A Tale of the Near Future
The Body Snatcher
E. E. Nalley
I can't tell you who I am, because I don't know myself.
My story doesn't start with growing up or childhood, traumatic first loves or the gentle wisdom of trusted mentor. I may have had them, I can't say because I can't remember them. My story starts on the floor of a bathroom shower; a filthy, grimy place covered in mildew and soap rings from years of neglect and disregard. It starts here because I was being doused with cold water from the shower and that had brought me back to consciousness. I was confused, in a great deal of pain, as I slapped at the nobs to get the water turned off.
Looking around trying to get my bearings didn't help.
It was a closet of a bathroom, the floor tiles wet with over spray because there was no curtain to contain it, nasty sink, nasty toilet, lit in the random strobe of a florescent tube in the process of failing. On the wall of the shower was streak of blood that came down towards me and probably explained the pain on my lips. I brought my hand up to my face, seeing it shake with the cold but something about it seemed off. I brought it to the back of my neck, just behind my right ear.
Brushing the wet hair out of the way, I found an open access door to a card socket, that was the source of the deep pain there. Skill card sockets are nothing new, and they're supposed to be waterproof, just for this reason, like the cards you put into them. Though, certain cheap knock off cards whose quality controls weren't up to snuff sometimes weren't. I dug into the reader and removed what was left of a data chip, half melted and obviously shorted out. I looked up at the now dry shower nozzle and realized I must have been washing my hair, accidentally opened the access door and the spray shorted out the chip. I probably passed out, hit the wall, slid down here until the water went cold and it woke me up.
But, when did I get a skill chip implant?
And if I could afford one, why was I in this disgusting shower? The chip itself had no label, which made it highly suspect, but I resisted the urge to fling it away from me. It could be important, so I slowly got to my feet and laid it on the sink. I went to see how badly I was hurt in the mirror and was violently struck with the realization, that's not my face.
First, it was a young face, girlish in a way in those precocious years when a girl could be seventeen or twenty three or anywhere in between depending on how she choose to present herself. The hair was wet, so it was impossible to tell its color, or how it hung plastered to my scalp, which accentuated a diamond shaped face with prominent cheek bones and large, vibrant deep blue eyes, the color of a Caribbean island bay. She had that peaches and cream complexion that could either tan in summer or pale in winter with a full mouth which was marred by a slight split lip that was scabbed over. It was a beautiful face, it just wasn't mine.
Not that I could tell you what my face should look like, just the jarring, deeply set feeling that what I saw wasn't it. I looked at the shorted-out chip on the cheap, plastic basin and shuddered. What had happened to me? I looked at the girl in the mirror again and tried to pick out something to be sure of. Was I older? What age should I be?
She was gorgeous, curvy in all the right places with long, shapely legs and a flat stomach with just a hint of the muscles underneath. It was like winning the lottery and having the strongest feeling you didn't actually buy the ticket. None of it made sense. Methuselah treatments were a thing, had I gotten one? Is that why the young face didn't seem like mine? But if I could afford a body sculpt of this level, why am I in this nasty room?
Necessity won out and I took the stained towel off the back of the toilet and dried myself. There was a sense of satisfaction feeling the young, supple skin, the toned muscle under it. Was I some old, bitter hag, having held onto life by my fingernails until this miracle had become big business and paid to be a hot little twenty something again?
I tested the heft of my breasts, which were bigger than my hands and they felt wrong too. Maybe I'd been ugly and fixed everything at once? I looked back into the mirror to find my hair in a kind of spiky halo around my head, probably to about jaw length, it was a sweetcorn blonde, but the roots underneath were black and I couldn't tell if that was on purpose or just that I was in desperate need of a dye job. It was a pretty punkish bob for a woman with no body jewelry, my ears weren't even pierced, and that seemed...normal?
The towel around my body, I slowly opened the door into the kind of transient squalor the bathroom had suggested. It was a single bedroom, the bed an unkempt mess with stained walls, a display screen that was bolted into the wall with security bolts that wouldn't back out. In front there was a double window with the blinds drawn, a temperature control unit making the most unholy rattle and next to it, the door out.
Thank God, I was alone.
Next to the windows and door was a table and a pair of chairs that didn't match, with a duffel bag sitting open on the table. Piled around it were various articles of clothing, which was good news, though first I crossed the room, threw the dead bolt and chained the door. That bit of psychological safety behind me, I went to the bag and ruffled through it.
What I found put aside any notion that I was well to do enough to afford having a skill deck put into me. With considerable effort I found a matching pair of panties and a bra to pull on, though their utility was dubious at best as they matched the rest of the bags contents. In it were about a weeks worth of tops and bottoms, hot pants, two miniskirts, one canvas, the other obviously fake leather. A pair of leggings made to look like blue jeans that, based on their size and my eyeball glance at my legs would make them look painted on; assuming I could get into them. Along with some hose, a body suit that would only just be legal to wear outdoors that was made of fishnet with a few strips of strategically placed cloth. With that was three tanks, one black, the other two band shirts I'd never heard of, a tube top and a bikini. Finally, over the back of one of the chairs was a fake leather jacket. By the bed were a pair of combat boots that had chrome buckles.
At the bottom of the bag I found a micro purse that contained a jail release ID that had a picture of the face in the mirror that named me Alexandria 'Lexie' Jones, my age as twenty one and my crime as Prostitution (Repeat Offender). In the purse was a little clam shell of cosmetics, mostly of 'bold' colors and three hundred Ameros. “No,” I muttered, hearing my voice for the first time. It was a nice voice, an earthy, throaty Alto. “This can't be right. I can't be a street whore with a Cybernetic Implant!”
That was the key to all of this. I went over to the data screen and shuffled through menus for several seconds before I finally found an option to up-link to implant. A corporate logo appeared on the screen, then a request for my user name and password. “Shit!” I hissed, and I was surprised how good it felt to swear, like some part of me remembering who I was. Still, there was more than one way to skin this cat.
I flipped back to the local areas of the city, and found a Cybernetics shop that wasn't too far from this rat trap motel. If it was in my head, it would prove it was mine and a good shop should be able to help me do a password recovery. I went through all the drawers, finding only a Bible from the Gideons. It appeared I was traveling light. I got the jeans on, along with one of the band tank tops, stuffing everything else back into the bag.
The combat boots at least were comfortable as I went back into the bathroom and got the chip and put it into the micro purse to keep it safe. Then, the duffel over my shoulder, I peeked out the window. There were bars over the window and what I could see outside looked like a demilitarized zone. There were two wrecked cars in the parking lot, and the ones that were on the street weren't in much better condition.
I really wanted a gun.
The thought of that brought me up short. Did I know anything about guns? The thought of having one in a neighborhood like this was comforting. I turned and took a final glance around the room, then, loathing the thought of coming back here, I picked up the key card off the table and tucked it into my back pocket. Then I unlocked the door and stepped outside.
It was clammy and a bit cool, and early in the evening based on the red sky on the horizon, but what street lights that remained were on, The sign that was only half lit proclaimed this dump the Do Drop Inn. I rolled my eyes and headed down the walkway to get to one of the stairwells and head down to the streets. I cut across the parking lot, away from the dingy looking neon sign that proclaimed it the 'office', noting several other doors beginning to open with other working girls heading out to look for work. The stiffening of my nipples from the chill in the air was unpleasant against the bra and the tank top so I dug the fake leather coat out of the bag and pulled it on.
There was still a fair amount of activity on the streets, people coming and going, some working slobs who couldn't do better, maybe undocumented types, trapped in this human cattle yard, but there were sharks too. I felt the eyes of the thugs as I passed them, they were easy to spot, clothes too nice for this neighborhood, jewelry too expensive for someone living here, all of them eyeing me as a potential next meal.
It made my skin crawl, so I kept my stride brisk, in an 'I have places to be' pace and didn't give them time to approach. A jingle in one pocket of the jacket told me where my walk about money was. Seeing a bus at the stop ahead going in the direction I wanted to go, I picked up my pace and trotted to make it before it pulled away. The fare paid, I picked a seat where the driver could see me, even if he was in what looked like a bullet proof compartment with no access from inside the bus.
That only reinforced my desire for a gun.
As I slid into the plastic seat, I felt something hard in one of the jacket pockets. It was the right size and shape to be a phone and I discretely took it out to make sure. It was a cheap knock off brand, practically worthless, so I decided to have a quick glance through it, fairly certain I wouldn't make myself more prey like by having the phone out.
On the lock screen were three messages from who I took to be regulars, wanting to know if my 'sweet ass' was available tonight. I bit back the anger and unlocked the phone with my thumb to dig around. There was nothing in the phone older than three weeks, which seemed to underscore whatever had happened to me was recent.
I shuddered at the thought that I'd been selling myself for three weeks in that vile room.
The phone rang and the contact was labeled 'Daddy' but the picture was of a thug, thirty something, with a somewhat grotesque physique he'd gotten either from steroids or some other artificial means. Even in the picture, the wrap around shades made identifying him difficult. I sent the call to voice mail and keep digging in the phone. Twice more it called, and got the same treatment, then a text came in with, “Your bitch ass better be humping to make me money.”
I looked at the picture again and a vague notion of being horribly used by this pathetic monster came to mind. The details were thankfully vague, but behind the disgust was anger. My teeth grinding, I typed back “Lose my number, or you'll regret it.” It rang again and this time I just dug through the contact program to block 'Daddy' I hoped from the rest of my life.
A shadow came between the roof light and me, looking up, I found the crotch of someone's pants in my face, and a twenty Amero being dangled. “Sup girl? You working?” I looked over at the bus driver, but he was very intent on not seeing anything.
