree, touch, but the LINK has no easy file conversion for smells. I’ve had Page searching sensory databases all day for cooking bacon – he’s retrieved 114 variations from users, none of them quite right.

I open another jar. He’s prepackaged the olfactory files in airtight jars – doesn’t like the smell of bacon. Dietary laws or not, there’s clearly something wrong with his coding. “Not sharp enough,” I say, discarding bac[21].olf. “You should be able to smell the grease bubbling against he pan. There’s a distinct greasy pan stink.”

Page crosses his arms, giving me his usual disapproving look. He’s been doing that a lot since the whole apocalypse thing. At least he doesn’t have that freaky metallic thing going on anymore – it’d be like getting parental glares from the Terminator.

And now I’ve made myself feel old. I should lay off the flat videos.

“You need a hobby,” the AI says.

“I have my nose full of hobby right now.”

“Cataloguing blasphemous olfactory files is not a hobby.”

“It is so, and processing code that imitates swine meat is not the same as ingesting the real stuff.”

“You should try attending musical events,” Page suggests.

¬Blip, says my message indicator. “I’m not interested in your trance shows,” I say, filing baconstovetop[7].olf into my “Nearly Satisfactory” folder. Blip, insists the message. I check it – incoming message from an avatar I haven’t seen in months. I set it myself, old school texting style: a square image of bikini cut panties with a caption underneath.


“You keep searching,” I tell Page. “I have to take this.” Accepting the message, I pull on my best frown and open with, “What do you want?”

Hell hath no passive-aggressive bitchiness like a wire wizard scorned. I made a LINK page to spite her when I moved out of the kibbutz – a big “Dierdre McMannus is a slut” message in blinking red text on an old video feed. The page got all of three hundred hits. It was like writing on the bathroom wall – you just gotta get some things out of your system, right? And Dee had been in my system for almost two decades.

Her own face comes up in place of the preview avatar. Damn, she looks fantastic. If the LINK image is true to life – which for her it usually has been – she’s barely aged in the last three years. Maybe a few smile lines around the eyes, but on her those come off as sexy.

Stop that. She’s out of your system, remember?

“Hi, Mouse,” she says. The greeting sounds--what? Strained? I can’t place it. “How are you?”

So it’s one of those calls – the semiannual Guy I Abandoned Guilty Check-in call. “Fine,” I answer noncommittally. Maybe she’ll read some ocean of depression between the lines and feel bad. That’d be swell.

“Found a decent job yet?”

“Nothing I’m gonna let your cop sweetheart bust me for.”

Smell files may be all subjective, but avatars have really progressed since the blackout years. Trillions of pixels respond to a person’s every thought, shifting an avatar’s face with such precision you’d think it was a real woman about to cry in front of you. I almost reach out to her, but we both collect ourselves instead.

“I was hoping we could get together in real time,” Dee says. “Are you busy right now?”

I glance back at the pile of .olf files. “Sort of, but I can save it for later.”

“Great.” She links me directions to a bar on street level – a few blocks from my crappy apartment building – and blips out. I disconnect and sit in my desk chair for a minute, wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. Sure, Dee’s strung me along for years, turned me in to the cops, and given me the most massive case of blueballs I’ve ever experienced, but she’s an old friend, and she seems upset.

And besides, she’s out of my system. Flushed out like a flu bug. I grab my coat and head out.

In keeping with the rest of the neighborhood, the bar is a dive, one narrow room full of fake wood paneling and slouching regulars. A screen over the bar mirror displays a prerecorded LINK feed – something about Sammael Morningstar’s trial. I keep an eye on it as I nurse a cheap beer in a booth, but the visuals are just a lot of backs of people’s heads. Morningstar, as usual, has drawn quite a crowd. Serves the bastard right.

I check the time – I’m early. I was right around the corner from this place, though. It’s not like I’m overeager or anything. I’m just here to meet an old—

Merciful Allah, there she is.

Dee still carries herself with that controlled, hip-driven cop walk, and it makes a few of the regulars along the bar check her out nervously. She’s wearing jeans and a tan trench - conscious decision or not, the ensemble brings me right back to the night of the rave. Bitch.

I give her a broad smile as she slides into the seat across from me. “Hello.”

“Hi, Mouse.” She smiles, looking almost relieved, and takes the extra beer I ordered for her. “You look good.”

“Is that a come-on?” I respond. She laughs, and I wrap my hands around the bottle in front of me. “So, what did you need to see me about?”

She takes a sudden interest in her drink, taking a long swallow before answering. “Well,” she starts, clearing her throat, “I thought we could…talk. I don’t have a whole lot of close friends where I’m at right now.”

