- This is the first chapter of my new novel, 6 Harlots: Rebirth of a Nation. You can find my other novels and short stories on my website. All of my books are available in paperback and ebook formats.
- *This excerpt contains explicit content.*
On the fringes of the horizon, across the sprawling pink poppy fields of Battle-Zone II, Jane watched through her binoculars as the gaunt viro stumbled and fell to the dirt, far away from the pickup point. It was more prestigious for the hunter to bring the rabbit back alive, let them become another notch for Geibler, but once a vreak broke free from its leash it was hellfire to get it under control.
Jane revved her turbobike, flipped up the kickstand, and tore down the poppy-lined single-lane road until she reached the first sign of life. Even thirty miles or so from the outermost limits of Neo-Philadelphia, Jane flew underneath billboards for LoveYourGunCorp, the FREEDOMWORLD complex and milking bar located in Shiloh, and the ViroExtender 3000 — guaranteed to provide more length than any other competitor or previous model.
“Does your viro know you’re out?” a giant transmission asked Jane as she approached on the bike — the virtual advertisement for narcocigs turned its head to the side as she blew past.
“FREEDOMWORLD: Shiloh now offering all the latest maps and campaigns. Have a viro’s day out or quality father-son time. Whoever you choose to kill Undesirables with, make sure to take advantage of the two-for-one special at the Milking Bar located on Trump Avenue!”
“Regulations are chains. Deregulation is freedom,” the next sign read.
“America First! America Always! America Forever!”
“Tugs for Stubs: Receive a free tug when you show your ticket stub emission for Rebirth of a Nation. Deal good all season!”
Still within earshot of the reiterating billboards, Jane pulled her turbobike up to a war bunker that had been refashioned to house a roadside saloon. The narconex smoke seeping out from under the establishment’s door hit her nostrils the moment she pulled off her helmet — it had the sour-apple scent that the Narconex brand was known for, as opposed to the bitter coffee stench that accompanied opianzoprene (“opie” for short), the stuff they sold up in Putingrad. Jane’s mouth began to water.
Jane had grown accustomed to the looks she received whenever she entered a frontier saloon or city-fringe bar. Most of these viros probably hadn’t seen a harlot out on her own for months, let alone one strutting into a smoke-filled, whiskey-slathered watering hole. Rings lined her ears, eyebrows, and lips, and a scar ran down her cheek that rivaled the self-mutilation and scarring any member of an Atlantic City turbobike gang would proudly display.
She broke for the back of the saloon and split open a curtain that led to a closed steel door guarded by a pair of armed viros.
“I’m here to see Papa,” she said, eyes shifting from one to the other, awaiting a response.
“He expecting you?”
“I’m one of his harvesters.”
The guards laughed, both showing some type of human emotion for the first time.
“You harvest for Papa? That what that knife is for?” he said, gesturing to a handle visible on her chest.
“Yeah, that’s what it’s for. We went over this last time. Now can I…”
“You any good with it?” asked the other one.
“I’m a krukkin’ magician with it, if you really wanna know. Now can someone go in there and tell him Jane is outside.”
“Jane, huh? Jane Blade?”
“That does sound better,” he said, more to the other guard than to Jane.
“Okay, okay,” the other replied, and without turning around, he swung his fist behind him, banging it three times against the metal, never taking his eyes off of her.
The door opened. Naked flesh on velvet pillows and plush red carpets filled the space between the guards’ burly shoulders. Before she could even take a step, a smell washed over her, so delicate and yet so powerful with nuts and fruit and a hint of cigar — opium, but far more complex than any narconex or opianzoprene she had ever encountered.
“Send her in! Send her in!” a voice cut through the smoke.
“You’re not goin’ nowhere without droppin’ off that blade first,” said one of the guards.
She shed her blades one by one, letting the two from her forearm shivers drop to the floor between the guard’s feet. She popped out two six-inch daggers from her bootstraps, a pair of three-inchers from behind each heel, four more from her skin-tight bullet-proof vest — the best on the market — and a pair of seven-inch ripple-forged steel daggers from her triceps, lifting each arm as if she were trying to lick her elbow and sliding the blade out from the grip. Finally, hidden underneath her leather jacket, she pulled two eighteen-inch mini-swords out from the sheaths that formed an X on her back, and dropped them on the floor with the others.
“Fourteen,” she said. “I want ’em all back without so much as a breath mark on the steel.” Jane brushed past the guards, whose jaws now hovered inches above her weapons, and entered the lounge, the fifteenth blade, the one they had first noticed, still resting horizontally over her heart. KILL HRLTS was written on the pommel.
“Such a terrible shame, Jane, such a shame,” said the voice as Jane waded her way through the smoke and found Papa Poppy lounging sideways on a bright-red couch. “We all listened to it over the transmitter. Call me old fashioned, but I still love to listen to a good hunt over the waves and let my imagination take over.”
“Papa, there was nothing I could do. I was at the pickup point…”
Jane paused as a harlot appeared from behind Papa’s backside, wiping lubricant from her mouth. Reaching around his hips, her hand disappeared behind his loincloth.
“That’s enough for now,” he said, grabbing her wrist. “Go fill up two hypo-jabs. I need my afternoon nap.” He groaned as he lifted himself up into a seated position.
The thought of injecting whatever it was Papa Poppy was enjoying in his den of smoke and flesh made Jane teeter in her place.
“Look at that one,” he said, pointing to the naked harlot on her way to fill up the syringe. “And this one.” He smacked another on the behind as she passed with a tray of shot glasses filled with clear liquor. “Bet you can’t tell which one is real and which one isn’t!” Papa smiled and cracked his neck from side to side. “Ahhh. I’ll tell ya, it stings to imagine what those loko viros are gonna create long after I’m vreak feed. Ha! But I’ll tell ya what, I’d pay this season’s profits for that one’s tongue alone,” he said, pointing with his chin to the bleached harlotoid who had had her tongue in his backside when Jane first walked in.
Under the impression one of the dripping hypo-jabs was for her, Jane reached for a syringe when the harlotoid placed the pillowed tray in front of the almost naked sweat-glistened viro.
He smacked at her hand. “Uh uh uh. No organs, no treats,” he said, the playfulness vanishing from his voice.
“You saw what the rabbit was up against! I mean, they don’t even give the mek a chance anymore! The vreaks make it unfair!”
“You think the fine…” Papa Poppy launched the cherry-red liquid into a fat vein that had availed itself in his forearm, and as the drugs pushed through the syringe, the wrinkly viro’s eyes rolled back in his head and drool fell out of the corner of his mouth. Jane waited out of respect, swallowing the secreting moisture forming in her cheeks. When he came to, he took a deep breath and continued, “…people of the Great American Union want to see a child molester actually escape? Those beasts were practically created to hunt pedos and rip their limbs out of their sockets.” He gave an exaggerated shiver. “Say what you want about Geibler, at least he makes it art.” He snatched the second hypo-jab off the pillow, bringing a tear to Jane’s eye as he jammed it into the same forearm. “Whichever this stuff is, it’s all subsidized by the Sinclair government. America First! America Always!” Papa Poppy saluted and fell back onto the couch before finishing the famous Sinclair campaign slogan: “America Forever!”