"I'm sorry, Ren!" Bona cringed, looking me over, "I really don't mean to be so rough. In my defense, my metal hand is usually on more metal."
"Well, your metal hand is stronger than you give it credit for," I argued as she continued scraping at my skin, "And I'm totally organic."
"I really don't mean to cause you so much pain," she assured, "It's just…There's no grafting, no scarring. You're absolutely stunning."
"I got a tattoo on my lower back," I pointed out, "For what it's worth. Does that count as scarring?"
"I wouldn't say that," Bona opened the back of my gown, admiring the sprawling oak tree on my back, "Whoever did it did a nice job."
"His name was Randy," I told her, "He was a good friend of my now ex-boyfriend and an incredible tattoo artist."
"He sounds like the guy that runs the mod shop," she ran her fingers over the branches, "You'd like him. I'm sure you'll meet him one day"
"Is he a tattoo artist, too?" I wondered.
"Not exactly," Bona explained, "Sometimes, he'll do airbrushing on people's mods if they ask. Remember how I was telling you that mods can have their perks?"
"Well," she traced her metal finger up my arm, "Like in Kat's case. She can use her cybernetic eyes to see in the dark. When she was born and they modded her, she didn't have that. But when she was brought onto the compound and met our modder, she got the upgrade to night vision. Now, she can see anything no matter where she is. That's why the Captain brought her on. Occasionally, her thieving does come in handy."
"What about the rest of you?" I asked.
"I can't speak for the others," Bona adjusted her glasses, "But I know why he brought me on. I was the only doctor he could trust. He said he'd need someone like me that still had their morality. Just in case something went wrong with someone's mods. Even though they can prevent just about anything, mods aren't perfect. However, there are hushed whispers about some newer models the doctors are working on that are one hundred percent flawless. There's also a high risk of death that comes with it."
"And they need a pure body to test them on," I assumed.
"There'd be no telling what they'd actually do to you," she bit her lip, "Just the thought of it makes me sick."
Worry filled Bona's eyes. It's strange. I've only met these people an hour ago, yet they wanted to keep me safe and out of the hands of some very bad people. I could understand why, though. One side wanted to extend the human life. The other wanted to save the human race. Even though at this point, it was beyond saving. Yet they still clung to hope.
"Forgive me if this is overstepping," I changed the subject, "But what kind of mods do you have?"
"I have my metal hand," she showed me, "Same as the Captain. But mine has an upgrade or two."
"Mine's not quite like the Captain's," Bona flexed her wrist, "See, Ren, when you're modded, you can get different attachments. My hand is a Swiss army knife."
"No way," I scoffed, only to see a corkscrew pop out of her index finger, "Ok. That's cool."
"That's not all," she went on, popping a knife out of her thumb, "Pretty neat, huh? There's a flashlight in my pinky and a screwdriver in my ring finger. If I snap my fingers, I have a lighter, too."
"That makes me want to get modded!" I confessed, "But I know I can't do that because I have to stay pure, right?"
"You're the only pure adult in existence right now," Bona put her tools away, "And technically, we stole you."
"What do you mean?"
"As soon as the doctors had you," she elaborated, "You became their research. Once you stepped foot on the Adelaide, you were stolen."
"I'm not property," I assured, "I went of my own volition. Doesn't that count for something?"
"Not in their eyes."
"Alright," I got angry, "I'm not their property. I'm not an object. I have thoughts, feelings, and a brain in my head. Who hurt these doctors that's got them so screwed up?"
"I don't know," Bona sat with me, "And as much as I'd love to do everything from x-rays to ultrasounds to drawing your blood, I think we're going to call it a night. Is that ok with you?"
"That's fantastic," I approved, "But do you think you could score me some actual clothes? Not that the feeling of not wearing pants isn't freeing, but it's a little cold after a while."
"Talk to Kat," she directed me, "She's got a mini mall for her closet. She'll be able to set you up. You look about the same size."
"Awesome," I remembered how Kat was dressed in the main building. She looked like an anime schoolgirl, but I had to admit. Girlfriend had style, "And where would I find her this time of night?"
"Probably in the rec room," Bona thought," Kat likes to hustle people, so if I were you, I'd be on my guard. Take inventory of your valuables, too. We all love her to death, but she's kind of a klepto."
"Don't worry," I thought I felt a kindred spirit, "She can't pickpocket me. I know every little trick in the book. You can't steal from a thief."
I left Bona's office and started heading back to the main building. For this being the future, it reminded me of when I went to Disney World when I was ten with the family. This place looked like a resort. But like a resort's B-side. Either way, it was a place to crash and pee, so I couldn't complain. Now, if I were the rec room around here, where would I be?
