Hey! Happy Monday! (Actually, I’m reposting this on Tuesday. Whatever.) Before we get into the story, I have two big announcements! First, FULL METAL ORGASM #69003 IS NOW OUT! I have a story featured in it, and you should check it out! Click the link, dammit!!! (Issue 1 and issue 2 are also available, but I have nothing to do with them.) Second, we’re gonna have a great guest story later this week on Friday. It’s a pretty spiffy story, so be sure to check it out, okay? Great!
As always, if you’d rather read in PDF format, click below the fold and scroll to the bottom to download it!
Rumbling bass tears through everything—leather couches tucked into corners, black tables rattling with glasses and bottles, half-naked dancers sweating and grinning—like nuclear fallout. Surrounded by spinning, holographic platters and frozen-light mixers, the DJ stands perched above the room. Composite-steel spindles sprout out of her hips, darting as fast as thought, tweaking knobs and sliding dials. Fat, black goggles obscure her face and enormous headphones cover the sides of her head.
Spinning rhythmic symphonies out of nothing, she works the crowd into a gyrating frenzy. With ocs so new they haven’t even been released on the open market yet, she scans the crowd.
On the dance floor, revelers howl and scream, grins slapped across their faces. Naked limbs entwine, hot, wet flesh slipping over hot, wet flesh. Foot-wide, drink-dispensing orbs dive through the lemon-misted air, zeroing in on empty-handed revelers.
As the song gallops onward, it pulls the crowd further into its hypnotic trance. Sweat cascades off their foreheads and glazes the floor with human brine. Here and there throughout the crowd, faces disappear as they succumb to dehydration and collapse. A couple in the center grind their loins together, jeans thick with blood.
The DJ’s lips curl up, revealing teeth filed and capped with glowing-green covers. A pair of spindles clamp the military-grade sound suppressors tighter around her ears as she tips her head back. Arms and spindles flung towards the sky, she sucks in a lungful of the scented air before letting out a primal scream.
In that instant, a low, nearly inaudible thoom ripples through the building, liquifying soft tissue and disrupting circuitry. As eyeballs dribble out of skulls and bladders rupture in torsos, the dancers splatter across the floor, drink-dispensing orbs scattered among the bodies like Christmas ornaments.
Wiping a trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth, the DJ winds the music down. Silence descends on the building. Platters and mixers blink out of existence. The yowls of dogs in agony filter into the building through shattered windows.
After folding her gear into a travel box the size of her palm, the DJ slips it into a pocket and turns towards the stairs.
“We got two-hundred and eleven dead on the north side three nights ago, another hundred and fifteen on the west side two nights ago, and, now, after last night, we can throw in another three-hundred,” the chief pauses as his eyes defocus for a moment, “Hold up. The team at the scene is saying it’s…uh…three-hundred and fifty,” he blinks back into reality, “on the south side.”
Murmurs fly through the small conference room as the assembled cops towards each other.
“Where in the south side?” I ask raising my hand.
“Well, you probably wouldn’t know,” the chief says, eyes turned towards the floor, “but the old Matterson warehouse.”
“Isn’t that where they captured the South Side Dog Fucker after he traumatized the mayor’s poodle?”
The chief sneers at me when the older officers laugh.
“That’s the one, Billy-boy!” shouts Majorie, the pins on her uniform rattling as she chuckles. “But I bet you the chief wishes he couldn’t remember!”
“Whozza South Side Dog Fucker?” a younger officer named Wayne leans in to ask me.
“You don’t know?” My eyebrows shoot up like fireworks. “Hot damn, don’t they teach you your city history at the academy?”
Before he can respond, the chief slams his fist on the table. “Mr. Pots! I would ask you to stay on task! P all, that is why Interpol deigned to send you here, isn’t it? To help us catch this…murder DJ that your agency couldn’t even stop from getting out of Europe?”
I shrug and nod. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Great. So, why don’t you and your new friend,” he points at Wayne, “head down to the scene and see what you can find in the slop. Everyone else, dismsissed!”
As the other cops file out of the room, I turn to my new partner. “Slop?”
