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Individuals who are sensitive about child abuse should probably avoid reading this.

My Apprentice

The place stank. It stank of stale urine and dried vomit. It stank of fresh human feces. The paint was filthy, peeling, and contained enough lead to protect against a nuclear war. I could almost feel myself getting stupider from breathing in the dust. The carpet was soggy with more bodily fluids than I imagined could exist. Blood, bile, mucus, urine, and only gods know what else squished beneath my forty-six hundred nuyen designer shoes as I waded through the filth. A man was sitting on the floor against the wall. An LED blinked on the chip in his 'jack, drool was pouring out of his mouth, and his pants bulged from the volume of his excrement. A rat the size of a large house-cat had chewed through his right boot and eaten two of his toes; it was working on a third as I walked past.

At first glance the door to apartment 107 had no distinctive markings. Its black soot and green grime blended with similar shades that painted the wall. Only the dim light that shone through a crack in the frame gave any indication that there was a door there. Closer inspection revealed flecks of white and an unreadable brass number plate. I only knew that I was at the correct door because I counted them. Jazz had told me to count. I rapped twice on the door with my velvet-gloved hand. My knuckles stole a veneer of filth from the door, leaving a few white spots where they landed. I made a mental note to burn my gloves along with my shoes.

The door was answered by an ugly chip-head. She was human. Her face and her body were not unattractive but her aura was the most sickening thing that I had ever seen. Its puke-green hue reminded me of the filth that I had waded through to get to that door. There was no difference between her and the rancid wastes that soaked the hallway carpet. She was the worst kind of monster, far worse than me. She still had morals and dreams and tender feelings but the sickness in her soul that drove her from fix to fix drowned them in toxic putridity. I'd seen Cockroach Mothers who were more pleasant. There were obvious semen stains on her tank-top, her hair was unwashed and unbrushed, and she was smiling the stupidest happiest smile I'd ever seen; her eyes were lit with false joy which contrasted with the abject misery in her aura.

"Jazz sent me."

She skipped - I must emphasize this - she literally skipped away from the doorway like a carefree schoolgirl and into an adjoining room. In her joyful haste she did not bother to close the door. The apartment was squalid and filthy, but it was far cleaner than the hallway. It was sparsely furnished. From my vantage point I could only see a coffee pot, a makeshift table of cinder-blocks, and an old stained mattress. The woman soon returned dragging a young girl by the arm.

The girl was dressed in tattered rags that looked like they had been recovered from a dumpster. Her neon pink plastic skirt was far too small for her. Its tightens made walking difficult while its briefness caused it to ride up and expose her genitals with every step she took. Her billowing silk shirt was several sized too large but it did little to hide her figure. The hem was cut off above her navel and both sleeves were missing. It was probably expensive before it was ruined. Unlike her mother she had no cyberware. Instead of the ubiquitous chipjack that marked all her only parent as a hopeless junkie this child was adorned with countless small puncture wounds running along the veins in her arms and her legs. A dose of heroin was cheaper than a chipjack. Where the mother's eyes beamed with canned bliss the daughter's eyes were dead and empty.

Looking at the child on the astral plane was a harrowing experience. She had no aura. At least, she has nothing that matched any aura I had ever seen. What she had did not appear in any magic text book. She had an abyss. Where most people have vibrant glowing auras that proudly scream out their emotions she had a dark bottomless pit. There was no emotion there; there was no thought; there was nothing. She was alive, yes; that much was obvious. But I could not tell if she had a mind somewhere in there. Just glancing at its edges gave my a headache and when I tried to look into that abyss I found myself overcome by nausea and dizziness. I move my focus away from it as quickly as I could be not before I notice a small bright twinkle deep inside. She had a potential. She could could be a magician one day, maybe a great one.

The outer edges of her non-aura were more familiar to me. They contained wisps of her disquieting emotional void but they were mostly made of basic information about her health; She had no implants of any kind; all of her organs were intact; she was an elf; and she was very sick. I did not recognize most of the diseases writhing in her aura but I recognized enough. There were syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, human papilloma virus, krieger strain HMHVV, and scabies - among other diseases. The massive number of venereal infections this girl had presented a terrible problem for me.

"I was assured that she would be a virgin."

This mother could have been a used-car salesperson. She was slick and she was smooth. She presented a defect as if it were an asset. But her pitch would have been much more convincing if she were so unnaturally joyful.

"She fucks better than any virgin ever could. Just give her a ride and you'll never think about virgins again.

Alas, the woman did not understand. My needs had nothing to do with sex. For my purposes the child was quite useless, no matter how skilled she may have been.

I should have killed them both right then and there for the transgression. I did not. Instead I smiled and gave the woman a certified credstick.

"I trust that this will cover the rest of the week"

She become even happier when she looked at the LCD screen on the side of the embossed gold credstick that I procured just for this occasion. Her smile threatened to tear her face open.

"It'll cover forever."

I took the barefoot child's hand and led her out while her pimp still gaped at the small fortune I had given her. I did not know what dreams she might buy with all that money and I did not care. But she may have used it to get clean and she may have regretted selling her daughter when she did. The last thing I wanted was a rich woman searching for me. For that reason the money did not matter. The police would return all but a few hundred nuyen to me in less than two days. I had already reported that the certified credstick as stolen and its serial number had already been flagged.

