“Do you think I’m pretty?” Kirke asked. Emilio turned to look at her.
“You don’t care what I think,” he said.
“That’s true. But I want to hear your answer,” she said. Emilio watched her carefully.
“Objectively, you have attributes that qualify you as pretty,” he replied. She jotted some notes down in her note pad.
Emilio felt his jaw clench. Even though he was naked, he somehow felt more exposed answering these questions.
“Your… your hair looks nice.”
“How so?” she asked.
“It’s… just nice.”
“More specifically,” she said. He wanted to cry. He wanted to scream. He wanted to throw her off the tallest cliff he could find.
“I knew someone… once… She had hair like yours. Dark. Curly,” he replied. Kirke’s eyes lit up at the mention of another woman. She also made note of the physical reaction his memory of her incited. He’d been right. She wasn’t interested in his opinion of her. She wanted to see how he reacted to the questioning itself.
“Obviously you two had a… special relationship. Unless your feelings were unrequited,” she mused.
“I answered your question, doctor,” said Emilio. Kirke’s hand tensed, revealing a hidden layer within. She forced a smile.
“It’s Callie. Make me mention it again and I’m done with you,” she said, willing her hand back to normal. Emilio nodded. She checked her watch. “Okay, get hard. It’s time,” she said as she pulled her clothes off and tossed them in the corner. Emilio sighed and started going through the motions so he could be ready for her.
When she’d first summoned him here for this purpose, his shock at her request was quickly replaced with more shock when he realized how enhanced she was “down there”. She was no longer strictly female in the physical sense. Though her biohack superficially resembled the female anatomy, it now had a vastly different purpose. She positioned herself over him and slapped his hand away. Ready or not, she was starting.
As she pushed herself down, taking all of him, Emilio thought of Brother Jael. How had he chosen pain so freely? How had he dealt with the body’s natural aversion to it? As she picked up speed, his mind went back to their first adventure.
* * *
Parallel 14: BioHack Earth
The mob was a rainbow of colors. All shapes and sizes of humanity were present. Freaks, geeks, tweaks and squeaks came out of the woodwork, adding to the sea of angry people. Pierced, tattooed, mutilated, painted, costumed, wet and sticky folks gathered in groups. They came down the street and from the alleys, drawn by the chant of the mob. They had most of the small unassuming building surrounded before Emilio realized what was happening.
“We’ve tolerated you people for long enough!” the big guy bellowed.
“You and all the other pain freaks ain’t welcome here,” said a short, tubby fellow in a high pitched whine.
“Emilio, we should probably head inside now,” said Jael in a worried tone.
“Oh fuck this can’t be happening,” said Emilio.
“Listen up, torture saints!” the big guy shouted toward the building. “You like pain so much, we’ll give you all the pain you can handle! And then some!”
“Hey, I’m not a part of this!” Emilio yelled.
“This is a pleasure town!” someone yelled back.
“I’m just a nobody, let me through!” Emilio shouted, though his voice was getting lost in the crowd.
“Deny this, you fucking nail-bleeder bitch bastards!” an old woman screamed, flashing her breasts.
“Hey!” Emilio shouted, his voice amplified by the helmet’s speakers. The crowd stumbled back, shocked. “I don’t know what this is about, but I am definitely not a part of it, so you should let me go!”
“Screw you, robot man!” someone in the back yelled.
“Watch it, buddy! I’ll hack you so you only shit pee. And vice versa!” Emilio replied.
The crowd hushed down. A group of them parted in the middle and let a scrawny man through. He had Asiatic features, but didn’t look like anything Emilio was familiar with. Ethnicities had taken a completely different course on this Earth.
“So, robot man thinks he can play. Okay. Let’s start the smack down,” the scrawny man said.
The mob began waving their torches. Scattered shouts of “damn!” and “oh snap, son!” could be heard as the scrawny man stretched his back and cracked his knuckles.
“Um, what’s happening right now?” Emilio asked.
“Is this your first smack down?” Jael asked.
“Uh, yeah. Sure.”
“The rules are simple. The two of you smack each other down and whoever smacks the hardest, wins,” Jael explained.
“Is this like a duel or something?” Emilio asked.
“That’s more of an Honorsville thing. Michicago is the land of the smack down,” said Jael.
“Yea yea!” someone hollered.
“Since you are so cocksure, I will let you have the first round,” the scrawny man said. Emilio sized him up quick. He looked extremely frail. And wiry. If he wasn’t careful he could kill this guy. “Go on. Your best shot. Take it.”
Emilio took a deep breath, then he punched the scrawny man in the head, laying him out. The crowd gasped. “What the fuck!” someone yelled.
“Did I win?” Emilio asked.
“What are you doing?” Jael asked.
“I laid a smack down. Did I do it wrong? Oh no, is it an open hand thing?” Emilio asked.
“No, you fool, you’re supposed to insult him until he relents,” Jael explained.
“You mean a verbal smack down?” Emilio asked.
“What other kind is there?” Jael asked incredulously. Emilio hadn’t seen a man this ready to pull his own hair out since his teachers back in his school days.
“You low down, dirty, cow humper!” the scrawny man hissed, pulling himself up from the ground. “That’s why these people have to go. They choose not to fit in! Round pegs for round holes!”
“Round pegs for round holes!” the crowd yelled.
“Okay, we can go inside now,” Emilio said.
“Smart idea,” said Jael.
“Round pegs for round holes! Round pegs for round holes!” the crowd chanted. Jael ushered Emilio inside as the crowd broke out into song, specifically Old Sue Mary Went Down (On Me).
Other brothers were watching from the tiny windows. Emilio noticed a lot of them were quite young, some barely in their teens. He also noticed they looked real scared.
“Hey, shouldn’t you guys be evacuating or something?” Emilio asked.
“This is our home,” Jael said.
“Yeah, and those guys out there are looking like they’re going to burn all of you in it. You have to get out of here,” said Emilio.
“We’ll be fine. If we moved every time something like this happened, we’d never settle down.”
“Okay, well, can I get out at least?” Emilio asked.
“There is only one way in or out,” Jael replied. Emilio put his head in his hands.
“Why does this happen to me? Why?”
“Don’t worry, my friend. The storm will pass soon enough. We’ve got most of the day yet,” said Jael.
“That’s not a storm! What is wrong with you?” Emilio asked.
“It’ll be okay. I promise. Follow me,” Jael beckoned. He led Emilio through a tight corridor into a gathering room where three young brothers and one very old one waited. They watched Emilio with much curiosity.
“Picked a hell of a time to go searching for lost souls, brother,” the very old one said. Jael grinned.
“Wait till you see what he can do,” he replied.