Anders looked at the mod-freak standing behind the counter. When he’d made his first visit here a week ago, the proprietor was ‘out’ and a different goon had been on duty. Out of pure habit, Anders rapidly, but thoroughly, catalogued the employee’s enhancements to determine threat potential. Arms and legs fitted with internally anchored exoskeletons. Glistening blue, chemically and mechanically impervious skin. Two ocular implants. Slight bulge in the abdomen indicative of a substandard hormone pump. Two and one half meters tall, 200 kilos. All told, more than $300,000 in augmentation that he could discern in less than five seconds. Anders suspected that the owner of this establishment valued the brute intimidation approach to keeping his clientele from becoming unruly.
The employee last week refused to divulge the name or whereabouts of the proprietor. He’d been a four out of ten on the threat scale, and Anders had turned him inside out. The mod-freak this week was at least a nine. Beyond this being a misplaced allocation of capital, Anders thought, it was becoming tedious. I may as well enjoy myself. He looked forward to the challenge of neutralizing the goon behind the counter.
The interior of the lobby / reception area was in the same, ill-kempt condition as he’d remembered it. The semi-sentient mod-freak behind the counter was bad enough, but the décor was positively grotesque. Black wool carpet covered the floor and walls. Acoustically absorbent tiles on the ceiling also in black. The counter was made entirely of glass and covered in fingerprints. Dim lighting. Six overstuffed, black leather chairs. The temperature was 16 degrees Celsius. The tang of cheap cologne was eye watering. The only sounds were the mod-freak’s nasal breathing and the soft purr of an air circulation system.
“Yo, sport!” Anders announced at ¾ volume so he’d be heard over the circulation fans. He walked up to the counter and continued in a more conversational tone. “What’s on tap?”
The mod-freak turned, selected a menu from the stack directly behind him, and sent it sliding down the counter. It stopped precisely one centimeter away from Anders’ hand. They certainly didn’t hire him for an expansive vocabulary.
He turned his attention to the menu and ignored the mod-freak. Anders, like almost every other person on the planet who could afford it, also had genetic and cybernetic enhancements. In his case, all of the modifications he’d chosen weren’t done solely to satiate his vanity or the usual, banal reasons. Most of them also allowed him to be vastly more effective with his chosen profession. What he lived for. The deal. The sale. Convincing others, one way or another, to buy what he was offering. Products, consultation, and protection for the sex trade. He was the legendary merchant for items to enhance coital bliss. He was the undisputed ayatollah of the libido. He was the Godfather of the fuck trade. You’re Goddamn right.
It took less than thirty seconds for Anders to commit this week’s entire 110-page menu to memory, and required no more effort than it took to turn the pages. Anders’ photographic memory, his single most expensive mod, cost $750,000 and was worth every cent. In the last twenty years, he’d invested just over $19 million on physical and intellectual improvements. His mods were extensive, exhaustive, and, most importantly, totally invisible. Moreover, he could easily afford it since he earned, on average, $5 million a year on commissions, consulting, and brute-force protection.
Sex was, for the most part, a hugely profitable business. After accounting for customary operating overhead such as rent, talent labor, equipment, security, wholesale product purchases, bribes, permits, insurance, and other expenses, there was a tidy sum to be made.
Anders’ particular genius was an unmatched ability to amplify his sex industry client’s ROI and net income to, no pun intended, obscene levels. He was no mere rainmaker. He was the rainmaker. Any ordinary, run-of-the-mill, shithole cum-dump, would, with his guidance, practically print money…and do so within a few months. Moreover, his unique combination of business acumen and genetically enhanced verbal persuasion abilities gave him an overall close rate of ninety-seven percent. Promises of profits, backed by empirical data, convinced most to happily sign a contract. Promises of violence, backed by an excruciatingly painful demonstration, usually convinced everyone else who expressed reservations to change their minds.
