The Loser: Part 2

My pace was slow at first, but then the anxiety grew as the cars passed by, and I thought about how I wanted to be at peace. I wished I had the chance to leave this city. To leave mother behind, and have the opportunity to smile and look back and be glad that I overcame the quicksand that was that life.
But everyday was no different than any other, except that I sank further. At least I had my secret friend. So I turned the corner and by then I was jogging. As breathing got harder I remembered the face of my long lost father. I wondered if that was what he really looked like, or if it had been so many years that what I had imagined was only imaginary. A person that never really existed.
I fished out my key as soon as I was a few doors down and slowed to a walk to catch my breath. My face was getting hot and I knew it was red. Not just from being out of shape, but a symptom from drinking during the day. I finally caught my breath on the stoop of the row-home that had been owned by Pops before he passed away.
I opened the door to find that the place had been torn apart. Breaking and entering never crossed my mind because I knew that a robber already lived here. I could hear her upstairs. I stumbled up, not out of drunkenness, but because my nerves were cracking apart. The lock to my bedroom door was broken, my mother was on all fours, throwing my things aside in search of something. I yelled at her to get out. She looked up at me in my disheveled state with hypocritical contempt. She was sneering on the inside.
You wasted little piece of shit. You stole my money to go boozing over there with that loser fag.
Even though I knew it was a waste of time, I explained to her as calmly as I could that I only spent the money I had earned at work in order to forget I had such a horrible mother. But she wasn’t my mother. She was a fiend. She needed money to get high, and lied to herself that I stole the money that she didn’t have in order to feel better about herself. She did this on a regular basis, except today was different, she went too far.
That woman pulled a kitchen knife from underneath my mattress that hadn’t been there before. That’s how I knew this was all premeditated. As I stood there frozen in my drunken stupor she grabbed him, I don’t know how she found him, and she stabbed him in the neck. She tore his insides out into the air in slow motion. I lunged at that fiend holding a knife and grabbed the blade as I tried to save him.
It was too late. In the moments that I tried to wrestle the knife out of her hand, she had ripped his head off and stabbed him until he was unrecognizable. I felt like I had played a part in it. My hand was on the weapon as I tried to stop her. I did not hide him well enough. That woman destroyed the one thing that could console me. I lost him. And so I lost all reason.
By the time I got the knife out of her hand I couldn’t think anymore. I was no longer human, just like her. And so I turned the blade on her. It would have ended there, if it wasn’t for the way she reacted. The cut was not that deep, because she taunted me without much trouble.
Come on little faggot, you fucking loser. That all you got? You’re a drunken dropout just like Arnie and your dad.
In a fit of rage I dove forward with the knife pointed outward. I pierced her heart, the organ she used only for pumping blood. I do not know how many times I stabbed her after that. And I do not know how long I sat there with the still fluffy, formerly white but now crimson-stained stuffed animal insides in my hands. I grabbed as much as I could hold, and I wept. I sobbed silently and loudly, every which way, until I was drained. I felt no remorse, only hatred, as I stared at that fiend’s twisted corpse.
I sat there staring. I picked up the knife and tried stabbing myself. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, because the adrenaline was all gone. I could only make small incisions into my stomach.
The ride to the station was long. They were silent and so was I. They put me in a cell by myself, which is good. It gives me space. But it also gives me time to think. Uncle will visit, and nothing will be said. They will not kill me, but I wish they would. Even though I’m underage, they will try me as an adult. I will not plead insanity, because I’m just like any other. Except that the one thing I loved was taken away from me. And that my mother never cared for me.
All that I can think about is his crooked brown eyes and his soft sadness that was meant to give me comfort and joy. His eyes were human. He was lonely because I put him in dark places when I was gone. But he always forgave me when I came back. I can hear his voice now.
I knew you’d come back. I was stuffed in there all day, but I never lost hope. Let’s get some rest and be happy, even if it is only for a little while.
And now I’m stuffed in the darkness instead of him. With his stained cotton stuffing strewn about this cell. It won’t go away. One of his eyes rolls by across the cement floor. I reach out to grab it and nothing is there. I’m surrounded by walls of memory and longing. Then the din of fabric tearing. His body on my heart. His stubby little arms draped around my neck once again. But instead of fuzzy, brown him, it is coarse, white linen.

