applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([pretty] my kingdom on the waves)
How About Them Apples? ([personal profile] applespice) wrote2011-03-20 04:25 pm
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LJ Idol - Week 18 - Jetsam

One hour after dark. Tucked into a dark corner, a man in a black coat watched people drift down the narrow junction of streets across from Stayman's Pharmacy and the crumbling old cinemaplex, its lights still blinking to advertise a two-year-old nudie flick. He'd been to see it himself, six months ago, because even a shitty old theater showing shitty old movies was better than nothing. The sound hadn't worked well, and there were sections of the film that were entirely unwatchable due to tears and burns in the celluloid, but it was an all right way to pass an evening. Better than this, anyway.

None of the people passing him were right for what he wanted. He could tell at a glance - he'd been doing this a long time. Nearly all of them had Tik parts, and cheap ones at that. The ones that didn't were too old or too haggard. His clients had paid him well to get what they wanted: fresh, young, and one hundred percent human.

Of course, people like that, they just assumed that the streets were packed with that kind of stock, like they had been in the old days. It was some kind of romantic notion that'd started going around in the rich parts of town years ago. They'd even made films about it, though those were the kinds of films that only showed in the richie cinemas uptown, and he had never seen one. Still, he got the gist. Always a poor couple, deeply in love, living out their brief lives in a passionate whirl of emotion. Eventually finding meaning in each other, shunning Cybernetik parts, and dying young but whole in each other's arms. So on and so forth, blah blah blah.

It was stupid, and deep down they had to know it wasn't real. It was just something to entertain them. The poor sections of town weren't romantic, and they certainly weren't full of young, able-bodied humans living out their short but meaningful and happy lives together. If anything, there were probably more Cybernetiks among the poor than the wealthy. Richies, at least, could pay someone to obtain human parts if they needed a little fixer-upper. Someone like him.

He himself had Tik parts, though he didn't like to advertise that. His work had afforded him enough cash to get decent ones, and they weren't as immediately obvious as the cheap stuff. His left eye was all Tik, replaced three years ago, and most of the bones and tendons in his left arm were as well. He'd been in a car accident, and that seemed the only way to go if he didn't want to be permanently disabled.

He hadn't wanted to do it - like everyone else, before he'd needed them he'd planned never to get Cybernetiks. Like everyone else, he hadn't wanted to be less than human.

He'd realized after he'd gotten them, though, that everyone did it. They said they never would, but everyone did in the end. Nobody really wanted to weaken, to decay. Nobody wanted to die. But nobody wanted to admit that they were cheating it, either. It was that romance thing again. There was nothing romantic about replacing your body parts with machines when they got damaged or wore out. It was more romantic to think about grabbing on to the short time you had and making the most of it. But nobody really did that, not anymore. They just pretended.

And the richies, well. They cheated in their own way, to avoid the stigma. This way they were all human, all the time, and could look down their noses at the Tiks. It was just one more thing to feel superior about.

He sighed. It was nearly eight o' clock now. Curfew was at ten, and his apartment was on the other side of town. Traffic being what it was, it'd take him nearly an hour to get back to his place. If he didn't spot someone soon, he was giving it up as a bad job. He'd go back out on the weekend, when there were more people around and the curfew was extended an hour. The richies could wait.

Then he spotted her. She just drifted down the street in front of him, turning down Pier Avenue without the slightest glance around her. She wore a navy blue dress that was at least one size too big for her, and a ragged tan overcoat with a small collection of pins and buttons around the collar that winked in the streetlights. She was obviously underfed, but pretty nonetheless - he could make out her fine features in the dimness. She had long, sweeping black hair that fell down her back like dark water. And, best of all, she was completely human.

It wasn't always easy to tell if they were all human, but he had developed a knack for it. Of course, Tiks in this part of town were usually pretty obvious, with maker's marks stamped on them or visible joints or frayed prosthetic skin. Even if the Tiks were only on the inside, organs or bones or muscles, people just moved differently. He could spot them a mile off. This girl, though. She was one hundred percent.

