by Emily Mills, ©2000
"And I knew my memories, childhood or otherwise, were simply times that I rose up into consciousness and was intensely myself." -Darcey Steinke, Suicide Blonde
End of the line. The speaker overhead buzzed and popped with the voice of the pilot as the train started to slow. A screeching of metal on metal and the car lurched, sending bodies stumbling for a firmer hold. Then the inertia ceased and people grabbed for their things and exited out the doors that had slid open. Amoung them was a female form clad in a long, black leather coat over a dark blue, long-sleeved shirt that clung to the well-muscled body beneath. Baggy gray dress cargo pants and calve-high black boots that buckled up completed the wardrobe. The figure strode onto the subway platform and then towards the stairwell up without a pause. A gloved hand reached out and traced the grooves in the dirty tile wall as the body ascended the steps, the dull scraping noise it generated lost in the din of human traffic. As the woman finished the climb and stood for a moment, weight leaning against the metal railing, a single ray of sunlight broke through the thick cloud covering and reflected off the lenses of the silver wrap-around glasses she wore. A cold breeze toyed with the chaotic mass of black hair on the woman's head.
Pale but relatively full lips parted for an instant, powerful lungs inhaling the crisp afternoon air, and then twitched up into a brief grin. She left the rail and moved down the cracked sidewalk in a smooth, fluid movement, the gait of her tall, sleek body exuding nothing but pure animal grace and confidence as the sea of people parted easily before her.
She ended up in front of a tall, nondescript office building that was apparently under construction as most of it was covered by scaffolding. Her face, angular and precisely designed, titled up and regarded the structure before she continued on through the door. Inside, a pristine entry room greeted her. It was empty except for the security guard who was dozing peacefully behind a large security console. She sauntered quietly over to an elevator and boarded when the doors parted. As the lift crawled up on its' way, the woman reached inside her coat and pulled out a small, black metallic box and turned it over in her strong hands as she eyed it carefully. A sensitive finger located the tiny latch holding the lid on and slid it open. Another grin stole across her features and then the box was returned to her jacket pocket as the lift reached its destination. Down a narrow hallway, past identical black doors, until her form came to the very last of the portals and paused in front of it to lift a fist up and knock.
Shuffling papers could be heard beyond and a low, grumbling curse, then the door flew open to reveal a man of medium height and build, with short, sandy hair clinging unhappily to his head. His eyes adjusted to the light of the hallway, the office beyond being almost totally dark save the glowing of a computer display, and as comprehension dawned on him, an eyebrow raised in question.
"Auset? To what do I owe this--" he paused and shrugged. "--pleasure?"
She merely reached back into her coat and produced the box, watching contentedly as the look on the man's face went from indifference to pure, uninhibited interest.
"That's not--" he began but Auset cut him off.
"Yes. Now can we go inside so the whole goddamn world doesn't see it?"
"Of course, I'm sorryÉcome in," he managed and stepped aside so as to allow her figure to slip past before he closed the door.
The world was growing dark with evening as Auset left the office building and headed for a parking garage just across the street. A set of keys jingled merrily in her grip as her gaze went skyward and her nostrils flared.
Rain. She thought grimly. Great, but at least now I don't have to walk in it. Her strikingly blue eyes sparkled mischievously as she approached a sleek black sports car and pressed the security button in the key chain, causing the car to issue a soft beep and unlock its' doors. She let her eyes run over the length of the exquisite vehicle before opening the driver side door and lowering her body into the comfortable leather seat. Key in the ignition and a twist of the wrist and the engine roared to life.
Ooo. Gotta love that sound.
She pulled the car out of the garage and braved the busy streets of the city at rush hour, navigating through the traffic with great skill. Her job paid well; this car was testimony to that. Not that the money really mattered, though, frankly she didn't care about it. What she liked was being able to do something that she enjoyed and that she was quite good at. One of the best in her area, people said. The knowledge that everyone from small-time, mom-and-pop operations to big time corporations came to her when they needed someone was all the satisfaction she required. The fact that the other half of humankind probably hated her without knowing specifically who she was didn't phase her...really, it didn't.
