Pink Carbide (Chapter 1 peek)

The nightclub loomed out of the darkness like a squat golden temple.

A stylized Eye of Ra blasted cold neon-white light through the misty night from its perch above the entrance, suspended at the peak between a pair of thick, rectangular pillars that leaned lightly against the almost garish surface of the outer wall like a pair of massive sentinels, watching the street below with silent, eyeless gazes. The entrance itself was a mammoth double-door done up in a vivid shade of eye-rending scarlet and set into the surface of the wall, framed by the pillars and the luminous eye– outside, a few scattered members of the night crowd lounged around, some smoking, others trying to hide less legal activities. Typical clusters of teens and twenty-somethings representing practically every fashion mainstay stood out among the crowd like nanoprojection holo-ads on the pages of a silicon magazine. Retro-punks clogged the sidewalk in droves, the dim light thrown off by street lamps glinting dull yellow off black leather coats, waggling chromed tongue studs and a collection of bioluminescent piercings. A few denim and flannel suits of the loud, glaring and clashing colors that had only recently come back into style again punctuated the crowd, each a rainspotted and darkly rich column of color in the night.

Someone proud of their bicep rolled back a lime-green sleeve and flexed, showing off a cheap subdermal holo-tattoo that projected a fuzzy image of an orange sport bike making loops across his pale, rippling flesh. The hoarse cackle of a young woman so high on something low grade she could hardly stand echoed through the night while the bouncer, clean shaven with a smooth and polished scalp, pulled absently at the edges of his black tanktop, warily watching a pair of shivering teenagers hunched over crumpled, hand-rolled cigarettes.

“Be careful.”

It sounded so loud in the night. Brent nodded silently to his partner, quickly, not risking a glance over his shoulder for whatever glances might flick his way. The door of the glossy black hoversedan closed softly, hiding her face behind darkly tinted glass.

Turning to the club, he pushed a pair of cliche’ mirrorshades up to the bridge of his nose with a thumb. He’d done this kind of thing countless times before; sure, not at a nightclub where neuro-nan use was the standard and accepted practice, but– he grinned suddenly, what was there to worry about? It was going to be easy, in and out, just like they’d planned.

The traces of an amused smile stole across his lips. It was typical Aiko– her confidence only seemed to flag when the job didn’t require blowing the walls out of a civie business or a hobo-infested warehouse with an assault rifle.

As he approached the nightclub and pulled down the edge of his shades just enough to shoot the huge, tattooed bouncer a look, an implant imbedded in the cornea of his right eye switched on, transmitting an RF datacluster with his name, rank, number, and organization along a coded frequency that the other man acknowledged with a smile and a quiet “ ‘lo.” Standard procedure. Nothing to worry about.

Another RF datacluster went out, an electronic key mentally triggered by the bouncer, and the massive red door swung open, releasing a wave of thundering base that pounded into the street like crashing surf. Beyond the threshold, beyond the wall of urban night that encroached on the doors from behind him, the club opened out to distant walls of gull-gray pavecrete and an ocean of sweaty, vibrant dancers that undulated against one another like waves in a pulsing sea of liquid silver. He licked his lips apprehensively.

The air inside shimmered with billions of air-capable nanomachines, an iridescent chrome cloud that spread among the convulsive dancers like some kind of visible virus. He more felt than heard the door close, then pulled off his shades and coat, handing them to an all-too cheery Ja-Serve droid whose french-maid outfit reeked of stale sweat and old alcohol. She thanked him quickly in her chipper, piping voice, then curiously asked him if he was looking for anyone in particular. Not even sparing her a glance or a word, he lifted his hand in a dismissive gesture and disappeared into the crowd, already intent on his target.

The room was blasting with ZatVam, a mindbending amalgam of techno-jazz and death-metal muzak accented with the twisted sounds of a high-frequency distortion piano, a chorus of synthesized, screaming, double-electric, reverse reverberation violins, and a bass beat that would have easily put any 21st century rave to shame.

Bodies slick with perspiration and sticky with swathes of generously applied bioluminescent dermal hallucinogens pressed in against him as he made his way through, moving with the collective beat the dancers seemed to feel more than hear, some of them so high on neuro-nans they could do little more than wiggle and twitch while they chuckled silently to themselves and stared, wide-eyed, at everything around them. It would have been any straight cop’s dream bust, had there still been any straight cops left in Los Angeles.

