A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "The One Who Once Was You"
Making fembots. Selling teenage bodies to old rich people. Hell, body-swapping yourself with someone rich, famous, or both, like a movie or music star. Why didn't I get these ideas before? you chide yourself.
Probably, you tell yourself, because I've been so covered up in other shit.
Speaking of which, you're going to be late to work if you don't get moving. You suck down the last of your cigarette, and grind it into the grass beneath your toe.
Okay, a lot of those ideas wouldn't have been practical and maybe not even possible before. (So you reflect as you throw the Jeep into the street and jam the accelerator to the floorboard.) You couldn't make fembots before you had rockbots to put the masks on. Sure, you could sell young bodies to old people, but then you'd have to get rid of the young people, and that would have been messy. Steal the life and identity of a celebrity? Same problem—what do you do with the celebrity after you've stolen their stuff?
Yes, there was one obvious answer to those questions—the same answer that shows up in any story about clones, evil robots, and body snatchers—but not even with Chen's personality did you think you had it in you. Even what you did to Chen's grandfather was beyond your limit, and you only hazarded it because you didn't know what would happen.
But with the rockbot-masks, it becomes very simple. Make a mask of them and a mask of yourself. Coat your mask with rockbot-paste. Put their mask on yourself, and your mask on them. You've got their life, they are hidden, and no one will notice that you've gone missing. And no one is really dead. (You think.)
You feel dazzled by the possibilities. Only the fact that there are too many of them stops you from rushing off to put a plan into effect right away.
That and the job you are now late to.
* * * * *
Trantham joins you on your smoke break. "Hey," he says in his quiet, inoffensive way. "You said you were going to bring me some things, some of those memory things, so I could—"
"Oh right. I've been busy," you mumble. "Don't get on my dick about it."
"I'm not trying to get on your dick. I just want you to know that I'm, uh, ready to do anything with the things when you, uh—"
"Sure. But it'll be awhile. Hang loose, man." You turn to squint at him. "What's the news at Eastman, about them two ballplayers that moved over to Westside?"
"Oh," he says. "Shit."
"It means 'Oh shit.' That's what everyone's thinking over there."
"So they're good, huh? It's a real gut punch to the Eastman squad?"
"Yeah. They're popular too, people are gonna miss 'em, even though they only started this year."
"What, are they new to town?"
"Yeah, they're from out west someplace. Got lots of stories about hunting game. Why?"
"Just wondering. They're making a splash at Westside. So they're popular, huh?" You study the burning tip of your cigarette. "They into parties? Girls? Weed?"
"I've seen 'em at parties. Chris has, I mean. I don't know about the weed, but Joe is really into the girls. Real flirty. More than that." His voice falls into a mumble. "There's stories that he's already managed to sleep with half the cheerleaders."
You sense rather than see him slip you a sidelong glance. "Are you thinking maybe that they or one of them might—"
"I ain't thinkin' nothing, and I don't want you thinkin' nothin' neither." You clench the cigarette between your teeth and inhale the rest of the tobacco in one deep, hissing breath. "I'm just looking for info," you say, and blow a thick stream of smoke into the night air. "Info's more valuable than weed. It's what tells you where the real money's at."
* * * * *
Why do you want to know about the new basketball players? Probably because of what Chen said in the loft this afternoon, right before you tore Chelsea's face off him. There must be something to those guys—to the one he was talking about, anyway—if they got his attention.
Well, maybe. On the drive home, as you fight to keep your drooping eyes open, it occurs to you that maybe he was just turning gay inside Chelsea's mask. You'd have to admit that you've gotten a lot more comfortable surfing the thoughts and emotions inside of Chen's mask.
So you put them out of your mind the next morning as you go on the hunt at school for possible victims. But victims of what?
There's no point speculating on what kind of a body a rich billionaire might like to buy—that's up to individual taste—but you figure that most billionaires are men and would want to stay that way, and that most of them would like to be handsome, fit, and relatively well-off financially. You figure that would put Marc Garner's face on the cover of any catalog of bodies-for-sale you might put together. Come to think of it, you could put his sisters on it too, for Eva and Jessica, in addition to being cute blondes, are cheerleaders, and at least some guys might into that kind of swap, the way Chen himself was.