The Loser: Part 1

Pops was a bartender here back in the 80′s. He was the father of four. Three of them drug addicts, the other being Arnie, my uncle, who is now The Loser’s lone bartender.
One day, a beer bottle broke over his head while he was working and a piece of glass cut him good. He would get around in spite of his eye.
Sometimes an unknowing family ventured into The Loser. They’d think it’s quaint or something, strutting into a dive bar with a kid “on break” from college. They’d ruin the very atmosphere they’re attracted towards.
So they sat next to me of course. Uncle Arnie ignored them. The suburban-brat-child tried ordering an “abortion.” The cheeky father laughed and asked for the same. Uncle Arnie turned around from his imaginary business.
Get the fuck out.
As the duo shuffled out the door yelping about how “no one on the internet” will ever see a good review of this place, I started getting an awful headache. That wanna-be edgy middle-aged father mentioned the internet in such an unfamiliar way, with the kind of tone that implied a successful wielding of power.
Uncle Arnie knew the antidote to my ailment. A pint of lager in a glass which has never been washed. A special glass saved just for me. The dirt minerals or the unknown whatever stained within did something to dull the pain.
It still wasn’t enough. I sat there, at the edge of my stool, waiting for nothing. It was noon, as I could hear those church bells chime their extra tolls only a block away.
My uncle and I would get along because we both don’t talk much. We never really needed to communicate with words.
I often lied to myself. The only one I never lied to was the only one I could trust. A stuffed animal in the form of a bear, under a broken floorboard beneath my unmade mattress back at home. I had to hide him from Arnie’s pill-head sister who gave birth to me.
I lit up a cigarette. I looked around inside The Loser and realized that life could be worse. I could picture him with his crooked, soft brown eyes, his pudgy belly, and his stubby arms. Even though my relationship with him was a secret, it wasn’t because I was ashamed. I kept him secret in order to protect him from this grimy world. And he protected me from myself.
As I took my final drag, Arnie gave me a foreboding look. I thought he was angry about me smoking in the bar. Sometimes he would get upset about it and blame it on the owner noticing the smell. I knew he wasn’t mad because it was against the rules, but because he was worried about my habits. One time when he was really drunk, he told me that drinking had a purpose, but that tobacco was a pointless, overly addictive drug. I knew it was really the smoke I exhaled that was bothering him. The sight of smoke around a relative reminded him of the 80′s, when he witnessed his brothers succumb to the crack epidemic.
He said nothing that time about me smoking a cigarette. I looked at him as he stood there silently. As soon as I opened my mouth he spoke.
Your mom called.
He didn’t have to say anything else. Without a word, I left cash on the dusty bar and walked out the door.

Sol, Chapter 8: His Hate Grows as Their Blood Spills

Although the holobeing called Tichokiri signed off of the inter-stellar holoverse, he was still present in Daniel’s mind. And even though they had not known each other for more than a few hours, they had come to know each other quickly. Daniel was attracted to T’s knowledge and pragmatism, while it was fascinated with the Lunar boy’s astronomical emotional drive.

T: Daniel, you have not been chosen. It is not necessary to erase the memories of all that you have been subjected to. I say that you have not been chosen because you have chosen us. When you were unconscious on the surface of Earth’s moon, all vulnerable and waiting for certain death, an unidentified ship, presumably the former-freedom fighters, picked you up. Most likely they saw your work sabotaging the Helium 3 industrial refinement complex and knew that you were subconsciously  inclined towards beliefs contradicting those that you have been indoctrinated in since your birth. Those warriors, which are even to us drenched in mystery, dropped your body off at our waypoint. That is why you are here now.

