The atmosphere of the club pulsed rhythmically. The primordial rumbling of the synthetic bass track constantly evolved and grew in concert with the energy that permeated the party. Automated smoke machines and spot lights flooded the building with a crimson mist which separated inside world from reality. The subliminal guidance of the computers cultivated the soul of the venue, channelling patrons throughout the club like red blood cells transporting life through some biotechnological organism.
Aaren surrendered herself to the unity. Withdrawing completely from the machine she lets the flesh seek its pure primal desires. She buzzed with the chemical high that saturated her with bliss. Within the press of hot sweaty bodies that surrounded her they moved as one with the beat. Her augments shone brightly, contrasting the dark red lighting and blending perfectly in with the crowd of young similarly shining dancers. For all the automated intelligence of the clubs technology, the stars of the show were the patrons. Metal and plastic lights pulsed from the augmenters. Bioluminescent gene-freaks glowed with organic brilliance. The club was a cultural haven for transhumans of every stripe and scale, and their groupies as well.
She felt a body pressed against from behind and moving along with her. She pushed back into it, the rush of the purely physical connection filling her with desire. Her hand trace a sensual line up the front of her body, flicked up past and behind her head she pulled her dance partner in turning her head back at the last moment to kiss them. She shivers beneath the raw physicality of it, she felt hands on her so she gripped the strangers hair tighter holding onto the kiss with a furious passion.
When they parted she had turned to face them, her partner was perfectly androgynous with amber orange eyes but otherwise seemed unaltered by tech or genetics.
Her skull pounded an echo of the previous nights bass rhythm as she woke. Her mouth was dry and her entire body ached. As she opened her eyes, her augments wired her back into the network allowing her to bypass a lot of her organic discomfort. A yellow notification blinked in the corner of her vision, an comm-request. Looking around she finds herself in a small, messy bedroom. Beside her last nights companion still asleep. Gingerly she rose from the bed, spending some time to find her clothes and dress she accepted the comm-request as she exited into the complex. The notification switched from yellow to green before expanding Chatterbox’s face to project across the corner of her vision.
“About time you answered Sonorous, I’ve been trying to talk to you since last night,” their loud voice utterly unsympathetic to her headache.
“Yeah, good morning to you too Chatterbox. I was unplugged, what’s your racket?”
“Morning? Try evening.” Chatterbox snorted his grating laugh, “We got a new job. Blue work”
Aaren bought a bottled water from the auto-vendor and gulped it down greedily. Blue work, that meant sky level. She hated blue work. It paid well, but that was because no-one wanted it.
“Just you and Mammon, with my sweet melodics in your ears.”
“Great,” she muttered. Hard to pick which of the two was more annoying to work with, “When are we meeting?”
She sighed, there would be no time to return to her crash to shower. “I’ll head right over.”
The dive was a dingy little shit-hole that stunk like cheap liquor. Chatterbox was plugged in to the network from the booth, a broadcast brawl playing quietly while he waited. He wasn’t unhappy to have Sonorous and Mammon on this team for job. Mammon was particularly suited to blue work and Sonorous was easy on the eyes. All things considered, this job should be easy money.
He spotted the violet Mohawk the moment Mammon entered the dive. Gene-freaks always gave Chatterbox the creeps and Mammon was particularly bad. He always looked dangerously underweight, with strange top-heavy muscular distribution. The feathers however were the truly strange aspect of his appearance. He slid into the booth across from Chatterbox, “How far is Sonorous?”
“Should be here in a minute,” Chatterbox replied, hoping she’d be here soon so he needn’t be alone with the freak for too long. Mammon doesn’t attempt to start a conversation and the two sit in silence until she arrives.
Mammon nods once in greeting as Aaren joins him across from Chatterbox, he grins in amusement as she just grimaces in discomfort. The valley in the wake of the nights peaks clear on her worn exterior. With both of them there, Chatterbox slides their secure channel patches over the table and waits while they jack into the secure channel.
This secure channel of the network appears very much like reality, still seated at the booth but all organic noise has vanished. A world entirely populated by the three of them.
“Really easy job today, smuggling run. Had a drop on the sky layer at sunset, and we have until sunrise to bring it in. We’re not expecting any complications, Sonorous you’ll need to unlock the door and blind any drones while Mammon gets the drop. Any questions?”
The sky doors are rarely guarded, anyone dumb enough to who want to face the sun and smog is welcome to, by most opinions. It was technically illegal, but since there was no profit to protect by upholding that law, no-one did. Jacking into the terminal Sonorous unlocked the door with casual ease. The system was almost old enough to be secure again by virtue of incompatibly archaic tech.
Mammon was heavily cloaked to protect his skin, eyes and airways from the unscrubbed air. He shuddered as his arms and shoulders cracked and realigned into wings to accommodate his body for flight. Leaping into the outside, his feathers whipped in the wind as he glided down through the haze.
“Incoming patrol, west 200 klicks,” Chatterbox’s voice informed her. She flipped. The network always felt strange outside, so empty. That emptiness helped her spot the drone however. She cast her program out across the waves to latch onto it. She nudged it ever so slightly to look away from Mammon who had landed by the drop. Chatterbox’s voice sounded in her mind once more, “Hey Sonorous, do you see that? South 1000 klicks”
She would have dismissed the question out of hand as nonsense were it not for the genuine confusion and possibly fear in his voice. A thousand klicks was a stretch for any signal, let alone one outside. But as she cast her program out she felt something there.
“Yeah Chatterbox, I can see it…” She whispered, awe at the size of the network shadow overtaking her. Dimly she was aware of Mammon’s presence returning to where she’d kept her meat, her attention remained on the strange program. Curiosity overcoming her she whispers again, “What do you think it is?”
“I don’t know, kinda want to check it out” he replies.
“Yeah I don’t think that’s a good idea Chatterbox,” she replies as his probe touches the edge of the program. Instantly her entire tech matrix overloads, lightning courses through her body and screams fill her ears. Later she realised the screams were Chatterbox dying and her own meat seizing from the rebounding feedback. Mammon had dragged her back inside and taken her back to his crash where she had woken three nights later. Every augment she had needed replacing, it was another month before she could see or walk again. The nightmares of Chatterbox’s dying screams lasted much longer still.