"There’s nothing here," Kel said, half-mindedly kicking a rock around the concrete. "We’re wasting too much time."

Ven said nothing as he set a small black sphere on the ground. He was used to Kel’s impatience, even enjoying it in contrast to Sem’s usual wait-and-see attitude. He flexed a muscle and his HUD opened a window with a view from the sphere. As he worked, Kel wandered aimlessly, pawing her sidearm.

"Shouldn’t we be, I don’t know, digging or something?"

"Won’t need to. This thing’s radio scanner is pretty precise. If there’s something, it’ll know." He wasn’t looking at Kel, but he knew the frown she would be making very well. Action was her thing.

"Who would bury tech, anyways? Isn’t that kind of bad for it?"

"Onyx would. And we aren’t looking for tech." The robot was letting out a quiet pinging noise while it rolled across the ground.

"We aren’t?"

"No. One of Onyx’s subdivision spent a good amount of money on cryogenics and suspended animation.," The robot had stopped moving and was now pinging madly.

"We’re looking for a person."


This is bullshit. She turned me without my permission. Why would she even think I wanted this? Yeah, I wanted to be stronger, what guy doesn’t? But nobody wants to be confined to the night, not even that weird goth kid who lives across from me.

Oh, jeez. My apartment. What am I gonna do with my apartment? I can’t just go crash in my bed, the sun would fry me the second it came up. I could sleep in the tub I guess. This sucks.

Least she waited for me to lose my job… Did she plan that? I gotta find her. Too many questions.

I got out of the booth. I hadn’t touched any of the food I ordered, just watched it go cold while panicking quietly to myself. The waitress noticed me stand up and moved to politely block me on my way to the door.

"Is everything alright, sir?" Her fake bubbly smile was very well practiced.

"Business, sorry," I muttered and slipped a twenty in her hand without stopping. She let me by with nothing more than a quick puzzled glance before carrying out her day.

On the way to my car, I sent Melanie a text to meet me somewhere quiet. As I was buckling in she replied.

"Pig Pen it is," I said as I left the lot on my way to the dive.

Fifteen Minutes of Text Part Three

"Ven’s Late," Kel said, reading the clock on her AR hud for the millionth time. "He’s never late."

"Maybe he hit a snag," said Semp. She shut the casing on her arm, finally done with the repairs she had been putting off out of sheer laziness.

"A snag? A snag? At this point, a snag means he’s dead." Kel stood and moved to the window, drawing back the curtain just enough to peek out over the cluttered street eight stories below. She watched as a bum moved aimlessly about, holding a shaky hand out to anyone passing by.

"Ven isn’t dead, K. He’s done jobs like this before." A flicker of her lighter lit Semp’s third cigarette of the day. She was proud of how little she relied on the little sticks anymore. After a long drag, she looked over to see Kel quickly go back to looking out the window. "Want me to buzz him again? Would that make you feel better?"

"Tch, like he’ll answer." The bum outside was talking to some dupe who stopped to hear his tale of woe.

Semp flexed the muscles to dial Ven’s AR. She listened to the soft ring tone for a few moments, watching the smoke rise slowly, obscuring Kel enough to be artistic. She snapped a quick image with her right eye and fiddled with the generic editor she downloaded for no good reason. She jumped when Ven picked up.

"You two better get out here. Something isn’t right with this job," Ven’s voice was hushed but demanding.

Semp didn’t say a word, instead standing and gabbing her jacket and walking to the door. Kel noticed her move and was on her heels before she reached the door.

Fifteen Minutes of Text Part Two

The first thing that came into focus was his eye. Glossed over, vacant, unblinking. Next was his expression. His features were twisted into wide open terror. What finally shook me was the blood caked in his hair, in his beard, running sluggishly from his lips.

I bolted up from the ground. Why is he dead? My mind raced trying to remember anything. My hands were slick with blood. His? Oh, God no. Please don’t let it be his. 

I staggered to my feet, a sick feeling following. We were in a bathroom somewhere. Not a well kept one, either. Finding the mirror, I found my face smeared with blood, as well as my shirt and hair. What was in that drink? Odd thing to think, until I remembered the bar. And her.

I remember her saying she wanted to take me to a new level. I remember thinking she was a dealer of some sort. Whatever, she was pushing something, I had thought. She just has a flair for weirdness.

I asked her how much, she just laughed as she moved closer. She told me the first hit was always on the house. Some powder in my drink and I was in Heaven. I could hear people across the room whispering, I could see every hair in the bartender’s hipster beard, I could smell every alcohol in the birthday girl’s cocktail in the booth two down… I was everywhere.

Then I blacked out. Then I was here.

I made my way to the door. I had to get out of there before I puked. I pushed and the door gave way to the bar common. It was night still (again? How long was I out?), but the place was abandoned. Except for one booth, lit by the candle on the table. She was there, wearing that same sexy little thing as before.

"Evening, Champ."

Fifteen Minutes of Text

Ven had escaped. He wasn’t sure if it was luck that helped him, or if that girl had meant to hit his captor and not him. The last time he had seen her, she stabbed him through the leg. 

Tough Love.

Either way, now he had to get out of the complex. His AR was still acting up, labeling blank walls as doors, and the FFI was just jacked to hell. He was pretty sure the glitch was due to the complex, not his software. It looked like he would have to guess his way out. Good thing all the corridors were the same neutral white and beige.

'Who the hell uses beige anymore?' He thought as he picked a random direction.

Down the way, he heard someone check in on a comm. Rovers. They usually traveled in pairs ever since his first break-in went without a hitch. Ven flexed the muscle attached to his light deflector, dropping to the floor as he did. It must have worked, since neither guard even broke stride as they walked past.

He thought briefly about a way to drop them both without raising an alert, then decided against any more risky moves. Getting cocky is what put him here in the first place. He darted down the hall to a pair of elevators.