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TIGSource ForumsCommunityJams & EventsCompetitionsOld CompetitionsTigSource Writing Competition: ####punk [CLOSED!]
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MekanikDestructiwKommando
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« Reply #40 on: August 11, 2008, 06:01:49 PM »

And if you need some reference..
http://project.cyberpunk.ru/lib/
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« Reply #41 on: August 14, 2008, 02:44:45 PM »

Man, an awesome bunch of works. I'm embarrassed to present you...


Lies

The head contraption used to connect to the Network put pressure on my temples. The few seconds immediately after I activated the switch on the machine were as if my mind's link to my body had been severed, ending with an almost painful return of all the senses at once. Although I still recognized the connection shop when I glanced around, it looked ethereal now, with a plastic-like quality to everything, and no one else remained in the place. I had no idea what to do, as this was my first time connecting.

Father had kept us both away from technology. In our house, which used to lay in the outskirts of town, we didn't need to worry too much about anything other than the city's waste contamination and humbly working the land. My sister hated Father, though, and the day he died she fled, leaving Mother and I to ourselves. We didn't hear from her in those two years, until Mother died of the disease as well. A neighbor pressured to buy the land after that; there was nothing left for me there anymore, and I was already grown enough to leave, so I accepted the greedy offer. I departed in search of the only person I still had left.

What I discovered when I arrived in the city, though, was that she was also dead. It took me some time to find her, because she had changed her last name, but I could confirm what I had been told once I saw the dried blood atop the table she had her computer on, her face with sunken eyes, and smelled the pungent stench that would not leave my nostrils for days. She had been dead for a week, but the motel owners never took care of the body, claiming that it was the responsibility of the police. It had been suicide.

I tentatively removed the device from my head and, confirming that I was still connected, walked toward the door of the connection shop. Outside, it was similarly devoid of life, and there was no wind, or any sort of motion. Bright, blinking advertisements were now unlit, and even the sound of my footsteps seemed to have become quieter.

I walked through the city for several hours, though nothing reflected this, not even the dim, unmoving sun. I found the motel and climbed the four flights of stairs that led me to my sister's room. Inside, it was just as it had been the first time I visited, with her laying motionless, her face turned to the window opposite the door, one hand on the table. The only difference was that there was no blood this time, no smell. I approached her, and kneeled. Lifting her hand I felt a faint warmth, and a soft pulse; I clutched it with my own. Softly brushing her hair, I sensed a reaction in my palm. Slowly, she turned her head to me. She found my eyes, and she smiled.

As soon as I got to the city and learned of the rumors regarding the Network, I knew that she had never really hated Father. And I knew just why so many people abandon their quiet place to come live in the city that Father despised so much. I was no better, no stonger than them. Outside, there are so many people without hope, people that have nothing left to live for. There are so many other people that don't mind the lies.
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« Reply #42 on: August 15, 2008, 12:17:09 AM »

HAHAHAHAH I TAKE IT BACK.
Rewriting the entire thing in a more coherent mood.
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« Reply #43 on: August 15, 2008, 03:19:07 AM »

I might give this a go, just for the sake of coming up with some new kind of "-punk" genre that takes the mickey out of something near & dear to me.  Smiley
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« Reply #44 on: August 17, 2008, 03:36:11 AM »

Er, well, I don't know if this is proper "punk".. maybe streetpunk? I have been reading a lot of William Gibson lately.. well, I wrote this today, not intended for the competition and then I saw tigsource again and decided to post it. Hope you enjoy! (p.s. I didn't plan for the ending to turn out like that until about a paragraph before!!)
   

Arthur

Arthur was the kind of man who, if you asked him how he was, might say "Fine, and you?" with the sort of politeness that indicates he neither approves of or is concious of his response. His response is the result of 31 years of social conditioning, finely tuned through the complex systems of family, strangers, friends and co-workers. Complex the system may be, the results generally fall within one area on a politeness graph: "Automatic indifference and respect".
Today another man, who's social conditioning result falls into the 1% range  of social conditioning which develops the same chemicals and responses in a section of the graph at the Steinmar-Renard Institute for Human Social Psychology as "Psychotic", asked Arthur how he was, and Arthur's
conditioning prevented him from detecting the edge of violence in his voice.