“I'm on my union break, so better luck next time, huh?” I told him, looking up into his face. “How about you move along?” He was young enough to pull something this stupid and think it bravado, but definitely old enough to know better. He leered at me, gold glinting off his teeth.
“Since when to whores have unions?” he demanded, then his free hand was coming towards my face. I didn't really think, but my arm came up and caught his hand, effortlessly stopping it. We both marveled for a second that I had the strength to stop his pimp slap, then my other hand shot out, right into his Johnson. He screamed in pain and doubled over as I stood, tucking his hand into my arm pit, then by the back of his head, I kicked up and my knee slammed into his nose. The force broke it and launched him backwards into the seats behind the driver, a river of blood flowing down his face and chest.
The bus skidded to a stop and the door opened as I looked down in more than a little amazement at what I'd done. “Off,” commanded the driver.
“Off,” he repeated. Shrugging, I reached down and relieved the jackass of his twenty and climbed off the bus.
“Sorry about the mess,” I told him. The driver actually chuckled, then closed the door and drove off. I looked at my hand for a moment as I put the phone and the twenty away curious and wondering what other enhancements I might have. My wrecking of the Horny Rider had been instinctive, but to just stop his strike had surprised both of us.
I looked around, grateful to be a fair ways, despite the short ride, from the Do Drop Inn and 'Daddy'. That had me fairly close to the Cybernetics shop so I settled in to walk, ignoring the cat calls as I did so. At the back of this little L shaped strip mall, on the upper level was the Chrome Clinic, whose neon all worked and advertised they were dealers in all the name brand cybernetics on the market.
Somehow, I doubted it, but they were close and likely cheap enough for the cash I had on me. I let myself in, taking a moment to look about at the holographic displays of replacement organs and artificial limbs. The receptionist desk was empty, but behind the bead curtain a young man quickly came out, wearing a white lab coat over a set of red silk scrubs.
Yes, they were as tacky as that sentence implied.
He wasn't much older than I appeared to be, though these days he could be an octogenarian and choose to look like the thirty something yuppie in front of me. He was that 'American Mutt' blend of European ethnic tropes that would be impossible to sort out without a genetic trace. Brownish hair, green eyes out of an oval shaped face that was excited in the way only a salesman hoping to make the rent could be. “Welcome to the Chrome Clinic! I'm Doctor Wilkey and I'll be taking care of you, miss...?”
“Jones,” I told him, using the handshake to keep him at arms length. “Lexie Jones, and I need help with a password recovery on my skill bank.”
The enthusiasm came down a notch, before the salesman drive came back. “Oh, certainly. I can, I mean, we, we can help you with that. And I'd be happy to discuss any upgrades you've been considering as well!” He stepped aside and indicated the curtain. “Right this way.”
Behind the curtain was a robotic assisted surgery chair that probably cost more than anything in a two-block radius. The base of it was one of those hyper-ergonomic chairs doctors love that sculpt themselves to fit your body as you sit or, more often the case, lay back into them. Overhead was a massive light on a gimbal and a half dozen arms that ended in things that probably would have been at home on a medieval torturer's tray.
“Just have a seat, Miss Jones,” he told me, coming in from behind me. “And who is the maker of your implant?”
“What are you a 'doctor' of, Doctor Wilkey?” I asked, turning back to face him.
“Oh, well, I...”
“Don't bullshit me,” I warned him.
He deflated a bit and held up his hands in a surrender position. “Fine, fine, I haven't finished med school, yet, but I'm an accredited surgical tech and I'm fine to do your service. Really!”
I weighed that for a moment, then made a decision. “It wasn't my decision to have this implanted and I'm locked out of it.” I held up the burned out chip I'd taken from my purse. “I woke up in the shower with this shorted out in my reader. I can't remember anything longer than about an hour ago.”
Wilkey frowned and came forward to take the chip and look at it. “Are you serious?”
“Do I strike you as someone prone to practical jokes?”
He looked at me over the top of a set of jeweler's magnifying glasses he'd put on to examine the chip. “Since you asked, you strike me as someone who would never have said that sentence.”
“That's fair,” I admitted. “What's your name?”
“Joe,” he finally said, engrossed in examining the chip.
“Joe,” I repeated, humanizing him a bit to me. “I think someone has kidnapped me. If this thing hadn't shorted out...”
“Yeah,” Wilkey muttered. “This, I've heard whispers of these, but I didn't believe it.” He turned to face me. “You said you woke up? Lexie, I think this is what they call a 'Midnight Lady.'”
“A what?” I demanded flatly.
He nodded as if I'd agreed with him. “Yeah, just message board stuff, you know? Real Tin Foil Hat territory, but from what I heard, this thing is not just a skill soft. I mean, it supposedly makes you as experienced as a porn star, but supposedly there's a personality alteration too. Like you could, they say, kidnap people, stick this thing in them, suddenly they're Bambi the Bimbo who will blow you for twenty Ameros.”
A full-on glacier ran down my spine. “This is making me regret life choices I can't remember making,” I muttered. “Can you get me into this thing in my head?”
He handed me the chip. “Yeah, yeah sure, just sit down and let's take a look.”
Guardedly, I sat in the chair, trying to stay in a way I could quickly get to my feet, but that wouldn't allow the chair to work, so I finally had to lay back in it, somewhat helpless. Still, it was a very comfortable chair. I felt him open the access door, then there was a pressing sensation, probably him connecting a diagnostic cable. From behind me came the sound of typing, then a whispered, “What the fuck?”
“What is it?” I demanded.
“Your implant it's...”
“It's not in the system, not spec-ed, like it's some kind of prototype. You don't remember?”
I sighed, and admitted, at least to myself, it was past time to be worried. “Nothing. Can you tell me anything?”
“Not with what I have here,” he told me, reaching around the chair to disconnect it. Then he rolled his stool around to where I could see him. “Look, I want to help you. I've never seen anything like this and if someone did 'Midnight Lady' you, that's got to be punished.”
I looked around what seemed like a state of the surgery clinic. “This isn't sufficient? What do you need?”
“This?” he laughed. “This is bottom tier garbage; it just looks nice. I have some stuff I've put together on my own, but I'll need a real pro to help me hack that Cranial of yours. If you trust me, I'll do what I can.”
I arched an eyebrow as I sat up and absently closed the door over my skill chip reader in my neck. “Why is that? What are you, some kind of lab coat white knight looking to save a damsel in distress?”
He shrugged and looked away. “Hey, I get it, the streets are tough and all that. If you don't want my help, that's cool too. It's twenty Ameros for the diagnostic.” The disappointment in his voice was plain, so I reached out and touched his shoulder.
“Joe, an hour ago I woke up to being a street whore in a filthy motel being chased by a pimp named Daddy. If I'm cautious...”
“Daddy?” he demanded, his complexion going pale. “Big Daddy?” I shrugged my ignorance. “Oh, fuck! And I'm the closest shop, we've got to get out of here!” He leapt up and ran through the curtain where I heard the lock turn on the front. “Shit!” he exclaimed and now there was real terror in his voice. “He's here!”
Something in me awoke and I slid off the chair and through the curtain. Joe was next to the door having a full on panic attack, which if that was just Daddy's rep, I knew I never wanted to know if he lived up to it. I grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him away from the door. “Is there a back way out of here?” I demanded, no longer amazed I had the strength to manhandle someone the way I was. I have to give Joe credit, he pulled himself together enough to nod and point back through the curtain. I reached over and flipped the 'back in an hour' sign to face the out side and urged him back through the curtain.
As we passed, I scooped up my bag and the chip before getting through the door at the back of the 'operating theater' into a small storage room. At the back of this was a fire door. “Can you turn off the alarm?” I asked him and he nodded fishing out a ring of keys he began to sort through. Finally, he found the right one and got it into the lock on the third try of his shaking hands.
“He's gonna kill us!” Joe whimpered, obviously terrified.
I put a hand on his breast bone to make him look me in the eye. “Not if we're smart,” I promised him. “Now, do you have a car? Is it in that front parking lot or out back?”
“Back,” he managed and I felt the weight come off me just a bit.
“Let's go,” I ordered, then used my position to gingerly open the door, finding it opened onto a drab hallway shared by all of these shops and down the way, opposite the front of the building, was a door with an 'Exit' sign over it. I led the way through and down the hall at a trot to the back door, opening it just a crack to peer out to see if someone was waiting for us. The lot looked clear, so we exited the building and trotted down the stairs two at a time.
His car was a tired, but road worthy looking little hatchback, probably twenty or thirty years old. I didn't care as long as it ran and got us out of there. He even opened my door first, which was sweet, though I did pause long enough to ask him, “Are you fit to drive?”
“I have to be,” he shot back as he trotted over to his side. “Do you even have a license?”
I got into the seat and got my belt sorted to demand, “You're worried about us getting pulled over?”
He gave me an odd look as he pushed a card, his license I could see now, into a slot on the dash. The car started and we got out of the lot and onto the road. “Sorry,” I muttered as I got my phone out. “Should I call the police?”
Wilkey started, then reached out, plucked the phone from my grasp and tossed it out the window. “If he's pimping you, he has to be in on the 'Midnight Lady' part,” he told me as turned at the first side road then two more quick turns in rapid succession. “Sure as rain on a wedding day, he gave you that phone and he probably has someone who can track it.”
I nodded, cursing myself for not thinking of it. “It's good thinking,” I assured him. “You know someone who can help you hack into me?”
“Yes,” he declared, then winced. “Well, no one I've actually met...” He felt my eyes on him and spared me a look with a sheepish expression. “I...I know people, chat rooms and forums...I'm online. A lot.”
