South Side

15 2 10

I walk into South Side Brothel feeling like a trillion GRIDcoins. I've got braces for my back, knees, ankles and wrists. The medicine has been keeping my pain down to a minimum, and the headache disappeared a couple of days ago.

My new apartment is a little efficiency unit. I'm wearing clean clothes, and it's awesome to have a haircut and clean shave. I can take a shower every day now!

With some GC finally in my account, I decided to come see my family's old friend, Joe. A few of the working women touch me casually as I walk inside. It's embarrassing how easy I blush.

Joe is standing behind the front counter, arguing with an angry chick who's dressed like a tech dealer. Whoa... Gina would kill for a pair of pants like that! They have at least a dozen pockets on each side for stashing tech - probably shielded too. Her weirdly-long legs provide a lot of room for pockets. Actually, even Gina doesn't have legs that long. The chick's a little out of proportion, but somehow it makes her exotically pretty.

In addition to his official gig, managing the Brothel, Joe coordinates the black market in this sector. Some deal must be going sideways. His eye is twitching like it always does when he's upset.

"Look, I'm sorry," Joe says, "but I don't make the rules. You know better than anyone. I have to do what they-."

"That's bullshit!" the woman shouts. "I deserve the same service as everyone else!"

Are those feathers in her blonde hair? I would swear they are. There are only a few of them, but they're long and so shaggy-looking that they blend in with the hair strands.

Wait a minute... what are they arguing about?

"I know you do, Selena," Joe pleads, "and I feel like shit, but I can't just-"

Without warning the woman reaches over the counter, grabs Joe by the front of his shirt, and lifts him clear off the ground. Bringing back her fist to strike, she screams, "Don't you play games with me, you lousy sack of-"

"Hey, wait!" I shout, taking a step towards them.

In a split second, she's hissing in my face. Her head is turned around completely backward! Holy shit! She's a freakin' chimera!

I stumble back away from her and land on my ass in the middle of the lobby. Somehow I manage to remember to keep the box in my hands from spilling. She drops Joe back behind the counter, and now my brain finally kicks in with how the hell she's so strong. I've heard of chimeras all my life, but I've never seen one before.

Chimeras are genetic left-overs from the Old World super soldier programs in the early part of this millennium. Much of the world was in either a hot or cold war, and it was the dawn of the genetic age. Scientists knew just enough to be incredibly dangerous, and naturally, most governments started experimenting with lacing animal DNA into the human genome to produce desired traits - enhanced senses, strength, speed, agility, and natural weaponry.

Most of the experiments were so malformed they couldn't survive, but there were significant successes too. Once the public caught wind of the experimentation, the programs were banned, but they still didn't stop for decades. Sometimes, those genetics still pop back up. Pandora's box was not just open, but began actively breeding with the human population.

I feel a shudder of fear run down my spine, but my brain is still trying to work out the puzzle. Which is stupid. Most chimeras don't have the traits of only a single animal or even species.

She hisses again, keeping her eyes on me as her body spins my direction. She crouches down, gets in my face and says, "You got a problem, little boy?"

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