As for girls to use in a line of fembots, there too you suffer an embarrassment of riches. Almost any girl looks good to you—as long as they are warm, soft, and fuckable—and you figure any combination would look just as good to any other guy, but you will need a good foundation, and that argues for using cheerleaders as the base element in your fembots.
So, really, that leaves "rich assholes to switch places with" as the only category that needs investigation and thought. Off-hand, though, you only know of one student for sure whose parents would qualify as "rich": Kelsey Blankenship, whose family gets its money from its chain of car dealerships up near the mall. That's not exactly billionaire money, but at least Kelsey herself would be an attractive place to live inside, for you've no intention of being either her father or mother. You'd just make rockbots of them and use them as a piggy bank while living as their—
Well, wait, come to think of it, would you even need to live as Kelsey in order to get money out of her parents? You could just make rockbots of them, and arrange for them to deposit a fat wad of money in the bank account of whoever's life you chose for yourself.
Still, even car dealerships might not give you the kind of income you would probably come to crave.
At lunch, then, you squat outside the Music Annex and ask Justin Roth, who shares a smoke with you, about who in the school has money.
"Perry here does," he says, indicating Perry Small, the third of your company.
"Fuck you," Perry mutters at him.
"You do!" Justin cackles asthmatically.
"How much?" you ask Perry.
"How much what?"
"How much you want I should kick your ass for not answering my question, motherfucker? What's your dad make? Where's he work?"
"Fuck you, that's where he works."
You show Perry your teeth but that's all. The cocksucker knows you won't fuck him up in front of Roth, but maybe he'll get the hint that he should give you an answer when you ask him later.
"What are you asking for?" Justin asks you.
"Just wondering who in the school's got money, who comes from money." You take a hit off your cigarette and blow a stream of tobacco smoke upwind from Perry so that it catches him in the face. "Who the fuck I wish was my parents 'cos they got some guap?"
"Fuck me," Perry sneers. "You sayin' you don't got guap, dealing all that—?"
"I don't got what I want, so it's how come I deal. So yeah, fuck you."
"Kelsey," says Roth.
"Yeah I know. Kelsey. But I mean some serious scratch. Like, don't we got any billionaires in this town?"
Justin falls on his side, laughing, and there's tears in his eyes when he looks back up at you. But Perry doesn't laugh. "Proteus Technologies," he says.
"Fuck you. I said, Proteus Technologies."
"Who the fuck's they?" You grind out the butt of your cigarette, and pluck the half-moked cigarette from between Justin's knuckles as he tries to regain control of himself. He gives you a dirty look from under his mop of shaggy brown hair, but doesn't fight you for it. "I'm asking about people, not companies."
"It's a tech company," Perry says. "Some guy owns it, got a stinking big house, way out halfway to Fletcher Grove. His kid's on the Eastman basketball squad. Fucker."
"Really." Your interest is definitely piqued. "What's their name?"
"You wanna find money," Justin says as Perry digs out his cell phone, "go check out the mutant school. You know, Xavier's."
"I thought that was just a private school."
"Private fucking academy." Justin's growl deepens with hostility. "Rich cocksuckers. Fuck 'em!"
"What's got you pissed?" you taunt him, but you're interrupted by Perry.
"Straussler. Jonathan Straussler," he says. "Here." He turns the phone to show you the screen. "Blonde kid on the end."
You turn the phone to landscape mode, then pinch and pull it to expand the picture. It's a photo of the Eastman basketball team, anchored at the end by a tall blonde kid with limpid eyes and a full mouth. You nod at it, and are about to hand it back when you recognize two more of the players: the blonde kid and the dark-haired kid who were teasing Gordon with tongue twisters yesterday. So they are ... Joe and Frank Durras, you determine from the caption.
They are a handsome pair of brothers. Their faces, it occurs to you, could get you to Jonathan Straussler, and they could also get you access to the Eastman cheerleaders for your fembots. And through "Will Prescott" you could get at them.
You sigh. You need to define your goals.
That's all for now!