Crystal City, The Never-Ending Party
The Numerals were an order of strong Hunters Dr. Meth could trust to do his bidding. The strongest rank of Numeral was Zero, and the weakest in the order, Ten. Although most times there were overlaps in power.
The top four Hunters, called Head Hunters, gave Christian/Seven the chills. He hated meeting any of them, and right now he and his best friend Bradly/Four were about to meet Zero herself.
Four and Seven both had become Numerals by joining the hunting squads, which had them find and harvest the Pseudo beasts created by Dr. Meth. Each created pharmacological secretions, the larger creatures with the most potent excretions.
Four and Seven had climbed through the ranks quickly, became Captains, and were eventually promoted to Numerals, and given their new title/names.
Zero had been created for her job. She was infused with the infamous drug Bliss, essentially a superhuman serum. It gave you enhanced abilities like speed and strength. Side effects included loss of sanity, and multiple doses could make your body eat itself.
Seven didn’t want to see Zero because she was odd and had the ability to murder him in a blink. He didn’t fully trust himself to not say something sarcastic on accident.
Seven had fair skin, short brown hair, green eyes, and was 5’ 11”. He was clean shaven, and wore a plain black hunter’s winter coat, lined with warm fur.
Four had tan skin, was slightly shorter than Seven, and had dark, almost black hair. He was handsome, and had stubble shadowing his face. Four’s dad was of Cuban descent, and this subtly showed in Four.
“You look pale.” Four said, looking at his friend.
“I really don’t want to meet her.” Seven said.
The elevator doors opened and they stepped into the box of glass that would carry them up to Zero’s penthouse. The lift had a wide view of the surrounding city, with lights and snow twinkling all around them. Far in the distance was pitch black. All there were was the desolate plains of middle America.
“She’s a kind enough girl. I mean, you can tell she has a few screws loose and her mental state isn’t all… there, but she’s- she’s nice.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of, that she’ll kill me because of a loose screw.” Seven said.
They reached their desired floor and stepped out. On the top level, there was only the one penthouse door.
“Just be nice and she’ll be nice. Simple.” Four said, knocking on the white door.
“Come in.” They heard a feminine voice from behind the entrance.
Four reached for the door knob, but Seven stopped his arm. “Can we just go?”
“If we left, it would be much worse. Being rude is the worst thing you can do to her.” Four said. “It’ll be fine. Come on, smile.”
Seven forced a smile.
“There ya go, buddy.” Four said, patting Seven’s cheek. Four turned and opened the door.
Inside was a girl who looked of Mediterranean descent, standing ten feet inside, leaning on a wall. She had dark eyes, sexy curves, and was fit. Seven felt a stir of attraction rise inside him, but he suppressed it.
“Welcome my colleagues!” She said, with open arms.
Seven blinked, and suddenly Zero was right in front of him. He tried not to flinch.
“You smell like strawberries.” She said.
“Neat.” Four commented.
Seven didn’t think it was “neat”. He was frightened. If she could move as fast as she did in a single blink, imagine what fighting her would be like.
“One and I are the only successful attempts at fusing a human permanently Bliss.” She explained Seven’s unasked question about her speed. “One is cute; he’s like the Doctor’s son.”
Adorable. Can we fucking leave now? Seven thought. “What happened to the other attempts?” he asked out loud. “The unsuccessful?”
Zero looked at Seven’s face and laughed, as if she could read his thoughts.
“You’re uncomfortable right now, aren’t you, Seven?” Zero asked. She ran her right index finger down Seven’s chest, testing him.
Seven didn’t move; he only glared in her face.
“You cooking something?” Four asked Zero.
“Yes, I made a delightful dinner for all of us! Come!” Zero said, clapping her hands and led the way into her dining room. A dinner table was set with three places. Multiple servings of food lay on the table. Due to the nutrition pills they were given, they didn’t necessarily have to eat anything. If they did, it had to be in small portions, as their stomachs had shrunk considerably. Zero’s spot at the head of the table held the most food, as she had to eat much more than them. Seven imagined she had to feel hungry all the time due to the Bliss.
There was steak, lamb, chicken, cheese, steaming vegetables, chowder, and other options in front of them. Seven salivated; he hadn’t tasted food in a long time.