Compared to where I woke up, Joe's apartment, a thirty-minute ride away by the circuitous route we took, was a palace. Of course, where I woke up was not a particularly high bar to make it over. His place was in a marginal neighborhood, not the demilitarized zone where he worked, so he must make more money than it looked like being a Chrome Shop Doc in the Box would net. It was two small bedrooms, one of which he had set up as a tinker shop, with a central room that was living, dining and kitchen all rolled into one. Still, it was clean and that was a major step up in my book.
My stomach growled loud enough that he heard it and he immediately went over to the little galley kitchen and started making some kind of meal preparation. “Shouldn't you call your boss and report or something?” I asked him.
He paused long enough to sigh with his back to me, then went back to rooting through his cupboards for something to cook. “I am the boss. I own...owned...that franchise. Being willing to risk my neck down in Mountain View was what let them wink at my only being a surgery tech instead of a full Doc.”
“God, Joe, I'm sorry...”
He shrugged and got the hot plate on and started throwing ingredients into a frying pan. “It's OK. My insurance is paid up so it's not a total loss.” Some good smells started coming from the pan as he poked at whatever he was cooking. “Besides, they might not break in.”
“Does that sync with what you know about this Big Daddy clown?”
For a long moment, he just cooked, then, quietly he said, “They broke in.”
I could tell by the tone of his voice that his business was likely destroyed. I wanted to say something, in commiseration and sympathy at least. Yet, anything I could say sounded so trite in my mind, but I had just waltzed into this poor guy's life and wrecked it. Or at least, brought down those after me on him. That made me feel a bit responsible and so I asked, “Could they track us here? I don't want to put you in danger...”
He came over with a plate in one hand he set before me and the pan in the other. He slid a Quik Omelet he'd made from the powder onto plate. “Hey, it's OK I always wanted a beautiful and exciting girlfriend.”
The attempt at humor fell kind of flat and it seemed important I be honest with him. “Look, Joe, I am really sorry about involving you in this, and I'll do what I can to make it up to you, but whoever I was, whoever I will be again, I'm not a hooker, so don't expect...”
He blushed, like a teenager, and stammered out an apology and a stuttering protestation he had no such expectations. I smiled at him, and he couldn't meet my eyes and I made a promise to myself not to take advantage of this innocent young man. Which, looking the way I looked and now it being obvious he was not at all wise in the world, despite looking numerically older than me, was going to be tough. Probably foolish to think so, considering how much I was and had already taken advantage of him. He'd just lost his livelihood and risked his life for what and who? Who I couldn't answer, but whoever I was, I was certainly dressed like the kind of woman a guy like him would hope might settle her accounts with favors. What else was he prepared to do on my behalf besides a meal and a place to stay?
And, for powdered eggs, it was a reasonably good omelet too.
He turned back and started making his own and in my minds eye suddenly I imaged having sex with him. I mean, he wasn't a bad looking guy, just one of those 'safe nice guys' girls take advantage of.
Girls like me,went through my mind and it made for a conundrum.
I didn't think Joe Wilkey was my type, but then, what was my type? Was I really considering throwing him a pity fuck, or was that some left over of the 'Midnight Lady?' Besides, a thin, weedy guy like him couldn't possibly be as hung as my mind was imagining. Could he? I'll just keep chewing this omelet and forget about the rather naughty things I was thinking about.
I chewed thoughtfully as I looked at his back while he made his own omelet and a horrible thought popped into my head. “Joe? How advanced are these body sculpts these days?”
He looked over his shoulder, curiosity on his face. “What do you mean?”
I licked my lips, tasting omelet and just a hint of blood from the split lip. “I mean, what are the limits? If you can vat grow organs, I mean, I have no idea who I am. What's the chance I'm not even a woman by birth?”
“What, like you were a man?” He paused and considered it. “I...God, that's never occurred to me. You could be a complete vat grow with just your brain or...”
“Or what?” I demanded.
He turned to face me, his expression bleak. “That could be Lexie Jones' body, but not her mind...”
My stomach rolled and I very nearly threw up the omelet. How could I ever make right something like that. Had some poor girl died so I could be...what? Who could I have offended so badly to have this happen to me? Worse, if they could arrange a fate like this, what could they not do? I pushed the plate away from me. “I'm suddenly not very hungry.”
He gave me a sad look, then pushed it back. “You'll need to keep your strength up. I'll get you answers, Lexie. But, yeah, you might not like those answers very much.”
“Thanks,” I muttered and handed him the salt he was reaching for. Around another mouthful, I tried to think about what 'my type' was and if my mind had a 'male' or 'female' bent. It's curious to wonder how much our perception underscores our reality. I was in a female body and I'd just accepted it, minus that my face was not actually mine. Suddenly it was important that he understand I'm not really a whore, but did that make me a 'good girl'?
All I could do is look at the black wall in my mind that I was slowly walking away from and building memories as I fought to figure out who I was. I looked across the little bar we were eating at and watched him eat for a moment and tried to pin down how I felt about him. I was grateful to have an ally and a roof over my head again that wasn't that horrible motel room. I asked myself what was I willing to do so as to keep that ally? He noticed me watching him and asked, “What?”
“Would...would you want me to...well...you know...?”
He blinked in surprise and his head tilted to one side. “What?” he repeated, obviously confused. “You mean...?”
I shrugged and nodded. “I...I guess? Sure. Why not?”
His face pulled into a frown. “Is that you talking, Lexie? Or the Midnight Lady?”
“How should I know?” I demanded. “It's out of the jack, isn't it? Doesn't that mean it's not controlling me any more?
He sighed and shook his head. “Maybe, maybe not,” he hedged. “It shorted out while it was running. I have no idea who wrote it, or what all is involved, just rumor. The rumors say it's not just the knowledge of how to be the best lay ever, but it's also a personality overlay. Again, the rumors say it will turn you into a complete Nympho. Since it was running when you shorted it out, it might very well skew your behavior in it's general direction.” He sighed again got some more omelet on his fork. “Besides, what if we find out you aren't a girl at all? How would you feel about it then? Or me for taking advantage of you?”
I shrugged and pushed the last of my own food around the plate. “I was just thinking that I had to be careful about not taking advantage of you. Then I was trying to figure out what my tastes and attractions were, and I realized how much I was asking of you in helping me. I figured it was the least I could do, isn't it?”
“I don't want a pity fuck,” he declared icily. “I'll help you because I want to and because it's the right thing to do. But I'm not Big Daddy and I'm not interested in you humping to pay some debt to me.” He reached across the bar and took my hand. “Look, Lexie, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't attracted to you. Sure, I'm interested, yes, I want to, but I won't until I know you do too. You're safe with me, OK?”
That made me feel quite warm and very conscious of his skin on mine. “Thank you, Joe. I really appreciate it. Really. I... I didn't mean for it to sound like a pity fuck...”
“It's OK,” he assured me. “I get you had good intentions.”
He withdrew his hand and went back to eating. “What's our next step?” I wanted to know.
“I've already got some...discrete...messages out to some of my online acquaintances saying I need help with a particularly troublesome piece of headware. Once I get a bite, we'll set up a meet.”
“Do you have a gun?” I asked him.
That brought his attention away from his omelet. “No. Why?”
“Big Daddy will have guns, won't he?” Joe nodded, obviously not liking where my train of thought was going. “Then it seems prudent we better have one, right?”
“What do you know about guns?” he demanded. “I mean, damn it, Lexie, I'm a doctor not a...”
“I don't know what I know about guns,” I told him. “But I know I want one. That's enough for me.” I picked up my plate, then his, figuring if I couldn't fuck my way into his good graces, I could clean up at least. “I've got some cash. Is there a pawn shop around here?” I put the plates into the little washer next his sink and put my hands on my hips.
After a moment, he nodded. “I'll take you.”
South Side Gun and Pawn was exactly as seedy as you might expect from its name. There were bars over the windows, really big guys wearing T-Shirts with the store’s logo on the front and 'Security' across the back. The shelves were filled with the detritus of broken lives and likely the bought proceeds of burglars. Out of date televisions, tools, a bin of portable computers and data tablets, with things of actual value behind the counter and what looked like Plexiglas display cases. I made my way past lawnmowers and cheap, off brand construction tools, over to the gun side of South Side Gun and Pawn. Here, there were plenty of new models and all the big names in the kind of nickle and chrome plated blaster jewelry you'd expect a thug to carry. I knew I didn't have the cash for any of that, and frankly I didn't want any of it if I could afford them. Something in me was looking for dependable.
Past the latest so-called Smart guns that were closer to computers than weapons, I found a display of stuff made in the last millennium that was closer to my price range. I knew from having gotten out in the world that I was about average height, call it a hundred and sixty-seven centimeters, and I couldn't weigh more than fifty kilos. That meant I wasn't in the market for a hand cannon, so went over to the counter with the plastic fantastics that had gotten popular at the turn of the millennium. “Something I can help you with, honey?” the big guy behind the counter wanted to know.
I pointed into the case at a 'carry sized' wonder nine that was smaller than 'service pistol' size, but bigger than micro compact. “Can I see that one? The one with three mags.”
He chuckled as his thumb opened the case and he reached in to put it front of me. “You know what...” he started, but I'd picked it up, wracked the slide to the rear which satisfyingly locked open on the empty mag that was in it. I put the mag on the little box with the others took up a good firing grip with my finger indexed along the frame. “I guess you do.”
