The Collective: Part 1

1.

Declaration of War

Her crème white skin gleamed in the dimmed light of overhead LEDs, tinted with a plethora of colors from the 3-D holo-vid in the room’s center. Her body mirrored that of the projected woman before her; legs and back straight, eyes forward, and arms at her sides. In her hands, two, razor sharp Katanas gleamed with hints of light and caricatured reflections. She began to move with the projection; her feet parted, braced her exposed torso as her arms drew the blades up to rest on her shoulders. The cold steel triggered waves that coursed through her body, tickled thin, light hairs along her arms and neck, and refined the shape of her nipples.

With a fluid motion, the blades lifted. A foot kept her balance in a pivot while the other leg swept sideways to come about. The blades’ hilts touched, began to whirl as one entity with graceful movements. She urged them apart and into a vertical tumble. Balanced extensions of arms and legs moved her lower, forward. The blades made long, controlled swipes as she pirouetted to bring their blunt edges in toward one another, form make-shift bars of death before her face. Her dark eyes closed in a meditative trance, and the movements flowed into one another again, faster this time.

The nudity wasn’t required for her practice, but she couldn’t escape the freedom it brought. To be one with the sword required she be willing to dance as naked as it was. The two were beautiful beasts, as graceful and ready to love, embrace passion as to murder, spill bloods.

The movements became faster with small leaps. The room’s layout was clear in her mind as her muscles worked. Despite the darkness, she saw the room with light– an unnecessary luxury given her routine. She was as much dead to the world now as anyone who might cross her blades would become. At that, it wouldn’t be long before the polished steel ran crimson.

They were already watching from the cameras embedded in the apartment. She knew who they were, had seen them before. In that odd way that memories sometimes manifest from the aether, they appeared in portents of violence. The visions were stills of things yet to happen, as though made of old, analog film left on the cutting room floor of time. For her part, she would see the film joined by blood.

Her style of practice was something of Tai-Chi mixed with Ballet, both forms of bodily training lost to the world in the rise of self-medicating technology. Before the Sleep, it had surrounded people, become so much a part of their lives most hadn’t noticed it any longer. Now, it was their lives; virtual worlds had become as real as the Earth itself– moreso even, given the untold possibilities V-R allowed for. Everyone was now a buff-stud or supermodel in a world of their choosing, lived out through the use of special chairs, visors, and neural adapters. Nowadays peoples’ avatars were more them than their chair-bound vessels ever could be.

The world had gorged itself on greed and gluttony when all but a few jobs became automated, relegated to synthetic workers, robots, or intelligent software. The World Economy had begun to collapse then. Ninety-eight percent of the world’s work force was laid off. Before it could decimate the planet entirely, steps were taken, precautions put in place. The populous was given living stipends, needs and luxuries made available at fractions of the cost to ensure complacency.

Most of the world saw the change as a positive, but not Lex. She saw if for what it was, and in some instances, what it would become. There were no more wars, sure, but there was also no more freedom, no property but what was allotted. There were no avenues to pursue hopes or dreams, and given time, there would be no hopes or dreams anyhow. The world’s peoples had become victims of their own hubris, compromised fertility for longer life, vitality for luxury, and mental health for quick fix pleasures that would only lead to stagnation. All the while the rich got richer off it, did whatever they wanted. The global population had compromised fertility for longer life, vitality for luxury, and mental well-being for the quick-fix of pleasures that would only lead to stagnation.

Lex knew that, and so eschewed all but the most necessary luxuries, stipends, or pacifying technology that would allow her to achieve her goals. Those things couldn’t stop her from pursuing the future she sought, nor eliminating anyone in her way of it. Her only dream or hope was to change things– by force or reason, whichever was fastest, easiest.

That was how they had found her; through a few, overlooked surveillance devices embedded in common goods. Then, once surveillance had begun, they’d come in when she’d been away and planted more equipment to build their case. All she’d needed was the sense to investigate at the scents of foreign sweat, leather. When she did, she realized her mistake. Regardless, it only served to hasten her plans.

The world was the oyster of a very select few whom had carved it out for themselves over the course of decades. They had private armies– whole governments even– on their side, had otherwise pacified any other resistance against them. They’d drugged, imprisoned, or neutralized anyone that might stand against them, refused to sleep. They would kill anyone, no matter their station, to ensure the status-quo.

And now they were here.

The door to her apartment burst open. A flash-bang went exploded. Lex remained poised, blades touching before her face. Her ears rang, but she felt the vibrations of a half dozen feet charge inside. It was one of the few squads of police left in Tokyo– the whole world at that. The bulk of their numbers had long been reduced to drone patrols with high-powered tazers or small chain-guns mounted to their bellies, but these were foot soldiers.

They filed in. The latest, high-tech battle-rifles in their hands rose on her. Shouts of Japanese and English commanded the American-born woman to drop her weapons. They flowed in, fanned out in a half-circle around her. The commands never ceased.

Her arms lowered deliberately, swords in a downward-point toward the floor, her readied poise. The squad flinched. Shouts grew louder, repetitive. Rifle’s shook from adrenaline and fear. A few sparks of arousal in men and women left them half-dazed at Lex’s beauty and nudity.

In a blink, she leapt forward. A foot landed on the ball. Her hands flashed. The blades sliced up, in, down, flourished with a backward flip. Lex landed back in place as if she’d never moved at all. The only evidence was the slow river that flow form the blades’ tips, dripped crimson onto the metal floor. The squad blinked in disbelief as the lead man disassembled, arms severed from his torso and head from neck. His corpse fell to a heap.

Someone fidgeted, fingered a trigger. Lex leapt, spun. Blades sliced air, marred flesh, sundered bone and spinal nerves. Two of the left-most squad were decapitated in a flick of wrists. The others reacted, moved to take aim. Rifles were kicked from hands, bodies winded and propelled back with tremendous force. The dual blades mutilated wrists, incised throats. Screams turned to gurgles and bubbled whispers.

The room went silent again from the dead and wounded.

Two soldiers remained. One reached for her side arm, the other on her back on the floor, dazed. She gasped for air. Lex landed beside her, jabbed the left blade down into her chest, pierced her glossy body armor. The blade wrenched with cracking kevlar and bone. Blood spurted from an opened heart. Lex’s movement became a raised-leg spin that struck the side-arm. It flew across the room as the blades went for the woman’s throat, poised on either side to cut. She backed her up to the wall, forced her to her knees.

Lex stared down, blood spattered along her silken body, “You speak English.” The woman nodded. It wasn’t a question. “Tell your bosses I’m coming.” The woman nodded again. She raised her back up to her feet. “Tell them what you’ve seen here today, and that you know I could have done the same to you.”

“Wh-why?” The armored woman asked.

Lex chose her words carefully, “Mercy is a gift not often given. The world is about to change. You may choose to change with it, or die by my sword.” She locked eyes with the woman, “The choice is yours.” The woman sensed her conviction, swallowed hard. Lex sneered, “Leave. Do not return.”

The blades fell back to Lex’s sides in their readied poise. The woman bolted, stumbled over bodies for the door, fell through it only to scramble up and flee.

No matter what happened now, the Collective would know she was coming. They’d forced her hand, but she could use it, show them the stakes so they might watch, see the carnage about to befall them. Only then could they begin to feel fear– fear that would force them to make rash decisions, position their empire to be crumbled as they were taken out, one-by-one.

One way or another, an end would soon come.

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