Kevin Meeks

There were massive spears piercing grey skin hanging above me. Mottled brown swirls of blood leaking from each wound gave way to infinite mass of monochrome. I shook my head. The spears became skyscrapers, their lights forming the pools of brown against the light drizzle falling from endless clouds. My mind bellowed at me, forcing the image away as phantoms twisted in the edges of my vision. I turned and looked into my apartment, watching the walls sway and twist toward me. I screamed at them, shouting obscenities at the top of my lungs until my throat was raw. I stumbled over something and kicked at it, snarling with hallucinogenic rage. My arms flailed at a nearby object as it tried to reach at me, and I flung it across the room. I heard a splintery crack and realized that it was some piece of furniture. Some rational part of my mind made a note that I was nearly out of chairs. A sudden lethargy invaded my limbs, forcing me to lay on the cool floor. In what seemed like an instant, I was gone.

I awoke a while later. I don’t even know how long I was out, but my body ached. Pain eased its way into me, starting from my head and moving along my extremities. Muscles twitched along my spine and I felt the agony reach a peak. That was fine with me. It felt good to hurt. Strangely, I liked the intensity in the same way I liked the numbness that the drugs gave me. My eyes took some effort to open, and when I did I almost wished I could close them again, but I would have to face the world again.

“Well... fuck,” I calmly stated to no one in particular.

Now I would definitely be sitting on the floor. Splintered chunks of plastic littered the floor in front of me. The last god damn chair in this hellhole was now in more pieces that I would ever be able to fix. My arms felt shot, but I lifted myself up from the floor. My clothes were torn and ragged, and blood dripped from small cuts all over my body. Whatever. I trashed the clothes in a nearby garbage bin and walked to the balcony. The sky still looked like some sick painting from a deranged artist trying to cash in on some sort of public empathy.

I hate artists. Pretentious assholes with no grasp on the realities of this world, convinced that their meaningless splatters of paint are the harbinger of some moral revolution. I stepped outside, feeling putrid, warm air blowing over my unclothed body. It felt good, so I grabbed the half wall that separated the floor from the hundred-story drop on the other side. I was standing

atop the wall a second later. I felt no anticipation, no fear of falling; I wasn’t even excited. The musty currents of air that slid over me added nothing to the thrill. I leaned over, watching people in passing cars stare at me. I halfheartedly gestured rudely at a few of them, but most of them just turned away.

I dropped from the wall and slunk inside. My alarm clock announced that I was late for my shift. That meant I’d been passed out all night. That explained the aching. There was a plate sitting on the counter next to me, and I chucked it at the damned ringing contraption. The resilient plastic didn’t shatter like the chair had the night before, and the clock continued its incessant blaring. Deciding that I’d need to be fairly calm by the time I got to the station, I walked over to the clock, picked it up, and tossed it out the window. It flew over the wall and disappeared.

Now I’d need a chair and a clock. What a way to start the day...

Grumbling, I snatched a fairly clean-looking uniform from the pile I’d set aside in a corner of the apartment and slid into it. The dull brown fatigues and vest looked muddier than usual when I looked in the mirror. My visage was filthy, sliced up in several places, and rough with stubble. I splashed some water in my face and scrubbed soapy water over the tattered skin, enjoying the stabbing feeling whenever the frothy mixture invaded a wound. A second look, after having dried myself with what once was a white towel, soured my mood. Most of the blood I’d seen on my face was leftover from last night’s trip. Scar tissue had formed over the majority of my injuries, and some of the smaller ones were fading away already.

I spat, “You’re a fucking freak, you know that?” The rage was good, and so was the loathing I felt. It made me sure I was at least mostly human.

After an uneventful shave and a breakfast of protein mush slathered in imitation milk, I left the dingy old studio apartment and made my way to the elevator. A man of indeterminate age sat in front of a door, and I mumbled a greeting. Phil was a decent guy, so far as I was concerned. He didn’t say much, and his dilated eyes never really seemed to notice you, but he never tried to make small talk. I really hate small talk; it’s a worthless waste of time. If a person doesn’t have anything pertinent to say, they might as well not say anything. Neon signs flashed in my eyes as the elevator descended to the parking floor. Digitally retouched faces told me to

buy whatever was the product of the day. I turned around resentfully and lifted the flask from my belt. The burn going down my throat woke me up, and I made my way to the terminal to catch the next ride to the Clearwater District.

“You’re late, Statuer,” The chief's red face filled my vision as soon as I opened the door to the station. “God damn it! And... and you’re setting off the alarm again! I’ve told you before that I’m not going to tolerate you drinking before coming here. This happens again,” he threatened, “and you’re never going to see the light of day over the stack of paperwork I’ll have you processing.”