Auset was a hacker, so much so that she had never made that claim herself. She had gone pro just two years earlier, after dropping out of college and a "career" in singing that was going nowhere fast. Now she got hired by companies that wanted her to check out their network security. To make sure that there were no holes. If she could break in, the theory was, some renegade punk would be able to as well. She'd report the weak points in the system to the company and they'd fix it. Sometimes they paid her extra to fix it herself. Sometimes they paid extra for her to 'fix' problems with people too. In fact, 99% of what she did was illegal as most of the companies that hired her were less than legitimate operations that needed someone like her to take care of their problems--she wouldn't turn them in. Auset was never fond of some of the things she had to do, but this was the line of work she was good at and once you started it was damned hard to get out. It drew you in. She had her reasons for doing it, and those convictions kept her going--for a while at least.
Auset pulled the car into a carport outside of a rather nice looking apartment building. While she put most of the money she earned into savings, the few things she allowed herself were a nice apartment and lots of computer equipment. Her place was on the fourth floor which, to the athletic side of her brain, meant no-elevator-required. After the quick climb and a brief wrestle with the keys, she entered the apartment and took a deep breath. The walls were covered with posters of various musicians, coding languages, and one large promotional poster for an old Bruce Lee movie. The bed was simply a mattress that lay in the corner of the main room next to a large desk that was covered by three computer monitors, numerous hard drives, printer, scanner, digital camera, mini-cam, and tons of wire. Her nest, she called it. On the far wall she had a workout machine and a punching bag that hung from the ceiling. There were various martial arts weapons hanging from hooks on the wall as well.
Auset crossed the room, tossed her jacket onto the floor, and sat down lazily in the large, comfortable chair at the centre of her "Nest." The voicemail icon was blinking impatiently in the lower left-hand corner of her main monitor.
"Open new voicemail," she spoke to the air and the tiny microphone that took voice commands. The screen flickered to life and displayed the voicemail menu. One new message.
The computer thought about it for a second and then complied by playing back the message. A familiar voice sounded out of the speakers.
"Auset, hon, this is Ash. I've decided that you need to get out of your little pit tonight and join us in the land-o-the-living. Come on by the club around eight and I'll get ya in free, like usual. Ciao!" the message ended and the computer waited patiently for her next command.
"Ash, you punk," she mumbled to herself with a chuckle. "Minimize program." Obediently, the voicemail menu disapeared.
She stretched her long legs out and released a lengthy groan as joints popped and clicked in protest. Long day. A little time at the club sounded good, and she'd get to show off her new car to Ash.
Some good booty-shaking was sure to liven up even the most horrid of days, and a horrid day it had been indeed. Reese had woken up with a splitting headache the size of Texas, her blond-gold hair completely disheveled, and her stomach in knots.
"That'll teach ya not to get conned into a drinking contest, smart-stuff," she had mumbled to the empty loft and cradled her head in a somewhat shaky hand. Reese had never been able to hold any sort of liquor for her life, but somehow she managed to trick herself into drinking quite excessively on many occassions. The previous night had been no exception.
Slowly she had wobbled to her feet and then grabbed hold of the nearest solid object as her stomach and head began to protest violently. Back on the bed, you wench!
But Reese, being of a stubborn nature, had insisted on stumbling off toward the kitchen in hopes of brewing up a batch of hangover cure. Halfway there, a sudden detour for the bathroom became necessary as her stomach made good on its' promise of rebellion.
After a serious get-to-know-you session with her toilet, Reese finally collected herself, made some coffee, and sat down to consider the day ahead of her. She looked up from the brown sludge swirling lethargically in a mug at the mirror just across the table from where she sat.