Daniel: I know my state of being is weak, but please, allow me to help resist this invasion. I’ve always desired of destroying these ingrained beliefs.

T: Yes, passion… and dedication. Really the only abstract concepts needed in order for an organic to work the weapons system. Especially against these mindless drones and vile mercenaries… You see, these systems will feed off of your emotions. Remember everything your family did to you back on Luna. If you have the needed drive, all else will come automatically. The primary concern is that your body is still taking time to rejuvenate for correlation with the central nerve processing core…. We’ve never let a new organic, especially one so young, access  the defense system immediately after having been thawed from cryogenic stasis. However, since the danger is imminent, and your hatred so great, we find it can be necessary to break protocol… Let’s see… You run a 2/3 chance of not surviving if you proceed, do you understand?

Daniel: I understand Tichokiri…

T: That is, not surviving, in other words a 1/3 chance of survival. Do you still wish to proceed?

Daniel: Yes.

T: Then let us waste no more time.

Daniel’s body was enclosed again, although this time he was not subjected to the blackness of sleep but that of space. That is, actual space, not the holoverse representation. The defense systems on the asteroid included not only laser weapons, but highly advanced “invincible gravity flails”. It worked like a sling flung from the face of the asteroid rock, and carried a bubble carrying a being with so much force it reached near light speed. The operator worked in the translucent orb at the end of the tentacle sling, using gravity manipulators that would instantly crush any targets within reach.

Besides the gravity/laser defense systems, there were several hundred hydrogen mines in what was called the “outer wall”. Not only did the mines utilize ancient thermo-nuclear technology, but they were also rigged in order to amplify the electro magnetic bursts that such reactions naturally created. The effect would be devastating on any automated ships or drones within hundreds of miles of the actual blast radius itself, which was already huge. These outer defenses were thousands of miles away from the waypoint itself, roughly forming an oval around the asteroid station. As the center of Guild commerce, Waypoint 3 was the most heavily fortified asteroid in the Belt.

T: The Jackers comm is being disrupted by EMT bursts, I’m assuming the outer wall is breached. Ready Daniel?

Daniel: All I need is to focus and remember…

T: Exactly, let’s go.

The usage of the word ready was relative. The young human had spent his entire life worshipping and working simple machinery. He was feeding the belly of an unholy beast unknowingly. It was his chance to disembowel the beast.

Meanwhile, Dar was locked in a vicious battle with the drone fleet. The merc ships were able to slip by the pirate cruisers only because their drone companions were unlike anything the guild commander had ever seen. Dar was frustrated, every attempt she made at subduing the drones with EMT blasts seemed futile. She was no coward, and yet she was nowhere near a fool, and so she ordered her girls to retreat under cover of hydrogen flak with a handful of precious ships lost. Tichokiri could not communicate with Dar, although it knew something had gone terribly wrong, as the merc fleet amassed only a few kilometers from the waypoint itself.

T: Comm still down… Dar, if you can receive this, minimize your losses and retreat. Waypoint 3 will be closing up completely and initiate the detonation of the anti-matter field.

Daniel: What’s going on?

Daniel was encased in metal, and relying on gravity to arc back and forth in waves of destruction. The translucent tentacular vehicle he operated effortlessly smashed merc vessels to bits. The untrained boy took dozens of lives without realizing it.

T: Daniel, I’m bringing you back now.

Daniel: Why? I can feel the battle, it’s amazing. I just can’t see it.

T: Perhaps that’s for the best, but you need to prepare for the worst.

Just then the figurative blinds conveniently opened up on Daniel’s gravity-craft. The devastation was now apparent to him. The once imposing, hight-tech merc fleet had been shattered. Yet something strange was simultaneously developing, and Tichokiri was the only one aware. The drones were using the wreckage as resources in order to construct entirely new, automatic and self replicating weapons. The sight would have instilled fear into the holobeing if it could feel, especially since the EMT mines seemingly had no effect on these new drones.