"Fine, and you?" Arthur's mouth formed the words automatically. A full two seconds slipped by as his conciousness became aware of what his cerebral cortex had known for a while: This man had wielded a pistol, and he was smiling calmly.

"Just dandy. Why don't you come have a walk with me?"

Arthur's memory conjured projections of pain and discomfort as he explained to his associates why he was late and why his wallet with all of its credit cards and dollar bills no longer existed inside his pockets. Another part of his memory flashed images of a gravestone with "Arthur" printed on it in with unflinching accuracy. This projection of the future reached Arthur's conciousness as an overwhelming feeling to not worry so much about being late to his meeting and shift his weight and his focus to the smiling stranger with the strangely silent metal object in one hand.

"Ah, ok".

Arthur's motor cortex propelled him towards the alley while the new stranger (who was now the focus of his world, consuming his virtual reality) persists in broadcasting a calm, unafraid smile, grinning at the world and the facets of its strange reality. Something inside Arthur's grey matter clicks, and he attempts to gain knowledge so that, even if he is a sheep being led to a slaughter, he will at least know where he will be killed. "Where are we going?" his mouth asks, with sincerity and astonishing politeness.

His captor's smile dissipates for enough milliseconds for Arthur's brain to become aware that his question sparked nervousness and uncertianity. Arthur's mind, after jumping from several theories, ended at the conclusion that questing for more certianity might paradoxically raise the level of uncertianity in his situation. Flipping a coin when standing at gunpoint to determine if your captor will shoot you or not is a terrible position to be in, and Arthur processed that his survival chances would be higher if the coin is never flipped again by never giving this stranger a chance to decide if he wished to shoot Arthur by not giving any uncertianity to the stranger's situation by asking questions.

The stranger's smile was corrected well before Arthur arrived at this conclusion, giving him a moment to reflect that maybe he hadn't really said anything at all, or that the stranger was indifferent to questions. Arthur's mind began wandering even more, asking questions to himself such as "Has this stranger done this before? How did he get a gun in the city? Who did he work for?".

Arthur continued walking towards the stranger and his questions ceased being asked when the stranger pulled the trigger.
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« Reply #45 on: August 17, 2008, 05:21:22 AM »

Ooh, ooh, I wrote one for the competition!
I hope it's twist is presented dramatically enough that it reads well, please say if it works or if it just falls flat -_-
Oh uh, cyberpunk, futurepunk. (futurepunk?)

Laura (Demystified)

The walls of this modern city cease to breathe. The air's shimmering halts, and the world takes on a different, familiar color, like her vision is a television that her father has just twisted the contrast knob and the world settles back into an understandable, visible mess of the aftermath of the industrial revolution. Her father's eyes twist in her vision, turning themselves around like the television controls until they display all white and within the white, remorseless static.

She lets her breath out easily, the trip melding into memory while she finds reality, Godsford street waiting to be explored. No, not tonight, no exploration, there was a meeting, a purpose, a cause behind the acid trip and a will driving her to rest in motion, walking for over forty minutes on Godsford street, nothing but an alley. No cars now, or ever in the last two months. This was Town, Their Town and They didn't drive cars here. Laughter falls from her throat and touches the ground, white snow melts with the sun's fierce and undying heat.

'Success' she thinks in her head, her conciousness meditates on what it means to succeed in something that cannot be measured by if it can be done or not, but if an individual person will respond to a test in the right way. She passed. She knew it because she hadn't run away after the trip and
hadn't lost her mind while the universe exploded in color and motion, obscuring her selfish ideas that the world was white and black and filled with nothing but death traps. Ideas had sparkled to her soul inside the snow particles which fed into her eye, her all-seeing human eye.