Four pulled Zero’s seat out, allowing her to sit first at the head of the table. “Thank you.” She said, smiling. Four and Seven took their coats off, draped them over the backs of the chairs, and sat next to each other.
“Help yourselves. I would say grace, but I doubt God is happy with me right now.” Zero chuckled.
“And why would that be?” Four asked, taking a tiny slice of ham to his own plate.
“I murdered the Pope last week.” Zero said. She stabbed her fork into a steaming potato.
“Uh…why?” Four asked.
“Italy ‘stood out of line’. The Doctor sends me on international assignments to send certain… messages.” Zero explained. She swallowed, looking down. She then turned her gaze directly at Seven, while chewing a strawberry.
Seven couldn’t deny he felt attraction . She was dangerous and exciting, but he felt sick around her. She was some sort of demon.
“Why are we not at war?” Seven asked out of curiosity. The murder of an important figure had to have repercussions.
“The little nuke sitting under the Vatican keeps them in line. If they try to move or disarm it-” Zero mimicked an explosion noise along with pantomiming and throwing her napkin in the air.
“But, you can’t just kill the Pope, that’s super sacrilegious!” Seven said. And evil.
“I was near the ‘Holy’ Father. He was nothing special.” Zero said.
Seven felt sick. Was she trying to justify herself?
“Why did you invite us over?” Seven tried to change the subject.
“Ah yes! Here, let me show you.” Zero stood up, and found a slim white remote. She pressed a button, turning on a screen embedded in the wall. “To put things simply, we’re going to play a game!”
Four and Seven turned around to see the wall click on, and on screen was one of their colleges.
Five was handcuffed to a chair, slumped over, and wearing a stained blue evening gown. He looked up towards the camera and monitor in his own dingy room. “Four? Seven? Oh thank God! You should rescue me! I’m a damsel who is in ssssso much distress!” Five said effeminately.
Five was Seven’s least favorite Numeral. He was loud, obnoxious, bisexual, and loved to cross dress. Also, this was clearly a serious situation, and Five immediately undermined it.
“Let me explain the rules…” Zero started.
“I forfeit. Sorry Five, we did all we could, but she was just too crafty for us. Gosh darn it, we lost.” Seven said.
“You didn’t even try!” Five exclaimed.
“Seven, I really think she’ll kill him.” Four muttered to his friend.
“So? It’s just Five. I’m done; I don’t want to be here anymore.” Seven said.
“Should have picked a better hostage…” Zero pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes.
“Yeah, ya should’ve. See ya.” Seven stood up, preparing to leave.
Four grabbed Seven’s arm, pulling him back down. Zero glared at Seven. He didn’t like the way she was looking at him.
“Hear me out. This is your last chance.” Zero said.
“Don’t. Be. Rude.” Four whispered in staccato.
Seven caught Zero wearing a slight smile. She heard Four, and she knew Seven knew the precarious position he was in.
“Back to the game.” Zero announced, standing next to the monitor and camera imposed on the wall. Four, Five, and Seven leaned in to listen.
“Dr. Meth is gone for the week to an emergency U.N. meeting in Switzerland. Something about some important figurehead being murdered or something; I wasn’t really listening.” Zero started to explain.
“So… you’re in charge? We know this.” Seven said.
“Don’t interrupt!” Zero screamed and slammed her fists on the table. Seven shut his mouth, the fear of Zero reinstated.
“The good Doctor is gone, so you two have six days to find me Bliss.”
“Aren’t you already fused with Bliss?” Four asked, questioning her plan.
“I’m not having nasty hands inside my head. I need the formula itself.”
“Why don’t you just buy some? You’re wealthy enough, aren’t you?” Seven asked.
“Bliss has a short half-life, too short to reverse engineer. Believe me, I’ve tried. When exposed to oxygen, it’ll decompose quickly.” Zero explained.
“What do you want us to do?” Four asked, a little confused.
“I need you to find a physical copy of the formula. He has to have one; I don’t think he trusts computers all too well.” Zero said.
“Um… where is it?” Four asked.
“I don’t know.” Zero answered.
“Isn’t this treason?” Seven asked.