Looking down the day glow sights, I decided I liked them, more so that the little holographic sight mounted between them didn't obscure them. The battery on the holo sight was dead, but batteries were cheap. The frame was plastic, polymer had been what they called it back in its day, but it was still an extruded long chain petroleum derivative. The slide, barrel and the other important bits were steel of course, though the texture that had been cast into the pistol's grip was a bit rough on my hand. It had Hellcat embossed on the slide and that brought an ironic smile to my face as I thumbed the slide release and with it aimed at the floor, pulled the trigger. It was an ugly thing, a tool for an ugly task, but the engineers who had made it knew what they were doing. “The trigger's a little mushy, but the break is clean,” I told him. “You guys got any nine millimeter in stock?”
The salesman chuckled and reached under the counter to pull out a data pad he put in my reach. “She's a keeper,” he told Joe who was as flabbergasted as the sales guy had been a second ago. I got my jail ID out and handed it to him. “Seriously?” he demanded. “You're gonna use a jail ID to buy a gun?”
I shrugged. “It's a state issued ID and prostitution is a misdemeanor. Nothing says I can't, does it?”
“This is a first,” he admitted and gave me the tablet with it's electronic form to fill out. The RFID chip in my ID talked to the tablet and filled in a number of the lines. Fortunately, I, or Lexi, didn't have a felony on her record so my wallet was soon two hundred Ameros lighter and heavier one nine millimeter pistol, one box of fifty cartridges and three fifteen round magazines.
Back in his car, I began to fill the magazines with bullets while Wilkey asked, “I'd ask you how you knew half of what you did in there, but it's probably fruitless to, right?”
The bullet clicked into place in the magazine. “Just do,” I told him. “Probably a good thing, the way our luck is running.” That was something he couldn't argue, nor did he have the time should he have been inclined to. The data screen on the dash lit up with a notation that, based on what I saw, was a reply to one of his inquiries of assistance. I watched him read the screen then nod to himself. “Everything OK?”
“Nothing is free,” he muttered. “How much more coin do you have?”
“My worldly treasure is about a hundred Ameros,” I told him. “Why? And, oh, by the way, unless I go back to turning tricks, I have no job to replenish that. Or to provide for basic survival stuff.”
“I sent that mail to everybody I knew. Even a couple of people I didn't expect to get a reply from, but I knew they were good. Top drawer good, you know? Well, one of them did.”
I kept feeding bullets into the magazine. “Go on,” I said warily.
He turned the screen where I could more readily see it. It was a simple message, with the image of an anthropomorphic cat in a red and white striped top hat sitting at a computer. “Consider me intrigued. Come to the Silicone Sorceress and let's discuss.” It was signed, The Cat in the Hack.
I looked up at Joe and he seemed a bit apprehensive. “Silicone Sorceress?”
He tapped at the screen and Street View showed a building with too much functioning neon and not enough maintenance on the actual structure. It was odd to see a place look so glitz and grime at the same time. “It's one of those industrial rave bars over in Blandtown, by the rail yard. It's not far from Tech so a lot of the kids go there.”
“What do you know about this Cat in the Hack?”
“Never met...them?” he hedged. “But by reputation, probably one of the best cybernetic and computer crackers out there.” He touched the screen and the screen changed to a neon and strobe light lit hell, full of beautiful people packed too close together, wearing too little clothing and all but having sex on a dance floor. “Silicone Sorceress is a VR bar so there's virtual and real aspects. It should be easy to disguise ourselves.”
I chuckled darkly. “As luck would have it, it looks like this is exactly the kind of club I have wardrobe for. How about you, Doc?”
He shrugged and looked away. “I studied, not partied in college.”
“We'll find you something,” I promised him. “Look's like I'm back in the escort biz, Doc. So, let's get dressed and you can show me a good time.”
Despite our situation, he actually chuckled. “This is not how I imagined our first date.”
“What were you imagining?” I demanded, but he pretended not to hear me the whole trip back to his apartment.
In the bathroom of Joe's apartment, I had a little war with myself. I was deeply averse to most of the clothing in this bag, but I hadn't been lying when I said it was appropriate to this place. I really didn't want to look like I was trolling this club for business, but then, if things went south, standing out would probably not be a good thing. The point of camouflage, after all, is blending in. So, after a heartfelt sigh, I got out of the super tight jeans and the tank top, then pulled on the fishnet body suit. It only barely counted as a foundational garment, covering my nipples and the little thatch of black hair below that led me to believe my natural hair color was either black or dark brown.
It felt odd to have something so close to my skin that was also leaving me all but completely exposed. That done, I pulled the tube top over the body suit which covered a bit more, and the fake leather miniskirt took it from porno to merely trashy. Club chic I guess. Over this, I added the leather jacket and the boots and I'd look like I lived at the Silicone Sorceress. One of the bigger pockets on the jacket swallowed up the Hellcat and the spare mags went into another pocket.
I came out of his bathroom to find him in his boxers, rummaging through a dresser. Before I could turn around, he did and we kind of froze for a moment, staring at each other and the front of his boxers were getting pretty tight it looked like. “Sorry,” I told him and it broke the ice a bit and he kind of laughed nervously.
“Yeah, me too,” he said sheepishly. “You, ah, you look amazing, Lexie.”
“Thanks,” I told him and I couldn't help taking another glance at that carnival tent he was pitching and winked at him. “You're looking pretty studly yourself, Joe. Nothing to be ashamed of.”
His skin went bright red and I extricated myself from his bedroom. Well, I'd done what I could for his ego. And I hadn't been lying, the boy might be skinny, but damn he wasn't lacking in equipment. I put my previous clothes in the bag and stared at the plastic clam shell cosmetics case. It's a club, I told my self. You're dressed like a whore, if you're not made up like one that will draw attention. With a silent snarl of frustration, I took the case out to set it up on the little breakfast bar that separated the 'kitchen' part from the rest of the room.
It was a nested type that was actually quite cleverly designed. There was a tray of eye shadows and mascara, one of foundations, rouges, and in the bottom a place for a half dozen bottles of nail polish, remover and tubes of lipstick. I had a moment of analysis paralysis, then settled on the lipstick tubes. There were three shades of red, a deep purple (of all things) and a black. For a split second, I considered a 'goth' theme, but realized I probably didn't have the skill to pull it off. I picked the brightest red, then unfolded the mirror which actually had a row of LEDs around the frame that made this a bit easier. Being careful, I lined the outside edge of my lips and then filled in the remainder.
It covered the little scab of the split and made my lips practically glow off my face such that there wasn't a way I could set my mouth that wasn't sexual or provocative. My lips that bright demanded something with my eyes, so, using a kind of half remembered autopilot from who knew how many scenes in popular entertainment, I carefully brushed my eyelashes with the mascara. The darker eyelashes now made a sharp relief frame for my blue eyes, though it did balance out my face a bit. I rummaged through the bottles of nail polish for a shade that was close to my lipstick and started applying it.
I was just finishing when Joe came out of his bedroom, wearing a linen suit that wasn't white or tan, but kind of between the two colors over an obnoxiously loud tropical shirt with a pineapple and sailboat motif in black, white and red. I smiled at him and he stopped dead in his tracks, struck again by me. “All you need is a cabana hat and you'll be Panama Joe,” I told him. “Not too shabby, Doc.”
He gave a self-conscious kind of laugh and ran a hand through his hair. “Thanks. Wow, I didn't think you could get more beautiful, but man was I wrong.”
“Aren't you a silver-tongued devil,” I told him as I got my ID out of the purse and put it in an empty pocket of the jacket. “Any idea when this club closes?”
“Oh, we're fine,” he assured me. “They're open late, and it's Friday, so we've got plenty of time.”
I stood and tossed the cosmetics case back into my bag. “Alright, Doc, I'm your girl for the night. Relax and just act natural, right?”
“Just don't ask me to dance,” he told me.
“They didn't cover that in med school?” I asked as we headed out to his car. He had no answer for me, but I hoped I'd have some soon.
Blandtown wasn't the kind of place people went to on purpose, unless they had some reason. It was mostly warehouse space and light industrial due to the proximity to the massive rail yard that formed the western edge of the district. There was some residential, closer to Tech, but they were very old homes from a time when this still wasn't a well to do neighborhood. Still, the locals were doing better for themselves than the one step above refugees that was Mountain View.
The Silicone Sorceress was a repurposed warehouse that probably got its liquor and occupancy licenses through straight up bribery. My initial impression of the place proved true as it was festooned in the full rainbow of neon and LED billboards. Taking pride of place was caricature of a woman in clothing so tight she might as well have been naked, sporting mirrored VR goggles and the kind of breast size that doesn't occur in nature.
We endured the highway robbery for a parking space, though fortunately there wasn't a line waiting to get in. I'm not sure if that was good or bad. The music which we could hear out here was primarily of synth drums being beaten within an inch of their lives and collection of electric keyboards being played by epileptics in the middle of a grand mal seizure.
I screwed an expression of 'I'm having the time of my life' on my face and looped a hand through Joe's arm that seemed kind of awkward to be honest. Still, I worked hard on not displaying how odd it felt to be walking on a man's arm, to the point where I'm pretty sure the only second looks we got were for my ass. The doorman smirked as he checked my ID, then gave me a card for the club that the back of had his number on it. I gave him a wink to stay in the illusion I was working girl on the job, though I felt Joe's posture get stiffer as I did so.
Did I make him jealous?
We made our way through the foyer, and I tried to gauge the expression on his face, but the lighting in here was horrific, mostly strobing, so basically useless for reading someone's expressions. I could have screamed in his ear and he'd never hear me, so I squeezed his arm into my breast and that seemed to placate him and his shoulders got less tense.
From the foyer, where in a normal club would be the coat closet, was a little booth that was renting VR visors. I sprung for two pairs, plugging mine into the jack for my neural link. The visors were a wrap around type that completely encompassed my field of view. Once they were plugged in, the club went from obnoxious to surreal.