"I'm human" she says aloud. They are not around. They are inside, transcending a different barrier then the one she crossed. Her barrier existed in her mind before she took the test. The barrier They cross existed only after the test was created: "Can you pass through cyberspace?". She doubted she could and never wanted to. Cyberspace could be nothing compared to the beauty she had found in the world today.

"Beauty is what compels me" she remembers another soldier explain to her. "The world and the people in it are beautiful, and that's what compels me to destroy their hideous machinations".

Her heart raises its beats per minute to 92, and she feels soft and sharp, visualizing herself as a beautiful destroyer. Inside the walls of Godsford street are her victims, hanging over airspace and screenspace like pathetic children lay outside the hospital, dying from HIV. Smiling and laughing she runs forward to the metal door housing Them. The Army promised her it would be disabled at the hour and only for seconds. Reading her watch gives her one hundred and thirty one seconds left. She breathes them by. The door clicks. She opens.

They are inside, not breathing and not living. Corpses strung over monitors shaped like futuristic televisions except with no static instead their crystal clear displays pronounce with no assumption "Connected: 1 year, 4 months. 3 D 22 H 57 M 44 S". She is too stunned to gasp. One minute later she reaches for the telephone sitting on a desk beside one of Their corpses, just like the Army said there would be. She dialed the Army.

"Operation They Understand Us Now, Operative Reporting 04K" she hestiated for an insignificant 110 milliseconds, shaky with the information she transmitted. "559B. They are dead. Every operator in this room has been dead for months, maybe a year." She remembers the nose plugs she has installed as a nasal anti-virus. Their smell doesn't reach her yet the sight remains vividly terrifying.

"Dead? The Town Operators are all Dead?"

"Yes sir. For a long time. Looks like a connection overdose.. they're still plugged in, I don't see any life support or monitoring systems anywhere on their bodies. Sir.. I.." a tear is flung sweeping over her face. "They've been dead and we've been their slaves sir."

From the telephone came the silence of inaudible static.

She wills herself to speak again when the voice speaks again, strained with guilt. "Then.. their systems have been running without them. The police, the fabricated politicians, the corporations.. we have been run by machines, not by men. The men have died and their machines lived on.. and we did not know.." he gulps. "Operative. Destroy the machines."

"Yes sir."

She turned upon the Town's corpses, their gigantic machines piled beneath the desks. Labels, professionally written on each of them. "Gas. Law Enforcement. Detention. Farms. Public Safety Affirmation."

From her waist pocket she removes a gun, Army issued and People owned.She aims at each of the machines, remembers her father's static eyes as he died from bacteria They created, the hospital unable to provide assistance because They ran that too, and with a smile and vengeance she fires at each machine, destroying The Town and all that They stood for.

The Town dies and she grasps the telephone grip. There is the static of a faulty connection. Communications machine smokes to her left. She smiles, and she is free.
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« Reply #46 on: August 17, 2008, 12:54:36 PM »

There's some great stuff here guys, good job. Beer!
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« Reply #47 on: August 17, 2008, 02:33:03 PM »

True. Some good reads and fine competition Smiley
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« Reply #48 on: August 18, 2008, 10:59:39 PM »

Tranny-Bot Chronicles

I watch the wall of panel screens in front of me. I pose for the hidden cameras. I'm sure security is getting a jolt out of this. My new Rackmount 3000s bolt-ons are deadly enough to pop the circuits of any male robot.

Chevonne is in the corner trying out a pink torso. "Sam, does this make me look fat?" she asks. "No darling, I think it looks fabulous," I lie to her. What else could I say, you look like a pig?

To be honest with you, Chevonne is as fun as a video game with only one level and that level includes only jumping puzzles and no continues. A Personality 3000 upgrade would do her wonders. She's already on the verge of getting reformatted for poor performance. Our clients are always right, but she thinks otherwise. We are hostess-bots in New Orleans City. We host parties and entertain guests, human and robotic. Some call me a Transformer - how many other male robots pretend to be female? You'd be surprised at the number of "normal" guests that seem to make an extra effort to attend the corporate parties we host. We have the usual genital plugins, but the some request we get will blow your capacitors. Thankfully we erase any memories we wish to forget. I guess all fantasies do come true in New Orleans City - except ours.