Anyone that fell into the holdout three percent category was usually out of business within a week. Two at the most. Always. How Anders dealt with those who refused was determined solely by their behavior. For example, ideologues that were otherwise polite merely had their buildings incinerated. The rude or combative were usually beaten to an unrecognizable pulp.
“Hey, cupcake,” Anders said and slid the menu back across the counter. The mod-freak’s limited cognitive abilities weren’t able to cope with two competing stimuli. Item one: being called a cupcake demanded a physical response. Item two: the sliding menu needed to be caught before it slid off the counter. Since he couldn’t decide which action to perform…he did neither. The menu slid off the counter and hit the floor as he stood there with a vacant expression on his face. The mod-freak, Anders thought to himself, really should have spent a few bucks on autonomic reflex enhancements.
“My name. Is. Jones,” the mod-freak was so amped up on exogenous testosterone that his frontal lobes had been rendered all but inert. Wonder how long it will take him to snap?
“Charmed, I’m sure, Mr. Jones.” Anders replied, and then activated the majority of his mods by unobtrusively tapping the fingers on his left hand against his thumb in a specific sequence. He loosened his tie. “I am Gregor Anders.”
“You wanna fuck or not, An-der-son?”
“Anders contains two syllables, Mr. Jones. Not three. That aside, you’re not my type.” Anders smiled and continued. “Did you know that many bedbugs and other bloodsucking parasites I’ve encountered throughout my travels share your cognomen?”
Anders flexed his hands a few times to verify that all of his mods were now active. “You’re boring me, Mr. Jones. Where’s the owner of this establishment?”
“The. Owner?” Jones asked. He was confused enough by this point to have forgotten about attacking Anders or picking the menu up from the floor.
“Yes. The owner. The boss. The individual that foolishly hands you a paycheck every other week.”
“Rubbish. Between your absurd visage and stench of cheap cologne, you dissuade at least half of the potential clients who wander into this establishment. Indeed, you may as well work for a competing business since you convince so many would be patrons to get their knobs polished elsewhere to satiate their carnal desires.”
“You’re dead, pal,” Jones said and vaulted over the counter.
Anders sidestepped Jones’ attack and delivered a vicious roundhouse kick that connected squarely at the base of Jones’ skull.
Jones’ forward momentum carried him three meters where he crashed into a wall. Beads of sweat popped out on his forehead. His muscles rippled and flexed, but he couldn’t move. Anders’ perfectly placed kick had overloaded the mod-freak’s exoskeleton interface.
“That’s better. Does your supervisor have a name, Mr. Jones?”
“What…you do to me?”
“Manners maketh the man, Mr. Jones. Now, please answer my question. Do you know the name of the owner of this establishment?”
Anders looked at Jones and smiled. Five seconds later, a door on the left side of the lobby flew open and banged against the wall. Two intoxicated male customers exited, made it a few steps, and fell face first onto the floor.
“Jones!” A stunningly beautiful, and very naked, female yelled from the doorway. “Both of them got a nut twice. Charge ‘em extra, honey. Feel me?”
Jones looked at her, still immobile. “Um…”
The door closed.
Anders snapped his fingers, cleared his throat audibly, lit a cigarette, and blew the smoke in Jones’s direction.
“Smoking is not…”
“Shhhh! I’m immune, Mr. Jones, and it helps me feel at one with the universe. Now…focus!” Anders said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “The person that hands you a paycheck every other week. Despite your profound neurological deficiencies, surely you remember that person’s name, no?”
“Um…” Jones shifted his gaze from Anders, the entrance / exit door, the door recently occupied by the naked employee, and the men on the floor. Several times. Anders finished his cigarette, ground it into the carpet, and waited patiently.
“Um…” Jones finally said after almost three minutes had elapsed.
Probably needed to be sure that the unconscious men on the floor weren’t going to leave without paying an additional fee, Anders thought. Or maybe he’s still trying to figure out why his penis would forever remain flaccid. Could he be late for his meeting of ‘The Society for the Intensification of Cruelty to Animals?’