His arms and hands began to take on a silvery sheen as he pushed through the crowd, moving with them as he moved beyond them. The nano-drugs floating in the air brought on an instant, easy buzz and gave the music a hypnotic quality that was just as easy to get lost in, but still he pushed forward, his neon-green eyes fixed on the reason for his visit, the woman that he had come for, the target for the trade.

She danced within the mob, convulsing and twitching to every beat and musical nuance in a way that transcended the movements of everyone around her; every dextrous shiver and stab of her fingers wove colors in the air, tiny isometric projections from her nails that hung in the silvery dust momentarily before they dissipated, only to be replaced by new and different patterns of new and different colors. The other dancers gave her a noticeable amount of space, little more than a few inches, but it was more than the orgy of flesh had allowed for anyone else, including himself.

She was the vision of youth and beauty, a twenty-something wrapped tight in a blindingly orange skirt that crept half-way down her thighs, fringed with rivets and rhinestones, with a neon-green LED trail along the edge of every pocket and seam. Blues and reds slipped across her high-collared, sleeveless shirt of faded yellow denim as she ran her hands in opposite directions near her exposed midriff, tracing the black and silver trim, then bringing them to her vibrant, clear blue eyes and threading them through her short, wild blond hair. Faded purples and greens danced across her face as she locked eyes with him, just for a moment, then went back to dancing, her painfully pink lips curving into a smile beneath her sharp, angular nose.

He hesitated for a moment, stunned, then began moving again; a few steps put him within her circle and, as he began to move, trying to keep up with her, she turned her back on him. He began to dance slower, unsure of what to do, until she reached back and grabbed his hands, pulling him up against her.

The crowd gave them a nearly imperceptible amount of extra space as she brought his hands forward and held them against her legs, keeping his sweaty palms pressed against the cool, smooth skin of her thighs.

“You’re late.” Her accent was soft, yet distinctly German; she smiled to herself as she let go of his hands and began her colorful finger-tip borne light show again.

“I’m sorry, Cylea.” He managed. This close, he could smell the sweet scent of jasmine wafting off her, likely from a built-in nano-deodorant skinweave, sterilizing and scenting every drop of sweat that oozed from her body. Her skin’s texture and color gave away her use of all sorts of nanocosmetics, stuff that cost thousands of dollars anywhere but the black market. Long gone were the days of hours spent on makeup and tanning– specialized skinweaves made the elusive super-model effect permanent, and Cylea had all the upgrades.

“Have you got my package?” It was hard to keep his eyes off her ass.

“You got the cash?” She asked seductively, pressing back against him, knowing it was turning him on.

“All five-hundred K on an untraceable credit chip, just like you asked.”

“Then, Ja!” She whispered excitedly, turning to face him. Phosphorescent neon trails of green and gold hung in the air between them for a moment as her arms encircled his neck. “All two-hundred und eighty-two illegal pages of it for your viewing pleasure!”

A smile of his own began to creep across his face as he moved with her, the nano-drugs in the air making everything hazy and numb. Briefly, he regretted not having the nanofilter chemical processing definitions for his still mostly organic liver updated in the last six months. Still, the buzz felt nice, and it was getting better with every passing moment. He hardly felt Cylea’s fingers tracing the NSL-U jack at the base of his skull, half mistook it for the onset of a hallucination.

“What...” He chuckled, unable to fight the rush anymore. “Hey, that tickles.”

“Does it?” She laughed. “Don’t worry, mein liebe, it’ll be over soon.”

“What are you doing?” Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he was worried, but chemical-borne euphoria had taken control, leaving only the buzz, the smiles, the laughter, the music, and her... God, she was sexy. Almost too sexy. His pants tightened in agreement.

“Mmmm,” She pursed her lips, then ran her tongue slowly and alluring across them as she pushed something into his NSL-U jack. “Just a little credit check, stud. Nothing serious.”

“Oh, ok,” He laughed nervously, forcing himself to concentrate on keeping up with her moves. Everything began to dull around him, leaving only her in perfect clarity as they danced, arms wrapped around each other. An eternity passed, or perhaps a minute; it was impossible to tell. He laughed as she yanked the jack out and looked away suddenly.