“Is that what we are?” I say, bitterness edging into my voice. As soon as the words are out of me, I want to kick myself. The disappointment on Dee’s face, quickly as she suppresses it, is fucking heartbreaking. “Sorry,” I amend quickly. “I didn’t think you wanted much to do with me anymore. But I’d like to be close again – I would. Really. What’s up?”

She searches my face for a second, looking for Allah knows what, then she breaks down. It’s the quiet, scary kind of breakdown, with stuttering tears but no sobbing. Her voice is a hard whisper. “Michael’s cheating on me.”

“He’s WHAT?” I admit – I’m more shocked than sympathetic. But it’s Michael.

“With some woman on the force,” Dee adds, looking sick. “It’s been going on for at least six months – I found out through one of the weekend clerks.”

“But—how? He’s an angel! Aren’t they supposed to be, I don’t know, angelic?”

“God made him human – with all the accompanying faults.” She crosses her arms on the peeling laminate table between us. “It’s not like he didn’t give in to temptation as an archangel – Rye’s living proof of that. I should have been prepared for something like this.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen her this hopeless. Abandoning my beer, I move over to her side of the table and give her a quick squeeze around the shoulders. “Don’t talk like it’s your fault, Dee. Michael just made the worst decision of his mortal life and you shouldn’t have to be prepared for shit like that.” I wipe tears from her cheeks. Her skin is flushed from frustration, a shade of mottled pink that doesn’t go with the rest of her cool, collected look. “He is such an idiot,” I say quietly.

Dee looks me in the eyes. We’re the same height, even sitting down. A flurry of a smile passes over her face, and she kisses me. I lose my grasp on language for a second in my surprise. Next thing I know, I’m pushing her gently away, the taste of artificial cherry lip balm peeking into my mouth, saying, “Woah, just a minute. I think your moral compass is on the fritz, girlfriend. What happened to that good god-fearing woman I used to know?”

Hold on, am I turning down make-outs with the subject of two freaking decades of my pursuit and fantasies? Who’s the idiot again?

“I’ve been good,” she says, addressing her beer. “I’ve been so damn good all this time, upright and moral – and God has slapped me to the pavement over and over. I’m so sick of being thankful for this stupid faulty ride. I don’t even know if She’s listening anymore.”

“At least God gave you your angel,” I say. Three years and I still can’t help the bitterness in my voice. Even though the woman is now completely, one hundred percent out of my system.

“Is it too much to ask that he stay mine?” she says, closing her eyes. She sounds almost sheepish. It doesn’t suit her.

Oh, hell. I curl an arm around her shoulder. She sinks into it, her forehead coming to rest against mine. This feels better than I want to admit. The sounds of the bar fade out into the sensation of her hair tickling my ear. “Hey,” I start.

I can see the little shoulder angel/demon duo now, like in the old cartoons – except instead of arguing through me, the demon’s nodding toward Dee with a sly little grin and the angel’s going, “Do it, man.” Who am I to argue with cartoon clichés?

I brush my fingers along the line of Dee’s jaw, cradling the soft crest of her chin. “You want to get out of here?”

Her eyes meet mine, and I put on my best debonair look. She smiles, nodding. “Yeah.”

Holy shit, I might get laid. Definitely not what I came here for today, but I’ll take a chance on it. I try not to get my hopes up. But hey, physical contact is physical contact, whatever it amounts to – and all the way back to my building her hand is under my coat, warming the fabric at the small of my back. As we enter the elevator she snakes her finger around my belt loop and gives it a tug, knocking me playfully into her. I return the favor.

When the doors open onto my floor, my neighbor and her scraggly poodle-mix are treated to the sight of me with my hand up the front of Dee’s shirt. I give her a one-handed wave, the other hand still examining the stitching of the bra. “Afternoon, ma’am.”

The woman looks vaguely disgusted to be getting on the elevator after we step off it. Dee and I burst out laughing after the doors close.

“You’re milking the hell out of this, aren’t you?” she says.

“Every drop.” I kiss her fingers. They smell like old paperback pages. My studio apartment is down at the end of the hall. I suppress my nervousness as I let her inside. The place is a dump – a tidy dump, but still a dump. It holds my futon bed, my desk, and a handful of clothes hanging on the towel rack in the bathroom, and everything else has the peeling, cracking, crumbling look of an abandoned building. “Can I get you anything?” I ask, hoping to distract her from looking around. “There’s soda in the--”

She pulls me back to her by the belt loops, smothering the sentence in a gluey, lightly beer-flavored kiss. And we’re back to our pre-elevator-ding state. I can’t remember whether I ever wheedled her bra size out of her, and now it seems vitally important. I want to know her inside and out - every measurement, texture, heat variation on her body. I want to be able to map her out.