“That’s why I have Five hostage. If I threaten to kill your friend, then you’ll find me what I want, got it?”
“I wouldn’t call him a friend-” Seven started.
“Why are you two still here?! Go! Go find it!” Zero yelled, shooing them away.
Four and Seven got up and walked to the exit. When they were out in the hallway, they turned. “Uh, thanks for dinner.” Four added.
“Aw, you’re welcome. You’re so sweet.” Zero said, switching to the charming hostess persona she wore earlier.
“Wait, if we fail, the only person who dies is Five, right?” Seven wanted clarification.
“Nope, I kill both of you too. Five is just insurance.” Zero explained.
“Ah. We’ll be off then.” Four said.
“Thank you, buh-bye!” Zero said and closed the door.
“We can’t do this.” Seven said.
“We can’t not do this.” Four pointed out.
They were back in their shared penthouse. Seven was lying on the white couch in the living room, and Four was pacing back and forth from the dining room and back, thinking about what to do. The friends were separated by a glass coffee table with a few graphic novels on top. The sun was setting, and they had a wide view of the vast landscape from their seventh story apartment floor to ceiling window. Small flurries of snow fell gently outside.
“Where did the Doctor first perfect Bliss?” Four asked out loud.
Seven knew the game was unavoidable; they were locked into a stalemate, and under Zero’s control. Seven didn’t like the situation; it only caused him to hate his boss more.
“Six is the oldest person here, isn’t he?” Seven chimed into Four’s brainstorming.
“You think he might know more about the history?” Four asked.
“I don’t know. We can try.” Seven said.
“Where does he live? Does he even have an apartment?” Four asked, pulling out his transparent phone/computer. “I guess I could try calling him…”
“No good. The only phone Six carries is the emergency one Dr. Meth gave him, and only the Doctor can call it. Six likes his privacy. I guess we can try looking him up on Social.” Seven said, pulling out his own phone, and clicked on the Social icon.
Social was a social media application the Doctor copied from some old program called “Facebook”, a popular application from the Doctor’s youth. It enabled the Party residents to keep track of each other, post events, etc.
Seven went to the Numeral’s category, and scrolled down to look for Six. (Scrolling past Five, Seven noticed the flamboyant Numeral’s status update read “Being kidnapped, someone fucking save me!” Seven clicked like to this.)
Looking at Six’s profile, the elder Numeral seemed to be like Seven, in the sense that he didn’t bother updating his account often. Seven found the entire application to be narcissistic and unsavory. Six’s last status update was from three weeks ago.
Seven found something else on Six’s page though.
“Class schedule.” Seven muttered.
“Huh?” Four looked over Seven’s shoulder.
“He teaches two classes at the University every Tuesday and Thursday. Philosophy and Beginner’s Art.” Seven rubbed his chin.
“That’s something.” Four said. “Let’s go.”
Seven went to his room, grabbed his white custom katana, and strapped it to his back. He didn’t know if he would actually need it, but he preferred to be prepared. Walking out, he saw Four had strapped his rapier to his back.
“My car or yours?” Four asked.
“Mine.” Seven said. “Well, let’s go find some higher learning ”
Crystal City was best known for its Liberal Arts University. It was free to attend, but in exchange there was only a loose type of grading system, and graduation program. You went there to learn, and get high while you learned. It was a double edged sword. The trick was to remember everything. The technique Seven saw was to take an amphetamine in the morning, and… reapply whenever. They were best for learning and concentration, and a lot of students who didn’t fuck around too much did well. Most classes were dedicated to the arts, literature, writing, and music.
Many people in the Party made a living off of creative arts, creating graphic novels, their own music, or books. These were sold in thousands of vending machines stocked by drones. Currency was on plastic cards in the Chinese yuan. One of the ways Four described the Party was “Anarchic Capitalism, with a touch of Socialism.“
Seven slowly drove down the streets of Crystal. There was no traffic aside from people walking on the road. Only Hunters and the occasional celebrity had access to cars or vehicles. Public trams were used for civilians. Years ago, Dr. Meth thought that having guns or vehicles was a poor decision in a country where every citizen was going to be intoxicated 24/7.
“You ever go to the university?” Four asked.