Some of the stream of information was practical, ways to request songs from the DJ, summon a waitress and even a little map of the place. But the rest? The walls of the club disappeared and it was as if I was seeing the Net Node of the club. A digital landscape stretched out to an infinity of electronic lights and rays, highlighted the Nodes of various eateries, tattoo and body ware shops near by that likely paid for the privilege. Net hosts and servers in every direction, even some of the patrons with names over their heads and tags like 'Hit me up' or 'Buy me a drink' or 'Fuck OFF' below. I turned to look at Joe whose name was now BoxDOC over his head with the tag of 'Taken'. Over my own head was a request, so I thought about it before suddenly 'Lexicon' appeared over my head and I respected Joe with 'Taken' as well.
This ground floor was predominately a dance floor, but two additional floors had been added with balconies that looked down on the crowd writhing out a semi-clothed orgy to the noise blasting out from the speakers. There was a pair of bars on opposite sides from each other and a stage currently taken up by too much sound equipment and someone bobbing to the beat he was making, but he was so washed out in spotlights I couldn't make out anything about him.
We made our way to a set of stairs, and I let Joe lead us up to the top level, where things got strange. The roar of electronic tones for the dancers that could be heard outside, up here was only just loud enough that conversations didn't seem to stray from one table to another. This space was a little labyrinth of booths that actually were floor to ceiling with curtains you could draw so all manner of this and that was probably going on up here. Joe led us through the maze to one next to the fire exit in the back corner with a wall in a three piece suit whose tag over his head read 'Fuck Around and Find Out.'
I'd never felt so chaste in my life.
Joe went up to him and nodded. “Uh, hi. I'm BoxDOC, I got an invitation from Cat.” The wall held up a finger that could probably topple a bridge and stuck his head behind the curtain. After a moment, he withdrew, holding the curtain open for us as he did so.
“She's expecting you.”
We slid into the booth and I got my first look at a cybernetic legend. The Cat in the Hack was, or at least appeared to be, of African descent with a wide, leonine face. Her skin, in this lighting, seemed to be a milk chocolate complexion, with the left side of her head clean shaven to show off the ports for a Neural interface, skill soft ports and something with a cover door that seemed to be made of solid gold. The remainder of the hair on her head she wore relaxed and brushed from the bald patch off to her right, the tips of which were dyed blond. All of her jewelry was gold, hoop earrings, a collection of chains around her decolletage, and it extended to the lamé top she was wearing that had apparently been applied with an airbrush as I could see both of her nipples were pierced and even a bit of the chain that ran down the slope of her ample bust strung between the hoops in her nipples.
Her eyes were hidden behind a visor identical to ours, but over her head floated a ghostly candy-striped top hat. She gave a languid gesture of welcome and favored us with a dazzling white smile. “Boxie, come in sweetie, I won't bite...too hard. Gotta say, I'm a fan of your educational posts on body wear OS. Very nice.”
“Thank you, uh...”
The grin didn't falter. “Call me Cat. This your friend you mentioned?” It was impossible to tell behind the visor, but I got the feeling her attention shifted to me. “Lexicon, huh? I approve. What's your story, Blondie? My guy says you woke up kidnapped and Midnight Ladyed?”
“That's the teaser trailer's worth,” I admitted. “Add to that I have no idea who I might really be and some of our speculation on that line has us a little concerned.”
Joe cautiously licked his lips and leaned forward. “I've never seen a head wear like the one Lexie has. It seems to be a prototype or an early production model, which...”
“Definitely shouldn't be in the noggin of a street walker,” Cat finished. “Like I texted you, consider me intrigued. But you know what they say about curiosity and cats, so I'll need to keep this strictly business. Speaking of, this isn't a charity I'm running here, how do you two cute kids intend to compensate me for my time and tribulation?”
I waved at her. “Hi, I woke up a street walker in Mountain View four hours ago.”
She made a gesture of concession and turned to Joe. “My guy? How deep into your pockets does your charity case go?”
“Well, what do you want?” he asked after giving me a glance.
Cat picked up her glass, full of something fizzy and red and took a sip. “You got any skills besides fucking, Blondie?”
“Well,” I said with a shrug, “I beat the crap out of a guy twice my size on a city bus a couple of hours ago.”
She held up a finger in a languid gesture. “Hold that thought.” The wall behind her lit up in a screen of code that flashed by faster than I could follow, then suddenly I was watching myself beat up Blow Job Boy on the bus from the perspective of the camera mounted next to the driver. “My goodness, little girl, you are full of surprises.” The screen changed to a kind of X-Ray view of me sitting in the booth, the gun and magazines plain, but then there were a number of things in my body that weren't meat. Not just my head either. “Props for getting a pistol past my boy outside. Don't do anything stupid and we'll cut you a break. Today,” she declared.
“No offense,” I hastened to assure her. “I seem to have a lot of people intent on doing very unpleasant things to me.”
Cat shrugged as she studied the image. “Girl's gotta do, and so on. I'm seeing a lot of pretty serious hardware for a hooker, Lexie. You trying to pull something on me?”
“You've got the Lord's Truth as I know it.”
She took another sip of her drink and set it down. “I think we can do business. You up for a trade? You do a favor for me and I get you back into your head?”
I leaned forward. “You can recovery my memory?” I asked, but she quickly shook her head.
“No promises there, girl. What I can do is unlock your head wear and put you in control of you again. With that unlocked, you do me a favor and I'll even throw some coin your way. Call it a tip for consideration of services rendered.” Joe and I shared a glance.
“OK, I guess it depends on what your favor entails.”
The grin was back on Cat's face. “Clever girl. Let's go for a walk.” We followed her up and out of the booth, whereupon the wall produced a ring of keys and stuck one into the alarm of the fire door. Doing that made it open the wrong way, swinging left instead of right, which revealed a little hallway instead of the expected flight of stairs.
This opened into a room with more computer equipment than I think I've ever seen, from work bench sized things to a desk with six monitors on an articulation frame, to things I had no name for at all. Everything was covered in blinking lights that looked very intimidating. She pointed to a little dais under a light and a number of somethings on articulation arms, that I stood on while she sat at the desk with the monitors. “Open, sesame,” she intoned and I felt the door behind my ear opened by one of the arms and a connection lock into place.
On the screen in front of me, I saw that same logo from before and the user name and password prompt. “What company is that?” I asked, but Joe shrugged.
“Not familiar,” Cat replied and one of the screens on the arms began to flash rapidly through images too fast to follow. “Let's see, not any of the major players in body wear. Let's go a bit further a field.” The second screen came to life and mimicked the first. “Not any of the smaller fish either. We'll let that run and see what we can id.”
The arms all came to life and began to writhe around me in a pattern that was the stuff of nightmares. Next to the login screen, a new monitor came to life, showing layered CAT Scan of myself with highlights as it found things. “Hermes Neuro-Muscular Enhancement System, pretty off the shelf, but with the improved ligament attachments and the bone reinforcement. I'd say those reflexes will stand you in good stead. You can probably bench press more than three hundred kilos.”
“It did seem like the punk on the bus was moving slower than he should have been when I caught his hand,” I admitted.
Joe had wandered over to one of the monitors and highlighted something. “There's a Sanguis Hemorrhage Control System too. Along with a Second Chance cardiac backup pump.”
Cat turned from the desk to look at me. “Lexie, dear, you're starting to look like someone's problem solver. You can't remember anything?” I shrugged and shook my head. The system beeped and on the monitor the logo on my logon screen appeared from the search. She turned back to it and rubbed her chin in thought. “This logo is for Adams–Onís International, but they seem to be just some kind of holding company. I can't see that they make anything. Alright, so they're shy, let's just let ourselves in and take a look.”
I felt a chill run up and down my spine and the odd sensation that felt like someone was trying to crawl into my head with me. Two more of the monitors came to life, but they were just displaying gibberish that meant nothing to me. While she was doing that, Joe came over, an odd look on his face. “Lexie, I've been looking at some of the cellular details from the scans. Not your artificial parts, but the living tissue ones. None of the artificial parts are more than three years old, and the oldest is the Hermes Enhancement. Based on the healing around the surgery sites and some scar tissue at the base of your skull...”
“English, Joe, English,” I told him. He nodded and steeled himself.
“It's good news and bad. The good news is this body wasn't anyone. I don't think it's much older than the Hermes Enhancement, it's vat grown, I'm sure of it.”
“So, I didn't kill anyone...?” He nodded and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders I wasn't a body thief.
“The bad news is, this isn't your body either.”
The loud sound of a finger snap brought our attention back to Cat. “Doc, you're a genius. Gimme Lexie's jail ID.” I took the ID out of the jacket pocket and handed to Joe, who walked it over to her. She stuck it into a reader and the last of the screens lit up. “Now we're getting somewhere,” she purred, obviously pleased with herself. “This ID was created three weeks ago, but there's no video I can find of you in the Jail, Lexie. No video of your hearing, and all of the documents, your arrests, trials, everything, are fake. Looks like they were created within a couple of hours of each other and planted in the system. In fact, I have no other record of 'Lexie Jones' that I can hard verify with your face.”
I sighed. “So, it was just a name they made up for the Midnight Lady personae?”
“'Fraid so, honey,” she told me.
“What about records of my face? If the body is three years old, surely...?”
The government website monitors went dark. “If you want me to dig into who you were, that's work we'll have to contract for separately,” she told me as she removed the ID and gave it back to Joe. “And I'm certain we can come to some mutually beneficial arrangement. You have any reservations about being a hitter, sweetie?”
