Chapter 8: Crank
Crank was bigger than he thought it would be.
The other clubs had been holes, pitted into the sides of dilapidated buildings with steel grates and barred windows. Then again, they had been different kinds of clubs.
It was misleading to see the men and women dancing in the cages; they were all smiles and winks. But X knew there was something more here… Something sinister beneath the surface.
From the peripherals of the crowd, he saw the high-rollers in their booths, being entertained by young women in less than tasteful fashions. He saw the bartenders as they made their subtle trades in folded cocktail napkins. He saw the charming pimps as they slipped discreet things into the drinks of single women.
It made him sick.
This city was sick.
X watched the people dance as he wound his way here and there. He was trying to come up with a plan, something concrete…
He knew his mind was fraying slightly at the edges. One doesn’t do what he does and remain healthy, not normally. And there wasn’t a lot about X that was normal.
One hand went up to rub the raised skin of the mark on the back of his neck.
Arrowhead. I know you bastards have something to do with Arrowhead.
The thought brought a snarl to his face. He was going to find them, and he was going to make them give back what they had taken from him; His memories, his name, his past, his life.
He paid no mind to the people he bumped. If they looked, he’d already be gone, and they would just assume someone else had nudged them. Sometimes he watched the people dance and wondered idly what it would be like to join them. They looked so happy, so carefree…
His eyes lit on a pair of women who were dancing. He started to dismiss them as a happy little couple. One was a pink haired cyborg and the other had black hair and her eyes were closed. Something familiar about her made him stop and watch a moment longer.
As he did so, some man started to get in her face.
X knew terror when he saw it. He dealt it out frequently now-a-days, so it was simple for him to recognize.
The angry voice inside his chest started to rage at the indifference of this drunken ingrate. The blindness of some people, the blatant disregard made him furious. Humanity was a weak little runt as it was, and these worms of society were only gnawing at its feeble body. Even these little injustices, these little interruptions in something pure and honest enraged him to the point that the tiniest degree of red came into his vision.
Before he knew he had done it, the man was sprawled out on his back on the floor, being slowly overcome by the other dancers.
The dancing girls fell to the back of his mind as the anger started to take root in his head. Not even the calm voice of reason in there could overcome the energy of this place. He forced himself to keep moving and not pound this stranger’s face in with his boot.
There is so much more energy here. X thought, a grin of malicious glee spreading across his face. More energy meant more things he could do. The more things he could do, the more justice he could enact on these corrupt, festering creatures. The more justice he enacted, the more there was potential to get answers.
X moved like a shadow to the far end of the bar, closest to the rounded booths full of well dressed people. He sat there, perched like a vulture, and watched.
It felt like an age passed by, and as it did, X’s hands tensed and flexed on the cool surface of the bar. Practice made perfect – and now the lights didn’t even flicker when he took from them. Not if he focused hard enough. Eventually his skin tingled with it, and that was when he saw what he was looking for.
On the upper level lounge, a woman came down the hall and leaned on the railing, a smile on her face that would curdle milk.
Mahogany hair cascaded over her bare shoulders.
X dove into the crowd. He bumped dancers as he went. Some woman was pushed into the arms of her dance partner, some guy spilled his drink, and a green-haired punker with an eyepiece almost knocked over a pink-streaked cyborg. X barely heard her call after him to watch it.
No. She was telling the green-haired guy to watch it. She can’t see you.
Content in that fact, X arrived at the stairs leading up only to be blocked by a mountainous bouncer. The man had significant girth, and X wouldn’t be able to just slip by him. So, he did the next best thing.
“Excuse me.” X rasped. He tapped the big man on the arm. He was dressed in a black suit and red shirt, tiny ear-bud in his ear and black sunglasses hid his eyes.
What’s the word he was looking for… ah yes; Tacky. The sunglasses were so Tacky.
The big man’s eyebrows went up when he realized X was standing there, and he frowned. “No one goes up. The bathrooms are next to the bar.” He jerked his thumb in the direction X had come.