He didn’t know, of course, that the only reason I drank was because the pills broke down into inconspicuous trace substances in sufficient amounts of alcohol. I wasn’t intimidated, anyway, by his blustering. He knew well enough that the agency would never find enough people to staff their investigative department. It was a dangerous job, and only someone incredibly stupid or amazingly self-reliant would be willing to stick their necks out for a privatized police agency. There was enough distaste for the state-funded police forces, and they were ineffectual at best. We were nothing more than rocks in the gears of numerous machinations.

There was something else, though. Chief Harris stood back, took a deep breath, and continued, “Look, you’re a good kid. You’re effective in the field, and I’ll be damned if there’s anyone else who can get into the thick of things when the going gets tough. And I know that your personal life is not too great. I heard about your father, and I understand that. But if you don’t pull your head out of your ass, I won’t be able to trust you out there. You represent a lot for Clearwater, and if you screw it up, we’re going to lose the last bit of federal funding we’ve got. You know we’ll never get by on contracts alone. That’d be it for us.”

I knew it. I didn’t really give a shit, but I knew the agency would go belly up if a federal inspector came by and decided to yank our funding. “Yeah, Chief. Got it.”

“Hey...” A look came over Harris’s face that I hadn’t ever seen before. Pity? “You need to talk?”

“No.” I added with a dark glance, “The soft-hearted old man routine doesn’t really suit you, boss.”

He looked hurt, and I almost felt a pang of guilt. Nevertheless, it wasn’t worth talking it over. He couldn’t understand what I needed from life. Less than five percent of people in the world could really comprehend what it’s like to wake up in the morning knowing that you aren’t even human at a fundamental level. You might feel it at times, but there was a true divide between you and the rest of society.

Angst is nothing the trappings of egotism brought to some depressing extreme. I hate it, and I resented myself for being so full of it. Of course no one could really relate to me. I’m a chimera; just a freak thought up in some lab. A large portion of my genetic code is spliced together from a Frankenstein mixture of species. Most people didn’t even know that chimeras exist, or that their features generally aren’t very apparent at first glance. The companies that do such work generally don’t publish their results, and, most of the time, even partially unsuccessful subjects are disposed of, even in circumstances where they could live out relatively normal lives. This is, of course, not public knowledge. Messageboards on the ‘net routinely bring up the subject every time a company is caught performing genetic testing on selfaware subjects, and then promptly forget about it until the next time.

But I had a unique position. My father, to whom I’m unrelated biologically, took me and hid me before I could be destroyed as an infant. He raised me, moving from district to district, and eventually we found our way to Clearwater. It was one of the few districts controlled by a non-profit organization, and the agency provided active protection to my father and I. He and Harris were cousins and close friends, which was most likely the only reason I had kept my job at all.

I realized I’d been staring into space for half a minute, so I decided to lessen the blow, “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Chief, but talking isn’t what I need right now. What I really need is to find my father. I know he’s out there; I just don’t know exactly who has him. Don’t worry, I’m not going to screw things up for you or the agency. I can at least play by the book that much.”

That seemed to satisfy him, and he patted my shoulder, which truthfully only managed to piss me off a bit, before returning to his office. I made my way through the narrow hallway to the office I shared with my partner. Mike was inside, as he always was when I began my shift.

He greeted me with a cheerful wave and tossed a crumpled paper at me. “So, Robert, what’d you do this time? I could hear the old man shouting all the way down here.”

“I had a few sips of whiskey an hour or two ago,” I caught the paper and whipped it back at his head, “He flipped shit, but he’s a pushover if you have the balls to stand up to him.”

The paper hit its mark and bounced off his forehead. He rubbed where it’d smacked him, “Damn it... you get way too much enjoyment out of throwing crap at me.” He leaned back in his chair and plopped his feet on desk in front of him, “So anyway, what’s on the agenda for today?”

I almost let myself smile, “We’re going to see our old buddy Rass.”

Mike’s face suddenly became very serious. He appeared to think over the possible consequences of this turn of events. “I don’t really know if that’s such a good idea. Remember last time you tried to catch the rat bastard? He led us on a wild goose chase right through Wakanabi district. We were lucky we were on good terms with the company goons there. What if he gets us into PMI territory? Those guys are professionals. We’d disappear before we even knew where we were. Plus, he’s a liar, a killer, and a crook.”

“Yeah, he’s all those things,” I nodded, “but he’s also got information on everyone. A man doesn’t survive the information trade for that long unless he really does have tabs on everyone. Anyway, I got a tip that might give us an... edge. You’re going to need to grab a good kinetic belt, though. I get the feeling that even if we do pull this off, we’re going to end up in a lot of crosshairs.”

The young cop’s sharp features twisted in nervousness, “Pull what off, exactly?”

I told him.