A set of deep green orbs peered back at her, the skin beneath them an unhappy shade of dark gray, and a few errant wisps of blond hair fell across her forehead. On a good day, she was quite an attractive young woman, though she would never admit that herself. Today, however, her appearance very nearly matched how she felt.
But there was an evening at the club to look forward to. An evening with her boyfriend Dade, who sometimes was a little too suffocating, and hell, flakey, for his own good, but was generally a fun guy to hang out with. He was a definite step up from her previous boyfriends; mostly immature skater-dudes throughout high school and then the one complete psycho from three months ago. Nothing had ever been very serious and to be honest, though Dade was a cool fella, she still didn't feel all that attatched to the poor guy.
The phone rang then, snapping her mind out of its somewhat comfortable haze, and her throat issued an unhappy grumble. She lifted the reciever from the cradle and pressed it to her ear.
"Hello?" she rasped.
"Honey? Is that you? This is your mother...are you okay? You sound sick."
Damn. "Yeah hi mom...it's me...and no I'm not sick. I just woke up and my throat is a little scratchy."
Reese loved her mother dearly and in fact, got along with her quite well (when the woman was actually Stateside). Her mother was a rather well-known archeaologist who had been traveling the globe extensively ever since the divorce from Reese's father just over a year ago. Reese was simply not in the mood at that moment to talk to anyone.
"Hmm...you sure? You sound ill...but anyway...I just wanted to call and check to see how things are! So how are things?" her mother asked as a clanging sound issued from the background.
"Things are just fine, mom. What was that noise?" Reese inquired as she held the phone a little ways away from her sensitive ears.
"Oh...you know...I just dropped a chisel. Working on the latest findings we made at the dig over in Greece. Just got back the other day, actually. Brought you back a present...should come in the mail in a couple of days."
"Thanks. And thanks for calling...it's good to hear from you," she decided to bite the bullet. "I'm sorry I don't sound awfully excited at the moment, but I'm afraid I have a bit of a hangover."
"Mm..." a sigh and then, "Honey, y'know better than that! I know it's your life and all, but you ARE underage and you know you never could hold your liquor for anything."
"Well it's true! Now just try to be more responsible, OK? Especially when you start school. I don't want you wasting your time and money at that place because you couldn't get out of bed in the morning," a muffled beeping noise now came from the background. "Oh, dear, I've gotta go. I need to have my initial report on all this sent in within the next hour or the boss is gonna tan my hide. I'll talk to you soon! Love ya!"
"Love you too, mom," Reese chuckled silently at her mother's suddenly frantic tone and could just picture the woman furiously prodding and poking at whatever artifacts she had. She set the phone back into the cradle and stared at it briefly before her eyes drifted back to the now cooling cup of murky black liquid before her. Her stomach began to churn again and she decided very quickly that asprin was definately in order.
The sun was beginning its' decent below the horizon line, throwing golden shadows across the wood floor of Reese's loft with reckless abandon, as she finally emerged from a nice, hot shower. As her somewhat short, but very sturdy and well-toned form made its' way toward the closet, her phone rang again.
As she listened to the person on the other end, a brief grin twitched across her lips. A pause and then, "Yeah, no problem. See ya then." She replaced the reciever.
An S&M club??
Early evening, the stars just barely showing in the sky above in fierce competition with the quickly moving rain clouds. Reese found herself standing in an alleyway outside of a club, waiting for a rather large doorman to let her in from the pouring rain. Inside, she could hear the dull thud of the bassline for the Industrial music that provided the soundtrack for the S&M clothing fasion show she was catching glimpses of. Dade had asked her to meet him there at eleven so that he could meet a friend before they went on to The Omega. The rain was soaking her to the bone and she shivered visably. Large Doorman, taking pity on her, allowed her to stand just inside the doorway to wait. She wouldnÕt be allowed in because her name wasnÕt on the list.
That wasn't a suprise though. Reese wasn't a regular here and in fact she had never even set foot in the place before now. Had you told her eariler in the day that she would be at a S&M club in the Halstead district of Chicago that night, she would have laughed. "Funny where the day takes ya," she thought to herself.