“I knew you had it in you!” Anders said. He walked up to Jones, examined his mods with a practiced eye for a moment, and then slapped him hard enough to rip a seven-centimeter laceration the skin on his blue face. “You’re on a roll now, my blue friend. That’s what happens if you piss me off, Mr. Jones. I wouldn’t recommend doing it again.
“Just answer one more question and I’ll let you go. Be sure to extract an additional fee from your unconscious guests as your first task. Afterwards, you can peruse the latest body-mod advert. Surely there’s something there that can further enhance your already prodigious biceps. Oooo!” He snapped his fingers. “I’ve got an even better idea. How’s about be-bopping outside to play ‘Hide and Go Fuck Yourself’ in the park! Bloody brilliant, I tell you. Imagine all the fun that awaits you!
“Now, tell me…where may I find Mr. Stevens? Reach deep into the hormone-addled mess that has become of your mind, answer my question, and you can run along and play. Or whip the living shit out of your skippy. The universe awaits, Mr. Jones!”
“Um…office?” Jones replied and managed to point a single finger at the door on the right side of the lobby. An engraved sign at eye level read: OFFICE – PRIVATE – BY APPOINTMENT ONLY.
“Outfuckingstanding, Mr. Jones! Most human beings that are afflicted with a mere fraction of your intellectual impairments are little more than drooling, mammalian vegetables. You’ve overcome incalculable odds, answered my question, and managed to do it in less then ten minutes. To think, you have the brawn of a gorilla, the IQ of a fruit fly, and nonetheless persevered! Not only am I now fully erect due to my hitherto unprecedented state of rapturous delight at your accomplishment; children will sing songs about this event for generations to come!
“Sadly, our stimulating conversation must now take its rightful place in the annals of communicative history. In fact,” Anders paused, lit another cigarette, and straightened his tie, “your lumbering verbal ineptitude, down to the very last ‘um,’ has been so jaw-droppingly inane that it’s been irrevocably etched into my medulla oblongata. I daresay that only the most virulent, gustative-specific toxins could replicate the acute neurologic trauma I’ve endured via your monosyllabic utterances. Goddamn, what a rush!
“With a heavy heart and a cast-iron boner, I must attend to other pressing matters. Yes. It is critical that Mr. Stevens and I have our meeting without further delay. Lastly, I would be remiss did I not call to your attention one final detail. The aforementioned conference, this ‘meeting of the minds’ between the esteemed Mr. Stevens and myself, will include complex financial concepts. Words with more than two syllables will flow like an orgasmic fountain with the intensity of a ten-years celibate sailor. As such, your ominous and odiferous presence will not be required.”
“No, no, no. I can find it myself. Please don’t worry.” Anders buttoned his suit jacket, stepped over the unconscious men, and walked past Jones to the office door. “By the way,” Anders said. He opened the door, dropped his cigarette, and ground it into the carpet, “tell the woman who graced us with her presence earlier three things, yes? Can you remember these three, simple, but earth-shatteringly profound messages, cupcake?”
“Atta boy! First, I like her style. Second, she’s got the nicest tits I’ve seen in the last nine months. Third, and most important, after Mr. Stevens and I sign a contract or I paint the walls of his office with his blood, I shall return. At that time, I’d be delighted to blow a gargantuan load down her pipes.” Anders winked at Jones and opened the door. “It’s not like my fucking hard-on is going to take care of itself, no?”
Edward Yoho recently earned his MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. According to his spirit guide and favorite professor, the title of his thesis, Science Fiction, Sarcasm, and Other Profane Oddities accurately reflects his writing aesthetic. He's also eternally grateful for his wife's forgiveness. Indeed, he only spent a week on the couch after purchasing a midlife crisis Chevrolet Camaro without discussing it with her first.