*

*

*

“There is no way in Hell this is going to work. How do you know that Rass hasn’t found

out about you and switched vehicles?”

“He has,” I pointed at the detonator strapped to my chest, “Trust me, it’s not going to be a problem.”

The industrial zone had the most expansive area of any nearby districts. Underground, it also had a sophisticated network of tunnels that would make up a good portion of any criminal’s wet dreams. Adam Rass had an entire convoy of identical cars. Each one was painted glossy black and bore windows tinted the same shade. He would send out a single goonie to provide the two-way radio by which he would communicate. I’d gotten a tip from another client of his that revealed how he hid himself. Every time he made contact, Rass would set himself up at a different location, and would then use public communications towers to create a proxy system that would keep his hiding place a secret.

As expected, a tall, broad man in a black tailored suit emerged from one of the convoy vehicles that had just touched down. He held a single handheld unit and walked up to me. He was at least a foot taller than I, and at least that much wider at the shoulders. I kept the brim of my hat down over my eyes and took the radio without a word.

A red light flashed and a distorted voice warbled from the speaker, “You know, I almost expected you not to show up, Statuer. After all, we’re only a few blocks from the PMI district, and we all know how much they love your prying into their business.”

The fact made a tendon on Mike’s neck twitch. I’d have to work quickly, or else he might fold and ruin the entire plan. I growled, “I don’t think you’d want that, Rass. I’ve got plastic explosives strapped to every single one of your vehicles. The detonator is set to go off if I hit it, or if my heart stops. Everything in this lot burns. You’re going to slowly step out of the car, and you’re going to give us information. You might even get your pay if you behave.”

“That’s not a very professional way to conduc-”

I cut him off, “You’ve got three seconds... one... two...”

A door opened on one of the cars. I’d needed that bit of information. The cars were

obviously bulletproofed. A foot hit the pavement, and I took a deep breath. Everything suddenly came into focus. I could feel the synapses in my brain firing at incredible speeds, and the voice that came through the radio did so at a snail’s pace.

“Okay... you win... I’m stepping out now...” The foot bent slightly as the weight of its owner pressed forward.

In that moment, I unhooked my pistol and as the glint of a bald head emerged from the car’s interior, I fired. A resounding boom echoed throughout the deserted warehouses and lots, and a spray of blood and gristle burst from behind the head. Mike’s face showed surprise for a moment, but when he saw the rifle arc from where the goon had been levelling it at us, he understood that it wasn’t Rass. My concentration remained unbroken, and I hit the button on the detonator. The convoy did not explode, as I had promised, but a number of explosions ripped through the district. I looked over at Mike and nodded, carefully slowing my movements so that he would be able to tell that it was actually intentional on my part. He produced some equipment from his pack and began adjusting several dials.

“He’s behind us, about fifty meters back, and two and a half to our left.” My partner’s voice droned slowly. Now everything was ready. With every radio tower in the vicinity gone, the proxy had been knocked out for a moment and the radio had reverted to direct contact. This particular industrial district had been set for demolition for months. Bureaucracy was all that had kept it intact until now.

I turned and began sprinting toward the location Mike had triangulated. My pistol was pointed at where I hoped would be an intimidating angle. Rass’s voice, for the first time, sounded genuinely concerned.

“Alright, alright!” He wasn’t quite screaming, but his voice had a satisfyingly high pitch to it. “Look, I’ve got everything you need on me. I’ll work something out with you.”

A shimmer in the air before me indicated where the camouflaged car was parked. My pistol was raised at eye level, and I hit the the switch to engage my kinetic barrier. It was not a moment too soon, as the space in front of me, seemingly empty before, now contained an entire vehicle with a window that had just been blown out by a shotgun blast. The pellets bounced off

the shield surrounding my body and dropped to the ground in front of my feet. Not a moment too soon, as the energy pack on the belt ran out, its short battery life spent in those few seconds. Were I not focused on keeping my reaction times at such an accelerated level, I may have been more affected by the knowledge that at this range, the belt’s automatic systems would never have kicked in before the shot had torn me to pieces. They were generally only meant to prevent assassinations from a distance, not to protect from small arms fire. Nevertheless, I had brought myself within arms’ reach of Rass.

I grappled him by his hair and ripped him out of the car through the shattered window. He did scream this time. Red splotches dampened the extravagant gold and white suit he wore. I flipped my sidearms and brought it down on the side of his head, leaving him sprawled a few feet away. Before he could reach the handgun strapped to his belt, I’d taken it and pressed it against his head.

He spit a chalky mix of blood and dirt, “You won’t kill me. You...” He spat again, this time more blood than anything, “You need my information.”

“We’ll see about that,” A snarl escaped my lips. “Tell me what you know about PhenoMorphic Industries and the kidnapping of Marcus Statuer.”