Rolling his eyes, he sighs. “Yeah, you know how the sonic bomb the perp is using liquifies all the soft tissue in the body? That and the sweat and blood that all mix together into a thick soup? We call it the slop.”
“Oh. Great. I was hoping I’d get to do some more slop work on this trip. Haven’t done nearly enough back in Europe yet. Lead the way, officer.”
Wayne flicks on the sirens and the emergency hyper hoverpads, speeding the department hoverpod above traffic. A trash collector honks as we zoom over it, and Wayne sticks his middle finger out the window.
“So,” he says, skipping through a left turn over a packed intersection, “you’re from Interpol, right?”
“Yep,” I squeak, eye wides and fingers clenched around the safety harness. “Do you think, maybe, that you should slow down?”
The traffic all but disappears, and Wayne lowers the hoverpod down to street level but maintains speed.
“Naw, I got the lights on. But you’re not European, are you? Tom down in inventory says he knew you in school. Or something.”
Buildings rush by, their broken windows and walls covered with graffiti of giraffe genitals. Bags of garbage sits in large mounds on curbs. Rotting “for sale” signs covered shuttered buildings on either side of the street. Aside from a few bums sitting in the shadows, the sidewalks are empty.
“Uh, yeah, I’m from here.” An apartment building with a broken neon sign flashes by the window. “That was where I lived in university,” I say, craning my neck around to look at the building. “Wow. This neighborhood has really gone to shit, hasn’t it?”
Wayne snorts. “I dunno, man. I’ve only been at the department for a few years, but this neighborhood hasn’t ever looked any better than this.”
“When I was here, it was a great place. There were restaurants and bars and robostitute love hotels and all the college kids would come down here on Friday to get drunk and fuck until Monday morning.”
He arches an eyebrow and shrugs, “That’s…nice? So, hey, how the hell did you end up in Interpol?”
“Eh, I grew up in a group home, and the city was looking for ‘disposables’ to send on a friendship mission. I thought I was going to be a tourist guide for lost Americans. Instead, I ended up in Interpol.”
He glances at me out of the corner of his eyes. “You grew up in a what?”
“A group home. It’s like a…place for orphans to live.”
He snorts. “Aw, come on, man, don’t play with me!”
Rolling my eyes, “Alright, I know officially, there aren’t any in the city. Wouldn’t want something like that tarnishing its image. But de facto? Yeah, there are a few of us.”
“Well, I’ve never met my parents, and I was raised by the state, living in a group home. The closest thing to family I have is the five other kids I shared a room with.”
“Oh, damn…that’s…I’m sorry, man.”
“Oh, it doesn’t bother me.” I shrug. “I mean, those five were closer than any of the siblings we saw at school.”
“But you went ta’ Europe?”
Shaking my head, I look out the window. “Yeah, I mean I kinda miss ‘em, I guess, but whatever. I had to get the hell out of this city.”
Wayne slowly nods his head and banks to the right, the Matterson warehouse suddenly coming into view.
Security bots patrol the perimeter of the building, rolling back and forth along angular paths, while wide-eyed surveillence cameras flit through the air. Two uniformed cops loiter next to the entrance, assault rifles dangling from their shoulders.
The warehouse is exactly as I remember it: chipped paint flakes off the window frames, faded graffiti adorns the burnt-red brick walls, wild dogs play with worn-out robostitute genitals in the shadowed back streets. Following Wayne through the perimeter, I glance backwards, smiling at the empty orphanage visible just down the street. I give it a little wave. Squinting and looking for a wave in return, I laugh at myself.
“Heyoo!” shouts Wayne, grinning at the guards.
“Oh. Hey,” says the one to the right. The one to the left turns his head towards us and nods slightly.
As we get closer, I realize that they’re twins–complete with matching steel jaw lines. Bold, black DNA symbols are printed on the orange arm bands cinched around their biceps.
“The chief sent us,” Wayne explains, the badge on his chest projecting holograms of the official orders into the air. “Cool if we go in?”
“Sure,” they drone in unison.
“Thanks!” Wayne grins walking between them.
“Hi,” I nod at them. They nod back. My spin tingles as their eyes follow me into the building.
“Here,” Wayne says, tossing me a mask off a folding table littered with supplies.