I followed the sounds of chiptune coming from the south hall. That had to be something, right? On the way, little shops lined the hall. This must have been the compound's Red Light District. Nothing but bars and brothels this way. I'm sure there had to be a rec room somewhere. Outside one of the many taverns stood a dark, yet familiar silhouette having a break from the noise inside.
"Hi there, good looking," I leaned against the wall, "You looking for a good time tonight?"
"Hi, Ren," Tyrus sighed out, his face a bright shade of red already, "Sorry, sweetheart. Even if I wanted to, you're not the one. There's a lovely little angel down the way I've pledged loyalty to."
"Like a girlfriend?" I assumed.
"No," he shook his head, "Nothing like that. We're just casual. I'm a regular client of theirs."
"That's sweet," I awed, "I guess the world's oldest profession is still a thing."
"Yep," Tyrus swirled the rich, golden liquid around in his glass and offered it to me, "You want some?"
"What is it?" I wondered, curious as to what the Captain's drink of choice was.
"Apple juice," he said, "I don't drink much, but a nice sugar buzz is good from time to time."
"Seriously?" I giggled, "You don't strike me as the type for just apple juice."
"Alright, you caught me," Tyrus came clean, "It's apple cider. With whiskey."
"Sounds delightful," I took his drink, trying not to down the rest.
"Go ahead," he allowed, "The rest is yours if you want it. The bartender likes me. That glass is bottomless."
"Lucky you," I finished it off, "Wow, Tyrus. That's good."
"Pletny more where that came from," Tyrus took his glass back, "Where you headed?"
"The rec room," I checked down the hall, "Am I going the right way?"
"Looking for Kat, are we?" he assumed, "Yeah. It's at the end of the hall, hang a right, then right again. She should be in there."
"And be careful," Tyrus warned, "We don't just call her Kat because it's her name."
"Because she's a little cat burglar," I figured, "I know. Bona told me."
"What can I say?" he shrugged, "Still love her to death. Like the daughter I should've had."
A deep seeded sadness washed over the Captain's face, breaking my heart a little. In that moment, I remembered what made me trust him in the first place. Something tells me that mentioning Anessa was a bad idea and I'd be thrown into the wall. With his bionic hand, there'd be no telling how hard he could throw me. So, I left my curiosities alone for now.
"Well," I rocked back on my heels, "This isn't getting anything done. I'm going to go find Kat and get out of the hospital gown. Someone should've grabbed my clothes on the way out."
"Sorry," Tyrus winced, "We were on a little time crunch. And we can't risk much with you. Any doctor in the world would be ecstatic to get their hands on a pure human. It's like they forgot what it was like."
"Hey, Tyrus," I asked, "How'd you get your hand?"
"What did I say about that?" he scolded, "Asking someone about their mods is rude. You don't talk about them unless they bring them up."
"Sorry," I bit my lip, "I'm new around here. Color me curious."
"Same reason as Bona," Tyrus explained, "I had a history of crippling arthritis, so my hands are metal. Because I know you're going to ask anyway, my legs are metal, too. Just like Kat's. When I was born, I had stress fractures in my legs, so the organic ones were gone and the metal ones took their place. All I have to worry about is the occasional rusting."
"Vinegar and baking soda," I suggested, "Works like a charm. My car couldn't be left outside or it would've disintegrated when it rained. That's what I used to get the rust off."
"I got something," he brushed me off, "Bona made it for me. Works pretty good, but I might have to do a comparison. You might put her out of business."
"Doubtful," I giggled, "Bona knows what she's doing. Although, she owes me."
"She didn't put you through too much, did she?"
"No," I shook my head, "But her metal hand is strong. And sharp. And a Swiss army knife! My god!"
"You think that's cool?" Tyrus grinned, "You should see my hand mod. If I swallow a handful of change, I can use it as a gun."
"You have literal finger guns?" I gasped.
"Yep," he nodded, "I like my finger gun."
"And all you have to do is swallow pocket change?" I took his hand, looking it over.
"Or can tabs. Or screws. How else am I going to load it?"
"Tyrus," I smiled, "You are easily one of the coolest people I've ever met."
"Thanks, Ren," he threw an arm around me, "Now, go find Kat. Make sure she doesn't take anything off you."
"What's she going to take?" I rolled my eyes, heading down the hall, "All I got is the hospital gown hardly on my back and my wits."
"And you barely got that much!"
"Thanks, Tyrus!" I called behind me, "Jerk…"
He blew me a kiss and I showed him an obscene finger gesture. Tyrus wasn't lying when he said we'd get along famously. He had his moments where he as a huge dork and I was loving him for that. However, at the same time, there was something he wasn't telling me. I'm the last person to push someone to share like that, but one day, a storm will come. And I pray for whoever's in the eye of it.
I followed the Captain's orders to the letter. Take a right at the end of the hall. Take a right again. And here's the source of the chiptune! The rec room took me by surprise. When I went to summer camp ten years ago, our rec room was nothing like this. Then again, those were ancient times compared to this. The only thing lighting the room was the screens on the walls and the ones on the tables.