X smiled wanly at him. “I have a meeting with the boss.”
They always said stuff like that. He seemed to remember that as some sort of… what was that…. Cliché.
The big man smirked. “He’s already in a meeting. Nice try. Get lost.”
X’s eyebrow twitched a fraction. Being nice never seemed to work with these people. “You work for him, right?”
The big man’s smile extended from ear to ear. “Fuckin’ right, little man.”
Little. The eyebrow twitched again. “They pay you good? Anything you need? You know… anything?”
The big man chuckled. “That’s right. Anything I need.”
X could almost see the glimmer in his eyes. That sickening, gluttonous glimmer he’d seen in the eyes of so many people down here in Cellar City. It was dirty.
“Women?” X pressed. His blue eyes narrowed conspiratorially.
The bouncer laughed. It sounded dirty. “Hell yeah. I could have any one of these. And they would give me one hell of a riding, you know what I’m sayin?”
X shrugged. “I could give you one better.”
His blood hummed, and his fists clenched at his sides. He felt like he was holding back a pack of wolves. His spine felt like it trembled.
The big man lost his humor and scoffed. “Back off, faggot.”
X’s expression faded to an emotionless façade. Tasteless bigots. He hated bigots. “You’re headed to hell anyway, right?”
The big man had a look of anger and confusion on his face as he went to respond – but X was too fast for him.
In the blink of an eye, X had leaped and wrapped both hands around the bouncer’s neck, and let the pack of wolves burn into him. It trailed down his arms like coils of lightning. It pumped uncontrolled into the big man’s frame. From where X was latched, he could feel the hysterical beat of his heart as he tried to deal with the current that ravaged his body.
“I’m just going to send you there now – save you the wait.” X snarled, glaring into the big black holes that were his eyes. The last thing the bouncer saw was X’s glaring electric eyes and the grin that spread across his face like poison.
He didn’t let go until the smell reached his nose.
That was when the nearest screams erupted from the booths.
X’s vision was dyed a shade of red as he looked back up to the second floor. He growled in rage when he saw no sign of the Mahogany hair. He saw only a few half clothed people emerge from the rooms in alarm, and a blonde stripper run back down the hall.
No, no, NO! I won’t lose this piece! X clutched at his head, forcing down the anger out of desperation. There were too many people here. He couldn’t focus on being overlooked if he got too angry. If he got too angry, then everyone would see, every one would know that he was one of the monsters.
As the red ebbed slowly, he turned back to the crowd just in time to see the fist that struck him to the ground.
“Check him, Ernie! Go call the police, Useless!” A voice, far away shouted.
When X’s face hit the floor, the receding red sprang back into his sights and stained his world with blood.
Oh, there was going to be no hiding today. If he couldn’t have his answers, then he would just have to do a bit of house-cleaning.
X splayed his hands on the floor and pulled. For a second the DJ booth went silent and the dancers snapped out of there reverie like puppets with cut strings. The lights gave a weak flicker, and the song skipped to the first track as it harmlessly rebooted. Lightning played between X’s fingertips.
“Get up, fucker.” Ernie commanded, pulling on the back of X’s jacket and spinning him about.
Here, piggy, piggy…
A raucous laugh bubbled up from X-XIII’s lips. He darted his hand out and unclipped and drew Ernie’s gun. He fired three rounds into Ernie’s chest before breaking the bigger man’s hold, slipping past the falling body, and sliding towards the other man who gave the orders. X tossed the gun up and as it fell he caught the barrel and brought the butt down on the boss’s nose. He smashed the cartilage in a spew of blood. X brought the gun around once more to the side of the man’s head, and brought him down like a box of rocks.
X was barely conscious of the screaming. What he was conscious of was the space that opened up around him, and the steady stream of new targets barreling his way.
X leveled the gun with a smile and fired.
I’ll show you what you get for being loyal to a snake.