Seven nodded. “Yeah, I took a few religion courses.”
“I forget, I never peg you for the religious type.”
“I still like my family’s religion, I just don’t practice it. I pray sometimes I guess.” The subject made Seven uncomfortable. “Did you go to the university?”
“Yeah, I tried to take guitar lessons early on. At first I wanted to be a rock star.”
“Nice. How far did you get?”
“I’m not too bad at it. I was in a band for a little while, but I wanted something that would give me more of a purpose. So, I trained to be a Hunter. I learned fencing back in the Colonies.” Four answered.
Seven nodded. The Colonies were to the east of the Party, where Four was originally from. This was where the shattered United States tried to rebuild. The west coast was held together with Salt Lake City as the new capitol, where Seven was from. His home country was called the Celestial Lands, a nickname the refugees from the 2030’s used.
Seven saw the front of the campus, and pulled haphazardly up onto the sidewalk as close to the building as they could. There was no parking enforcement and no worries. “We’re here.” Seven announced.
“Gee, could you get us a little closer? I'd like to be parallel next to the front door. “
“Fuck you, this is the closest I'm going to get.“
It was an early dark evening when they came to the sprawling white campus of the university. The architecture looked sterile and all edges were made to be rounded off. Lights illuminated the grounds and the buildings, causing the smooth white sandstone building to glitter along with the freshly fallen snow.
They entered the building, going through automatic double doors. Students were talking amongst themselves, and wandering. One student had a can of spray paint, tagging the hall. A hovering black metal drone the size of a basketball flew out of the ceiling, and slammed into the kid’s head. It then proceeded to spray white paint over his art. The kid tried to punch the robot and only hurt his fist.
Seven chuckled, and checked the number for Six’s office. 137. They continued down the lively halls until they found the door next to two fully clothed people having sex on a coffee table. There were a couple of people watching, whispering, and giggling. Four unsheathed his rapier. The couple pulled away from each other, and ran away in fear. The other stragglers dispersed going their own way. Seven rapped a few times on the door, glaring at the slow ones. They knew who the Numerals were, and they knew not to mess with them.
“That’s nasty. I know you can do whatever you want, but Jesus, this is a place of learning.” Four said.
“But we can do whatever we want. That is, straight up murder them.“ Seven said.
“Heh. That got dark. “
“Come in!” They heard Six from behind the door. Seven opened it and looked in.
Six was in his office sketching. His long brown hair was in dreadlocks, and he had scruff on his face. He looked up when the two Numerals walked in.
“Come on in. How are you two?” Six greeted warmly. He had his usual clerical collar on, along with a silver crucifix around his neck. The room was decorated in student drawings. The numbers 6 and 10 popped up a lot, they were visual depictions of his previous and current rank.
The one that turned up the most was the student who made the graphic novel, “Levi of God”, a visual exaggerated depiction of Six's adventures. Seven had every copy at home. Not only did it have an awesome amount of violence, it also did have some uplifting stories. Six was a humble, charitable, and friendly guy, and the author conveyed it well in a comic medium. The numbers 6 and 10 popped up a lot, they were visual depictions of Levi’s previous and current rank.
“Good, good. Well, good and bad. Say, you wouldn’t happen to know the history of the Doctor, would you?” Four asked.
“Why bad?” Six asked, going back to the first response.
“Zero’s a bitch.” Seven said.
“I will not confirm or deny that. ” Six said.
“Anyway, we were wondering where the Doctor started making the chemicals, and the chemical beasts.” Four said.
Six sat back in his chair and lifted an eyebrow. “Why?”
“We’re writing an article. Does it matter?” Four asked.
“It matters if Zero has some dubious plans involving the good Doctor’s past. I don’t trust her.” Six said.
“Alright, she wants the formula for Bliss, and she’s kidnapped Five to incentivize us to get it. She’ll kill us and Five if we don’t get it.” Seven admitted. Lying to Six could only hurt them. He hoped his elder would appreciate his honesty.
“Well that’s not good.” Six said, pondering. “I will try to help. We need to think of how to proceed. You wouldn’t happen to know where her kill switch is, would you?”
“No, but that sort of talk will probably get us killed.” Four said, looking around for any drones that could be recording them.