Straping the mask over my face, I follow Wayne through the makeshift lobby. It’s barely big enough to pack twenty eager, half-drunk college kids in.
“So, the, ah, two gentlemen at the door. They’re quiet, hunh?” I ask as we wait for a sentrybot to analyze our credentials and then open the aroma-proofing seal clamped over the door to the dance floor.
“What? Oh, you mean Jim and Tim? Yeah, well, I mean, we don’t have the resources your Interpol has, so, we can’t really afford the top quality personality upgrades, you know?”
I narrow my eyes. “What?”
“Don’t you guys have soldier farms in Europe?” Slipping on his mask, he stands facing me, back to the door.
“Uh…no…all our self defense forces are volunteer-only. But I guess it’s not a surprise in this city, is it?”
“Yeah, whatever, dude,” Wayne says mostly to himself and then turns as the door hisses open. “Hope you didn’t eat a big breakfast,” he mumbles through the mask and steps into the cavernous room.
The mask fills my nose with the scent of lemon zest, and the sight is nothing new. Still, my stomach twists up into tight braids, and I clench my teeth as tightly as I can, tongue pressed against the roof of my mouth.
“The clean-up crew finished work an hour ago,” Wayne points at the floor, “so the really nasty juices are gone, but it’s hard to get out the collective stench of three hundred some people spraying blood, piss, and shit everywhere. And, of course, the dogs got in,” he waves a hand at a few dog carcasses piled in a corner away from the bodies. “The cops who arrived found ‘em tearing into some of the bodies and kinda flipped out. Whatever, fewer mutts running around in traffic.”
“Well, this all looks about right, doesn’t it?”
Looking around the warehouse-cum-dancehall, I nod my head. “This scene. It’s pretty much the same as what we had going on in Europe. I mean, the attacks were more spread out. More random.” I crouch down to look at a blood prosthetic finger. “But the basics were the same. Everyone here’s under 25, right? And the party was completely unregistered, right?”
Wayne’s eyes defocus as he pulls up the case information on his BCI. “Uh, yeah.”
“You’ve interviewed some of the families?”
“Yeah, about twenty so far. I mean, we’ve got, what, over six hundred dead people in a week…”
“Not really. Well, a few said that there was some weird stuff with their kids’ bank accounts and some trouble processing the life insurance pay outs, but it seemed pretty random.”
Shaking my head, I frown. “Yeah, that’s a dead end. We looked into that in Europe. It just turns out that 25 year olds are bad with money.”
“Well, what we can’t figure out, is how they even knew about the damned parties.”
I nod my head. “Well, what we’ve figured out so far, is that they’re invitation only. The word gets out through temporary message boards. All the information is up for less than twenty minutes, but it’s enough to get a good sized crowd, right? You know why?”
He shakes his head.
“They’re addicted.” I nod my head. “Took us forever to figure it out, but this DJ is using some weird aural patterns to get in their brains.” Tapping my skull, I look at Wayne. “We think he or she or it or whatever distributes free music, gets the kids hooked on it, and then overloads their BCIs at the…parties or whatever.” Wayne crosses his arms and twists his mouth up; I shrug. “Their bodies get flooded with adrenaline or something. They’re always such a fucking mess, though, that it’s hard to be sure, but that’s not what kills most of ‘em. It’s the bass bomb. The buildings contain most of the damage, so there’s no witnesses” I shake my head.
“If there’s no witnesses, how do you know it’s a bass bomb. And, how does the DJ survive the blast anyway?”
“Fuck if I know. We’re not even sure if it’s a person, are we? I mean, it could be a renegade robot, couldn’t it?”
“True…but wait, what about–”
I hold a hand up, pointing to small platform above the dance floor. “Hey, what’s that?”
Turning around, Wayne looks up. “That balcony? I dunno. They’ve been so focused on cleaning up this mess and contacting families, no one’s really looked around up there yet.” He turns back to me.
“Let’s take a look.”
The steel stairs clank beneath our boots, pounding out a trill rhythm as we ascend. The door scraps hard against the balcony floor, screeching wildly as Wayne pushes it open.