The sensation of an ice pick sliding into my brain made me jerk and the logon screen was given something it liked and all of a sudden my awareness expanded to all these new things. I cried out and had to grab the rail around the little dais to stay upright. Cat, on the other hand, was as cool as ever. “There we are. Let's see, some basic head wear stuff, interface for the skill deck, and a connection rig to link your brain to this body. Doc is right, this isn't your original.” She mused for a moment, disconnected herself from her desk and walked over. “Lexie, it's pretty obvious you were someone's fist once upon a time. It makes sense, hot young things get access to important men easier, and with your extras, you're probably more than a match for most muscle. There's even a Tactical Module to interface with a SMART gun.”
“Then how did I end up in the hands of Big Daddy?” I demanded.
She shrugged. “That's gonna take time. And money. I can find work for your abilities and skill set, if you're interested?”
“I'm not a hit girl,” I told her.
Cat shrugged, her face unreadable with her eyes hidden behind the visor. “I can work with that.” She walked over to a cabinet and rummaged, coming back with a little bit of plastic and metal with a pad dangling from it on a wire. “So, 'Happy Freedom Day.' And many more,” she declared, presenting it. “This an aftermarket SMART module. Mount it on the Picatinny rail of your pistol, and mount the pad on the grip where your palm will cover it. It should auto link to your Tactical Module. Knee cap with a clean conscience to your hearts content!” She paused dramatically. “Or...would you rather turn tricks? My rates I guarantee are better than Daddy's...”
“Thanks...” I muttered, taking the module, and what it represented, a bit reluctantly.
The grin on Cat's face got wider. “Stellar! Now, let's talk about what you can do for me...”
The ride back to Joe's apartment was a quiet one as I contemplated what it was her 'favor' entailed and her 'tip'. I have to admit, Cat was uncommonly generous, but then, I imagine opportunities like me don't walk in every day. In addition to five hundred Ameros for taking the job, I now had a nice collection of official looking documents, most of which would pass muster even to the most thorough of scans. Alexandria 'Lexie' Jones now had a drivers license, weapons permits, a passport, and a union card in the International Sisterhood of Professional Escorts and Courtesans.
Color me surprised, I didn't even know hookers had a union.
Not that I would be turning tricks, it was mostly a useful cover to get me into places for other kinds of work. That I would worry about later. Right now, I still had no idea who I was, or how I would live until Cat could figure that out. What I did want to do was to make sure I didn't lose the one friend I had. I followed him into his little space and pulled off my jacket as he shut the door. “Joe?” I asked him as he joined me in the center room. “I want you to know I will make things right with you for blowing up your life like this.”
He smiled at me as he sat down on the couch next to me, both arms up, along the back of the sofa. “I'm not keeping a ledger, Lexie,” he told me. “It's not like you intended any of this to happen.”
I turned a bit and laid my head in his lap to look up at him. I was well aware of the implied sexuality of position and I searched myself for my emotional state about it. Trying to find any kind of clue if I was a woman, or just looked like one. I have a vague recollection of schooling, half remembered thesis postulating on who we physically are dictating much of our perception of the world. Maybe it was a one off take on the prove you're not a brain in a jar quandary.
Trouble was, I am a brain in a jar. A female jar at that.
Joe was a nice guy, and I was growing fond of him; the mere fact of him putting his livelihood on the line for me, a perfect stranger, demanded it if nothing else. And I do have certain amount of disassociation with my body, more so than if I had grown up in it. I don't know what 'gender' my brain might be, but for whatever reason, laying my head in his lap, or considering sleeping with him didn't really bother me. “Still,” I pressed, looking up at him and feeling him against my cheek. “I don't want to take advantage of you more than I already have. So, I guess I have to ask, do you want a roommate?”
“Even if I don't, I'm not going to put you on the street, Lexie,” he assured me. “It'll take me a bit to do something with my gear in the other room. I can sleep on the couch until I have it sorted.”
“Joe,” I told him softly, “I have no intentions of upsetting your life more on my account. And I wouldn't dream of making you sleep on your couch. The only way I'll be sleeping in your bed is if you're sharing it with me.”
He chortled and shook his head. “Look, Lexie, I realize you're out of my league and...”
I sighed and shook my head as I got up, turned back to face him so I could glare. “Hey, first, why don't you stop running yourself down? So, you're not Mr. Universe, so what? There's only one of those and call me crazy, but narcissism isn't sexy. You don't have to White Knight or virtue signal, Joe. You're kind, honest and generous to a fault. So, yah, I’m alone, and I'm scared and that I happen to luck into a guy like you when I need someone like that right the fuck now isn't lost on me. So, stop trying to give me reasons why I shouldn't like you. Yes, we'll split the rent and the bills and the rest of the arrangements, but I'm not a tease. And I pick who is or isn't in my league, k?”
The confused look on his face was priceless and I couldn't help breaking out into a grin as I watched the emotions run across his face as he sorted out my speech, his mouth hanging open a bit as his eyes darted around chasing the disrupted lines of thought I'd scattered like bowling pins. Finally, as if his mind didn't trust what his eyes and ears were telling him, distrust settled as the expression on his face and he asked, “You want to have sex with me?”
Sometimes, you just have to be direct with some guys. Not their fault, I guess, having been conditioned for years about polite society this and rules of civilization that. Instead of praising the Nice Guys for just being nice guys, it tended to make them less sure of themselves. Oh well. “Slow your roll, Doc. I'm not saying now, but hey I do like you. I'm sorting out me, and I appreciate a guy who can be as much of a man protecting those around him. Civilization needs guys like you! And I'm not such a bitch I'm just going to waltz into your space and take over.”
The look on his face was kinda sweet. “So, you don't want to...?”
I couldn't stop my eyes from rolling. “Not tonight, but not 'never' either. Maybe, depends on you. How's that?”
He chuckled at himself and finally his mind go going. “Sorry. I, just, well, you're beautiful, and that makes it hard to think sometimes.”
“You're not so hard on the eyes yourself, Joe,” I assured him. “So, if you can hook me up with a blanket and a pillow, I will sleep on the couch, and that's the end of it.”
He stood and we were kind of in each other's space as he made a gesture at his bedroom. “I appreciate you wanting to stand up and all, Lexie. I dunno if you're comfortable with it, but I don't mind sharing my bed. And I don't expect anything for it.”
I smiled and patted his cheek. “That's a very tempting offer. But, how would you feel about it? I don't want to make you uncomfortable either.” He gave me a little smirk and shrugged.
“With you around, that's gonna be a given.”
I winked at him and shared in the laugh. “Well, be a good boy and you never know what will happen. I don't seem to have any kind of Pjs, so I'll be in my skivvies. That OK?” His face blushed and he suddenly couldn't meet me in the eye, but he nodded as nonchalantly as he could. For a moment, I considered throwing him a pity fuck just to get it out of his system, but that probably would do more harm than good. So, I fished the bikini out of the bag, got the makeup off my face.
He slept in his boxers and I could see his appreciation of how I filled out the bikini as I gave up the bathroom for him, then crawled into his bed. It wasn't a very big bed, full sized probably and as soon as he got into the bed it became apparent we couldn't share the bed without touching each other. So, I sat up and as he rolled to face me, curiosity on his face, I took a hold of his arm, draped it around my shoulders and laid back down with my head on his shoulder.
It surprised me how comfortable this position was and I have to admit that I really liked how safe I felt as I laid my body on and next to his. “Good night, Joe,” I whispered.
He moved his head under me and then I felt him kiss the top of my head. “Good night, Lexie.”
Sleep came remarkably quickly and with it, torrid dreams raged in my subconscious as I tried to make my peace with doing more than sleeping with him. Which, if I'm being honest, was probably nicer than dreaming about what Cat wanted from me.
The next morning, we ate a silent breakfast and parted for the day. Silent, mostly due to the fact we were both feeling pretty self conscious. I mentioned the dreams I was having all night had me in quite a state. I don't know what he was dreaming about it, but I do know the 'morning wood' he had a cat couldn't scratch.
My goodness, evidently my dreams were more accurate than I would have thought...
His service had informed his head ware that his shop had been broken into, so he had to meet the police and an insurance adjuster at his clinic to judge the damage. Probably best if I wasn't seen in his company as his office was doubtlessly being watched, but there should be safety enough with the police there. He put my thumb print into his door lock so I had access and I was really deeply touched by the level of trust he showed me.
Sadly, I had my day planned already.
Evidently I was the last 'specialist' Cat needed for her 'favor' and I was to meet with her and the other members of the team she'd put together today. I wasn't very hungry, but I ate anyway before I pulled the jeans and one of the band Tank Tops on under the jacket and took the bus over to the Silicone Sorceress.
As you might imagine the place looked far less glitzy in the harsh light of day with the neon all turned off. In point of fact, only the cars in the parking lot and a couple of the big 'security' guys hanging around the door gave any indication the place wasn't vacant.
It was obvious I was expected as I was let in without fuss and fortunately, the 'player' door man wasn't in yet so I didn't have that to worry about. It's one thing to see a bar in full swing, strobes and mood lighting going off to a music track blasting at decibel levels just below 'jet engine.' It's quite another to see it under just normal florescent tubes in the ceiling which harshly showed all the broken tiles, scratched furniture and how beat up the bar tops were.
Cat herself wasn't all glitz and glamour now, dressed in faded and well worn jeans and one of those 'peasant' type blouses whose dazzling white linen set off her complexion in a dramatic fashion. She was going over something on a laptop at a table with a collection of females I took to be the waitress, but she waved me over to join them. “The gang's all here,” she declared, flashing her wide, shark-like smile. “Ladies, allow me to introduce Lexicon, she's going to make sure you all get out of the lion's den I'm sending you into.”
