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  • Jason Stealth

Fun read: Creative Writing school assignment

Last week, in my Creative Writing master's degree program, we had an interesting project: to come up with a setup and provide three options for the protagonist to respond to the situation with. The rest of the class then votes on the response, and the original author finishes the story based on whatever response wins the vote.


I went with a Neo-Noir Sci-Fi setup, partially inspired by my Twitter header image of a cyberpunk Boston skyline with a dash of Blade Runner and/or Judge Dredd vibes. I've included the entire thing below. I hope you enjoy it.



The year is 2352. The neon and concrete stacks that make up the heart of New Boston tower over the soot-smeared labyrinth of streets, tunnels, and alleyways beneath, disappearing into the blanket of city smog that consumed the sun and moon over a century ago. Down here, in the musty, perpetual night, everyone has a price.


Everyone including this one guy, known as "An Cloigeann" - or, "The Skull" - on account of his being one of those rare types whose body doesn't reject cybernetic implants the way the rest of us do, and he became obsessed with them. At this point, he's cut more of himself out than he's kept, with one of the upgrades being his namesake electronic housing that encases what's left of his human brain. He's the one who'll tell you where those hackers you've been hired to find are hiding, then it's time to pay those nerds a little visit, rough them up, shut down their operation, and collect a nice, fat payday from a very satisfied client. Easy enough.


You reach the alleyway and see An Cloigeann's car parked near the end of it. It's one of those nice ones, fully self-driving and capable of vertical takeoff and flight, making it easy for people who can afford that sort of thing to reach the more luxurious upper levels. You approach the car, and the window rolls down. The descriptions were all accurate - this man's face is literally a just robotic-looking skull wearing fashionable sunglasses.


"Are you The Skull?" you ask.


"Oi, what the fuck do you think, compadre?" he replies. This is weird. His mouth doesn't move when he speaks - his voice just emits from a hidden speaker behind his teeth, and his words illuminate with sound-driven RGB lighting throughout his face, because of course they do. "You got the money, gumshoe?"


"Yeah, I got it right here," you reply, reaching into your overcoat and getting out a plain envelope. "Twenty-thousand credits. New Boston format."


"Yeah, that's great," An Cloigeann replies. "Now go get more. The price doubled since the last time we spoke, lad."


You reply diplomatically, with "What?! This is complete horseshit!"

"Hey, I did some digging around on these hacker fools you're trying to get at, and these guys don't seem like your usual dorks with fancy computers and questionable morals - this crew is some sophisticated craziness with a lot of funding and an unsettling number of people that do things like 'go missing' or 'have accidents' when they start asking too many questions about them if you catch my drift, mate." He uses the LEDs in his glasses to blink at you a few times sarcastically, because of course he does.

"What? Does the big, bad underworld tough guy need hazard pay for safety? Do you want some 'assurances' next?" you taunt.


"Heh, not at all, mate. I just think I should get more money out of you before you wind up getting eighty-sixed by these jokers, dig?" he replies, completely deadpan.


[VOTING OPTIONS:]


{A}: "It'd be a damn shame if a whole lot of people heard about you trying to get out of a deal with me because you were scared of some hackers. I imagine credibility is very important in your profession, compadre."


{B}: "Ugh. You're a scumbag." [Comply and wire him the remaining $20k through digital means]


{C}: "I'm going out on a limb here, but you seem to be the type of guy who doesn't like to have holes in you." [expose the handle of the gun holstered beneath your jacket]


[STORY CONTINUES WITH OPTION C WINNING THE VOTE:]


An Cloigeann leans further out his car window and chuckles at you. "Are ye taking the piss right now, boyo?"


Before you can even attempt to begin formulating a response, your right ear is ringing and you're spinning around in place. You couldn't have even seen it coming - the back of a hand, a hand made entirely of metal, moving at impossible speed, smashing into the side of your face with the force of the broad side of a claw hammer swung by a bodybuilder who's thoroughly furious with you. Next, you're on the ground, grimacing at the grit in your mouth that you're certain are fragments of your own teeth.


You grasp at the grip of your gun, drawing it and taking aim as you roll yourself over, but he's already out of the car and rearing back his foot. "Don't even try it, ye gobshite!" he shouts, delivering a kick to your chest that knocks the wind out of you and sends you sliding a foot-and-a-half backward across the grimy asphalt, knocking your gun from your hand. It clanks violently across the ground as it tumbles under a nearby dumpster.


You've never seen someone move so quickly. He's already standing over you before you've stopped sliding, and he's got you by the lapels of your overcoat as he hauls you up off the ground. He's using the LEDs in his glasses to make mean-looking, angry eyes at you that would be legitimately ridiculous in any other situation, because of course he does. You can't help but chuckle.


The RGB eyes are absurd.


"Ye think this is funny, ye scut?", he shouts.


"You know, your accent really comes out when you're pissed off, huh?" you reply, probably making your situation worse.


"Aye," he says, followed up by another open-handed slap from a completely metal hand. It feels like you've been hit in the face with a small frying pan. "It does, indeed."


He pushes you back to the pavement with the power of a steam piston and straightens his jacket as he stands. "Ye got a hefty set o' bollocks on ye, ya cheeky little shite. I'll give ya that." He reaches into his jacket and pulls forth a small thumb drive. He tosses it down on the ground next to you.


"Hey, thanks..." you mumble.


"Don't mention it," he says, starting to walk away. He gets back in his car and looks at you through the open window as you painfully begin to stand. "By the way," he says, "Yer upper-level rights are hereby revoked, mate. If I see ye any higher than subdecks, yer fookin' dead. Ya hear me, now?"


You grasp at your potentially broken ribs as you get back to your feet. "I hear you," you respond in the hoarse whisper that's all you're able to muster.


"Ye better," he says. "Now fuck off, ya prick." He winks at you using the LEDs in his glasses, because of course he does. His vehicle lifts off vertically in an absolutely reckless fashion, quickly vanishing into the smog layer overhead. You are left alone, bruised, and bleeding on a back street deep within the sub-city.


Standing there, gathering your composure in the clammy, steaming alleyway, battered in both body and pride, you make a mental note to never, ever again threaten a person obsessed with cybernetic body modifications.

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