But it wasn't that she didn't like the place. It was simply that she had never bothered to come before. She lived on the opposite side of the city (in a cozy loft she had snagged just as the previous owner was about to move out. It was rather like finding a parking spot in Chicago) and hadn't been there very long anyway. The only club she had scoped out was The Omega, which was good enough for the time being. That was where she had met Dade. Meeting guys at clubs was not her usual habit either but things had just sort of happened like that. Hell, there was a first time for everything, right?
She glanced down at her watch after peeling off a completely water-logged jacket to see that it was ten 'til eleven.
People watching was absolutely fantastic here though, she had to admit. As Reese stood, leaning against the brick wall next to Large Doorman, she watched the myriad of individuals coming and going from the club. The variety was enough to satisfy even the most outlandish voyueristic tastes. Some were being lead on leashes, others were doing the leading. There were people who looked as though they were probably repectable business folk. And then there were the people whom Reese was positive had to be either acrobats or magicians, because how else could they possibly have gotten into those outfits?
She was deep in thought considerng this when she turned to face the fashion show again. Someone slammed into her as she turned and Reese, taken offgaurd by the sudden impact, went spilling over onto the ground.
"Shit! I'm sorry! Are you okay?" a tenor but very female voice with an odd accent rang out above her.
"I, uh...yeah I'm fine," Reese responded as the person with whom she had collided helped her up off the floor. "I shoulda been paying more attention to what I was doing. Sorry."
"No problem. Some of these outfits can be quite, uh...distracting, eh?" Here the woman paused and seemed to clear her throat. "M'name's Auset."
"Auset. I'm Reese," she knodded. The lighting in the club was horrible but Reese could still make out the very stunning and very defined features of the woman she now faced. She was tall and lean, finely toned (but not obscenely so) muscles were visible just under the form-fitting shirt Auset wore, and though well-built she still possessed a very uniquely feminine body. The face, Reese decided, was definately the most intriuging feature. She had a high, gently sloping forehead and pronounced cheekbones that cast interesting shadows over her features. It was a fiercely individual face and undeniably beautiful as well. Auset's attractiveness was easily matched by the self-assured, dominating presence she had over everything around her. But she seemed friendly enough. And then there were the eyes. They were hard to miss. Even in the bad light she could see the increadibly peircing and deep blue eyes staring at her. There was something all together unnerving about them, and yet they seemed so familiar. She had the sudden urge to dive into them, but just as she was zoning out, the owner of the eyes spoke.
"There's someone behind you who appears to be trying to get your attention," Auset spoke and nodded towards the figure standing behind Reese. Dade had noticed Reese from across the club, conversing with the tall and dark girl now infront of him. Good God, those eyes.
"Heya Reese," he said cheerfully and swooped around her to plant a playful kiss on her lips.
"Dade! Shit, I've been waiting here forever! You find your friend?"
"Mhm, yeah. He left me for the back stage action so I thought I'd come over here and rescue you."
Reese's face expressed mock indignation.
"Rescue me? From what?" she remembered the girl infront of her. "Oh...this is Auset. I just, uh, bumped into her a minute ago. Auset, this is Dade, my boyfriend."
At the word 'boyfriend', Auset flinched slightly, but not perceptively. She cocked a grin and stuck her hand out to shake Dade's.
"Good to meet you. I think I've actually seen you here before , Dade."
He blushed and looked at his feet.
"I'm not a regular, but I like to look," he replied passively.
"Voyuerism is a fun hobby," she winked slightly. "But I can't say that I've ever seen green eyes 'ere before. You drag her along for a night of eye-opening fun?" Auset inquired good-humoredly.
"Ah, he told me to meet him here," Reese jumped in. "It's not like I've never seen this kinda thing before." She was trying to make herself look good. To not seem so naive. Why on earth was she bothering? It wasnÕt like she needed to impress the girl. Auset just raised her eyebrows and smiled cheekily.