My car was undisturbed. I'm sure that it seems strange for an imported luxury vehicle be be parked on this street. I'm sure it seemed even stranger for it to have not been striped for parts in the time it took me to conduct my business. The only sign that my vehicle had been harassed at all was a severed human head resting under a nearby basketball goal. Rolph always did have a unique sense of style. I gave thanks and bade farewell to the giant pillar of living stone that was standing guard over my car and helped my new acquisition into the passenger's seat. I silently wept for the genuine leather upholstery as I did so.

When we finally returned to the active grid I set the vehicle to autopilot. The dead emotionless girl in my passenger seat was beginning to unnerve me with her silence.

"What's your name?"

It was a simple question. I hoped that it would elicit some response from her.

She shrugged. It was a start.

"You don't know your name?"

Again, she shrugged. It was the most indifferent shrug that I have ever seen before or since. I couldn't gage her thoughts or her feelings by her body language any more than I could do so by her aura.

"What does your mother call you?"

Her response was simple and concise.

"Stupid twat."

There was no hint of feeling. I felt for her, somehow, but was sure how she felt herself. Did she understand how degrading and insulting that was? Did she care? Could she care? I didn't just feel pity for her, I also felt envy and I felt fear. I envied her because she was able to destroy or to burry her feelings in a way that I had ever been able to approach. I feared her because I understood exactly how dangerous that made her.

"I'll call you Janet."

I had to call her something and I'd watched the Rocky Horror Picture Show the night before. It was the first name that came to my mind after Frank N. Furter.

After several more minutes of silence Janet asked a question out of the blue.

"What stuff do you like?"

Her question question was very broad and very unexpected. It caught me off guard and I did not respond. It it just as well that I didn't because I had missed the true meaning of her question. Her follow up clarified it.

"I don't like it in the butt. It hurts too much."

Obviously, she had misunderstood my intentions as had her mother and Jazz. I wondered if she was trying to mitigate her discomfort or if she was simply making small talk. The cold and matter-of-fact quality of he voice made it impossible to tell.

"Don't worry. I'm not going to have sex with you."

I hoped that would clear up any confusion.

"Don't you think I'm pretty?"

Again, she was cold and distant. I wouldn't tell if I had offended her or if she was relieved or if she cared at all.


I wanted to be firm and clear.
"I don't think children are pretty; I don't think junkies are pretty; I don't think venereal diseases are pretty; and I don't think ghouls are pretty."

Did I hurt her feelings? Maybe. I didn't know. Maybe there weren't any feelings left to hurt.

"I'm not a ghoul."

Her retort was confident but it lacked a degree of factual accuracy.

"Give it a couple of months."

I wondered if I should have been more blunt. I replayed that exchange in my head as expensive houses and beautiful gardens rolled past the windows. I certainly didn't want her to be on my bad side if I decided to train her.

She is the one who broke the silence. She was curious. I understood that much. I was getting somewhere.

"If you don't want to have sex with me then why did you pay for me."

The answer to her question was difficult. I wasn't even sure, myself. She was an impulse buy. It was made it more difficult was her sentence structure. She was the daughter of a ghetto prostitute; she should have been speaking in disjointed slang. Instead, her syntax was perfect. I hadn't noticed it before because her sentences were too short.

"I don't know."

I really didn't.

"If you were I virgin I would cut out your heart and feast upon it so that I might gain a more complete understanding of the infinite universe. Obviously, I can't do that."

My blund admission had no visible effect on her.

"You should be worthless to be. But, you have a potential to be a very powerful magician. I think that might be useful to me."

She just stared at me with those cold, dead eyes.
Good, but you have way too many spelling mistakes in there.

Also, I don't get the Ghoul thing. Is the main character a ghoul? Is he implying she would become one eventually cause she lives in squalor?
QUOTE (Backgammon)
Good, but you have way too many spelling mistakes in there.

Also, I don't get the Ghoul thing. Is the main character a ghoul? Is he implying she would become one eventually cause she lives in squalor?

Krieger Strain was among the diseases he saw when he assensed her, he just didn't mention it. The next chapter will explore the treatment of that particular disease.

Can you be more specific about the spelling mistakes? I ran the story through a spellchecker and it only reports the Shadowrun specific terms and the profanity.
Yesh... the ghoul bit is slightly confusing. The main charcter isnt a ghoul because he talks about the physical world. Speceficly colors.

Its disturbing, no dout though.

But its chillingly compelling. Im eager to read more.
I edited tit to make the ghoul statement less confusing. Your input is greatly apreciated.
Well, if its crucial to your story (and judging by the post over on the HMHVV thread it is) you could do better at hinting. It originally came off more like a threat, and less like a fact.
Very interesting. Disgusting, though.

Well, from looking at the first paragraph, here are the spelling errors I caught.
QUOTE (hyzmarca)

My Aprentence

This probably should be "apprentice"

QUOTE (hyzmarca)

The pain was filthy, pealing, and contained enough lead to protect against a nuclear war.

The paint was filthy, peeling, and contained enough lead to protect against a nuclear war.

QUOTE (hyzmarca)

The carpet was soggy with more bodily fluids that I imagined could exist.

The carpet was soggy with more bodily fluids than I could imagine.
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