The tallest of the girls, a real bull dyke of a red head with said hair up in a Mohawk with both sides of her head shaved. Still, even tall, she was only about one hundred and seventy two centimeters, though she was markedly wide with biceps the size of her thighs both in full sleeves of tattoos, mostly of various tribal patterns. “Her?” she demanded incredulously, both arms crossed over her sleeveless plaid shirt and jeans. “She couldn't keep me out the bathroom, let alone take me out of someplace.”
“Do you need a demonstration, Red?” Cat asked which caused 'Red' to crack her knuckles.
“When I break your new toy, you gonna add that to my ledger?”
Cat's grin should have warned her off, but Red only had glares for me. “If you can lay her out, I'll mark your books clean, that alright with you, Lexie?”
“What do I get out of it?” I demanded.
She reached into her jeans pocket and produced a thick roll of Ameros and counted out five hundred she put on the table. “Don't do anything permanent,” she warned me. “You'll need her later.”
I shrugged and stretched out my neck until it popped. “Come on then,” I told Red. “Show us how tough you are.” She was grinning in anticipation of a therapeutic beat down, but little did she know, she was the patient, not the doctor. She took a broad swing in what seemed like slow motion I just stepped aside of, and when her punch didn't connect, the look of surprise on her face was absolutely comical. She threw a right I ducked under, then a one, two combo that I leaned out of her reach for, then did a cartwheel in the slow, deliberate way of a gymnast at the Olympics. “Last chance to give up before I start hurting you,” I told her.
Her face actually flushed crimson and she lunged at me. I ducked under her grab, took hold of her wrist and pulled while I swept her feet and dropped face first onto the floor. She rolled away and kipped up to her feet, so she did know how to fight, and I upped my appraisal of her instantly. She had her fists up in a good pugilist stance and kept her distance. “Who are you?” she demanded.
I grinned at her as my feet separated into a wide fighting stance of my own that felt right as I bladed my body towards her. “Are we talking or fighting?” I shot back. This time she feinted another lunge, but spun at the last second in an attempt to blind side me. I ducked down, made a knife of my hand and shoved it into her solar plexus If you've ever heard someone winded, you know that sick, gasping wheeze they make as their lungs are forced to empty. Though I have to give her props for how loud hers was; that's impressive lung capacity. Speaking of force, the force of the follow through of my punch dumped her on her ass. Her eyes were wide open in shock as she gasped after her breath and looked up at me.
Now, there was respect in her eyes and she held up a hand of surrender and defense in case I decided to do anything other than stand over her. The lesson having been given, I chose to be merciful, and I walked over to the table to scoop up the Ameros before I tucked them in a zippered pocket of the coat. “Anyone else?” I asked, but none of the other girls needed the lesson repeated.
Cat was all smiles. “Now, we're all friends again so let's talk business. You all owe me a favor and this is where I collect.” She paused to let Red, who was getting up slowly to her feet, stand, then indicated me with a gesture. “So, let's get the introductions out of the way. Lexie is your ace in the hole, she doesn't look like she's in Red's league, but as you saw, looks are deceiving.” She indicated a pale skinned brunette standing closest to me whose T Shirt, jacket and hat all had different car company logos. “Summer is your wheels, she gets you in and out.”
Next to her was an older blonde in glasses with a tool belt around her waist. “Ma Belle specializes in communication. She's who you need to get into their compound so she can set up a relay for me to be able to access their gear. Red is your way in and will chaperon you.”
“Why her?” Belle wanted to know.
Cat smirked. “Because she's a turn coat. Recently, Red came to me about a job she'd done. What was supposed to be helping a mom get her kid from an abusive ex was actually a cover for sex slavers.” She paused and any geniality she had vanished from her tone. “Sex slavers of children on my turf!” she snarled and suddenly one could see there were far from clean things going on with the Cat in the Hack.
The brunette, whose already pale skin went white. “Wha....what do you want us to do about it, Cat?” She looked at the others for support. “We're not killers...”
The expression on Cat's face was ugly. “If you change your mind, I'm offering a bounty. But, what you are doing is to get Belle inside so she can open a cyber back door for me to come through and ruin them. Your cover is as recruit mules to ferry kids from this location to wherever the next stop is. Except their next stop will be DFACS to get them home. Questions?”
“How many guys are we talking about, Cat?” Belle asked, but it was Red who answered.
“Three days ago there was a dozen kids, mixed ages from six to sixteen and about two dozen bad guys,” she declared gruffly, her voice still rough from my blow. “But this is a warehouse down by the airport. A big warehouse. There could be more.”
“When do we leave?” I asked Cat.
Ports are always a rough part of any town due to their transient natures and the flow of illicit goods from the illegal to the merely libertarian minded about the avoidance of Custom's Duties. Wherever there was easy money and contraband, there would be crime, organized or otherwise looking to cash in. Airports are no exception to this little fact of life and the area around ours was an interesting collection of hotels, convention centers, warehouses, cat houses and other seedy businesses that probably weren't members of the local chamber of commerce.
Summer had a van that would have any collection of TV heroes green with jealousy. It had only the absolute minimum of windows, but under the hood was the gurgle of engine that was so far over what was needed to move this thing as to practically be a giveaway. I'd wager this thing could beat a number of sports cars in a quarter mile. Otherwise, it was actually just an off white and had the logos of a popular courier service that was all over the city so it blended into the traffic pattern nicely.
There was even a very cleverly concealed platform that opened a hatch on the roof that I'm sure was only ever used in a legal manner. Wink, wink.
We got to our warehouse just before noon and in the bright light of day, you'd likely think nothing out of the ordinary was going on. Though, I noted the roll up doors of the loading dock were scrupulously closed. Considering what was going on behind these closed doors, I would much rather had a SWAT team at my back than Big Bertha and a phone company geek.
As Summer rolled through the lot, Belle tapped her shoulder and pointed at a box in the grass next to the parking lot. “Park next to that,” she ordered and started digging through her tool belt.
“What is it?” asked Summer.
Belle produced a hard hat from somewhere and put it on. It didn't exactly have the phone company logo on it, but it was the same color and general shape and probably would fool somebody who wasn't looking closely. “Trunk enclosure for the demarcation point,” she replied as she got a fairly sizable pair of bolt cutters out. “Out of The Cloud and into the ground.”
Summer came to a stop, blocking the view for Belle to come out the side door and use the bolt cutters on the padlock holding the doors shut. Once it was expensive scrap metal, she opened the doors revealing what to my eyes was an orderly rat's nest of wire bundles and bits of plastic. Another tool from her belt was waved, beginning to beep around a set of wires she took interest in. After a moments fiddling, there came a loud snap and a new wire was now going to a little gizmo with an antenna that snapped onto the side of the enclosure with magnets. Belle then closed the doors and slipping a new padlock over them, that looked remarkably similar to the old one. “OK, I'm done,” she declared, jumping back in and pulling the door shut. “Let's save some kids.”
I frowned at that news, but I took the ear piece she gave me and Red and slipped it into my ear. “Cat? That's all you needed?”
I could almost hear the evil in her grin in my ear. “Honey, I'm so far up in their shit they'll be pooping fur for a month.” She rather loudly licked her lips and settled into that place where people who really love their work also get to stick it to bad people doing bad things. “My goodness, Senator, what will your constituents think when this photo sees the light of day? Alright, ladies, I own their security cameras so you can do what you like in there and there won't be any video of it.”
“Really want to get in and out without shooting,” Red growled. “Don't forget, there's kids in there!”
“Some folks just need killing, Red,” Cat told her, “but as I said, you ladies can do what you like.”
Summer drove over to the loading dock and adjusted the jacket she was wearing of the courier service that was also on her van. “Whatever happens, I'll be here to get you out,” she promised us. I took the pistol from its pocket and instantly my implant was talking to the module Cat had given me. I knew where the muzzle was pointing, even with a little picture in picture in my vision
“Look at me,” I commanded, drawing the gaze of each of my co-conspirators. With a thought, they were surrounded in green boxes with Friendly over their heads. I racked the slide, then tucked the Hellcat back into a pocket, but still in my hand. “OK Let's do this.”
Belle, minus her tool belt and hard hat, and I followed Red out of the van and over to the little concrete stair case that brought us up to loading dock level. From there, she knocked on the door that was marked E. R. L. Enterprises in plain letters. The window in the door had limo tint and was impossible to see through. The door was opened by a scruffy looking meth addict, based on his teeth, who leered at us. “Yeah?” he demanded.
Red hooked a thumb at us. “They told me to find more chaperons, so I'm back.”
The addict looked at us, his eyes undressing me with his eyes in a manner I very much did not like. The door opened a bit further. “Come in, then.” We squeezed in past him as he refused to move out of the way and his smell was actually worse than his looks. The door shut behind us, he led the way through another door, also with limo tint into the warehouse proper.
Except it wasn't a warehouse. Half a bedroom, half a school class room and half a doctors office had been constructed in one section, in a cage in the remaining corner was a computer section where it looked like video disks were being pressed and packaged. I noted there was a handful of other addicts or homeless working in these little areas, who might not know what they were into, just hungry for a fix.
Or a meal.
“You get paid when you drop them off,” the door man told us as he led the way. “Not before.”
“They know what they're doing,” Red snapped.
The Meth Head wasn't having it. “I got to say it!” he snarled as the door he was reaching for opened on its own and the last person in the world I expected stepped out.
Big Daddy War-bucks himself was in the process of fastening his pants and behind him, I could see a handful of children comforting a little girl on a bed. A little girl of about ten on a bed with bloody sheets. In a split second, I processed what I was looking at, our eyes met and his widened in surprise. “The fuck...?” he started, but I just saw red. I don't remember drawing it, but suddenly the Hellcat was out of the bag in every sense of the word. The pistol barked in my hand and three rounds ripped through his groin. The force of the impact knocked him back into the door frame and he fell in that stiff legged way people with spine injuries do.
