It made me skin crawl just to walk into that den of flesh and sin. There were people dancing and partying in the front but that was all just cover. The back was where depravity and debauchery were displayed, sold, and traded. The Duke ran a series of strip clubs, underground gaming houses, and sense dens across the city. He exploited people’s weakness and vices and profited off them any way he could.
In the back of the 9th Circle was a place called the pit of sin. Where dead eyed girls with cold vacant expressions danced for men, and traded not in flesh but in sensations. They sold their souls to customers who for a price could share a corner of their mind. They rode shotgun over the consciousness of those poor women savouring every touch, every moment, every sensation they experienced.
It was a perversion of technology. The tech had originally been used to access the virtual worlds of the net 1.5, then by the tech kids to live out their lives across artificial landscapes. But along the way someone clever found another use. It was possible with the right modifications to tap into neural impulses of another to get to access their senses for the duration of the connection. To taste what they taste, to smell, see, and feel all that they did. It was not enough that the girls in the club paraded around grinding against men and letting them touch them for cash but to sell a part of themselves to those same greasy perverts was something far worse.
The Duke was upstairs, away from the temple of flesh and money, but close enough that he could survey his kingdom whenever he wished. Two no nonsense looking men stood guard outside the door to the office. Ex-Military types with jacked up arms, the metal reinforcements and artificial muscle clearly visible. They were probably remnants of the same the independent African army that The Duke once belonged to.
“Hi boys, can you run along and let The Duke know that V is here to see him.” I asked with all the charm and politeness I cared to waste on them.
“You looking for work? Because the man is currently interviewing a new dancer. So you best wait.” Guard number one said as he gave me a slow elevator stare.
“No, it’s a business call but I’m the one buying not the one for sale.”
“Best be important he doesn’t like to be interrupted.” Guard number one complained before banging three times on the door. A few minutes later a doe eyed girl with dusky complication clasping her shoes and dress came running out. She was frightened or ashamed and practically bolted just at the sight of me. I handed her a tissue to wipe her mouth with before walking past into the office.
It was about as seedy and opulent as you would expect. There were a few tribal artefacts that might have been real or expensive reproductions but the rest was gold plated showy junk. A bank of half a dozen screens was attached to one wall all of which were off, and behind a black glass desk was The Duke. He was wearing a white suit and his head was completely shaved but the line of designer stubble around his chin was black and silver. It was clear that he hadn’t lost much if any of his physique. He had a sated grin on his face but his eyes were still hungry, I wasn’t one to normally worry about what others thought of me. But I couldn’t help but feel I should be wearing a suit of lead lined armour the way he watched me as I walked across the room.
“V queen of the killers and by the far finest one of them all. What can I do for you on this cold dark night?” He asked with voice that made we want to take a shower.
“I need some equipment.” I asked and the way he cocked his eye brow made me carry on before he made the kind of comment I would expect from him. “Parts to be exact, they don’t make them here anymore but I’m told the independent African armies might still be using them.”
“So you want me to reach out to my old friends to acquire them for you?”
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
“Do you have a req id?”
“I do, Lem gave me the codes for parts that will fit my needs.” I taped a few keys on my phone sent the data to his waiting tablet.
“This will take a few minutes. Would you like a drink? A glass of champagne or would you prefer a double whiskey?” The Duke asked casually.
“I’m more of a whiskey for breakfast kind girl then a bubbly champagne fan but I’ll pass on both.”
“Suit yourself.” There was nothing to do after that but sit there and wait. The Duke went to work making calls and checking listing on the kind of black markets that were invitation only and where you could buy a tank if had the money.
“You’re in luck V there are a few still available on the market. I can have the parts you need here in two days.” Duke said in a way that implied that this would cost me in more ways than one.
“How much?” I asked afraid to even hear the answer.
“Come now, you know I have always liked you.” Right you liked how I looked in a tight dress maybe “and you have skills that would earn you a lot of money here.” I didn’t even want to think about what skills he wanted to put to use. “Unfortunately the materials you wanted are restricted tech and thus cannot simply be shipped as easily as the materials I normally deal in.” Like drugs and women “That being said I couldn’t offer them to you for less than fifty thousand.” I should have taken him up on that drink offer. Even if I tapped out my savings and took into account my current pay day I didn’t even have half that. The Duke smiled he knew it too. He had probably been looking into my finances while arranging the purchase.
“If you can’t afford the price. I’d be happy to discuss alternative forms of payment.” The Duke said.
“I think I can guess what you want.” I replied with all the polite distain I could manage while keeping my contempt in check.
“You’re a beautiful woman. Come dance in my club looking the way you do I’m sure you’d easily earn a grand a night the parts would be yours in no time then. Of course if you were willing to provide other services… One which my sense girls couldn’t normally offer you’d have the money in a fraction of the time.” Just the thought of it made me cringe, fat old men in the back of mind experiencing what it’s like to be hot twenty something woman.
“The last thing I would ever do is sell myself to your clients. Like one of your mind whores.” I replied in disgust.
“There is that. But also your hunting skills would give some of my more jaded cliental the chance to know what it’s like to slaughter Kine with their bare hands and reveal in its death. If you’re worried a lot of my girls just go into auto pilot mode when they are working. You seemly fade out and wake up at the end of your shift richer then you started. No memories, no worries, and no regrets.”
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
“If you think you can find a better offer then go.” It was all the encouragement I needed. The Duke wasn’t the only game in town I’d try my other source I wasn’t about to give up on my EL Blade or reduce myself to one of the sad dead eyed girls that filled his clubs.