Charlie Daonna leaned against a 1996 vulcan 800 he had scrapped in the early 80’s. Charlie had found it buried beneath discarded parts of old automatons and unwanted hovercrafts. It was orange with rust and parts were missing but the engine was there and it was intact. It was a scrappers wet dream to find a gasoline powered mechanism. But to have found one in such condition that Charlie found-the twin V was like winning the lottery.
Gasoline was only hard to come by if you didn’t know where to look. Nowadays gasoline was distilled and served in martini glasses to those who were more mechanical than human. It just took working at a cyber bar and a container big enough.
Charlie scanned the horizon, his gaze lingering on the old rusted buildings of the abandoned part of the city he stood in. It was littered with old models and patchwork humans unable to afford the price of luxury required to live across the way.
He missed the stars, the glaring glow of the bustling nightlife took over the sky, blanketing a 30 mile radius in it’s suffocating brilliance.
A soft vibration set off against his right thigh, an annoying high pitched sound echoed off his cycle that drew him away from his thoughts. He slipped the offending object from his pocket, staring at the vibrating piece of glass and hardware in his hand. The screen flashed ‘Lilith’, pulsing red with each vibration. His index finger slid to the side of the phone, moving to hit silence before pausing, and pressing the phone to his ear.
“What do you want?” he asked, shifting his helmet to underneath his forearm.
“Oh come on Charlie, I don’t always have to want something do I?” Lilith asked, her artificially seductive tone crackled through his phone, “Can’t I just want your company, darling?”
If Charlie didn’t know any better, he would’ve been fooled by her wiles long ago.
“Oh you’re no fun,” she sighed, he could just see her there in her sheer silk robes draped across her fainting couch. “I need you to get me a package.”
“I’ll pay you~”
“Oh come on Charlie, honestly it’s a quick errand, you’ve done it before”
“What am I picking up?”
Charlie remembered the day science went too far. He was sitting on the fence around his mother’s garden kicking his feet against the rotting wood. He was eight and three quarters on that day, already planning on his future of being the best mechanic the world has ever seen. He tinkered with a small household robot from his mother’s childhood that powered down long before he was born. He told her, he would fix. She told him, child I’d like to see you try-So he did.
He had taken out, cleaned and oiled the motor when his mother called him inside. He placed the motor and machine where he was sitting as he hopped over her lilies, running into the house with a smile. She must’ve just gotten home. Charlie looked down to wipe his grimy gunk covered hands on his jeans to look presentable.
But what he saw when he looked up- he did not recognize. She had her bouncy blonde curls and the blue waitress uniform of The Throwback. She had worked endless shifts trying to compete with the metallic women on wheels that didn’t have to clock in and out. Her soft smile and southern hospitality was enough. Or at least she had said it was enough, but here she was her once golden brown legs were gone. Instead pale plastic wrapped around the pistons and wires that were the mechanical skeleton of her pelvic girdle.
“Charlie? Sweetheart you still there? Are you going to pick-”
“-No.” Charlie interrupted, hanging up the phone and staring at it.
His mother had spent so much money on those pitiful pieces of plastic only for them to rust and bend beneath her organic upper half. They didn’t have the money to afford more upgrades as the splicing and replacements got more and more extensive. She was confined to a chair for the last few years of her induced short life. She didn’t mind, of course, until the rust soaked into her bloodstream and ended her life in a quick painful fit of muscle spasms.
Charlie’s phone buzzed angrily in his hand. He didn’t have to read it to know it was Lilith. His grip on the offending machinery lessened and gravity yanked it from his calloused hands. The glass screen cracked on the gravel, but the buzzing persisted until his boot snuffed it out like a cigarette.
Charlie pulled his helmet out from under his arm, slipping over his head in a swift movement. His foot only lifted off the phone to straddle his bike, his hand squeezed the clutch, kicking off the curb as he sped out of the slums dirt and rocks kicking up behind him. He should turn left, heading onto the only road that left the city. The only road that guaranteed he would be free from the bright lights and chaos. But he turned right, heading further into to town towards the familiar polished metal warehouse.
The cycle zipped passed the flashing hologram billboards, their neon brilliance burning his retna. Flashy white and silver electric powered cars without drivers turned to nothing as he focused only on the rumbling between his thighs and the air wiping past him.
He skidded to a stop, spraying mud onto the pristine metal door. It slid off the wall like water. He hated this damn place, a warehouse is supposed to be rusted and smell of oil, but here it smelt like a hospital. It smelt like his mother’s new legs.
He removed his helmet, slinging it over the handle as he hopped off the bike. He walked up to the entrance, putting his hand to the electric plate.
“Lilith Hunters. Pick up”
The pad turned green beneath his fingertips and he heard the clicks and buzzes of the door opening. His foot tapped, watching the garage door raise. After a few seconded Charlie slipped beneath the slow raising sheet of metal, walking to the desk.
The woman working had her back turned to him, soft brown waves cascaded down her back, she almost looked human until she turned and he noticed the long antenna protruding from her forehead. She smiled at him, her eyes wide and innocent, the antenna bouncing softly with her movement.
“Good afternoon, Lilith Hunters” she hummed, the voice coming out of her morphed to match Charlie’s vocals.
“I’m here for a-”
“Pick up,” She finished in his stolen voice a soft giggle leaving her lips “It’s in the back I’ll go get the package,” she said, pushing back from the desk walking out behind the curtain. He wondered if her vocal cords really belonged to someone else.
Charlie wondered when they decided to turn this from a storage unit into a medical facility. He looked over to a small section of plastic chairs and maginizes, seeing a small child in the waiting area playing with a hologram nannie of sorts. He looked back towards the curtains his foot tapping against the linoleum.
Lilith had gotten her whole body replaced once over and he doubted she would go through the extensive replacements again. Given how recently she had gotten most of the things done he doubted they needed to be replaced.
The curtain shifted and the woman with antinee came out with the chest sized box and a smile. She placed the box down onto the metal counter with a soft clank.
“I have your package, your friend is going to love the upgrade” she said with a soft smile, handing over the description of what was inside the box.
‘Package for Lilith Hunters, continents: cyber infused organ (LUNGS). Includes: Built in filters, genetic patches that fuse with blood for optimal transfusion, Male. GENTEC.INC’
Charlie dropped the description, staring at the box. Lilith had no need for lungs, lungs made for males that is. He shook his head, she had told him the oxygen levels were dropping rapidly outside the cities so much so that it would begin to affect the generators under the city. She had preached that the mutations and upgrades were necessary but he refused to believe her, even if he was short of breath as of late.
“There must’ve been a mistake…”
“No! We pride ourselves at expertly marking down every order. I can assure you with 100% certainty that GENTEC.INC has found, filed and fulfill your every wish. You even wrote down the specifics that this would be going to Charlie Daonna, your bestest friend.”
Charlie pushed against the box, trying to get away from the situation his body shaking as the cardboard made a splat against the floor.
“He…He doesn’t want it” he breathed out, backing out of room waiting till he was out before running to his bike, jumping onto it and starting the ignition without even slipping his helmet with built in respirators on. He sped away, ignoring the blaring sirens. He knew they would only be able to catch him if his cycle was run by electricity. He sped faster than the speed limit allowed, he sped faster than be believed his cycle could handle but where he was going he wouldn’t need it. He turned down the only road out and kicked his bike into second gear, speeding out across the border of the city.
He took a deep breath feeling the dust gather in his lungs. But he looked up at the sky and the stars were beautiful.