When she had gotten a few yards ahead of him, the man in the black coat pushed off the wall and began to follow her. He was careful to keep his footsteps silent, but the girl never so much as turned her head. She was obviously the kind of girl who had been coddled, in the limited way that people around here could coddle a person. No doubt everyone in this neighborhood knew her, the pretty girl with the long black hair, and treated her like their own little pauper-princess. Nobody'd ever think to lay a hand on her.

When she didn't turn up at home that night, the alarm would be raised quickly. People would turn out in droves, sacrificing what little sleep they usually got to call her name in the streets. It wouldn't matter, though, by that time. He would already be gone, and so would she.

The buildings on either side of the street melted away suddenly, revealing the riverfront. It was as decrepit as everything else; the bank of the river was strewn with trash, and the air stank. It was muggier down here, as though the fetid water of the river pressed down against the eyes and skin. The man in black hung back in the mouth of street, watching the wraithlike figure of the girl moving between the streetlights. What was she doing down here? Meeting some lover?

Many of the streetlights along the river had gone out, and the girl seemed to blink in and out of existence entirely as she moved through these swathes of darkness. He realized that she was heading toward a large, run-down building overlooking the river - a defunct ferry station. Without the slightest hesitation, she entered the darkened building. He himself paused for a moment before following her inside; it was rare for him to go so far before taking out a target, and he would have to find a place to stash the girl while he went back for his car. Moving around so much could attract attention. His eyes flicked over to the blank-eyed windows of the buildings across the street. All were dark, and his Tik eye did not pick out any shadows against the glass.

The girl was too good to leave behind. He had never taken a target in such good shape. Drawing a deep, silent breath, he walked through one of the empty doorways into the station.

He paused just inside the door, his eyes swiveling back and forth over the broken-down interior, trying to locate the girl. Rubbish was piled up nearly to the ceiling in some places, mostly parts of old vehicles and other scrap metal, and it took him a moment to spot her. She was moving slowly between the pillars of junk, as if browsing. Perhaps she was looking for something in particular, something she'd hidden here. The idea appealed to him. Even he was romantic, in his way. He moved quickly towards her, drawing a small bottle of chemicals and a rag out of the inside pocket of his black coat.

The shock, when it came, was so unexpected that he kept moving for several steps without realizing that he was falling. His knees hit the floor, and the bottle of chemicals rolled out of his limp hand and rang out against the concrete floor. He tried to look around to see what had happened, but another electric charge coursed through his body. His left arm seized up, and his left eye seemed to vibrate in its socket, bright points of light bursting inside it. His chin slid toward his chest, and he would have fallen on his face if a large hand had not clamped down on his shoulder, keeping him upright.

When he looked up, the girl was standing right in front of him. She was just as pretty as he had thought, with sharp, aristocratic features and fathomless black eyes. She seemed to be looking him over - not as though she was curious about who he was or where he had come from, though. More as if she was evaluating him. Taking stock.

"Tik?" She asked someone behind him.

"Some parts on the left side," came the reply. The voice that belonged to the hand on his shoulder was male.


"Don't think so."

The girl knelt and began to prod him with long, bony fingers. "No," she said. "He's got most of those, at least."

"Would be better if he didn't have any Tiks," the male voice said.

She shook her head, her black hair swaying hypnotically around her face. "We can sell those, too. They won't go for as much, but there are still buyers. Anyway, where do you find someone without Tiks down here?"

She got to her feet. "Well," she said, her voice rich with amusement. The man looked up at her, though pain shot through his body with the movement. "Thought you'd stumbled on a prize, didn't you? You wouldn't be the first."

He didn't answer - there wasn't time. He felt the jab of a needle in his neck, and the vision in his right eye immediately began to blur, as if he was looking at the scene from underwater. His Tik eye, however, stayed open and focused on the girl in the navy blue dress. She looked down at him, smiled, and closed his eyelids with a gentle hand.

And then he was gone, washed away.