#TeamCyberPunk - Part Three: Return to the Lost City of Crescent - @StevenBrandt

Start from the beginning

Jegro opened one eye, then, cautiously, pulled his hands away from his ears.

"Done?" Jegro asked.

"Sure." Krono didn't understand why it was bad to say words like "mess" when the room was covered in blood, sprawled bodies, and debris. But, hey, if Jegro had sensitive ears that wasn't so bad a fault.

Jegro brushed aside what was left of the girl's shirt, unfurled a length of black material, cut it with an energy knife, and pressed it over her back. The material conformed to her flesh, covering the hole in her chest and shrinking against her skin like plastic under heat.

"Give it a moment to bond," Jegro said.

"Security could be here any minute," Krono protested.

"Nah, the power will stay off on our block for two days, and the Efficiency is dealing with attacks all over the city. We've got all night. In fact, the plan is to leave in the morning with a new army."

Krono was about to ask where they were going to find a new army when he noticed something: all the corpses except the girl's were bland-faced, gray-haired, and indistinguishable except by the number tattooed to the base of their necks. Her features, however, were truly elfin. How as that possible? The Efficiency didn't allow individuality.

As he stared, something stirred in the depths of his mind. Did he know her? "I remember..."

Jegro gave him a suspicious look. "What do you remember?"

"I don't know."

Jegro grunted. "Help me roll her over."

Gently, Krono helped Jegro roll the girl on her stomach, revealing several gaping wounds, thick with blood and gore. They pushed the various pieces of her back inside.

While Jegro peeled away the front of her shirt and applied more of the strange black fabric to her torso, Krono continued to stare at her face. "Shouldn't an elf have green hair?"

"Sure. Now you're gettin' it. Colorizer is there." Jegro nodded toward the comb with the large black handle, power supply, and three knobs. Krono dialed up the RGB code for a brilliant shade of green, one that would go well with the blue he'd chosen for himself, and began combing it through the girl's gray locks.

"Are we gonna bring her back to life?" Krono asked.

"Something like that. We're going to give her new memories, though."

Krono smiled. "Can I help?"

Jegro gave him a knowing smile and waggled his eyebrows. "You want her to remember being in love with you, eh?"

Did he? Partly. No, he wanted that a lot. It was what he'd been thinking about since he noticed her elfin features and when he'd chosen the color for her hair. Even now, as he combed the colorizer through her locks, he dreamed of what it would be like to touch her, kiss her.

"Can we make one person love another?" Krono asked.

"We are the Ministry of Alteration," Jegro replied, a smug smile on his face. "Of course."

Krono stopped, dragged an arm across his nose, and fought the urge to weep. What was the matter with him? He'd been perfectly happy to kill these bureaucrats who worked for the Efficiency, the all-controlling company that kept the world peaceful, gray, and orderly. Was it worse to use tech to make a person fall in love with you?

Before the Efficiency had taken away... had taken away... What had they taken away? He tried to retrace the events of his life leading to this moment, but he couldn't. Not knowing what he'd lost made him angry, ready to kill, ready to be the kind of bad person it took to wash away the colorless, non-violent world he lived in with blood. However, for some reason, it didn't make him the kind of person to steal someone's love.

Epic Tales from Beautiful Minds: An Ooorah AnthologyRead this story for FREE!