Chapter 101: Sector One

In the entire Mega-city other than the people Arron worked with on a daily basis, he only had one other person that he talked with regularly, Yumi.

Currently, he was sitting on a plush couch in her apartment which was part of a new building that had recently popped up in sector 12. This was his first time actually being invited over to her place, every time they had hung out before, they had either been at the [The Red light] bar or his apartment. This was a first for their relationship.

“You said you have something important to tell me?” asked Yumi, who was behind a curved opaque holoscreen that only covered her from the shoulders to the ground.

She was holding her arms up as a large suction force pulled an expensive red dress off of her body. Seconds later a reverse suction force shot a different outfit down fitting to her body without her needing to do anything.

The number of new gadgets in her apartment amazed Arron. He had never seen or heard of many of the things he was looking at right now. Some of them look like they were limited gold editions.

“Yeah, it’s about work,” said Arron.

Yumi, now wearing a new set of clothes, deactivated the opaque screen letting it disappear. She slinked over to Arron and sat down next to him with a seductive smile.

“Oh? Are we going to start talking about our personal life?” asked Yumi. Now that she was right next to him she squinted her eyes and began scanning his unshaven face. “Did you do something to your face? I can’t put my finger on it but… you look a little different.”

She placed her hand on his right shoulder to lean on him and get a closer look but when she did, she immediately noticed the hard metal underneath her hand instead of soft skin. Without a word, she pulled his long shirt sleeve up all the way to reveal his new metal arm. She raised an eyebrow as she looked at Arron and said, “I didn’t know you were one to dabble with replacing your body parts with mechanical implants.”

“It’s not like that! The reason I wasn’t able to contact you for a while was because I had a severe crash on my hover-cycle. In the crash, I unfortunately lost my arm. It really isn’t much to think about,” said Arron as he gave her a quick kiss on the forehead, trying to brush it off as a minor thing.

“Alright. So what did you need to tell me?”

“Due to work. I’ll be on an extended business trip where I will be unable to meet or contact you for some time,” said Arron.

“For how long are you going to be gone?”

“I really don’t know. I don’t even know what they are sending me out to do. I just didn’t want you to think that I had blocked you or was ignoring your calls. As soon as I get the chance I will call you.”

“Ooo, sounds mysterious. Like a secret agent in the movies,” said Yumi, teasing him.

“Haha, yeah… I wish. It’s probably some grueling desk job that some higher-level person didn’t want to take care of,” said Arron nervously, almost breaking into a heavy sweat as she was hitting close to his actual job.

***

“All I can say is, it has to do with some big-shots in sector one. When you get here don’t mess around. Sector one is not like the other sectors. Things can get really messy here over little things so be careful. Unfortunately, I can’t meet you right away as our new babysitter from the Office of Reason has me running several errands for him,” said Kix who looked to be walking down a dark alley with little to no humans around.

“Hey, I’m not an idiot! I know not to mess with those types of people,” said Arron quietly as he walked to the Mag-Lev station that would take him to sector 1.

“I’ve got to end the call. I’ll meet you in a few hours,” said Kix in a whisper, immediately cutting the call as he spoke the last words.

The ride to sector 1, although uncomfortable due to being crammed into the carriage like sardines, was uneventful and Arron was able to get off at the secondary station that Kix had recommended. It was not a normal main station near the large city entrance/exit where the raw material, mail, and other goods from outside the mega-city were shipped in and out of.

The security at that station was on a whole other level and would be a pain to deal with if he had decided to depart there.

Arron stood on the station’s platform and watched as over a dozen Mag-levs filled with passengers and raw materials shot off, all heading to separate sectors while weaving in between the many towering buildings. This was only the secondary station but still had such a large number of tracks that went to different zones on the first level.

According to Kix, the main station was at least double this size since it needed to handle all the freight Mag-levs that arrived from all over Nippon.

There were only one or two tracks dedicated to passenger Mag-levs as those allowed to leave the mega-city would rarely ever use the first level’s Mag-lev system which was highly regulated and watched over. Mother and father had these measures in place to make sure none of the criminal organizations including the separatist could smuggle items, information, and even people in or out of the city.

Smuggling was a large booming business for the criminal groups that had taken up residence in Sector 1.

Arron had only come to Sector 1 a few times on errands that were never for pleasure, so he had never explored its three zones or paid much attention to the attractions it had to offer. But now that he left the station and was walking down different streets he was noticing a lot of odd things. Mainly many groups of young and middle-aged men hanging out around buildings all wearing similar clothes or hairstyles. Many of them were quite funny looking but the scowls on the men’s faces were enough to stop anyone from laughing at them. And if that wasn’t enough, then their fists would do it.

Arron did not know how long he would be staying in sector one, but in case it would be for a while he was ready to start searching for a cheap place to stay by browsing the holo-net. When he had picked a few decent places that fit his criteria he plugged in their locations to the navi-guide and began walking to the first one that was only a couple blocks away.

The first target building was worn but well-kept, which gave Arron hope that their rooms would not be terrible.

As he walked up to the building’s door a voice came out of a speaker in the wall nearby. A metal shutter raised up to reveal a thick bulletproof paraglass window. Behind it was a security guard who was half paying attention to him and half attention to an adult video.