Rass’s face was chiseled to a handsomeness that could only be bought. Even in such a situation, I could see how his charisma could affect people. Implants in his eyes whirred slightly, and I could see minuscule text flash over his pupils. “Right, right... your ‘father’ or whatever... he’s dead. They were trying to pull some information out of him, but he wouldn’t budge. Probably trying to get to you, since they can’t seem to get their people into Clearwater. They beat him to death over the information. Looks like it was pretty damn painful.”

My heart stopped for a second, but I pressed the barrel more forcibly into his scalp. “That’s not the right answer, Adam.”

He cringed, but amazingly kept his composure, “Fine. Yeah... he’s alive. They’ve got agreements with a bunch of nearby corporations. There’s territory all over where he might be right now.”

Good... that sounded right. Curiosity drove me on to one more question, “What’s your stake in all this? We don’t get along too well, but I have the cash, and you know I would have paid. Why try to protect the information?”

“They have a lot more than money, you goddamn pig...” His eyes were narrowed, but there was real fear there. Was it fear of me, or fear of what PMI might do?

“You don’t even know why he took you, do you?” He rasped, blood bubbling in his throat, “It wasn’t some noble cause, or because he wanted to right some wrong. He was just trying to save his own ass.”

My hands began to shake. No, I knew that man, my father, for since I could remember. I knew what him better than anyone; he’d raised me, for God’s sake. Rass was obviously lying.

“You’re pathetic. You can’t even live your life without someone who’s only playing daddy. You’re just a freak with a-”

My finger still squeezed the trigger for several seconds after the pistol fired. Heart beating against my chest, feeling like it was about to burst, I felt anger boiling over. I cursed, screamed, kicked Rass’s corpse. His head was mostly gone, and he was undeniably dead, but I grabbed the body and I flung it against the car. Red splattered on black, and more bloody holes appeared as I shot again and again.

One of the most prevalent issues with being a chimera is the likelihood of an early death. I was one of the lucky ones, and would most likely make it to forty, if I didn’t kill myself beforehand. Most chimeras end up with severe mental disabilities by the time they reach twenty. The near absence of dopamine causes intense hallucinatory schizophrenia and by the time they hit thirty, their motor functions don’t even work. It’s a slow, ugly death and it’s nearly guaranteed for any chimera. Even during the time in which their chemical balances are mostly stable, chimeras are prone to extreme emotions. Some become depressed, but others, like me, become enraged to the point of insanity.

I hadn’t noticed Mike come up to me.“That was a smart move, using thermal gel,” He said cautiously, “But they’ve got torches and are cutting their way out now. We should get

moving.”

I could feel the red-hot fury racing through me and the adrenaline flowing. “You should go, Patterson. Now.”

He didn’t wait for me to explain. We’d worked together long enough for him to know that my using his last name was enough of a warning. I could not feel my extremities. Pungent smells, those of death, invaded my nostrils and I focused my eyes on the vehicles. I’d intended to spare Rass’s goons from his fate. He might have even lived, if he’d kept his damned mouth shut. But now it was too late. My feet moved on their own and I stalked toward the nearest car. The occupant had nearly cut his way out of the door, and a boot pressed firmly against the inner wall cast it out onto the pavement. The henchman stepped out, and I noticed, for a moment, that he was nearly seven feet tall. His skin was rough and scarred, and a yellow tribal tattoo contrasted his dark skin. I didn’t care.

As he raised his arm to swing at me, I lunged forward. His eyes widened in surprise as my fingers dug into his. Fingernails sharpened like claws pierced his skin, and I slashed at him with animal rage. My fists pounded into his face, but before I had quite satisfied myself, I was flung to the side by a heavy fist. I noticed, as I landed on my hands and feet, that another door was opening. I might have left without another fight, but now it was too late. Besides, blood lust raged in my veins and encouraged me to keep fighting. It felt incredibly good.

As the second combatant emerged from his vehicle, I had already lifted the unconscious target of my first attack. A sudden burst knocked me backward as gore sprayed about from the fresh gaping wound in his chest. I dropped the body and leaped at the shooter. He hadn’t cocked the shotgun yet and the voracity of my lunge caused him to drop it. When my boots were on his chest and the claws of one of my hands digging into his throat, I reached with the other to grab the weapon. I took it in both hands and beat downwards. With every strike, I watched the man’s face become more and more featureless. His eyes were blackened, his nose crushed, and most of his jaw was in bloody chucks. I left this one alive. The all-consuming mania was beginning to die down by now, and I didn’t feel the urge for violence so strongly.

I left the scene by foot, taking a cab the rest of the way back to the station. I was covered in bruises, blood, and filth. But I had more information, and I felt good about that.

Maybe eventually I’d feel some regret for the violence, but at the time, there was little else in my mind. I really liked that part of it.