Bonus Short Story: The God Damned Human Element

A deep subwoofer thumped a beat that rattled the crowd’s teeth. It made them all but deaf to the world around them. Combined with the pulsing lights and erratic muscle spasms most called dancing, it wasn’t difficult to understand why sharks and adrenaline junkies sought the type of places like this. The entire crowd undulated with a hypnotic, sexual rhythm, as though some lustful creature in a different universe altogether. The X and coke didn’t hurt the xenoic aspirations either. It was as much a given that spaced-out face-fucking was taking place as it was that someone would wake up regretting it the next morning.

In the middle of it all was Hailey Russell, part-time drug-dealer, full-time club owner. She’d been one of the first to carve herself a place from the Awakening’s rubble. Once a Sleeper, she’d run net-casinos through countless shifting proxies. They racked up all forms into online chips and credits from poker tourneys to slot machines. If it weren’t for the damned Awakening, Hailey would still be one of the richest people in the world– or at least Tokyo.

Instead, she was middle of the food-chain. Those that had brought about the Awakening, a nameless group of vigilantes with more swords and balls than brains, were undoubtedly at the top. Even fewer people realized that than knew of their existence, but it remained true all the same. They’d set themselves up right before the fall of civilization, and their elimination of the so-called Collective; a group who’d supposedly run the world.

To Hailey, it was a bullshit line from bullshit liars.

Like most Awakened ex-pats, she knew the world outside ran differently than the one inside. That knowledge alone had given her the club, the connections, even her take-no-shit attitude. The net though, had been a godsend. People like her didn’t fit into “normal society.” They made their own rules, were ruthless in pursuit of credits. After the Awakening, the flux-state forced upon the world had there wasn’t a society so much as tribal cliques. With most cliques’ home’s– the net– gone, society was forced remold itself– was still doing so.

So Hailey and others like her did what they did best; set up shop, and catered to clientele looking for whatever they could provide. In most cases, the best sellers were escapes from reality. In Tokyo especially, it was drugs and sex. The city was rampant with destitution, and most people in the club owned only one set of clothes more than they were wearing, and were certain to lose half their wardrobe over the night. Hailey’s job was to ensure that happened and she was damned good at it.

She leaned over a cat-walk railing on the club’s second floor. Somewhere to her left, one of the girls whoring for money was just barely audible over the thumping bass. She’d been fucking her brains out for near-on three hours. Everyone in the VIP section had taken her for a ride, one right after the other. Hailey wasn’t any different– or at least, wouldn’t have been given she were lower on the food chain. Money was power, and selling her body was the easiest dollar a girl’d make nowadays.

Hailey’s eyes scanned the crowd that ground and writhed against one another. Peaking X so prevalent it tainted the sweaty air. Ushers passed out free bottles of water as they palmed cred-chips in exchange for X-tabs, nitrous-poppers, and eight-balls. A few men and women looked ready to spaz out completely. A few more straight-edged wall-flowers huddled in shadows, probably drug in by their girlfriends or boyfriends looking for a fix. No doubt the poor shits would be single again in the morning, or swapping spit from mouths that had been sucking strange cocks or tonguing foreign muff– maybe both.

Hailey smiled at the thought; it was pure anarchy. There was no room for the “human element.” At least not the one that people thought of usually. Instead it was the reptilian brain that lusted for every known drug, synthetic or otherwise, that allowed for greater pleasure. She hated the other human element– the touchy-feely bullshit about honor and love and school-girls that weren’t being actively sodomized. That bullshit had cost her the net, and more money and power than most dreamed of. Everything she owned now was physical, credits a worthless means to an end. Money was a middle man between her and the things she’d use to rebuild her power’s foundation. Whether formed of X-tabs, sound systems, synth-ahol, or old-fashioned whores, she wasn’t going to let even the smallest iota of power slip past.

She turned from the anarchy of the dance-floor and the VIP-whore’s latest orgasm, for her sound-proofed office. It sat along the club’s rear-wall, shades drawn closed on a window that watched lines of minors with fake-ids.

The office was a quiet refuge in a haven of chaos. Only the lowest thumps made any ingress, barely audible as her heels clicked for the seat behind her desk. She snorted a line off a sterling-silver tray. Her heart skipped beats from the rush while her groin tingled. She loose a heavy sigh, laid her head back against the chair-back, and entertained the idea of heading down stairs to pick up one of the wallflowers and popping their cherry.

She resolved to think on it, opened her eyes to a small movement ahead. Her reflexes snapped her upright. The scarred face of a man she knew and loathed appeared.Yang-Lee’s dual katanas were sheathed, a better sign than his presence alone. Unlike her, he was a Tokyo native, one of the few directly responsible for the Awakening. Apart from being one of the nameless order, he was also a cut-throat bastard with delusions of authority. Everything from his rigid spine to the slight stretch of his scarred face said he held himself above Hailey and her club.

She blinked hard to keep the coke at bay, “The fuck d’you want, Lee?”

His jaw was tighter than usual, not a good sign. “Rachel told you to close up shop, Hailey.”

Hailey cocked a smug grin, “Dahl can slurp on my cunt if she thinks she’s gonna’ take anymore of my money.” She fingered a button on the arm of her chair, “And you can tell her I said that yourself.”

Two large men appeared behind Yang-Lee, wider than brick shit-houses and thick as steel. One of them put a hand to Yang’s shoulder.

He cocked his head slightly to one side, “If you wish to retain use of that hand, I would remove it. Now.” Hailey’s eye twitched. She gave a nod and the man backed off. “Wise.”

Hailey’s eyes sharped with ice, “If Dahl wants a war, I’m more than willing to commit to it. Otherwise, fuck off and don’t come back.”

Yang-Lee remained in place, his posture unaffected, “A war suits no-one’s agenda.”

“Says a coward that know’s he’ll lose,” Hailey said. She pushed up from her chair, crossed the room to lean in on him at nose-length, “If you thought the Yakuza’s remnants were hard, you’re not even prepared for me.”

A lone corner of a scarred eye tightened, “You do recall, Hailey, the Yakuza no longer exist because we will it so.” A corner of her mouth lifted in a snarl. “We lost not a single man in that war. Think. Accept that you only remain here because we do not will it otherwise. Do not give us reason to feel differently.”

She grit her teeth, “Get. The fuck. Out of my club.”

Yang-Lee didn’t flinch. There was a flash of hands and steel. Hailey stumbled back, fell to her ass, back against her desk. Her vision focused in time to see Lee’s dual Katanas withdraw from her dead guards. He rounded, approached her with shadowy features. He put the bloody tip of a blade beneath her chin, lifted it gently.

His voice was calm, quiet, “There is no need for war when our only conflict is with you. We will simply eliminate the problem. Consider this your final warning; stop poisoning our city, or we will ensure your end is swifter than theirs.”

Yang-Lee stepped away, blades whirling. They threw droplets of blood across the room, returned to their sheathes. The door opened to the momentary sounds of sex-driven rhythms then went quiet again. Hailey heaved a terrified breath. She’d have pissed herself were it not for the thousand-cred pants she wore. She pulled herself up along the desk’s edge with shaky hands.

The god damned human element had won out again. It always did in the end; fight or flight, terror and fear– the manifestations of that stupid reptilian brain she so heavily relied on. She hated the fucking thing, both her greatest asset and worst enemy. She stamped a foot against the floor with a loud “fuck” that cresendoed into a growl. The god damned human element always won.

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