“How many nights do you want?” asked the security guard.

“A week? I’m not sure. Can I extend my stay whenever I need to?” asked Arron.

“As long as you have the credits and don’t cause any problems you can stay here forever. Place your hand on the scanner,” said the guard, lazily waving his hand toward a large black block embedded in the wall.

Arron followed his instructions placing his new metal hand on the scanner only for the black block to immediately turn red and send a blaring alarm inside the guard room startling the guard.

For the first time, he turned and looked at Arron with his full attention.

“What are you? Some sort of idiot? Are you trying to get me in trouble with the Office of Reason? If you don’t have the proper documentation to stay in sector one then why are you trying to sneak around here? Get lost before I call the police!” shouted the angry guard.

In his anger, his face had turned beet red and spit was flying out splattering all over the para-glass. The metal para-steel shutters slammed shut ending their conversation.

Arron took a few steps back, shocked at what had just happened. He had not been told that there was documentation needed just to stay here.

“I sure hope this is just a small hiccup and they have everything settled for me. Otherwise, where am I going to sleep?” muttered Arron.

Now with his plans shattered, he just walked around in the large crowds in no particular direction, just following the crowd wherever they were going.

As he stepped onto a large side street something caught his attention.

A large burlap awning hung from the side of the building’s wall covering three old reclining chairs. Each chair was already occupied by men each a different age and wearing different clothes, a t-shirt, suit, and one with no shirt at all, only showing his bare upper body that was full of tattoos and two grade B civilian mechanical implants for his left and right arm.

This was a street-side barbershop. This was not all that shocking, what caught his attention was the ones doing the cutting and shaving.

There were three actual humans diligently working, and not service bots, who were the norm all throughout the mega-city.

Even the barbershop he went to in sector 11 was run by service bots that were super quick and efficient in their actions. It only took a few minutes before you were charged credits for the cut or shave and then kicked back out of the barbershop.

Arron watched as the human barbers moved around using their scissors and razor-sharp blades with skilled hands working their magic of a rare and almost lost trade. They were in no rush and made sure that the haircut, trims, and shaves were done to perfection that a service bot could not achieve.

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When they finished the shave or haircut, some paid extra credits and received a rough face, neck, and shoulder massage by the large muscular barbers.

Arron scratched his scraggly unshaven neck as he looked at the holo-sign that showed the prices for their services.

[Cuts: 10 credits, Shaves: 10 credits, Massages: 5 credits, Cracking: 5 credits, Aftercare: 5 credits, Special full package: 25 credits.]

Arron was surprised at how cheap it all was compared to the far pricier conveyor belt service he had gotten used to since he started living in the mega-city.

The barber at the first chair pulled the cape off of the young man he had just finished working on and snapped the cape in the air sending the hair to the para-concrete ground.

“You’re good to go,” said the barber, slapping the young man’s shoulder who had almost dozed off from the entire experience. The young man hopped up out of the chair and after paying, walked off with a smile.

“Next!”

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Arron realized the rough man was looking right at him. He quickly thought it over and finally decided, ‘Why don’t I give it a try.’

It was cheap enough that it was not going to eat up the little savings that he had right now.

The rough man grabbed Arron’s left arm and dragged him to the chair shoving him into it while asking, “What do ya want?”

“Everything,” said Arron holding out his right metallic hand over the portable scanner the muscular man held.

Ping!

[Payment allowed! Credits have been transferred!]

With a slap to Arron’s right shoulder the rough man said, “Alright, I’ll get you cleaned up proper!”

He turned to a beat-up metal box and opened the small door allowing steam to escape as he pulled out a fresh steaming towel.

He snapped it a few times in the air letting the steam and excess moisture rise into the air while also cooling the towel a bit before he turned to Arron and expertly wrapped it over his face.

Arron fought the urge to tear it off as he was still sensitive to anything remotely warm touching his skin, not from pain, but from the trauma of nearly being burned to death.

After a short time of warming up his face, opening the pores, and softening up the facial hair, the towel was taken off and immediately a warm lather was brushed onto his face before he grabbed onto a large shaving blade that he had just put in a new disposable blade.

He squirted a strong-smelling disinfectant onto the blade and then lit it with a small lighter letting it burn for a second before shaking the blade to put out the fire.

The warm blade cut through the shaving cream and rough facial hair like butter and the barber used his hands to feel if there were any spots missed before going on to the next step. The next step was using large metal scissors that were also disinfected by fire before Arron’s newly grown rough hair was combed and cut.

While this was all taking place a light drizzle was pouring down making a pitter-patter noise as it hit the thick cloth awning above keeping Arron and the barbers dry.

Special aftercare creams and lotions were rubbed into his now smooth cheeks and neck as well as an ointment for his hair.

“Your shoulders and muscles are quite stiff,” said the barber as he began working on rubbing, tugging, and bopping Arron’s head and shoulders.

With the rough but comfortable massage and the background noise of the drizzling rain, passing chatter, and moving hover cars Arron began to relax and the sounds began to dim as he zoned out from the experience only to come back when his neck, left arm, and fingers were individually cracked.

This was a very welcome experience that Arron decided to try out more often.


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