“Oi. Dickhead. Wake up.”
Dack stirred from beneath his blanket, grumbling as a boot-clad foot prodded him in the face.
“If I have to poke you again, I’ll kick your teeth in.”
Sighing, Dack slipped out from underneath his makeshift covers, and up off of the old mattress which served as his bed.
“Sleeping beauty awakens.” Jamila smirked down at him, whilst he slowly floundered awake.
“You couldn’t have left me five more minutes?” Dack grumbled, scooping his boxers up off of the floor, and slipping into them to cover his nakedness, whilst he set about scavenging the rest of his clothes, before putting them on.
“Grendel wants you up and eager, before her majesty arrives,” Jamila explained “you’re front and centre today, hot shot.”
“I honestly think I’d rather have my fingernails pulled out.” Dack groaned, slipping into his oversized faux leather jacket. He was a short, scrawny kid; smaller than most of the guys in Grendel’s crew, and some of the girls. Nevertheless, he had an aptitude for getting into places he shouldn’t be, and his sticky fingers had made him indispensable to Grendel.
“Relax, it’s not like you’re going live on stream,” Jamila made her way over to him, giving him a quick hug for reassurance “I’m sure Grendel will do most of the talking. He’ll probably just want you there to big himself up.”
No sooner had she finished speaking, then a booming voice came thundering up from down beneath them.
“DACK, GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE, BOY!”
Dack exhaled, rubbing his temples nervously.
“Come on,” Jamila slipped her fingers in between his, squeezing his hand tightly “lets go get this over with.”
Dack and Jamila, along with the rest of Grendel’s crew, had taken up residence in the shell of an old Osi-Corp warehouse, in the bleakest depths of Ghajotia; Mega-City Arcadia’s biggest slum. Ghajotia had allegedly been constructed to store affordable housing for Arcadia’s more destitute residents, but had quickly fallen into a state of neglect. With Osi-Corp showing no interest in maintaining the district, Ghajo had become a cesspit of crime and poverty; with many of Arcadia’s lesser gangs taking up residence in its crumbling ruins.
The pair shimmied down the ladder which lead to Dack’s “room”, and made their way downwards into the central chamber of the dilapidated warehouse. Grendel’s thugs were scurrying around warped metal beams and collapsed aisleways, clearing away what rubble they could manage, before the guest of honour arrived.
Even Grendel himself was moving rubble out of the way, heaving huge chunks of debris above his head, and tossing them to one side. He was a large man, but the payload he was lifting was beyond massive, and wouldn’t have been possible without the cybernetic prosthetics which had replaced his organic arms.
“Dack,” Grendel gave the boy a slight nod of his head, drumming his metallic fingers idley against one arm “how you feelin’?”
“Like I’d rather be in bed.” Dack replied, honestly.
“Cheer up, buttercup,” Grendel snorted, scratching at the stubble on his rock hard jaw “you’re about to make me very rich. You got the disk?”
Dack reached into his jacket pocket, fishing out the Golden Disk.
It wasn’t much to look at -a small golden circle, which was smooth and featureless to the naked eye- but Dack knew that this piece of metal was worth more to Grendel than every member of his crew combined.
Grendel’s metallic fingers shot forwards, snatching the disk from Dack in a blurr of movement.
“This little beauty is gonna get me enough ass and Trance to level Arcadia.” Grendel grinned.
Just then, the old mechanical warehouse doors slowly screeched to life, and a group of alien figures came striding into the light.
Grendel’s thugs stopped what they were doing, whipping out handguns, and brandishing them at the new arrivals.
“Put them away, you mangy fucking cunts.” Grendel snarled, hissing at his men.
“Just the sort of welcome I was expecting.” Aurora Baines said with a smirk, her hips swaying as she came swaggering over to Grendel, with her security entourage marching behind her.
Every inch of the queen of the Black Brethren had been meticulously sculpted to the very definition of perfection. She was deliciously curvaceous, tall but not too tall, and had the etched features of a greek goddess. Frosty white hair flowed over her shoulders, and she was dressed in the finest designer gettup.
Dack very much doubted that any of Aurora’s beauty was natural, but right now he felt like he was standing in the presence of excellence incarnate.
Baine’s muscle fell in to place besides her; a squadron of heavily-armed soldiers, who looked more like a paramilitary force than gangsters. They were clad from head-to-toe in jet black body armour, and each soldier was holding a rifle. Dack had no idea what lurked beneath their protective clothing, but he suspected that each of them had an arsenals worth of augmentations.
“Aurora Baines,” Grendel greeted the queenpin with a broad smirk “welcome back to Ghajota.”
“Not to sound ungrateful, but I prefer the view from my penthouse.” she said flippantly “show me the disk.”
Grendel unfolded his massive palm, revealing the golden disk.
A cone of blue light erupted from the optic augmentations in Aurora’s eyes, bathing the disk in a soft neon glow.
“That’s a neat trick.” Grendel murmured.
“Just making sure its the genuine article,” she reassured him, as the light flickered out “I’m sure you understand.”
“Of course, Aurora, of course. Can’t be too careful,” Grendel gave an overly-enthusiastic nod “but I promise you, I’m a man of my word. Now, shall we discuss payment?”
Aurora Baines paused for a moment, her head tilting slightly. She turned, and her eyes fell upon Dack.
He froze, almost instantly.
“What’s your name, kid?” She asked.
“Dack.” said Dack.
“Ah, yes! I was getting to that. This is the one who got the disk for me.” Grendel explained, but the queenpin stared right past him, keeping her eyes fixed on Dack.
“Well then, Dack,” Aurora smiled slyly “I’m going to teach you a very important lesson about opening your door to strangers.”
Before any of them had time to react, Aurora Baines had pulled out a handgun, and fired a round straight between Grendel’s eyes. The back of the mobster’s head was blown out across the warehouse in a cone of dark red, as his body went tumbling to the floor.
In a fraction of a second, Baines’ security team had their weapons drawn, and were tearing Grendel’s crew to shreds in a torrent of gunfire. Jamila took a round through the neck, and was dead before Dack could even grasp what has happening.
She was one of the last to go.
Dack stood still, his heart pounding, surrounded by the lifeless bodies of his makeshift family.
“Grab the disk,” Aurora Baines instructed her soldiers “and throw the kid in a cell. I’ve got plans for him.”