Two big, burly guys stood at the pool table with a little anime schoolgirl standing between them, leaning over the table, lining up her shot. The number on the overhead screen said $1534 and it only went up as she kept sinking shots. I guess Kat was hustling. Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same. I remember using the same trick when I was her age.
These guys wouldn't expect someone so cute and sweet and innocent to be such a killer shot. She was just a little girl that probably never played pool before. It wouldn't surprise me if Kat asked them to show her how to shoot first, playing the flirty card. Play into their hands, show a little leg and a little cleavage. This girl was a pro. In a strange, twisted way, I was proud of her.
"Alright, boys," Kat sunk the eight ball, "Pleasure doing business with you. Have a safe drive home."
Angry and ashamed, the guys left Kat sitting on the edge of the pool table, dangling her feet. Now that the game was over and she was completely satisfied, it'd probably be a good time to ask a favor, "I'm impressed, Kat. Nicely done."
"Hey!" she jumped down, throwing her arms around my neck, "You're the meraculus!"
"I have a name," I reminded her, "It's Ren."
"That's right," Kat chirped, "And you remember my name, right? It's Kat. Like a kitty!"
"Or a cat burglar," I jabbed, "I wasn't complimenting your pool game. You played those guys like a fiddle."
"How'd you know I was playing them?" she wondered.
"It takes one to know one, honey," I sat down, "I've been running the same scams since I was sixteen."
"You caught me," Kat dropped her gaze to her feet, "Am I a bad girl…? For scamming those guys out of almost two thousand dollars…?"
"Hey," I picked her chin up, "It's not your fault they underestimated you. Their ignorance is not your problem."
"Thanks, meraculus," she kept staring at her feet, "But what does it say about me when I keep slipping eraser in their drinks every time they come in?"
"It's a drug that wipes their memories of me," Kat explained, "It's not the first time I've cleaned out their bank accounts."
"Oh," I was taken aback, "Well…They should know better than to leave their drinks unattended."
"Were you looking for me?" she reclaimed her spot on the pool table. If I could even call it that. There were no physical balls on the table. Just a big screen. Sensors in the cues maybe?
"I was," I pulled up a seat, "Do you think you could show me your closet?"
"My closet?" Kat perked up, "What for?"
"I can't be in this hospital gown anymore," I shivered, "And I could use some real clothes. I'm sure you can spare some, can't you?"
"You want to come over!" she squeaked, "Sure! I'd be happy to!"
My god, this little girl was a bundle of energy, "Thank you."
"On one condition…"
"Of course," I chuckled, "How did I know there'd be a catch?"
"Because," Kat grinned, "We're the same, you and me. Aren't we? You said so yourself."
"Alright, Kat," I let her have this one, "What's the catch?"
"I want you to play with me!" she handed me a cue, "Do you know how?"
I just watched this girl shoot. There's no way I can beat her. Then again, she said nothing about beating her. Just that she wanted me to play with her. What's the worst that could happen? It's not like I had money to lose. Although, little did Kat know, I hated losing. Which led me to a moral dilemma. If she can dish it, she can take it, "I don't know. I'm new around here, honey. It's probably a lot different than what I'm used to. Think you could show me how?"
"Sure!" Kat jumped down, "It's real easy, meraculus. I'll show you!"
Of course I knew how pool worked. Line up the shot, hit the ball, make them into the pockets. Simple as that. But that was pool the way I knew it. When it came to this, I was clueless. It couldn't be that much different. I watched over Kat's shoulder as she explained how the sensors worked and how sensitive the table was. by the way she talked, it wasn't as complicated as what I thought. I could do this.
I remember Eddie teaching me how to shoot one night. We were both a little drunk, but way too young to be that way. On a Saturday night when we were sixteen, there was nothing better to do than go to the bowling alley. A bartender that didn't check for IDs, a full arcade, and a pool room. At first, I thought it was just an excuse for him to get a handful of my butt or see me bent over. It wasn't until much later I realized he taught me a valuable life skill that kept us fed for a couple years.
"And that about does it!" Kat finished up, "Are you ready?"
"I think I might have this," I still played dumb. She thinks she has the upper hand. But as the old saying goes. Don't play the player.
A/N: I love Kat's spastic nature. I really do. And I kind of love Ren's underhandedness here. But most importantly, how bitchin' are Tyrus and Bona's hands? I wanted to do something ridiculous for Tyrus and something practical for Bona because…Well…Tyrus is ridiculous and Bona is practical. When I thought of the finger gun, it made me so weirdly happy. I couldn't leave that out. Fun fact. Well, I don't have much else to do today, but I still have things to do today, so until later, friends. See you next chapter! xx