“Is that it, baby?” He grinned, too lost in the sensation to notice the sudden change in her mood. “Do I pass?”

When her eyes met his again, there was darkness there, animal in nature, full of fear and anger kept restrained, tight under firm, cool resolve.

“You’re a cop.” She stated plainly.

“Nope!” his grin widened. He felt like he had known her his entire life, like he could tell her anything; something was wrong, but it felt wonderful. Wasn’t this the girl he was supposed to bring to justice? Yeah... as if justice ever had anything to do with it. Maybe, if he could get a few minutes alone with her... He sucked in a sudden breath, then forced the thoughts away. “I’m... I’m actually with the FBI.”

“Damn,” She looked away again, “und I was just starting to like you too.”

He drunkenly lifted a finger and opened his mouth to say something, but she cut him off with a quick, feisty smile. “Hey, do you know what German girls are good at?”

The expression on his face and the bulge in his pants told her he had a few ideas; good, he could think whatever he wanted.

“Why don’t you come with me to the back of the club,” she gave him her most seductive smile and ran one long finger down his chest, tracing a line of pink and purple to his belt. “I’m sure that my friend...uh... Erika, und I, will make you feel right at home.”

He chuckled excitedly as she gently kissed his cheek, then started off for the nearest wall. Cooing, she caught him and gently steered him through the crowd and toward the rear of the building. He was so high now that he couldn’t do much more than drool and chuckle as she supported him from behind– he had absolutely no sense of direction, and didn’t even seem to notice when she finally slipped away, pushing through the crowd and heading straight for the bar.

Her heart was racing by the time she burst from the swaying and bouncing sea of sweaty bodies and shouldered her way between a thin, pasty-looking woman and a brutish man covered in tattoos that looked like they had been done the old fashioned way, using real ink instead of nanoinjectors and synthpigment. The bartender looked up, cut-off mid-sentence, and met her eyes instantly, arching one bushy brown eyebrow at her from under the brim of his brown, felt, outback-style hat as she leaned in against the bar, worry clear on her face. “Jack! Jack, there’s a cop! An agent! There’s a fucking agent of the fucking FBI!”

She glanced nervously back over her shoulder– no sign of the cop. Fucker! How had they found her? Her eyes darted back to the bartender, ignoring the startled and wary couple divided on either side of her. “I think he’s a straight-runner... I mean, he’s acting like her’s noxxed out of his mind, und I doubt he’s faking, but...” She blinked, caught her breath and forced a smile. “Mein Gott, Jack, Would you mind handling it for me?”

He gently set down the mug and the rag he had been polishing it with, then breathed a sigh as he watched her for a moment with his deep, grey eyes. Everything he wore was black or brown, all felt and dark leather or synthetic crocodile-skin, making him look like something out of a cheesy Australian travel brochure in a silicon magazine.

“Alright,” his accent was perfect, especially considering that neither he or anyone in his family since before his grandfather had ever lived in the country, much less visited it. He pointed one gnarled brown finger at her. “But that’s another one you owe me. I am keepin’ track y’know.”

She smiled as he tipped the edge of his hat with a grin and winked at her, then his eyes flicked from the brute to the girl and he managed an even “‘scuse me” before exiting the bar and disappearing into the crowd, the polished grip of a handgun sticking out of the back of his thick, leather belt.

Cylea wasted no time; a moment later, she was outside, pulling on a long, dark coat fringed with grey and white fur as she sprinted down the street toward a dark alleyway. Only the bouncer noticed her hasty departure, smiling silently after her as she disappeared into the night. It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and it wasn’t likely to be the last; she had too many friends and contacts at the club to stay away for long.

Assuming she didn’t get caught before she made it back again.

But then, she was a smart kid, always had been, and if anyone was be able to catch her, even someone like the feds, they’d probably have slapped her behind bars a long time ago.

Want to read the next chapter? Check your local bookstore for a copy of Pink Carbide or ask them to rush you your copy today! You can also order online through many major bookstores (Barnes & Nobel, Borders, etc.) or pick up a hard copy though (or a kindle copy, if that's your preferred format).

You can also pick up an electronic copy (PDF) here for the strip-down price of $2.98!

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