Meth Head turned to me in slow motion and a hole appeared in his forehead.
“Shit!” snarled Red as she helped the body of Meth Head fall out of the way and pushed herself into the room with the kids. “Grab your things! Hurry! We'll get you out of here!”
I walked over to Daddy who was trying to get a pistol out of his jacket that I took away from him. “Bitch!” he snarled, but he couldn't make his legs work to stand. I didn't even look at the gun as I tucked it into a pocket and reached down to grab his throat.
“Who am I?” I snarled in his. His arm flailed and I was hit on the side of my head, but it didn't even phase me. I began to squeeze his throat and the flailing got more frantic. “Who?” I demanded again. The door beyond me opened, showing a couple of thugs in suits so I held up the pistol, aiming it through the SMART link and fired a few rounds and the door shut again.
His hits started to register and I realized I didn't have time to extract information from him, nor was I going to let a monster like him get away with what he'd just done. “Lexi!” shouted Red. “God Damn it, I need help!”
I glared at Daddy and fear lit behind his eyes as I twisted my hand over to the side and I felt his neck break under my fingers. His eyes went wider as his arms fell limp. I leaned forward into his ear and whispered, “Burn in hell.”
I stood up and took in the shocked face of Belle as I shook my jacket with Daddy's gun in it. “You know how to use one of these?” I asked, but she shook her head, unable to speak. Just my luck, I guess. “Come on, kids,” I told the little clutch of children. “Let's get you all home. Cat?”
“Police are on their way,” her voice told me in my ear.
At the trot, we led the children back through the warehouse and out into the daylight. In the distance, I could hear sirens. My pistol took aim at the little video disk area, but the bums that had been in the cage were in the process of running out the door in front of us. I sent a few more rounds behind us, into the door where the suits were hunkered down to keep them that way and we ran out onto the loading dock. Fortunately, all the kids plus us could fit in Summer's van and she took off at a deliberate pace, fast enough to get us out quickly, but not 'felons fleeing the scene of the crime' fast.
“What the fuck?” Red snarled at me, over the terrified cries and whimpers of these poor kids, but I just shook my head.
“That was Big Daddy,” I told her. “He was after me, he knew who I was! We were made, so I did what I had to.” She glared at me for a moment or two, but finally gave a shallow nod and turned away.
“He had it coming,” she muttered.
A little girl cuddled up against me and whispered, “Thank you.”
“Are you really going to get us home?” another asked.
I gave my best smile to the kids and hugged the little girl against me. “I promise. You're all going home.” A squad car roared by us, headed towards the warehouse, as the children began to cry, huddled around us, not yet ready to believe their nightmare was over.
A ten thousand strap of hundred Ameros hit the table within my reach, as Cat grinned at me from the other side of the table. A second she tossed landed next to the first. “As promised, two dead scum bags, bounty paid,” she told me. I stared at them for a moment, then back up at her.
“I don't know if the door man should count,” I admitted. “He looked like an addict earning a fix to me.”
Her smile didn't waiver. “He saw the sets, and he knew the kids were there and being moved without their parents. I refuse to believe anybody is stupid enough not to put those two together and figure out what was going on there,” she replied.
“What about those kids?” Belle demanded.
“My guy over at DFACS assures me they've all been identified and will be home in time for dinner,” Cat assured her. “He also assures me that this obvious bit of gangland violence will probably never be solved. Though there's an ongoing investigation into the Wikipedia worth of clues I dropped on them from my data steal. There's some important people involved.”
Summer crossed her arms angrily. “Important enough to hush all this up?”
Cat pointed at a display showing one of the all news channels behind her. While the video was muted, I noted the graphic for the story was Massive Child Porn Ring uncovered. “Somehow, I don't think so,” Cat purred.
“So, we're square?” Belle wanted to know.
“Books in balance,” the hacker told her. “Though you girls did a bang up job on short notice. I can always find work for skills like that.”
“How about finding out who I was?” I picked up one of the straps and tossed it back at her. “That cover it?”
“It's good enough for a down payment at least,” she allowed. “I'll run you up an itemized bill when I find out more.” I nodded and turned to the other women.
“I'll be happy to work with any of you again. For now, I need to go and make things right with someone else.” I turned to leave, but Red's meaty hand fell on my shoulder heavy enough to cause me to pause. I looked up into her square, mannish face to find a curious expression there, looking down at me.
“You...” she started and licked her lips. “You took care of business, back there.”
Her face flushed and she finally worked up the courage to declare, “Look, I, I'm not high class or anything, but, I'll work with you too.” She paused for a moment, then hastily added, “Can I buy you a drink?”
You wouldn't think a woman so sure of herself to sport a Mohawk and two full sleeves of tats would be insecure, but there's a first time for everything. I smiled at her and patted her hand on my shoulder. “I appreciate the compliment, but I have someone...”
She jerked her hand back as if scalded. “Sure, sure, of course you do. I just meant...”
I reached up and gently squeezed her arm. “I know,” I told her. Looking past her I nodded at Summer and Belle. “Ladies, call anytime.”
I got back to Joe's apartment before he did, despite having stopped off at South Side Gun and Pawn to relieve myself of Daddy's nickel plated Gat-Blaster. Between that and Cat's pay day, I was stocked fairly well on cash. Fortunately, the pawn shop was in the same strip mall as a Wally World so my wardrobe had expanded significantly from Street Walker Chic to, I hoped Girl Next Door. I was diligently cleaning the Hellcat at the little breakfast bar, with my mind turned inward while my hands were occupied with a simple task they knew by rote.
They say a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. I don't know how much of that applies to self-diagnosis, but something similar would stand to reason. Despite that, I had to take a walk through my feelings and get a grip on who my core was as I try to put the pieces of the jig saw puzzle that was my mental picture of me back together.
A woman had hit on me, and I wasn't interested.
Granted, Red was, well, to put it mildly, a specific type and evidently not my type. Summer was a Tom Boy and Ma Belle, was, well, Ma. If I looked hard at my feelings for Cat, I might have to admit to myself there was some interest there, but it was different than what I realized I felt for two very different people. I was coming to realize Joe Wilkey was becoming my measuring stick to what a good human being looked like.
I'd run him down as a 'white knight', dismissed him as a 'nice guy' someone that was likely frequently taken advantage of. And that the thought that I might also take advantage had me feeling guilty about things I hadn't done. Joe was a genuinely good man, something I vaguely began to worry that I wasn't. I'd killed Daddy with my bare hands, gotten into a shootout knowing I might be the only person to live through it and killed without a second thought.
I don't know how or why I'd been delivered to this...what? Second Chance? Blank Slate? Tabula Rasa? Who had I offended so badly this was done to me? And yet... And yet, was this possibly, impossibly, for my own good? Was I the bad guy?
What if I was?
I'd watched the life fade out of Daddy's eyes and all I felt was justice being done. I will sleep well tonight and were I dropped right now back in that moment I would snap his neck again. There was not a lick of remorse in me at killing him. What other blood was on my hands? How out of balance was my ledger? Someone had spent a fortune turning me into this, and it didn't take a genius to figure out what use I had been put to.
But I had these skills, even if I couldn't remember where they came from, or how I learned them. Perhaps it was time I used them to put some positive entries onto that ledger. Time to put these skills to better use.
The Hellcat was back together in my hands, clean, innocent again. It had freed a dozen children from unimaginable evil and like me it's sins had been washed away. I looked at the card the bouncer had given me and I felt a shiver run down my spine. He wasn't Joe Wilkey, he was a bad boy and he probably knew just how to treat a bad girl.
I squirmed in my seat as I carefully put down the pistol and got a hold of myself. Joe had said this might happen, and perhaps it was part of my penance into this gritty street purgatory I'd been cast into. A few deep breaths got me in control of myself, just in time to hear Joe's thumb open the lock on the door. It was time.
I turned to face the door as it opened and he stopped dead, his mouth hanging open. “Come in,” I invited him, leaning back against the chair so that the faux silk of the slip I was wearing drew tight against my breasts. As if his feet were made of lead, he stumbled in and got the door shut. “We need to have a talk,” I purred as I slid out of the chair and walked over to him, relieving him of his coat and the bag of groceries in his arms. I looked in to see if there was anything that would spoil and when I was assured there wasn't, I put them down and guided him to the sofa.
“Wha...what about?” he managed.
“Our situation,” I replied vaguely. As I got him seated, I noted the effect I was having on his groin and with a sly smile, straddled him, pinning him to the couch. “Cat settled and I'm doing OK financially, but I've discovered the chip did alter my...well, me.”
His tongue looked so dry as he licked his lips. “How so?”
I grinned at him, and leaned forward to put my nose against his. “Take a guess,” I teased him. “I'm afraid while I might not meet the clinical definition of Hyper Sexual Disorder, well, I'm afraid I'm probably not far from it. You have been nothing but pure to me, Joe and I don't ever want to hurt you, but if I can't scratch this itch soon...” I let my voice trail off as I looked into his eyes.
“But...but, what if you find out you're a guy? Or...?”
I shrugged as I ran my fingers through his hair. “If I was, I probably was bisexual, I mean, how else could some macho whatever I was not go nuts being put into a body like this? Whoever, whatever I was, doesn't matter to me, if it doesn't matter to you.” His eyes were wide, like a deer caught in the headlights of it's on rushing doom. I closed my eyes and let my lips drop the few millimeters they were apart from his and we kissed.
The rest, well, that's between us.