Not that I really care. It’s just sex. Dierdre herself is out of my system – exterminated, flushed, deleted—

Oh, screw it. I want her. I love her. Always have.

She pushes me up against the wall and it bends under my shoulder blades. Self-preservation kicks in. Pulling my head out of the kiss, I look her in the eye. “Are you actually going through with this, girlfriend? No promise breaking or interrupting exes?”

“Absolutely,” she says, kissing me again. I pull her into me, our weight pressing into the wall. Bits of ancient paint and plaster rain down behind me. I didn’t want that security deposit back, anyway.

We drop our coats by the door, and I initiate the clothing removal protocol as we make our way to the futon. It’s a dance – step left, step right, fumble around, drop an item on the ground, step left. The pants are awkward, but who cares? Getting laid!

The only experiences I’ve had with the female form lately (aside from its depiction in celebrity fanfiction) have been glimpses of over-exposed LINK avatars, all from the same big-boobed supermodel mold. Dee’s body is real – surprisingly taut for a middle-aged woman and dotted with pretty little imperfections, a few scars and a bit of extra flesh around her hips. She smells like strawberry shampoo and a warm, sweaty, unnamable odor that is uniquely Dee and totally Mouse bait.

I kiss my way down her middle and go to town. She giggles, which only encourages me. I can’t believe we’re doing this. Part of me is focusing on her and part is mentally squealing like a fanboy. Wait til I post about this on the Dierdre McMannus Smutfic listing! Oh, wait – that would be rude, wouldn’t it?

She arches into my mouth and entwines her fingers in my hair, tugging upwards. I raise my head - grinning stupidly – and she leads me back up the length of her, until we’re hip to hip and mouth to mouth. Perfectly matched. I haven’t been this turned on in years. My brain won’t shut up about symmetry and being programmed for one another. I hate the poetics, but I have to admit – if she asked me right now to murder her cheating angel for her and run away together, I’d do it. Especially when she grips my ass, rolls us over, and draws herself down onto my cock without hesitation. She starts circling her hips in low, slow motions, and--

M-merciful Allah.

“What?” she says, giving me a curious look.

I realize I’m staring. “This is just so cool. Aside from the crappy futon and the lack of handcuffs, this is a wet dream come true.”

She laughs and grinds harder against me just to get a reaction. It doesn’t take much. Her hot skin presses me into the futon and we move in synchronicity – there goes my poet-wannabe brain again. I’m trying to demonstrate some stamina, but it’s been a while. It’s getting harder to pay attention to the words clamoring through my head. Then they switch to Arabic and start pouring out my mouth. I give up.

I come quicker than I’d like, but if it bothers Dee she doesn’t show it. We lay with our legs tangled together and our feet peeking out over the edge of the futon. I grin like a schoolboy, my hand exploring her hair. She strokes my cheek idly, smiling a little to herself. The paperback smell of her fingertips sinks in - probably romance novels, I realize. Her pale blue bikini cut size sixes lie on the floor a few feet away. They look good there – about time I started putting up some color in this place.

“I love you,” I say, giving her a peck on the nose.

“I know.” She sighs – not an entirely exasperated sound. There’s hope for me yet – even if it’s just a possibility of being the “other man.”

She stays for dinner, and I break out the really fancy cup noodles. Dee doesn’t mind. There’s a lot she doesn’t seem to mind about me, and in place of actual love I guess that’s good enough. We eat and catch up. When she gets dressed to leave, I hover a few feet from her, waiting to see if she’ll make a move on her own – some sign that she wants a repeat performance sometime. She’s still cheerful, which is a good sign.

“I’m glad we can be friends again,” I prompt.

“Same here,” she says. The awkward left-out words hang between us.

Screw waiting. “Do you think you’ll want to do this again? Because honestly, not knowing--”

Her brow furrows, knocking my heart into my belly. Then she leans forward, kisses me softly on the lips, and says, “I’ll talk to you later. Don’t throw yourself off any cliffs in the meantime.”

“Will do.” Between the kiss and the bit of a smile in her voice, cliffs are the farthest thing from my mind.

Dee closes the door and I breathe in the scents of her that still linger around me. I’m not prone to dances, but for once I can’t help it. Firing up the link, I message Page.

“Where have you been?” he responds, frowning at me. “I’ve got sixty new .olf files for you to process.”

“Forget the bacon,” I say. Even online I can’t keep the stupid grin off my face. “I have some new smells for you to find me.”

He grumbles as I send him off and returns shortly with a few hundred files to sort through. I lay them out around me – alcohol, paper book pages, and strawberry shampoo. The rest I’ll find myself. Sampling them one at a time, I begin assembling a digital memory.