“Jeez, man, it’s like someone just fucked my head with unicorn horns.” Scrunching my face up, I throw my hands over my ears.
He rolls his eyes and walks onto the balcony. “Well, it’s not large, but certainly spacious enough for someone with a decent set up.”
Walking to the railing, I look down on the floor. “Shit, nice view, hunh?”
Wayne steps over to my side. “Yeah, I bet it looks pretty cool with all the lights going.” After a moment, he turns and looks around the platform. “I guess there’s nothing—hold on.”
A tiny cone of…something glows faintly on the floor. He squats, poking it with a finger. “Hey, what’s this?”
I take a knee next to him, squinting at the cone. “I dunno. Uhh…shit, we should probably call in the lab guys.”
“Naw, it’s cool, I have a built in material scanner.” With the cone in the palm of his left hand, he holds his right palm over it. Information floods his vision as his BCI devotes its processors to the scanner.
I lean back, taking in the scene, drumming my fingers in the floor.
After a few seconds, he lets out a yelp, dropping the cone and leaping to his feet. “Holy fuck!”
Surprised, I jump up, eyes first on him, then the cone, and then back to him. “What? Is it poison?”
“No, it’s uranium!”
Back at the station, Wayne and I sit at a table in a break room covered with torn safety posters and month-old party notices. As we suck down coffee, a lab tech explains what she’s found.
“So, that cap you brought in is, indeed, uranium. It’s covered in a new plastic designed to contain the radioactivity, but whoever made did a crap job. It’s leaking. Not much, mind you. You’d get exposed to more radiation just pond hopping over the Atlantic, but, you know, prolonged exposure could produce enough to poison someone. Maybe drive ‘em crazy?” She raises her eybrows and nods at us. “I think you just got a motive.”
“Shit, Shelly, I never seen anything like this before though. Not even those mutant gangbangers down by the bridge.” Wayne plays with his cup, spinning it around one one centimeter at a time.
Shelly shrugs. “Yeah, I did a quick search on the Network. Turns out it’s a Belgium thing? I dunno.”
I look up from the coffee sleeve I’m staring at. “Belgium? That’s where the first attack was. I was the agent in charge of the investigation down there.”
“Well, there you go.”
“Hmmm…so would you be able to get a decent dental record off of this?” Wayne asks, grinning.
“I thought you might ask for something like that, and, no, I couldn’t.” When she sees his face fall, she quickly add, “but I was able to pull some DNA off of it. Most of it was all fucked up from the radiation, but I got one solid match.” She winks at us. “Are you ready for me to solve your case?”
“Yes! Spit it out!” Wayne shouts.
She frowns and shakes her head. “Well, unfortunately, the match is for a Jane Flower, and, I’m sorry guys, but there’s been no record of her in the city for almost eight years. She might have been in Europe, but I don’t know. And there’s definitely no record of her coming back on a hopper”
“Jane Flowers?” I mumble.
After looking at Wayne, who raises his hands and frowns, Shelly leans towards me. “Yeah…that’s the match. She was in a group home growing up…I think it was–”
“Shirane’s House.” I cut her off.
“You know it?”
“I grew up there.” I stop, trying to swallow the lump in my throat. “I shared a room with her for almost eighteen years. She was like my little sister.”
Wayne opens his mouth, pauses, and closes it. After scratching his forehead for a few moments, he looks at me. “Well, do you know where she is now?”
“No. She…she was furious when I left for Europe. Said the city was just using me to look good. I…I haven’t talked to her in ten years. I don’t think I even have a link connect with her anymore.” I look at Shelly. “There’s nothing in the city registry for her?”
Shelly shakes her head. “She wasn’t on any of the passenger lists…but it wouldn’t have been hard for her to drop into Miami and then drive up here.” Shelly drums her fingers on the table for a moment. “The traffic logs! She could have a fake ID, I mean, that wouldn’t be hard to hack on a BCI, but the serial number is hard-encoded.”
Wayne snaps his fingers and points at Shelly. “Of course! Most people don’t even know about ‘em! Let me call it up.” His eyes defocus for a moment as he links into the station’s secrure Intranet. “Okay…according to city records, the last BCI she was outfitted with was ZZA456901. We have a check in for a flight a few months before that first attack in Belgium and then nothing until…two weeks ago!” He digitally slides the information to us. “She came in on a stolen hoverpod! I think traffic found it in a ditch.”