Chevonne taps her fat ass bolt-on to check if it still is connected. She's tried every bodily upgraded in the last year. This week she's playing the hefty trucker woman. Last week, she was an secret assassin. Thankfully, this is all covered by the corporation we work for - Bad Robots Hostesses.

As we leave His & Hers and head into the bustling mall crowd, a man accosts us. "Pardon me, are you Sam 20571?" he asks.

He's holding a photo of us (at a party) in his hand. I don't recognize him. Maybe I erased him from my memory. Some our clients can be a bit stalkerish. And this one looks extra super stalkerish. I put my hand on my immobilizer spray. Chevonne, however, pops out her pen and is ready sign the photo. The fool.

Another man grabs her wrist from behind and handcuffs her. "We'd like to ask you a few questions down at central," the man says stiffly.

Central is where they boot-up robots for the first time. Central is where the deactivate robots for reformatting. Central is life & death for us. You don't go there if you can help it so we don't.

"May I ask, why we are needed at Central?"
"That's for us to know and you to find out," he says with a grin. It wasn't a pleasant grin.

They shove us into the back seat of the hover van. At least we avoid the metal coffin treatment. Violent criminals we are not. Chevonne's internal CPU frequency is spiking and she's beginning to overheat. I can tell by her silence. I remain stable - throttling any circuits that try to crash my program - and put myself in hibernate to save on energy in case they hold us there overnight.

An hour or so later, we arrive. Central is a Gaudi-like cathedral covered in dark one-way glass. Its spires are the tallest things in the city. It's because the federalists can spy on everyone from up there without installing cameras everywhere. We are escorted to a sparse room and told to remove all plugins. If I could blush, I would have, but instead I pull out my work-related necessities to circuit busting eyes. Chevonne is robotic - she goes through the mechanics without any neural processing.

"Plug these on," snarls another man. Obviously, he thinks his task is meaningless. We are handed new svelte black & white outfits and a pair of bunny ears. How original... Playbunny fantasies were so last millennium. Chevonne's removed her hideous trucker body and is back to her deadly self - which what she was designed and programmed to do.

The man points to the door when we are done. Armed guards wait for us outside with laser rifles pointed down. Curiosity is killing me. Why all the attention?

"So why are we here again?" I ask one of the guards.
"You are the entertainment," says one of them. "For the president."

Chevonne's lights blink as she switches back into normal running mode, but I, I am a bit worried. Don't they know I'm a tranny-bot?

...

Sometime after, I awaken with Chevonne in a taxi cab. Our communicators buzz with thank you mesages, but we remember nothing. Our memories of the past few hours were erased. Jello, mud, and torn bits of clothing remain between our joints. Our genital plugins are still fully attached including my male one. My default body is a bit worse for wear with nicks and scratches along my back and ass. The president or whomever must have liked it rough.

I'll never understand humans. I'm glad I'm not one.


POST-NOTES: This started as satire cyberpunk with an unusual main character... and went somewhere weird.
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« Reply #49 on: August 20, 2008, 08:19:08 AM »

hey hey hey!

i have a question :]

can a schoolpunk work?
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« Reply #50 on: August 20, 2008, 12:55:00 PM »

You can(should) try. Smiley
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« Reply #51 on: August 20, 2008, 02:57:52 PM »

alrite! thats all the motivation i need! LOL a world built around schools..wait thats whats happneing now!!  Shocked
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« Reply #52 on: August 21, 2008, 08:17:39 AM »

alrite! thats all the motivation i need! LOL a world built around schools..wait thats whats happneing now!!  Shocked
Here's a twist; the teachers are the prisoners of the society, students have all the power. The school revolves around the students and they live consequence free. The teachers are present and are held responsible for anything the students do. Classes are held but if a teacher attempts to teach or assert any level of authority they are booed or worse punished for false charges of "sexual assault against a minor" that are never questioned by administration and immediately terminated.