Six pursed his lips, and held out his hand to Four. “Give me your phone.”
Four complied and handed it over. “Whatcha doin’?”
“I’m giving you to coordinates to the town Dr. Meth grew up in. It’s a ghost town now, but it’s your best bet.” Six said. He typed it in, and handed the phone back.
“Thank you!” Four said, looking at the new electronic destination on his screen.
Six nodded. “Good luck out there, it’s gonna be freezing. Especially in the boonies.”
Seven folded his arms, thinking about the cold. “I miss home already.“
They exchanged goodbyes, and the duo turned to leave.
“One more thing.” Six said. Four and Seven stopped in their tracks. “If you do go to Twin Birch, be careful. There's some nasty creatures out there.”
Six watched the duo leave, and waited a few minutes before picking up his phone. It seemed Zero was turning traitor, using pawns for her dirty work. She likely wanted to avoid going back to Twin Birch; it held a mess of bad memories and skeletons.
Six considered what he should do about the boys, and figured he'd have to call in back-up. There were contingency plans in place if this sort of thing were to happen. He dialed the number for Gabriel, the Archangel Numeral. Ten worked directly below Six, and he figured his protégé could at least slow down Zero’s plans.
Four and Seven drove back to their penthouse in the dark, swerving around intoxicated denizens, and honking at those who came too close to being ran over.
“We’ll leave in the morning. This looks like it’s going to be at least a day of driving.” Four said, studying the map on his phone. He was looking at a map of fields and fields and fields.
“Shiny. We’ll have to use a Solar Car if we even hope to get there at all.” Seven said. He felt a vibration in his pocket, and picked it up. Zero was calling.
“What?” Seven asked.
“Greet me properly!” Zero screamed.
“Hello? How are you?” Seven asked. He hated talking on the phone.
“I’m fine. Come over. Just you.” Zero said. Her voice sounded different somehow, but Seven couldn’t pinpoint it.
“Um…” Seven was dumbfounded. He knew he had to obey, but would Four even believe him?
“Bye bye.” Zero hung up. Seven let the phone drop.
“What is it?” Four asked.
“Zero wants me to go over there.” Seven felt hot.
“Want a buddy?”
“She told me to go alone.” He tried to think of why, and his mind kept turning to sex, but that had to be wrong.
“’K, drop me off and go do your thing.” Four said. He cared less than Seven did.
“I don’t wanna go.” Seven pouted.
“Do you wanna make a suicide pact?” Seven asked. They pulled up to their building and Four got out.
“So, if I don’t see you later, I’ll assume she ate you.”
“She’s a maneater, not a man-eater.” Seven said.
“I’ve heard rumors.” Four said. Seven didn’t know if he was joking. “Have fun!” He slammed the door, and waved to his friend.
“This is unsettling.” Seven said to himself. He put the car into gear, and made his way to his date.
Seven sat down opposite of Zero, wary. He didn’t know why he was here, he had heard rumors of Zero idly killing off people who annoyed her, and he had been annoying. It was like walking on eggshells around her, and he liked to stomp around. The air felt tense, but he stayed calm. Besides, maybe this was a sex thing.
"How's the hunt going?" Zero asked, caramel in her voice. She was in a black negligee, and sipping on a glass of red wine.
Seven involuntary swallowed, but kept his gaze on her face, ignoring the urge to look down at her cleavage.
"Shiny. We got a lead." Seven said. This has to be a sex thing, right? He thought.
Zero nodded, bit her bottom lip, and ran her eyes down Seven’s body. Her gaze made Seven feel vulnerable. He felt she could see his stiffness.
"Do I make you uncomfortable?" Her voice turned flirty, and she stood up, and flash-stepped ten feet in front of her, stopping in front of the flickering fireplace. He blinked. The flash step always looked like an illusion, like she teleported a short distance in front of her. She picked up a wrought metal poker. Seven's eyes fixed on it, afraid of what she may do with the tool. She examined the pointy end for a moment, and then poked at the fireplace. She placed the metal instrument back. Seven felt more comfortable again. She turned slowly, sensually. Seven was definitely turned on. She was beautiful, and the way she moved only made him want her more. He noticed he didn’t respond to her question. His mouth was dry.
