She Who Wrote the World, a novella by Hannah Brewster-Stein
Part Six: The Creator Walks into a Bar
The alley was abandoned save for an unmarked door, which he easily would have missed if his chip hadn’t led him here toward the operator, the man who ran the black-market. He knocked on the door. It creaked open to the force of his knock, the surprise of which caused him to hesitate. He took a breath, ensured his hood was still pulled low over his face, and stepped through.
The air was thick with eyes watching him. He sensed it more than he could see it, since the lighting was poor and flickering sporadically. It was a typical looking bar for the east end, a dive, with wood tables and chairs out of antiquity, from a time when it was still legal to cut down trees. Tree-stealing was an illegal trade that had become nearly impossible to pull off as the few remaining trees now were guarded with sensors, alarms and the rarer species even had human security. How anyone had thought it was resourceful to chop down oxygen-producers was beyond logical thought. Still, there had been a few successful thefts from time to time and he knew the price for new wood was reserved for only the wealthy and unscrupulous to afford.
He walked toward the bar, slowly, casually, not wanting to draw any more attention to himself or demonstrate an unhealthy interest in the activities around him. From his peripherals, he caught the texture of animal pellets being shown to a buyer across a tabletop. Killing animals was illegal but much easier to accomplish than tree-theft. Wary eyes cast sidelong glances back at him from the table and he sensed stiffening bodies, as unsure of him as he was of them. He knew the operator was here somewhere, but he did not know which one was him. Despite his inter-mind search, he drew a blank on an image. This guy was far underground. He would have no choice but to approach the bar and ask, although he acknowledged that this was not the greatest of plans.
The stool creaked painfully as he turned it to sit. Beside him, a man was snorting white powder from the counter. It was likely dextrose, for its quick high and lower price point.
“What it’ll be?” The bartender asked.
“You got edibles?”
The bartender was a picturesque east-end dweller with large burly arms and a stupid looking face that was stained with a scowl. Reaching below the counter, the bartender pulled out a small plastic-wrapped candy, which read ‘Rockets’ across its label and set it front of him. He could not believe they ever gave this to children. It had enough dextrose to rewire brain chemistry and make one an addict for life, (albeit, it would be a shorter lifespan secondary to diabetes, cancer, fatty liver, and obesity). He set his internal nanobots with a thought command to attack the incoming sugar particles before they could spike his blood levels and proceeded to put a candy in his mouth to dissolve in burning tingles on his tongue. They were watching him and he could feel a collective ease of tension in the atmosphere once he put the illegal substance in his mouth. He was one of them, they must have thought.
“I’m looking for something,” he says to the bartender, “and I hear there is someone here who’s good at finding things.”
The bartender nodded his head toward a door off to the side.
“Thanks,” he said, setting a chip on the counter. He knew this kind of establishment would want hard copy data, not the typical mind-currency that could be traced.
The door led to a narrow hallway with several rooms. He opened one at random, just a crack and peered inside. An electric charge surprised his brainchip, which was a sign that his brain was processing information faster than his eyes. But his eyes caught up, and he realized he was looking at a small pile of discarded brainchips, complete with blood drippings and brain matter, and beside those, corpses. He took an involuntary step back and bumped into a strong, tall body. Before he could move, burly arms were wrapped around his neck, pulling him back, while his heels dragged on the ground.
“Did you think I wouldn’t recognize you, Creator?”
******STAY TUNED for Part 7 — COMING Tomorrow!!!******