Live long enough and you become administration. Displease the students and die. And there are 2 stories that spring to mind here. One is of a student who is about to graduate and start their education training. The other is of a teacher who actually values knowledge and is looking for a student to pass it on to. Knowledge of a different time before schools took over the world and students took over the schools.
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« Reply #53 on: August 22, 2008, 06:58:32 AM »

Oh I am going to try and get all up in this by inventing riddlepunk. And you better believe there's going to be another cyberpunk story about prostitution.

Also patiently waiting for numberpunk, because whatever that is I'm excited for it
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« Reply #54 on: August 22, 2008, 12:26:17 PM »

Oh I am going to try and get all up in this by inventing riddlepunk.

A society were insane despots constantly ask members of the populace riddles, often with ambiguous solution or just plain near-impossible. Those that answer mistakenly (as far as the insane logic in the despots' minds go) are burned alive on the spot.
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« Reply #55 on: August 22, 2008, 02:33:14 PM »

Also patiently waiting for numberpunk, because whatever that is I'm excited for it

I guess the closest thing in existence to that concept is the movie Pi.
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« Reply #56 on: August 22, 2008, 04:53:32 PM »

I think I read that multiple entries were fine as long as they weren't based on one another. Well here is another entry, gosh my head now hurts. I'm now thinking in Rhymes. Well if you find gross grammar mistakes, I'm sorry. English isn't my primary language.



Tell-a-Tale Blues

Act 1:
Night. Brother speaks,

Petrol stench lingers the air,
my icy eyes behold the land,
without the barrels as poisoned heir,
this greenly land would sure look bland

Pestilence would sit in awe,
Metal Teeth rake the sky,
People's death, signed by law
All are numbers in my eye.

Barren lands, homely lands,
I once had hope and supported you,
Radiated lands, desolate sprawl,
One thing to do, you too will crawl

To control the masses, but an easy deed
Their thoughts are simple
as their minds are dimple
I lean back, spread a truth or two,
my of course, for all to heed.
After all, I'm here for you.


Act 2:
Dawn. People speak,

Ant, ant, another step
Hand in hand, another tear
March, March, on we go
Dead, Death, to you we bow

Stomp, Stomp, another death,
Rage, Rage, we mute it all,
Hope, Hope, first to fall,
Dead, Death, to you we bow

Lies, Lies, we see them here,
Truth, Truth, don't shed a tear,
Stumble, Tumble, stand up one more time,
Dead, Death, nod your head and you'll be fine

Ant, Ant, just march on
Quiet, Quiet, by tomorrow you're gone
Life, Life, don't we deserve better
Dare, Dare, the forbidden letter.


Act 3:
Morning. She speaks,

Hexogen Tears cry beneath a phosphor sky,
Brother State wants you all to die.
Like Moths, you stare and feel,
the burning touch of angry steel.

A thousand dead, just to kill me
This lifeless Hive, empty shell,
I sit and laugh, for all to see
He promised heaven and gave you hell.

Veins of Light, Veils of Lies
Hovering above like an old satelite
I sit and laugh, and cut the ties
I lift the cup and take a sip.

Fabricated Truth, my brother's domain
He calls it victory over Terror.
I'll leave him to it, it's all in vain,
He will be dead, when he sees his error.

Hexogen Tears cry beneath a phosphor sky,
Brother State, forget your lie.
Like Bees, i'll buzz and seal
the slow pact of your goodbye

Celulose Pulp, piled into a sheet
Illusions as chains and still so true
A letter, contract of your brother's defeat
signed by the miserable likes of you.

Epinephrine, I summon thee,
concentration, come here and see,
Like bees to the hive, honey honey,
I'm not in for fame: just your money.

This contract I seal, Austenite Feather,
it scratches over outdated hope
I dress to kill, black skintight leather,
Come all and play, on the slippery slope

Argon kisses the prophet's skin,
a small pistol, unlike any other kin,
Just one shot, to change the country,
Wash away dictators, then do the laundry.

I sigh and smile, my humor just died,
Who wouldn't with what I have in sight.
Brother state, my ugly brother,
What tragedy, I was your greatest lover.