“Oh, I remember this. She torched it good. There was nothing left,” Shelly explains. “But that’s it…there’s nothing else. How the hell are we going to find her? This fucking city is huge.”
Eyes glazed over, I stand up. “Yeah, but there’s only one place she calls home.”
“Come on, Bill, the chief told us to wait.” Wayne says as he grabs my arm.
“Fine. Wait. I don’t work for the chief. I work for Interpol.” I jerk my arm free and speed walk to the rusted gate chained shut in front of the remains of Shirane’s House.
“Maaan, how do you know she’s here?” Wayne shouts from where he’s standing by the department hoverpod. “Or that it’s not a trap?”
I kick the gate. The chains rattle but don’t break. “Because she would never leave this fucking place. Whenever one of us left, and she came to us, one by one, begging us to stay. Why the fuck would anyone want to stay here?”
I kick the gate again. The chains just rattle. Again.
“I don’t know, dude, but, seriously, if she’s here, she’s probably got a trap or something.”
“Raaaaah!” I kick the gate. The chains snap apart and it flies open. The fountain in the courtyard is dry, but the cherubs are still dancing around the top. “Just stay there, Wayne. My BCI is broadcasting wideband, so just plug into that. You can see and hear everything I can, alright?”
The building has been gutted. All the furniture, filing cabinets, entertainment spots, everything. It’s all gone. Even the painting of Shirane standing on some mountain is gone. My footsteps echo in a way they never did when I was sixteen.
“Jane!” I shout, making sure that Wayne is picking everything up. “Jane, come the fuck on! I know you’re here!”
The stairs. Big, wooden stairs leading to the second floor. To room 221. Occupancy, six.
I take them three at a time and jump forward, tucking myself into a roll, at the top.
Crouched against the wall, I look around.
My ocs switch over to a fuller spectrum, showing me a detailed analysis of the environment.
But there’s nothing in the hall. No booby traps, no explosives, not even a residue heat signature.
“Jane!” I shout, as much for Wayne’s benefit as for mine.
Several meters behind me, the wall explodes. I whip around in time to see a figure making a dash for the far window.
“Jane!” I scream as loud as I can.
She’s fast. Far faster than I remember her being. Long, lazy spindles jangle around her hips as she runs, massive headphones tight around her ears.
She’ll be long gone before I could possibly catch her.
Raising my arm, the disruptor in my glove activates. She’s twenty meters from the window. I aim the tiny laser dot at her spin. Fifteen meters now. I take a deep breath. Ten meters. I close my eyes. I can hear her feet slapping against the floor. Five. I fire.
The next day, I’m relieved from duty by Interpol for “failure to comply with local agencies.” The city police chief screams at me until his throat gives out and someone else is called in to continue the tirade. Over and over, they demand to know how I could miss and why the fuck I didn’t wait for back up. I just shrug and stare at the floor.
The official report says that a malfunction in my hardware resulted in poor aiming, which is why I completely missed a large target directly in front of me. The official report does not mention that I forgot to turn the autoaim function on before entering the building. No one thinks to ask why it was turned off in the first place.
Either way, Jane Flowers remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous.
Wayne looks right through me on my way out of the station, bandages wrapped around his face where Jane pummeled him getting away.
In the lobby, Shelly stops me and tells me she’s sorry to hear I got canned. I grin and tell her to go fuck herself. With her mouth hanging open, I turn and walk through the front door.
Outside, a yellow cab is waiting for me.
With spindles gripping the controls and a fat, black sunglasses obscuring her face, the driver pulls into traffic as soon as I slide in. “Where to, big brother?”
“I don’t know…” I rub my nose and grin as I look out the window. “How about Atlanta? There ought to be a few hundred rich kids with life insurance pay offs we can steal down there, right?”
Looking in the mirror, she laughs and cranks up the music.
Thanks for reading this week’s story! I hope you enjoyed it! If you’d like to download the PDF, please click here!