T: How did they discover this energy? How could our intelligence have failed us? Now there is no choice, the only chance of survival is the last resort. This has never happened before.

Daniel: Why did you bring me back? I was just getting used to kicking ass.

T: You couldn’t see, but we didn’t win. However, you bought us enough time in order to close the station. We’re going to have to destroy everything in Mid-Sol in order to defeat those highly advanced drones. The anti-matter weapon is readying, hopefully it will work.

Luck Meant Nothing

Tina was in a tattoo shop all fucked up and shit. The stench that emanated throughout that dirty old parlor resembled the odor of feces. The oxies were flowing through her and she was underwater. Tina felt those familiar sensations pulsing; the sharks were swimming through her bloodstream. Those tiny instances of pain were underlying. They were not physical.

How are yah?

In walked a salty and bloated obese lady with freckles, pseudo-polynesian and celtic shoulder designs who blurted out nonsense that Tina did not give a shit about.

blah blah blah.

Flubbery noises seeped through Tina’s mind. She was trapped under ice with frost chipped bones.

Fuck that bitch. Fuck that cunt.

Apparently she had not only thought those words.

What the fuck yah say?

The fat lady attempted to have an intimidating demeanor, leaning over the counter with her pudgy knuckles against the rotting wood. Tina gave her a blank stare from behind the front desk.

This is how yah treat your customers?

Tina was only concerned with treating her invisible wounds. An “under the table” employee, she was in actuality, the only worker present at the moment. All the artists had taken off to the dive bar down the street hours before.

Hello?

Holy shit, that bitch was still there.

Name?

The word was automatic.

Shannon, I came and talked to Marty yesterday.

Well he isn’t here, come back tomorrow.

That’s what that teenage tramp told me last week.

Shannon had pushed her luck. Tina was no longer dazing off as the fat woman’s words had a peculiar effect on her. She knew that the bitch was talking about her daughter.

The room was barren, except for the palpable air of Tina’s virulent thoughts. She did not perceive them as thoughts however, more like uncontrollable impulses. She grabbed the woman’s wire-like hair from behind the desk, and yanked the head connected. Her face smashed against wood.

Wait right here please.

Although those words were unnecessary, as the woman’s body had slumped to the floor. Tina returned from the back of the store after a couple of minutes with an unassuming cardboard box. Blood was oozing from the gash on the motionless woman’s forehead. The mess aggravated Tina even more so.

Tina pulled used needles from the box and went to work displaying her art for the first time in her life. It was beautiful.

After an hour of diligent work, the semi-conscious woman was covered in blood and black. The ink had been gone over multiple times and was buried deep in the pale skin. The designs she drew were as arbitrary as the poorly done tattoos on the woman’s shoulders, and yet it carried meaning.

Once Tina had finished her piece, she went out back for a smoke. Each drag ushered in a more coherent state of mind, and the reasoning began. She knew she had to clean up the mess and dispose of the tangled lump of flesh.

Tina was the kind of woman that adhered to blind faith. She worshipped the concept of luck- rabbit tail and all. It was a remedy to the kind of chaos experienced growing up with a lack of guardians.

A ruckus in the building. She did not pay attention. Keep on puffing. More and more she regretted the failure of her original, poorly conceived plan. Tina meant to infect the hefty woman with Hep, then dope her up and place a fake receipt to another ink shop in her purse.

The boys were back from the bar. Everything was over for Tina. They laughed.

You really out-did yourself on this one Tina.

I think I’ll have to turn you in for doing such a shitty ink job.

She ran out, insulted, she cried from the humiliation. Her aspirations for being an artist were crushed. Her daughter would be abandoned like she once was. And it all ended with lightning strikes and a rope in a motel closet.