He gave into his previous temptation, and his eyes fell on her necklace that rested between her exposed cleavage. A red metal hourglass. This literally represented his fear, that she was the Black Widow. If he ended up with her, it would lead to his death somehow.
Zero sauntered to Seven, and walked around the back of his chair. Her hip movements seemed to be exaggerated. Her fingers caressed his face. A chill flushed through his body.
She leaned in. "I can feel your heartbeat. You want me, I can tell." She whispered at ear level.
Seven sighed and got up from his seat. "I need to go, Four's waiting for me". Seven tried to use his wrist to discreetly straighten out his pants “situation”. He turned to the exit, but Zero popped up in front of him, placing her hands on his chest. He flinched at her speed.
"Or you could stay and play." Zero suggested. One hand trailed down, almost touching his belt.
"I smell a trap." Seven said.
“Oh, do you?” Zero wrapped her arms around his neck. He felt her warm breath against his face. It smelled faintly of alcohol. “You don’t feel safe, do you?” She whispered to him.
Seven didn’t say anything, he was frozen. He kept eye contact with her. She slid her right hand down to her shoulder, and slowly pulled the strap of her negligee down, nearly exposing her left breast. Her right arm went around his waist, pulling them closer together. He felt the warmth between her thighs as he was pressed against her.
She pulled his head forward, touching her lips to his.. She was soft, and he felt the lacquer of her chap stick. Her mouth opened, and her tongue flicked out, touching his lips. He felt goosebumps rise on his skin. His hands cautiously went to her hips. He was unsure what to do. He’d go no farther than making out. He just hoped she wouldn’t kill him for not giving into her.
Their tongues touched, and she began to get greedy, pressing against him, kissing him with vigor. Seven felt like he was going to explode, and he matched her intensity. Might as well enjoy his last days on earth if he could.
Zero pushed Seven away, hard. She pulled up her top, covering her chest. Her entire demeanor shifted like a bipolar nightmare.
“Get out, and get me my formula.” Zero said with ice in her voice.
Seven was terrified and horny, but he suppressed these feelings. He walked to the exit, picking his katana out of the umbrella case. Before he shut the door behind him, he stole a glance back at Zero. She was sitting, staring at Seven as if nothing had happened.
He left, a whirlwind of emotions and hormones flooded through them. He didn’t know how to deal with them, or if he should even bring it up. Besides, who would believe him?
Zero bit her lip, watching Seven close the door behind him. She waited about ten seconds, and burst out laughing. Reversing the traditional gender roles of sexual assault was enthralling and gave her a rush of power.
He didn’t do that bad. Some men were just crude. One of her favorite activities was going out to bars, and finding the unsavory. She attracted scumbags who expected to bed her in only a short few minutes of meeting her, took them out back, killed them, and threw their bodies in a dumpster. She discarded them like they would discard women. She was a sick embodiment of karma.
Zero fingered the hourglass pendant around her neck, thinking. She had kissed a lot of guys, but Seven felt different somehow. Something stirred inside her, like a fuzzy bug in her tummy that squirmed around and reminded her of him. The feeling confused her.
It’ll go away. She thought to herself.
Morning came after a fitful night’s sleep for Seven. He had a lot on his mind. He was awake when his alarm went off at 5 in the morning.
Four and Seven got up and donned their heavy black winter armor. They were built with heating cables in the lining to keep them warm in subzero temperatures. Seven’s armor was scratched up and rugged, while Four’s looked to be in almost mint condition. Seven had a more “hands-on” approach to hunting, and it showed in terms of scars and possessions. He was on his 3rd katana this year.
“God, it’s snowing like crazy out there.” Four commented on the weather outside. Seven looked out at the frosted floor to ceiling windows and sighed. Back in the Celestial Lands he was usually chauffeured around, and wasn’t used to winter driving.
“This is going to be a long trip. I’m just glad I’m not going to do it sober.” Four said, reaching for his tin of THC pills. He took two out, and dry swallowed them.
“Careful.” Seven warned. “You driving? Your car would be best in snow.”
“Sure. The solar cells are full; I don’t think we’ll be getting much sun out there for the first few hours.”