"Oh, I wasn't saying that you hadn't. But I'm suprised he left you alone in this place. You woulda gotten swept away by some handsome stranger in vinyl before long if he hadn't gotten 'ere when he did."
Reese turned an interesting shade of red and smiled uneasily. She was thankful for the bad lighting now.
Oh but she loved the way this Reese girl smiled. The way the skin between her eyes and above her nose crinkled up when she grinned. It was so...well, endearing. Strange, really. Auset had never felt so comfortable around someone she had just met. And there was something so familiar in the forest green eyes that gave her the most increadible deja-vu. What the hell?
"Stay for a drink?" the tall and dark one asked invitingly. The accent sounded British, but there was something else in it too....
"We really ought to get going. Someone's waiting for us at The Omega and I think weÕre already late," Dade piped up. He was starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the way this Auset chick was eyeing Reese. And now that he thought about it, the way Reese was eyeing Auset too.
"The Omega, eh? Well, by all means. I'll see you around though?" she asked and looked inquiringly at Reese, who almost choked when their eyes met. She looked away quickly and answered.
"Um...mm, yeah. Definately. See ya."
"Later," Auset said matter-of-factly as the two excused themselves and exited into the alleyway, where the rain was still falling steadily in the night.
"That was odd." Reese and Auset thought it at the same time; Reese as she headed towards her car with Dade, and Auset as she turned to watch the last bit of the fashion show before heading off to keep Ash company while he tended the bar.
Auset had actually gone to The Omega later that night to see if she could find Reese, but to no avail. She couldnÕt believe she had even done it. First-sight crushes and immediate tracking down were not things she did, not in the least. There was just something that told her she had to. When she hadnÕt been able to locate the girl she wasnÕt disappointed but rather comforted by a strange feeling that she would indeed see her again.
And she did.
The following night, Reese still couldnÕt shake the image of the amazingly blue eyes that seemed to have burned itself into her retinas. She hadnÕt stopped thinking about the whole exchange since it had happened and found that she kept having the crazy urge to go back to the club and track the woman down.
"Uh, Dade. Yeah, hi. I don't think I'm going to be going out tonight," a pause as the person on the other line spoke. "No, no, I'm all right. Just a little tired. Want to make sure I'm not coming down with anything so I'm taking it easy tonight. Sorry."
She hung up the phone and stared at it for a moment.
"What in the hell am I doing?" she said aloud. Reese had just lied to her boyfriend so that she could go back to the club from the previous night to see if she could find Auset. "I am insane. Yes, that must be it."
Dusk, and the really interesting people were just starting to emerge onto the streets of Halstead as she got off the El train and headed toward the club. This really was a cool little area. Low crime rates and generally happy inhabitants. Well yeah, it is gay town after all, she thought wryly to herself. Reese rounded the corner and entered the familiar alleyway. At least it was dry tonight, and she could get in because there would be no fashion show. Pulling her jacket more tightly around her body and taking a deep breath, she stepped up to Large Doorman. He looked down at her, being that he was a good foot taller, and smiled an unexpectedly friendly smile.
"Back for more, eh?" he teased and let her through, after taking her money. The first area she came into was a foyer of sorts that was basically open to the main sitting area of the club. Beyond that lay the dancefloor, where a considerably large amount of patrons were bumping and grinding their way around one another. Well, at least some of them had the freedom to do that. Some of the people were restricted to a knee-level view of the world because of their leashes. Pulling her eyes off the crowd, she scanned for an empty table and found one in the very corner (nice and dark there), saunted over to it, and plopped herself down into a chair. Now what?
She had planned everything up until this point. From here she just waited and watched, hoping that maybe Auset would be back tonight. It was a stretch, but she found that she had to do it. Besides, even if Auset didn't show, at least she was getting some great eye-candy for the evening.
Continued in Part 2
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