Act 4:
Noon. Brother speaks,

My I wonder what's the meaning of this?
The numbers do not calculate,
Who did the thing at Allworld Tower?
Metal pieces, a spikefilled shower
Why am I punished by fate?

My, what do I care about it,
Of course you will rebuild that thing,
I laugh manically while I sit,
Shut up people, you have a song to sing.

Now what? You dare another riot?
Numbers, one and one open the way
Here have a gift, nuclear diet
You won't survive that very day

I lean back and laugh in silence
My best bet always is violence
And you my little ants, what say you?
"I believe everything you say is true!"

Now hush, minor being,
I have a truth to spread
I need to shape a feeling,
my god that's hard, for I don't care
But I will act sad, oh yes I dare!

Dear Citizens, loyal sheep
Please jump the hole, it isn't deep
It's filled with truth, I really swear
Those damned terrorists wage warfare.

The things I do are of your own will
Just nod your head and take the bill
I need more toys, har, weapons of course
Watch in awe as I ride death's horse



Act 5:
Dawn. She speaks,

Over the shoulders of Justice
I look down on your disease
I'm in your your office,
No its no longer in one piece.

The screens are flickering
Your soldiers are bickering,
You sure are sickening,
My pulse is quickening,

The prophet's shot is fired
Your promised death was hired.



Wait, something is wrong
from halls afar I hear a Gong
You stand up from the ground
Smiling like a hellpit hound.

Soldiers swarm from all directions,
I raise my arms with no objections
Brother State why do you smile?
Why are there no people within a mile?

The soldiers blur, just a ghost
I stumble forwards, what is this
A man appears by the name of Host
You won't fool me, I spit and hiss

You've won the game, Mylady Queen.
Grace and style, the likes i've not seen.
His smile speaks those empty words to me,
They're just hollow, illusions, hah, now I see.

I look at my target, still alive.
If I am to lose, for your death I'll thrive
Two steps, Three steps, then one more
I bash your head till my arms feel sore

I've won, my dearest brother.
That look tells me, you thought you'd win
Go and cry for your mother
Then ponder and burn in hell for your sin


Act 6:
Night. Media speaks,

Dear viewers, I come bearing information,
Some things have changed in our nation.
Those once in charge, are no longer,
Their own madness turned out stronger.

The queen killed the king,
After our simulated game,
Ah and just one more thing,
She'll never be the same.

As it seems, she lost her mind,
A spirit that had once been kind
Game and Reality for her they mixed
Lunatic Asylum, your duty to fix

With these words, your host bids good night
Until tomorrow's next great fight.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2008, 04:58:16 PM by AmnEn » Logged

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« Reply #57 on: August 23, 2008, 12:10:25 AM »

AmnEn, you have earned yourself one of my votes. That was awesome  Cool
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« Reply #58 on: August 23, 2008, 10:26:51 AM »

Hey, would anyone with any experience about this be able to tell me - does posting a story on a forum constitute prior publication? I only ask in the event I want to use my story for something else. I suppose if it came to that I could take it down.
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« Reply #59 on: August 23, 2008, 12:32:28 PM »

Spanning the Valley   

   The beige door slides open with a click and I let her go in first. It’s dark, save for the neon glow streaming in like smog through the plexiglass. The glow gives the room’s edges an ambiguous quality, and I consider turning on the light but what’s the point. There’s a bed. A sink if you’re lucky. A functional room, and one that charges by the quarter hour.

   There’s a small basin in the corner. It is my lucky night. I toss my coat onto it, sit down on the edge of the bed. I debate whether to take off my shoes this time.

   She’s more or less how you’d describe a cat if they still existed: lithe and tawny, with spiky red hair. She practically purred into my neck when I came up to her, but I could taste the heat in this one. In different times she could’ve been an athlete, up on the uneven bars maybe, or an archer.