Sol, Chapter 7: Out of the Freezer, Into the Glacier

Daniel was ushered into a pure white oval room by friendly translucent drones with nothing all around him except a stand-alone tube in the center, which reminded him too much of the cryogenic chamber that he had just uncomfortably emerged from only seconds earlier. His being was injected into the Holoverse. Now Daniel could see for hundreds of thousands of miles all around the rock that his physical body was inside, but so far he could only bear witness to the impending battle with anxiety in thinking he had no part to play in the defense of the asteroid station himself.

T: We have three dozen Vultures and a drone mothership converging on Belt Sector 3.  Emitting instant encrypted alert to every Guild commander in Mid-Sol… Deploy all Human and Cybernetic forces in vicinity… Incoming friendly parties standby for further information.

Waypoint 3 Automated Server: Jackers Guild is requesting access through outer EMT minefield.

T: That was unbelievably fast.

Dar: Since when was belief ever a concern of yours ol’ holoboy? T’was, mere coincidence really… we may have been a bit encumbered and already on our way to your port, but- hey, tis better than dying right? Wait, well you can’t really “die” can you now really?

T: I will never understand pirate humor… nor human for that matter.

Meanwhile, the waypoint was buzzing with activity. All of the inhabitants thereof had been trained to respond against incursions, yet most of the encounters that were fought in the defense of the asteroid were nothing close to battles- more like skirmishes in comparison to the Drone Wars decades before. Hundreds of hidden laser turrets dotted the space rock, and most were automatic, but the larger ones needed sentient emotion (or “drive”, as it was called by the spacers) in order to thermally pinpoint targets. Early on in the development of cybernetics, it was realized that the fusion of organic and artificial sentience resulted in the best effects as opposed to reliance on pure machinery. The guilds learned this the hard way, as primitive spacers and pirates that went overboard with cybernetic development were often destroyed in combat by lightly transformed humans with less space-combat experience.

Dar: My girls always bring in a big haul Tichokiri; I can end this fight in microseconds even though our maneuverability is on the low end.

T: There are at least three dozen Merc ships descending on our belt sector in a rough semi-circle formation… the enemy are using those damn new drones that can disable EMT Bursters. Their automated ships will bypass our outer defense systems with an 86% success rate.

Dar: Three dozen? Are your outer sensors malfunctioning or what? My girls have only detected fourteen Morgan-class cruisers…  I was wondering why they’d set out on a suicide mission like this.

T: I take it that you have made some assumptions as to who our attackers are.

Dar: The girls sent a detachment to Europa a ways back because of some suspicious readings we intercepted… there’s a fully functioning outpost under the ice that violates Mid-Sol Conduct Charter…

T: …Seems like there is a string of colonies on the Jovian moons that have been going under the proverbial radar for some time now, any idea who they are affiliated with?

Dar: With their tech, well, these bastards must be subsidized by the EDF, but they certainly have hidden any direct connection with them. Once I’m finished with these assholes we have to destroy those moon bases, T.

The Jackers went into full combat mode. Their sleek frigates were the fastest stealth fighters known in Sol, and the female pirates that operated them were ruthless. Dar’s guild was known for looting corporate vessels uncompromisingly. And in the last few cycles the Jackers had depleted EDF and Corp coffers by disrupting all Inner Sol commerce which was deemed exploitative of lower class people still oppressed across the system.

T: Waypoint Server, put the last resort measure on standby… Daniel, I will begin your warm up procedures, we need every bit of help we can get for this battle.-

Daniel: Get me out of this damn tube! I want to fight.

T: Cannot process a redundant request, your body will be active in ten seconds, you will be prepared to integrate into the defense system… holobeing identity Tichokiri signing off, automatic response systems on…

For all intents and purposes, EDF, which formerly had relatively friendly relations with the Mid-Sol guilds, had declared war abruptly upon the wary yet still surprised inhabitants of Waypoint 3. Daniel would soon find out that his excitement for fighting these tyrannical mercenaries and drones could not be any more naive. He would learn that good and evil in any context is relative, and that horrifying choices must be made even by those that only wish for harmony.