   “So. What’ll it be?” she asks, an eyebrow raised. I don’t say anything, and when she drops her eyelids and licks her lips – more like grazes them with the tip of her tongue – I know she knows what she’s doing. The room’s no longer than fifteen feet, but she walks the small distance between her and the bed slowly, one pump in front of the other so her hips sway. When she finally touches me it’s almost maternal; her hands run through my hair, fingernails grazing electric furrows on my scalp before they glide down my neck. Next she’s going to go for my tie, and she does, undoing the knot with the easiest of motions before she takes it, slides it across her throat like a ribbon of silk, then draws it down across her chest—

   Wait. No. She couldn’t be. This one couldn’t.

   I get up from the bed and approach her. She stops her routine as my hands cup her face, as if I were about to kiss her. Suddenly I tilt her head towards the window to bring it into the glow, my thumb pressing hard against the soft spot under her right jaw. “Like it rough, do ya,” she breathes. A small, dim blue light winks underneath her skin from the pressure. In the neon her face is painted a garish pink, a rouge that’d never run even if she cried. Not that she would, unless you wanted her to.

   “Not rough enough.” I push her away and sit back heavily on the bed. As I pull out a cigarette, I reflect that I have at least thirty minutes left. Fuck.

   Usually you can tell when it’s a bot, down to its country of origin. Japanese ones are doe-eyed, virginal things, naïve about everything. American ones are almost cartoonishly sexual. Who knew about this one, though. I take a drag. She stands by the window looking at me, a hand on her hip, head tilted at an angle I’d almost call miffed if I didn’t know better.

   “Lost your nerve, guy?” she asks, swinging my tie between her thumb and forefinger.

   “My appetite.” I exhale, and the smoke puts up a brief wall that obscures her face.

   “Ouch. If I could actually be offended, I think I would be.” She tosses my tie back. “I don’t suppose you expect a refund.”

   I wave my hand. “Course not. Working girl’s gotta eat, after all.” She smirks.

   “What gave it away?”

   “The dance. Not the first time I’ve seen a bot run through that routine. Tie across your back like you got out of the shower, then between your legs like you’re buffing a pole.”

   Her eyes flicker up and right for a millisecond before she laughs. “Didn’t realize you cared so much about choreography,” she says. “Sure you wanted a girl tonight?” I say nothing and look at the floor. She strides over, leans down next to my ear. “Hey,” she coos. “Everyone’s lonely. Why make it harder on yourself?” She nuzzles my neck. “Besides, you still got half an hour.” Leave it to a bot to care about whether I waste my creds. I push her aside.

   “Some of us want to be reminded why we’re lonely.” I kill the cigarette, and she looks at me in a simulation of disbelief.

   “Thousands of humans, and you’re the first,” she says. She taps the edge of the bed. “Can I sit down, at least?” I say nothing but she does it anyway. “I can go if you want.”

   “What’s your name?” I ask. She leans back and stretches.

   “Oh, Tammy,” she murmurs.

   “Try again.”

   “What does it matter?”

   “In case I run into you at church.”

   “Fine. Julia. Hello and what’s your name?” she says, extending a hand in mock greeting. I look away. “Just playing along,” she mutters.

   “That’s the problem.” Was I really going to get into it, with her of all things. “It’s just playing along.” Hell, nothing better to do.

   Julia looks up at the ceiling. “Nothing wrong with taking your comfort where you can get it.”

   “That’s too easy. That’s how we ended up here.” I pause, notice for the first time my hands are trembling. “Things got easier and easier, and when we…found out where we were headed, we’d already greased the slide too much. Frictionless, all the way to the bottom.” Julia’s silent at this, her foot dangling in time to some internal rhythm, a tempo unknown and irreproducible in any living thing.

   “But you shouldn’t keep punishing yourself for it,” she says softly.

   “I don’t have to. Waking up in this city is enough.”
   
   The urge comes out of nowhere, but I don’t fight it; slowly, I bring my legs up onto the bed and I rest my head in her lap. For a second, I sense something stir within her that feels like hesitation, and then her hand gently alights on my temple, strokes my hair. I feel my eyes go wet, and I pretend.
    
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i'll do better next time i swear

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